- - Thursday, July 30, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

During his inaugural speech in 1981, President Ronald Reagan said: “Government can, and must, provide opportunity, not smother it. Foster productivity, not stifle it.” These timeless words have never been more relevant. From Obamacare to Dodd-Frank, we have seen government recklessly expand under this administration. New government regulations have circumvented the intentions of our Founding Fathers, in order to create a fourth branch of government — the regulatory branch.

The Constitution establishes checks and balances to protect the American people, but the rise of the regulatory state is dramatically increasing the government’s interference into people’s lives. The regulatory state is controlled by unelected bureaucrats who operate secretly, with little meaningful input from the folks who will actually be required to comply with their mandates. The Obama Administration’s willingness to smother economic growth seemingly has no limits — it recently issued its 500th major regulation at a combined cost of $625 billion.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, is a prime example of the regulatory state at its worst. Its compassionate sounding name wrongly represents the agency’s intrusive practices. A brain child of Elizabeth Warren, the CFPB has applied a Washington-knows-best, one-size-fits all approach to regulating financial institutions across the country. These burdensome regulations are bad enough for big banks in Manhattan, but absolutely crippling for small community banks and credit unions across America.

July 21 marked the fourth anniversary of the CFPB. This is four years too many. That’s why Sen. Ted Cruz and I introduced the Repeal CFPB Act to completely abolish the agency and revert all financial regulatory authorities back to the seven agencies previously tasked with such duties. As the Heritage Foundation noted in their research on this issue “The best option going forward would be outright elimination of the CFPB through repeal of Title X of Dodd-Frank.” That is exactly what my bill will accomplish. My attempts to reduce the size of government haven’t gone over well with Sen. Warren who recently said she was “proud and determined” to fight for expansion of this unnecessary agency. However, if she’s unhappy, we’re probably on the right track.

The need for this bill is clear. When I go home to Texas and spend time with people across our district — in places like Sherman, Rockwall and Texarkana — I hear firsthand about financial institutions having to choose between closing their doors or consolidating into larger firms to handle the increase in compliance costs. I hear from businesses forced to spend more time on unnecessary regulatory paperwork than helping serve their customers, and community banks that have stopped providing certain basic financial services out of fear of retaliation from the CFPB. This isn’t government working for the people. It’s government getting in the way.

The CFPB justifies its actions in the name of “consumer protection,” but it has actually limited consumer choice and decreased access to capital. This is money that could be used to start a business, hire more workers, and pursue the American dream. After the creation of the CFPB, a company in my district, already overseen by federal and state regulators, had to hire two additional attorneys, four paralegals, and two compliance officers just to handle the increased regulatory burden placed on them by the CFPB. These costs could have been used to invest in new product lines or offer more competitive rates for consumers. Unfortunately, examples like these are not unique. All across the country, American businesses are being stretched thin by the CFPB.

Perhaps most troubling is the fact that the CFPB is completely unaccountable to Congress and the American people. The CFPB is not overseen by Congress through the annual appropriations process. The agency receives more than $600 million annually from the budget of the Federal Reserve System — monies that are not controlled by the Legislative Branch. This unique setup makes the CFPB the least accountable regulatory agency in the federal government; a situation that invites regulatory excess and abuse.

Elizabeth Warren seems to love any policy or agency that grows government and takes away freedom — which is why my efforts to rein in the regulatory state make her cringe. I hope she stays vocal in her opposition to my efforts, because I will continue to stand proudly for the American people and against the regulatory zeal of unelected bureaucrats. The CFPB is an agency that continually oversteps its bounds with little to no repercussions. Let’s get rid of it once and for all.

John Ratcliffe is a U.S. congressman representing Texas’ 4th district.

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