“It’s time to send a message to big banks, payday loan lobbyists, and their Republican friends in Congress: the American people are watching,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told a telephone audience of nearly 3,000 fired-up activists last night. ”We’re going to fight back against any efforts to gut financial reform and to allow big banks and shady financial institutions to once again cheat consumers and put our economy at risk.”
Since 2010, Wall Street, predatory lenders and their allies in Congress have been trying to roll back the Dodd Frank Act and undermine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau through changes in its leadership structure or funding arrangements. Last night’s giant conference call was organized by more than a dozen consumer, labor, civil rights, and public-interest organizations. They are anticipating a new round of attacks, now that Republicans control the executive as well as legislative branches of government and Wall Streeters have been nominated to a series of top policy positions in the Trump administration.
Senator Warren spoke about the danger of a fresh assault on the CFPB, the agency she conceived and helped establish. Since it got up and running in 2011, the Consumer Bureau has rewritten the rules for the mortgage industry, banning many of the worst pre-crisis booby-traps. It has also proposed the first national regulations for payday and car-title loans, moved to rid the financial marketplace of forced-arbitration clauses that bar consumers from joining forces in court, and delivered roughly $12 billion in financial relief to more than 27 million wronged consumers.
Through these and other actions, the CFPB has stirred intense opposition from big banks, payday lending companies, and their friends on Capitol Hill. But, as Senator Warren went on to say, the Republicans will face a powerful blowback if they use their new clout to go after the Consumer Bureau in earnest. This is an agency that gets high marks from voters across the political spectrum, she pointed out, noting one recent poll in which just 28 percent of self-identified Trump voters said they would support efforts to weaken or eliminate the bureau. By contrast, 56 percent said it should either be strengthened or left alone.
Last night’s call was organized by Americans for Financial Reform, the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Center for Popular Democracy, Communication Workers of America, Consumer Action, Center for Responsible Lending, CFED, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Daily Kos, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Consumer Law Center, People’s Action, Rootstrikers, and U.S. PIRG.
In addition to Senator Warren, the speakers included Lisa Donner, Executive Director of Americans for Financial Reform; Ed Mierzwinski, federal Consumer Program Director and Senior Fellow at US PIRG; Debbi Adams, a Detroit activist with People’s Action; Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers; and Liz Shuler, Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO.