The Campaign Spot

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Making the NSA Jealous

Ernest Istook kindly mentions my book in his Washington Times column today:

Truth is stranger than fiction in Washington D.C. Every satire about government has a real-life counterpart. Much like the runaway bureaucracy in a great recent novel, President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is growing like a weed, while CFPB officials are busy snooping on our household finances.

In “The Weed Agency,” Jim Geraghty of National Review spins the tale of the fictitious Agency of Invasive Species within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Created by Jimmy Carter to protect America from weeds, the tiny agency hires bureaucrats who create their own empire with mega-budgets, bloated payrolls and make-believe accomplishments. They interact, Forrest Gump-style, with genuine Washington personalities and events.

The novel works because its comic fiction sounds like truth — a federal agency devoted to protecting us from weeds. Its counterpart is a real-life runaway agency, the still-new Consumer Financial Protection [Bureau]. The board’s charge is to protect consumers from greedy businesses (a term treated as meaning any business).

My fictional master bureaucrat would envy the CFPB’s funding system:

Rather than having to ask Congress for money, the CFPB siphons off part of the Federal Reserve System’s earnings before they are deposited in the U.S. Treasury. The agency’s spending has accelerated like a dragster, from $161.8 million in FY 2011 to $583.4 million for FY 2015.

Here’s an easy slam-dunk for congressional Republicans next year: Repeal the law funding the CFPB through the Federal Reserve and make it part of the traditional appropriations process. Make Obama veto it.

Also, if America is wary of the amount of personal data the NSA is collecting on them, how do they feel about the CFPB becoming a functional backup system?

In the name of protecting us, the CFPB also snoops on us. First it purchased millions of individual credit histories. Now it is establishing, in tandem with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, a “National Mortgage Database Program” to help regulators “better understand” consumer finance.

According to the Federal Register, this massive database will cover home mortgages going back to 1998 and include your name, address, telephone numbers, birth date, race/ethnicity, gender, language, religion, Social Security number, education records, military records, employment records, bank account numbers and balances, your financial history, recent events in your life, your other assets, mortgage details, credit card balance and payments, details about who lives in your household, the size of your home, number of bedrooms, etc., and even the name of your neighborhood, among other personal data.

The bureaucrats assure us that this treasure trove of personal information is safe from hacking and theft by identity thieves. That puts the CFPB on equal footing with Sony, Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, the U.S. Postal Service, the Veterans Administration and all the others who claimed their titanic data systems would never hit an iceberg.

At some point the NSA will get jealous of the CFPB’s ability to gather data on Americans.

The same administration that introduced a “Privacy Bill of Rights to Protect Consumers Online” is also collecting tons of information on you . . . in order to protect you from violations of your privacy.

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