Follow BFIA on Twitter
Blog for Iowa Archives
Blog for Iowa Categories
Search BFIA by Date
May 2016
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

Fight Media Bias

Iowa

Iowa Rapid Response Action

First responders to biased, imbalanced or factually inaccurate media coverage

Iowans for Better Local TV


National

FAIR: Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
FAIR is a national media watch group that offers well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship

Free Press

News Corpse

Prometheus Radio Project

Radio for People

Save the Internet

Save the News

Author Archive

Grassley Like A Broken Clock: He Doesn’t Work

l to r: Tom Fiegen, Rob Hogg, Patty Judge, Bob Krause Iowa Democratic Senate Candidates. credit: Sioux City Journal One of these candidates will work for Iowa

l to r: Tom Fiegen, Rob Hogg, Patty Judge, Bob Krause
Iowa Democratic Senate Candidates.
credit: Sioux City Journal
One of these candidates will work for Iowa

Went to an event Thursday for one of Grassley’s opponents, Rob Hogg.

During the question and answer period one of the audience brought up that Grassley as chair of the Judiciary Committee has been sitting on a bill called the CARERs Bill. Apparently one of the provisions of the CARERs bill would move marijuana from a schedule 1 (illegal) drug to a schedule II drug. Schedule II would be drugs that could be dispensed under a doctor’s care but are highly controlled.

Something like half of the country now allows some form of medical marijuana. The only reason states are able to allow medical marijuana at this time is because the Obama Administration has publicly declared it will not enforce marijuana laws. What happens when Obama is no longer president in 8 months is open to speculation, but most likely a Donald Trump would rescind that order immediately. The CARERs Bill could make that question moot by changing marijuana from a schedule I to a schedule II.

How many Americans depend on medical marijuana to control pain or the effects of epilepsy or the many other problems that marijuana has been found to relieve. If Mr. Obstruction doesn’t do something these untold sufferers will be at the whims of the new president come next January.

I have no idea why Grassley would obstruct this, but I can and will speculate. There are three lobbying groups that are really scared that a more widely prescribed medical marijuana will greatly hurt their profits. Those are 1) big Pharma; 2) the alcohol industry and 3) the for profit prison industry. Marijuana helps fill their rooms and keeps their profits high.

The only other reason is that Grassley refuses to give Obama anything so he is obstructing on this just the way he is obstructing on federal judges at all levels to the point where he has created a judicial emergency in this country. Grassley is also refusing to move on appointments to the State Department due to a snit over something Hillary Clinton did.

So stated simply, Grassley is about as useful as a broken clock. The clock doesn’t work and neither does Grassley. We aren’t paying the clock $174,000 a year, though. Nor is the clock making life worse for anyone as Grassley’s inaction is. But they do have one similarity – we can throw both of them out because they are useless.

Sunday Funday: Graduation Time

Before they can graduate they must pass this week's quiz

Before they can graduate they must pass this week’s quiz

May is for graduations. We hope all of you graduates out there have a very successful post graduation, whether it be going on to further education or taking s crack at the working world. There is much work that needs to be done in the United States these days, the question is whether anyone is willing to pay to have it done.

Were you paying attention last week?

1) At an NRA convention in Louisville, Donald Trump declared that who would “abolish the 2nd amendment?”

2) Tourists at Yellowstone Park tried to assist a baby bison that looked to be ill. What happened to this bison?

3) Tuesday saw one more round of presidential primaries. Which Democrat won in Kentucky?

4) Eric Fanning was confirmed as Secretary of the Army by the senate Tuesday. What is significant about this appointment?

5) $57,600,000 was the price for what jewel sold at auction in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday?

6) Accusations flew back and forth between Clinton and Sanders camps all week concerning conventions the previous week in what state?

7) US Special Forces last week admitted they are helping what country to fight ISIS?

8) An estimated 279 pregnant women in the US may have been infected with what?

9) A young woman in Connecticut who had just donated her hair to make wigs for children with cancer was accused by another customer in a Walmart restroom of being what?

10) The man who recommended Sarah Palin to John McCain has been hired by Trump to do what?

