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Rep. Hensarling: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Hurts Consumers


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now led by President Trump's chosen director, Mick Mulvaney, which makes you wonder about its future. Republicans like Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling have long criticized the agency. Hensarling chairs the House Financial Services Committee, and he says under former director Richard Cordray, the CFPB hurt consumers it was meant to protect.

JEB HENSARLING: Right now, we have one unelected, unaccountable individual who can basically wake up and decide that any credit card, any mortgage is, quote, unquote, "abusive." No one person, whether it be Mick Mulvaney or Richard Cordray, should have that much power in a democracy.

GREENE: So this agency has been pretty popular among Republicans and Democrats. It's returned billions of dollars to consumers when there have been abuses. I mean, can you guarantee that those functions will still be happening in the kind of agency that you're imagining?

HENSARLING: Well, we had consumer protection laws on the books that preceded the CFPB. We can have a debate on who is - can best enforce these. Frankly, I do like the idea that we centralize consumer protection for financial products into one agency. What I dislike, though, is having an agency that essentially has the power of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats writing law as opposed to enforcing law.

GREENE: As I said, polls suggest a lot of people like this agency. Do you see this agency as having done anything good? Do you like some of what it's done?

HENSARLING: Well, with respect to polls, my guess is 99 percent of Americans have never even heard of this agency, and I would defy you to find a poll otherwise. To some extent, it's hard to judge precisely what they have done. Again, there are very important laws that need to be enforced. I think in some respects, in certain cases, they have, but in other cases, they've really let us down.

GREENE: Just so you know the source of what I was saying, that there was a Morning Consult poll about 11 months ago that polled Trump voters actually and found that 56 percent want the CFPB either left alone or actually expanded. And it is one of the few agencies that focuses solely on consumers. I just want to ask you a broad question. I mean, you had President Trump who ran and still campaigns on being a champion of working Americans. Now, this agency that was set up to protect consumers from abuse is under attack. And you also have a Republican tax cut plan that gives the most relief to wealthy people. I just wonder - is all of this keeping the promise that President Trump made in the election?

HENSARLING: We have tax reform that is going to give tax relief to working Americans. The average American is going to be seeing something along the lines of $1,200. They will actually see their paychecks increase. I mean, they've been decimated for the last eight years at 1.5 to 2 percent growth.

GREENE: And that's been debated, that the relief - it'll be...

HENSARLING: Every time we've had a pro-growth fundamental tax reform, be it under President Reagan, President Kennedy - you can even go all the way back to President Coolidge. We have seen paychecks increase, economic growth be ignited and actually more revenues come into the government.

GREENE: Are you worried at all about a perception problem right now for the party going after something like this agency that protects consumers and a tax cut that appears to give more relief to wealthier people? Is that a perception problem for Republicans?

HENSARLING: No. I want to protect consumers from their government. I want to protect consumers from bureaucrats and so - through the ability to insure that we have the best consumer protection, competitive, transparent markets that are vigorously policed for fraud, to make sure that we have a fair, flatter, simpler tax code that's going to lead to bigger paychecks. The president's doing exactly what he said he would do. It's one of the reasons that already, even without this tax reform plan, we now have seen two quarters of 3 percent economic growth, and that translates into better paychecks for low-income and working Americans.

GREENE: Jeb Hensarling is a Republican congressman from Texas. He is the chair of the House Financial Services Committee. And I really appreciate your time, Congressman.

HENSARLING: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.