Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren Wants to Fight About Regulation Instead of Spending. That's Clever—and Dangerous.

Her corporate governance proposal hides the vast cost of her plans.



Elizabeth Warren has become a progressive icon over the last decade. She was the intellectual force behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and she was a prominent early voice pushing to move the Democratic Party in a more leftward direction. Although she does not claim the socialist label for herself, she is in many ways the forerunner of the resurgent democratic socialist movement and its champions, from Bernie Sanders to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

But precisely because she has been so successful at pushing her party and its voter base to the left, she now faces political competition. In response, Warren is carving out a unique niche for herself: While her competitors are increasingly focused on dramatically increasing federal spending with ideas like Medicare for All and free public college tuition, Warren is focused on corporate regulation and oversight.

It's a savvy move from one of the left's most effective political strategists. It also has the potential to be far more dangerous and disruptive than conventional tax-and-spend progressivism.

Over the last two weeks, Warren has rolled out a pair of legislative proposals designed to change the way corporate governance is regulated. This week's entry was an anti-corruption plan that would impose restrictions on how soon government officials can become lobbyists after leaving office and would require the IRS to release presidential candidates' tax returns. Some of its provisions are worthwhile; some aren't. Much of it is targeted at President Trump.

The more significant of the two is the Accountable Capitalism Act, which would radically overhaul corporate governance at large companies.

Currently, corporate charters are granted at the state level, but Warren's plan would force corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue to obtain a federal charter from a new Office of United States Corporations within the Department of Commerce. Those companies would be subject to a variety of rules, including a mandate that at least 40 percent of the board of directors be elected by employees, an instruction to consider all "stakeholders" (not just shareholders) when making business decisions, and a requirement that 75 percent of both shareholders and board members approve of any political activity.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed announcing the plan, Warren wrote that since 1985, shareholders "extracted almost $7 trillion" from U.S. companies. "That's trillions of dollars in profits that might otherwise have been reinvested in the workers who helped produce them." The clear implication is that corporate profits and shareholder returns represent a pot of money that can be tapped for redistribution without raising taxes or increasing government spending. Media accounts of Warren's plan have been even more explicit about this. A write-up in Fast Company, for example, said that "the Accountable Capitalism Act could precipitate the shift of trillions of dollars in wealth from the top 10% to the struggling middle and lower classes, without requiring any federal spending."

Although Warren has not explicitly framed her proposal in opposition to spending-heavy agenda of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, it's impossible to avoid the contrast. The essential components of the democratic socialist agenda—single-payer health care, free tuition at public colleges, a jobs guarantee—would add tens of trillions of dollars to the federal budget, even according to accounting from neutral and left-leaning sources. Warren's proposal, from a strictly budgetary perspective, would be free.

As a political strategy, it's a clever attempt to solve a problem that has consistently bedeviled the left. Socialists like Ocasio-Cortez have struggled when asked how they would pay for their plans. Even in blue states nominally receptive to much larger government, the cost of progressive policy ideas has tended to be politically and economically prohibitive. But this allows Warren to sidestep talk of massive tax hikes, and it lets her criticize Republicans for increasing the deficit, as she did in a recent CNBC interview, without sparking charges of hypocrisy. In essence, Warren can claim that she has found a pot of free money.

But of course it's not free—not even close—even if the price tag won't show up in a Congressional Budget Office score.

Warren's plan would almost certainly come with a byzantine set of rules and compliance requirements, all of which would impose a significant cost on some of America's most productive companies. It might not represent a direct transfer of wealth away from owners of capital, but it would certainly transfer a substantial measure of control to non-owners—and to the federal government. Investors would be less likely to invest if they couldn't be assured control of the returns.

