For President Biden, there will be no pivot to the center.
Ron Klain, President Biden's chief of staff, had a unique view on last week's election. The voters who elected Republican Glenn Youngkin as governor of Virginia and narrowly defeated incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy in New Jersey want Democrats to "do more," Klain told MSNBC. “And that’s what we’re doing,” he continued, “again, starting next Monday, signing the infrastructure bill, working with the House to pass the Build Back Better plan, which will help bring down inflation, bring down the cost of living, bring down people’s expenses.”
Leave aside the highly questionable claim that the “Build Back Better” legislation under negotiation on Capitol Hill will reduce inflation. Focus instead on Klain’s idea that the message of the off-year election wasn’t for Democrats in Washington to slam the brakes, but to hit the gas pedal. Klain is hired to give the Biden administration's sad combination of ineptitude and aloofness the greatest possible spin. Even he must admit that the president and the Democratic Party as a whole have been too strongly associated with the radical Left and its lack of creative answers to inflation, crime, the border, and education in the eyes of voters. Rather than doubling down on his ambition for a "transformational" president, Biden has an opportunity to focus, prioritize, and solve the issues that matter most to the suburban independents who will decide the House and Senate's destiny next year. It's a chance he's not going to take.
Allow me to introduce, for example, Saule Omarova, the Beth and Marc Goldberg professor at Cornell Law School and senior fellow at the Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles. On the very day that voters across the country rejected the Democratic Party’s turn to the left, the White House officially nominated Professor Omarova to be comptroller of the currency. The comptroller is the nation’s chief banking regulator, supervising some 1,200 financial institutions of all shapes and sizes and, according to its website, “approximately 70 percent of banking activity in the country.” When you hear the phrase comptroller, you think of a faceless bureaucrat who checks boxes on a regular basis to maintain the economy's smooth flow of capital. President Biden, on the other hand, wants to fill it with an activist intellectual who is, to put it mildly, a crazy.
In the year 1966, Omarova was born in Kazakhstan. She arrived in America in her mid-twenties. Senator Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), an early critic of her candidacy, has asked for a copy of a thesis she produced at Moscow State University, where she received a Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship. The thesis is titled “Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in Das Kapital.” Given Omarova's undergraduate environment (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) and circumstances (Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika), it's safe to assume she had a favorable, though perhaps somewhat qualified, attitude toward both Marx and revolution. On the other hand, we can't truly say. Omarova is the only one who has seen the document.
Toomey’s interest in Omarova’s intellectual background has led a few of her supporters to accuse him of bigotry and xenophobia. The charge is ridiculous. Toomey isn’t worried about the professor’s ancestry or country of origin. He’s opposed to her ideas. What’s striking is that immigrants from the former Soviet Union and its satellites tend to be viscerally anti-communist and anti-socialist: Having lived under totalitarian regimes, they are especially attuned to infringements of personal and economic liberty and are mindful of human-rights abuses conducted in the name of “People’s Republics.”
Professor Omarova didn’t get the memo. “Say what you will about old USSR,” she tweeted on March 31, 2019, “there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn’t always ‘know best.'” Well, one can say a lot about “old USSR” — how it was a force for oppression and evil, for starters. To single out the fact that “there was no gender pay gap” — an assertion Omarova never backed up, probably because the pay gap is zero in the gulag — is to recall the old fellow-traveler line that Communist tyranny isn’t so bad because Cubans have “health care.”
When another Twitter user suggested Omarova might be out of her depth, she replied:
I never claimed women and men were treated absolutely equally in every facet of Soviet life. But people’s salaries were set (by the state) in a gender-blind manner. And all women got very generous maternity benefits. Both things are still a pipe dream in our society!
This is Joe Biden’s nominee for comptroller?
Toomey is not the only senator whose eyebrow is raised. Jon Tester of Montana, a Democrat, is also concerned. It’s not hard to see why. There is a connection between Omarova’s rosy view of the Soviet economy and her far-out plans for the United States.
Consider her 2020 paper, “The People’s Ledger: How to Democratize Money and Finance the Economy.” It offers, she says, “a blueprint for a comprehensive restructuring of the central bank balance sheet as the basis for redesigning the core architecture of modern finance.” She would like to subject the Federal Reserve, which these days has enough trouble keeping inflation in check, to a “series of structural reforms that would radically redefine the role of a central bank as the ultimate public platform for generating, modulating, and allocating financial resources in a democratic economy—the People’s Ledger.”
Like utopian socialists of old, Omarova “envisions the complete migration of demand deposit accounts to the Fed’s balance sheet.” She proposes a “comprehensive qualitative restructuring of the Fed’s investment portfolio, which would maximize its capacity to channel credit to productive uses in the nation’s economy.” Guess who gets to decide which uses are productive.
As a consequence, according to Omarova, the financial system would be "less complicated" than it is now. Which is true, I guess, because a government monopoly is "less difficult" than market competition. It's also less efficient, less productive, less inventive, and less responsive to customer needs. But, hey, there's maternity leave!
Anyone not immersed in and comfortable with the recondite buzzwords of the legal academy and radical Left might read “The People’s Ledger” in mounting confusion and alarm as Omarova proclaims the virtues of wage and price controls, politicized credit, and expert control and planning of the commanding heights. It doesn’t take long for the paper to get into “the seas will be made of lemonade” territory, portraying for an economy of 330 million people integrated in a global economy of 8 billion a grandiose and completely unworkable “system” that is so rationalist and reductive it only could exist in the mind of an intellectual.
Since January, America has slowly come to terms with the fact that it elected Joe Biden as president only to have Elizabeth Warren manage the country. Voters turned against the president and Democrats in general as they witnessed academic trends spread damage in schools, on the border, and in communities. Isn't it in President Biden's political — let alone the country's — interests to withdraw Saule Omarova's candidacy and endorse someone else, someone dull? And, if the White House continues to back the good professor, can't we all agree that its tone deafness and overall wackiness have put it on a collision course with an electoral thrashing? Thankfully, Omarova does not govern in America. It is the people who do it.
This column originally ran at the Washington Free Beacon.