11) An EgyptAir flight disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea Thursday on a flight from where to where?

12) Golfer Phil Mickelson, whose disdain for paying taxes is well known, was charged by the SEC with what on Thursday?

13) The gun used to kill Trayvon Martin was reportedly sold on an internet auction site for how much?

14) Last week “60 Minutes” had tribute to this long time reporter; this week the reporter died. Who was this “60 Minutes” reporter?

15) In Oklahoma, Governor Mary Fallin vetoed a bill that would have made what a felony?

16) Donald Trump met with what former very controversial Secretary of State last week?

17) Scientists unveiled evidence that what had taken place on Mars millions of years ago?

18) June 22 at 2PM what former 2nd person in succession to the presidency will report to federal prison to begin his sentence on violating banking laws?

19) Philodi, Rajasthan, India reported a high temperature of 51 Celsius Thursday. What is that in Fahrenheit?

20) Friday afternoon an armed man was shot by Secret Service near what national building?

One of the youngsters we mentored is graduating this year and has earned a ton of scholarships. Makes us feel so good to see her success.

Answers:

1) Hillary Clinton – all by herself. Read that constitution, Donny – may come in handy some day

2) After his contact with humans he was rejected by other bison and ended up having to be put down.

3) Clinton

4) Fanning is openly gay

5) The “Oppenheimer Blue” diamond

6) Nevada

7) Libya

8) zika virus

9) a transgendered male in the women’s restroom

10) Vet vice presidential candidates. Does he still have the magic?

11) Paris to Cairo

12) insider trading.

13) $120,000

14) Morley Safer

15) performing an abortion.

16) Henry Kissinger

17) a tsunami

18) Dennis Hastert

19) 123.8 F – India is experiencing a severe heat wave this spring

20) The White House. The President was not home.

Something To Think About

credit: democraticunderground.com

credit: democraticunderground.com

Remember The Rain Forest.

attribute: Nicholas Johnson

attribute: Nicholas Johnson

Have to credit US Senate Candidate Bob Krause for reminding us of one of the great follies of the Chuck Grassley career. Krause mentioned the Iowa Rainforest as one of the few attempts that Grassley has made during his career.

Grassley’s career seems to be a record of some pretty major gaffes with long periods of quiet in between. Who can forget the great “Pull the plug on Grandma” speech as Iowa’s oldest senator worked like hell to keep health insurance and access to health care from his constituents?

Of course today he is in the battle of his career against the people, the constitution and the president to secure a seat on the Supreme Court for a crazy reactionary. Grassley has tried to talk his way around this, but has recently opted for the “silence is golden” school of communication in respect to questions about the Supreme Court. He’s taking one for team Republican here, folks. Certainly not for team “America.”

Now let us turn our minds back a decade or so and try to remember as Chuck Grassley tries to sell us on one of the boondoggliest of boondoggles. Who can ever forget The Iowa Rainforest? Maybe you, like I and my family, dreamed of cold winter days when we could hop in the car and head to Coralville for a lunch in the Rainforest? Especially on those days when the temperature dipped below zero and the snow was up past our butts. Rainforest here we come!

The Iowa Rainforest had all the earmarks of the kind of project that make common sense citizens point at the federal government and say “pork barrel project.” Putting an equatorial park in northern latitude Iowa seemed pretty far fetched even to the dreamers among us. Practical considerations such as how to heat such a beast in an Iowa winter made the project of skepticism from day one.

