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U.S. consumer protection official puts Equifax probe on ice (reuters.com)
739 points by chatmasta on Feb 5, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 375 comments

143M Americans Affected and by Census'[0] count, there are ~327M Americans.

Chances are, if you're an adult American you are impacted. Even if you did not authorize Equifax's "services", a third party most likely did it for you, and you are impacted.

Note that your credit score or lack thereof is often used to deny housing and (for generally unsubstantiated reasons,) employment.

The fact that Equifax is not held accountable is one of the biggest data-related atrocities of the modern era.

[0]: https://www.census.gov/popclock/

The article says in addition to this one agency it will still be investigated by the FTC and is being investigated by EVERY state's Attorney Gerneral in the country. They are far from getting away unscathed.

It's also not clear what actions the consumer protection agency may still pursue. This article only mentions that they held off on doing an on the ground investigation of how they do data storage. Still plenty of options available to them without that...

To me anything short of equifax's complete replacement by one or more similar services means they got away with it.

I guess. The reality is they own so much information and so many processes that basically no matter what happens this company is going to zombie on in some way or another.

Like they are forced to sell their assets, ok I'm sure those assets end up with basically the same shareholders they have now and basically the same people working on it under a new branding. Probably some leadership changes but the same offices with a new banner on the wall next to the same people in the same cubicles. Great.

Or maybe they move offices a few buildings over. Its all the same garbage.

Serious monetary punishment could possibly force reform, but just destroying equifax will do nothing and honestly the name "equifax" is just a word you would be replacing with another meaningless word that is basically the same thing.

Without that, it is one less thing that happens. Unless many states actually change laws to have similar protections, I doubt such a company will change much - just a few new "security features" and hope the public forgets once the next major thing happens.

Now, if they were stopping because of a criminal investigation has started, great. Otherwise, what message is the federal government sending to its people? "hahaha, shouldn't have trusted them. Of course you had the choice, you could have gone without those services that use Equifax. It's your own fault and we aren't helping"?

And to me, that is the bigger issue.

Isn't there a class-action lawsuit, can't those 143M people in theory get in on that?

If I recall correctly, US Congress passed a resolution [1] shortly after the Equifax breaches became public that essentially restricted the capabilities of people to sue Equifax [2].

[1]: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-joint-res... [2]: https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/24/congress-votes-to-disallow...

Forgive me for being uninformed, but why is what is basically retroactive immunity not a violation of ex post facto laws?

I believe the prohibition on ex post facto laws applies only to criminalization of behavior that was previously lawful. That is, it would not apply to civil matters of any sort, and it also would not apply where immunity is effectively conferred—only where prior actions are made illegal.

Upon quick searching, it looks like scholars have debated the civil/criminal point:



You can't be convicted for something that was legal when you did it but was made illegal afterwards, so retroactive prohibitions don't apply.

However, it's not symmetric - lifting prohibitions can be done retroactively, to not prosecute people for things they did back when it was still prohibited.

Unfair, arbitrary prosecution may violate someones rights, but unfair, arbitrary immunity can not - there's no right to get someone else punished.

Even when seeking restitution?

This is the same play used in the early aughts with at&t. [0]

[0]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_641A

I believe the resolution only applied to those who had signed arbitration agreements with Equifax. Nonetheless, it is a bad resolution for consumers.

If most of the adult population of an entire country is affected by something, is a class-action lawsuit really the best way to deal with that?

What about a Federal program?

The CFPB is a Federal program. It's the thing which is supposed to keep companies from doing this.

I believe Equifax is currently facing 240 state and class-action suits. Still doesn’t seem the appropriate way to handle an entire nation being affected by their failure.

Unless those actions pool resources and forces, Equifax stands a good chance of defeating most of them in detail. String most along, cherry-pick the most likely to prevail against (with a combination of lobbying, legislation, politicking, marketing, and legal maneuvers), win or stalemate those, then work their way down the list with those precedents in their negotiating back pocket.


I think I know what you're trying to say here and I probably even agree, but you should know that lots of people try to elevate the tone of political discourse when it's on topic here, so you're going to get down votes.

Perhaps an better thing to say is:

"It is very disappointing that the GOP policy on the CFPB and data privacy is to destroy the former and ignore the later, rather than letting govenrment-mandated corporations with government-granted advantages run roughshod over the American public without any form of accountability.

The GOP and Trump administration are playing a very dangerous game in their transparent attempt to pay back donors, and I will certainly do everything I can to help unseat GOP senators and house reps in my state if this is their policy for the Federal Government. If they're going to grant privileges to companies I demand they also require accountability."

The sad reality is, this type of behavior is not confined to one party or the other. Money should have no place in politics, otherwise you end up with a plutocracy in a democracies clothing, which is where we have been for some time now.

Equifax is just one of many. After the 2008 financial crisis, no major banking executives saw jailtime. After the Volkswagen scandal on evading emissions tests, only a few low-level scapegoats got pinched. After Valeant systematically acquired and gutted the R&D of countless drug companies, only to raise the prices on existing drugs to levels far unreachable for the average customer, their CEO remained unscathed.

The US government is not a democracy and hasn't been for a long time. It can be bought, and those with deep pockets are treated as sovereign and effectively un-jailable.

I'm sure this criticism applies beyond the US as well, but I'm less familiar with other governments.

> The sad reality is, this type of behavior is not confined to one party or the other. Money should have no place in politics, otherwise you end up with a plutocracy in a democracies clothing, which is where we have been for some time now.

I don't disagree in general, but in specifics: the GOP has decided the CFPB is going to die, on principle. The CFPB was an awesome and forwards-thinking organization and if we are going to rely on government interventions, they're the type of organization we need to oversee the results. I've worked with an at fintech companies and the CFPB was incredibly friendly and honest with everyone I've talked to.

And having worked at a bank, having that agency as an empowered and potentially wrathful actor was very healthy, agency wide, imo.

I agree there are major campaign finance issues, but let's at least give the Democrats credit for backing and empowering such an agency. It is absolutely necessary.

> The sad reality is, this type of behavior is not confined to one party or the other

Certainly, not only one party engages in corrupt behavior. That doesn't make them equivalent. They're not even close, and the relentless attempts of "both sides do it" are part of the reason we're in this mess.

But whats the objective measure of corruption or otherwise unethical behavior, that delineates the difference?

For most, I think, its mostly confirmation bias.

While the US uses FPTP and the Electoral College, it is never going to be more than a "least bad" system for voters.

"Least-bad" of two options isn't democracy, or rather, it's democracy in the same way that it was in the past when only land owners or men were allowed to vote - a distorted version of the idea that only pays lip service to the goals we talk about it having.

FPTP is horrifically broken here in the UK where at least we have some minority parties that at least influence the situation (which has it's own issues). The US culture of a two party system is so ingrained it's crazy. It always strikes me hardest whenever people talk about "bipartisanship". It's odd to me to so blatantly admit that only two parties matter, even if that is, and has been, the reality.

Volkswagen Executive Oliver Schmidt was just sentenced to 4 years in prison in the US a few months ago. And 8 other former and current Volkswagen executives have been charged by US prosecutors. Though I doubt any of the others are dumb enough to step foot on American soil.

I figured there would be fact checking: "what about this person?". Yes, I know there were some repercussions e.g. Schmidt for Volkswagen, and some really small players in the financial crisis, but overall most of the top guys walk away clean. There is always a scapegoat.

