Thursday: Warren to Lead Consumer Protection Bureau; Pope Visits Britain
President Obama is expected to name Elizabeth Warren as a special adviser to oversee the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau set up under the financial reform law, avoiding a potentially contentious Senate confirmation hearing. Warren is the head of the congressional panel that investigated the Wall Street bailout, or TARP.
An announcement is expected Friday. Warren, a Harvard Law School professor, will advise Treasury and the White House as the agency is being set up. The new bureau would consolidate consumer protection duties now spread across various regulatory agencies.
On Thursday, Warren’s Congressional Oversight Panel released a report about the government’s actions leading up to and during the bailout. Warren, however, did not sign onto the report.
The report said that the government’s failure to level with the public about its bailout programs “will make it harder to deal with future financial crises,” according to the Associated Press. Public confidence also suffered after the Treasury Department claimed that bailout money would only go to healthy banks, and the report also faults Treasury for supporting the largest banks while most Americans face economic hard times.
The report also says the financial crisis would have been even deeper without the bailout, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.
Four views on Warren’s likely appointment:
“[M]any Republicans think Warren would take a very heavy-handed approach in protecting consumers with lots of new regulations. They worry that would hurt the profits of some U.S. companies.”
“[S]upporters of Ms. Warren (and I’m one) are certain to find comfort that she will at least be involved. … But there is reason to be skeptical too. Enough, in fact, that Ms. Warren should consider rejecting the job.”
“Warren’s conceit — that financial consumers require the same level of protection as consumers of durable goods like automobiles — is the animating idea behind the CFPA. … Appointing Warren to run the CFPA will certainly keep the new agency focused on its core mission. But whether she will know how to run it is anybody’s guess.”
Obama Administration Takes on China’s Economic Policies
In testimony prepared for two congressional hearings on Thursday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner criticized Chinese economic policies, from a currency system that keeps its value artificially low to rampant piracy of U.S. products and the erection of numerous barriers that prevent U.S. companies from operating in China, reports the AP.
“The sudden rise in the Chinese yuan — which on Thursday hit a new high against the dollar for the fifth straight trading session — has fueled widespread speculation that China’s government is trying to head off a political backlash in the U.S. But China’s approach to managing its exchange rate risks aggravating anger in Washington instead.”
The Obama administration also filed two new trade cases against China before the World Trade Organization. “The first case concerns duties imposed by China on imports of specialist steel used in the power generation industry. … The second complaint concerns the market for electronic payment systems in China, which is dominated by a single domestic firm, China Union Pay,” reports the BBC.
Mideast Talks Come to a Close
After two days of inconclusive peace negotiations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he sees no alternative to continuing the talks in search of a peace deal with Israel.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to extend the restrictions on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank for three more months to give peacemaking a chance.
Pope Visits the UK
On a state visit to Britain, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged Thursday that the Catholic Church failed to act decisively to deal with priests who sexually abuse children and said the church’s top priority now was to help the victims.