Category Archives: Small Business

Consumer Protections at Stake in Trans-Atlantic “Trade” Deal

A “trade” deal only in name, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) would require the United States and European Union (EU) to conform domestic food and product safety standards, financial regulations, climate policies, data privacy protections and other non-trade policies to TAFTA rules – rules that are being negotiated in secret.

Some products and services that do not meet U.S. health and safety standards could be allowed into our markets. State and local governments could be forced to weaken health and safety standards and give up long-standing tools for local job creation. And the U.S. could be required to conform to new standards negotiated for corporate convenience, instead of standards developed through state and national laws over decades. The goal is to finish the sweeping deal by the end of 2014.

The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards and Public Citizen have assembled a list of the 10 biggest threats that TAFTA poses to consumers, workers and the environment. See it here:

The Top Ten Threats of the Trans-Atlantic “Trade” Deal To Americans’ Daily Lives (11/07/13)

Senate Confirms Cordray as Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director

The following post is from Katie Weatherford at the Center For Effective Government

On July 16, the Senate voted 66-34 to confirm Richard Cordray to serve as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB was established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) to put in place financial rules that protect Americans from exploitative practices of financial institutions.

President Obama initially nominated Cordray to the position in July 2011, but gridlock in the Senate blocked the nomination from moving to the floor for a vote. After months of delay, in January 2012, Obama invoked his power to issue a recess appointment and placed Cordray at the head of the CFPB.  Had the Senate not voted to confirm Cordray, his appointment would have expired in January 2014.

Senate Republicans held up the confirmation because they dislike that the CFPB has only a single director and that its appropriations are controlled by the Federal Reserve. They would prefer a multi-member commission and congressional control over the agency’s appropriations, which would make it more difficult for the agency to move forward with new financial protections and also make it easier for Congress to defund the agency so that it cannot operate independently or effectively.

Over the past two years, the Center for Effective Government and other organizations have urged members of the public to ask the Senate to confirm Cordray so that the CFPB can move forward with new rules needed to fill the regulatory gaps responsible for the worst U.S. financial collapse since the Great Depression.

On Tuesday, the Senate finally chose to act. Cordray’s confirmation, which happened just days ahead of the third anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Act (July 21), marks a victory not only for financial reform advocates, but for all Americans. Now the CFPB can begin putting in place further safeguards that will help secure a stronger, more stable, and fairer financial system.

“Consumer Financial Protections Bureau: Safeguarding Main Street”

This weekend marks the third anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank), legislation designed to prevent another financial disaster caused by the deregulation of Wall Street. One of the goals of Dodd-Frank was to safeguard consumers from predatory and abusive practices in the financial service industry. To take on this task, Dodd-Frank created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The CFPB is an example of good government that puts people first by instituting effective standards to safeguard American families from threats that are too big for any individual to fight alone. These standards, when enforced by the CFPB ,don’t just help people, they make our economy more stable. Unregulated and risky practices led to the financial crash of 2008 that helped throw the economy into a tailspin and resulted in the loss of 8 million jobs and double-digit unemployment. Lost consumer confidence and unregulated financial markets are the biggest job killers of all. Dodd-Frank and the CFPB exist because our financial products, just like children’s toys and the airlines, should be safe.

And the agency has been the consumer’s bulwark against the abusive and often predatory interests of large banks, corporations and financial firms. It encourages a level playing field and integrity in the markets by holding powerful interests accountable.  Thanks to the CFPB, $425 million has been returned to consumers who were subjected to deceptive practices.

On Tuesday, Richard Cordray was confirmed as the director of the CFPB. His qualifications are undisputed. However, Cordray has waited nearly two years to be confirmed as the director. The holdup wasn’t because of a controversy of character or qualifications or because of public concern; according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 74 percent of consumers supported the approval of a director. The holdup came from a group of senators who sought to stall the agency from doing the very work it was created to do.

The confirmation, finally, of a CFPB director is a step forward for our system of safeguards. We deserve a regulatory system that puts people ahead of profits and empowers regulators to hold offenders accountable. But more than that, we need standards, safeguards and agencies like the CFPB so that everyone who plays by the rules can build a better future for themselves and their families.

For more background on the US Senate’s delay to confirm Richard Cordray, check out Enough Already: Confirm Cordray from the Dēmos Policy Shop Blog.

“Consumer Financial Protections Bureau: Safeguarding Main Street”

This weekend marks the third anniversary of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank), legislation designed to prevent another financial disaster caused by the deregulation of Wall Street. One of the goals of Dodd-Frank was to safeguard consumers from predatory and abusive practices in the financial service industry. To take on this task, Dodd-Frank created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The CFPB is an example of good government that puts people first by instituting effective standards to safeguard American families from threats that are too big for any individual to fight alone. These standards, when enforced by the CFPB ,don’t just help people, they make our economy more stable. Unregulated and risky practices led to the financial crash of 2008 that helped throw the economy into a tailspin and resulted in the loss of 8 million jobs and double-digit unemployment. Lost consumer confidence and unregulated financial markets are the biggest job killers of all. Dodd-Frank and the CFPB exist because our financial products, just like children’s toys and the airlines, should be safe.

And the agency has been the consumer’s bulwark against the abusive and often predatory interests of large banks, corporations and financial firms. It encourages a level playing field and integrity in the markets by holding powerful interests accountable.  Thanks to the CFPB, $425 million has been returned to consumers who were subjected to deceptive practices.

On Tuesday, Richard Cordray was confirmed as the director of the CFPB. His qualifications are undisputed. However, Cordray has waited nearly two years to be confirmed as the director. The holdup wasn’t because of a controversy of character or qualifications or because of public concern; according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 74 percent of consumers supported the approval of a director. The holdup came from a group of senators who sought to stall the agency from doing the very work it was created to do.

