Public Interest Win: Lawmakers Shamed Into Protecting Troops from Predatory Lending

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Robert Weissman photo

Note: This morning, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee voted to remove language from the National Defense Authorization Act that would have delayed U.S. Department of Defense rules aimed at protecting service members from predatory lending.

Faced with a choice between the banks and the troops, members of Congress rushed to side with the banks. But then something happened: The spotlight focused on their unconscionable effort to pay back campaign donors at the expense of the nation’s servicemen and women. As a result, the House Armed Services Committee approved U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s (D-Ill.) amendment to remove a provision delaying protections for the troops against predatory lenders.

This story is emblematic. It illustrates the horrendous abuses prevalent in underregulated markets, where corporations routinely target vulnerable populations. It demonstrates how smart regulations are needed and can make a huge difference in people’s lives. It shows too many elected officials’ obeisance to their corporate backers, even at the expense of the troops. And it proves that, even with a rigged system, the public interest can prevail over powerful industry interests, at least sometimes, if the public and advocacy groups are sufficiently mobilized.