David S. Evans, Joshua Wright
Date Posted: October 2009
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has submitted the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2009 to Congress for the purpose of overhauling consumer financial regulation. This study has examined the likely effect of the Act on the availability of credit to American consumers. To do so we have examined the legislation in detail to assess how it would alter current consumer protection regulation, reviewed the rationales provided for the new legislation by those who designed its key features, considered why consumers borrow money and benefit from doing so, and reviewed the factors behind the expansion of credit availability over the last thirty years. Based on our analysis we have concluded that the CFPA Act of 2009 would make it harder and more expensive for consumers to borrow. Under plausible yet conservative assumptions the CFPA would:
• increase the interest rates consumers pay by at least 160 basis points;
• reduce consumer borrowing by at least 2.1 percent; and,
• reduce the net new jobs created in the economy by 4.3 percent.
By reducing borrowing the Act would also reduce consumer spending that further drives job creation and economic growth. In addition to restricting the availability of credit over the long term, the CFPA Act of 2009 would also slow the recovery from the deep recession the economy is now in by reducing borrowing, spending, and business formation.
The financial crisis has surfaced a number of serious consumer financial protection problems that were not dealt with adequately by federal regulators. Rather than proposing expeditious and practical reforms that can deal with those problems, the Treasury Department has put forward a proposal that would disrupt current regulatory agency efforts to deal with these issues.
This paper focuses on the CFPA Act that the Administration introduced in July 2009. House Finance Committee Chairman Frank has proposed changes to this Act which the Treasury Secretary Geithner appears to be willing to accept. However, given that these changes could be reversed or other changes could be made as the legislation works its way through Congress, we focus on the Administration’s original bill rather than a moving target. Chairman Frank’s proposed changes do not significantly alter any of our conclusions.