Some defenders of Warren's plan have pointed to European countries with codetermination—a form of employee participation in corporate governance that resembles Warren's proposal—to suggest her plan won't seriously damage the U.S. economy. Yet as Samuel Hammond argues in National Review, Germany's mandated codetermination system has failed to create the sort of large, innovative companies that thrive in the United States. Germany, he notes, has "failed to become a dominant player in tech, producing just five billion-dollar technology companies in the last decade. Instead, Europe's largest economy is dominated by old behemoths such as Volkswagen and an abundance of specialized, thoroughly unscalable 'small and medium' firms known as Mittelstand." Research suggests that Germany's system of codetermination has inhibited its securities market, undermining shareholder ownership. It's an economic system that is unfriendly to innovators and investors.

Europe's experience doesn't make the case for Warren's plan; it demonstrates the risks. She has not found a treasure trove of free money. She has found a way to hide the vast cost of her plans. Rather than taxing anyone directly, her plan would extract from the economy as a whole, curbing its growth at a cost to everyone who works or saves, which is to say, nearly everyone.

So far, Warren has sidestepped discussions about whether she will run for president in 2020, saying she is focusing on getting reelected to the Senate in 2018. But her latest round of proposals certainly seem intended to position her for a potential 2020 run. And that means differentiating herself from other left-leaning Democrats. A recent Buzzfeed profile quotes Warren describing what she believes is the difference between herself and Bernie Sanders: "He's a socialist, and I believe in markets."

Politically, it's a smart contrast to draw in a country where the essential idea of market-driven capitalism remains relatively popular. But it's disingenuous. For all its flaws, Sanders-style socialism is at least transparent. He believes in accomplishing his political goals directly through the federal government. Warren, on the other hand, would use the government to force corporations to do it for her, making the cost opaque in the process. Yes, she believes in markets—but only when people like her control them.

NEXT: Rep. Justin Amash: Don't Impeach Trump Just Because You 'Dislike' Him

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  1. Of course she isn’t a socialist. What she is proposing – more federal control of corporations and the rights of shareholders, how business is conducted, while retaining some semblance of private ownership – has usually been labelled economic fascism. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Antifa mob to protest her.

    1. Germany had a form of codetermination before WWII. It was ended by the Nazis.

      First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out?because I was not a socialist.

      Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out? because I was not a trade unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out?because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for me?and there was no one left to speak for me.

      They’re already going for the socialists and the unions. I guess (((I))) am next.

      1. Luckily for you, the Nazis are Socialists.

      2. First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out?because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out? because I was not a trade unionist.

        The source of that “poem” is Martin Niemoeller, and he left out some details in that self-serving little composition. First, you see, Martin Niemoeller was an anti-democratic conservative intent on destroying the Weimar Republic. Then, he was a Nazi. He only became an opponent of the Nazi regime during the years of his imprisonment by the regime.

        I guess (((I))) am next.

        Well, if you started out like Niemoeller, namely as a totalitarian and Nazi, don’t expect people to shed any tears for you.

    2. Suderman wants to ‘fight’ against Warren’s proposals based upon their financial impact. Which is a fool’s errand.

      Even if they were ‘efficicient. much less cost free they’d still be massive arrogation of authority from individuals and private organizations to centralized government.

      A libertarian might see that as the fundamental issue.

    3. Warren said that “worker representatives” should be put on companies’ boards of directors. If you have studied history or politics and have any sense at all, you know that this is a common way that socialism takes off. Over time, those “worker representatives” will become government tools, and then, before anyone realizes what has happened, we will have government “experts” taking over the economic and social decision-making roles of private companies and regular individuals, which will quickly suck the competence out of our society, as happens in every society in which socialism takes root. With so many historical and economic examples showing so clearly what an abysmal and tragic failure socialism is, it is mind-boggling that so many people still advocate it. When will people finally learn that the “authoritarian impulse” that is so useful in running their own lives does not work on the scale of society? The competence of a relatively small group of experts that is counted on in socialism — no matter how intelligent, educated, and experienced those experts are — cannot compare to the competence afforded by the distributed intelligence, education, and experience within a society that is unlocked by free market capitalism. It is time to understand this, and to understand it deeply enough that you can explain it clearly to others, because once again socialism is rearing its ugly head — this time in America.

