In the battle between Elizabeth Warren and the Obama administration over whether or not Wall Street vet Antonio Weiss should head to the Treasury, Warren insists that one question remains:
“His supporters say, ‘Come on — he’s a smart investment banker, so of course he is qualified to oversee all the complicated financial work done day in and day out at the Treasury.’ But his defenders haven’t shown that his actual experience prepares him for this job,” said Warren in a speech at the Economic Policy Institute Tuesday.
Ever since Elizabeth Warren began speaking out against President Obama’s nomination of investment banker Antonio Weiss for a senior Treasury position, Weiss supporters have pointed to his 20 years of experience in finance and his leadership position at Lazard as evidence of his eligibility.
Warren insists, though, that Weiss’s Wall Street background isn’t the real reason she is opposing him; rather, it’s the kind of financial experience that he has.
She wants to know how Weiss’ work in international mergers and acquisitions — much of which was conducted from outside the United States — has prepared him for a domestic finance role responsible for overseeing consumer policy, government debt, fiscal reserves, and the Treasury’s stability.
The White House on Tuesday provided this defence of Weiss, according to POLITICO’s Ben White:
“He’s got deep expertise in the financial markets and economic issues that are appropriate for somebody to take on the responsibility … He’s been in the field of finance for 20 years, and in that time he’s overseen numerous major financial transactions across a variety of industries that have driven significant investment inside the United States. This is somebody who has very good knowledge of the way that the financial markets work, and that is critically important when you’re asking somebody to take on a position in the federal government that has such a significant bearing on those markets.”
But Warren’s not satisfied with that kind of response.
“We’d all scratch our heads if the President nominated a theoretical physicist to be the Surgeon General just because she had a background in ‘science,'” she said in her speech.
Warren’s stance is nicely summed up in this post by Georgetown professor Adam Levitin, which she quoted in her speech. He says there’s an unspoken assumption that anyone from Wall Street is an automatic expert in all things financial and, he says, “that’s hooey.”
But, while Levitin gets right to the heart of the problem that he sees with Weiss’s qualifications, Warren continues to weave that concern in with other arguments about revolving doors and Wall Street boys clubs.
As long as she keeps that up, it will continue to look like she’s making Weiss a symbol — the embodiment of her dislike for Wall Street — and not treating him as an individual nominee.
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