MELISSA BEAN FLOATED AS CFPB HEAD – Buzz on Friday had Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) possibly getting tapped as the first Consumer Financial Protection Bureau head depending on the outcome of her too-close-to-call reelection race, in which Republican Joe Walsh maintained a slight lead as of Sunday afternoon. But a possible Bean nomination is not sitting well with reformers on the left who say the moderate Illinois congresswoman is far too close to the banking industry.
Gee, what would give anyone that idea?
Oh right, stuff like this:
* FACT: Audit the Fed, one of the key provisions of the financial reform bill, was something both liberals AND conservatives fought for, and was supported by 80% of the public. Only 9% opposed it. Bean voted AGAINST Audit the Fed.
* FACT: Melissa Bean and the New Democrats were able to shoot the House derivatives plan full of holes.
* FACT: Three in four Americans (76%) wanted the government to block or recover the bonuses AIG paid its executives after taking TARP money.
* FACT: Melissa Bean introduced an amendment to gut a House bill to limit bonuses for TARP recipients. It passed.
* FACT: Melissa Bean “earned the most support of any incumbent from the US Chamber of Commerce,” per a Sunlight Foundation study of how the US Chamber of Commerce used former government officials as part of their lobbying team on financial regulation. Bean’s former Chief of Staff John Michael Gonzalez was one of the nineteen former government officials they hired.
* FACT: Bean received over 40% of her 2009 campaign contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate sector.
Now, I'm hoping -- I'm really, really hoping -- that this "buzz" Politico was talking about was just Rahm Emanuel giving America one final middle finger as a government official before spending the rest of his life as a soulless corporate lobbyist. But just in case it wasn't, here's a reminder of why we need a tough-ass cop on the beat to kick the financial services industry directly in its nuts:
One afternoon last spring, Deborah Poplawski, 38, of Minneapolis was digging in her purse for coins to feed a downtown parking meter when she saw the flashing lights of a Minneapolis police squad car behind her. Poplawski, a restaurant cook, assumed she had parked illegally. Instead, she was headed to jail over a $250 credit card debt.
Less than a month earlier, she learned by chance from an employment counselor that she had an outstanding warrant. Debt Equities, a Golden Valley debt buyer, had sued her, but she says nobody served her with court documents. Thanks to interest and fees, Poplawski was now on the hook for $1,138.
Though she knew of the warrant and unpaid debt, "I wasn't equating the warrant with going to jail, because there wasn't criminal activity associated with it," she said. "I just thought it was a civil thing."
Yes, my friends, debtors' prisons are alive and well in 21st Century America! Makes you feel good, doesn't it? Here's another heart-warming tale:
As a sheriff's deputy dumped the contents of Joy Uhlmeyer's purse into a sealed bag, she begged to know why she had just been arrested while driving home to Richfield after an Easter visit with her elderly mother.
No one had an answer. Uhlmeyer spent a sleepless night in a frigid Anoka County holding cell, her hands tucked under her armpits for warmth. Then, handcuffed in a squad car, she was taken to downtown Minneapolis for booking. Finally, after 16 hours in limbo, jail officials fingerprinted Uhlmeyer and explained her offense -- missing a court hearing over an unpaid debt. "They have no right to do this to me," said the 57-year-old patient care advocate, her voice as soft as a whisper. "Not for a stupid credit card."
There's been a lot of predictable hand-wringing over why the Democrats lost the elections last week. And sadly, I think the big reason they lost is for the same reason that the GOP lost the elections of 2006 and 2008. Essentially, our government has been both complicit in and an active helper of a financial services industry that has robbed the American middle class of its wealth. People were told for years that it was OK to take out massive credit card debts to purchase cheap crap made in China because, hey, you can always fall back on the ever-rising value of your home if you get into too much debt, right? And now that that obviously unsustainable economic model has gone completely bust, people are angry and looking for someone to blame.
Democrats* had a choice when they took over the government after the 2008 elections. They could have sided with the overwhelming majority of the American people or with the banks. Sadly, they sided with the banks. And if this "Melissa-Bean-for-CFPB-chair" trial balloon has any legitimacy, it seems that they're determined to side with the banks even more in the future.
*Not all Democrats, of course. Only the most influential ones. And because of them a lot of good Democrats like Alan Grayson and Russ Feingold just lost their jobs. Thanks, guys.