Since before most of us have even heard of Elizabeth Warren the corporate media has been referring to her as a “consumer advocate;” in some case they may have provided some explanation as to how they came to this conclusion but most people that weren’t looking closely may have heard the phrase repeated over and over again without any explanation as to what she did to “advocate” for consumers.
(This was originally posted on August 13, 2012)
After taking a closer look I have serious doubts about whether she did anything when it comes to most consumer issues although there is one exception that she has been well known for. That exception is her role in inspiring and creating the “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” even if she was unable to head it due to opposition from the Republicans. This was also backed up with a history of advocating for protection for people from predatory lending, some of which she described in her book, The Two Income Trap. A close look at this book may indicate that when it comes to addressing some issues like this she may be much better than most establishment politicians and corporations; however in the current system that isn’t saying much; and when it comes to many other issues she is no better than any of them; and may actually be worse due to the fact that many people may have been led to think of her as a “consumer advocate” that they may be able to trust.
I suspect that a closer look at her history and the way that she has been running her campaign may clearly indicate that she has been part of a well-planned public relations campaign to make her appear as a defender of the middle and lower class without actually doing much for the middle and lower class; in fact many of her positions have been against the best interest of the majority and in other cases she has remained silent while taking on advisers that advocate for causes that are against the best interest of the majority like gambling lobbyists and she previously represented the asbestos companies in a law suit.
This may seem like a wild conspiracy theory to some; however I suspect that a closer look may indicate that there is something to it and there is plenty of evidence that is in the open for people to look at; also it seems to follow a pattern of behavior where new politicians claim to be outsiders and then once they get elected they go along with the program just like other politicians that used the same tactic in the past; people who have watched closely may have recognized this already. One of the biggest things that should raise some questions is how she was able to raise so much money in such a short amount of time while most other grass roots advocates for the majority have been struggling to raise much smaller amounts of money; and on top of that she has received an enormous amount of positive attention while people like Jill Stein have been almost completely ignored by the corporate media.
One of the simplest things that should raise some serious doubts about her advocacy for consumers is the fact that Elizabeth Warren was key in asbestos case as a lawyer for Travelers, the nation’s largest insurer and the defendant in this case. According to the article Elizabeth Warren helped them win most of what they wanted before she left the case then after she was gone it continued to change even further in favor of the insurance companies and it was disastrous for asbestos victims. She claims that she worked out a reasonable deal and that she shouldn’t be held responsible for what happened after she left; however the bottom line is that the victims lost and she was paid $212,000 over three years by Travelers who saved an enormous amount of money thanks in part to her help.
However this is far from the only problem that should be raised with Elizabeth Warren. I have covered many other problems in three previous posts about her, How sincere is Elizabeth Warren?; Elizabeth Warren is NOT as sincere as she appears!; and Is Elizabeth Warren supporting Charter Schools (and gambling interests) not Unions? this doesn’t mean I think that Scott Brown is any better; in fact on many issues he is clearly worse. This clearly seems to be another example of how the corporations and the political establishment are presenting another candidate to “defend the middle class” while suppressing any possibility for other candidates that might want to do a much more effective job. It is conceivable that if she is elected she could usher in some token amounts of reform and be portrayed as the person that stood up for the middle class and the poor but her record doesn’t seem to indicate that she can be trusted to do much more than is required by grass roots movements that are pushing reform from below and she could use her status as a “consumer advocate” or “defender of the middle class to help usher in more Charters schools which might face more opposition under Scott Brown and she will almost certainly look the other way at problems with gambling as I previously indicated in the past post about these subjects. One of the biggest doubts that should be raised about whether she is a “consumer advocate” is her chapter on debunking what she calls “The Over-Consumption Myth,” where she attempts to argue that consumers aren’t over spending or tries to down play what spending they are doing while ignoring many inconvenient facts and misrepresenting at least a few of them. She writes, “I recall the days of rushing off to Stride Rite to buy two pairs of sensible leather shoes for each of my children every three months (one for church and one for everyday) plus a pair of sneakers.” (“The Two Income Trap” p.17) I doubt whether most parents used to buy sneakers and shoes for their kids so often thirty years ago; in fact I specifically recall the deterioration in the quality over the past thirty years and that sneakers fall apart much faster now than they used to and they cost more. I went into this in more details in a past blog about Complacent consumers have few if any rights. Thirty years ago when I bought a pair of sneakers after about a year I remember the shoe laces breaking and the sneaker being in reasonably good shape after about a year; I would replace the shoelace and wear them for a second year. Fifteen years ago they were falling apart after about one year now they routinely fall apart in no more than six months and I don’t put nearly as much wear and tear on them.