Orders come from the top down - you make an example by cutting off the head, not the limbs (forgive the violent euphemism, but you get the spirit)

I completely agree about the financial crisis.

But for Volkswagen, remember that pretty much all the top executive are German citizens, living in Germany, a country that is running their own separate investigation of Volkswagen. The US can't grab them, and Germany isn't going to extradite. The only reason we got Schmidt (who was their head of environmental and engineering issues in the US, not exactly a small fish) was because he was dumb enough to visit the US on vacation.

I'm just saying, you can't really blame the US for the lack of prosecution.

Fair point... I think I just wanted to give a few examples that quickly came to mind. Maybe Volkswagen wasn't the best one.

Your suggestions simply repackage the same basic facts with fancy words.

And the facts get downvoted, even though they are irrefutable: the investigation was initiated by a Democratic appointee, it is now being ended by a Republican appointee.

Meanwhile, Equifax has donated to Republicans, almost exclusively, in the last elections: https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?cycle=2018&strI... (click on "Party split by Cycle").

> Your suggestions simply repackage the same basic facts with fancy words.

We must remember a few things:

1. Not everyone here is from the US or is appraised on the basic facts in US current events. Be respectful of this.

2. There is a small but active group of folks here who will deliberately try to poison discourse for their own motives. Being very explicit in what you say and why you're saying it makes their mission harder.

3. takin tim to type wurds wel zi corumukashun &7& shwz repskt 2 othurz. <-- Did you enjoy parsing this out? Inference and irony laden text is about as fun to read for someone outside it, and maximizes misunderstanding. Given #2, we have enough problems without making more.

But my message doesn't just repackage facts with fancy words, it also makes it clear what my intent is AND makes it clear part of what I intend to do about it. So it's actually more information rich than "money is speech & they donated to republicans."

I assure you, I and many others here are acutely aware that killing the CFPB is a clear example of quid pro quo politics and were it not for the other billion scandals rocking the administration would be the biggest news in 5 years. Hopefully when the dust settles from the investigations of egregious campaign finance violation we can keep our senators and house reps on task restoring this and locking in funding.

I think it's a bit specious to blame Republicans in general for the halt to this investigation rather than Mick Mulvaney, at least with current information. This is a breaking story, so let's give Republican Congressmen a few days to react. If they remain silent and don't loudly complain about this, then we can put some blame on the Republicans in Congress as being complicit in this.

Pre-tax bill, I might have agreed with you.

But it's pretty clear the party is on board with a kleptocratic approach for donors.

I know that comment will upset folks, and I apologize for being contentious, but the tax bill makes 0 sense unless you intend to keep control of inter-state commerce and reward favorites while also screwing over the middle class by dismantling social services (that the middle class isn't getting as a government benefit, they're paying more outside of taxes to fund it!).

It's shameful and the Republicans are complicit with all of these actions.

> I think it's a bit specious to blame Republicans in general for the halt to this investigation rather than Mick Mulvaney, at least with current information.

Mulvaney’s anti-CFPB position at least is that of the whole Trump Administration, if perhaps (for the sake of argument) not the entire Republican Party; he isn't an independent rogue actor here.

This might be true if Mulvaney’s position on the CFPB wasn’t known before he was given the job, and if GOP Senators and Representatives hadn’t already vocalized support for placing a known hostile actor in charge of the bureau.

Money is not only speech, it's literally votes. Money dictates policy in America, not the opinions of individual voters.

It becomes clearer every day now: When Trump said "I will drain the swamp", he was simply not aware that he is the swamp that will be drained shortly and once and for all.

> Note that your credit score or lack thereof is often used to deny housing and (for generally unsubstantiated reasons,) employment.

Not defending Equifax, but this is misleading. Credit checks are what enable lending of this sort in the first place.

No. France for one does not have a similar system available and lending still works well.

For certain values of "works well". I mean, I'm not defending the ratings agencies here, nor ignoring the real problems with cheap credit, but from an interest rate perspective, I don't think there's a better place to borrow money than the US. Head and shoulders better/cheaper than anywhere else I'm aware of.

Not sure. Mortgage rates in the us are 3.5-4.5% (https://www.bankrate.com/new-jersey/mortgage-rates.aspx), while I can get a mortgage in the Netherlands for less than half of that (1.8-2.5%, https://www.abnamro.nl/nl/mobile/prive/hypotheken/actuele-hy...)

(I actually just got a mortgage and it was pretty painless: 1 week from 1st contact to contract)

I don't speak Dutch and Google translate doesn't work for that page for some reason, but I strongly believe you're comparing apples to oranges. What's the terms to get a 1.8% mortgage? How much loan to value (down payment) is required and how long is the loan term? Fixed or variable rate? What is the maximum debt to income ratio? Income requirements? Is that APR or APY?

I believe, again I don't speak Dutch, the longest loan term on that page is 10 years. If that's the case, then you'd have to compare it to a 10 year mortgage in the US, not a 30 year like you did.

Edit: I was holding my phone in a way I couldn't see the whole table. It appears to me that a 30 year mortgage with less than a 15% down payment is 4.40%.

Homes in NL, and EU in general are about 2-5x the price of an American home.

Compared to where? The median house value in LA is nearly 50% higher than in Amsterdam. SF and NY would be worse, as would many other areas. Sure, a house in the middle of nowhere or shit areas in the US is cheap, but any desirable area is expensive.

As somebody that lives in a "shit area", can you find a new adjective?

I love the Midwest, my money goes WAY further here working remote for a California company, not to mention all of the other benefits.

Not bashing LA/NY or those who choose to live there, but stop bashing us.

You live in the "middle of nowhere", not a "shit area" , one supposes.

I said "in the middle of nowhere or shit areas". Since you're on a tech site, I assume you are familiar with how the word "or" works.

Slightly off topic, but since you work remote, how is internet connectivity there? Are you able to get decent speed for a reasonable price, or is it as bad as some say?

Anyone who measures their commute in terms of hours because they can't afford to live closer to work lives in a "shit area."

Temecula is a shit/middle of nowhere area if your closest employment options are in LA.

Nobody said anything about the Midwest being shitty.

Meh, I live in beautiful New England, certainly not in the middle of nowhere, and housing here is affordable. I paid under $200,000 for a 1,600 square foot house and there's cheaper options if I were aiming for more affordable. Mu parents live 200 miles away and their 1400 sqft house is worth around $115,000.

Pretty much anywhere outside a few areas is affordable.

Why is it better?

It has it's roots in the USD being the currency required to buy Oil (Petrodollar) and sort of builds from there. Some searches should give the information pretty easily, but it's a rather complex topic to break down into a quick comment. Happy reading!

Edit: Apparently some people are too lazy to educate themselves beyond anything in the comment section. Here, perhaps clicking a link is within your grasp.


Interesting. A quick perusal online and it seems they get by with bank statements/pay slips/tax documents to show that you're on the level. https://www.quora.com/Is-it-true-that-theres-no-credit-score...

I'm surprised that works at all. I wonder if it's quantitatively less 'effective'. (A quick Google didn't turn up much on that question.)

France (and other countries) does not use a FICO score. They mostly rely on your current income and to sometimes on your current wealth as collateral. But you cannot simply take the money, and never payback either. France has a central bank that has the power to freeze all your bank accounts/assets on the push of a button. Any bank can contact the central bank (even for an overdraft... happened to me :) and freeze immediately all bank accounts, credit cards, etc. And I don't know about loans for goods, but for real-estate, like here, until you paid your loan, the property is basically owned by the bank. Past behavior is not necessarily helping a lender to guess your capacity to payback in the future. If you act in good faith, you still can have issues (lost your job, health issue). As long as you sort it out the best you can with the lender, maybe you should not be punished for it later. I guess it is different risk management.

