An unlikely political star tells the inspiring story of the two-decade journey that taught her how Washington really works - and really doesn’t. As a child in small-town Oklahoma, Elizabeth Warren yearned to go to college and then become an elementary school teacher - an ambitious goal, given her family’s modest means. Early marriage and motherhood seemed to put even that dream out of reach, but 15 years later she was a distinguished law professor with a deep understanding of why people go bankrupt. Then came the phone call that changed her life: Could she come to Washington, DC, to help advise Congress on rewriting the bankruptcy laws? Thus began an impolite education into the bare-knuckled, often dysfunctional ways of Washington. She fought for better bankruptcy laws for 10 years and lost. She tried to hold the federal government accountable during the financial crisis but became a target of the big banks. She came up with the idea for a new agency designed to protect consumers from predatory bankers and was denied the opportunity to run it. Finally, at age 62, she decided to run for elective office and won the most competitive - and watched - Senate race in the country. In this passionate, funny, rabble-rousing book, Warren shows why she has chosen to fight tooth and nail for the middle class - and why she has become a hero to all those who believe that America’s government can and must do better for working families.
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In 2006, James Scurlock produced "Maxed Out: Hard Times in the Age of Easy Credit." That was the first time I'd heard of Elizabeth Warren, and what she said in that movie was meaningful for me personally. Even though I have an undergraduate degree In Business Administration and a Doctorate in Law with a Certification in Tax Law, I thought I just didn't understand finance. In the 1990's and the first 8 years of the 21st century, I could not understand what was happening in the housing and credit markets. I knew retirees on Social Security with small pensions buying half million dollar homes; single mothers working in entry level retail jobs driving new BMWs; and people who worked at Starbucks taking long Paris vacations.
How was this possible? It sure didn't fit with my business education and its fiscally conservative approach. But I wasn't working in banking or finance, so I just thought things had changed and I hadn't kept up. I stayed away from Adjustable Rate Mortgages and Cadillac SUVs, and wondered what I was missing that everyone else was buying into. Besides, I had student loans to worry about.
I wasn't missing a thing. A good portion of the country, puzzled by Byzantine mortgages and lured by (in hindsight) too-good-to-be-true car loans, were living an ersatz American dream. When I saw Warren in "Maxed Out" in 2006, I was first relieved. "I'm not an idiot!" I thought. "It doesn't make sense, and here's a Harvard Law professor pointing at the Emperor's New Clothes." My relief turned to horror by the end of the movie - Warren was certain the economy was going to tank, and two years later, it did.
Warren's "A Fighting Chance" (2014) is a biography of sorts; an explanation of how 'The Great Recession' (2008 - ?) happened; a paean to motherhood, grandmotherhood, and the importance of family; an indictment of the lack of oversight and political machinations that made 'too big to fail' possible; and common sense suggestions to help people out of financial difficulties caused not because they were stupid, but because there were a lot of people engaged in deceit, if not fraud.
Warren's Oklahoma drawl and her homespun analogies make what banks and other lenders tried to obscure in legal labyrinths understandable. In arguing for regulation, Warren talks about the "exploding toaster". As Americans, we expect the Consumer Products Commission (CPC) to warn us if a product is dangerous. Warren discusses her unflagging work in establishing the US Consumer Protection Financial Bureau to warn about "exploding loans." She also talks about the concentrated efforts of banking lobbyists to make the Bureau "for show", and to stop Warren from heading it.
The lobbyists got the second half right - Warren's not the head of the Bureau. She is, however, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). What's the right cliche? Be careful what you wish for? Warren's far more of a threat where she is, introducing bills to protect college students from excessive debt, for example - than she ever could have been as head of the Bureau.
There's been talk of a Warren presidential run in 2016, and all I can say is "I hope not!" She'd be an accidental president, as William Howard Taft - who longed for an appointment to the US Supreme Court - was. And, please - don't put her into the Vice Presidency to shut her up, or balance out a ticket. Let her do what she does best: protect the average person from financial predators. If she stays in the Senate, more support - and if she doesn't, how about Attorney General?
I guess I'm gushing more than a little here, but that's to be expected with Hero Worship ( capitalization intended). This is a great book, especially if you are wondering how the world's greatest economy suddenly ended up on the short list for the train to 'hell in a hand basket.'
- Cynthia "Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always.""
The fight for the middle class
Elizabeth Warren’s new autobiography reveals how her political career grew directly from a long career focused on the same issues she is championing in her public role. It is sort of a journal of how she got into the fight for the middle class. Warren spoke about growing up on the “ragged edge of the middle class” in Oklahoma. She tells about her childhood, her failed first marriage, trying to be a stay at home mom, going to school and becoming a law professor and of her successful second marriage. While a law professor she became an expert on the new changes to the bankrupt’s law. She and her students did research into causes and trends in the rash of bankruptcies in the 2000’s. She wrote articles in law journals and books telling about the problems and the pending collapse of the banks and the middle class. She blames most of the problem on the deregulation on the banking industry in the 1990s and the banking lobbyist. She tells of her work on a national oversight panel reviewing the bank bailout in 2008. She also tells about the fight for and then setting up of the Consumer financial Protection Bureau, her brainchild. She mixed policy points, with behind the scene anecdotes; she also does some big bank bashing Warren’s ability to translate complicated finance issues into plain English and parables that appeals to fair play is what rocketed her career. The book ends with her first year as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts giving us an inside glimpse at the horrible gridlock Washington is in. The book carries a message of hope that with the middle class pitching in we can put Washington into working order. Warren does a good job narrating the book.