One might be forgiven for believing that the Republicans have a death wish.
No longer able to run on a credible national security platform, they appear to be positioning themselves on another four losing propositions:
* refusing to lift the debt ceiling, even though business leaders as prominent as Jamie Dimon have deplored the irresponsibility of such a move;
* refusing to address our tattered immigration laws in a humane and constructive manner, even though they desperately need Hispanic votes;
* Medicare reforms that will without question hurt senior citizens and mobilize voters against Republican candidates; and
* obstructing consumer financial protection and the nomination of Elizabeth Warren as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (there are a good deal more consumers who vote than financial institutions).
Even by Washington standards this last position is perhaps most cynical of all. The GOP has been driven to a fury at having forced the President into a situation in which he is almost compelled make the obvious candidate, Elizabeth Warren, a recess appointment. Or perhaps the party has just been unduly influenced by having as one of its own prospective presidential candidates a modern-day circus performer. Whatever the reason, the GOP seems to be demonstrating the old adage that those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.
I was going to write about how the Republicans first opposed an independent agency (contained in Barney Frank’s House Bill), but now want one. I was also going to write about how they demanded that the CFPB be located inside the Fed, but they now want it to be independent. And I was going to write about how they they demanded an exemption for auto dealers, got this, but now insist that all businesses should be exempt. In the messy political compromise that is the Dodd-Frank Act, duly enacted and signed into law last year, the GOP got a lot of what it wanted even though it was (and in the Senate remains) the minority and even though the party voted almost unanimously against the final legislation. I was also going to write about how no financial institution worth its salt would want to be caught up in the kinds of practices the new CFPB was established to prevent anyway, and about how the GOP continues to lose credibility on financial reform by opposing everything they possibly can.
However, I discovered this morning that I don’t need to write much at all because one of the best industry journalists in the business, Barbara Rehm, has said it all to her own readers: ““Shelby should get out of the way and let the CFPB get to work“!
Unfortunately Ms. Rehm’s column in the American Banker is only accessible to subscribers of that publication. So let me provide readers with two short quotes that catch the gist of her article. Referring to the letter sent to the President yesterday by Sen. Shelby and other Republican lawmakers, Ms. Rehm observes:
Shelby’s letter to the president envisions all kinds of things — none of which are even close to happening.
According to Shelby and Co.: The bureau “will directly affect every American household by limiting their choices when purchasing financial products, restricting the availability of credit to consumers, and increasing the cost of goods or services purchased using credit.”
The letter adds, “How the CFPB director exercises his or her authority therefore will have a profound influence on the future of our economy and job creation.”
Maybe. Maybe not. No one, including Dick Shelby, knows yet.
After dissecting all the flawed logic contained in Sen. Shelby’s letter, Ms. Rehm pithily concludes–
Dodd-Frank will never get implemented if the president is unable to assemble his team. The Senate should approve the qualified candidates Obama sends up.
Shelby should have learned this lesson already. Just weeks after blocking Peter Diamond’s nomination to the Fed board last fall, claiming the MIT economist wasn’t good enough, Diamond won a Nobel Prize.
So let’s let the bureau do its job, and then judge what it does — not what Shelby fears it may do.
Keep in mind that this is a leading industry journalist talking to the industry. It takes courage to say these things and no one has said it better than Barbara Rehm!