U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters
Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank (D-Ma.) announced his retirement this week after 32 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Ca.) is first in line to take his powerful seat as Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. But Waters potential ascent isn’t without controversy. Here’s a roundup of the criticism so far:
Ethics Violations Will Sink Her
The biggest threat to Waters’ elevation is an ethics investigation into whether or not she abused her power to acquire federal bail-out money for a bank in which her husband had a financial interest.
“Waters’ husband was a former board member of the bank and held more than $300,000 in stock,” ABC News reported. “A trial scheduled for last November was postponed indefinitely and the investigation effectively reset after two lawyers on the ethics committee resigned following allegations they secretly communicated with Republicans on the panel and compromised the investigation. Outside counsel was then hired to determine whether the case against Waters should proceed. That report is due on Jan. 2,” the article said.
Criticism of the President Will Do Her In
“Waters made waves this year when she publicly criticized President Barack Obama,” Roll Call reported. Next in line after her is Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and she “played a key role in addressing the financial crisis of 2008,” the article said. But Waters has backing from the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
“I resent any attempt by the financial services industry to prejudge Maxine Waters with no legitimate reason. I think that’s stupid,” CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) told Roll Call. “They can’t say, ‘Well she doesn’t know the issues.’”
She Doesn’t Have the Financial Chops for the Job
However, that’s exactly what Atlantic economics blogger Megan McArdle said in response to the possibility that Waters could replace Frank.
After summarizing a televised exchange between Waters and former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, in which Waters flubbed her question, McArdle concluded that the exchange was “kind of hilarious, until you realized that this was her job, and that she voted on critical financial regulatory questions.” It wasn’t the only instance, McArdle said, of Waters’ revealing scant knowledge of finance.
“Every time I see Maxine Waters at a hearing I know that the questions are going to be bizarre, and that Congresswoman Waters will make them even stranger with garbled readings and off-topic follow-ups,” said McArdle.
She’s a Bomb Thrower from the Far Left
Meanwhile, The Hill reported that “Wall Street executives are bracing for the possibility” that Waters will take the top spot. The outlet said Waters is “considered to the left of Frank on financial and housing issues.”
“She’s not a good face of the issues,” an anonymous financial executive told The Hill. “She’s too much of a bomb thrower.”
She’ll Slow Growth by Injecting Affirmative Action into Business
At Intervestors.com, the editorial board took Waters to task for “injecting affirmative-action decision-making in financial transactions, slowing the flow of capital and economic growth.”
How, you ask, did she do that?
“As a key member of the Dodd-Frank conference committee, Waters authored the ‘practical’ rule of requiring every bank regulatory agency to create an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion,” the editorial said.
It’s Time to Pass the Baton
“With decades in Congress comes more cynicism and opportunities for political shenanigans that can lead to ethics charges,” wrote Zerlina Maxwell at The Grio in a call to reconsider support for aging CBC members like Waters. “It’s not about whether we like the seasoned members of the CBC who have worked tirelessly for a generation; it might just be that it’s time for new ideas and a new perspective on political power representing the African-American community in Congress.”
What Do You Think?
Has Waters earned the right to chair the House Financial Services Committee, or will her perceived weaknesses sink her?
Obama Is Stepping Up His Game
As Republican presidential candidates continued to rumble their way across the country, the Obama administration stepped up its game this week, publishing a Pathways to Opportunity report that outlined what the administration claims to have done and intends to do to get the unemployed back to work, and engaging with voters on the economy.
While President Obama embarked on the American Jobs Act bus tour, The Root hosted a live-streamed discussion Thursday with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and outgoing Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes about poverty, and African American poverty in particular.
Jarrett and Barnes mostly repeated talking points from the report and promoted the jobs act as they fielded questions from a live audience and from Twitter and Facebook.
Jarrett said Republicans want to see the president fail, but the jobs bill isn’t about him. “This is about what’s good for our country,” she said.
Barnes said the president is resolved to keep pushing Republicans to pass the bill, but the senate rejected a scaled down version Thursday and the Associated Press reported that Democratic support for the measure is dwindling and “future votes on individual pieces of the measure … aren’t likely to fare better.”
Americans Are Fed Up With Government
To make matters worse for the incumbent president, a new Gallup poll suggests that Americans are more fed up with government than with business.
“Americans are more than twice as likely to blame the federal government in Washington (64%) for the economic problems facing the United States as they are the financial institutions on Wall Street (30%),” Gallup reported.
Why Now, Mr. President?
The Root’s Cynthia Gordy asked Jarrett and Barnes why the report and the jobs act are being introduced now.
“We decided to draft the report in many ways to respond to questions about what we have done,” said Barnes, before recounting ways she says the administration has been addressing poverty issues from “day one,” including the 2009 economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, expansion of tax credits, summer jobs for youth, and health care reform.
“We’ve been working on this since we set foot in the White House,” said Barnes.
Barnes on Getting Out of the Hot Seat
Barnes also confirmed reports that she is leaving the administration at the end of the year to spend time with family and pursue private sector opportunities.
Asked what the most significant policy she developed is, Barnes said choosing would be like picking one child over another. Even so, she said she is especially proud of her work on education and described early, primary, and post-secondary education as a three-legged stool upon which to build success.
To illustrate her point, she recounted how her father went to college on the GI bill while she was a little girl and fondly recalled sitting next to him as he studied at the library. She also said her maternal grandmother worked in a tobacco factory and that her mother went to college on a scholarship
“Education changes lives; it changes communities,” said Barnes, as she expressed wonder at how it led to her own ascent to the White House.
Earlier she had recounted how “little old ladies at church” would tell her how proud they were of her, but would balk at the scope of her domestic policy task.
Jarrett affirmed Barnes’ passion, commitment, drive, and “second to none” breadth of policy knowledge. “If I go much further, we’ll both start crying, so I’m going to stop,” said Jarrett.
Is Obama Backing Away From People of Faith?
UrbanFaith asked (via Twitter) what the administration is doing to support the faith based groups that are filling in service gaps, and if the president is backing away from these groups? The broadcast ended before the question was answered, but the Democratic National Committee announced yesterday that it had hired Rev. Derrick Harkins, senior pastor of Washington D.C.’s historically Black Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, as its new director of faith outreach so, at least from a political standpoint, he appears ready to embrace them.
The Middle Class Is Recovering?
Meanwhile, at a Virginia stop on his bus tour, President Obama sounded positively conservative when he said, “It’s going to take time to rebuild the kind of America in which everybody has a fair shot, everybody is paying their fair share; where responsibility is rewarded; where the deck is not stacked against middle-class families.” He also claimed that the middle class is growing, solid, and secure again.
Is Obama Avoiding Black Communities?
But an article at Politico about tensions between the president and California Rep. Maxine Waters contrasted the Congressional Black Caucus’s summer jobs tour with Obama’s efforts, noting that he has largely avoided stops in Black cities and neighborhoods.
The Psychology of Black Unemployment
Setting aside the politics of Black unemployment for a moment, the North Dallas Gazette published a compelling article Thursday about its psychology. In it, University of Michigan Sociologist Alford Young Jr., Ph.D. said the stress of constantly thinking about supplementing insufficient income “provides an interesting spin on the long-standing notion that Black people, particularly lower income folk only live for today.”
The article said challenges remain, but researchers “retain their optimism for the future in part because of the past resiliency and creativity of the African American community.”
What do you think?
Has the Obama Administration avoided African American concerns or has the president done what he could in a political and social environment that rarely prioritizes them?