But the prospect of a spectacular project with the magic word “jobs” attached to it is hard for a politician to walk away from. So after some preliminary steps, Senator Grassley worked congress to get a major earmark for the project. Iverse has a excellent history of the project that spells out the highs and lows of the project. This project os an interesting study in how a project like this takes shape:

“By this time, Townsend had spent a reported $4 million of his own money developing the plan. But that was barely a down payment for a total cost now estimated at $280 million. Coralville agreed to kick in $25,000 per acre to buy an 85-acre site; the state legislature promised $75 million in state funds from the Vision Iowa Program; and Townsend committed $10 million. Federal grants and private donors were expected to cover the remaining, uh, nine-figure balance. Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who’s still in office, said he’d look for support. The initial five-year plan was for lots of fundraising, followed by 18 months of construction and a year for plants and animals to get acclimated before the park opened.

snip

Townsend was right about eyebrows raising, but not for the reasons he hoped. Three years out from announcing the Coralville site, Grassley boasted that he’d issued an ultimatum to House members who’ve balked at spending $70 million of federal money on the project as part of a green bond project package. The rainforest is one of five projects up for the bonds — along with mixes of shopping and hotel developments in New York, Atlanta, Louisiana, and Colorado. The other four members of his committee working on the packages will back everything except the rainforest earmark, but Grassley vowed to kill all the projects if they wouldn’t back Iowa. “We take all the projects, or we dump all of them,” he announced. The project won $50 million in federal funds so long as it could match that through private donors. D.C.’sCitizens Against Government Waste labeled the rainforest a laughable example of frivolous spending, especially shameful given that Grassley sanguinely approved billions in spending for the still-young Iraq war. Townsend’s idea balloons from passion project to national punchline. An April 2004 editorial in The New York Timeswrote of it: “Some bad ideas simply refuse to die.””

Many of you remember what went on as the Rainforest then moved locations and finally met a quiet death. This does, however, give lie to Grassley’s reputation as fiscally conservative. He’s just conservative when it comes to things like healthcare and real projects that would create jobs.

Bridges In Iowa Worst In Nation

It does happen

It does happen

Iowa finally got to the top in one category of public achievement. From an email issued by Progress Iowa:

We’ve got some bad news. Iowa recently overtook Pennsylvania for the dubious honor of having more structurally deficient bridges than any other state, according to an annual report published by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

With a ranking like that you’d expect your state legislators to take action. Well, they did, but the wrong kind of action — gutting the Iowa Department of Transportation’s budget by $4.85 million. To cut funding when our bridges are falling apart isn’t just irresponsible, it’s ridiculous.

Join Progress Iowa in calling on state legislators to restore funding and repair Iowa’s crumbling infrastructure.

We drive our families over structurally deficient bridges every day, often without even knowing it. Without adequate funding for more inspectors and more improvements, our state’s infrastructure will fall further behind, impacting our safety and our economy.

Thanks for all you do,

Matt Sinovic
Executive Director
Progress Iowa

It is not just sad, it is scary. All of us drive over these bridges daily. We drive over one that could looks like it is literally held together with chewing gum and bailing wire.

The infrastructure in this state is getting to the stage of decrepit in some cases. When not maintained, bridges do fall down and people die when they do. Nine years ago come August 1st the I35 bridge in St. Paul collapsed killing 13 and injuring 145. When taxes are cut there are consequences. When we have a congress that couldn’t pass a Mother’s Day bill, there are consequences.

Don’t forget when you vote this fall that your votes do have consequences. Iowa was once one of the most progressive of states. Our parents and grandparents built a state grounded in common sense with an infrastructure that supported decent living. We need to remember that that infrastructure must be maintained and improved if we expect to maintain our life style and move our economy into the future.

The Republican Party is the party of tax cuts, damn the consequences.

Are They Serious?

party before country

party before country

Just reading a blurb on radioiowa.com concerning a pep rally Iowa Republicans held to get behind the candidacy of Donald Trump.

This is an absolute mind boggler. One would like to believe that “serious people” and “adults” – words that Republicans always like to use to describe themselves – would ever want to be linked to such a candidate. Perhaps watching Fox News they missed the part about Trump draws racist organizations, maybe they have also missed his misogynist comments, maybe they have missed his habits of acting like a schoolyard bully who taunts his opponents, perhaps they missed his history of exploitation of the poor and maybe they missed his record of lawsuits for the most trivial of slights. You would have to live under a rock to miss all that.

But for Republicans,  party has always come before country. Backing a candidate like Trump makes me wonder if Republicans had accidentally nominated Reagan’s costar in “Bedtime for Bonzo” – Bonzo the Chimp – instead of Reagan in 1980, would Republicans have simply gone ahead and worked for Bonzo without anyone mentioning he was a chimp.

