Congressman Jeb Hensarling of the Fifth District in east Texas is one of those Republicans who can be found at every level of government these days, elected on their word that they will keep the government out of your life. Well, we should be careful what we think we're supporting.
Most middle-class people I know — including everyone on both sides of my family going back as many generations as I can find in old photo albums — have had to borrow money now and then to get a little land, and then a little more to build a little house, and then again to have a reliable car, and maybe again to send that first generation in the family to college.
Hensarling and a group of hard-right Republicans in congressional committees are trying to dismantle an agency that was formed to protect consumers from being preyed upon by lenders. It is part of the Dodd-Frank Act, which evolved out of the financial crisis that almost buried the American economy in 2008 — oh, how soon we forget.
Because it was something proposed by the hated liberal Harvard University professor (at the time) Elizabeth Warren, and put into place during the administration of the despised American president of alleged dubious ancestry with a Muslim-sounding name like Barack Hussein Obama, Hensarling and other so-called heroes of American conservatism are claiming that it is un-American to tell people when they are getting fleeced by fraudulent practices.
It's time to jettison the labels — liberals and conservatives — because they no longer mean what most of us watching the evening news think it means. In truth, with many in business and government, they never did.
Change the labels all you want, but if you fall back on definitions, you begin to see that what never changes is that people who have money will insist they rule those who do not. If they can get the poor to support them by telling them they are one of them, then you are a successful politician. Or snake oil purveyor.
Americans turned to what they thought were conservative, or at least traditional, candidates for many local offices and for the House of Representatives, hoping for that "clean the swamp" moment that did not happen, and is not happening even with the ultimate outsider elected to the White House.
As the old saying goes, the Golden Rule is that the man with the gold rules.
After the greed of these rulers and their constituents on Wall Street and K Street lobbying firms took the value of homes and savings into the pits in 2008, Presidents George W. Bush and Obama worked with some in Congress to trim the claws of the money tigers. Since then, consumers have had an ally in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, under the direction of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, who was featured this past week on "CBS Sunday Morning."
Republican Reps. Ann Wagner of Missouri, Bill Huiszenga of Wyoming and Mia Love of Utah appeared on camera grilling Cordray in committee hearings in which they attempted to portray consumer protection as something un-American and unconstitutional.
What they meant is, hard on sneaky business practices, because the agency has gone after questionable bank loans, car loans, credit card and mortgage gouging. One veteran's $11,000 used pickup truck would have cost him more than $31,500 if watchdogs had not stopped the deal. All told, the consumer agency has returned $6.5 million to borrowers and collected $11.9 billion in fines and restitution to American citizens.
Hensarling was asked on the show if all 188 economics professors and economic experts were wrong for opposing his and other "conservative" efforts to eliminate the CFPB.
He didn't even blink: "Yes," he said. "They don't believe in freedom, or capitalism, consumer prosperity or free markets."
Who's in your wallet?
Dean Minnich writes from Westminster.