This is part of a process called planned obsolescence that many corporations have been using on most if not all consumer products that receives little or no attention from the corporate media. You wouldn’t expect a sincere “consumer advocate” to be ignoring this and making false claims that subtly cover it up. I doubt if many poorer people take this so lightly as Elizabeth Warren.
Elizabeth Warren claims “The Over-Consumption Myth” rests on the premise that families spend their money on things they don’t really need.” This is of course true as far as it goes, except for the claim that it is a myth; however there is more to it than that. The over consumption problem also involves buying more things than they have to or buying fancier things than they need to improve their quality of life. The current consumer economy includes an enormous amount of deceptive advertising designed to scam people out of their money by selling just about anything they can get away with and they’ve been studying methods that make these scams much more effective by targeting children with their advertising at a very early age. Children that have been targeted at a young age have been much less able to distinguish deceptive ads and this has also interfered with their learning abilities according to many studies done by credible academics into the subject including Roy Fox author of “Harvesting Minds” (blog review and excerpts); Susan Linn author of “Consuming Kids”; and Juliet Schor author of “Born to Buy.” Elizabeth Warren even cites Juliet Schor as one of the promoters of what she calls the “The Over-Consumption Myth;” however she doesn’t acknowledge the problem of marketing to kids at all. Furthermore those that do can’t get any significant coverage from the corporate media for their cause whether they run for office or just try to get their point across to protect children from unethical marketing practices.
This enormous amount of advertising starting at an early age is what enables many of these “designer” products to increase their sales so much without providing significantly improved products at a much higher price. The designer clothes trend is a result of an enormous amount of advertising that has been dramatically increasing over the past thirty years while the corporations have been cutting their manufacturing expenses to the bone including what they pay the workers that make them in third world countries where they’re abused in sweat shops. Elizabeth Warren claims that the cheap labor is part of the reason why products have become cheaper, or so she claims but this isn’t true either. They may seem cheaper to some since the establishment has been repeating this over and over again but the prices have clearly been rising gradually as well as everything else while the wages of workers have been flat due to the fact that they’ve been competing with workers that have to work in sweat shop conditions thanks to the outsourcing of American jobs. And the savings aren’t being passed on to consumers; they’re either using the savings in labor to pay increased shipping and distribution costs for factories that are now much farther away or they’re keeping the money for themselves which is why the wage gap is increasing so much over the past thirty years; yet Elizabeth Warren doesn’t discuss this nearly as often as she could if she discusses it at all.
Anyone that watches any TV may notice that there is an enormous amount of advertising of products that have little or no value to consumers and many that are total scams, like a variety of Gold investment scams; or many of them are partial scams for important services that we need but could get much more efficiently in a reasonably regulated or single payer system like insurance. These ads have been running for years if not decades; if Elizabeth Warren’s claims about “The Over-Consumption Myth” are accurate then they can’t be getting many sales out of all these deceptive ads. If that is the case then the business’s that have been running them must be incredibly incompetent and they would have gone bankrupt long ago. The fact that they keep running clearly indicates that they’re working; however the people that are being scammed aren’t the most politically connected in the world and many of them are reluctant to admit they’ve been scammed.
Furthermore if they were able to determine on their own that they were being scammed they probably never would have fallen for them in the first place. No traditional politician, including Elizabeth Warren, is inclined to stand up for these people since they would pay a political price by attracting the opposition of the politically connected people benefiting from the scams. These may not seem to have immediate impact on people that aren’t inclined to fall for these scams but if it leads to an enormous percentage of the GDP that is based on fraudulent business transactions it is bound to have serious implications on the economy and its ability to improve the quality of life for most people which should be what it is intended to do.
Elizabeth Warren may not address these scams but she acknowledges the problems with the schools and that those who live in wealthier areas have a better education system but have to pay more in taxes but she doesn’t offer solutions that would actually work. The main reason for this is the fact that they’re financed with property taxes which means that children in wealthy areas get much better educational opportunities than those in poor areas. This is made worse by the fact that the working class is forced to compete with workers around the world driving wages down and ensuring that they don’t have the money to improve their own schools. Two leading solutions to this could involve correcting the difference in wages by doing much more to protect workers and financing schools at the state or national level. Another major method to reduce the high cost of education could be to reform draconian copyright laws that turn educational knowledge into what they call “intellectual property” which drives up the cost of books. Elizabeth Warren doesn’t do any of this instead she recommends Charter Schools which have been a proven failure.
