Monday, April 21, 2014


Sen. Warren's candid attitude fuels her rise

Elizabeth Warren says when asked if some bankers should have gone to jail in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. "You always want to be careful about this as a lawyer," she begins in an interview with USA TODAY, sounding every bit a senator. Then she stops herself. "Actually, no, let me start that one over. Yes!"

She mixes decades of study into what drives people to financial ruin — more likely to be a lost job or failed marriage than profligate spending, she concluded — with outrage over a system she argues is rigged against ordinary folks in favor of plutocrats.

When she led the congressional oversight board for the bank bailout, then-White House adviser Larry Summers invited her to dinner at the tony Bombay Club to explain what she calls the one unbreakable rule for the town's insiders — that is, insiders don't publicly criticize other insiders if they want to keep their influence. She declined to take his advice. Last year, she was among those who helped engineer the appointment of Janet Yellen instead of Summers to lead the Federal Reserve Board.

Warren's willingness to confront the powerful and question the system has fueled her rise as a sought-after speaker and fundraising phenom for Democrats There is her send-them-to-jail response about bankers, for instance.

"I was thinking, you never want to comment about an ongoing investigation; (then) I thought, shoot, there aren't any," she says, explaining her initial hesitancy. "Look, let me put it this way: It is not possible for a corporation to break the law without someone inside the corporation breaking the law. If we want real deterrence in the system, it has to be that individuals are held accountable whenever they break the law."