Magicians try to distract the audience from looking at one hand by dangling something shiny in the other. So do politicians.
The left’s latest magician: Saule Omarova, President Biden’s nominee to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. OCC is an important agency — it has power to regulate all national banks and federal savings associations. OCC’s wrong moves negatively affect millions of Americans, making banking and other services more expensive and inaccessible, particularly for vulnerable, unbanked Americans.
Rather than answer serious congressional inquiries about whether she is the right fit for OCC, Omarova has attacked duly-elected members of Congress whose voters empower them to serve their interests. By refusing to answer basic questions about her work and worldview, Omarova has obstructed the constitutionally prescribed legislative process.
Born in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, and educated at Moscow State University on the Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship, Omarova is a Cornell University law professor. America is a nation of immigrants who achieve the American dream through hard work and perseverance. Yet Omarova pulls her magician’s shiny object, a “xenophobic sexist” label, as a cudgel against anyone who disagrees with her regulatory philosophy.
Omarova’s self-expressed desire to “radically democratize access to money and control over financial flows in the nation’s economy” would be achieved by centralizing control over all financial institutions. She believes the federal government should determine asset prices, wages, capital, and more — a move that would devastate American free enterprise and global competitiveness.
Omarova has not just advocated for increased regulations on the financial industry but for unprecedented government intervention in the affairs and activities of financial institutions. Of the fledgling cryptocurrency market, Omarova says it’s “benefiting mainly the dysfunctional financial system we already have.”
Senate Banking Committee ranking member Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) sent a letter asking Omarova to submit a copy of her Moscow State University thesis, “Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in The Capital,” to allow the committee to fully assess her nomination (all nominees are required to submit materials and writings under the vetting process). Omarova rejected his request, blowing past his deadline. Such cavalier dismissiveness of constitutionally empowered inquiries is unprofessional and improper.
In a tone-deaf Tweet, Omarova praised the failed Soviet regime that resulted in millions of deaths: “Say what you will about old USSR, there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn’t always ‘know best,’” she wrote.
In a disturbing 2020 academic paper called “The People’s Ledger: How to Democratize Money and Finance the Economy,” Omarova demanded to “effectively ‘end banking’ as we know it.” She proposes transferring all private bank functions to the Federal Reserve, effectively nationalizing the U.S. banking system, “whereby central bank accounts fully replace — rather than uneasily co-exist with — private bank deposits.” This is textbook socialism: government controlling the means of production.
Omarova showed her hostility and bias against the very banking sector she would potentially oversee, calling financial services “a quintessential asshole industry.” In a documentary with the same vulgarity in the title,” Omarova assaults what she calls “the pervasiveness of systematically asshole-type behavior” of financial services professionals who “continue to pursue their own private goals, their own insatiable appetite for private gain.”
As a former Goldman Sachs credit analyst and Moody’s Investor Services bond analyst — e.g. a former financial services professional — I find these remarks tremendously offensive. If I were still working in this sector, I would be fearful of being regulated under her authoritarian, condescending leadership. But it appears that’s what she wants — in her documentary interview, she said she’d love nothing more than for financial services professionals to reject the laws of economics and work against their own interests.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Omarova accused her critics of racism and sexism, saying they sought to “demonize and vilify” her identity. She claimed people scrutinizing her past and principles were applying “a different standard” because “I’m an easy target: an immigrant, a woman, a minority.”
Yet there are, for example, millions of Cuban American immigrants (Hispanic, often people of color) and their descendants in the United States who reject Soviet-inspired communism and Marxism (having experienced its tragic results firsthand), and many of them are comfortably at home in the conservative movement that is raising red flags about Omarova’s guiding principles.
The nominee’s worldview is more aligned with the failed former Soviet Union — an economic regime that collapsed under its failed policies — than the U.S. system she would regulate. In an interview defending her nomination, Omarova told Bloomberg News she’s “a free-market idealist” and said, “I know that Soviet-style communism doesn’t work. I’ve lived through it. That system was deeply flawed. It’s dead.”
Unfortunately, by her desire for the government to seize control of the banking industry, Omarova contradicts those claims and would put Americans on a path to revive the system she saw fail. Omarova’s status as a woman and immigrant is not the problem — the content of her professional output is.
Omarova is the opposite of what makes a great leader: Missing are the qualities of humility, wisdom, and empathy. Her hateful rhetoric toward the very people she would be regulating, along with her embrace of failed and deadly Marxism make her supremely unqualified for this important public service. Senators shouldn’t fall for Omarova’s cheap tricks as she seeks to deflect attention from substance — that is, away from her economic destructiveness.