None of this is what they claim makes her a “consumer advocate” though; they focus on the one issue that she has addressed, which is protecting people from predatory is lending. As part of her efforts to defend people from predatory lending, or inform people how to address it, she mentions her past experience being hired as a consultant for one day by Citibank. After spending the afternoon giving her presentation she made her recommendations which basically involved not lending to people that were already in financial trouble when she received the following response.
She also discussed a meeting with Hillary Clinton when she was still the first lady and how it led to the initial Veto of a bankruptcy bill that was bad for consumers, thanks perhaps to her advice to Hilary, but was later passed with the support of Senator Hillary Clinton after she reversed her opposition to the bill when she need to collect money for her campaign.
This does seem to indicate that she may have some legitimacy as a “consumer advocate” on this issue. She demonstrates knowledge of the authoritarian nature of corporations when she describes how everyone yielded to the executive in the Citibank meeting and indicated that they’re trying to take advantage of unwitting consumers, which few informed people would doubt. She describes how her advice helps defeat the bankruptcy bill initially, which would make her a defender of the middle class if it is accurate, and how they followed up with a massive public relations campaign and campaign contributions to help convert Hillary Clinton. However this seems a little too convenient especially when you consider the fact that the implied problem is the lobbying efforts and the campaign contributions that control the election process and the fact that as soon as she began running for office she was much less inclined to criticize the system that previously led to the passing of the “awful bill;" instead she starting playing the system by the same rules with the help of many of the usual party advisers that run many other campaigns including the gambling lobbyists mentioned in an earlier post.
Also the selective use of one issue to attract a strong base is a common tactic that many politicians use; this can be followed up with an enormous effort to put the emphasis on that one issue while a politician often votes against the interest of the public on many other issues. Different politicians can use this with different issues so that they all have an issue to run on but they may be in the minority on their signature issue since other politicians focusing on other signature issues may vote in favor of the corporations that donate to their campaigns.
One thing that is worth considering is whether or not she wrote her book with a possible run for office in the future at some time. It is highly unlikely that she would have done so thinking that she would runs specifically against Scott Brown for the Senate but she may have been leaving the door open for whatever office seemed appropriate at some unknown time in the future. This is a tactic that has gone back decades if not centuries in one form or another; it used to be part of what they called “machine politics” that were led by local bosses like Boss Tweed in New York; now it is probably organized by the Republican or Democratic national committees.
One well known example that has made history was Tom Pendergast from Missouri who often kept some potential politicians ready to run for one office or another although he may not have known what office he would run them for. His most famous candidate was of course Harry Truman who was once known as the Senator from Pendergast. His early corruption as part of machine politics has been largely forgotten since he became famous for becoming president but it is still part of his history. Those were different times and during WWII when resources were tight it became necessary for someone to challenge the corruption that was involved in the war effort before it was clear that we would win and that turned out to be Senator Truman. Despite all the good things that he may have done according to the official history he was also involved in a lot of corruption that has been downplayed by history, as usual.
Regardless of how she came to run for office she is following a common pattern of behavior. We have one politician after another that runs as an outsider with an issue that they stand up for but as soon as they get in office they start behaving like an insider. The reason is quite simple they rely on the same advisers that prepare all the other candidates and they gain coverage in the same corporate media that decides which candidates to cover and which ones to ignore. This has only gotten worse with the consolidation of the corporate media over the past few decades.
Elizabeth Warren demonstrates that she seems to understand the system when she writes about how the Citibank executive controls the decision making process and how Hillary was initially a supporter of the middle class but was then corrupted by the system but at the same time she is demonstrating that she is following the same pattern since she is now collecting an enormous amount of campaign contributions from one source or another and she is avoiding many of the most important issues that impact the majority of us except for her signature issue. This is part of a common trend; the aspiring politician presumably gains connections within the establishment then conducts a series of activities that enable them to rise up in the party they belong to following the program and avoiding many of the most important issues that the corporations have a lock on but addressing something that can enable them to get a name. This is often followed up by writing a book to establish credentials and sometimes they get several political appointments. Elizabeth Warren has described how she received a few advisory positions prior to writing her book and when Barack Obama was elected president she was available as part of the system that arranged for advisors to participate in the new administration.
In fact if you take a look at any given presidential or any other higher official administration you’ll find that they’re full of career politicians that get appointments over and over again like Lawrence Summers who also advised the Obama administration. True reformers that have major changes they want to make can’t get these political appointments; nor can they get the kind of coverage from the corporate media that makes them appear “viable” according to the corporate media.
