Jul 25 2011
Just over a year ago, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Act, promising the 2,300-page bill – with 400 new regulations and mandates – would bring about tough Wall Street reform. But the legislation’s aim has missed its mark and landed squarely on Main Street, impacting community banks, business and consumers across America.
A small-town banker put it plainly at a recent U.S. Senate hearing on Dodd-Frank’s impact on lending when he said, “the Act will add an additional enormous burden; it has stimulated an environment of uncertainty, and has added new risks that will inevitably translate into fewer loans.”
In Kansas, that means fewer loans to small businesses that want to expand and fewer loans to farmers and ranchers who need to fund operations through harvest. And fewer loans mean fewer jobs.
With national unemployment rising to 9.2 percent in June – marking 29 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent – the last thing we need is more government intrusion to slow down economic growth. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that over the next 10 years, Dodd-Frank will drain $27 billion directly from the economy in the form of new fees and assessments on lenders and other financial services. Community banks are working every day to make credit and financial services available, but when the message coming from Washington is more regulation and higher costs, it is no wonder banks are not lending, businesses are not hiring, and consumers are not spending.
One generator of great uncertainty for community financial institutions across Kansas is the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was one of the key components of the Dodd-Frank Act. The CFPB opened its doors for business last week without accountable leadership or robust Congressional oversight, and there are serious concerns the Bureau’s overreach will negatively impact Americans’ daily lives. From debit cards to auto loans, overregulation by the CFPB could further restrict access to credit for consumers and small businesses – the very entities the agency is charged with protecting.
The Bureau’s current structure allows for a single, un-elected director to define his own jurisdiction, rather than a leadership board or commission like most agencies charged with financial oversight. Furthermore, the director is allowed to set his own budget without Congressional approval, rather than go through the annual appropriations process like most federal agencies. Finally, the CFPB’s current structure allows for no meaningful input from banking regulators, who oversee the safety and soundness of financial institutions. Including their input would help protect community banks from overregulation and prevent unnecessary restrictions in the availability of credit.
Forty-three of my Senate colleagues and I have asked President Obama to address these three structural faults, but our requests have been ignored and categorized as political rhetoric. This is not about politics. This is about protecting consumers and job creators – a goal that should be shared by every policymaker in Washington.
I have little doubt Wall Street banks can afford the army of staff necessary to comply with the mountains of new regulations on the horizon, but I am very concerned about the hundreds of community banks and credit unions Kansans depend on. At my request, Legacy Bank President Frank Suellentrop of Wichita recently testified before the Senate Banking Committee about the future of community banks in the Dodd-Frank regulatory environment. Mr. Suellentrop told the Senate, “There are many bankers frustrated by the rules, regulations and examinations and looking to possibly get out of the banking business in the next several years – and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has not yet begun to issue its regulations. That certainly has bankers concerned.”
Hundreds of regulations have yet to be proposed, pursued or enacted, so community banks are in wait-and-see mode. They know the full implementation of Dodd-Frank will be an enormous burden for them to bear. According to a survey of the Federal Register, complying with just the 10 percent of the Dodd-Frank rules already issued will require an estimated 2.2 million hours each year. 10,000 Americans would have to work all year, every year to complete all the work the rules require.
The government is not a creator of jobs, but Congress and the administration can create an environment where businesses can grow and start hiring again. Until banks are willing and able to make prudent loans to hometown customers, jobs will not be created and our economic recovery will continue to lag. Community banks and their customers did not cause the Great Recession – and they should not bear the burden of so-called financial reform.