By ROLAND S. MARTIN
While President Barack Obama battles with Republicans and Democrats over raising the debt ceiling, Americans should be preparing themselves to take on the special interests and the members of Congress who carry their water in their effort to scuttle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Republicans already won phase one of their flat-out opposition to the CFPB by forcing the White House not to appoint Elizabeth Warren as the head of the agency. She came up with the idea for the bureau and was a natural to lead it. But the GOP, as well as a number of Democrats close to Wall Street, saw her as the devil incarnate and made clear that any effort to put her in the job would face stiff resistance.
I’ve interviewed her several times. She’s the kind of official we need in Washington, someone who cares more about what is right than she does pleasing the folks with deep pockets.
The CFPB is all about simplifying the dizzying policies related to mortgages, investigating credit scoring and keeping an eye on the financial institutions that led the way in the near collapse of our economic system.
These fat cats, along with the congressional mouthpieces they liberally ply with campaign cash, don’t want to see the paperwork reduced, aren’t really happy with total transparency in financial dealings and surely aren’t excited about federal inspectors looking over their shoulder. So they have gotten their champions in the House and Senate—mostly Republican but also a few Democrats—to assert that the bureau will kill jobs, is too independent and should be watered down.
For years, they have ripped off customers, and now they don’t want an agency to hold them accountable. We’ve seen and heard the stories of customers getting hit with ballooning interest rates, of exorbitant payday lender fees and of hidden fees on credit cards. This agency is all about the consumer, not the rip-off artists who look to fatten their coffers and boost their quarterly stock prices.
But the law says that without a confirmed director, the agency can’t regulate the non-bank financial institutions like payday lenders.
Even before Warren was passed over, 44 GOP senators signed a letter saying they would oppose any nominee unless the bureau is changed. I haven’t heard one logical reason for their request. It sounds as if the banking lobby wrote the letter and accompanying talking points.
For instance, they don’t want a single director. Instead, they want a bipartisan commission made up of five members. We know how that would end up. One party would appoint its members, and the other wouldn’t, and the commission wouldn’t be able to get any work done.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been signed into law, but the financial industry protectors in Congress don’t want to see it go into effect. Like typical politicians, they want to destroy what’s designed to help average Americans before it even gets off the ground.
Folks, this is where you come in. You need to raise your voice and tell Congress to get its hands off the one good thing to come out of the colossal collapse of our economy. The financial institutions in this country have raped consumers for years. They have stuck us with outlandish fees and, when busted, said they were sorry, but only after banking billions.
No more. Not now. Not today. If your Democratic or Republican representatives are backing a repeal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, then they stand with the banks and not you. Or your college student. Or your senior citizen parents. Tell them that if they don’t side with the consumers on this one, they will need to find new jobs after the next election.
As Americans, we’ve got to stop believing we have no power. This isn’t a partisan issue. This is about making sure the financial institutions are forced to do right.
Yes, they have tons of money and lobbyists. But we must be willing to organize ourselves to do battle with these financial leeches. Our collective voice can defeat them.
We must take this attitude expressed by Vertner Woodson Tandy — one of the founders of my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha — when addressing an issue:
“We must fight till hell freezes over and then fight on the ice.”