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MY VOICE: Who’s actually calling the shots?


O nce again, leadership in Congress has made it clear where their allegiance is. They put a stop to any rule that would allow customers to sue if they’ve been defrauded or had their identity stolen by sheer incompetence. The independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had worked for five years to develop such a rule. Vice president Mike Pence broke a tie with his Senate vote and it was killed.

Why was this important? It matters because Wells Fargo stole millions of dollars by setting up accounts without asking customers and then charging hidden fees. It matters because Equifax, which sells information about you when you apply for a credit card or any sort of loan, was incapable of updating their servers when told to do so. All the information they had about us was stolen. Their CEO, who had puffed up his chest just a few weeks before while bragging about the company’s security, retired with an $18 million/year pension as his punishment.

The rule would have allowed those who’ve lost money or been victimized through sheer stupidity to sue for damages. Now the corporate criminals and the plain old dumb and dumber are protected from that threat.

Many Republicans, just about all of whom voted to stop the rule from becoming law, understood clearly what they were doing. They held their noses and did it anyway. They’ve got to make sure, after all, that the campaign cash keeps flowing.

What options do you have? You can go to arbitration, which is a loser’s game, one rigged in favor of the banks, the financial houses and corporate hacks such as Equifax. The barely readable print in the 20-page agreements that come from those outfits lays it all out. You have little to nothing in the way of leverage, and you can’t take them to court thanks to this gift.

There’s nothing really new here. In 2007 through sheer greed and mind-boggling idiocy, the Wall Street casino froze up thanks to housing bets no Las Vegas sports book would ever touch. We lost eight million jobs, and it took $17 trillion in free money to right the ship. Thanks to self-serving lenders and their mindless accomplices in booming real estate markets, we went through a near-death experience.

This vote may be a tune-up for what House leaders and the administration really want: a repeal of the protections that were put in place after that disaster. They are just itching for deja vu all over again. The Federal Reserve may not be able to print money fast enough the next time this happens. But hey, you’ve got to take care of your friends.

“Tonight’s vote is a giant setback for every consumer in this country,” Richard Cordray, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said, “Wall Street won and ordinary people lost.”

We know who’s calling the shots and it isn’t you or I.

My Voice

About the author

Norm Cimon has lived in La Grande for 35 years. He currently has his own business and is on the board of directors of Oregon Rural Action and the Grande Ronde Model Watershed.

My Voice columns reflect the views of the author only. My Voice columns should be 500-700 words. Submissions should include a portrait-type photograph of the author. Authors also should include their full name, age, occupation and relevant organizational memberships. We edit submissions for brevity, grammar, taste and legal reasons. We reject those published elsewhere. Send columns to La Grande Observer, 1406 5th St., La Grande, Ore., 97850, fax them to 541-963-7804 or email them to acutler@lagrandeobserver.com.