April 22, 2018
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GOP demolition

From wire reports

Senate Republicans have been shameless in their zeal to neuter the agency created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to protect consumers from unscrupulous and misleading lending practices. Five months after it doors opened, the agency has no leader and no muscle.

Earlier this month, a GOP filibuster blocked confirmation of President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And 44 senators insist they won’t vote to approve anyone for the job until the new bureau is restructured. But what they call restructuring is actually demolition. The bureau can oversee existing banking regulations, but until a director is in place, it can’t issue new rules or regulate nonbank operations such as mortgage servicers and payday lenders. These regulations include plain language on terms for home loans and for credit cards, as well as the use of large type for readability.

Obama could use a recess appointment to install his nominee, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, who is acknowledged by both sides to be highly qualified. Although lawmakers have left town for the holidays, the Senate hasn’t officially recessed. Still, the president could employ a seldom-used parliamentary tactic to challenge the blocking. That would be an aggressive move by the White House, but it’s the only way to respond to aggressive GOP tactics. It’s not the best way to do business, but it’s preferable to the current stalemate.

Republicans say they’re holding out for greater transparency and accountability. Those are buzz-words meant to cast GOP obstructionism as good government. It’s no such thing, and the public deserves better.

Newsday, New York (Jan. 4)

Danger to park rangers

National park enthusiasts usually think of these spectacular natural places as pleasant throwbacks in time — quiet, isolated, far from the dangers of urban America.

The first killing of a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park not only shatters a sense of security but also prompts newfound respect for the wide array of activities and dangers faced by park officers.

Of 4,000 National Park Service rangers, about a third are cops, trained at the same academy where many other federal agents study.

Tasks range from responding to hiking accidents and fighting wildfires to putting up caution signs in various places. But it is not all wintry wonderland kind of stuff. Rangers deal with drug dealers, rapists and armed suspects.

Ranger Margaret Anderson was shot and killed as she tried to stop a car that blew through a chain-up checkpoint. She was armed but apparently had no chance to respond to the man suspected of fleeing a New Year’s shootout in Skyway.

That sounds like everyday police work, but it is different from the conditions in a suburban or urban area where one call to headquarters provides more certainty of help. A ranger often must make decisions with backup perhaps 20 minutes away.

It is not that parks are becoming more dangerous per se. Long-held impressions of tranquillity and serenity remain. But now nine Park Service rangers have been killed in the line of duty since the service was created nearly a century ago. That sounds like a small number but five of the killings occurred in the past 20 years.

Anderson’s death is a horrible tragedy for her family, the national park community and our region. We don’t think about it often but these rangers risk their lives like other officers of the law. They deserve our utmost admiration and gratitude.

The Seattle Times (Jan. 5)

Unprincipled fees

You’d think that dominant banks, utilities and telecommunications companies would have learned the lesson by now. Consumers are sick and tired of being nickel and dimed, and won’t take it anymore.

But no.

Corporations persist in trying to foist new fees on the public. Then once outrage invariably builds, they have to do an embarrassing U-turn, plus damage control to their brand.

The latest mea culpa mambo was almost immediate. Verizon Wireless, the nation’s largest cellphone company, pulled the plug Friday on a plan to charge $2 for some customers to pay their bills, just one day after announcing it.

As fees go, this one was more ridiculous than most.

Starting Jan. 15, it would have hit customers who choose to make one-time credit or debit card payments, either online or over the phone. To avoid the fee, customers would have to enroll in automatic credit card payments, go into a store to pay, or mail a check.

That’s right — you would have been charged for paying your bill on time.

Even more amazing, Verizon Communications, the landline phone company that owns most of its wireless cousin, tried last year to introduce a similar fee but was forced to back off after customer complaints .

At the mercy of short-term investors, corporations are looking for any possible way to pad their bottom lines. Still, too many have forgotten the fundamentals of growing a business: Provide products or services that people want, make them available at a fair price and treat customers with respect. Charging exorbitant or unnecessary fees is the opposite of those principles.

The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee (Jan. 5)

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