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Seattle — As the new Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB) prepares to take over enforcement of all major financial consumer laws on Thursday, a leading consumer group is announcing the results of a poll showing that an overwhelming majority of likely voters both support the new agency (74 percent) and want Wall Street held “accountable” (77 percent). The Washington Public Interest Research Group (www.WashPIRG.org) is also releasing a report documenting ten reasons why consumers need the CFPB and calling on the Senate to confirm former Ohio Attorney General Rich Cordray as director so that the new agency can fulfill the promise of consumer financial protection.
President Obama is nominating Cordray to be the CFPB’s first director, but WashPIRG warns of fierce political obstruction on Capitol Hill as powerful Wall Street banks oppose the Bureau and lobby to block the confirmation of any director.
“The good news is that there’s a new police department to protect consumers from predatory lending and financial tricks and traps,” said Steve Breaux, public interest advocate with WashPIRG. “The bad news is that Wall Street banks have asked their friends in Congress to defund and defang the bureau by denying it a ‘sheriff’ to lay down the law.”
With the coming July 21st ‘transfer date,’ WashPIRG released a new poll of 800 likely voters prepared for Americans for Financial Reform, AARP and the Center for Responsible Lending.
Among the polls highlights:
- Nearly three-quarters of all likely voters (74 percent) support a “single agency with the single mission of protecting consumers” from unfair financial practices.
- More than three-quarters of all likely voters (77 percent) want Wall Street held “accountable,” including more than two-thirds of Republicans (70 percent).
- Two out of three likely voters (66 percent), including nearly half of Republicans (49 percent), agreed that “We cannot get our economy back on track without strong financial reform.” Less than one-quarter (23 percent) agreed with the statement “The so-called Wall Street reform law is a job killer.”
WashPIRG also released a new report, “10 Reasons We Need the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Now.” Among its findings:
- Although the failure of federal regulators to prevent predatory mortgage lending is well known, the public is less aware that federal regulators also failed to stop unfair credit card tricks, overdraft fee schemes, and the growth of triple-digit APR and payday loans which are now imposing a crushing financial burden on many families.
- The report documents that the failure of multiple regulatory agencies leads to the conclusion that consumer protection should be housed in one agency with just one job: protecting consumers from unsafe financial products, no matter where they buy them — at banks, payday lenders, or other firms.
“The greed of the Wall Street banks and regulatory failures caused a financial collapse that left millions without work, millions more without homes and the rest of us losing trillions of dollars in home values and retirement income,” said Breaux. “It’s not surprising that nearly 2/3’s of likely voters feel we need a consumer cop on the beat so that everyday Americans will be treated fairly when they go out to get a credit card or a mortgage.”
Although the CFPB enjoys broad-based public support across the political spectrum, 44 senators opposed to reform have sent President Obama a letter threatening to block any nominee to head the bureau unless its powers are rolled back and its funding weakened. Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), ranking minority member of the Senate Committee on Banking, are leading the opposition to Cordray’s confirmation in spite of his qualifications as a ‘tough sheriff’ — in two years as Ohio Attorney General he recovered over $2 billion dollars wrongly looted by Wall Street firms and returned it to Ohio families, retirees and municipalities.
Legislation is expected to be introduced by House Republicans as early as this week to roll back the CFPB. HR 1315, the so-called “Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act of 2011,’’ championed by House Financial Services Committee chair Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), would gut the CFPB’s authority and eliminate its director, replacing the position with a politicized five-member commission.
“Without a strong director the CFPB won’t have the leadership and clout it needs to protect consumers and the Wall Street banks will go back to business as usual,” Breaux concluded. “We want to celebrate the new consumer bureau, but we also need to warn that the Wall Street banks that caused the economic collapse are lobbying to oppose the Bureau and block any nominee by the President to lead it. We need to fight to make sure that the special interests that got us into this mess can’t do it again.”
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