Trump budget chief lets payday lenders get away with ripping off vets


Mick Mulvaney, the head of Trump's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, wants to reward payday lenders at the expense of veterans and low-income Americans.

The Trump administration talks a lot about helping veterans. But when it comes down to it, they'll always take the opportunity to reward their cronies instead. And Mick Mulvaney is providing the latest appalling example.

Mulvaney, Trump's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director, is also the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB is supposed to protect consumers from the bad acts of banks and payday lenders. But that's no longer happening.

And one of the groups that will suffer disproportionately from this lax enforcement is service members and veterans.

First, the Trump administration signaled that it didn't want to adopt an Obama-era CFPB rule that would have required payday lenders to consider potential borrowers' monthly expenses and ability to repay. Then Mulvaney killed an investigation into World Acceptance Corporation (WAC), even though it charged interest rates up to 237 percent. WAC also, not coincidentally, donated to Mulvaney's congressional campaigns.

Now, Mulvaney quietly decided not to sue another payday lender, National Credit Adjusters (NCA), that wrongly collected around $50 million. With the investigation tanked, consumers won't get a dime of those ill-gotten gains back. He's also considering scrapping investigations into three more payday lenders, all of which use aggressive high-pressure collections techniques and outright lie to consumers.

Payday lenders love to target the troops. They market to service members at twice the rate they pitch their wares to civilian families. They use clever, sleazy ways to create new types of loan packages to avoid constrictions of the Military Lending Act. That law is supposed to keep troops relatively safe from payday lenders.

And they set up storefronts near military bases to entice severely underpaid service members with the promise of a short-term loan to tide them over.

But those loans get rolled over again and again until service members are in a debt trap that they can't get out of. They rack up hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars of interest and rollover payments on loans of around $300.

It's almost as if, after giving service members a minimal pay raise, the administration just couldn't help itself. It needed to find another way to take money out of their pockets.

"Anyone who has served knows that despite our best efforts, payday lenders continue to target our troops, and take advantage of them," Will Fischer, Iraq War veteran and director of government relations for VoteVets, said in a statement to Shareblue Media. "It certainly looks like [Mulvaney and Trump] are out to help payday lenders and their tawdry money-making scheme."

Fischer added that "it shows a real lack of commitment by this administration to improve the financial well-being of those who serve, for them to let these payday lenders off the hook."

Payday lenders actively harm members of the military. Any administration that considers themselves a friend of the troops could take easy steps to protect them.

But Trump and Mulvaney didn't before and they won't now — and they probably never will.