The Pritzker Hearing and the Chicago-DC Ruling Class

The Pritzker Hearing and the Chicago-DC Ruling Class

I found it astonishing to watch Senators from both parties roll over for Secretary of Commerce nominee Penny Pritzker at her confirmation hearing his week. 

My Breitbart colleagues teased me for my lack of cynicism about the “ruling class” in Washington. But even for a Tea Party conservative like me–with first-hand experience of Chicago politics–the Pritzker confirmation hearing was like a bucket of ice water in the face. 

Not only is it possible to buy a Cabinet seat with your family’s billions; it is possible to buy the acquiescence of the opposition with your government’s trillions. 

Of the Senators on the Commerce Committee, only Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD) asked Pritzker about the subprime mortgages that sank Superior Bank. No one asked her about her offshore tax avoidance schemes–two days after pounding Apple, Inc. for the same.

Instead, one by one, the Senators pitched softball questions to Pritzker about issues that were of peculiar concern to local constituencies or special interest groups seeking favorable spending or regulation. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked a policy question about Pritzker’s commitment to free trade, which he noted was at odds with President Barack Obama’s foot-dragging on the issue. That was about as tough as it got for Pritzker.

Pritzker might well pass confirmation 100 to zero. And that is a shame, because it is hard to imagine a worse representative of American business. Pritzker was born into wealth; she ran a bank into the ground through subprime lending; she served on the board of one of the nation’s most troubled school systems; and she has risen to her present position of influence by virtue of her political fundraising for the president.

Penny Pritzker is, as Barack Obama used to say of Mitt Romeny, one of the “folks who got us into this mess.”

He has no shame about appointing someone who has spent her recent career at odds with labor unions, who fleeced her Main Street depositors to help her Wall Street investors, who symbolizes everything that is troubling about a campaign finance system that Obama says is “broken.” And opposition from the left simply died.

The failure of the Senators to raise these issues is also a sign of how little Congress has learned from the financial crisis. Whether you blame Wall Street or Washington for the mess, the subprime crisis was clearly at the heart of the problem. That is why Pritzker pulled out of the nomination process in 2009. 

Four years later, however, all seems to be forgotten. And Chicago-run Washington continues as usual, a “ruling class” safely restored.