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Don't let Congress gut consumer protection agency

By Roland S. Martin, CNN Contributor
  • Roland Martin: Consumer protection agency designed to curb bad lending
  • He says financial industry has prompted GOP to seek to weaken agency
  • Martin says agency designer Elizabeth Warren should have been named to run it
  • He says this is about making sure financial institutions are forced to do right

Editor's note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."

(CNN) -- While President Barack Obama battles with Republicans and Democrats over raising the debt ceiling, Americans should be preparing themselves to take on the shady special interests and the members of Congress who carry their water in their effort to scuttle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Republicans already won phase one of their flat out opposition to the agency by forcing the White House to not appoint Elizabeth Warren as the head. She came up with the idea for the bureau, and was a natural to lead it. But the GOP, as well as a number of Democrats close to Wall Street, saw her as the devil incarnate and made it clear any effort to put her in the job would face stiff resistance.

The White House can spin the appointment of former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray as the best pick for the job, but even they know Warren deserved the position. Her no-nonsense demeanor, as well as willingness to call out the shenanigans in the financial sector, made her the absolute right choice.

I've interviewed her several times on my TV One cable network show, Washington Watch, as well as my daily segment on The Tom Joyner Morning Show. She's the kind of official we need in Washington, someone who cares more about what is right than about pleasing the folks with the deep pockets.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is all about simplifying the dizzying policies related to mortgages, investigating credit scoring and keeping an eye on the financial institutions that led the way in the near collapse of our economic system.

These fat cats, along with the congressional mouthpieces they liberally ply with campaign cash, don't want to see the paperwork reduced, aren't really happy with total transparency in financial dealings and surely aren't excited about federal inspectors looking over their shoulder. So they have gotten their champions in the House and Senate -- mostly Republican, but also a few Democrats -- to assert that the bureau will kill jobs, is too independent and should be watered down.


Cordray to head consumer protection post

For years they have ripped off customers, and now don't want an agency to hold them accountable. We've seen and heard the stories of customers getting hit with ballooning interest rates, exorbitant payday lender fees and hidden fees on credit cards. This agency is all about the consumer and not the rip-off artists who look to fatten their coffers and boost their quarterly stock prices.

But the law says that without a confirmed director, they can't also regulate the non-bank financial institutions like payday lenders. And trust me, they have spent a ton of dough to keep the prying eyes of government regulators away from them.

Even before Warren was passed over, 44 GOP senators signed a letter saying they would oppose any nominee unless the bureau is changed. I haven't heard one logical reason for their request. It sounds as if the banking lobby wrote the letter and the accompanying talking points.

For instance, they don't want a single director, instead, a bipartisan commission made up of five members. We know how this will end up. One party appoints their members, the other doesn't, and the commission can't get any work done.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been signed into law, but the financial industry protectors in Congress don't want to see it go into effect. Like typical politicians, they want to destroy what's designed to help average Americans before it even gets off the ground.

Folks, this is where you come in. You need to raise your voice and tell Congress to get their hands off of the one good thing to come out of the colossal collapse of our economy. The financial institutions in this country have raped consumers for years. They have stuck us with outlandish fees, and when busted, said they were sorry, but only after banking billions.

No more. Not now. Not today. If your Democratic or Republican representative is backing a repeal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, then they stand with the banks and not you. Or your college student. Or your senior citizen parents. Tell them to side with the consumers on this one, or they will need to find a new job after the next election.

As Americans, we've got to stop believing we have no power. This isn't a partisan issue. This is about making sure the financial institutions are forced to do right.

Yes, they have tons of money and lobbyists. But our collective voices can defeat them.

We must take the attitude expressed by Vertner Woodson Tandy, one of the founders of my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. When addressing an issue, he told the brotherhood:

"We must fight till hell freezes over and then fight on the ice."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland S. Martin.

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