Ten years ago today, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It had been a long, tough fight, in the wake of the financial crisis — and it’s important that we never forget what brought us to that fight.
Like so many of our nation’s problems, the financial crisis was a toxic mixture of racism, corruption, and shameless greed. Predatory mortgage lenders started by targeting Black and Brown communities, where they began clawing away at the hard-earned wealth of Black and Brown families.
And too few people in power could be relied on to care. Not the investors who were making money hand over fist, not the regulators who were cozy with the banks, not the pundits who blamed the borrowers, not the lenders who were boosting their profits. They didn’t care because it was only happening in certain communities — communities of color. But it didn’t stop there.
In the crash of 2008, millions of people lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings. And maybe one of the most galling parts was that the Wall Street megabanks whose recklessness helped crash the economy weren’t ashamed. Nope. Just the opposite. They took taxpayer handouts, then they doubled down with armies of lobbyists and lawyers, trolling the halls of Capitol Hill spending a million dollars a day to bury Dodd-Frank and kill the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before it was ever signed into law.
The pundits all thought we would lose that fight. After all, the big banks had all the money in the world. But we had the people. And we got organized.
Individuals who had never been in politics (including me) were suddenly knee deep in working on plans to get us out of the crisis. We were blessed to have great leadership in the White House, with President Obama standing firm even when some Democratic advisers were telling him to throw the agency overboard.
But President Obama didn’t fight alone. Vice President Joe Biden fought alongside him. He worked at it, calling on his relationships in Congress to help get a workable bill and pull it across the finish line. And we did it. With his help and so many others, we made it through the Senate without a single vote to spare.
It was a David versus Goliath moment. Even when the banks spent hundreds of millions of lobbying dollars, we won. For once, American families beat back the big banks.
But on the day we won, Republicans and bank lobbyists declared that it was only half-time. They said they would continue their war against the CFPB — and their war against the American consumer. And they did. So you and I have to fight back.
Legislation to eliminate the CFPB has been introduced in the House and the Senate in every single Congress since the agency was created in 2011. Republicans have engaged in one harebrained scheme after another to undermine the agency’s leadership. And despite the agency’s track-record of non-partisan protection of consumers, and despite the agency’s popularity, Republicans have targeted the CFPB’s budget and sought to chop back its enforcement authority.
Why have Republicans been so dead set against the CFPB? Why have they made repeal of the agency an act of faith? I think they are threatened by the CFPB. Deep-down threatened. And here’s why.
Donald Trump and Republicans are scared of the CFPB because they are buddies with the Wall Street banksters that the CFPB stands up to.
Back in 2016, then-candidate Trump made big promises to drain the swamp, ignore the lobbyists, and stand up to Wall Street. He lied.
In fact, even before he set foot in the Oval Office, he filled his Transition Team and incoming Administration with lobbyists, special interests, and corporate insiders. He isn’t going to drain the swamp. He lives in the swamp.
But there’s another reason: The CFPB is a roadmap for structural change — big, structural change.
Together, we bent the levers of power in Washington to benefit working families over the wealthy and well-connected. We demonstrated a model that can be used to rewrite the rules of power all across our broken systems, a model for change that would work from our economy to our democracy to our public safety and justice system.
Donald Trump and Republicans really can’t stand Dodd-Frank and the CFPB because it shows that government can be a powerful force for good. Since its creation, the CFPB has delivered for American consumers. It has:
- Helped more than 26 million Americans directly
- Forced banks and financial institutions to return more than $12 billion directly to people they cheated
- Handled more than 2.2 million complaints
- Put in place commonsense protections for American service members and vets
- And, the part we can never quite measure, is that over the past decade, millions of people have not been cheated because some financial outfit with a sleazy idea looked around and realized there was a watchdog that would bite.
The creation of the CFPB teaches us that we can make government work, not just for the wealthy and well-connected, but for everyone.
But if Republicans get their way, shred the CFPB, and let Wall Street write its own rules, it will be another gut punch for working families. We must elect Joe Biden and a Senate Majority of Democrats — let’s do our part here in Arizona and Coconino County to make this happen!
Thanks for the email about this, Elizabeth Warren!