  2. See, this is the type of crap that we should be spending our time fighting against. Not culture war bullshit.

    That $7 trillion in profits that were “extracted” were actually the return on risky investments that would not have been made in the first place had there been no profit incentive, and furthermore, those profits which were not reinvested in the company were disbursed to owners and shareholders who then used them to make their own lives better. And not necessarily by buying yachts and caviar either. The majority of shareholders are mutual funds and small-time investors, not eeeeeeeevil hedge fund managers. That $7 trillion in profits literally went to grandmas to pay for their retirement. And economic idiots like Warren and Ocasio-Cortez want the state to decide how grandma’s retirement works. That is what we should be talking about.

    1. This shit won’t go anywhere. The real danger is the Medicare For All movement.

      A recent poll shows 85% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans want MFA.

      A Reuters/Ipsos poll shows 85% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans support Medicare for all.

      1. I agree that single-payer health care is the bigger short-term concern. And neither Team Blue nor Team Red are particularly opposed to such a thing. At least Team Blue is honest in their support for it. Team Red just tries to win votes off of opposing it, and then do absolutely nothing to stop it once they get power.

        1. It’s ok to kill me if you’re honest about it. Far worse to not stop someone from killing me.

          Typical jeffy reasoning.

        2. Team Red actively expands Medicare when they can (see 2003 and Medicare Prescription Welfare Part D). Of course cynics say that the GOP is just pandering to their base of old people.

          1. Remind me who was in power when medicare was created. Remind me who opposed any modification of barrycare. If any of your team red had been willing then barrycare would be gone or heavily modified by now. But picking off the “moderate” handful of team blue senators to vote with the solid wall of team red has left us where we are.

            1. I’m sorry the fact I used about Team Red of 2003 offended your sensitive partisanship.

              1. So no response then.

            2. Flip red and blue in the last two sentence if the mistake isn’t obvious to you. Turd’s stupidity is rubbing off on me today.

    2. “And economic idiots like Warren and Ocasio-Cortez want the state to decide how grandma’s retirement works.”

      “Idiots” is being generous. What people like Warren and Ocasio-Cortez want is, over their lobster dinners, to decide what flavor cat food grandma will be permitted to have, and whether one can is too much.

    3. I agree. Both about the culture war crap and the retirement funding. And the day the state decides how grandma’s retirement works is the day grandma starts starving. Look at Social Security. As a kid, I remember seeing bumper stickers that said “the government should nationalize crime to make sure it never paus.”

  3. But instead, we’re probably going to get 200 comments calling Elizabeth Warren a socialist no different than Stalin who wants to send us all into gulags. Because instead of forthrightly refuting her bullshit arguments, it’s more trendy to call your opponents evil and compare them to mass murderers.

    1. As opposed to your clear pedantry that this isn’t REAL socialism. Your first post was spot on, and then you had to revert to form.

      1. See there you go. You’d rather just play the WHO’S THE SOCIALIST game.

        It’s not enough that I argue against her terrible ideas, I also have to engage in the virtue-signal that you deem appropriate by using the “correct” labels to describe her.


        1. Reading comprehension is a struggle for you, isn’t it?

          Your first post was spot on, and then you had to revert to form.

          You were the one who began all of the preemptive accusations.

          But instead, we’re probably going to get 200 comments calling Elizabeth Warren a socialist no different than Stalin who wants to send us all into gulags.

          Why are you so concerned about that?

          1. She doesn’t want to send all of us to gulags. Only the ones who don’t see 5 lights.

        2. Why don’t you STFU and quit cluttering the board arguing about things that aren’t happening

      2. It isn’t real socialism. Why lie about it?

        1. I’m an aspiring Wapo writer, I guess.

          1. No, you’re not.

            The Dotard says our press is “the enemy of the people” and you agree with him.

            1. You really aren’t very bright.

        2. I don’t seem to recall you attacking Bernie for calling Denmark a socialist country.

        3. It’s still socialism even if it doesn’t meet the exact strict textbook definition.

          1. Socialism is the state control of the means of production.

            Warren wants to control the means of production.

