For decades, Joe Biden was known as a man of the center-left, a normal guy, a regular Joe. His views have changed. I’m going to venture a guess as to why.
He concluded – or was persuaded – that history will not regard a moderate president as a consequential president, or a transitional president as a transformational president.
So, he made his choice, turning to Bernie Sanders and other socialist firebrands for direction. This would explain his nomination of Saule Omarova as Comptroller of the Currency, the official who oversees most of America’s banks and is, therefore, one of the most powerful financial regulators in the world.
“My concern with Professor Omarova is her long history of promoting ideas that she herself describes as ‘radical,’” Sen. Pat Toomey said at the start of her nomination hearing last week. “I agree that they are radical. But I’d also describe them as socialist.”
“She wants to nationalize the banking system,” he continued, and create “a command-and-control economy where the government allocates resources explicitly, instead of free men and women making their own decisions about the goods and services they want to buy and sell in an open market. These are exactly the kind of socialist ideas that have failed everywhere in the world they’ve been tried.”
Ms. Omarova has a colorful story. She was born 55 years ago in Kazakhstan when that Central Asian country was part of the Soviet empire. At 18 she won a Lenin scholarship to Moscow State University (MSU), the most prestigious school in the USSR.
Such honors were not often granted to Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities. We may conclude that Ms. Omarova was very smart. We also may conclude that she had earned the trust of Communist Party officials.
In 1991, she was selected for a student exchange program – again indicating the Kremlin’s confidence in her – and enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Then, “the Soviet Union fell apart,” she told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. “So, there I was, a student without anywhere to go back.”
That doesn’t ring true. Nothing prevented Soviet citizens residing abroad from returning home. In any case, over the next few years, she did well in America, earning both a doctorate and a law degree. She is currently a professor at Cornell Law School.
While still in Moscow, she had written a thesis titled, “Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in Das Kapital.” On October 5, Mr. Toomey requested a copy.
She didn’t comply. Instead, she gave media interviews stressing that she had written the paper “years ago in a system where there was absolutely no academic freedom. We had to write what we had to write in order to get our diplomas. It did not reflect my views then. It does not reflect my views now.”
Sen. Toomey pointed out that Ms. Omarova “chose to advertise her thesis on her resume right up through 2017.” She now says doesn’t have a copy. Nor are there copies at MSU, an official there told a British reporter.
In 2019, she tweeted, “Until I came to the US, I couldn’t imagine that things like gender pay gap still existed in today’s world. Say what you will about old USSR, there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn’t always ‘know best.’”
In another tweet, she added that in the Soviet Union “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!”
Having been an exchange student and later a reporter in the Soviet Union, I can assure you that the Communist Party and the Politburo were not equal opportunity employers.
Ms. Omarova has said forcefully that she is not a Communist. She told Congress last week that she grew up “under a totalitarian regime presiding over a failing economy.” Stalin sent members of her family to Siberia where they perished. Their crime was that “they were educated Kazakhs who did not join the party.”
But no one is accusing Ms. Omarova of being a Stalinist. More plausibly, her views are Marxian, Marxist, neo-Marxist (I won’t go into the differences here) or some other variant of socialist – akin to those of Mr. Sanders, and members of the Democratic Socialists of America such as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib.
For example, in an article titled, “The People’s Ledger,” published in a law review last month, Ms. Omarova proposed to “radically redefine the role of a central bank” and “effectively end banking as we know it.”
Of America’s oil, coal, and gas industries, she’s said: “We want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change.”
She’s argued that “we need to make sure banks channel money and financial resources precisely where we, as the nation, as a community, really need it to go.” Guess who would decide what the nation and community need?
She’s proposed that the government have the power to block credit to “socially suboptimal industries.” Guess who would decide which industries fall into that box.
Senator Tim Scott cited her suggestion to create an “unaccountable bureaucracy called the National Investment Authority” that would allocate capital with the Federal Reserve buying and selling commodities to manipulate prices.
He told Ms. Omarova: “I cannot think of a nominee more poorly suited to be the Comptroller of the Currency based solely on your public positions, statements and the weight of your writings than you are.”
We must assume Mr. Biden knew all this and more. Those who voted for him thinking he was a moderate must be surprised – not pleasantly, I would venture to guess.
• Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for the Washington Times.