Amid “rampant speculation” of a Hillary Clinton-Elizabeth Warren ticket to head the Democratic slate after their recent joint campaign appearances, here is another speculation:
Rather than bury her talents as Vice-President, Senator Warren—the Harvard academic whose heart is with Main Street and whose fire and financial savvy “strike fear into Wall Street”—would be far better placed as Secretary of the Treasury.
Cutting to the chase, the best argument for Warren as Treasury Secretary is this:
In the event of another Wall Street-generated financial crash, can you imagine that Elizabeth Warren—advocate of breaking up the big banks, architect of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—would recommend to the President that the U.S. taxpayer/consumer should bail out those same big banks, as George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson did in 2008? (No, I can’t imagine it, either.)
But then, with Elizabeth Warren as Treasury Secretary, serving the department’s chief mandate—to act as “steward of the U.S. economic and financial systems” and be responsible for “ensuring the financial security of the United States”—such a Wall Street-generated crash is less likely to happen in the first place.
Equally important, with the global economy in peril because of the Brexit vote last week (also here)—when Britain opted out of the European Union—and with the possibility of more exits and more turmoil driven by a new populism both here and abroad to “go it alone,” upending the international economic order, a cool head and strategic mind who’s also a woman of the people at Treasury’s helm would be vital.
Moreover, Warren, a peerless explainer, could make it all comprehensible to us.
Of course, Warren could remain in the Senate and burnish her watchdog credentials there, as ranking member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs’ subcommittee on Economic Policy. She is also a member of the subcommittees on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, as well as Securities, Insurance, and Investment. If the Democrats retake the Senate, her star would rise further. But, such a welter of subcommittees! Warren might relish a freer hand at Treasury.
Warren did express interest in the Treasury post, in 2014. When asked specifically about becoming Secretary of the Treasury, she said: “That’s a fun thought.”
Historically, this powerful position has been vital to the nation’s functioning in crises: Henry Morgenthau serving both Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman during World War II, Salmon Chase serving Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Our most famous Treasury Secretary was our first, Alexander Hamilton, a Founding Father and author of many Federalist Papers on structuring government. As a legislator, scholar, and profile in courage for championing Main Street, Elizabeth Warren qualifies for this august company.
Back to the Vice-President issue, the subject of intense speculation: Politically, naming Elizabeth Warren, the progressives’ darling, as her Vice-Presidential pick would make Hillary Clinton more palatable to Bernie Sanders’ supporters. But with Sanders supporters slowly warming to Clinton and with the presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump, falling in the polls, that combined candlepower might not be needed. As to individual candlepower, Warren’s could overpower Clinton’s, always a detriment to the chemistry between President and Vice-President.
As Vice-President, Warren’s main responsibility would be to promote the President’s program to members of Congress, a role which Vice-President Joe Biden, himself a former Senator, does well and energetically for President Obama, but which role might not be Warren’s best suit temperamentally, nor make best use of her originality.
(Speaking of originality, Warren has a unique ability to get under Trump’s very thin skin with her Tweeted gibes. Warren serving as Clinton’s attack dog to push back at the bullying Trump will provide needed muscle as well as amusing spectacle as the campaign heats up in the fall.)
Finally, this development: Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street donors recently signaled that if Elizabeth Warren is her Vice-President, their donations will dry up (also here). That threat alone, and the implicit fear behind it, practically make the case for Warren at Treasury.
So, an appeal to Hillary: For your Vice-President, select someone else from the deep bench of Democratic talent—Sen. Tim Kaine (VA), Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN), Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, et al. But make Elizabeth Warren your Secretary of the Treasury—the nation’s Chief Financial Officer—where she can take on a Wall Street that so fears her and that, if it can roll the Treasury Secretary, can cause fearsome damage on Main Street. If we know anything by now, Elizabeth Warren cannot be rolled and cannot be cowed.
Carla Seaquist’s latest book is titled “Can America Save Itself from Decline?: Politics, Culture, Morality.” An earlier book is titled “Manufacturing Hope: Post-9/11 Notes on Politics, Culture, Torture, and the American Character.” Also a playwright, she published “Two Plays of Life and Death” and is at work on a play titled “Prodigal.”
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