Skip to comments.Comey and Cordray Illustrate the Dangers of "Independence"
Posted on 06/13/2017 11:06:10 AM PDT by ckinv368
Yesterday, the Treasury Department released a much-anticipated plan to pare back the regulatory state that has neutered our economy over the past several years. Chief among Treasury's concerns was the role the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) has taken to over-regulate and generally terrorize the banking and financial services industries. Far from helping consumers, the CFPB has sought to stay in the headlines by demanding huge punitive fines in lieu of investigating financial services companies to death. Its current (and founding) director--Richard Cordrayseems to style himself as the Doc Holliday of the financial world. Never afraid of the limelight, he flaunts his independence, and uses it as a sword, rather than a shield, to attack his would-be detractors at every turn.
Of course, last Thursday, the world watched former FBI Director Jim Comey testify at a US Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about Russian interference in our electoral process. Much of the hearing centered around Comey's experience dealing with President Trump. Comey seemed to relish the attention. He detailed how Mr. Trump asked him for loyalty, but that he would only offer honest loyalty. He insinuated that Mr. Trump obstructed the FBI's investigation into Gen. Mike Flynns Russia ties when Mr. Trump merely stated that Gen. Flynn was a "good guy," and his hope that the FBI would eventually drop its investigation after Flynn's resignation. He took pride in recounting the political power he brandished by refusing to publicly disclose the president was not under investigation, even though he told Mr. Trump this privately on three occasions. And, he spoke of how he leaked confidential memos to the press through a 3rd party, in the hope that such political manipulation would lead to the appointment of a special counsel. Wrapping up much like a soap-opera episode, he divulged that maybe if [he] were stronger, he would have been able to stand up to President Trump. He said he felt defamed after being fired from his position, even though his actions and thirst for dramatic pronouncements have disrupted the US political process for well over a year.
So, what do Cordray and Comey have in common? Independence. They both consider themselves independent from traditional checks and balances. Free from the political melee. Able to do whatever they see fit, with little supervision, oversight, or repercussions. Theyve both granted themselves this luxury for years. Few people ever enjoy the power they have wielded, and fewer still without consequence. It is a dangerous extravagance the country can ill-afford.
Cordray enjoys his independence thanks to an Obama-era statute that courts have found unconstitutional. According to this law, he can only be fired for cause, meaning inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office. Cause evidently does not involve enacting myriad regulations aimed at making it difficult or impossible for small businesses and consumers to gain access to credit, which would spur spending and growth. Even though the Wall Street Journal has stated that Mr. Cordray wields more unilateral power than any government official save the president, it also notes he has (1) used this power to limit access to checking accounts, credit cards and other financial products, driv[ing] up the cost of borrowing, to the detriment of consumers, (2) routinely practiced regulation through often arbitrary enforcement mechanisms, and (3) missed the major consumer-finance scandal of the past decadethe Wells Fargo customer account debacle. His independence has failed to provide a benefit to consumers, and has generally only served his own means and motives as an effective way to retain his position of outsized authority.
Any discussion of Comeys independent streak has to go all the way back to 2004, when he threatened President George W. Bush with a mass-resignation at the Justice Department. This was followed by his actions throughout the summer of 2016, when, as FBI Director, he inserted himself very publicly into the political fray. First excoriating Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton, he then gave her a political pass by stating no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case against her due to her seeming lack of intentan inquiry irrelevant to the statute in question. Thus, he acted as investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury, like a one-man Star Chamber. And, Mr. Comeys independence allowed him to arbitrarily change his mind, reopening the Clinton investigation on October 28, 2016, in an act that may have influenced the election far more than anything Russia did. Mr. Comey was once again the center of the political universe. The country hung on his anticipated pronouncements. He continued after the election, leaking his demand that the Justice Department refute President Trumps wiretapping claims, even though those claims turned out to be true. He seemed intent on becoming a modern-day J. Edgar Hoover, tempting successive presidents with each move to reassert their dominance. When President Trump did, Comey sought to make him pay a political price.
Despite the Lefts insistence that independence is paramount for both positions, none of these assertions of independence have helped the country. In Cordrays case, consumers are worse off because of his grandstanding and self-aggrandizement. In Comeys, the country has watched first-hand as an FBI Director tried to exert his power over that of the Presidency itself. Much like Director Hooverwho blackmailed presidents and high government officials for much of his 48 year tenureComey resorted to personal and confidential memos to create political ammunition, and provide political cover. America is not better off because of his efforts. But, according to The Hill, he may get a $10 million book deal out of it, with movie rights to follow.
Congress, and the Administration, are finally taking steps to reign-in this perceived independence. Cordray will likely be forced out of his position, with his all-powerful agency deflated in scope and function. Comey has now been fired, and future FBI Directors should be wary of repercussions surrounding the independence offered by their 10 year term (which was always meant to be a Congressional check on FBI authority). In America, no-one can act with impunity above the law. And this includes the head of the CFPB, and the head of the FBI. I think Comey finally gets this, but someone should really break the news to Director Cordray. The sooner, the better.
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