So Terry Branstad gets on board by repeating the Trump silly slogan “Make America Great Again.” This is a guy who tries to govern without restraint and who uses his line item veto to cut food for Iowans and aid to schools. But he does smile when he does it.

Party chair Jeff Kaufmann claimed Trump would be better on “reducing the national debt.” Perhaps Mr. Kaufmann missed Trump’s proposal to turn US economics into third world economics last week by paying back debt at less than 100%. Were the US to no longer be the standard economy that world leans on for stability then we, the world, will collapse into a mega depression the likes of which have never been seen.

Party before country? Really. It is hard to take anyone seriously that claims that someone like Donald Trump who has never held public office would be a good president. Simply based on his track record up to now Trump’s administration will consist of ego trips, fifth grade bully taunts to those who make him mad and lots and lots of lawsuits. Can the President sue people and businesses and what the heck, his own government while in office? We may find out.

Our best guide to what a Trump presidency could be like may be the so called “laboratories of democracy” in states where Republican governors have applied Laffer economics to their states. The most glaring of these is Kansas where schools may not open next year and funding for almost all social programs has been cut to near nothing. Kansas is simply in crisis. Think of Kansas on a grand scale, taking down the world with it.

It is truly a shame to see people given a public trust putting their own interests far ahead of the good of the whole. Vote for Trump and vote for disaster.

Sunday Funday: Tomato Planting Time

tomato plant

My dad loved tomatoes. We had a couple plants every year. Like many, as the weather got warmer, he grew antsy to get his planted and get them growing. Even as antsy as he got, he always heeded the warning not to plant until the “ice days of May” had passed. The ice days of May end today. Maybe you noticed last night was damned cold for this time of year. That should be the end of the threat of getting your tomatoes froze off. Iowans, Plant You Tomatoes!

Were you paying attention?

1) One of a Midwesterners worst nightmares, a Nebraska man rode out a tornado by doing what?

2) 44 years ago today what man was shot while running for president? A strange outcome of this incident was to eventually totally change his views on race.

3) Reviews of what Iowa political practice that has national implications began last weekend in Des Moines?

4) Once more going where no President has gone before, the Obama Administration announced the President will visit what historic site at the end of May?

5) The disappearance of five Pacific islands was confirmed last week signaling reality of what climate change phenomena?

6) This summer, the name “Budweiser” will be replaced with what word on all packages in a patriotic marketing move?

7) May 17, 1792. Meeting under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street in New York City, two dozen merchants establish what?

8) Iowa Republicans are promoting who for Donald Trump’s VP?

9) The national mammal of the US has been named. What animal made it back from near extinction to be so named?

10) A passenger was removed before a flight took off when another passenger saw the man scribbling in a foreign language. What was the foreign language?

11) A city councilor is reconsidering his vote in Mason City concerning what hog slaughtering operation?

12) The lawsuits against Trump University had their day in court delayed until when?

13) A summit meeting of Republican leaders had what two people meeting Thursday?

14) With nothing else to do, the US Senate voted over and over on an amendment offered by Tom Cotton that would hinder what major peace effort?

15) President Dilma Rousseff was suspended as President of Brazil pending impeachment trial. How long has she been in office?

16) Ahead of the presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump has refused to release what?

17) What long standing member of the “60 Minutes” member retired this week?

18) A woman in India became a first time mother at what age thanks to an IVF procedure?

19) In what has to be the ultimate in chutzpah, who is selling the weapon he murdered Trayvon Martin with in an online auction?

20) Who is John Miller?

Have you gotten an insult name from Trump yet? You’re not one of the cool kids until you do!

Answers:

1) hanging on to a tree.

2) Alabama Governor George Wallace. He later recanted his racial views, due to some of the people that had cared for him after his injury.

