Trump has the extreme fortune to nominate a second Supreme Court justice just a year into his presidency — but are the rest of us going to be so lucky?
This is an opportunity to fundamentally shift the direction of the law for the next 30 or 40 years, and Trump was quick to jump on it with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. My colleague Holden Miller argues he will be pro-business; I’m worried that means anti-consumer.
And that that means anti-himself.
Kavanaugh would be the most “normal” Justice
One of the common complaints about the Supreme Court is it’s stacked with elitist — yes, even the Republican-appointed ones — wealthy Ivy Leaguers who don’t understand what the real world is like.
Every single one attended Harvard or Yale. Most of them are multimillionaires, with a couple worth as much as $20 million. Hard to argue, even as Ruth Bader Ginsburg is having humanizing documentaries and feature films made about her.
Kavanaugh wouldn’t break the Ivy League mold at all, but he would come in as the poorest guy on the bench. His current net worth is about $65,000 — higher than many Americans, but reasonably middle class. And he certainly understands struggling with debt, racking up as much as $200,000 in the last decade on, get this, baseball tickets.
He could definitely use better regulations on credit cards and education about living beyond your means, like most of us could. And while a year of his salary as a Supreme Court justice would cover that, he’s coming in perhaps more sympathetic to the average American’s way of life than the rest of the court.
That’s why it’s so disappointing he’s already on record against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose mission has been to help people like him.
Kavanaugh’s track record
A lot of liberals are concerned Kavanaugh could permanently tilt the court to the right on issues like abortion. That’s understandable, but as always, I’m more immediately worried about money.
Kavanaugh, on the Washington D.C. court of appeals, has repeatedly ruled against the constitutionality of the CFPB. As I’ve said before, the CFPB is pretty much the only corner of the federal government really standing up for consumers — against their banks, their student loan and mortgage servicers, their credit card companies, debt collectors, and more. Or, it was, until Trump got to replace its director.
The beauty of the CFPB was that its director couldn’t simply be removed by a president who didn’t like him (and Trump didn’t like Richard Cordray) like most federal agencies. If Cordray hadn’t stepped down, there would still be some hope for consumer regulation in the Trump era.
It was a small hope — Cordray saw the writing on the wall, with a Republican Congress trying to scale back his every effort — but one protected by the law. Kavanaugh would strip that protection in a heartbeat because he thinks the CFPB is too different if not too effective:
“The concentration of massive, unchecked power in a single Director marks a dramatic departure from settled historical practice and makes the CFPB unique among independent agencies,” Kavanaugh wrote in an October 2016 ruling in PHH v. CFPB. He declared that the director of the CFPB was not just a director, but was the “President of Consumer Finance.”
“Indeed, other than the President, the Director of the CFPB is the single most powerful official in the entire United States Government, at least when measured in terms of unilateral power,” Kavanaugh wrote. “That is not an overstatement.”
Really? More power than anyone but the president? Then why did Cordray quit the agency he helped launch? It sure wasn’t because the world was perfect and he had nothing left to do.
If that’s how Kavanaugh feels now, there’s no reason to think his opinion would change on a higher court. Ultimately, that’s going to make the CFPB more susceptible to politics, not less. It will become more like every other federal agency. There will be more handwringing and less getting things done for people who literally can’t afford to wait.
The only good news is that Kavanaugh doesn’t want to destroy the CFPB like Trump does. In that PHH case cited above, the mortgage servicer argued the CFPB should be shut down. Kavanaugh disputed that, basically just quibbling with the constitutionality of the leadership structure.
But with Kavanaugh, things would almost certainly change. There will be many other court challenges to the CFPB. One of them will make it to him. And then, instead of a measured, consensus-driven regulatory process like we’ve seen at the CFPB for the past several years, we’ll move into a process where we constantly bounce between regulation and deregulation.
That will give businesses whiplash and overhead costs Republicans would rather avoid, and consumers the sense that government is inconsistent and doesn’t stand up for them.
As the most average joe on the Supreme Court, that wouldn’t be a great reputation for Brett Kavanaugh to start the next few decades of his career with. Hopefully, if confirmed, the weight of responsibility will settle on his shoulders and he will make the right call on the CFPB.
Article last modified on August 3, 2018. Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Doesn’t Like the CFPB — But He Could Sure Use It - AMP.
Article last modified on August 3, 2018. Published by Debt.com, LLC .