A video has been swirling about the Twittersphere of late. It shows Saule Omarova, Joe Biden’s nominee for comptroller of the currency, saying that the only way to combat climate change is for fossil fuel industries to go bankrupt. The comment isn’t new – it came from a talk she gave for the Jain Family Institute’s “Social Wealth Seminar” in March – but then again, neither are the concerns over her apparent Marxist beliefs. Both of which are entirely relevant since she’s being considered for a government position that influences how American banks operate.
“Here, what I’m thinking about is primarily the coal and oil and gas industry,” the prospective comptroller says in the short clip shared on Twitter November 9. “A lot of the smaller players in that industry are going to probably go bankrupt in short order, at least we want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change.”
Marxist? Socialist? Activist? A Biden Nominee By Any Other Name …
While some may shrug this off as much ado about nothing – merely a partisan brouhaha over an old comment taken out of context – it certainly adds to the questions that must be asked of this nominee during the confirmation process, which is expected to begin soon. And this is far from the first time some unfortunate skeleton has fallen out of Omarova’s closet.
The former Soviet citizen attended Moscow State University on the V.I. Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship, and her thesis was titled: “Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in The Capital.” That alone doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a Marxist, as many detractors allege, but it certainly raises questions. What was her assessment of Marx’s ideas? That’s one thing U.S. Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Pat Toomey (R-PA) would like to know before he weighs in on her nomination. On October 6, the committee published a request that she turn over both the original Russian version and an English translation. Thus far, that has not happened. And what of the MSU copy? According to an October 22 report by The Daily Mail, “It was destroyed long ago,” a university official said. “We do not have a copy.”
According to Toomey’s letter, Omarova once named the thesis on her CV, but has since deleted it – could that be an attempt to pretend it never happened, now that she’s in the public eye? The world may never know the answer to these questions – but other clues certainly allow us to guess. For example, according to Fox, Omarova was a member of a Facebook group dedicated to Marxist and socialist discussion in 2019.
Then there’s the Jain Family Institute, for whom Omarova spoke in March. While the organization bills itself as nonpartisan and tries to avoid labeling itself as belonging to one ideological side or another, JFI did take a stance firmly in support of guaranteed income, more commonly known as universal basic income (UBI). Far from simply being fond of the idea, the Institute has worked with various communities around the world to implement the policy.
Out of Context, or Right on the Nose?
If Omarova isn’t a Marxist, she is certainly qualified to play one on TV – but should it matter to the senators considering her for the job? In a word, yes – regardless of which side they’re on. She is being considered for Comptroller of the Currency. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, according to its website, is responsible for:
- Issuing banking rules and regulations and providing legal interpretations and guidance on banks’ corporate decisions that govern their practices.
- Visiting and examining the banks it oversees.
- Evaluating applications for new bank charters or branches; for other proposed changes in the corporate structure of banks or their activities; and from foreign banks that wish to operate in the United States under an OCC charter.
- Imposing corrective measures, when necessary, on OCC-governed banks that do not comply with laws and regulations or that otherwise engage in unsafe or unsound practices.
- Protecting consumers by making sure banks give fair access and equal treatment to customers and comply with consumer banking laws.
The OCC oversees 1,125 banks and around $14.9 trillion in assets. Can America trust the regulation of the nation’s banks to someone who very well may believe in the very antithesis of the American economic and social ideal? With the power to potentially influence what businesses and industries banks deal with – including, perhaps, lending policies – could a progressive activist manage to strangle the oil, gas, and coal industries, artificially causing companies to go bankrupt – an outcome she is known to desire? For those who believe capitalism is the bane of human existence, can we afford to do otherwise?
These are the questions to which senators – on both sides of the aisle – must ferret out answers.
~ Read more from James Fite.