The nomination of Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren to head the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has become a contentious issue. Progressives argue passionately that Warren, who largely conceived the agency, is the best choice because of her proven intolerance of Wall Street malfeasance. However, reports indicate that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner opposes her nomination (though the Treasury denies this). Here are two smart, opposing takes on her qualifications for the position.
First off, The Atlantic's Megan McArdle has studied Warren's scholarship and finds it deeply lacking in academic rigor. In one instance, McArdle argues that Warren inflated the number of household bankruptcies caused by medical expenses in order to justify universal health care. Warren analyzes society's ills in a way that suggests there is "no possible solution outside of a more left-wing government," McArdle writes. That doesn't lend itself to being a good agency head:
A large part of Warren's prominence comes from the fact that she's an academic... Her work gets so much attention because it comes from a Harvard professor. And this isn't Harvard caliber material--not even Harvard undergraduate... This woman is now under consideration to head a powerful new agency. If this is how she evaluates data, then isn't that going to hamper her in making good policy? If we're going to have a consumer financial protection agency, I want one that has a keen eye to the empirical evidence on consumer welfare--not one that makes progressives most happy by reinforcing their prior beliefs.
On the pro-side, is Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel who says Warren's wit and colloquial demeanor make her the perfect candidate:
In her folksy, plainspoken way, Warren--who hails from Oklahoma and is a former Methodist Sunday school teacher--has articulated how the agency could help ordinary people, providing a small amount of power in a system that's weighted against them. She has such an honest, fair, decent and clear way of talking about what government can do to serve the common good.