Saule Omarova has been criticised by Republicans for being the ‘most radical’ nominee ever and wanting to ‘end banking as we know it’
By Nick Allen WASHINGTON 15 October 2021
Joe Biden’s nominee for banking regulator has been asked to hand over to the US Senate a thesis on Karl Marx that she wrote while a student at Moscow State University.
Saule Omarova, 55, who has suggested plans to “end banking as we know it” in America, has been accused by Republicans of being the “most radical” nominee ever put forward for any government position.
She has been nominated to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates 1,200 financial institutions including major US banks, and has been enthusiastically backed by left-wing Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Ms Omarova’s ideas include having the US government hold people’s individual bank accounts through the Federal Reserve, rather than private banks doing it. She also backs a National Investment Authority to pay for infrastructure projects, and has questioned why taxpayers have to bail out the private sector in an economic crisis but do not share in the profits during a boom.
The professor of banking law at Cornell University Law School was born in the former Soviet Union, in present day Kazakhstan, and went to university in Moscow on a scholarship, before moving to the US in 1991.
There was widespread consternation among bankers over a tweet she wrote in July, after JPMorgan Chase took over some smaller companies.
Ms Omarova wrote: “Does the world need JPMorgan to grow bigger and more powerful? Just wondering.”
Two years ago she tweeted: “Say what you will about old USSR, there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn’t always ‘know best,’…All women got very generous maternity benefits. Both things are still a pipe dream in our [US] society!”
Mr Biden’s decision to nominate Ms Omarova was reportedly opposed by his Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, and was believed to have been a move to appeal to the left wing of his party. She would be the first woman, and first non-white, Comptroller.
With the Senate split 50-50, and Vice President Kamala Harris holding a casting vote, opposition from moderate Democrats could derail the nomination.
Pat Toomey, the leading Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, accused Ms Omarova of espousing “extreme leftist ideas,” adding: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more radical choice for any regulatory spot in our federal government.”
He said: “The Soviet regime was so profoundly evil, and America’s so great, and yet, she doesn’t appear to see it quite that way. What she wants to do, and I quote, this is her words – ‘effectively end banking as we know it’. She clearly has an aversion to anything like free-market capitalism.”
Mr Toomey has written to Ms Omarova, saying: “I write today seeking a copy of your thesis, ‘Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in The Capital,’ which you wrote as a student at Moscow State University on the V.I. Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship.”
He said reference to the thesis appeared to have been deleted from the Cornell Law School website but had appeared on Ms Omarova’s CV as recently as 2017.
As Comptroller Ms Omarova would not have power to implement most of the ideas she has espoused. It would be outside her regulatory remit.
But Mick Mulvaney, Donald Trump’s former White House chief of staff, said confirming her would have a “chilling effect” and lead to “heavy, heavy government regulation,”
Supporters of Ms Omarova have pointed out that she previously served in the Treasury in the Republican administration of President George W. Bush.
Ms Omarova told the Financial Times some of the criticism of her was racist.
She said: “I don’t look like your typical Comptroller of the Currency, I have a different history. I am easy to demonise and vilify.”
She also described how her relatives had been sent to die in Siberia by Stalin, and how she became an anti-communist while at Moscow State University where she listened to Pink Floyd and discussed Solzhenitsyn.