  4. Warren’s proposal, from a strictly budgetary perspective, would be free.

    Right. It would have absolutely no impact on tax revenues at all.

    But of course it’s not free?not even close?even if the price tag won’t show up in a Congressional Budget Office score.

    Are you suggesting that static scoring might have some deficiencies? Unpossible.

    1. re: “no impact on tax revenues at all”

      Sorta, yeah. But only because the tax effects are limited (by legislative rule) to only the static effects. No dynamic calculations of market reactions allowed.

      Stupid as that rule is, I understand the reasoning for it. Static calculations will generate wrong results but they will be objectively wrong. Dynamic calculations might do better – but it’s also a lot easier to hide unjustified optimism, unjustified pessimism or other forms of bias in the math.

      1. You mean like assuming that the barrycare mandate will suddenly work? CBO has plenty of wiggle room for unjustified assumptions even with static scoring. Just look at how they scored stimulus: Their models said it worked and when they ran their projections back into their models… they again said it worked.

        Or to put it another way, I could objectively define pi to be 3. And objectively buildings start falling down.

  5. Warren’s plan is 100% fascism. Failure to comply, no doubt, would result in forced liquidation of the company’s assets and its executives being sent to prison. Perhaps that is how she plans to pay for medicare/college/free puppies for all. Does she not realize that something like 50% of Americans are shareholders-mostly through 401Ks? What will she tell them when their retirement and college savings plans tank? “Oh don’t worry! You still have social security and free community college!”

    1. It is nothing like fascism, you idiot. Jeff is right.

      Fascism exalts race, the military, and an old pure order and would stomp all over workers to do it – even eliminating unions in the process.

      1. You should post the wiki page again. That will somehow prove you right this time.

        1. Why yes. Good idea. It will plant Lizzy Warren squarely on the far right just as NoVaNick intended.

          Far-right politics are politics further on the right of the left-right spectrum than the standard political right, particularly in terms of more extreme nationalist,[1][2] and nativist ideologies, as well as authoritarian tendencies.[3]

          The term is often associated with Nazism,[4] neo-Nazism, fascism, neo-fascism and other ideologies or organizations that feature extreme nationalist, chauvinist, xenophobic, racist or reactionary views.[5] These can lead to oppression and violence against groups of people based on their supposed inferiority, or their perceived threat to the native ethnic group,[6][7] nation, state[8] or ultraconservative traditional social institutions

          Take that Lizzie! You fucking fascist!

          1. OTOH:

            From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_fascism

            An important aspect of fascist economies was economic dirigism,[16] meaning an economy where the government often subsidizes favorable companies and exerts strong directive influence over investment, as opposed to having a merely regulatory role. In general, fascist economies were based on private property and private initiative, but these were contingent upon service to the state

            1. “contingent upon service to the state” – in order to further a race, religion, or ethnic group.

              The goal is the issue here – not the means.

              1. Fascism

                Ctrl-f “race”

                Results: 0

              2. Fuck goals. Goals are wisps and ghosts, ultimately irrelevant.
                Means are all that matter. What is being done? Who gives a fuck why.
                All that matters on the public stage is action. Motives, reasons, rationalizations, none of those are as visible, as objective, as determinable as actions.
                You want the white race (or the black or red or yellow or wahatever) to dominate the world? Big whoop. If you take no action, if you employ no means, your motives are harmless.
                If you take action, employ means to that end, well, what are you doing? It’s the doing that matters, not the why.
                Principles, not principals.

              3. What was the racist motive involved in Fascist Italy, Spain, and Argentina?

                1. Hell, didn’t Fascist Italy and Spain protect Jews (Italy until Germany basically took them over and Hitler made Mussolini his bitch)?

              4. Fuck, you’re a moron.

              5. Fuck, you’re a moron.

          2. Take that Lizzie! You fucking fascist!

            I was not calling her a fascist, I was saying that her regulation plan was fascistic…

            1. OK, fair enough. You did do that.

          3. 13. We demand the nationalization of all enterprises (already) converted into corporations (trusts).

