We didn’t launch this website just to rep for Democrats as laundry. And especially since we do have an extremely (!!) active primary, it is our duty, our solemn obligation to give airing to the differences between candidates.
This time it’s even a little more sensitive, a little closer. Before she was a “political person”, our now senior Senator Elizabeth Warren had her uncomfortable run-ins with various Democratic politicians, including those who have been or are Presidential candidates. This included, famously, Hillary Clinton. And now — recounted in this excellent NYTimes Magazine profile — Joe Biden.
By 1997, Warren had become a Democrat, but she was battling within the party as well as outside it. In particular, she clashed with Joe Biden, then a senator from Delaware. Biden’s tiny state, which allowed credit-card companies to charge any interest rate they chose beginning in 1981, would become home to half the national market. Individuals who worked for one giant lender, MBNA, contributed more than $200,000 to Biden’s campaigns over the years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Biden strongly supported a bill, a version of which was first introduced in 1998, to make it more expensive to file for bankruptcy and more difficult to leave behind debt. He was unpersuaded by Warren’s charts and graphs showing how the change would increase the financial burden on families. “I am so sick of this self-righteous sheen put on anybody who wants to tighten up bankruptcy,” Biden said during a Senate hearing in 2001.
In the years since it became law, the bankruptcy bill has allowed credit-card companies to recover more money from families than they did before. That shift had two effects, Matthew Yglesias argued recently in Vox. As Biden hoped, borrowers over all benefited when the credit-card companies offered slightly lowered interest rates. But as Warren feared, the new law hit people reeling from medical emergencies and other unexpected setbacks. Blocked from filing for bankruptcy, they have remained worse off for years. And a major effort to narrow the path to bankruptcy may have an unintended effect, according to a 2019 working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, by making it harder for the country to recover from a financial crisis.
I remember the bankruptcy bill battle with grave disappointment Like NAFTA or the welfare law, it was another gut-punch for those expecting the Democratic Party to be the defenders of the vulnerable. And that law has had lasting, dreadful consequences. Everyone was warned.
Warren has seen her job as protecting those people on the “ragged edge of the middle class”, which has made powerful interests — and their politician/advocates — uncomfortable. Just as Biden earned the suffix-sobriquet “(D-MBNA)”, through his tireless advocacy of that “hometown” industry, she has earned her brand. When you rep for an industry as rapacious as the banks, you cannot expect that there will be no political cost, ever. In 2019, Elizabeth Warren is here to extract that cost from you, on behalf of the rest of us. There shall be no political debt forgiveness; the bill is due.
And that’s why we have primaries. It’s far too early to decide that we have to settle for a politician with such major blotches on his record, especially when we have better, even inspiring, alternatives. We can choose, you know we ain’t no amoeba.