At the end of 2008 and all of 2009, America was plunged into the icy cold waters of an economic recession that took our breath away. We lost our jobs, homes, retirements, neighborhoods, small businesses. Everyone suffered. You may have lost millions because of a bad investor. You may have lost your home because you bought it with a predatory loan that was an unaffordable ticking time bomb. The ways in which the current financial regulatory system has failed us all are varied, complex and undeniable. But we were fooled into thinking that the “market” and regulators had the situation under control, and that our money and economy were secure. We now know that nothing could be further from the truth. But here’s what is so foolish: We haven’t changed anything. The same people are playing by the same rules that nearly decimated the American economy.
Why should the average middle class adult get involved in financial regulatory reform? What does it have to do with your everyday life, your job, your home or retirement? The short answer is everything. Do you have any account with a bank or credit union? Have you used a debit card in the past 24 hours? Are you investing in the stock market for your retirement either through a pension plan or 401(k)? Do you plan to buy a car or have you bought one recently? How much did the interest rate go up on your credit card? Are you irate when you hear about the bonuses that some bank executives received, after their bank was bailed out with your tax dollars? If you own a business, don’t you wish that someone would make it impossible for you to go bankrupt regardless of any foolish, unethical or business-killing choices you may have made?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you should be paying very close attention to the reforms that Congress is considering. Some are good and some aren’t as good. One proposed reform we should all support is a strong and independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency. If you like the fact that the government won’t let someone sell you an exploding toaster, then why shouldn’t the government also protect you from financially predatory people, products or practices? The folks who are tearing at the middle class, the financial services industry, fooled us once; shame on them. But if we let the rules get changed to make it easier for them to do it again, then they have fooled us twice, and this time with our help. Shame on us.