Let’s all enjoy some video of Elizabeth Warren firmly but politely taking apart Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin before the Senate Banking Committee Thursday! Mnuchin got a nice dressing-down by Warren over Donald Trump’s assertion that he supports “looking into” (Trumpese for “completely ignoring”) breaking up the big banks, and his claim that he’d support a “21st-century Glass-Steagall” act — a position Mnuchin had taken at his confirmation hearing, too. As it happens, Elizabeth Warren has long pushed for exactly that: the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act.
But it seems Mnuchin would like a “Glass-Steagall” bill that doesn’t actually separate risky, speculative investment banking from actual banking banking. The whole point of Glass-Steagall is separating the risky stuff from traditional banking, so taxpayers won’t be on the hook through the FDIC if an investment bank goes belly-up. Mnuchin seems a bit dim on the concept of supporting a law that doesn’t actually do what the law is supposed to do, but then again, he works for a president who thinks “health insurance” that doesn’t actually cover medical expenses is a neat idea.
Here is your Elizabeth Warren, being a BOSS:
WARREN: The president and this administration have said repeatedly that they support a 21st Century Glass-Steagall. It was in the Republican party platform, Donald Trump said it specifically a few weeks before the election. You said, quote, ‘We need a 21st Century Glass-Steagall’ at your confirmation hearing. And now you’ve just said exactly the opposite. You know, in the past few months, you and the president have had a number of meetings with big bank CEOs and lobbyists. Is that the reason for the reversal on Glass-Steagall?
MNUCHIN: No, not at all, there actually wasn’t a reversal, so —
WARREN: Wasn’t a reversal?
Mnuchin explained that what he really meant was while there are “aspects of” Glass-Steagall Team Trump likes, they never said anything about a “full separation of banks and investment banks,” at which point Warren said, “Let me stop you right there, Mr. Secretary.” Mnuchin seemed a bit astonished that a mere Senator would interrupt him like that.
MNUCHIN: You’re not letting me finish…
WARREN: Yeah, I’m not, because I really have to understand what you’ve just said. There are aspects of Glass-Steagall that you support, but not breaking up the banks, and separating commercial banking from investment banking? What do you think Glass-Steagall was if that’s not right at the heart of it?
Ah, and then things really went through the White Rabbit’s looking glass hole. You see, even though there’s that bill called the “21st Century Glass-Steagall Act,” Mnuchin had no idea Warren was talking about that. America’s top financial dude had never heard of Warren’s silly little bill. Never mind that it’s sort of like supporting the “G.I. Bill” as long as it doesn’t spend any money sending veterans to college or giving them home loans. (Jesus, we shouldn’t give them ideas, huh?)
You see, if they’d supported separating investment banking from regular banking, they would have said they supported “Glass-Steagall,” not a “21st-Century Glass Steagall,” because in the 21st Century, words only mean what Donald Trump thinks they mean.
Things went on into further weirdness, and Warren invokes the Spirit of Orwell to describe the absurdity of what Mnuchin’s saying:
WARREN: But I still haven’t heard the answer to my question. What do you think Glass-Steagall was, if it wasn’t separating commercial banking from investment banking — uh, from ordinary banking?
MNUCHIN: Again, the fundamental part of Glass-Steagall was, as you’ve just outlined, in the separation of investment banking from commercial banking, because people were concerned about conflict —
WARREN: How do you separate without breaking up the big banks that have integrated these two things?
MNUCHIN: Uh, again, the integration of commercial banking and investment banks has gone on for a long of period time. That is not what caused the problems during the financial crisis, and if we did go back to a full separation, you would have an enormous impact on liquidity and lending to small and medium-sized businesses —
WARREN: So, let me get this straight, let me get this straight: You’re saying that you are in favor of Glass-Steagall, which breaks apart the two arms of banking — regular banking and commercial banking — except you don’t want to break apart the two parts of banking? This is like something straight out of George Orwell. You’re saying simultaneously you’re in favor of breaking up the banks, that’s what Glass-Steagall is…
This Elizabeth Warren is quite the bully, insisting that “Glass-Steagall” is somehow related to separating risky investments from plain vanilla banking. Why is she so mean? Warren’s time with Mnuchin ends on this note; which as Warren says, is simply bizarre:
WARREN: Tell me what it means. Tell me what 21st Century Glass-Steagall means if it doesn’t mean breaking apart those two functions. It’s an easy question. Or an impossible question.
MNUCHIN: It’s actually a complicated question.
WARREN: I’ll bet.
MNUCHIN: There’s many aspects of it, okay? The simple answer, which we don’t support, is breaking up banks from investment banks. We think that would be a huge mistake. But again, I’m more than happy to listen to your ideas on it, you obviously have strong views and I’d be happy to follow up and listen to you.
WARREN: This is just bizarre. The idea that you can say we are in favor of Glass-Steagall but not breaking up the banks.
MNUCHIN: We never said we were in favor of Glass-Steagall, we said we were in favor of a 21st Century Glass-Steagall. It couldn’t be clearer.
WARREN: We are in — we are in favor of a bill that is called breaking up the banks, only don’t break up the banks. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is — this is crazy.
Damn, that lady is dense. Doesn’t she understand that Draining the Swamp means filling your cabinet with lobbyists and people from Goldman-Sachs? Or that “health insurance for everybody, at a lower cost” means no health insurance for tens of millions, plus really crappy health insurance for tens of millions more, and if you want good insurance, you’ll pay through the nose, unless you have a pre-existing condition, in which case you can’t afford it at all? She probably doesn’t even see the beauty of how massive tax cuts for the rich is the same as “bringing back manufacturing jobs.”
Somebody ought to get her a dictionary. Hope she doesn’t look at the entry for “Pocahontas,” though, haw haw haw.
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