Consumer Protection: Ur (Still) Doin It Wrong
How about a consumer protection agency to keep us safe from these asshats?
President Barack Obama fought to keep his proposed banking overhaul on track Friday, casting the political struggle ahead as one between big financial interests and average Americans victimized by complex or unscrupulous financial transactions.
The president illustrated his call for a consumer finance agency by showcasing five unwitting borrowers and bank customers whose troubles ranged from massive overdraft fees to unwanted interest-only mortgages.
"My concern are the millions of Americans who behaved responsibly and yet still found themselves in jeopardy because of the predatory practices of some in the financial industry," Obama said from the East Room of the White House.
Taking time out of a day overshadowed by his Nobel Peace Prize award, Obama confronted opponents, singling out the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is conducting a $2 million advertising effort to defeat the consumer plan.
"They're doing what they always do — descending on Congress and using every bit of influence they have to maintain a status quo that has maximized their profits at the expense of American consumers," Obama said of his critics.
The proposed consumer agency is a central element of a package of financial regulatory changes the administration says would prevent crisis like the one that brought Wall Street to its knees last year.
Critics such as the Chamber of Commerce have said the consumer agency is unnecessary and would impose restrictions even on retailers.
"We disagree that adding a new agency atop a broken regulatory system solves the problem or closes regulatory gaps," David Hirschmann, head of the chamber's Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, said in a statement issued before the White House event.
The stepped-up campaign comes days before a key House committee begins assembling some of the main components of a regulatory bill. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, who met Friday with Obama in the White House, has called a meeting of his committee Wednesday to take up the creation of a Consumer Finance Protection Agency as well as new regulations on complex instruments known as derivatives.
Again, who will watch the watchers?