Don’t throw stones from a glass house - especially at an independent watchdog like Elizabeth Warren
Over at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s website, Ryan McKee has been slamming Elizabeth Warren’s recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal for, among other things, toxifying the political debate around financial regulatory reform by using the words “Wall Street CEOs” nine times.
You may remember McKee as the most vocal spokesperson for the Chamber’s effort over the past year to tow the financial industry’s line whenever and wherever possible — but particularly in its flashy, well-resourced campaign to kill the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA).
The CFPA is the part of the financial regulatory reform package that Congress is considering that would be protect working families and small businesses. It would prevent the kinds of abuses that have stripped so much money from the pockets of families, and that also cost millions of Americans their jobs. The agency would do this mostly by getting rid of fine print, increasing competition for financial products, and making the market work properly again. By allowing the market to function better, the Consumer Financial Protection Agency would increase stability and so decrease some profits and bonuses in the financial industry-and so a lot of industry executives don’t much like it.
I haven’t given McKee much credit over the past year. He’s the embodiment of “say-anything-do-anything” efforts to kill any type of reform, including reforms that could have prevented the economic crisis. But I’ll give him credit for this: at least he practices what he preaches.
Wall Street CEOs may be contributing enormously to the Chamber’s budget and strategy sessions, but they’ve been conspicuously absent from McKee’s talking points. Instead, McKee spends the vast majority of his effort pushing the myth that financial reform will hurt small businesses. And he’s used small business owners as window dressing for a massive, industry-fueled campaign to kill sensible reform.
What makes this particularly painful to listen to is the fact that the CFPA and other reforms would actually help small businesses. In fact, small businesses use consumer credit products, like credit card and home equity lines of credit routinely, especially when they’re starting out. These businesses would benefit from fair and transparent practices as much as anyone. It’s not easy to write a business budget and plan when your lender can jack up interest rates or cut your line of credit at any time for any reason. Small businesses have also really suffered from the lack of stability in our economy - and a more stable system allows businesses to predict their funding levels and plan for the future.
So maybe McKee is drawing the wrong lessons from Elizabeth Warren’s opinion piece. Instead of asking Elizabeth Warren to stop saying “Wall Street CEO” so much, maybe he should start saying it more often. Start being upfront about the extent to which they have funded your operation. And start being upfront about who your campaign against reform will really help.
Since the financial collapse, we have learned two incontrovertible facts. First, that Professor Warren is maniacally focused on bringing reforms to Washington that will help working families better protect themselves against abusive and deceptive practices. And second, that McKee is maniacally focused on blocking reforms in Washington to continue to help line the pockets of Wall Street executives. It takes a lot of gall for him to accuse others of taking integrity out of the process.
Heather Booth is Executive Director of Americans for Financial Reform, a coalition of over 200 national, state and local consumer, labor, retiree, investor, community, business, and civil rights organizations who are campaigning for real reform in our nation’s financial system.