A recent post inspired some e-mails from readers. My concerns about the possibility of Elizabeth Warren becoming the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau motivated the chairman of a community bank to send me the following e-mail:
Professor Warren seems to rate lefty hosannas for her empirical research and facility with numbers.
[Earlier in her career], Elizabeth Warren was being hailed for her empirical research in bankruptcy (no one else used numbers!). Her conclusion was that the United States needed government health care because 70% of all bankruptcies were caused by medical bills. This determination was made by concluding that any bankruptcy petition with an unpaid medical bill to have been precipitated by an uninsured medical incident.
I see she’s using similar data delusion to compare one income families in times past with two income families today – mixing dollars and percentages to persuade while obscuring the huge increase in the tax burden to two income families.
My old grand-pappy used to quote somebody, “Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure” (Pronounced ‘figgers’ of course).
The same post was the one of the subjects of a post last Thursday by blogger Sean Ryan, an equity analyst at Wisco Research, who writes the "Bank Slate" blog for SNL Financial (sorry, it's behind SNL's firewall and you need to be a registered SNL user to read it). Sean was kind enough to send me a copy of this specific post, from which I include the following excerpt:
Meanwhile, at his Bank Lawyer’s Blog, Kevin Funnell rebuts some of the more ideological arguments in favor of Elizabeth Warren as the head of the CFPB, and in so doing references an older post of his which I think adds further weight to the concern that Ms. Warren may either have very stunted capabilities in the areas of mathematics and logic, or else have an unacceptably high tolerance for intellectual dishonesty in her arguments, either of which would seem to disqualify her from, well, any position of authority, really.
Funnell’s post, Inspiring Fear: The Most Critical Quality, is occasioned by a Reuters article which stated that
“She is a hero to many lawmakers and consumer advocates, due in no small part to the fear she inspires on Wall Street.”
An observation which moves Funnell to note:
“I assume people on Wall Street also fear rabid wolverines. Should that factor make us pick one to head the CFPB? Just asking.
Wall Street fears her because they fear she's an unfair and unbalanced ideologue, and worse, not only ignorant of the businesses she would regulate but not concerned about her ignorance.”
Funnell also cites Anton Schutz of Mendon Capital. Most people reading this blog probably know Anton, and if you don’t, he’s a very reasonable guy, so his reaction to Warren is telling:
"I get disgusted every time I hear her speak. It's like she's sitting in some ivory tower, not understanding the ramifications of anything she says," said Anton Schutz, president of Mendon Capital Advisors. "Any person you put in that role really ought to have some industry experience."
Perhaps most notable in the post is a link to a 2008 post in which Funnell raises the same sort of questions about Warren’s competence (or if one grants competence, then about her integrity) raised by Todd Zywicki and Megan McArdle. The incident centers on the particulars of Federal preemption of state foreclosure laws (or lack thereof), but thematically is disturbingly similar to the incidents cited by Zywicki and McArdle.
Even if one disagrees with him, Funnell’s blog is worth reading simply for his prose:
“No one expects the new director not to be a "turf builder" for the CFPB who will try to expand the CFPB's influence, nor does anyone think that the Obama administration is going to put someone in that slot who is a friend to Wall Street or part of the "good old banker" network. Rather, what banks and Wall Street hope is that whoever is put in charge is not someone who thinks about bankers the way the Bolsheviks thought about the Kulaks.”
Again, read the whole thing.
That was nice of Sean. It was also nice of him to put me onto the fact that Megan McArdle at The Atlantic shares the same concerns as I do. Not only do I admire Ms. McArdle's reporting (and blogging), but it's nice to know that when you rant, you don't rant alone, even if the other ranter is a Great White Ranter and you're merely a Hammerhead.