The result is that we get one election after another where the only candidates that the establishment presents to us as “viable” are corporate pawns. These politicians routinely discuss things that have little relevance to the issues that impact us; in this case one of the main issues that the corporate media has obsessed with has been the issue of her Native American heritage which they spent an enormous amount of time on. Elizabeth Warren can play the victim and Scott Brown can claim that Elizabeth Warren is trying to hide something but the real losers are the public who don’t have a candidate on either side that is sincerely interested in the best interest of the majority. The real winners are the corporations that have been corrupting the system. If they can avoid discussing the issues then whichever candidate wins they have control over them and the one that loses will get a runner up prize of some sort that may involve some future appointment of going back to teach at a college that prepares the next candidates to be pawns for the corporations.
The campaigns that they run are now based on commercials that sell obvious appeals to emotion like a woman talking about how Elizabeth Warren took on this industry or that industry and expressing amazement because “she’s not afraid of anybody;” or a man saying that “she’s the real deal.” But these commercials do little or nothing to address many of the important issues and they’re often clear appeals to emotion to make people feel good about the candidate. This is blatant propaganda designed to gain votes without addressing the issues. That is what all campaigns are about now, propaganda that is bought and paid for by corporations. Scott Brown does the same thing and he doesn’t represent the public any more than Elizabeth Warren does. If some like Juliet Schor or Susan Linn wanted to run for office with their record writing about serious issues in a manner that would actually defend the public they could never get the support of the political establishment and they would have to struggle at the grass roots level while the corporate media ignores them like Jill Stein is currently doing in her race for the presidency.
Neither Juliet Schor nor Susan Linn would have been able to get the rest of the Democratic Party to clear out of the way so that they could run without even having to face a primary challenge like Elizabeth Warren or her political backers did. When it came close to the convention it is quite clear that the Democratic Party rallied to support her to prevent the primary despite claims that they weren’t doing this. This has been clearly indicated in several articles including Primary rival may distract Warren; Democrats played hardball with Marisa DeFranco; and more stories about Marisa DeFranco and her recent attempt to challenge Warren in the primary. Many of the people that were involved in the effort to prevent this primary were saying that it wasn’t an coordinated effort to prevent a primary but if that were true then it is hard to believe that everyone would have coincidentally got in line behind Elizabeth Warren. By avoiding a primary they minimized the amount of time they might have spent discussing issues in the run up to the primary. These party rules are clearly designed to prevent grass roots candidates from having much if any chance to run a successful campaign for office and maintain centralized control.
This is being portrayed in the mass media as one of the most important elections in the Senate nationwide partially because Elizabeth Warren is being portrayed as the great protector of the middle class by the corporate media and the Democratic Party. She is being portrayed as the person that is most likely to bring in reform and many people may have been led to donate to her campaign and provide other support as a result of this image that is largely a creation of the corporate media. It has been helped to some degree by the grilling she received when she went to testify before congress and she was accused of lying by the Republicans. This may have seemed to make her look good by comparison but the only reason for that is because the Republicans have become so extreme that it doesn’t take much to look good compared to them. One of these Republicans even apologized to BP while they were caught in a massive scandal over the oil spill.
It shouldn’t be nearly good enough to be better than the Republicans anymore if it ever was. The Democratic Party has been collecting almost as much money from the corporate media as the Republicans have and they have been moving heavily in the direction chosen by the campaign contributors as well. They keep using this same trick over and over again, giving the public the impression that the only candidates that they have to choose from are those that have been selected by the two entrenched parties and the mass media without providing anyone that actually represents the public.
Clearly what has to be done is that many more people need to stop relying on the establishment to control the campaigns. A much greater initiative needs to be made to create other parties as well as reforming the election process so that the public can have control over the interview process.
The Occupy Wall Street movement and many other protest movements is a clear indicator that there are an enormous amount of people fed up with the enormous amount of corruption in the establishment system. It also indicates that there could be hope for major reform if they can control the way it is done is a form of election reform that also enables many people to access much more information from alternative media outlets so that we won’t have to rely on the corporations for all our information. In addition to a variety of alternative media outlets on the internet we need to have a major reform of the media system that currently allows the corporations to have almost complete control of the airwaves through satellite and cable. They were initially required to provide some form of public service in return for the free use of these air waves. They never did nearly as good a job at that as they could or should have but now they don’t provide any public service at all; instead they’re using their political connections to use this as a massive propaganda machine for the benefit of a small percentage of the public that also control the corporations and the political system.
We need to make it much clearer that we’re not dumb enough to fall for it anymore; and a growing number of people already are!!