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The CFPA--A Bureaucracy to Benefit Women and Families

posted by Debb Thorne

I recognize that some folks dislike the idea of a CFPA. Indeed, it may well feel like just another bureaucracy--and sometimes it seems that our country is awash in the doggone things. Why in the world would we want another one? I think there are many good reasons for a CFPA, and not the least of which is discussed in a paper I recently published in Journal of Family and Economic Issues ("Extreme Financial Strain: Emergent Chores Gender Inequality, and Emotional Distress").

As I discuss in the article, among families who are experiencing extreme financial distress, it is overwhelmingly the wives who are left alone to juggle the bills, deal with debt collectors, and eventually make the decision to file bankruptcy. And even when they ask for their husband's help, many men simply refuse to get involved. The upshot is that these wives are left emotionally exhausted--reporting severe depression, paranoia, and insomnia. A few even openly describe their wish for death as a way to escape the pressure of the bills.

The feminist side of me has real hope that a CFPA could rein in some of the egregious lending practices that are often at the root of many household financial pressures and thus causing the crushing strain on millions of married women in our country as they try to make ends meet. And the wife side of me, the woman who has been married for 28 years, also hopes that if a CFPA can reduce some of the everyday abusive and/or predatory lending, fewer marriages will come unwrapped. Disagreements over money are the leading cause of divorce---given that my husband and I have had our share of these types of arguments, I completely get it.

As a feminist, I typically don't align too closely with the pro-family agenda. But in this case, I do. It makes me sick and quite angry that wives are being terrorized and marriages are being undermined by debt that all-too-often results from unethical (but, unfortunately, perfectly legal) lending practices. Yep, at least in this instance, I'm placing a lot of faith in the power of a bureaucracy.


So, why shouldn't these women shouldn't be getting divorces if their husbands are disengaged from family life, heartlessly leaving them to lives of quiet desperation and madness? After all, they could unload 50% of marital debt and, from the way you describe it, the men aren't contributing and they're already single mom's -- so good riddance.

BTW, does being a feminist mean painting men with a broad brush and re-spelling "family" as "femme-ily"? Because I guess I'm just not really seeing the "family" part of your "pro-family" stance here.

WRT the CFPA, I'd be more concerned that it's going to be located in the Federal Reserve, the Mordor of financial deregulation. (cf. Brooksley Born)

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"Why in the world would we want another one?"

Very simple answer, to be truthful. None of the OTHER bureaucracies have, in the past, or are currently doing much of anything to truly protect consumers. The FTC, for instance, has just settled the third action against mortgage servicers (Countrywide and BAC Home Loan Servicing) with virtually identical charges to FTC v. EMC/Bear and USA/Curry v. Fairbanks and once again no admission of guilt was entered and the $108 Million "restitution" will really do absolutely nothing to make the estimated 200,000 victims whole. For those without calculators handy, were it spread evenly across the class - which it most likely won't be - that's about $540.00 per victim.

So the reason that we ultimately want "another" agency to handle consumer protection issues in the US is in the simple hope that THIS one will accurately and finally do the job it is intended to do - actually protect consumers. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the agency will be housed within the Fed and taking into account the virtual gutting that the bill took along the way, which was pretty much the political equivalent of a CIA wet team in action, I'm not going to hold my breath that the new agency is going to be overly effective. I can only hope that I am proved incredibly wrong.

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Couldn't disagree more with the initial commentary. I have been married over 45 years and I, as a husband, have taken care of the bills. Adding another layer of government oversight is just adding more tax burdens to consumers: men and women.

You may be different Mr. Bell but Debb described incredibility well what we see here on the front lines of consumer bks! I see it all the time!

Single mothers just divorced have some of our most heart wrenching situations and are some of our most vulnerable. Now because of debt settlement sections in their divorces we have to put them in 13s instead of 7s because of the exemptions to discharge in 7s. 7's do not protect them from their obligations to indemnify the former spouse for the debts a divorce judge separated. We just started to litigate that issue here just now. In those cases we like to try to get them to file before divorce (if they qualify for 7) or get the spouse and former spouse to file just so that there is no issue on those settlement agreements post-discharge.

Mike makes good points as always that this is what should have been happening this whole time. Mr. Sommer gives a great break down on why that is.

Great post Debb!

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