            14. We demand profit-sharing in large enterprises.

            15. We demand the large-scale development of old-age pension schemes.

            16. We demand the creation and maintenance of a sound middle class; the immediate communalization of the large department stores, which are to be leased at low rates to small tradesmen. We demand the most careful consideration for the owners of small businesses in orders placed by national, state, or community authorities.

          4. To be fair, nobody has ever thought Palin was boom learned. Can’t help stupid.

      2. Fascism exalts race, the military, and an old pure order and would stomp all over workers to do it – even eliminating unions in the process.

        You need to re-read the NSDAP 25 Point Program and Hitler’s and Mussolini’s private notes because you obviously have no idea what fascism is about.

        Oh, and one of the first thing leftists (both socialists and fascists) do when they come to power is eliminate unions.

    2. So, you don’t like a program that you imagine that is nothing like she proposed? I don’t like that either!

      The poor poor executives. They face so many punishments. Oh wait…executives rarely go to jail.

      Fascists work with the executives, they don’t imprison them.

      Fascists destroy unions, they don’t empower them.

      This is basically the opposite of fascism.

      1. They only imprison them when they don’t tow the lion. As long as the support the will of their masters they get to stick around.

        Totes different.

        1. Who?

          1. Towing lions seems dangerous. Better call AAA for that.

        2. Fascism is a real circus in that regard

      2. You really don’t know anything about what the real, historical Fascists, as opposed to your cartoon fantasy villain “fascists” were all about, do you? Many of the New Dealers admired the Italian Fascists and adopted many fascistic policies.

      3. Politicians rarely go to jail either. The fact that you think requiring allegiance to the state is opposite of fascism….

      4. Happy, butt licker’s stupider little brother.

      5. Fascists destroy unions, they don’t empower them.

        Same as socialists and communists then.

        Fascists work with the executives, they don’t imprison them.

        Fascists don’t work “with” executives, they force them to do the bidding of the fascist state, under threat of getting dragged off into the labor camps.

  6. ludicrously tragic anyone pays attention to this woman.

    1. I think she is trying to emulate Trump by manipulating the media. The more ludicrous shit she says, the more coverage she will get, and the more it will excite her base.

      1. she makes my ears bleed

  7. Why is it Democrats keep trying to come up with ways to seize peoples property and put it under their control?

    1. They weren’t successfully in a free and fair market so they have to steal it. Duh.

  8. It’s just another form of statism. Private ownership of companies but none of the property rights. The government takes those away just as effectively as if they took over the means of production entirely.

  9. Those companies would be subject to a variety of rules, including . . . a requirement that 75 percent of both shareholders and board members approve of any political activity.

    Well, if this would keep them from a lot of the political virtue-signalling they do now, like boycotting states for wrongthink, then there would be a silver lining to this cloud.

    1. I bet it’d be decided that anything the Liberals favor is “non-political” while deciding to do anything else is deemed “political”.

  10. Warren wrote that since 1985, shareholders “extracted almost $7 trillion” from U.S. companies

    Yeah, why not give control of U.S. companies to someone who doesn’t understand what a shareholder is. I’m sure investors will rush to buy shares that they won’t profit from.

  11. It’s ridiculous to listen to politicians serve out this warmed over Marxist bullshit.

    If anyone is spending money extracted from the working people in this country, it’s politicians like Elizabeth Warren.

    They make a living based on taxing one group of people to bribe off another, and they have the gall to complain that someone’s job is exploitation by the people writing the checks to make all of that possible.


  12. It’s a savvy move from one of the left’s most effective political strategists.

    This sounds an awful lot like Shikha’s appraisal of Hillary Clinton’s brilliant amnesty move.

  13. How was $7 trillion dollars “extracted” * from companies? Is she complaining about dividends? As exploiting workers?

    And, yeah, is she serious about only the wealthiest 10% benefit from that? How many seniors have invested in dividend bearing stocks as supplemental income?

