Book Review: “A Fighting Chance” by Elizabeth Warren

What a journey for Elizabeth Warren, from being a blue-collar worker’s daughter in Oklahoma, to a school teacher, to becoming a Harvard Law Professor and then to becoming a US Senate from Massachusetts.

I listened to the audiobook and utterly enjoy the story-telling of her own story. It’s fascinating to see a woman achieved such a success having been encouraged by her own mother to be just a housewife. Born to a financially-strapped family with a healthy-failing breadwinner father, she saw first hand what it’s like to go from the middle-class to the poor. Elizabeth was driven to succeed despite getting married at 19 years old and managed to get her law degrees while raising two young children. I’m not surprised that her first marriage failed as she turned out be a woman Jim Warren expected her to be. But she did marry her true love, another professor named Bruce Mann because of his “great legs.”

Professors don’t always have the cushy job starting off. There were lots of moving between her and Bruce. There were lots of accommodating and testing of their love for each other, especially with her 2 young children and her parents plus Aunt Bee sticking around to take care of the kids.

Teaching a law class without text takes lots of guts, especially something like bankruptcy law that were just revised after the Great Depression at that time. But that planted the seed for her continued effort to fight for the middle class and the lower echelon of the society. She started out wanting to know who those people went broke but later found how ordinary those people are.

Elizabeth dug deeper into why the number of people filing bankruptcy are climbing so fast. Besides divorces, serious illnesses, unemployment, She found that most people fell into the traps set up by the banking industry: balloon payments, high mortgage rate, ratcheted up interest rate, and etc.

Making a difference could mean taking on more thankless jobs like what she started with the National Bankruptcy Review Commission, then COP (Congress Oversight Panel to oversee the bailout of 2008), and finally running for the senate race. It’s a long-odd fight and Elizabeth has what it takes – a simple focus to help turning the odd more in favor of the little guys, the underprivileged, and the future generation.

The American politics have been known to be heavily influenced by lobbyists, especially the Wall Street firms and banks. Unfortunately, it costs a lot of money to run for a political seat and who’s going to pay for that? None other than the big companies – not the little guys. “The System Is Rigged!” (See her speech here in Democrats National Convention.)

As a Republican, I cannot be helped to move to the center by Elizabeth Warren’s drive, passion and her arguments to turn the tide. Her data just confirmed my belief that the odd is stacked against the poor, who are trapped by the rich ( or laws enacted by lawmakers funded by the rich) to “slave” for the rich. It’s probably not healthy in the long run. It’s what triggered the revolution in the past. People revolt if they can’t take it any more.

Politics are inherently dirty but the partisanship was incredibly silly, like dividing the COP budget along the party line. To be an insiders, she was discouraged from criticizing other insiders or the insiders don’t listen to them. That’s a good advise in any kind of politics. Elizabeth gave birth to the CFPB and yet she’s not allowed to take official leadership role because her nomination won’t pass Congress due to her intimate involvement. Well, she turned around, ran for the senator and won! Irony in politics.

Her fight for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to be included in the reform bill after the financial crisis got the banking industry to spend over $1M/day to fight it, according to her. I like her story in convincing Barney Frank to include the protection bureau in the bill – her Grandma knew two good things about FDR during the Great Depression: he made it safe to put money in the bank and “other good things.” Create something that people can understand and they’ll stand behind it. Good advise.

There are lots of tedious description of her running for the senate toward the last quarter of the book.

Overall, it’s an inspirational book. I highly recommend it.