I think it's like that in most of Europe. It is at least in Estonia.

"the Bank of France maintains files which are only available to financial institutions holding a licence delivered by the Bank of France. The files only relate to a person if they have written bad checks, have participated in fraudulent activities, have been declared bankrupt or have bounced checks in France."

So the bank of France is a centralized credit bureau. So going by that, it's actually much more similar than different from the US system. The US system adds proprietary algorithms designed by actuaries to that rather than, or in addition to, manually underwriting. But it's not all that different other than being for profit.

We have many private companies act as data brokers here in the US, as opposed to a single central bank or government agency, because Americans hate government and love private businesses. The US is like "the government can't do anything, let private companies handle it and make money off it and the free market solves everything." We seem to be just learning that the free market can have problems too...

Designing a centralized government run system is a non-starter in the US. Even now.

> So the bank of France partly is a centralized credit bureau. So going by that, it's actually more similar than different.

Only by what data they gather, and this stems from what the data is needed for. There is vast difference in purpose, though: the Bank of France is (a) a public institution that (b) does not earn money solely by selling every personal data they could put hands on to just about anybody. The incentives are totally different from Equifax'.

Note also that the data collected is not even remotely about everybody, as with Equifax.

My point is

1) banks need this information for underwriting

2) the US doesn't have and won't ever have a centralized government/public database that contains this information


3) the private market takes over and compiles that information for profit

The Equifax problem was poor data handling plus a lack of government interested in punishing them for it. Neither of those problems would be avoided if Equifax was a government agency.

While I'm inclined to agree that it would be better to have the government run it, you seem to be suggesting that this would be an, uh, ironclad silver bullet, as it were.

Doing so wouldn't guarantee either good security or general system effectiveness.

A company I work at more or less does the same thing, albeit in conjunction with a credit report. We're a marketplace lender operating internationally, and (from what I hear through the grapevine) it turns out the accuracy of credit reporting data outside of the US can be, put nicely, inaccurate.

Aside from that, if you want a business process for vetting credit to work across geographies, you can't be dependent on a particular agency or report being available for a specific locale. You _can_ however, almost always depend on a business keeping books and paying taxes.

In the Czech Republic, it's pay slips/bank statements, or a work contract for mortgage (you cannot fire someone without a reason). There is a central government database of people who didn't pay a debt on time.

In Germany, also pay slips and work contracts. Additionally, there is a semi-private government-mandated company (I never understood why Germans don't complain about this) that maintains a database of existing debtors. You basically start with a perfect score and it decreases only when you don't repay on time.

There is a gigantic difference between who can get mortgages and at what kind of leverage one can get in Europe vs. United States.

Completely private and manual underwriting exists and always existed in the United States. The reason that it is not popular is that the vast majority of Americans would not qualify under any private underwriting guidelines for most of the loans Americans get ( and successfully pay for ).

How about better job security?

Not a replacement for a healthy lending.

Are you aware in Europe in general, there is much much less buying on credit?

I'd like to challenge you to show some sources and declare in what kind of metric you're describing. Per person/capita, per household? etc.

I know people borrow money like they're crazy over here in Sweden. For consumption, for housing etc. (So much for the liberal-a-land it's portraited as in US media)

How about mortgages?

Copy of employment contract. When independent, 3 yrs of yearly financial statements. SOP.

My point was whether they use mortgages in the first place. When you mentioned 'less buying on credit', that seemed the natural question to ask.

Dude, Wikipedia is right over there.

How does France go about determining if someone is a good credit risk who pays their bills on time?

  1. there is less reliance on credit for day to day spending.
  2. banks are liable, so they're more careful. I don't get offers by mail for credit cards, 
     and the card I do have has stricter limits.
  3. a national ID system
  4. specifically for real estate, separate regulation exists. 
     You cant buy or sell real estate nor take out a mortgage without going through a notary 
     (heavily protected profession), who ensure that the real estate and the loan to pay for it remain linked.

Notaries, at least in Italy, are a plague on the system.


Notaries are Dante's 8th layer of hell.

I'm not convinced they're worse than an Italian version of Equifax.

They're awful in their own, different way. Did you follow any of the SRLS stuff? Guess who wailed and gnashed their teeth that barbarian hordes would descend on Italy if notaries weren't allowed to collect thousands of Euros for registering limited liability companies?

It really is amazing how until the current three credit reporting agencies came long, nobody in the history of humanity had managed to obtain a loan. We owe them a lot for inventing the entire idea of lending money.

Since this apparently isn't obvious to you, creditors have different interest rates and different loan terms for different risk pools. Your risk pool is determined, in part, by your history of borrowing and paying back money.

It isn't that lending doesn't exist without credit history, it's everyone gets the same shitty terms and shitty interest rate and banks are much more conservative in lending.

Apparently the other commenter is right, I should've used some kind of sarcasm mark.

The parent comment I was replying to seemed not to understand how a functioning credit/lending market could exist without Equifax-like centralized reporting agencies. The sarcastic point was that credit and lending existed and worked for millennia previously.

The point you are still missing is that better credit rating leads to lower interest and more efficient investing.

Which... didn't seem to be the claim made in the comment I originally responded to.

It's a bit deeper than lend/not lend. Interest rates are determined in part by risk -- higher risk means higher rates are required to cover defaults across a given risk pool. Without granular risk assessments, I would think that the interest for everyone would be a bit higher, as it has to be enough to cover defaults. Is that the case? That is, in locations with detailed credit reporting, do people with very good credit end up with lower interest rates than borrowers in locations that don't have a credit reporting system?

Well, in recent-ish history many places had usury laws and even enforced ideas like Christians not charging interest to other Christians.

There are still places in the world today which have functioning credit markets despite prohibitions on charging interest.

In the long history of humanity, there was no real possibility of somebody living, say, in Oakland, California, to obtain a loan from a bank located in New York, without even meeting anybody from that bank or having any prior relationship or specific recommendations. Moreover, if you are a representative of lower classes, the best loan you could hope for is probably your local grocer deferring a payment for a week or so. But don't try to pull that on a grocer in the next village, unless you're a noble or something - he doesn't know you, so cash is king. Of course, if you're noble living in a big castle, things are different for you. Unfortunately, most of the people weren't. That's why prototype credit reporting agencies - with people literally having books where they recorded all kinds of info about people, like where they work, how they pay, do they have affairs (there's a risk they'd drop everything and run away with their affair partner if they do), are they gambling, are they drinking, etc. That's what gave the raise to the modern credit reporting agencies. But before that you surely had access to loans, but not nearly at the scale you have now. You didn't have online comparison of 50+ lenders competing to give you, sight unseen, the best rate. You had to convince your local banker, and if he didn't like you (for any reason, including speaking funny, having wrong complexion or not being in a good relationship with one of his friends), tough luck, no loan for you.

We used to have debtors' prisons instead.

Used to?

You clearly need to invent a way to indicate sarcasm more clearly.

I've lived in Germany and the UK. Their reliance on credit cards is drastically different from the US.

Not from France, but elsewhere in the EU there generally are registries of bad debts (with libel-like protections requiring the information on them to be true or removed).