    * Given that $7 trillion over 33 years sounds big, it is only about $212 billion dollars a year. A drop in the bucket of the American economy in a given year.

    1. Why don’t we hear about how much the workers “extracted” from those same companies?

  14. Fortunately, running for president on a corporate governance platform isn’t likely to result in a win.

  15. Calling it socialism or fascism obscures the fact that it’s totalitarianism.

  16. Good regulation is the prerequisite for civilization.

    Laws are regulations.

    I think most people would agree that good laws benefit civilization.

    Capitalism is based on greed. When greedy people do as they like their conflict, wanting what each other has, leads to violence.

    You pollute the oceans and environmental activists sink your boat.

    You invade the Middle East and “terrorists” blow you up.

    Good regulations prevent violence.

    1. When do you graduate high school?

    2. Rob, that was some of the stupidest shit I’ve ever heard. And I’ve read a lot of Tony and PB’s posts.

    3. Well, there goes 15 seconds of my life that I can’t get back

  17. When does anyone point out that it is only fair that the WORKERS should then be subjected to stakeholder interests, and that the shareholders should appoint 40% of the Union board? There won’t be any strikes, or indeed many raises when that is the case.

    Why do “workers” sit atop the corporate hierarchy, and the risk taking owners sit at the bottom, below vendors, customers, and ‘the community’?

    1. Do you think workers aren’t taking a risk by signing on with a company?

      Their lives are far more affected by greedy whims of owners who measure their own “risk” by profit, bonuses and entitled lifestyles.

      Without regulations, in a capitalist environment, there is no incentive for greedy owners to respect the lives of the people whose labour makes them rich.

      Unions were created, their only purpose, to protect workers from greedy owners.

  18. I’m continually amazed that the same people who complain about and fear the evils of big business and greedy executives seem completely blind to the evils of big government and power-hungry government leaders.

    If they hated both, I’d actually sympathize. But no, they flip out at the thought of a scumbag who they can freely decide they will never buy anything from, but they’re fine with a scumbag who can have them locked up or even executed if they don’t do what he wants. That makes zero sense to me.

    1. Comanies cannot use guns to legally come get you in the dead of night like government can.

      Even in Ameirca, govenrment is supposed to be restricted on being legally able to come and get you in the dead of night.

      1. Legally restricted? Ha! Right, like when they get an address wrong and come in the dead of night and give a toddler third degree burns from an incendiary grenade?and all in an attempt to grab a (gasp) drug dealer who doesn’t even live there.

        They day GE, or Exxon, or Whatever Inc. can not only pull stuff like that, but also totally get away with it, I might actually give Warren’s ideas a hearing. Until that day, I will fart in her general direction, to quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

  19. Ireland is looking for a few good S and P 500 firms to relocate….Wall Street right on their heels. Snake Plissken time in NYC.

  20. I can see the prospectus for the IPO now.

    “If you invest in our company and we go bust, you lose your money. If you invest in our company and we make money and declare a dividend, the government decides who to give it to, and it won’t be you.

    So who wants to buy our stock?”

  21. The whole proposal starts with the assumption that a board of directors is required – many privately held companies only have management….and further assumes that the board has actual power ex. the power to replace management, declare dividends, etc. All reasonable with the public ownership approach to business that has developed
    A lot of companies would go “private” – In other words the free flow of $ valuing a company on an exchange would end – they could be owned by closed end funds (which may only own some basket of rights rather than the actual company) , the management of which would appoint a board or whatever they deem best to manage the company (in their interests). The end result would be even more entrenched (and overpaid) management with much less transparency and accountability than exists today.

  22. Princess Fauxcahontas is, like most of her compatriots in the Progressive Swamp, an idiot!

  23. Warren! Dumbass! There is no market when the market is not free of government over intervention. I proclaim Elizabeth Warren a Socialist. It was unavoidable.

  24. “Although she does not claim the socialist label for herself”

    If it walks like a commie, and talks like a commie, then it’s probably a commie.

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