The Stalinist Era of Consumer Protection
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a part of The October Revolution in 1917â€¦ or the Bolshevik Revolution, if you grew up during the Wonder Years here in the USA.Â Following the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, he consolidated power, put down competing factions within the Communist Party and was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1953.
Stalin is known for increasing the power and scope of the stateâ€™s secret police and intelligence agencies.Â After WWII, he became the focus of literature, poetry, music, paintings and film.Â He was credited with almost god-like qualities, accepting numerous titles, including Coryphaeus of Science, Father of Nations, Brilliant Genius of Humanity, Great Architect of Communism, Gardener of Human Happiness, and others. Â Leon Trotsky criticized Stalinâ€™s â€ścult of personality,â€ť so in 1940, Stalin had his secret police in Mexico assassinate him.
As the head of theÂ Politburo, he consolidated near-absolute power during the 1930s, orchestrating the Great Purge of the Communist Party, which was justified as an attempt to expel ‘opportunists’ and ‘counter-revolutionary infiltrators’.Â Many that were targeted by the purge were sent to Gulag labor campsâ€¦ others were simply executed after NKVD troikas, which amounted to three people who convicted without trial.
According to official Soviet estimates, more than 14 million were sent to theÂ GulagÂ between 1929 and 1953, with another 7 to 8Â million deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union.Â It is estimated that up to 43% of them died of diseases or malnutrition.Â But, all of that was only the tip of the icebergâ€¦ en total, it is estimated that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of some 60 million people.Â The things Stalin did were so horrific they cannot be comprehendedâ€¦ and in fact, he makes the top three of every list of the most evil genocidal murderers I could find online.
So, you can imagine my surprise when on â€śMeet the Pressâ€ť yesterday, when Senator Lindsey Graham was asked why Senate Republicans blocked the appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (â€śCFPBâ€ť), he responded by describing the new agency as, â€śsomething out of the Stalinist Era.â€ť
Now, it would be easy for me to make fun of this sort of statementâ€¦ frankly, itâ€™s in my nature to do soâ€¦ but, Iâ€™m going to leave that to John Stewart and the rest of the folks on â€śThe Daily Showâ€ť.Â The truth isâ€¦ this just isnâ€™t funny any more.
The CFPBâ€™s mandate is simply to protect consumers from financial fraud.Â The idea for the Bureau originally came from Elizabeth Warren, and after a nasty political fight last year, it was written into the Wall Street financial reform legislation and signed into law.
According to Ron Suskindâ€™s book, â€śConfidence Men,â€ť however, the banking lobby told Treasury Secretary Geithner in no uncertain terms that theyâ€™d allow the Bureauâ€™s creation, as long as Ms. Warren didnâ€™t get to run it.Â So, very nicely done there, banker people.Â Iâ€™m especially glad that I wasted so much time writing articles asking people to show their support for Ms. Warren to their elected representatives.
Itâ€™s worth mentioning that the CFPB is about as benign a federal agency as could be imaginedâ€¦ theyâ€™ve got it operating under the Federal Reserve, for heavenâ€™s sake.Â Last week, the agency proposed a simplified credit card application designed to make costs, risks and terms easier for consumers to understand.Â Hereâ€™s a copy of that Stalinistâ€¦ noâ€¦ I meant, simplified application:
Yeppers, after looking at that application, I see exactly what Senator Graham means now.Â I mean, maybe that credit card application by itself isnâ€™t the end of the world, but clearly it places us on a slippery slope leading directly to NKVD troikas and tens of millions sent to gulags inâ€¦ letâ€™s see, where would our version of Siberia beâ€¦ I donâ€™t knowâ€¦ Alabama?
Now, let us be very clear about what is going on hereâ€¦
The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is one component of a bill that has already been signed into law by the President of the United States.Â Period.Â It is the law of our land.Â If someone wants to change it, there is a legislative process in place for that, so by all means, go to town.Â The only thing our legislators need concern themselves with is the implementation of our countryâ€™s new law. Thatâ€™s their job, and the American people should be telling their elected representatives to get to work and stop screwing around.
You see, this is why weâ€™re in the mess weâ€™re in todayâ€¦ because weâ€¦ and I do mean you and meâ€¦ never seem to demand that this sort of thing stop immediately.Â When they did away with our usury laws, the laws limiting the amount of interest that can be charged, we said nothing.Â When some tried to pass laws to limit or prevent predatory lending, we hardly said a word about it.