So the bank looks at your income, possibly your expenses, and whether you've been defaulting in the past. If it's your bank, which it usually is, then they can probably mine your transaction history in more detail to decide how trustworthy you are.

Call the bank and ask?

You could, for example, put sufficient loan guarantees in place.

I believe the parenthetical saying "generally unsubstantiated reasons" is referring to the "employment" part, not the "housing" part. Equifax (and their competitors) like to sell their credit data to employers under the guise that those with good credit scores will be good employees, despite basically no data backing up this claim.

It's not necessarily "good credit scores == good employees" but maybe "here's a metric/collection of data we can use to hire The Right Kind Of Person" using whatever definition company management has quietly decided upon.

How is it misleading? Credit checks ARE often used by landlords and employers to vet potential renters/hires.

You can argue credit scores have value, but the parent’s observation is not misleading.

Another transparent appointee of Trump's designed to destroy the department to which he/she was appointed. See: Ajit Pai, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos, and more.

Is there any precedent for committing "mutiny" in a governmental organization?

A more-legal solution might involve invoking the “take-care” clause that requires the executive branch to “faithfully execute” laws. They usually get very wide latitude to (de)prioritize things, but requesting zero money and putting all work on hold might be on the other side of the line.

It turns out that people much smarter than me have thought about this for the ACA (e.g., [this article by a Yale law prof](https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/10/17/16489526/take-ca...) but the treatment of the CFPB actually seems like a much more obvious fit to this non-lawyer....

I don't think that would work, at all. Mulvaney's justification for requesting zero funds was that the agency already had enough funds to more than cover that quarter's spending, the law required him to request "the amount determined by the Director to be reasonably necessary to carry out the authorities of the Bureau under Federal consumer financial law, taking into account such other sums made available to the Bureau from the preceding year (or quarter of such year)", and since he couldn't find any statutory or practical justification for maintaining such a large reserve that amount was zero. It'd probably be rather difficult to come up with any kind of take-care case against someone for seemingly following the law to the letter.

There is no constitutional duty to request funds. The duty is upon Congress to appropriate funds. They have the power of the purse, not the Executive.

In the case of the CFPB, I believe Congress delegated to them the authority/responsibility to request funds directly from the Federal Reserve.


Yes. Congress constantly pulls this rigamarole, even back in the 1974 Congressional Budget Act. That's actually why I wrote, "There is no constitutional duty to request funds". I didn't mean to imply anything else.

These requirements on the President are just a shell game from Congress to blame the President, avoid passing a budget, and pretend to be the "white-knights" each time there is a continuing resolution battle.

It is interesting to note that the CFPB passed in July 2010. Yet, 2015 was the first budget passed since 2009. I think it's safe to say that Congress has purposely engineered this situation to get the self-serving results they want.

Best we've got is "resign in protest."

There's been a bit of it lately: 8 of the 28-person National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC), all 17 members of the Presidential Committee on the Arts and Humanities, co-chairs of the Sustainable and Healthy Communities Subcommittee of the EPA, 5 members of Trump's business advisory council, 6 members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, the State Department science envoy...

(I haven't been keeping track, this was just a quick google search; probably there are more I missed. Not to mention the wave of early retirements, lateral moves to private sector, sudden new desires to spend more time with family, etc)

>Best we've got is "resign in protest."

How does that help anything? They'll get replaced with cheerleaders.

I don't think people are resigning to send a message, they are resigning, and also sending a message. If you're working for poor pay for something you believe in, and all of a sudden management is making it impossible for you to do your job, burn out is inevitable, along with leaving for a higher-paying job in the private sector.

Unfortunately, most of those committees don't have any actual power to enact anything. By resigning in protest, they at least prevent themselves from being used as justification to enact the things that the Trump admin is doing.

Be careful about advocating mutiny in government agencies. Their job is to implement the rules the political system creates. It's a slippery slope if you allow them to inject personal opinions.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding 'AdmiralAsshat, but I think the assertion is that Mulvaney, Pai, Perry, Pruitt, and DeVos are committing mutiny, by refusing to do the jobs they're supposed to do and instead injecting their personal opinions, and the question is whether this has ever happened before.

Most mutinies are from a crew against their captains, yes, but I think that a captain of a ship can commit mutiny by saying "I don't care what my countries' objectives are, this is my objective and I'm taking the ship."

instead injecting their personal opinions

They're political appointees. Injecting their political opinions is their job. Even if their goal is reducing the influence of the organization they've been appointed to.

I don't agree with what they are doing but I don't think there is anything unusual or illegal going on. The elected president or Congress could fire them at any time if they thought that the agency heads were doing anything wrong.

It's also not a surprise that they're doing this. The GOP and Trump campaigned on dismantling government. So, that's what they're doing.

It's wildly undemocratic to push for government employees to usurp the will of the people's representatives.

Like other's have said, the best a government employee can do to protest the direction that the President and Congress set is to resign vocally (as lots of people have done).

Consider the opposite side! People rightly criticize government employees who resist implementing gay rights. But, somehow EPA employees resisting loosening regulations is righteous.

Everyone thinks their political beliefs are righteous.

You're trying to equivocate basic human rights with being able to dump pollution in the water supply.

You're missing the point. It doesn't matter what the subject is. If it helps, think of a different area where right-leaning government employees could resist government. (I can't think of one off the top of my head)

The point is: rogue government employees should not be exerting their concept of what it morally right in direct conflict with leaders elected by the people.

It is inherently undemocratic. If you want an unelected oligarchy of technocrats, that's something to debate the merits of. But, anyone who values democracy should be appalled by an unelected bureaucrat setting policy against the will of the people.

That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

If you hire / appoint / confirm someone with the motivation of doing something unusual or illegal, you’re hardly going to turn around and fire them for it.

This repeated claim that “things must be fine, otherwise the adults in the room would take action” assumes that there are adults in the room willing or able to take action. At some point it’s nonsensical, and clearly just an attempt to avoid acknowledging the obvious.

Nobody said "things are fine", what's being said is that the ends here (stopping these appointees from achieving their goals) doesn't justify these means (mutiny by the civil servants).

Are you saying there is something illegal going on? There is a lot of disagreeable stuff going on but it's all within the law as far as I can tell.

What measure of proof do require?


First, nobody is saying government workers need to follow all orders. They can always quit. If certain workers believe they cannot in good conscience work for the Trump administration, then they have my respect, but they should resign.

Second, genocide is a far cry from the government not sufficiently regulating a business to your tastes.

If government workers are allowed to make their own policy, we are not long a democracy, but a dictatorship-by-beaucracy.

You may think that is a-okay when someone you dislike is in power, but how did you feel when that Kentucky Clerk refused to issue marriage certificates to homosexuals? What if the workers in HHS decide they need to regulate abortion?

Ajit Pai was a Senate/GOP/McConnell appointee before Trump was elected, not a Trump appointee. He became Chair when a Republican president was elected, triggering an automatic handover from the previous Democratic chair

More like seeing the effects of cronyism in action. None of these people are very prepared to handle their duties, yet they got the jobs anyways through schmoozing and money.

Hardly unique to Trump in the grand scheme and longer term view.

The only reason we know this was because of a change in plans but we never hear about the thousands of other times where it never gets even close to that for other serious abuses by politically connected organizations and individuals.

The article also mentions the FTC and 50 states are still investigating Equifax so its not like they have been given a pass yet. Nor has the consumer protection agency given them a pass yet either, this article only said they chose not to pursue one particular investigation option planned by a previous admin, not that they have abandoned the whole investigation.

