Warren's CFPB 'achievement' is reason not to make her president

 Warren's CFPB 'achievement' is reason not to make her president
© Anna Moneymaker

We had barely finished ringing in the New Year when Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden says he won't legalize marijuana because it may be a 'gateway drug' Democrats seize on report of FedEx's Elizabeth Warren tax bill to slam Trump's tax plan Warren 'fully committed' to 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Mass) set her sights on 2020 by announcing an exploratory committee for her presidential run.

During her time in the Senate, Warren has positioned herself as a top dog among her Democrat colleagues. Her claim to fame has been a commitment to reforming the financial sector, primarily in response to the fallout from the 2008 great recession. But even before she joined Congress' upper chamber, this had been Warren's crusade. In 2010, she spearheaded the creation of one of the financial sector's most hated agencies: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). 

By arguing that the average toaster was more heavily regulated than a mortgage, Warren pushed for creation of this agency, which now enjoys little government oversight and a seemingly limitless budget. Before presidential candidate Warren starts peddling the "success" of her pet project on the campaign trail, she should consider how an agency that was formed under the guise of “consumer protection” has done more to hurt consumers than help.

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Since the bureau's inception nine years ago, it has become one of Washington’s most unaccountable agencies. The CFPB was designed to be “independent," unlike most other standard government agencies. Take, for instance, the bureau's funding mechanism. The CFPB receives an annual set percentage of the Federal Reserve budget, which exempts it from the congressional appropriation process. This allows the bureau to spend essentially as much money as it would like. Even more worrisome, its director can only be fired by the president for “just cause," leaving him or her unaccountable to Congress and the American public.

These attributes alone make the bureau constitutionality questionable. In fact, multiple lower courts have ruled the bureau to be “unconstitutionally structured.”

Set aside the question of structure for the moment. The bureau has also severely damaged the financial industry. To date, the CFPB has issued more than $5 billion in penalties and over $3.1 billion in regulatory costs. Credit unions alone have taken a $7 billion regulatory hit, accounting for lost revenue.

These penalties and excessive regulations ultimately hurt the consumer. The bureau’s arbitrarily defined “affordability criteria” impose unreasonably high standards on small dollar-lenders — making it hard for average Americans to receive simple loans, mortgages, and credit lines. These regulations are especially burdensome to low-income Americans where nearly four in ten individuals are unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense. The recent government shutdown vividly demonstrates how Americans can quickly find themselves in a financial jam. The financial industries long targeted by Sen. Warren exist explicitly to help in such circumstances. Making their operations more costly and complicated can only hurt consumers in need. 

Even though previous Acting Director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneySondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report Schiff knocks Mulvaney over failure to testify in impeachment probe Lawmakers skeptical of progress on spending deal as wall battle looms MORE and current director Kathy Kraninger have done everything in their power to cut down on regulations and spending, the bureau’s existence should still make potential voters question Warren’s original motives in creating such an "independent agency."

Unphased by these criticisms, Sen. Warren still maintains that the “CFPB is government that works for the American people.” Her inability to understand how her so-called “brainchild” has, in actuality, made the lives of millions of consumers much more difficult, should make voters question the viability of her campaign.

Jeff Joseph served as head of domestic policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from 1982 to 1997. He also helped launch and later led a DARPA-funded non-profit focused on bringing broadband internet to K-12 schools. He was a member of the Spectrum Group from 2006-2009 and most recently organized the non-profit Charitable Fundraising Council. He is an adjunct professor of business strategy and public policy at George Washington University and George Mason University. Follow him on Twitter @jeffjoseph77

NOTE: This post has been updated from the original to correct the dates during which Mr. Joseph served as head of domestic policy at the US Chamber of Commerce.