Let’s Not Demonize People Based on Their Place of Employment

Last year I got an email from Sen. Al Franken urging me to join him in rejecting President Obama’s nomination of Antonio Weiss to serve as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department. The case the Senator made was that Weiss had worked for a Wall Street firm. I politely responded by saying that I would join him if he could point to some reason to object to the nominee other than his place of employment.

I tell that story because it is one of the things that concerns me about a tendency we’ve seen lately among some liberals. Because the Sanders campaign raised objections to Barney Frank’s position as chair of a key Democratic National Convention committee, I’m hearing people vilify the former Congressman for serving as a board member at Signature Bank…as if that is a crime.

While it is true that the financial industry was a major player in causing the Great Recession, it doesn’t sit well with my own liberal values to demonize anyone and everyone who has ever been involved with such an institution. It begins to sound a bit McCarthyite to my ear.

Just to mix it up a bit, there is an interesting backstory to the whole Weiss nomination. To read the other side of things, I recommend an article by Andrew Ross Sorkin. What I find interesting is that Weiss was being nominated to serve in the same position once held by Gary Gensler – who had worked at Goldman Sachs (gasp!) for 18 years. After working in the Treasury Department, President Obama appointed Gensler to be the chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission – where he earned a reputation as a progressive hero for “penning some of the toughest regulations into the Dodd-Frank reform bill, including tightening oversight of the trillion dollar derivatives markets.” Let that one sink in for a moment…former Goldman Sachs partner becomes tough Wall Street regulator. It happened.

Bernie Sanders fuels this kind of ugly fire when he says things like: “the business model of Wall Street is fraud.” I’m not naive. There are a lot of unscrupulous players who work on Wall Street. But demonizing someone simply due to their place of employment is wrong…it’s sounds more like something Republicans would do.

When it comes to Barney Frank – let’s look at his record of serving for 34 years in Congress. An interesting thing happens when we do that.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.