It's called a "strike", and it's risky without public support.

> John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!


Arguably, that's exactly what Ajit Pai, Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt and Betsy DeVos are doing...

What has Rick Perry done?

During the 2012 Presidential primaries, he campaigned on getting rid of three agencies, including the Department of Energy, which he now runs.

(This may jog your memory if you watch stuff like The Daily Show: in the debates, he fairly embarrassingly forgot which three agencies he wanted to get rid of...)


I remember that moment quite well, and very fondly; I believe I watched TDS live back then every night.

However, I asked what Rick Perry did, not what he said.

Ah! Fair point.

Will you accept subsidizing unneeded coal plants? https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/10/4/1640727...

No because that clearly is an action in favor of better energy. (Not the best energy, not great environmentally and perhaps bad economically and healthly, but good for energy)

Not if you want to keep your pension.

Sure, because federal goverment agencies not controlled by voters and in open mutiny against elected government is exactly what US needs more of. I don't think you thought it through.

This current administration must be like living in a mirror reality for long time government workers. The EPA, FCC, CFPB, DOE and other regulatory agencies have had appointed leaders who explicit mandate is to tear them apart. Even the state department has been severely reduced (Did you know that we don't have an ambassador to South Korea???). It seems like only Homeland Security and DoD have had leaders who alight with their vision.

There is tons of waste in government and oversight is needed in many facets but destroying our agencies is not the way forward. I wish voters where more aware of how many services government agencies provide, it seems like most of America is for smaller government until something like a shutdown slaps them awake for a brief period of time.

That government is wasteful has been a rallying cry from Reagan onward. Republicans have gleefully been cutting waste since then, so we’ve had nearly four decades of intense scrutiny of government waste. There is very little left! While each new finding of any waste is trumpeted from the hilltops, no mention is made of the numerous agencies and offices which are operating on shoestring budgets and, in many cases, operating at low efficiency because they are too starved of cash to do their jobs effectively.

This is the two-pronged attack, a maniacally evil strategy from the brains of the John Birch Society, the Koch brothers and their minion ‘think’ tanks, and Grover Norquist. They wish to institute their libertarian paradise, but what gets in their way is that most Americans don’t actually share their desires. Most Americans tend to favor the kind of smart policies that balance the needs of enterprise with the needs of society - laws that harness the engine of capitalism to work broadly in service of everyone.

Only by driving a wedge in between the American populace and government, and between the non-union worker and the union worker, and between the middle class and the poor, and between the poor and the immigrant - to the point that everyone is now against everyone else - could they succeed in creating such visceral hatred so wide and so deep in the populace that we would have no sense of society left. When we cease to feel like we’re all in this together, we cease to feel a responsibility for the common good, when we show no concern for the pillaging of the commons, we laugh haughtily at the misfortune of others, we joke about the failure of our institutions and collectively we stick our heads in the sand and turn to salve our sorrows with the solace of drugs or numb ourselves with our mindless entertainment, we step closer to the now-inevitable collapse of our great experiment in democracy, our once powerful leadership fallen to depths of ridicule and our empire crumbled.

Those rich men who directed our demise might initially celebrate the arrival of their libertarian paradise, but with a limping husk of a state left, even a minimal order won’t last for long, and their wealth - in money that has little lingering value won’t shield them from the pains of society collapsed. Their land is only theirs if recognized by a government, and if property rights are respected. I suspect that it won’t be long until all are consumed in anarchy, followed by formation of groups of violent masses, led by ideologues who commandeer what bits of military hardware they can grab.

> Their land is only theirs if recognized by a government, and if property rights are respected.

Their land is only theirs if they can secure it from foreign aggression through a functional nuclear deterrent. However, operating a nuclear deterrent is a significant Big Government endeavor that is unlikely attainable by those chasing the so-called libertarian paradise.

That is the consequence of tearing down the government, if you tear down enough of it, you're not a patriot, you're literally handing it over to those you would call our enemies.

Surely they Koch brothers could purchase their own nuclear weapons

Perhaps, but can they maintain them? Secure them? Deploy them? Unlikely.

Judging by the public's belief in the effectiveness of Congress (e.g. approval ratings), I'd say the feeling that gov't is wasteful and ineffective is pretty widespread.

"There is tons of waste in government"

There's tons of waste in all human endeavor but I haven't seen any evidence that government is particularly good or bad.

>There's tons of waste in all human endeavor

I believe the argument stems from the difference between wasting your own money vs. wasting tax payer money.

>but I haven't seen any evidence that government is particularly good or bad

There's plenty of examples out there of the latter (you'll often see more criticism than praise on govt spending). For example, [1].

[1] https://www.heritage.org/budget-and-spending/report/50-examp...

That waste exists elsewhere matters not. There is no good or bad waste, waste is a pejorative term on its own. Ones with the power to should attempt to stamp it out when able (i.e. when said stamping costs don't outweigh the benefits).

Shuttering most of the Federal Government has been GOP platform since 1994 Contract With America.

Reagan’s whole schtick was that government is inherently useless.

e.g. “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I'm here to help.’”

“One way to make sure crime doesn't pay would be to let the government run it.”

“Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.”

etc., and unfortunately this rhetoric was very effective as advertising/propaganda, noticeably shifting public attitudes.

His platform was largely about cutting taxes, deregulation, privatizing public institutions and infrastructure, reducing or eliminating government services, ...

Not sure you can blame the rhetoric alone as such sayings have been around for a long time. viz. Mark Twain: "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress."

p.s., As far as I can tell he actually wrote this, which is somewhat unusual for such things.

Reagan’s policies were aligned with this rhetoric... or at least, the rhetoric was used as justification for the policies, which e.g. shifted the tax burden from the rich toward the middle class by cutting taxes on income (in particular slashing the top marginal rates) and inheritance, hiking payroll taxes, and using Social Security money to pay for general federal expenditures.

That was a man who cried incessantly about the evils of government spending while wiping his tears with the money before throwing it down a black hole. One of the greatest bullshit artists in the history of American politics.

> "Government is like a baby..."

... so let's starve it to death, because that's what you normally do with babies. I always knew that Reagan was a dementia victim, but not that he was so bad at metaphors.

The whole “starve it until it can be drowned in a bathtub” thing is from Grover Norquist, whose anti-tax pledge has been signed by almost all Republican lawmakers for decades.

Norquist was a Reaganite though. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Reagan,_Abramoff,_Norquis...

> “One way to make sure crime doesn't pay would be to let the government run it.”

This is hilarious. A rehash of Friedmans' if the state had monopoly of the sahara, it would run out of sand in 5 years.

On the case in hand, equifax is a not a poster case for advocating for more regulation.

> On the case in hand, equifax is a not a poster case for advocating for more regulation.

Not following. Why not?

Equifax is not the result of a free market or lack of regulation, its a company that subsists in an artificial high barrier to entry space, where strange things happen like equifax is not liable for the mistakes it makes (which are grotesque and frequent).

Equifax receives government protection, not scrutiny, so more regulation means more protection..

In what world would more competition and less regulation cause Equifax (or a company like it) to do a better job securing Americans data? Few, if any, of its important customers were harmed.

Equifax has had a terrible rep as a service long before the hack. Even john oliver had a segment on it before the hack happened, on how an egregious number of reports are grossly innacurate (like 40%, i cant remember). That has to be bad even for the banks: bad credit reports equals bad loans.

