Linda Frame: WV Sees Through Financial Lobbyists; Manchin Should Too
Charleston Gazette - Right now, Sen. Joe Manchin is getting a lot of attention from bank lobbyists who are trying to convince him that allowing some of the wealthiest corporations in America to write their own rules is somehow good for us here in one of the poorest states in the union. Read What these lobbyists want from Sen. Manchin and Congress in general is to undo all the rules put in place to prevent the next Great Recession. They want to tear down the requirement that banks have enough money to cover their bets and therefore avoid any chance of needing taxpayer bailouts. But more than anything and first and foremost, the lobbyists in Washington want to get rid of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — created as a result of the financial crash — is tasked with helping average Americans handle problems with their bank accounts, credit cards, student loans, home mortgages and the like. First, the Consumer Bureau set up a system to receive complaints, then to deal with them. The complaint database also helps the Consumer Bureau uncover patterns of abuse and hold businesses accountable for wrongdoing. Among the most highly publicized enforcement actions was the Wells Fargo scandal, where the bank was caught opening accounts for customers who didn’t want them. Wells Fargo was forced to return millions to consumers who had been cheated. The Consumer Bureau also caught and stopped Navient, the nation’s largest student loan provider, from cheating and bilking borrowers and forced mortgage lenders associated with Citibank to repay borrowers who were given the runaround when they were trying to take steps to save their homes. All that happened in just the last six months. When not enforcing the law and shutting down scams, the Consumer Bureau is writing rules to ensure entire industries operate fairly and in a way that protects both individual consumers and the economy as a whole. New rules — if not blocked by financial lobbyists — would keep payday lenders from purposefully trapping borrowers in an endless cycle of debt and bar debt collectors from harassing people who don’t actually owe any debts. Luckily, payday lending is illegal in West Virginia, saving our residents $48 million each year in fees from these predatory lenders. This Consumer Bureau’s work is, of course, very popular with West Virginians and other Americans who know about it, so the bank lobbyists must be careful. They cannot outwardly say they want to get rid of the Consumer Bureau any more than an outlaw can admit to wanting to shut down the sheriff’s department. Instead, they complain that it is “unaccountable” and overly powerful and that they don’t want to shut it down but only change its structure. The change they seek is to remove the position of director — someone who is, in fact, accountable to doing a good job — and replace it with a five-member commission. Commissions can be ineffective in government. That’s exactly the lobbyists’ point. Sen. Manchin is often a target for these kinds of efforts to peel off a senator or two from the pack. Unfortunately for the bank lobbyists, that does not necessarily mean he won’t see through this blatant greed-driven ploy. He no doubt will. He has stood against payday lending and other attacks on consumers, especially when they affect our veterans and low-income families in the state. Please stay strong, Sen. Manchin, and continue to protect West Virginians.