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Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Does consumer agency matter to us?

Marketplace Staff Mar 2, 2010
Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Does consumer agency matter to us?

Marketplace Staff Mar 2, 2010


Tess Vigeland: The latest word on a new consumer watchdog agency for financial products is that it would become part of the Federal Reserve. President Barack Obama has said repeatedly that he wants an independent agency. But, as we outlined on yesterday’s show, the financial industry is doing everything it can to stop that idea.

We wondered where consumer sentiment lies for an idea that’s designed to protect them. Reporter Brett Neely went in search of an answer.

BRETT NEELY: Mail in favor of an independent financial watchdog for consumers is flooding Capitol Hill, says one Senate staffer.

Travis Plunkett at the Consumer Federation of America says just look at the polls.

TRAVIS PLUNKETT: Americans have been asked again and again about this, and it’s pretty clear that they want a watchdog that’s focused only on protecting them.

He says consumers want protection from dangerous financial products.

Richard Sanner is a retired minister in Surry, Maine.

RICHARD SANNER: I know I don’t understand some of this stuff, and I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in management, and I’ve taught economics.

Sanner says he’s seen members of his church get burned by high fees and even higher interest rates.

SANNER: 25-30 percent interest rates! That’s usury, that’s outrageous!

Constance Bevitt of Silver Spring, Md., is worried the Senate will neuter the idea.

CONSTANCE BEVITT: I would hate to see them become just another agency lost in, you know, the bowels of the federal government somewhere.

But there’s plenty of skepticism about whether the government is even up to the task.

Patrick McGuire lives in Madison, Wis.

PATRICK MCGUIRE: I’m for the idea, I’m for the principle, however, I’m not certain that they’re going to be able to make it succeed.

McGuire just finished teaching a class of fifth graders about managing money. He says they get it.

MCGUIRE: I heard some more intelligent questions and debates from the fifth graders than I’ve heard from the politicians and on the news programs.

To avoid a repeat of the financial mess, McGuire is pinning his hopes on education, not on a new agency.

In Washington, I’m Brett Neely for Marketplace.

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