Regulation tends to decrease the number of players and increase the size of the incumbents, particularly because it puts requirements that can only be done with big bucks.

But none of that has anything to do with securing Americans' data. Also, even if that 40% figure is true, which I doubt, it's not like banks are going to care until they run out of people they'd like to loan money to.

Meanwhile, regular non-bank Americans get screwed in ways that could have been mitigated by regulation. In economic terms, that's called an externality, a concept which is covered in any reasonable Econ 101 book. The foolish solution to a market failure is more market.

So how would less regulation around data security (which is the thing that this is about) prevent another Equifax? Remember, you and I are not Equifax's customers, so we have no ability to choose anything in this scenario.

You need responsibility not regulation. Sue equifax into oblivion.

Equifax took care of this possibility by taking advantage of the freedom they had to place binding arbitration clauses in their customer agreements.

Unless you're independently wealthy, taking Equifax on by yourself in court is a non-starter. This, of course, was the point of adding these clauses in the first place.

I don't buy that, mainly because that only works if I can afford to sue those doing wrong. Most people cannot. Hence, why the government is there: to uphold these laws, and use everyone's collective resources to do that.

Class action lawsuits are pretty good at that. Which is what equifax is going through.

There are two problems with this view:

1) Sophisticated corporations have developed legal loopholes to eliminate their vulnerability to class actions. Wells Fargo used this tactic to have the lawsuits about the fraudulent accounts it created dismissed [1]. Equifax may or may not be able to benefit from similar provisions (they had one on their website terms of use, which their twitter said didn't apply to the breach as they were getting PR flak for it).

In a move you doubtless approve of, the regulation that would have restored consumer access to the legal system was repealed [2].

2) Money damages in a class action lawsuits aren't going to really make the victims of the Equifax breach whole. Valuing your leaked personal data is very difficult, as is proving that an identity theft was performed with information leaked from a particular source, and both of these will work in Equifax's favor in court. The data has been leaked, and a lawsuit isn't going to put it back into a bottle, nor is it likely to financially chastise Equifax adequately.

[1] http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-wells-fargo-arbitratio...

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/24/senate-kills-cfpb-rule-on-ar...

Are you going to start lobby to make it illegal for companies to put anti-class action clauses in their ToS? Are you going to lobby to make it illegal for a company to force mandatory binding arbitration on their customers? If not, then you're just trying to have your cake and eat it too. You're trying to keep the government from punishing wrongdoing, and trying to keep people from the very few remedies they have.

In what manner does Equifax receive government protection? (Aside from Mulvaney's dereliction of duty in this case)

Yes, the old Contract On America is finally bearing fruit.

Better understood as the "Contract on America" (complete with crosshairs).

What do you expect after giving the CIA decades of experience to kneecap other countries democracies and economies - they'll put that valuable knowhow to use internally eventually for their own profit.

Since I'm seeing confusion about how this has occurred in various comments: this is actually not a failure of the executive branch/presidential administration. The American system is defined by a system of "checks and balances" — meaning that the legislature has full power to veto appointees to these departments and even impeach the president. What we're witnessing is a critical vulnerability in this system — when two branches of American government no longer work in the interest of the country, the only remaining check is public elections. These are slow to occur and can be manipulated in plethora ways.

So the issue here is a legislature that has coordinated against the interests of the country and its people for the betterment of themselves and the few who fund them. Keep that in mind, and direct anger and action there.

Mulvaney is the acting head of the CFPB.. meaning he was not confirmed by the Senate. Trump appointed him, and he leads the agency. That's it.

I'm going to assume you weren't aware of that... and not--as Trump likes to do--pointing fingers at others for Trump's failures.

Yes, that's true--the malware installed in our government has done some bad things that need to be discussed. But we also have to address the vulnerability that resulted in its installation.

To continue the metaphor: From the perspective of the malware, the bugs are features

Well, ok. But if people were more interested in having reasoned debates on policy than coming up with tenuous metaphors, maybe we wouldn't have so many problems.

What is the scope of the vulnerability?

The tradition is that acting heads typically don't make any policy (because they haven't been through the advice/consent process). It seems a little different in this administration.

> the issue here is a legislature that has coordinated against the interests of the country and its people for the betterment of themselves and the few who fund them

In... what way exactly?

The Equifax breach is a pretty great example of exactly why the CFPB is needed, Trump's appointee is trying to line-item-veto it out of existence, and you're calling for directed anger against the "legislature"?

The Congress has the Constitutional Responsibility to act as a check on the Executive Branch, through several means, up to and including impeachment of the Executive. Trump has done several things this past year alone that would have led to censure or impeachment had they been done by past Presidents. If Congress refuses to fulfill its duty, then they deserve the anger they are receiving.

I agree that any responsible, sane congress would have impeached Trump several iterations of "new groundbreaking violation of democratic norms" ago. (And to be quite clear, this rests entirely at the feet of the current majority party: a democratic-led congress would have acted long ago.)

But that doesn't have anything to do with the comment I was responding to.

What we're discussing here is an action by a Trump appointee, who was not confirmed by the senate (Mulvaney is an "acting" head). The blame for that action lies with Trump and with Mulvaney. It does not lie with the congress that failed to prevent it.

The grandparent argument appears to boil down to "Trump & team did evil. Congress failed to prevent them from getting away with it. Therefore direct your anger toward congress." That's just an inch or two from complete nonsense.

Eh, I feel one can be just as angry/outraged at Trump & Team as they can be at Congress for letting them get away with it.

That, and given the upcoming midterm elections, I feel I have more influence on Congress (or at least my Congressional delegation) than I do on Trump & Friends.

Unless you can show that the GOP Congress has low approval rating from the manority of active voters that casted votes in favor of them, there is no failure of checks and balances, and democracy is working as intended.

> when two branches of American government no longer work in the interest of the country

Are they objectively not or are you basing it on what you consider the interest of the country?

what do you consider the interests of the country?

What saddens me is that the details of the pervasiveness of this administration’s failures will likely be lost when the stories are retold decades from now. The big sweeping failures will be the focus, and people still won’t quite grasp how living in this time actually feels.

I don't know about this. One thing that has really struck me about the kind of behavior on display is that a lot of it seems to be under the assumption that getting away with it initially means getting away with it forever, but in reality, we live in one of the most well documented periods of time in history. Information is everywhere and it's nearly impossible to suppress. Not everything happens in internet time, but the truth is going to catch up to a lot of people eventually.

There will probably be dozens of books solely about the topic of what has been said by the executive branch on Twitter. (How clever will all those snappy quips and one liners seem 15 years from now on the pages of the next David McCollough?)

It's usually the case that those who aren't passionate about history will primarily be familiar with the big picture marquee events without fully getting the nuance of the experience, but there are troves of evidence here for extraordinarily rich future histories.

> Information is everywhere and it's nearly impossible to suppress.

I've noticed a disturbing trend recently where this is becoming less true than we'd like to believe.

Try searching for news articles about GWB's 2nd term. Try to find opinion pieces about it. Try to name (and cite) a dozen different important events directly related to his administration.

It's doable, but it's not easy. Google's got a really short-term memory these days (unless, of course, you're trying to debug a problem in Linux, in which case these forum posts from 2010 are sure to help...).

It's a big part of why I take the time to maintain the bookmark database I've got: I don't trust that I'll be able to find articles like this one in the future.

