Personal Finance

Consumers Be Damned: Senator Shelby, Captain Queeg and the Politics of No

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Last week’s Senate Banking Committee hearing on the nomination of Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau featured prepared speeches that were utterly without sound and fury but still managed to do a huge disservice to American consumers. It felt like a really bad Capitol Hill reality show, devoid of all emotion, featuring actors who made Snookie and the Situation seem like “clean” coal shills at a global warming conference.

Confirmation hearings are generally only for the true political junkie, and this was no exception. Occasionally a Cordray supporter would say something intelligent, and it was clear that there are some Senators who are serious about getting Cordray confirmed so the CFPB can begin its sorely needed work. However, during most of the confirmation, there was a sort of institutional narcissism at work rendering the nominee’s presence virtually irrelevant. Sen. Richard Shelby—the ranking Republican on the committee who thus had the right to speak immediately after the Chairman finished—was to blame for this, by asserting at the outset that the hearing was “premature.”

[Article: Is Richard Cordray the New Elizabeth Warren?]

Forty-four Republican Senators vowed to block anyone unless and until they were satisfied that Congress would have real control over the corporation-killing, lefty jabberwocky sired by those scourges of economic growth, Senator Dodd and Representative Frank. Senator Shelby rounded up the GOP’s usual suspects: President Obama, the Democrats, and even the structure of the agency itself (more organization = more government = bureaucratic tyranny = higher taxes thereby imperiling recovery), and more or less renewed his vow on cable TV to block the nominee, stopping just short of using the word “filibuster.”

It was a graphic demonstration of what matters most in Washington these days: that one party shamelessly and steadfastly seeks to thwart the initiatives of the other party—and, of course, to depose its leader—irrespective of right or wrong, or the needs of the American people.

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There is nothing terribly “political” about Cordray’s nomination. No one said he’s not qualified for the job (he is widely respected by partisans on both sides of the aisle in Ohio). Only the corporations-are-people crowd disputes the need for a federal consumer protection bureau (if only to unify and simplify the existing hodgepodge of state regulations and overlapping federal agency authority). Everyone knows the CFPB will be focused on promoting financial education, rooting out predatory practices and modernizing outdated regulatory approaches.

Unfortunately, Richard Cordray is but the latest pawn in the partisan gamesmanship that is progressively killing America. It’s not a good game of chess. It’s a bad game of chicken. If the full faith and credit of the United States can be held hostage, as it was during the debt ceiling faux-crisis, what else could Cordray expect from these hearings?

While the pachyderms fiddle, the homeland is burning. Many argue the federal government needs to be checked and balanced. Last week, before a joint session of Congress the President pointed out the existence of 500 federal laws or regulations that were unduly complicated or burdensome. No doubt there are a whole lot more than that. Frankly (no pun intended), the Dodd-Frank Act, clearly a work in progress, needs work itself. But the CFPB is necessary, now.

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Consumers Be Damned (cont.) »

Image: 35 Summers, via Flickr.com

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  • http://bobbyshead.blogspot.com Bobby Kearan

    Thank you for a great article and some wonderful lines!

    You are, of course, absolutely correct in your analysis of the Party of No.

  • C. Wright

    Clearly Mr. Levin is a democrat and this article was very slanted. Mr. Kearan also needs to get his bipartisonship in check. You both are doing the same thing you are bashing the boys in Washington for. This isn’t about Cordray or the confirmation, I am neither a dem or a rep and I despise the Dodd-Frank Act and everything associated with it, including the CFPB. However, I do agree there has to be rules and regulations to protect consumers from making horrible mistakes at the hands of those who would deceive. People who have actually read Dodd-Frank and understand what it will do, have to agree that it will actually hurt consumers and make it even more difficult to obtain financing, not to mention putting even more Americans out of work. Most of the folks in Washington are so far removed from “reality”, they do not understand what happened with the housing crisis. They just want to point fingers and say bad Lenders and Brokers. Lenders and Brokers control nothing. Washington won’t take personal responsibility, and they think the fix is to regulate the Lenders and Brokers in this country out of business. All of the posturing and their creation of MORE government agencies with consumer friendly names, looks good to the naive public. The housing crisis was directly caused by Greed. The acceptance of certain types of loans and practices by FNMA (government), FHLMC (government) and Wall Street. If you are going to pay top dollar for a certain loan product with certain characteristics, you are going to get them, lots of them. The Lenders and Brokers would have never originated them or had any interest in them if the government and Wall Street didn’t create a market for them. I for one am not fooled, and Barney Frank was directly involved in the creation of the housing crisis and should not be able to cover up his errors with laws and regulations that will kill the financial industry. Let’s get together as a country and come up with something better, using ideas and input from the industry they are attempting to regulate and kill.

  • Larry K

    As a Republican turned independent I take no solace from either party. The Democrats have not had good proposals to solve or even address the foreclosure problem. Ask the 32 California Democrat congress members who sent an angry letter to the President last week regarding the Administration’s lack of action. The bailout in 2008-09 did not solve unemployment, hold Wall Street accountable, or help ordinary Americans deal with mortgage problems. Clearly the bickering by both parties (eg Senator Shelby) only breeds my own cynicism at the failures of both partirs and both branches of government.

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