Declaring that Jack Lew’s nomination to replace Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury was yet another indication of the Obama Administration’s all-too-cozy relationship with Wall Street, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced on Thursday that he would oppose the 57-year-old Lew’s nomination.
Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee who caucuses with the Democrats, said in a press release that he was troubled that virtually the entire Obama economic team has had close ties to Wall Street.
Lew, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and current White House chief of staff, had once served as the chief operating officer of one of Citigroup’s proprietary trading units — one that reportedly included a hedge fund that bet on the housing market to collapse.
“At a time when the middle class is collapsing and millions of workers are unemployed, I do not believe he is the right person at the right time to serve in this important position,” said Sanders, an independent who was reelected to a second Senate term last November with a staggering 71 percent of the vote.
A native of Queens, Lew cut his teeth in politics as a volunteer for Eugene McCarthy’s insurgent antiwar candidacy in 1968 — pretty heady stuff for a 12-year-old — and six years later landed a job as an aide to flamboyant U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug. Interestingly, the late Paul Wellstone, another liberal icon, was his faculty adviser at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.
Described by the President as “a low-key master of policy” and a man of unquestioned integrity, it’s not Lew’s past political associations that bother Sanders, but rather his close ties to Wall Street and the financial elite.
“In my view, we need a treasury secretary who is prepared to stand up to corporate America and their powerful lobbyists and fight for policies that protect the working families in our country,” said Sanders, who had previously criticized the Harvard-educated Lew for preposterously suggesting that Wall Street deregulation wasn’t a major factor leading up to the financial meltdown in September 2008.
“We need a treasury secretary who will work hard to break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions so that Wall Street cannot cause another massive financial crisis,” asserted the gutsy Vermont senator.
While acknowledging that his nomination will probably sail through the Senate, Sanders said that he strongly doubted that Lew would fight to protect Social Security and Medicare from some of the draconian cuts espoused by House Republicans.
“We don’t need a treasury secretary who will advise the president that he should negotiate with the Republicans to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We need someone who is going to strengthen these programs,” said Sanders, who had been the lone holdout on the Senate Budget Committee when President Obama chose the former Citigroup executive to run the Office of Management and Budget in 2010.
In his statement issued Thursday, the left-leaning lawmaker said that he also had other concerns about President Obama’s nominee.
“We don’t need another treasury secretary who believes that NAFTA and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China have been good for the American economy,” said Sanders. “We need someone in the White House who works to fundamentally re-write our trade policy to make sure that we are exporting American goods, not American jobs.”