My Turn: How this diehard conservative came to admire a Massachusetts liberal
Former Epsom state representative Tony Soltani takes the stand in his own defense at his trial at Merrimack County Superior Court ; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
Given the opportunity, I would never have oted for Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. After all, I am a lifelong, diehard, conservative Republican. There is a vast chasm between her political views and mine. I now know that I would have been, simply, wrong.
The senator from Massachusetts is a perfect example of a legislator performing one of the most vital duties of any legislative body: oversight and protection of citizens against government overreach, malpractice, inefficiency and abuse. It is a vital function envisioned by the founding fathers, reserved for Congress. But it is all too frequently abrogated, ignored or used for grandstanding on issues that really don’t matter.
This vital function is not uniquely reserved for Congress. Most state legislatures, including New Hampshire’s, are vested and, indeed, charged with the same responsibility. And in every legislative body, certain members have expertise in particular areas. As a former legislator, I was incapable of knowing the details of every bill, nor was I able to determine misconduct, abuse and government overreach in every single instance. Legislators rely on each other’s expertise. We are also required to use our expertise to inform our fellow members. This enables the legislative body to function properly and fosters a cooperative environment so that all members may rely on various views expressed by the expert members in a particular area before making an informed decision.
Warren is showing the nation and her colleagues in Washington how that expert knowledge is used to best serve the people. Her area of expertise is economics, the financial industry, and the oversight responsibilities of various government agencies regarding the multibillion-dollar industry propped up and subsidized by the federal government and taxpayers. She has been in office for about 18 months. During that time she has worked tirelessly and without regard for party politics. She has spearheaded investigations into the most powerful financial institutions within and without the government. She asks tough questions and demands answers. She has exposed corruption, favoritism, abuse of the lower economic class and the incestuous relationship between the regulators and the Wall Street giants.
Warren seeks the truth and lets the chips fall where they may. She has exposed the government agency charged with promoting home ownership actually using its power and taxpayer dollars to obstruct the ability of the people to buy their first homes. She has exposed a missing $9 billion from taxpayer dollars. She has exposed the agency charged
with the noble function of allowing lower and middle-class students to acquire student loans as a cash cow for government, which profited $54 billion from lower and middle-class students in one year. The government still dares to call this program a subsidy.
She has exposed that hundreds of thousands of poor homeowners were victims of illegal foreclosures by the major national lending institutions. The regulators have granted those institutions immunity but refuse to disclose to the victims that they have, in fact, been victimized.
Thanks to Warren, we now know that at least one mega-bank laundered money to the tune of nearly $1 billion for drug lords and tyrants who murder their own people, oppress freedom and are engaged in terrorist activity against the United States. They did this after being warned several times by regulators that they were in violation of the law and international sanctions against terrorist regimes. We now know that the federal government has not prosecuted a single individual responsible for these and other violations of the banking regulations, United States laws, and our international treaties.
In Warren’s words, “it’s all about transparency and accountability.” Also in her words, “it is fundamentally unfair” that people are prosecuted and put in prison for years for selling an ounce of cocaine or laundering a few thousand dollars for drug dealers. But no one who engages in large-scale money-laundering for drug cartels and terrorists ever gets prosecuted. These giant institutions in bed with the regulators are too big to fail, so our tax dollars are used to cover up their misbehavior.
Regardless of whether the attorney general or the regulators are Democratic or Republican appointees, they have betrayed the American people. When it comes to financial institutions we have no transparency, no accountability, civil or criminal. They can do as they wish, without the fear of any consequence.
The honorable women representing New Hampshire in Congress would do well by taking a lesson from Warren.
(Tony F. Soltani is a former Republican state representative from Epsom.)