The Occupy Wall Street protests — which have now become the Occupy Everywhere protests — and the announcement by Bank of America and other banks of new banking fees, such as monthly debit card usage fees, underscore the urgent need for a working Consumer Financial Protection Bureau … and for the confirmation of the nominee to head that bureau, Richard Cordray.
After using tens of billions in taxpayer bailouts to pay executive bonuses instead of reinstituting the lending our economy needed, big banks are again choosing to pad their profits by exploiting consumers with new monthly debit card fees which would make customers shell out additional payments just to use their own money. It’s no wonder that it’s being seen a final straw by many in “The 99%” — the bulk of Americans victim to an inadequate job market, stagnating wages, disappearing benefits and consumer abuse at the hands of companies like the big banks.
Defenders of the new bank fees say that as private companies, banks have the right to make a profit, and if they are losing revenue elsewhere, they should be able to make it up by charging fees, and if consumers don’t like it they can take their business to another bank. The problem with that argument is that new fees like this are becoming the industry standard — so consumers won’t have other options. That’s what happens when you have an industry that is not only shielded from government regulation, but is shielded from the market forces which would make banks compete against each other for customers … in short, it’s what happens when the companies that make up an industry are allowed to be “too big to fail.”
In discussing the bank debit-purchase fees, President Obama noted, this is “exactly why we need somebody whose sole job it is to prevent this kind of stuff from happening.” He was referencing Richard Cordray, the president’s nominee to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) — an agency, created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which Americans desperately need but which remains hamstrung and ineffective as long as it does not have an official director.
The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs approved Richard Cordray’s nomination just yesterday, but the committee’s Republican members voted unanimously against him and are intent on keeping the nomination from coming to the Senate floor for confirmation. Despite the party-line vote, Republican senators are quite clear that they know Cordray is qualified for the position – it’s the position itself, the CFPB and consumer protections in general to which they are opposed.
Even though the legislation creating the CFPB was passed by Congress, Republicans are refusing to let the bureau function unless they can force structural changes which would render it wholly ineffective. Rep. Barney Frank — the House’s chief sponsor of the bill that created the CFPB — explained:
“Forty-four Republicans have announced that in disregard of their constitutional duty to consider nominations on the merits. They will not confirm anyone until the Senate majority reverses itself to once again put bank regulators in a position to overrule virtually all of the policies that would be set by the consumer agency.”
This unconscionable obstruction shows exactly whose interests Republicans care about and are fighting for … and it’s not the 99%.
If you haven’t already, sign our petition now telling senators to CONFIRM Richard Cordray.
And check out more coverage of The 99% movement on our blog.
Thank you for your ongoing support, your activism and your commitment to fighting Government By the People (NOT the Corporations) — the American Way.
– Ben Betz, Online Strategy Manager