3) the Iowa caucuses

4) Hiroshima

5) rising oceans

6) America

7) New York Stock Exchange

8) Joni Ernst

9) the bison

10) mathematics – apparently foreign to many Americans

11) Prestage

12) Nov. 28, 3 weeks after the election

13) Trump and Ryan

14) the Iran treaty

15) since Jan. 1, 2011. Started 2nd term in 2015

16) his tax returns

17) Morley Safer – been there since 1970

18) 72 – yes that is 72

19) George Zimmerman

20) Miller is a person Donald Trump created and played pretending to be a publicist for Trump in the 1970s to the 1990s

Newt Gingrich And The Demonization Of Democrats

newt clown(editor’s note: Newt Gingrich appears to be on a very short list to be Donald Trump’s running mate.)

Have you ever wondered what was the spark that turned what was once a conservative party into a far right wing party? Over at Vox, Andrew Prokop interviews Norm Ornstein from the American Enterprise Institute about the rise of Donald Trump. Before a Trump could rise, the ground had to be prepared to grow such a product:

How the Republican Party got to this point

“Andrew Prokop: Your main culprit for Trump’s rise is the Republican Party, and Republican leaders specifically. Can you walk me through how you think the party got here?

Norm Ornstein: Back in 1978, when I first came to AEI (editor’s note: American Enterprise Institute), Tom Mann and I set up a series of small, off the record dinners with some new members of Congress. And one of them, Newt Gingrich, stood out right away. As a brand new member of the House, he had a full-blown theory of how Republicans could break out of their seemingly permanent minority, and build a majority.

And over the next 16 years, he put that plan into action. He delegitimized the Congress and the Democratic leadership, convincing people that they were arrogant and corrupt and that the process was so bad that anything would be better than this. He tribalized the political process. He went out and recruited the candidates, and gave them the language to use about how disgusting and despicable and horrible and immoral and unpatriotic the Democrats were. That swept in the Republican majority in 1994.

The problem is that all the people he recruited to come in really believed that shit. They all came in believing that Washington was a cesspool. So what followed has been a very deliberate attempt to blow up and delegitimize government, not just the president but the actions of government itself in Washington.

And Republican leaders, like Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor, were complicit in this. I think when Republicans had their stunning victory in 2010, Cantor et al thought they could now co-opt these people. Instead, they were co-opted themselves.

Gingrich’s delegitimization of the government was adopted by Republicans of all stripes. Republicans oddly ran against the government to take over the government. Whereas government had for a long time been “of the people, by the people and for the people” as stated by Abraham Lincoln (Gettysburg Address), Republicans made it seem that once anyone entered the government they became an enemy of those who had elected them.”

This attitude is probably best summed up by the Ronald Reagan campaign line “ The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Since that time Republicans have run as though government is the enemy. When Republicans win they do all they can to make sure that our government is the enemy of the vast majority of citizens. They govern only for betterment of the rich and corporations. Thanks to media lapdogs, Republicans have been able to convince that their bad policy is the fault of Democrats.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017369448

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1017369448

Americans Have Short Memories

Money_black_hole_by_sodahead

It has been only eight years since the summer when our economy cracked and descended in a downward spiral that would take us to the very edge an economic depression. As we spiraled downward it became pretty apparent that the Bush Administration had little clue what was going on nor what to do.

At that point many Americans were trying to come to grips with what the fact that all they had worked for all their lives could be wiped out in a few moments on Wall Street. Worse yet there was no competence within our government to deal with the situation.

By September the economy was spiraling out of control. Corporations that had been in existence for a century or more succumbed to events. And in Washington the administration had pretty much checked out.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their jobs and homes. Into this maelstrom of building disaster a new president stepped up to the challenge. Barack Obama offered new programs to get the economy moving, stimulating the economy and shoring up the economy with government guarantees.

The economy went into a steady recovery and has been climbing ever since. While the recovery may not have been as fast as many hoped, that is due for the most part on the foot dragging by Republicans in the Senate. By creating a new power where it takes only 41 votes to stop legislation by implied threat to filibuster, Republicans were able to stop most of the major stimulus plans.

