By Pharoh Martin, NNPA National Correspondent –
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Last week, the House of Representatives passed a Wall Street reform bill that advocates are calling the most comprehensive financial reform since the New Deal was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt 70 years ago.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which comes on the heels of one of the worst economic fall outs in U.S. history, will put in place the strongest consumer financial protections ever by curbing abuses by banks, mortgage and credit card companies and keeping their consumers better informed by making the financial industry more transparent, according to President Obama.
“Today’s House vote in favor of Wall Street Reform puts us on the cusp of passing a law that will give consumers greater protection and safeguard our economy against future financial crises,” Obama said in a statement shortly after the vote was passed on June 30th. “It has been a long fight against the defenders of the status quo on Wall Street, but today’s vote is a victory for every American who has been affected by the recklessness and irresponsibility that led to the loss of millions of jobs and trillions in wealth.”
The bill must still go to the Senate for approval before the president can sign it into law. The anchor of the bill is the creation of new independent watchdog agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It will have the power to regulate the activities of banks, credit card companies, payday lenders and other financial services institutions. It is designed to act as the same manner as the FDA already does for medical safety and set consumer protective standards against such financial practices as hidden credit card fees and deceptive fine print.
The new bureau would be entirely dedicated to protecting consumers from the unscrupulous lenders that helped bring down the economy, said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who chairs the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity and also serves on the House Financial Services Committee.
“We are not only creating new opportunities for minorities and opening doors that had been closed but we were basically in the leadership of support of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that is going to help all consumers with all of these issues that we are confronting,“ she said in an interview with NNPA.
The congresswoman was responsible for many key provisions that were included in the bill that address specific economic problems in the Black community.
Those provisions include:
-The creation of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion;
- Additional assistance for homeowners;
- More funding for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which helps homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure and provides low interest loans to unemployed homeowners who are having a difficult time keeping up with their mortgage payments. Under the legislation, the program will receive an additional $1 billion in funding and an additional $2 billion in funding from the Treasury Department;
- Safeguards that ensure fair access, treatment and regulations for minorities, women and low-income workers, including ensuring diversity in hiring and job promotions at federal financial regulatory agencies and in their contracting with the creation of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion.
“Getting the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion into law is the biggest thing that has happened in many years in terms of legislative efforts to improve the plight of minorities in this country," said Waters, who created the agency. "It's huge.”
Waters said that because banks and financial institutions disparately targeted the Black community for the exploitative sub-prime loans that helped bring down the economy two years ago Black lawmakers were keen on supporting the bank reform legislation and its specific protections for minorities and low-income consumers.
Black members in the House were instrumental in getting the bill passed. But now the bill comes to the Senate chamber, which has one African-American member and is bitterly divided along party lines. Waters still feels that the Senate will be successful in pushing the bill through.
“For the first time, the conference committee that resolves the differences between the two houses had significant minority representation on that committee," Waters said. "And because of that, we were able to not only educate the senators who sat in the conference committee on the importance of what we were doing."