Thursday, August 12, 2010

What really happened with Elizabeth Warren today

Everyone's was all (ha-ha) a-Twitter over the Elizabeth Warren sighting at the White House. But before you start jumping for joy over this development:

Warren's Congressional Oversight Panel released a new report today saying – unsurprisingly – that foreign firms benefited more from the $700 billion US bank bailout than US firms benefited from foreign rescue efforts.

The watchdog cited that the US bailout basically flooded money into as many banks as possible – including international ones – but other nations specifically targeted their rescue efforts towards their own domestic firms that had no US operations.

“As a result, it appears likely that America’s financial rescue had a much greater impact internationally than other nations’ programs had on the United States,” the panel said. “This outcome was likely inevitable given the structure of the TARP, but if the US government had gathered more information about which countries’ institutions would most benefit from some of its actions, it might have been able to ask those countries to share the pain of rescue.”

The most egregious case? AIG, naturally, where tens of billions of US taxpayer dollars went to Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale, among others. The US bore the entire $70 billion risk of the insurance giant’s capital injection program, far exceeding the size of France’s entire $35 billion overall stability program and nearly half the size of Germany’s $133 billion efforts.

Going forward, the panel said, an international plan should be developed to “handle the collapse of major, globally significant financial institutions.”

And now, before you get too depressed, the same Jake Tapper report also said:

Elizabeth Warren this afternoon met at the White House with David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, where the possibility of her heading the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was discussed, but not decided on, a White House official confirms.

President Obama did not meet with Warren today.

“The President believes that Elizabeth Warren is a champion for middle class families and consumers and she, among others, is a strong contender for this position,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in a statement. “The President has not yet made a decision and no announcement is imminent.”

This week White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton echoed those sentiments during a press gaggle en route to Texas, saying that he has no update on timing beyond that an announcement wouldn’t be made this week. And Burton also downplayed the notion that Elizabeth Warren would be hard to confirm on the Hill, should she be the nominee.

“A lot of folks have opinions about Elizabeth Warren and other candidates,” Burton said Monday. “It’s the White House’s view that Elizabeth Warren would be confirmable.”

In effect, I reversed the priorities given in the Jake Tapper piece. (Kinda makes you think twice about the importance of the story. It did for me.)

What I think has honestly happened was that the Warren Commission was meeting anyway, so David and Valerie took a moment to feel her out on becoming head of the Consumer Protection Agency.

The time to get excited is when she meets with the President. That hasn't happened yet.

Again, I think she's the best choice. I would prefer it be her, though I have no idea of her capacities as an Administrator (a suitable No. 2 can be hired for that). With Christina Romer leaving the Council of Economic Advisers, there's a serious girl shortage on the Obama Econ team, and Prof. Warren would fill in that role nicely (or at the Fed).

Either way, Warren not getting this job is not the end of the freaking world. (Plus, she may want to go back to Harvard. Anyone consider that??)