Rather than focus on the economy, Republicans in congress focused on making the Obama Administration fail. Obama’s failure would mean the country’s failure, but that was a price the Republicans were willing to let us pay. Our own Chuck Grassley was one of the major foot draggers as the Republicans used every tool they had to make the new president look bad. It is hard to measure how much damage Grassley did to our country during this period. He certainly did no good. In this earlier instance, Grassley also refused to do his job.

Fast forward to today when presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump sent shudders through the economic world recently when he suggested he might negotiate to pay off United States debt at less than 100% value plus interest. At no time has an American president ever suggested that. Holding American debt has always been a rock solid investment. Most of us have some in our portfolios as a very basic investment. Social Security excess is held in US Treasury bonds.

But we should not be surprised. Republican Administrations have been notoriously bad for the American economy. Iowa’s own Herbert Hoover is often cited as being among the worst presidents due to the crash of 1929. However, the 8 previous years of Republican leadership set the table for the crash. Hoover’s biggest mistake was in his lack of response preferring to let the economy work its way out. Didn’t happen.

Hoover was not alone. Every Republican administration in the last century has been bad for the economy in general and for poor and working people in particular with the notable exception of the Eisenhower Administration. One could easily make a case that Eisenhower was not a true Republican. Eisenhower’s experience as the general in charge of a multi-national force in World War 2 helped him understand putting the good of the whole above the good of special interests was the utmost goal and that all factions must work together for the good of the whole.

The current Republican nominee has already signaled that his economic policies may be akin to those practiced by 3rd world countries. His stated intent to pay US debt at less than full value may be the craziest statement ever made by any presidential candidate.

America, you have been warned many times. Elect a Republican and you put the economy and your own economic well being in jeopardy. Sound economies need Democratc policies.

The new website http://reaganbushdebt.org/ gives a very interesting insight into the disastrous effects of recent Republican Administrations

Welcome to ReaganBushDebt.org

This site tracks the current Reagan Bush Debt.
The Reagan-Bush Debt is how much of the national debt of the United States is attributable to the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and the Republican fiscal policy of Borrow-And-Spend.

As of Friday, May 13, 2016 at 9:12:39AM CT,
The Current ReaganBush Debt is:  $17,980,013,492,917.80 which means that in a total of 20 years, these three presidents have led to the creation of 93.64% of the entire national debt in only 8.3333% of the 240 years of the existence of the United States of America.

Great News: CFPB Proposes Ban On Arbitration Clauses

capitol_280x222

CFPB Proposes Prohibiting Mandatory Arbitration Clauses that Deny Groups of Consumers their Day in Court

Bureau Seeks Comment on Proposal to Ban a Contract Gotcha that Prevents Groups of Consumers from Suing Consumer Financial Companies

MAY 05, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is seeking comments on proposed rules that would prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses that deny groups of consumers their day in court. Many consumer financial products like credit cards and bank accounts have contract gotchas that generally prevent consumers from joining together to sue their bank or financial company for wrongdoing. These widely used clauses leave consumers with no choice but to seek relief on their own – usually over small amounts. With this contract gotcha, companies can sidestep the legal system, avoid accountability, and continue to pursue profitable practices that may violate the law and harm countless consumers. The CFPB’s proposal is designed to protect consumers’ right to pursue justice and relief, and deter companies from violating the law.

“Signing up for a credit card or opening a bank account can often mean signing away your right to take the company to court if things go wrong,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Many banks and financial companies avoid accountability by putting arbitration clauses in their contracts that block groups of their customers from suing them. Our proposal seeks comment on whether to ban this contract gotcha that effectively denies groups of consumers the right to seek justice and relief for wrongdoing.”

In recent years, many contracts for consumer financial products and services – from bank accounts to credit cards – have included mandatory arbitration clauses. They affect hundreds of millions of consumer contracts. These clauses typically state that either the company or the consumer can require that disputes between them be resolved by privately appointed individuals (arbitrators) except for cases brought in small claims court. Where these clauses exist, either side can generally block lawsuits from proceeding in court. These clauses also typically bar consumers from bringing group claims through the arbitration process. As a result, no matter how many consumers are injured by the same conduct, consumers must proceed to resolve their claims individually against the company.

