Biden’s Soviet-raised pick for Treasury post sought end to banking ‘as we know it’

President Biden’s controversial pick to be the Treasury Department’s comptroller of the currency is a USSR-born and educated professor who has praised the former Soviet Union’s lack of a gender pay gap while recently advocating for ending banking “as we know it” by moving Americans’ finances from private banks to the Federal Reserve. 

Saule Omarova, a Cornell University law professor, was tapped by the president Sept. 23 to oversee the nation’s biggest banks and federal savings associations, with the White House calling her “one of the country’s leading academic experts on issues related to regulation of systemic risk and structural trends in financial markets.”

If approved, Omarova would be the first female and non-white person in the position. 

Her nomination has sparked criticism from Republicans, who say she is seeking to “radically reshaping the basic architecture and dynamics of modern finance” — and reportedly Janet Yellen, Biden’s Treasury secretary raised concerns about her taking the post.

In an early 2021 paper titled “The People’s Ledger,” Omarova argued for making private banks “non-depository lenders,” changing banking “as we know it.” 

Omarova was picked to be the US Treasury Department’s comptroller.
Omarova was picked to be the Treasury Department’s comptroller of the currency.

“Banks, in other words, will not be ‘special’ any more,” she wrote, advocating for separating their lending function from their monetary function. 

“Once banks lose their “special” status and entity-based access to the public subsidy, they will inevitably lose their appeal as potential acquisition targets for other financial institutions,” she added.

Omarova echoed these sentiments in a 2019 documentary film called “A**holes: A Theory,” where she called Wall Street’s culture a “quintessential a–hole industry,” according to the Daily Mail. 

Shortly following her nomination, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), the ranking member on the Senate Banking Committee, said he had “serious reservations about her nomination.” 

“Ms. Omarova has called for ‘radically reshaping the basic architecture and dynamics of modern finance’ including nationalizing retail banking and having the Federal Reserve allocate credit,” he said in a statement. 

“She has also advocated for ‘effectively end[ing] banking as we know it.’ In light of these, and other extreme leftist ideas, I have serious reservations about her nomination.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, also shared reservations, calling out Biden for “placating his radical base” with the nomination.

“President Biden is once again placating his radical base by nominating Saule Omarova as the head of the OCC,” McHenry said. “I am concerned Professor Omarova will prioritize a progressive social agenda over the core mission of the OCC — supervising and managing risk in our financial system.” 

Rep. Patrick McHenry
Rep. Patrick McHenry expressed concerns over Biden’s pick.
Al Drago/Pool via AP

“Our financial regulators must focus on pro-growth policies that foster innovation to build a robust and inclusive economic recovery, rather than Democrats’ obsession with vague social objectives.”

Yellen, too, was skeptical about the nomination, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Omarova has been slammed in the past for appearing to praise and support Soviet Union ideals.

In 2019, she posted to Twitter in support of the “old USSR” where there was “no gender pay gap.” She attempted to do damage control after being criticized for it, but failed to fully condemn the Soviet Union. 

“I never claimed women and men were treated absolutely equally in every facet of Soviet life. But people’s salaries were set (by the state) in a gender-blind manner. And all women got very generous maternity benefits. Both things are still a pipe dream in our society!” she wrote.  

Omarova was born in Kazakhstan in the former Soviet Union and moved to the U.S. in 1991 to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin.

Despite the criticism, the professor has garnered support, notably from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has called the nomination “tremendous news.” 

“She is an excellent choice to oversee and regulate the activities of our nation’s largest banks and I have no doubt she’ll be a fearless champion for consumers,” Warren said in a Facebook statement.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren
On the left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren applauded Biden’s decision.
Patrick Semansky, Pool/AP

Senate Banking Committee Chair Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) praised the professor’s experience as a “policymaker, in the private sector, and in academia,” urging his colleagues to support the nomination. 

“Her experience as a policymaker, in the private sector, and in academia will allow her to work with stakeholders across our financial system to ensure the economy works for everyone, and to protect our economic recovery from the risky activities of Wall Street and other bad actors,” Brown said. 

“I call on my colleagues on the Banking and Housing Committee to support this historic nominee to this position critical to our economy.”

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