The fox that President Trump put in the hen house to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau isn’t fooling anyone by acting surprised that people are suspicious of his reorganization of the unit that has shut down student loan predators.
Acting director Mick Mulvaney should be building up the CFPB’s student protection office instead of watering down its role. The unit has proved its value by helping put out of business some of the most despicable purveyors of bad student loans this country has seen.
The CFPB targeted Corinthian Colleges, a supposedly nonprofit educational institution that cajoled its students into taking loans with interest rates as high as 15 percent. With tuition and fees running up to $75,000, many students seeking a bachelor’s degree had little choice but to take out the loans to achieve their dream of a college education.
The CFPB also took aim at ITT Educational Services, which would entice students into enrolling in its schools with offers of zero-interest loans, but the loans had to be repaid within a year. If they weren’t, borrowers had to take out high-interest loans to pay off the original debt or be kicked out of school.
Both Corinthian and ITT are out of business thanks to the CFPB, whose diligence led the Department of Education to expel them from the federal student aid program and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate them for fraud.
With that type of record, Mulvaney should be bolstering his student loan unit. Instead, an internal memo obtained by the Washington Post revealed his plans to dismantle the office and incorporate its duties within an office dedicated to financial education. A Mulvaney spokesman called it “a very modest organizational chart change.” Please. It’s much more than that.
Trump’s appointment of Mulvaney to head the CFPB adheres to a pattern seen with his putting Betsy DeVos in charge at the Education Department, Ben Carson at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency. Each had expressed positions contrary to the goals of the agencies they were named to lead. Each is expected to steer the agency in a different direction.
Appointed by a businessman, Mulvaney seems more concerned about shielding businesses than protecting borrowers and other consumers against fraudsters.
The CFPB, created after the recession to address predatory business practices, has survived despite Republican efforts to kill it. But Mulvaney and Trump are tacking a different course. Under the guise of reorganizing the agency they are trying to emasculate it.
If successful, like other Trump moves this one will take its largest toll on the very lower-income Americans he claims to champion. The CFPB has been everyday Americans’ true champion, but it won’t be if Mulvaney gets away with dulling the champion’s sword. People need to let their representatives in Congress know they need to either stand up to Trump or get out of the way so someone else can.