Two people reported to work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Nov. 27, both expecting to lead the bureau. Leandra English, who had been chief of staff to former Director Richard Cordray (he resigned before Thanksgiving to return to Ohio to run for governor), was appointed to the director position by her old boss. Simultaneously, 45 appointed Mick Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget, to hold the job. Reportedly, Mulvaney arrived at the office bright and early Monday morning, carrying a bag of doughnuts. Both Mulvaney and English sent memos to the entire staff asserting their leadership. Mulvaney rolled his sleeves up and got to work at an agency he had previously ridiculed. English headed to court to assert the right to her job.
Now, here comes the trick bag. Leandra English found herself in Judge Timothy Kelly’s courtroom. The judge, in the US District Court, was appointed by 45. Is there any coincidence that English did not prevail in her suit? Mulvaney is right when he says that no one should have expected the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to operate the same way under 45 as it did under President Obama. “Elections have consequences,” he crowed.
With that smug bragging, he illustrates why other relatively (I use the word advisedly) principled Republicans put up with 45 and his antics. While too many of us are focused on 45’s foolish antics, flippant verbal attacks, and downright dangerous international behavior, the “Buffoon-in-Chief” and the Senate are quietly packing the courts. 45 is moving faster than President Obama, Bush, Clinton and Bush have, with as many as 200 positions already filled. Further, 45 is appointing younger and more conservative jurists than ever before. Kelley, for example, is in his late 40s.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established by the Dodd-Frank legislation of 2010, the Congressional reaction to the horrible abuses that banks engaged in to cause the Great Recession. It regulates the rules relating to mortgages, credit cards, insurance, and other financial instruments. It is the only agency that stands in the gap for consumers, the only one that has the ability to stand up to banks and force them to be responsible. In its short existence, tens of millions of dollars have been returned to consumers, and thousands of bad actors have been outed on the CFPB web page.
The election of 45 put this agency’s integrity in jeopardy because his election was the triumph of predatory capitalism. While 45 swore he was for the working class, which was campaign mumbo-jumbo. Instead, he always planned to gut the agency that was unpopular with Congressional Republicans, and the preponderance of bankers in his cabinet certainly guarantees the agency’s destruction. But the court’s swift finding against Leandra English reminds us that we can expect to find the tenets of predatory capitalism and consumer exploitation to be upheld by these newly packed courts.
Court appointments have generated little attention. On at least one occasion, the American Bar Association has described a nominee as “unqualified,” something that they rarely do. On another occasion, a man who has a law degree but who has never tried a case was nominated as a judge. Really? Less than political patronage, 45 is systematically presiding over a massive ideological shift in our nation. It’s a trick bag, one that many did not anticipate.
Consumers who care about the protections we need against big banks and credit card companies need to write their elected representatives and urge them to strengthen the legislation that authorized the CFPB. And progressive lawyers must pay more attention to these flawed judicial appointments that 45 is making. These are absolutely frightening times, with 45 running amok at the People’s House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He is running amok, and his foolishness is guaranteed to generate commentary and revulsion. But we can’t be so absorbed by the foolishness that we ignore what he is doing with the courts.
Malveaux’s latest book, “Are We Better Off?: Race, Obama and Public Policy,” is available via www.amazon.com.