Now, when right in front of our eyes, the banking lobby is pushing to make the only federal agency whose role is to protect consumers entirely toothless, once again weâ€™re failing to make our voices heard.Â I know this because if we were making our voices heard, no politicians would dare try to pull this sort of disingenuous crap, especially in an election year.
As it stands, and solely to appease the Republicans/bankers, the agency now reports to the Federal Reserve, which is a far cry from the original intent.
The only group that opposes the CFPB is the banking lobby and the reasons are simpleâ€¦ they want to continue to deceive and mistreat consumers without anyone being able to say a word about it.Â Theyâ€™ve been fighting any and all laws that protect consumers for 30 years now, while weâ€™ve been sleepingâ€¦ no, I meanâ€¦ shoppingâ€¦ and this is just more of the same corrupt crap.
The only difference is that today, the Republicansâ€¦ and yes, I do mean ALL of them, with the exception of those representing the Republic of Maineâ€¦ are now willing to stand up and let the country see that they are here to do the bidding of the banksters.Â They donâ€™t care who gets screwed over by predatory lenders or deceptive financial product offerings.Â Theyâ€™re here to do what Wall Street wants them to do and thatâ€™s that.Â They donâ€™t care what the law saysâ€¦ bankers said no to the CFPB having any powerâ€¦ and no means no.
Until the CFPBâ€™s director is confirmed, by the way, the bureau cannot use the power it received under the Dodd-Frank lawâ€¦ most notably it cannot regulate mortgage originators and payday lenders.Â Mortgage originators and payday lendersâ€¦ thatâ€™s who the Republicans are protecting by blocking all appointees?Â Yes.
Currently, the board of regulators for the bureau needs a two-thirds majority to veto decisions. Senator Dean Heller of Nevada has said that the Republicans would oppose confirmation of ANY appointee unless the CFPB is restructured so that a â€śboard of bank regulators is given the power to veto bureau decisions.â€ť Â Republicans also want Congress to be able to cut funding to the agency.Â In other words, either the bankers are in control, or there will be no CFPB.
â€śThe reason Republicans donâ€™t want to vote for it is we want a board, not one person making all the regulatory decisions, and thereâ€™s no oversight under this person; he gets a check from the Federal Reserve.Â We want him under the Congress so we can oversee the overseer,â€ť Graham told NBCâ€™s â€śMeet the Press.â€ť
â€śThis consumer bureau that they want to propose is under the Federal Reserve, no appropriation oversight, no board. It is something out of the Stalinist era,â€ť Graham said.
This idiotic, dishonest and flagrantly corrupt sentiment was echoed by Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who apparently said on â€śFox News Sundayâ€ť that the blocking of Cordrayâ€™s appointment came as a result of his party opposing a ‘czar’ with unchecked power.
Mitch, Mitch, Mitchâ€¦ we can all see what this isâ€¦ itâ€™s you and yours continuing to do the bidding of the Wall Street bankersâ€¦ itâ€™s you and yours continuing to block anything designed to help Main Streetâ€¦ itâ€™s you and yours perfectly willing to be the proximate cause of untold pain and suffering for hundreds of millions of people in this country.
And, I probably wouldnâ€™t have connected the dots before, but now that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham mentions itâ€¦ that does sound somewhat â€śStalinistâ€ť to me.
How about this for a 2012 sloganâ€¦ â€śGo Stalinist.Â Vote Republican in 2012!â€ť
Or, what aboutâ€¦ â€śProtecting Consumers is Whatâ€™s Killing this Country.Â Vote for the GOP in 2012!â€ť
No?Â Okay, how aboutâ€¦ â€śBankers Know Bestâ€¦ Vote Republican in 2012!â€ť
Orâ€¦ â€śPoor People Need Loan Sharks!Â Vote Republican in 2012.â€ť
Still no good?Â Sheesh, tough crowd.
I told you this wasnâ€™t funny anymore.
OH, ONE MORE THING…
On December 6, 2011… just a few days ago actually… Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ranking Member Richard Shelby, Senate Banking Committee Chair Tim Johnson, and Majority Leader Harry Reid all received a letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD)… and then they promptly and completely ignored it. Â Check it out… it’s worth it.
Congressional Letter in Support of Nomination of Richard Cordray Former AG to Run the CFPB