Amid the cataracts of learned meditations upon Elizabeth Warren’s ‘likability,’ it’s nice to come across a piece that says what is needful: Warren is a quality individual whose bona fides as a champion of the middle class are in good order.
Like Moynihan, she’s a serious intellectual turned influential politician. Her scholarly work on bankruptcy and its relationship to rising inequality made her a major player in policy debate long before she entered politics herself. Like many others, I found one of her key insights — that rising bankruptcy rates weren’t caused by profligate consumerism, that they largely reflected the desperate attempts of middle-class families to buy homes in good school districts — revelatory.
She has also proved herself able to translate scholarly insights into practical policy. Full disclosure: I was skeptical about her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I didn’t think it was a bad idea, but I had doubts about how much difference a federal agency tasked with policing financial fraud would make. But I was wrong: Deceptive financial practices aimed at poorly informed consumers do a lot of harm, and until President Trump sabotaged it, the bureau was by all accounts having a hugely salutary effect on families’ finances.
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Again, I’m not arguing that Warren should necessarily become president. But she is what a serious policy intellectual looks and sounds like in 2019.
I’m aware that, in an increasingly anti-intellectual country, her Harvard affiliation will cause a lot of people to dismiss her out-of-hand as an elite; hell, I live in the blindingly ignorant Southern Baptist south and know a lot of those people.
But, please, let’s stop indulging the nonsense that smarts and education are a problem, an imponderable defect. We desperately need smart, well-educated people with middle-class instincts, and we need to put the failure where it rightly belongs — on the resolutely ignorant who resent the educated.