Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
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Editorial: GOP war on consumers

We question the motives of the 43 Senate Republicans who threaten to continue to block the appointment of a director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency whose early steps in the wake of the financial crisis were taken by Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Though President Obama named former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray to the job while the Senate was in recess in 2011, that maneuver may be undone by a federal appeals court case that could end up before the Supreme Court.

Actually, we understand these senators’ motives. It is their principles that we question.

Republicans are hell-bent on neutering the consumer bureau in order to protect financial interests of powerful campaign donors and lobbyists.

As the New York Times reported this week, the bureau is living up to its mission of protecting consumers from rapacious business practices. It is investigating how banks and credit card companies target college students — a particularly vulnerable group — and ordered a stop to mortgage practices that paid brokers more to lock borrowers into higher interest rates and got customers into loans they can’t afford.

Cordray has been re-nominated by President Obama for the job he already holds, but Republican senators are expected to obstruct the confirmation process. Without a director, the agency can’t do the important work it was commissioned to perform through the Dodd-Frank financial reform act of 2010.

In a letter to the president, Senate Republicans said they want “key structural changes” in the bureau. Here are just two of the worst ideas they propose: let it be run by a bipartisan commission (translation: make it as ineffective as Congress itself) and let Congress control its appropriations (translation: make that printer cartridge last, for it’s the last one you’ll get).

The fact that the bureau exists shows we learned something from blatant financial industry abuses that drove thousands into bankruptcy and brought us the Great Recession.

Then again, the fact that it remains under attack shows business interests want their old freedom back — to fleece the public.

Post-storm caution
needed in Valley

Though the power stayed on through last weekend’s heavy snow, and we thank the weather gods for that, the storm’s impact is still being felt in the Valley, mainly through difficult travel.

After early snow-clearing work Friday and Saturday, area public works departments are turning to the mounds of snow that narrowed travel lanes and pose considerable risks to travelers.

In Northampton alone, many on-street parking places remain inaccessible and some secondary streets are clogged.

Even five days after snow stopped falling, drivers may find their usual commutes taking longer, as traffic moves sluggishly at peak times due to closed lanes and high snowbanks.

We appeal to drivers to use extra caution as long as these banks obscure both their sightlines and those of pedestrians.

This is a good time to show patience — and to consider how lucky we are the storm didn’t cut power, as it did in many places in New England.

Interstate 91 didn’t become a parking lot, as highways did in Connecticut and Long Island.

Gov. Deval Patrick made a good call in ordering people off roads Friday into Saturday. That enabled road crews to do better work and likely prevented accidents.

Remarkably, state police in the area reported few highway accidents through the course of the storm.

As the cleanup continues, every able-bodied person can lend a hand in making sure public passages where they live, such as sidewalks, are cleared. People need them back, because pedestrians and cars don’t mix.

We also ask drivers to keep in mind that a child may be about to step out from behind that snowbank you can’t quite see around.

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