Let’s say that Congress is looking out after the interests of the Little Guy. (Yes, we know, but let’s pretend.) Let’s further say that someone who really is trying to protect average citizens goes to Capitol Hill to testify about efforts to control the predatory forces that plunged the economy into disaster.
Under that scenario, this individual — let’s call her a Watchdog — would win a warm reception on The Hill. She would be asked how Congress can make sure that the public is protected from greed and rampant speculation by powerful special interests. The Watchdog — let’s call her Elizabeth Warren — would be able to work harmoniously with the legislators to craft better, stronger regulation.
Now back to the real world.
Ms. Warren is President Obama’s advisor on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that is supposed to go live in July. Her job is to set up the first federal consumer financial watchdog agency in Washington. Funny how it never occurred to Congress before the Great Recession that maybe such a body might be useful.
Ms. Warren, a 61-year-old attorney and law professor, is the best-qualified person for this job. She has strong, well-informed pro-consumer views and a trained eye for the sharp practices on Wall Street. She knows her stuff and has been a leading voice in efforts to reform the financial services industry, particularly risky lending practices.
The agency will create the rules governing a wide variety of financial interests, including payday lenders, mortgage companies, credit-card vendors, and big banks. Huge amounts of money in the form of fees, interest rates and other consumer transactions are at stake. If Ms. Warren has anything to say about it, the rules will be designed to protect the public.
Congress should be on the public’s side as well, but apparently some lawmakers have short memories. When Ms. Warren testified on Capitol Hill last week, her reception in no way resembled our pretend scenario. She ran into a buzz saw of criticism, mostly from Republicans who say the agency will have too much unchecked power.
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