Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Elizabeth Warren As Pecora

A note to Washington Central Casting: Now that the President has signed on for a 9/11 Commission to investigate the economic downturn, let's skip the usual suspects to head it and, as in the 1930s, find a fresh face for the role of shaking up Wall Street.

Back then, ethnic outsider Ferdinand Pecora was the new star. This time, Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren looks like the best choice for a gender change in taking on the old-boy network that brought the country to the brink of ruin.

As Congressional watchdog for the bank bailout, Warren has been rehearsing for the part by showing a rare directness in calling for a clean sweep at the top. "The very notion that anyone would infuse money into a financially troubled entity without demanding changes in management is preposterous," she has said.

Along with her other qualifications, Warren has a public presence that inspires confidence, last weekend leaving Bill Maher in dumbstruck admiration.

In the past, she has proposed a new agency modeled on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to protect the public in buying financial merchandise.

"It is impossible," she has written, "to buy a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house. But it is possible to refinance an existing home with a mortgage that has the same one-in-five chance of putting the family out on the street.

"Why are consumers safe when they purchase tangible consumer products with cash, but when they sign up for routine financial products like mortgages and credit cards they are left at the mercy of their creditors?"

If she were to ask questions like that and get beyond the usual mealy-mouthed answers, Elizabeth Warren would play the 21st century version of Pecora to perfection.

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