Just 48 hours after House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released an op-ed arguing that President Obama’s record discredits the entire progressive ideology, Americans learned that income growth last year was the fastest on record; poverty rates saw their largest one-year drop since 1968; and the number of Americans without health insurance dropped to the lowest point ever recorded in the United States.
The far-right Speaker’s timing could have been better.
As the Washington Post’s Matt O’Brien noticed, this wasn’t Ryan’s only recent trouble with timing.
It’s generally a bad idea to say something is a failure right after its biggest success.That might seem sort of self-evident, but it apparently isn’t. Take House Speaker Paul Ryan. He’s been trying to recast the election as a contest between Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump, but rather his “Better Way” agenda – basically tax cuts for the rich, spending cuts for the poor, and deregulation for big business – and what he says would be President Obama’s third term. Now, as part of that, he recently had this to say about the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose job is, well, to protect consumers from financial malfeasance.
“The CFPB,” the Speaker said via Twitter, “supposedly exists to protect you, but instead it tries to micromanage your everyday life. That’s NOT a #BetterWay.”
Right off the bat, the idea that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is trying to “micromanage your everyday life” is plainly silly. The agency has been around five years. Can you think of a single instance in which the CFPB has tried to micromanage any part of your everyday life? What percentage of the public even knows the CFPB exists?
But more to the point, Ryan’s complaints about the agency come directly on the heels of one of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s greatest success stories. Late last week, the CFPB reached a record settlement with Wells Fargo after the banking giant was caught allegedly bilking consumers, enrolling Wells Fargo customers in banking services without their permission, then charging them fees for accounts and services they neither sought nor authorized.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau did its job, looked out for the public, and scored its biggest victory to date. In response, Paul Ryan condemned the agency and questioned its very existence.
Worse, it’s not just Ryan.
Earlier this week in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Sen. Pat Toomey (R), in the middle of a tough re-election fight, “indicated in response to a question that he would like to see the [CFPB] dismantled.” The conservative senator added that the agency is, among other things, “very ill-conceived and badly governed.”
Remember, this came just days after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s most impressive success story – a win that benefits everyday Americans from alleged misconduct from a financial-industry giant.
It’s a pipe dream to think a relatively obscure agency like the CFPB could be a major campaign issue, but for consumers who care about these kinds of protections, the stakes should be fairly obvious: a Republican Congress and Republican White House would almost certainly destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if given half a chance.
The Post’s report also did a nice job capturing the larger context:
…Republicans seem to think that trying to stop financial fraud is a bigger issue than financial fraud itself. Indeed, Paul Ryan’s budget would give less money to the market cops at the Securities and Exchange Commission. It would also get rid of the CFPB’s independent funding – right now it gets its money from the Fed so that its free from influence from members of Congress who might not be free from influence from bank lobbyists – and replace its independent director with a five-person bipartisan committee. His anti-poverty plan, meanwhile, would make it legal for financial advisers to once again recommend things that are in their own but not their clients’ best interests. (Believe it or not, that was only changed in the last year). And on top of that, House Republicans want to make it easier for penny stock companies – which, the SEC has warned, are a veritable playground for scammers and other assorted manipulators – to issue shares without as much oversight.It’s as if Republicans are telling people to jump in a pool that Democrats are worried is shark-infested – and then saying that the real problem is there are too many lifeguards.
To think Donald Trump has the worst ideas in GOP politics is to completely overlook just how dangerous Paul Ryan’s policy agenda really is.