Wrong CHOICE Act scheduled for a vote tomorrow!

Wrong CHOICE Act scheduled for a vote tomorrow!

Members of the House of Representatives will vote tomorrow on a dangerous piece of legislation that has the potential to cause immense harm to working families and retirees, all in the name of lining the pockets of big banks and Wall Street billionaires.

The so-called Financial CHOICE Act (HR 10) would radically roll back the rules put in place after the 2008 financial crisis to keep big banks from crashing the economy again. And it would eviscerate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency first championed by Elizabeth Warren to guard consumers against deceptive and predatory financial products. But that’s not all. This bill would also tie regulators’ hands in acting against risky and irresponsible bank practices, and would totally repeal the Volcker Rule, which stops banks from gambling with taxpayer-backed deposits.

If this bill passes both in the House and in the Senate, financial institutions ranging from “too big to fail” banks to mortgage lenders, payday lenders, credit card companies, and debt collectors will once again be free to write a lot of their own rules. We’ve seen this movie before, so we know how it turns out: bad things invariably happen when government gives Wall Street free rein to rip off consumers with impunity and put the financial system and the economy at risk for the sake of a quick megabuck.

Most Americans, regardless of political party, think financial regulation should be stronger, not weaker. Most of us have strong memories of the financial crisis, when roughly 9 million Americans lost their jobs, the average middle-class household saw half its wealth evaporate in the space of a few years, and almost 10 million families lost their homes.

So most of us are glad Washington finally has a bank watchdog agency that exists to look out for consumers and has the authority and political independence to, just for example, force Wells Fargo to pay $100 million in penalties for opening accounts in the names of millions of customers who hadn’t approved them. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has begun to bring basic rules of fair play to the banking and lending markets, while delivering nearly $12 billion in relief to more than 29 million Americans cheated by financial companies large and small.

Not surprisingly, big banks and predatory lenders want to cripple the agency and all of the financial reforms put in place after the last crisis. And they are spending big money to get their way — $2.7 million per day in lobbying and political contributions over the past two years. They would prefer to go back to the very same arrangement that failed so spectacularly a decade ago. That’s when the Federal Reserve decided not to take action against predatory mortgage lending because Alan Greenspan claimed that market forces alone would keep banks from doing anything dangerous – and when another key oversight body, the Office of Comptroller of the Currency, actually used its power to STOP state officials from cracking down on booby-trapped loans.

When the Senate takes up this bill — “Wall Street’s CHOICE Act” would be a better name for it — it will tell us a great deal about which side our representatives are on. Big banks and Wall Street, or their constituents.