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Please drop your predatory lending practices. You have 20 seconds to comply.


While we're still in the middle of trying to keep Mitch McConnell from murdering Obamacare, we also need to be ready for the next fight in the U.S. Senate: protecting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from the tender mercies of Republicans who'd rather let banks prosper, for the good of their campaign contributions. In June, all but one R in the House voted to gut the CFPB, the agency Elizabeth Warren fought like hell to get established, and now the effort to kill off economy-slowing stuff like "protection from predatory lending practices" is headed for the Senate.

USA Today, whose editorial board doesn't often make a lot of news but managed to last year when it bravely endorsed Not Trump for president, has actually published a good old-fashioned The Banks Suck And So Do The Republicans editorial outlining all the nasties in store for the CFPB if Republicans have their way, noting that commercial banks and the finance industry, and their associated PACs, have showered Republicans with nearly $12 million in campaign contributions in the last year. Whine all you want about Hillary's speaking fees, but three quarters of the banking industry's political giving has gone to the GOP.

And gosh, what a nice basket of goodies the bankers have gotten for their investment in congressional campaigns! The House voted to strip the CFPB of its regulatory powers and its independence. Among other changes, the House bill:

  • Eliminated the CFPB's ability to investigate and punish financial companies with predatory or deceptive practices. This essentially defangs the CFPB's ability to get justice for consumers; since the agency was formed in 2011, it's gotten almost $12 billion in compensation or debt relief for consumers affected by unfair practices.
  • Would kill public access to the CFPB's consumer complaint database, which consumers can currently use to see if a company they're having problems with has been the subject of other complaints. Heavens, we wouldn't want banks and payday lenders to be subject to consumer scrutiny. Money is something that polite people only talk about in quiet rooms.
  • Could restrict or eliminate special offices that help students, veterans, and senior citizens address their particular financial challenges. We love the vets, but if they're being targeted by payday lenders, that's their own problem, now isn't it?
  • Would take away the CFPB's authority to write regulations governing payday lenders and other high-cost loans, like title loans, primarily aimed at people who are already on shaky financial ground. This is a matter of principle: The Founders certainly didn't freeze in the snow at Valley Forge to keep shady operators from lending small amounts of money to poor people and then racking up interest payments many times the amount of the initial loans, or to take away their cars (and thus, their ability to get to work) over a $500 loan balance. Freedom!

Then there's the small matter of the CFPB's independence, which would be undermined by a House plan to have the agency’s director report directly to the president. Who, we’ll assume, would fire current director Richard Cordray and appoint the head of Goldman Sachs, or maybe Jared's favorite Russian bank. Senate Republicans, USA Today notes, may prefer a different proposal, which would replace the CFPB's single director with a five-member board that would supposedly be bipartisan, but whose members would also need to be approved by the Senate -- so that way, the Senate would have more ways to hamstring the CFPB by not holding hearings on a few board members, a far less high-profile approach than refusing to confirm a unitary director. Deadlock would be great for business!

The good news for the CFPB is that attempts to gut it in the Senate will face much more pushback from Democrats, especially Elizabeth Warren, who has vowed to fight to keep it from being trashed. In a Wall Street Journal interview, Warren pointed out that even among Trump voters, a majority want the CFPB left alone or to have more power to protect consumers.

Not everyone would be sad to see the CFPB dismantled -- in fact, the good Free Market Humpers at Dead Breitbart's Home For Encouraging Dummies To Vote Against Their Own Interests is trying to get its readers outraged that mean old leftists are out to harm the lovable scamps in the payday loan industry:

Interesting bunch of comments on that one -- while there's the predictable comments saying "If Elizabeth Warren is for it, it must be bad," and "Anyone dumb enough to get a payday loan deserves to be ripped off," there are also fundamentalists condemning payday loan rates as unbiblical usury, saying they prey on vets and servicemembers, and one commenter who says they're "to the right of Genghis Khan on social issues," but after working at a payday loan place has concluded the entire industry is a ripoff and should be shut down:

The industry DOES prey on the vulnerable, financially unsophisticated, less educated and the stupid. Simple interest rates vary from state to state but typically range between 120% to 1000% APR. The mob should have it so good.

There are more defenders of payday loans -- Free Market! -- than defenders, but even Breitbart is finding "You Must Love Payday Lenders" a hard sell.

Not that hurting their own constituents would be a problem for most Rs -- they're already planning to slash healthcare for tens of millions, so why not offer red state voters a few more avenues to bankruptcy as well? It's all about choice.

Yr Wonkette is supported by reader contributions. Please click the "Donate" clicky to send us money. Elizabeth Warren's Combat Exoskeleton isn't going to build itself, after all.

[USA Today / Consumer Reports / WSJ / Breitbart]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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