The Corner

Why Elizabeth Warren Is More Politician Than Populist

Elizabeth Warren has been in the news a lot lately, with presidential whispers swirling around her ascension to a quasi-leadership post in the Senate. She is positioning herself as the principled, populist alternative to career politicians.

But how principled is she, really? As Jason Delislie and I wrote in Politico Magazine recently, Warren’s career is marked by a giant contradiction. As chair of TARP’s oversight committee back in 2009, Warren charged that the government was exposing taxpayers to massive risk while low-balling the costs. She was absolutely right.

But as a senator who wants to expand the federal student loan program . . . she has done a 180, now arguing that the government can ignore market risk when offering loans. Senator Warren wants risk priced into government loans to financial firms but conveniently excluded from the cost of loans to students. As best I can tell, she has never acknowledged this inconsistency.

The point of our piece was not to “play gotcha” with a single politician, but to offer an example of how government accounting is abused for political purposes. Both sides of the aisle are guilty. Nevertheless, I want to respond to one specific defense of Warren I’ve been given. It goes something like this: “Okay, fine, Senator Warren has contradicted herself, and she should be honest about the real costs of student loans. But at least her accounting inconsistency is a consequence of always fighting for the little guy.”

No. Warren is a supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which distributes government-backed loans to (mostly large) businesses, not to little guys. She is also on the wrong side of perhaps the most populist issue of all: immigration. It’s the little guy who sees his wage lowered and his community changed by mass immigration, but Warren supports the same amnesty policies and immigration expansion that Big Business does. Her positions seem to be driven less by a principled populism than by the elite liberalism of today’s Democratic party.

Jason Richwine is a public-policy analyst and a contributor to National Review Online.

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