> It's a big part of why I take the time to maintain the bookmark database I've got: I don't trust that I'll be able to find articles like this one in the future.

I go further than that - and I assume many do: For stuff I think I'll want to reference in the future, that I find important - I'll take a copy of it; ctrl+s or ctrl+p for basic stuff, other things I'll take the time and space to mirror (using wget or something similar).

Given that we've seen major portions of the internet literally shut down or "destroyed" over the decades, this isn't something one should find odd or overkill.

I too keep a huge bookmark stack, but sometimes I don't properly sort things, and just put them in a "general" location. Recently I started going back thru these bookmarks, just to organize some of them - and many of them were no longer valid; 404s were the norm. That said, in many cases having the bookmark name or description (and even the old URL) was useful to find a copy of the information, where it moved (if it did) or maybe somebody archived it. But in some cases, it simply vanished.

I do agree with your assessment, though - Google and the internet has this "short term memory" problem; a big part of that is the (now) dynamic nature of websites, which doesn't allow for easy crawling by some systems (like the wayback machine), as well as allowing the data to move or vanish at a whim.

Speaking of W. The people that are complaining about the Justice department getting politicized have completely forgotten that W already did that by firing a lot of people for political reasons. See Alberto "I do not recall" Gonzales' testimony. None of this is really new. That is why the GOP is complicit. They are getting exactly what they want.

I really hope future historians are not relying on Google's public index. I do hope they do stuff like systematically read (or at least manually scan) the op-ed archives of several major newspapers over the time periods they're studying. In this area, google-fu seems mostly like an exercise in confirmation bias.

We have been increasing "true positives" of documentary evidence, but nuch more rapidly increasing "false positives" of lies and spin and fake news. It's not clear that we are overall better informed now than 10 years ago.

I heard this on a podcast and I think it rings true: They claim something is bad or failing and then defund it which causes it to actually be bad or fail which allows them to further defund it.

Never mind decades from now, I can't even remember last week's scandals.

I suspect it will go the other way. A generation raised on the total malfunction of the US government.


Terrible URL, great archive of Trump administration events

>I can't even remember last week's scandals.

https://twitter.com/aScaramucciAgo has got you covered.

I'd say for 42.2% of the population, the current presidency feels pretty good.[1] Not that far off the from the lows during the Obama administration.[2]

[1]https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/president_tru... [2]http://news.gallup.com/poll/116479/barack-obama-presidential...

Failure is in the eye of the loss function. The details of the loss function are Unknown to us

I froze my credit for free in response to the Equifax breach, and it gave me a little more piece of mind. However, I just had the experience of thawing my credit and I discovered that the companies are back to charging you for the freeze.

I had the pins for all the thaws and they went relatively smoothly, except for Equifax, who required me to call and answer ridiculous questions about banking I did over a decade ago (and suggested I would always have to do this regardless of the fact that I had my pin and an account).

I shudder to think what would happen if I lost my pin numbers. Especially if I didn't realize until right before I needed a credit check.

I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop on that. Surely, given the recent breaches, a lot more people are freezing accounts who are less accustomed than the average HN reader to keeping pins or other security identifiers around long-term. Once those people need to start unfreezing accounts, we're either going to have a mess because they can't, or a mess because it turns out unfreezing isn't that well protected either.

Either way, gonna be ugly.

We should never forget that Equifax first tried to charge consumers for a freeze until consumers complained so loudly that they were forced to give it for free. They clearly have no respect for their consumers and show/flaunt it. Legislators have failed to deal with this issue in a modern way. We need to assume that every American is compromised and freeze accounts by default.

There is no purpose for the United States regulatory apparatus if no action is taken against Equifax. None.

You might want to think that one through a little more closely, keeping in mind who is running the executive branch right now. They want you to think there is no purpose for the regulatory apparatus, and they are attempting to take no action against Equifax. It would certainly be useful to them if you took their inaction as proof that the regulatory apparatus has no purpose.

Absolutely agree. I think my statement makes implies I believe the regulatory apparatus COULD have utility, but in any state where they can't prosecute Equifax it does not.

The purpose is the illusion of responsibility. If politicians didn't even attempt to pretend they were trying to fix things, people might actually get upset - or even worse, actively interested in fixing the credit system, or government.

Ah Republicans, they want you to believe the government can't do anything well, and then they set out to prove it to you. Remarkably consistent.

Depressing, but hardly surprising.

One of his early moves was to change their mission statement to add "regularly identifying and addressing outdated, unnecessary, or unduly burdensome regulations".


Odd addition to the agency that was created because existing regulation was demonstrably insufficient.

Tax dollars hard at "work" at "protecting" consumers.

Consider the administration, and the fact the GOP has hated this bureau since it's inception, promising to curtail it. This is hardly evidence that governmental consumer protection can't work, just evidence that the GOP has delivered on its promise to stop government from trying.


Run on a platform saying that government doesn't work, and once in office govern in a way that proves the premise!


^^ P.J. O'Rourke's observation

The purpose of all this "deep state" talk is to cast doubt on the idea that certain government policies should not change at each administration's whims, and there should be a semblance of continuity of both policy and personnel across presidential elections. Now that anyone who's been working for the government since before 2017 is being demonized as the "deep state," it opens the door to politicize every single action from every single agency.

If a Democratic president gets elected in 2020, it'll be interesting to watch whether this standard gets upheld. (Most likely the Republicans will complain about how the Democrats are attacking loyal Americans working hard for their government, and the Democrats will do their usual thing of feeling bad and giving in.)

Politics is a pendulum. It has always swung back and forth every few year. But now it's swinging much farther and much heavier, and it's making the whole system unstable.

Democrats are unlikely to give in again. Giving in is what drive away their base cost them the election in 2016. If they do it again in 2020, the party is dead.

Good luck with that, the Democratic party has not suddenly grown a spine.

Please vote in your local Democratic caucus/primary and force them to grow a spine. We need your help to make it happen.

Of course agencies should follow the administration's whims, that's the administration's job.

If executive behavior should be constrained by previous administration's decisions, then Congress or if necessary a Constitutional convention should make a law to establish that.

If our country is so divided that we can't maintain basic consistency across changing administrations, then we don't deserve to be a country anymore, and we should split into 2.

This was largely by unspoken agreement up to now, because it was understood that certain things -had- to be maintained. Even if not as a promise to the american people (they did, after all, vote the prior pack of people in, so what those people set in motion is just as valid as anything you want to do now), as a promise to the world. Imagine the state of diplomacy if any agreement could be thrown out on a whim by a newly elected president? That's effectively what we're seeing now, and even if you disagree with the agreements, and feel they never should have been made, the tarnishing of our diplomatic status and general trustworthiness on the world stage is not easily dismissed.

Sorry but this is a misunderstanding of how things work. Constitutionally it is congresses job to negotiate and enact treaties, though there was that hubbub about passing fast_track which I strongly disagreed with. GP is talking about agencies which as part of the executive fall under POTUS, while treaties are treated as on equal footing with the constitution. Eg once enacted it's the executives job to enforce.

And the executive office is not enforcing them, or otherwise maintaining agreements we entered into on the international stage. For instance, the state department still has not delivered its Climate Action Report to the United Nations, which was supposed to be delivered by Jan 1st, as we're a part of the UNFCCC.

An unenforced, unmaintained agreement is the same as pulling us out, and it erodes trust in the United States on the international stage. Yes, the OP was talking about domestic policies; I was saying that historically some of those things would still be maintained, rather than introduce complete instability with every administration, and that this administration has broken that precedent both on the domestic and the international front.

