Framing matters more than ever in politicking

By Nancy Churchill

Political framing, sanctioned by law and religion, has been used for centuries to justify enslavement, domination, and exploitation of people and the commons by the wealthy few. Democracy for the people has been hard-won through reframing, a vital tool in the arsenal of resistance fighters, emancipators, and equal rights advocates.

Today’s conservatives have a 40 year advantaged in establishing the accepted world view of corporate dominance over labor and the people. Serious reframing is long overdue.

To demonstrate critical differences between Republican and Democratic framing, I’ll examine two email descriptions of the same bill, the Reforming Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Indirect Auto Financing Act (H.R. 1737). Bear in mind that the very idea of a bureau designed to protect consumers from an industry rampant with fraud was met with violent resistance by the Republican caucus, since in their view government imposes too many regulations on industry already. Of course auto lenders are small potatoes compared to the CFPB’s real target, giant transnational financial institutions. But this particular House bill illustrates just how important it is to undermine the CFPB at every opportunity by always casting it as the “bad guy.”

And that’s just how Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R, IL) characterized it on 9/16/15. After pointing out the guidance was implemented in 2013 “without a public comment period” (CFPB bad!), he explained that the guideline “deals with ‘dealer reserves’ or the small amount of interest added to a customer’s total interest rate as compensation for a car dealership generating loans…. Most lenders impose a cap of 2-3 percent on this dealer markup,” he said, “however, dealers themselves often take less in order to offer a discount to a customer or beat a competitor’s price.” See? Dealers take less markup! Dealers good!

Not only has “the CFPB … failed to prove that these regulations have made any positive impact on discriminatory practices [for women-owned, and minority-owned small business],” Kinzinger continued, but the guideline actively hampers “the flexibility and discretion of car dealers to provide the best available price and financing options to their customers.”

Thus, in Kinzinger’s frame, dealers are heroes nobly securing for their customers the very best financing options, and the CFPB is a meddling government bureaucracy actually victimizing dealers and their customers by standing in their way.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D, IL) weighed in on 10/1 with his own take on why the 2013 guidelines were necessary: “Indirect auto lenders work with dealerships to offer auto financing loans to people buying a car. Indirect lenders determine the minimum interest rate for a loan, known as a buy rate, but auto dealerships are allowed to charge people more than the buy rate for a loan. The profits from this mark-up are split between the lender and the dealer.”

These are the profits Kinzinger’s dealers are supposedly foregoing in order to give customers the best deal. Where he advocated dealer “flexibility and discretion,” Durbin accentuated the CFPB’s perspective that “allowing a dealer to use his or her discretion to increase the interest rate on a person’s car loan could lead to discriminatory pricing.”

This particular bill, which has been sent to a House committee, is not the issue. Framing is the issue. Anti-government framing affects the way lawmakers govern — or in many cases, fail to govern. It affects your civil rights, your wages, the cost of your food, your mortgage, student loan, gas, utilities, medical care, education, insurance, retirement, safety — your very future!

Sen. Durbin summed it up when he concluded, “Consumers deserve a fair and open process when purchasing a car. I will continue working to support the CFPB in its mission to protect consumers from the tricks, traps, and fine print that some companies use to take advantage of their customers.”

We can have the government that we deserve — of, by and for the people. All it takes is electing those who will give it to us — progressive Democrats!

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