Daily Caller reporter Kaitlan Collins recycled tired right-wing media complaints about employee salaries at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as an excuse to float the prospect of gutting the agency during today’s White House press briefing, neglecting to mention that the financial industry watchdog is not funded by taxpayers. The CFPB has long been a target of right-wing media misinformation campaigns aimed at undermining support for objective oversight of Republican-aligned special interests on Wall Street.
During the February 9 press briefing, Collins asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer if President Donald Trump has “plans to revamp” the CFPB in light of recent reports that some of its employees stand to earn higher salaries in 2017 than Vice President Mike Pence. Collins further begged the question of whether or not Trump believes “he should be able to fire the head of the agency,” Richard Cordray, who has been under fire from congressional Republicans since assuming his position as director of the CFPB in January 2012. Spicer responded by saying “one of the things that you are going to continue to see from this president is a respect for taxpayers’ dollars, the money they spend and how they’re spent” and that federal employees should be paid “a fair wage for their service to this country.” From MSNBC Live:
As part of a broader hit piece on the CFPB, The Daily Caller reported on February 7 that the agency pays 39 employees more than $230,000 -- the current annual salary for the sitting vice president of the United States. Other right-wing outlets -- RedState and the Washington Free Beacon -- joined in condemning the CFPB both for its higher salaries and for its supposed operation outside “normal government oversight,” obscuring the purpose behind the agency’s structure.
While Spicer’s expressed concern for demonstrating “respect for taxpayers’ dollars” is welcome, the CFPB is not funded by tax dollars. The CFPB is funded entirely by the Federal Reserve System, which is also not taxpayer funded and actually serves as a source of additional revenue for the Treasury (emphasis added):
The Federal Reserve does not receive funding through the congressional budgetary process. The Fed's income comes primarily from the interest on government securities that it has acquired through open market operations. Other sources of income are the interest on foreign currency investments held by the Federal Reserve System; fees received for services provided to depository institutions, such as check clearing, funds transfers, and automated clearinghouse operations; and interest on loans to depository institutions. After paying its expenses, the Federal Reserve turns the rest of its earnings over to the U.S. Treasury.
Right-wing media have been complaining about CFPB salaries for years, but those complaints will carry extra weight if congressional Republicans find a willing accomplice in the White House to sign legislation cutting CFPB pay. A December 22 report from Bloomberg Law outlined how Republican-backed legislation would cut pay to CFPB employees by “as much as 25 percent” while pointing to October 2013 congressional testimony from AFL-CIO lawyer Daniel Silvers explaining the importance of the CFPB payscale:
“Congressman, all the bank regulators have this ability,” Silvers said. “It’s impossible to be an effective banking regulator without the ability to hire competitively in the banking sector.” Congress has exempted the CFPB, the Fed, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and some other financial regulators from the GS system, resulting in generally higher scales at those agencies.
Today’s anti-CFPB talking points follow a Wall Street Journal editorial calling for CFPB head Cordray’s termination based on bogus charges of cost overruns in building renovations and discrimination on the part of his management team. The symbiotic, years-long campaign by right-wing media and their GOP allies to gut the consumer watchdog agency has been well-documented, and they make perfect sense given that the agency remains as “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” left in government after Trump’s election victory.