This week, House Republicans plan to sell out the American people to big Wall Street banks and predatory lenders. The terrible legislation that will do the deed is officially called the Financial CHOICE Act.
It deserves its newly popular hashtag: the #WrongCHOICEAct.
Although this kind of slavish devotion to monied interests might seem like business as usual for the Republicans, they’re going above and beyond the call of duty this time around. They’ve decided that they want to take the Dodd-Frank Act — which was passed in 2010 to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis and Great Recession — and set it on fire.
If Republicans pass this bill, they’ll be empowering Donald Trump to wreak havoc on the nation’s premier consumer regulator, allowing financial advisors to swindle retirees, and setting us up for a new crisis and recession. On top of all that, they’ll be enabling predatory lenders to target poor Americans and trap them in long-term debt.
The reasons for all of this is simple: money.
Wall Street pumped more than $2 billion into the 2016 election cycle, according to Americans for Financial Reform, to influence decision-making in Washington. The #WrongCHOICEAct is their reward. Jeb Hensarling, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Financial Services Committee and wrote the bill, received more than $1.8 million from the financial services industry.
One of the many accomplishments of Dodd-Frank was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which keeps the financial marketplace transparent and fair. To put it simply, when banks steal your money, the CFPB are the ones who fight to get it back. The CFPB has won relief of more than $11.8 billion for 29 million consumers. That’s serious money that went to ordinary Americans, not rich folks.
Republicans aren’t big fans of that approach, apparently.
The #WrongCHOICEAct would take away the CFPB’s independent funding structure. Currently, the CFPB is funded by the Federal Reserve, not Congress; that means that no matter what kind of fight is going on over the national budget, the CFPB is safe from cuts. By taking that structure away, the bill leaves the CFPB completely at the mercy of congressional Republicans — who’ve already shown that they don’t like the agency.
The bill would also allow Donald Trump to fire the CFPB director for no good reason. He would need only get amped up at 3 a.m. after watching Fox News. And we know that’s how he rolls.
The #WrongCHOICEAct also takes a swing at retirees and their investments. Towards the end of the Obama Administration, the Department of Labor passed the “fiduciary rule”, which requires financial advisors to put their clients’ interests above their own (yes, we needed a whole new regulation to make sure the people who control your investments don’t lie to your face). In 2015, financial advisors’ conflicts of interest cost Americans around $17 billion per year.
The #WrongCHOICEAct eliminates that rule completely. Why, exactly, are Republicans are in favor of retirees getting robbed?
The Hensarling bill would also eliminate the “stress-testing” requirement for a number of banks, and reduce the frequency of tests from once a year to every two years. Stress-testing is done to determine whether or not institutions could handle a financial crisis like 2008, so it looks like Republicans aren’t at all concerned about that sort of thing.
One of the worst things about the Act, though, is what it does about payday lending. Payday lenders give out short term loans with huge interest rates, often to people with little chance of actually paying them back. Although they’re advertised as being able to save people in a pinch (like your car breaking down), with typical interest rates of around 400%, they can often become bigger problems than the issue they were originally meant to solve.
It sure sounds like payday lending should be regulated in some way, right? Just a couple laws here and there to make sure they’re not outright lying about their rates or doing any other scammy stuff? Consumers need protection from this sort of thing.
Unfortunately, the #WrongCHOICEAct states (Section 733, a provision tucked away on page 397) that federal authorities “may not exercise any rulemaking, enforcement, or other authority with respect to payday loans,” so it looks like predatory lenders will continue to prey upon consumers for the foreseeable future.
Jeb Hensarling and his fellow Republicans are making crystal clear to the American people with the #WrongCHOICEAct that they’re on the side of Wall Street. I guess that’s what money buys you these days.
Killing this bill is a real possibility, but only if your lawmakers know you’re paying attention. Tell Congress: oppose the CHOICE Act.