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Blog Post | April 28, 2020

In Interview, Donna Shalala Does Nothing to Alleviate Progressives' Concerns

Congressional Oversight

Soon after Shalala was officially chosen, we learned that she had repeatedly violated the STOCK act by failing to disclose a host of stock sales made throughout 2019. This revelation quickly prompted calls for Shalala’s resignation, which have gone entirely unheeded. Indeed, Pelosi expressed her “complete confidence” in Shalala, as if repeated violations of the preeminent ethics law of the last decade were nothing to worry about.

Still comfortably situated in her panel seat, Shalala gave an interview Monday that did nothing to waylay progressive groups’ concerns. In fact, she has arguably made the case for her resignation even clearer. 

In this interview, Shalala’s rendition of a corrupt politician is almost caricaturesque. She brags knowingly about understanding the inevitability of what she minimizes as “some mischief.” Shalala knows better than to seek to “nitpick” such trivial matters because, as she boasts, she has known Treasury Secretaries, Fed Chairs, and Fed Governors for decades. At no time does she indicate that she understands the populist concern at her selection is, in fact, that she was chosen for social proximity to economic elites rather than any commitment to ensuring the powerful comply with all laws. And yes, progressives are such party poopers that they even believe it matters if the laws broken are those Shalala believes render mere “mischief” illegal.

In contrast, there is a fair amount of self-awareness in how Shalala pairs illegally withholding public notice of transactions for more than a year — violations of a law she has claimed to understand fully! — with dismissing the hiding of problematic transactions as inevitable. 

Shalala also downplays her panel’s ready access to congressional subpoena power since, she says, she knows “the Fed chair well enough to know that he does not want to politicize the Fed.” Of what value are subpoenas between elites who “know” each other so well?

What can possibly go wrong when Democratic appointees implicitly trust a former private equity titan like Jerome Powell, a man who runs the Federal Reserve by dint of having been handpicked by Donald Trump and Steven Mnuchin?

Progressives are aware that Shalala failed to abide by the preeminent public ethics law of the past decade, aware that she brags about being pals with the elites who have (mis)managed the economy for decades, and aware that she has committed herself to only proceeding on this commission in tandem with the Republicans awful selections. 

Shalala, in turn, ought to be aware that her comments vindicate what progressives had previously only surmised about her aggressive indifference to following laws and norms designed for people who have spent fewer decades socializing with financial leaders. Shalala is of, by, and for elites and doesn’t believe laws or “oversight” ought to question the motives of established elites.

Progressives, of course, disagree, and will continue to “nitpick” Shalala and offer her, the Treasury, and the Federal Reserve no allowances for “some mischief” along the way.

Congressional Oversight

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