Will Biden’s radical comptroller get the nod?

You’ve probably never heard of Saule Omarova. A professor at Cornell Law School, she is hardly a household name. She is also Joe Biden’s pick for the job of Office of Comptroller of the Currency and her Senate Banking Committee hearing will be held today.

OCC is one of those important jobs that doesn’t generally capture the headlines: its officeholder is the nation’s top banking regulator.

Omarova is popular among progressives. Elizabeth Warren has called her “an excellent choice to oversee and regulate the activities of our nation’s largest banks.” But her nomination has earned outsized attention because of some eyebrow-raising details in Omarova’s backstory and her views on economics.

Born in Soviet Kazakhstan, Omarova attended Moscow State University on a Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship. She graduated in 1989 and her thesis was titled “Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in Das Kapital.” You can see why any senator interested in the slightest bit of scrutiny of nominees might want to take a look at this work. Pat Toomey, the ranking member of the Banking Committee has asked to do exactly that, but Omarova has not handed over the thesis.

Yesterday, we learned via the Washington Free Beacon, that Omarova was arrested in 1995 for shoplifting from a T.J. Maxx in Madison, Wisconsin. The OCC nominee, then a twenty-eight-year-old doctoral student, was caught stealing $214 worth of clothes, shoes, cologne and belts.

According to a gullible profile in New York magazine, all of this is nothing more than “ludicrous red baiting,” a “retro xenophobic” campaign against a perfectly reasonable, well-qualified candidate. NPR has called her nomination fight “ugly” and “incredibly personal”.

Now, it’s one thing to say some of the criticism is overblown. A fair critic of Omarova’s would acknowledge (as many have) that studying at Moscow State University isn’t in and of itself disqualifying for someone who grew up under a totalitarian regime — but it is a perfectly reasonably area of inquiry. The charge of xenophobia is a desperate smear operation. Do senators not have a right — and a duty — to ask tough questions of nominees, especially those with the kind of far-out views with which Omarova appears to have flirted?

If you think it’s unfair to drag up her college thesis, take a look at a paper she published last year. In “The People’s Ledger” the law professor argues for dramatic reform to the Federal Reserve and envisions a completely centralized banking system, including  “the complete migration of demand deposit account to the Fed’s balance sheet.” This is a radical proposal, and its exponent deserves proper scrutiny.

So, will Omarova get the nod in the Senate? Moderate Democrats are still on the fence. Montana senator Jon Tester has acknowledged “real concerns” about Omarova and says that “some of her past statements about the role of government in the financial system raise real concerns about her ability to impartially serve at the OCC, and I’m looking forward to discussing them with her at her hearing.”

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Unspinning SALT

NBC reports on the growing unease among Democrats over the SALT tax cap repeal jammed into Biden’s reconciliation bill by describing it as a “middle-class tax provision that also benefits the wealthy.” The characterization of the policy as a “middle class” is, to put it mildly, a sympathetic interpretation. The proposed change benefits those who pay more than $10,000 in state and local taxes.

A recent Tax Policy Center analysis found that the provisions do not confer any benefit on the bottom 40 percent of taxpayers by income. The benefits to those in the 40-80 range of incomes accrue negligible benefits from the proposal. Almost all of the rewards from the second most expensive item in the Build Back Better bill flow to the top 20 percent. Whatever you think of the policy, there’s no reasonable basis on which to describe this tax cut for the rich as a “middle-class tax provision”.

Murdoch to Trump: get over it

Rupert Murdoch’s opinions on presidents and prime ministers is always the source of much speculation. Public pronouncements from the media mogul on current political issues and figures are rare. But that is exactly what he offered in remarks at the NewsCorp annual shareholder meeting yesterday.

Here’s what he said: “The current American political debate is profound, whether about education or welfare or economic opportunity. It is crucial that conservatives play an active, forceful role in that debate, but that will not happen if President Trump stays focused on the past. The past is the past, and the country is now in a contest to define the future.”

What you should be reading today

Heather Heying: Challenging rigid wokeness by building a new university
Ben Sixsmith: The return of Thomas Pynchon?
Andrew Roberts: Have Americans got George III wrong?
Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal: The COP26 and the global age of shams
Kyle Smith, New York Post: Kamala Harris is a very weird person
Joel Kotkin, Spiked: We need more families

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 41.5 percent
Disapprove: 53.2 percent
Net approval: -11.7 (RCP Average)

West Virginian voters were asked whether Joe Manchin should support or oppose the Build Back Better legislation
Support: 24 percent
Oppose: 74 percent (MBE Research)

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