While Biden Blunders, CFPB Director Rohit Chopra Is Working to Massively Expand the Regulatory State – Opinion

It’s no secret that the Biden administration has made a mess of things — and it’s not just Joe. Kamala can’t get a coherent sentence out of her mouth and has done precisely nothing about the border crisis. Pete Buttigieg is apparently unbothered by continuing supply chain issues, and it seems that no one at the FDA is worried about babies being able to eat since it’s still difficult to find baby formula on store shelves (I know; I checked last night). In the midst of this chaos, while all of us have been focused on just getting by, Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Rohit Chopra has been busy installing allies in various regulatory agencies and working to massively expand the size and reach of the federal government — and his own power base — essentially in the shadows.

He’s being driven out of the shadows now, partly thanks to the US Chamber of Commerce, which “launched an extensive campaign to expose and defeat Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Rohit Chopra’s ideologically driven agenda to radically change the nature of America’s financial services industry” on June 28. In a press release, the Chamber alleges that “If [Chopra is] allowed to proceed, his agenda would harm consumer choice and innovation.”

Elizabeth Warren has been working with lefty associates to radically change the industry of financial services for many years. The Chamber and various business groups have warned repeatedly about the danger, but this campaign goes beyond that. What makes Chopra and his actions any different from what we’ve already seen? According to the Chamber

Director Chopra has presented extreme views and incorrect opinions in a variety of speeches about the current state regulations for our financial system. His:

  • Described “repeat offenses” as “par for the course for many dominant firms.”
  • Stated that financial regulators were “…clueless and often corrupt lawyers and economists…often seen as auditioning for a future job…”
  • Coined the term “junk fees” as “exploitive income streams” in a heavy-handed attempt to vilify legal products that have well-disclosed terms.

The Chamber’s campaign is specifically objecting to several unlawful actions including Chopra’s intentions to change rules without accountability, injecting great uncertainty into the market therefore causing financial companies to limit the types of mortgages, car loans, and personal credit they can offer consumers. Chopra also suggested bans on specific products, and stated that he intends to restructure this industry. This will ultimately harm consumers and reduce choice as well as decrease competition.

Neil Bradley, chief policy officer and executive vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated in a statement that Chopra was imposing his vision on the world and acting outside of the limits of his authority.

“Rohit Chopra has an outsized view of the CFPB’s role and the Director’s power. Chopra has deliberately mischaracterized the situation of market competition. This is helping to set the foundation to forcibly force financial services to conform with his vision of how the sector should look and the products and conditions that they should offer. No previous CFPB Director has thought they had such power.”

Chopra is also trying to get other federal government agencies to copycat CFPB with regard to “consumer protection” enforcement and trying to get states to replicate CFPB’s “consumer protection” enforcement efforts. In late May, the CFPB announced the establishment of the Office of Competition and Innovation, through which they’re starting to regulate and enforce competition/antitrust matters — which is really the FTC’s lane, but it enables Chopra to advance a policy and narrative that Biden and people like Sen. Amy Klobuchar are pushing — that the solution for the country’s out-of-control inflation is to ramp up antitrust/competition enforcement and expand its scope.

The theory’s clearly not in line with any type of economic reality and will only do further harm, and even liberal economists are sounding the warning. Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary, believes that antitrust enforcement needs to be strengthened. He warned that federal regulators are basing antitrust policies on negative feelings towards business and not economic science.

“It’s very important that we have antitrust policy based on facts, based on economic science, based on consumers — not on a kind of generalized feeling of hostility and outrage towards business. I’m frankly worried about that.

“What is badly misguided and potentially dangerous to our economic future is the set of doctrines that people jokingly refer to as ‘hipster antitrust” ….“That’s a theory that says antitrust shouldn’t be about maximizing benefits to consumers” but about other, abstract objectives, he said. “That tilts very easily into a kind of dangerous populism.”

Summers followed up with a tweet thread warning that such policies can “easily be inflationary.”

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post, who is a columnist for this newspaper, called it a conspiracy theory.

The conspiracy theory infects the Democratic Party and its progressive base as well as the White House. It’s not quite as self-sabotaging as the horse-dewormer-cures-covid false theory that swept up many Republicans last year, but it’s pretty damaging nonetheless.

Call it “Greedflation.”

The theory goes something like this: The reason prices are up so much is that companies have gotten “greedy” and are conspiring to “pad their profits,” “profiteer” and “price-gouge.” No one has managed to define “profiteering” and “price-gouging” more specifically than “raising prices more than I’d like.”

Summers’ warnings may encourage Chopra to stay on the current course of action or to intensify his efforts. Chopra holds a strong dislike for Summers. He was the president at Harvard University as an undergraduate, and also was president of Harvard’s Undergraduate Council. Chopra spoke with Harvard Crimson about the role of themes like Indian independence, European colonialism’s legacy and his campaign. Chopra also mentioned Larry Summers being Winston Churchill.

“Well, I mean Larry S. is much like Winston Churchill was when it came to India. [Like Gandhi]I would like to be the man who supports the small guy [against the fat white guy]. Gandhi gave a slap in the face to Churchill, so maybe we’ll show Larry a thing or two as well. I don’t meditate though.”

During a debate during the same campaign, Chopra referred to Summers as a “low-level bureaucrat,” and at the end of his term mocked Summers for mispronouncing his name during a congratulatory call, even mimicking Summers. The final meeting of his tenure was a mockery by Chopra.

While Chopra described his working relationship with Summers as “a spirited set of disagreements” in a 2022 American Prospect piece, one colleague at the Undergraduate Council praised him for “being brave enough to tell Larry Summers, ‘This is not the right thing,’ [and] ‘to shove it.’”

Perhaps one reason Chopra was so antagonistic toward Summers was because even at that time, in 2003, he was already to the far left politically, earning the endorsement of Harvard’s Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters’ Alliance — even though one of his rivals was co-president of the group — and a split endorsement from the Environmental Action Committee.

In a Wall Street Journal profile Chopra is described as someone who “embraces rhetoric and tactics some other bureaucrats view as out of bounds,” and one industry observer quoted in a recent Fox Business piece described him as “more aggressive than his predecessors and eager to “do something that puts him in the news every couple of days.” Combined with his far left politics, his inability to keep his personal feelings and politics out of his job, and his persisting desire to give a “slap in the face” to “the…white guy,” as a means of standing up for the little guy, the US Chamber is right to shine a spotlight on what Chopra’s doing, and we should all pay attention.

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