The confirmation, finally, of a CFPB director is a step forward for our system of safeguards. We deserve a regulatory system that puts people ahead of profits and empowers regulators to hold offenders accountable. But more than that, we need standards, safeguards and agencies like the CFPB so that everyone who plays by the rules can build a better future for themselves and their families.

For more background on the US Senate’s delay to confirm Richard Cordray, check out Enough Already: Confirm Cordray from the Dēmos Policy Shop Blog.

Will New House Website Bring Real Small Business Voices to Regulatory Debates?

The following post is from Randy Rabinowitz at The Fine Print, the Center for Effective Government blog.

Congratulations to Republicans on the House Small Business Committee for launching a new website that purportedly will alert small business owners to regulatory issues affecting them and make it easier for them to comment on pending rules. It would be a significant improvement to the regulatory process if small businesses actually weighed in themselves on the impacts of rules and also commented on the new markets that may be created for small business products and services as a result of standards and safeguards.

Too often, the only voices claiming to speak for small business in regulatory debates are inside-the-Beltway lobbyists for trade associations dominated or controlled by big corporate interests. It would be great if federal agencies received information directly from real small business owners, rather than repeatedly hearing the tired, anti-regulatory rhetoric of Big Business lobbyists who use the good name of small business to advance their agenda.

Free Market Myths and Regulatory Realities

Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued new rules to protect Americans from predatory banking practices as well as rules that make mortgage lenders offer those facing foreclosure more payment options. We applaud the efforts of the CFPB in taking important steps to protect Americans from another economic disaster.

The fight to regulate the financial industry, and those responsible for perpetrating the economic crisis in 2008, has, unfortunately, been an uphill battle. The Dodd-Frank bill was a piece of long-overdue and much needed legislation, yet two-thirds of its rules, like the Volcker rule which prevents banks from gambling with federally insured money, are stuck and have yet to be finished; regulators have missed over 100 deadlines to complete rules that are months overdue. Provisions that have passed have been struck down after Wall Street firms have filed suit against them.

That Wall Street opposes regulation is far from shocking. It is their rhetoric that’s interesting. Industry arguments against regulation, not just of the banks but of just about anything, usually boil down to an erroneous, yet apparently seductive logic: regulation is the product of an overactive, inefficient, bloated government bureaucracy that interferes with the private sector and distorts the miraculous, self-regulating harmony of the “free market”.

Throughout history, in fact, corporations and proponents of industry have taken it upon themselves to be the white knights of the free market who oppose any government intervention, at least when it’s on behalf of workers and consumers. Whether it’s fair labor standards, an eight-hour workday, seatbelts in cars, standards for carbon emissions, or any of the immensely popular social safety net programs, they whine about regulation and make the false claim that the additional standards will stymie economic growth. They hold the public hostage with threats of moving their industries offshore if rules aren’t stopped or rolled back. Their view is, where regulations are few, markets are free, and competition is fierce, the best outcomes are reached.

Except, of course, when the government steps in on the side of industry, in which case government intervention is just fine. This hypocrisy has been well documented by a variety of writers and journalists over the years. For one, there are all of the technologies, usually researched and developed at the Pentagon with public money, that are handed off to the private sector and turned into windfall profits (jet engines, fiber optics, GPS technology, and the Internet are some examples).

We might also consider the billions of taxpayer dollars that go to corporate welfare programs, policies that grant privileges to certain companies and industries in the form of tax breaks, exemptions, favorable regulation, and so forth. The most egregious example is the oil and gas industry, which between 1950 and 2007 received more than $450 billion in federal subsidies. In a report released last year, Tad DeHaven of the Cato Institute calculated, “Corporate welfare in the federal budget costs taxpayers almost $100 billion a year.”

The point is that when proponents of big businesses try to fly their Free Market flags to convince Americans that government is bad and  regulation is a problem, we know the charge is disingenuous at best and manipulative at worst. We know that many in the business community have been more than willing to accept as much public assistance as they can get their hands on. If the corporate sector was actually concerned with adhering to free market principles, there would have been shrill cries of protest among industry titans against the government bailout of the banks that amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars. Yet, astonishingly, the only sound to be heard was the swoosh of government cash entering the coffers of Goldman Sachs, A.I.G., and J.P. Morgan Chase.

The truth is that what corporations want is not a reduction in the size of the government—just a redirection of its spending so they get a larger slice of the pie.

Given the persistence and ideological draw of the free market fantasy, and the staggering resources at the disposal of those who perpetuate it, it’s amazing that the public can score victories like the CFPB rules passed last week. What it proves, though, is that money is not the only thing that talks in politics; the voice of organized citizens can get through to policymakers in Washington and make the government work for its citizens. It remains for us to ensure that voice is heard loud and often.

SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce – Congressional field hearing yields real small business issues

by The SC Small Business Chamber of Commerce

South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney held a field hearing in Rock Hill, SC, yesterday titled “Caught Up in Red Tape: The Impact of Federal Regulations on Small Businesses and Contractors”. Mr. Mulvaney is the Chairman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce.

I wasn’t able to attend the meeting but did have a long conversation with the Rock Hill Herald reporter, Ms. Jamie Self, who covered the event.

I expected the hearing would turn into a showcase for anti-regulation mantra we hear so often from politicians. To my surprise, I was told that no one testified that regulations were killing jobs. Instead the views expressed were about big businesses having an advantage over small businesses getting government contracts, lack of knowledge about the Affordable Care Act benefits for small businesses and the lack of customers—all very real issues.

So congratulations to Mr. Mulvaney for not trying to stack the deck with anti-regulation rhetoric testimony. By simply opening up the forum to all comers, he heard real concerns from small business owners—not political talking points.

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