Thursday, May 13, 2010

Level of discourse

The financial reform bill now before the Senate includes the creation of a consumer financial protection bureau. Naturally, the PTR (formerly the GOP) opposes this, since it objects to nearly anything that might go against the interests of its corporate masters. Even some Democrats demur. The result has been, among other things, a special amendment that would exempt auto-dealerships from restrictions on deceptive loan practices (e.g. inflated rates, hidden fees, and fine-print provisions committing car purchasers to buy expensive but unneeded add-ons).

When the administration stupidly protested that some of these deceptive practices victimized members of the military -- as if cheating soldiers is somehow worse than cheating, say, poor people or widows and orphans -- Scott Brown (R, MA) and Jack Reed (D, RI) added an amendment that would create a special office to counsel military families on predatory lending. This amendment passed 98 - 1.

A lot of the things that Senators (Reps also) do is not based on any particular logic but rather on superficial crowd-pleasing and cowardly posturing. If people are worth protecting against corporate deception, then people are worth protecting. Perhaps the military should provide some financial counselling -- maybe by cutting a hardware project or two. Meanwhile, is there some reason why one would want to allow any segment of the corporate world -- auto companies or banks or orthodontists -- to be allowed to deceive consumers? (Yes, the PTR is worried that the payment plans for braces might somehow be regulated, since who wants to protect someone with crooked teeth?)

The ethical reasoning is quite unclear. If something is deceitful and harmful, why shouldn't it be illegal, and why shouldn't the laws against it be enforced? Why should some group of people be entitled to protection and not others? Beats the hell out of me.

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