Elizabeth Warren, the representative to the President and special advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, tasked with setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, talks with Rachel Maddow about what it will take to restore the middle class in America:
Rachel Maddow: … democrats can take advantage of this political gift republicans are handing them if the electorate believes democrats aren’t just being more fiscally conservative on this issue, they’re doing it because they have the interest of the middle class at heart. the white house really does have a promiddle class agenda. they’re not waging war on the rich, theyen sad for the middle class, and standing for the middle class in a responsible way. joining us now in many ways, the face of those efforts for this white house, elizabeth warren. professor warren, thank you for being here.
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Elizabeth Warren: it’s good to be here.
Rachel Maddow: Republicans coming to washington have their sights on you, several saying they want the agency you’re setting up dismantled before it larges. how does the mission of consumer financial protection fit into this idea of an agenda for the middle class?
Elizabeth Warren: I have to say, i’m really surprised by this move. following the great depression it took 50 years before anyone started chipping seriously away at the new reforms that had been put in place to protect us. now we’re coming out of — we hope coming out of another great recession, we’ve passed serious reform, and it’s just a matter of months until people are talking about how to undercut this new consumer financial protection agency. you know, this new agency has not yet drawn breath and yet there are those who are saying, let’s do what we can to weaken it to make sure that it’s never able to have any effect to be an effective voice on behalf of middle class families.
Rachel Maddow: In terms of the middle class agenda of this white house, the middle class agenda that democrats hope to present to regain their majority in the hou house. consumer financial protection is one of these things that’s been defined by its enemies as an extra layer of regulation that will hand string businesses and hand string job growth. what’s your take on that argument?
Elizabeth Warren: Well, so let’s just be clear, that argument didn’t win. the consumer financial protection agency became law, not because there was some special interest group pushing for it, or some lobbyists. remember the wall street lobbyists said they would kill it before it was ever born. they lost. and they lost because this is an agency that really is there for middle class families. let me gish you an example of that. this agency is about being able to tell in advance what the price of a credit product is, how much risk is associated with it, and being able to make comparisons, so you could look at a credit card, tell what it costs, how risky it is. and compare four credit cards and tell which one is the cheapest. american families think that’s a pretty good deal. recent poll says 96% of american families say we need to get rid of the fine print in these financial contracts. 96%, that’s democrats, republicans, independents, libertarians, vegetarians. everybody. this is not a partisan issue. this is a core middle class issue. american families have been hit hard, flat wages, rising core expenses. they’ve turned to debt. debt has turned out to be very dangerous. it has really torn a hole in the bottom of the economic boat for millions of middle class families. what this agency is about is about repairing that boat. and families are with us on this.
Rachel Maddow: You have been studying the economics of the middle class of american middle earners for the last 30 years. what is — what’s going to make the biggest difference on the return of the middle class? you talk about stagnating wages, you talk about the par sittic effect of predatory debt and predatory debt marketers. and these other issues. in the big picture, what is going to make a middle class? is it ultimately going to be something that happens through the tax structures? what can be done?
Elizabeth Warren: I and as a result, it’s going to take a lot of things to start fixing it. we’re going to have to work on the wage side. we can’t live with stagnant wages for the next 30 years for american workers. rising core expenses is what pushed the middle class into debt. those have been really tough on american middle class. but here’s one we can fix and start fixing right now. and that is that families turn to debt. they turn to debt to deal with medical bills. they turn to debt to pay for college. they turn to debt to make it from here to the end of the month. and that debt turned out to be really dangerous. and it has put lots of middle class families. millions of middle class families over the edge financially. this is an agency that can say, that problem we can fix and we can start fixing now. and it doesn’t take tax money to do that. what it takes is leveling the playing field and saying, look, we just want some basic fairness here. the pricing has to be clear up front. the risk has to be clear up front. and it has to be easy up front to make comparisons amorning products. that means getting rid of fine print. that means no more tricks and traps in the game. when that happens, more money stays in the pockets of american families. and less of it drains out to the financial institutions that have become so powerful.
Rachel Maddow: Elizabeth warren, assistant the to the president, and special adviser to the secretary of the treasury demonstrating tonight why she is both of those things. and one of our nation’s most eloquent voices on these very central issues. thanks for being here, good luck, ma’am.
Elizabeth Warren: Thank you.