Ah, I just misunderstood. Good points and I agree.

We've arrived at Orwell's doublespeak.

Consumer financial protection is now in charge of making sure corporations can harm consumers without obstacle.

Given the trillions in waste, fraud, and abuse prevalent for decades in DoD projects all with the intent to “protect the American people and soldiers”, surely a few million for protecting consumers is pretty decent value even if it’s nowhere near as effective as our defense / offense department by now?

Amusingly, the other comments in this thread point out that the last budget request for this agency was for $0. So it's more like not-tax-dollars not being at work.

"Big dollar reapers good, small dollar earners bad."

> Mulvaney put a hold on much agency work when he took over in November, and said it would last at least 30 days to give him a chance to understand the job.

Yes, I too routinely shut down entire departments when I'm put in charge of them. Just long enough so I can get a handle on things, you know. Perfectly reasonable behavior.

Well, in Mulvaney’s other job n the administration, he's also advocated CFPB be disbanded, so when he talks about understanding the job, it's about understanding how to dismantle it entirely, not how to do it effectively.

Same story at the EPA and other agencies. I believe the agenda was summarized as "deconstruction of the administrative state".

I mean, scaling back or disbanding the federal government has been the GOP's dream for the past 50 years. It also strengthens the argument that "government doesn't work" because they made government not work.

People blame Trump but this has been a conservative agenda item for decades.

Trump did appointed some of loudest voices against those departments to lead them so he's pretty much responsible.

Trump is just parroting fox and friends, which is basically how the government works now apparently. Fox -> Trump -> Fox

Agreed. The only thing Trump didn't do was appoint a pacifist as Secretary of Defense.

outsidetheparty can correct me, but I feel that outsidetheparty forgot to end their comment with a /s

No, no, it's absolutely true: literally every time I personally have been put in charge of a major department or agency, the very first thing I do is just, you know, lock the doors for a month or so. Let the place have a good airing out. Everyone can come back to the office fresh once I've had a good look around, picked my chair, found out where the best coffee machine is... you know how it is

My sarcasm detection browser extension predicts 96% probability of sarcasm in the comment.

Sure, I don't doubt your ability but have you read the responses? It doesn't seem like they realize it was sarcasm.

and just a reminder: he went to court to take this job from some one who already knew what she was doing.

He also requested this year's [edit: sorry, quarter] operating funds be $0.


Not exactly - just for the quarter. "Mulvaney wrote that the bureau has $177 million in the bank, enough to cover the $145 million the bureau has budgeted for its second quarter."

Thanks, you're right. I've edited.

it's unfortunately not the top response to jeremy but apparently no they don't have 177 million in the bank.

The misinformation here is ridiculous. The operating budget request for zero dollars was because they collected so much in fines last year that it will pay the entire year’s budget.

The next time you get a speeding ticket, ask yourself if you want public institutions to be financed by fees and fines.


It creates perverse incentives (ex. http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/investigates/exclusive-judge-..., https://www.caranddriver.com/features/town-without-pity), even more so than taxes, which typically have multiple layers of oversight on spending.

Unlike taxes, fines and fees in the US are not adjusted for income, so they hurt poorer people much more than wealthier people (ex. http://time.com/3182726/if-you-want-to-see-inequality-in-the...).

If you're already struggling financially, being forced to pony up 30% of this month's net revenue just to keep some public agency afloat so it can fine and fee more people later is the kind of bad break that kills people (https://www.thecut.com/2016/12/america-is-failing-the-bad-br...).

It's cruel and unjust and it has no place in America.

Because it creates an organization that deviates from its purported mission, abusing the public trust instead of serving a common need.

The self-funded USPTO has a bias toward approving bad patents to generate revenue and consequently enables the predatory behavior of NPEs. It becomes a net detriment to society.

Does USPTO make more money if it approves patents? I thought you paid the submission fee whether it's approved or not.

If it rejected 99.9% of patents, the expected value of the typical application drops to 1/1000 its current value. So fewer people would pay the application fee.

Fewer patent clerks would be needed, so their operating costs would also decrease. But presumably not below 1/1000.

If it gets a reputation for being stricter on granting patents, a lot of people won't waste their time or money in submissions that are likely to be rejected.

I may be mistaken, but I believe patent renewal fees are a thing, and more expensive than the application

The USPTO does not primarily deal with law enforcement.

An example of where it goes wrong:


> To understand some of the distrust of police that has fueled protests in Ferguson, Mo., consider this: In 2013, the municipal court in Ferguson — a city of 21,135 people — issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses, mostly driving violations.

> A new report released the week after 18-year old Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson helps explain why. ArchCity Defenders, a St. Louis-area public defender group, says in its report that more than half the courts in St. Louis County engage in the "illegal and harmful practices" of charging high court fines and fees on nonviolent offenses like traffic violations — and then arresting people when they don't pay. The report singles out courts in three communities, including Ferguson.

Because it's a very plausible risk for incentive misalignment. If the department has a role outside of people doing finable activities but is only financed through catching finable activities, false positives are strongly incentivized.

The alternative would have been either no appropriation out of congress or an appropriation beholden to the evildoers, which is kind of where we are now anyway with Mulvaney running the wrecking crew.

Because enforcing the law to make money is obscene.

That doesn't sound like an analogous situation, though.

It is though. The CFPB has to be able to impose fines large enough to balk the largest financial players in one of the largest economies in the world.

Imagine if the cop that writes your speeding ticket gets paid on commission...

But if that then becomes an incentive for self-dealing, it is very problematic. Instead that money should go directly to citizens in the form of remediation and barring that, deficit paydown or underfunded government services (the VA comes to mind...)

Fining crooks like Equifax seems like a decent way to start funding a universal basic income. Call it a "white collar crime tax."

I wouldn't complain if that was the outcome. But I might also imaging using the fines cross-agency like giving the FDA more operating budget to pursue cross-state food safety issues.

In that situation, the only funds for those agencies would come from fines. We're not at that situation.

And I'm all in favor of the CFPB getting pretty heavy handed. I wanna see some Enron style prosecutions start.

> The operating budget request for zero dollars was because they collected so much in fines last year that it will pay the entire year’s budget.

That sounds like misinformation, considering their website says they're explicitly forbidden from doing that.


> When the Bureau collects a civil penalty through an enforcement action, that penalty is deposited into the Civil Penalty Fund. The money in the Fund is pooled and can be used to compensate victims who haven’t received full compensation for their harm through redress paid by the defendant in their case.

> In accordance with the Dodd-Frank Act and the Bureau's Civil Penalty Fund rule, the Fund can only be used for two purposes: to compensate eligible harmed consumers and, to the extent that victim payments are not practicable, to provide funding for consumer education and financial literacy programs. If victims cannot be located or it is otherwise not practicable to pay victims, the Bureau may keep the money in the Fund for victims in future cases, or the Bureau may use money in the Fund for consumer education and financial literacy programs.

[citation needed]

The GOP has been out to destroy the CFPB since the day it was started. This is them winning.

Majority of the voters probably don't understand the severity of the situation or just don't care. This is what gives the courage for politicians and bureaucrats to pull shenanigans like this.

Sure if you don't think the department should exist, or at least not exist in the with the same scope or scale as before.

Being in charge of something doesn't mean you have to be a proponent of expanding it or even maintaining it in its current form. Being in charge for a dismantling is common place as well.

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