Through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Congress required the CFPB to study the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer financial markets. Congress also gave the Bureau the power to issue regulations that are in the public interest, for the protection of consumers, and consistent with the study.

Released in March 2015, the CFPB’s study showed that very few consumers ever bring – or think about bringing – individual actions against their financial service providers either in court or in arbitration. The study found that class actions provide a more effective means for consumers to challenge problematic practices by these companies. According to the study, class actions succeed in bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in relief to millions of consumers each year and cause companies to alter their legally questionable conduct. The study showed that at least 160 million class members were eligible for relief over the five-year period studied. Those settlements totaled $2.7 billion in cash, in-kind relief, and attorney’s fees and expenses. In addition, these figures do not include the potential value to consumers of class action settlements requiring companies to change their behavior. However, where mandatory arbitration clauses are in place, companies are able to use those clauses to block class actions.

The CFPB proposal is seeking comment on a proposal to prohibit companies from putting mandatory arbitration clauses in new contracts that prevent class action lawsuits. The proposal would open up the legal system to consumers so they could file a class action or join a class action when someone else files it. Under the proposal, companies would still be able to include arbitration clauses in their contracts. However, for contracts subject to the proposal, the clauses would have to say explicitly that they cannot be used to stop consumers from being part of a class action in court. The proposal would provide the specific language that companies must use.

The proposal would also require companies with arbitration clauses to submit to the CFPB claims, awards, and certain related materials that are filed in arbitration cases. This would allow the Bureau to monitor consumer finance arbitrations to ensure that the arbitration process is fair for consumers. The Bureau is also considering publishing information it would collect in some form so the public can monitor the arbitration process as well.

The benefits to the CFPB proposal would include:

* A day in court for consumers: The proposed rules would allow groups of consumers to obtain relief when companies skirt the law. Most consumers do not even realize when their rights have been violated. Often the harm may be too small to make it practical for a single consumer to pursue an individual dispute, even when the cumulative harm to all affected consumers is significant. The CFPB study found that only around 2 percent of consumers with credit cards who were surveyed would consult an attorney or otherwise pursue legal action as a means of resolving a small-dollar dispute. With class action lawsuits, consumers have opportunities to obtain relief from the legal system that, in practice, they otherwise would not receive.

* Deterrent effect: The proposed rules would incentivize companies to comply with the law to avoid group lawsuits. Arbitration clauses enable companies to avoid being held accountable for their conduct. When companies know they can be called to account for their misconduct, they are less likely to engage in unlawful practices that can harm consumers. Further, public attention on the practices of one company can affect or influence their business practices and the business practices of other companies more broadly.

* Increased transparency: The proposed rules would make the individual arbitration process more transparent by requiring companies that use arbitration clauses to submit any claims filed and awards issued in arbitration to the CFPB. The Bureau would also collect correspondence from arbitration administrators regarding a company’s non-payment of arbitration fees and its failure to adhere to the arbitration forum’s standards of conduct. The collection of these materials would enable the CFPB to better understand and monitor arbitration. It would also provide insight into whether companies are abusing arbitration or whether the process itself is fair.

The proposed rules which the CFPB is seeking comment on would apply to most consumer financial products and services that the CFPB oversees, including those related to the core consumer financial markets that involve lending money, storing money, and moving or exchanging money. Congress already prohibited arbitration agreements in the largest market that the Bureau oversees – the residential mortgage market.

In October 2015, the Bureau published an outline of the proposals under consideration and convened a Small Business Review Panel to gather feedback from small companies. In addition to consulting with small business representatives, the Bureau sought input from the public, consumer groups, industry, and other stakeholders before continuing with the rulemaking. That process concluded in December 2015 with a written report to the Bureau’s director, which is also being released today.

The public is invited to comment on these proposed regulations when they are published in the Federal Register. Written comments will be carefully considered before final regulations are issued.

The proposal is available here.

The Small Business Review Panel report is available here.

The March 2015 CFPB report on arbitration is available here.

###
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov