Taxpayers no longer have to wonder how their money has been spent at the newly renovated headquarters at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Mick Mulvaney, the CFPB’s acting director, graciously allowed The Daily Caller News Foundation to take an exclusive tour on Feb. 1 of the federal office — founded by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — that has been widely criticized for cost overruns and extravagance.
A June 2014 Inspector General report concluded there was “no sound basis” for the agency’s renovation cost estimates. Shortly thereafter, the contracting for the building was transferred from the bureau to the General Services Administration, that oversaw the current renovation.
.. The first thing that stands out is that the office space does not feel like a government building at all. It could be an upscale hotel, a college campus or a corporate headquarters.
“There was interest to move this above a Class C Building,” said a CFPB source familiar with the renovation and the operation of the building. “Now it’s a Class A building,” he told TheDCNF.
.. The $124 million spent to date for the 303,000 square foot office building is $409 per square foot, more than Trump World Tower, which cost $334 per square foot or Las Vegas’ Bellagio Hotel and Casino, priced at $330 per square foot.
It was no wonder the public tuned out the CFPB narrative that Democrats have repeated since they controlled Congress and the White House and passed the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, which created the bureau. The plot never changes — before Cordray’s resignation, Republicans opposed the bureau because it kept the financial industry honest; now they restrain the CFPB so businesses can cheat consumers.
.. The Dodd-Frank Act forbids the Federal Trade Commission and the CFPB from conducting independent inquiries into the same matter. Cordray may have authorized an investigation of the Equifax data breach, but the FTC ended up conducting the full-scale probe.
.. Cordray and Warren, who helped draft the law, surely recognized Rucker’s sleight-of-hand. Nevertheless, the senator tweeted, “Another middle finger from @MickMulvaneyOMB to consumers: he’s killed the @CFPB’s probe into the #EquifaxBreach.”
.. Since 2010, Republicans have objected to the lack of legislative and executive checks on a regulator with so much impact on the economy.
.. Democrats, confident there would never be a Republican director, characterized the near-absolute power as independence from political influence.
.. Ironically, the once-secretive CFPB has been more transparent since Mulvaney throttled its External Affairs Division, the propaganda machine Warren created in 2010 while leading the agency’s yearlong start-up process as a presidential adviser.
.. The division’s copious press releases have been replaced by more-informative leaks from the bureau’s overwhelmingly Democratic employees. Contrary to the stale narrative that liberals craft from the leaks, the acting director does not hate consumer protection; he just hates the CFPB’s structure, which he once described as “a joke . . . in a sad, sick way.” Warren’s obstinacy has only allowed him to validate the now-famous comment and delight in the bully’s comeuppance.
.. Mulvaney invited a Daily Caller reporter to the CFPB headquarters Warren had procured in 2011. Cordray’s $124 million renovation of the Brutalist eyesore came to symbolize the bureau’s elitist liberal entitlement. The reporter was escorted through a 2,660-square-foot athletic facility with two huge locker rooms, offices with electric height-adjustable workstations, a library with a sofa and lounge chairs but few books, a roof deck with spectacular views and motorized cantilevered umbrellas, and a courtyard with lavish fountains. The images recalled the familiar spectacle of triumphant soldiers touring a deposed dictator’s opulent palace.
.. But exposing his predecessor’s sins is only Mulvaney’s jab. His knockout punch is demonstrating that the CFPB’s structure allows its director to behave like the Republican stereotype.
.. Unlike other Trump nominees who renounced previous calls to eliminate the agencies they were tapped to lead, Mulvaney told reporters he was not shutting the CFPB down because the law did not permit him to do so. In his introduction to the agency’s five-year strategic plan he declared that “we have committed to fulfill the Bureau’s statutory responsibilities, but go no further.”
.. He requested no funding from the Fed for the first three months of 2018 and instead financed the CFPB’s operations by draining its stockpiled reserves, a likely prelude to agency layoffs... Rather than defend his policies, Mulvaney reminded his critics: “I am the judge, I am the jury, and I am the executioner in some of these investigations, and that is completely wrong. . . . If you don’t like it, talk to the person who wrote the statute.”.. Her attempt to shame Republicans is laughable — Democrats remained silent for five years while Cordray proved that Congress is powerless to rein in the director... Mulvaney is not, as Warren writes, “turning the CFPB into a politicized rogue agency.” He is showing Democrats that it will continue to be one unless they help restructure it.
According to an apocryphal exchange between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, the only difference between the rich and the rest of us is that they have more money. But is that the only difference?
We didn’t used to think so. We used to think that having vast sums of money was bad and in particular bad for you — that it harmed your character, warping your behavior and corrupting your soul. We thought the rich were different, and different for the worse.
.. The idea that wealth is morally perilous has an impressive philosophical and religious pedigree. Ancient Stoic philosophers railed against greed and luxury, and Roman historians such as Tacitus lay many of the empire’s struggles at the feet of imperial avarice. Confucius lived an austere life. The Buddha famously left his opulent palace behind. And Jesus didn’t exactly go easy on the rich, either — think camels and needles, for starters.
.. The point is not necessarily that wealth is intrinsically and everywhere evil, but that it is dangerous — that it should be eyed with caution and suspicion, and definitely not pursued as an end in itself; that great riches pose great risks to their owners; and that societies are right to stigmatize the storing up of untold wealth
.. Aristotle, for instance, argued that wealth should be sought only for the sake of living virtuously — to manage a household, say, or to participate in the life of the polis. Here wealth is useful but not inherently good; indeed, Aristotle specifically warned that the accumulation of wealth for its own sake corrupts virtue instead of enabling it.
.. Pope Francis. He’s proclaimed that unless wealth is used for the good of society, and above all for the good of the poor, it is an instrument “of corruption and death.”
.. Over the past few years, a pile of studies from the behavioral sciences has appeared, and they all say, more or less, “Being rich is really bad for you.” Wealth, it turns out, leads to behavioral and psychological maladies. The rich act and think in misdirected ways.
.. When it comes to a broad range of vices, the rich outperform everybody else. They are much more likely than the rest of humanity to shoplift and cheat , for example, and they are more apt to be adulterers and to drink a great deal . They are even more likely to take candy that is meant for children.
.. Mercedes and Lexuses are more likely to cut you off than Hondas or Fords: Studies have shown that people who drive expensive cars are more prone to run stop signs and cut off other motorists ... The rich are the worst tax evaders, and, as The Washington Post has detailed, they are hiding vast sums from public scrutiny in secret overseas bank accounts... They also give proportionally less to charity — not surprising, since they exhibit significantly less compassion and empathy toward suffering people. Studies also find that members of the upper class are worse than ordinary folks at “reading” people’ s emotions and are far more likely to be disengaged from the people with whom they are interacting — instead absorbed in doodling, checking their phones or what have you... rich people, especially stockbrokers and their ilk (such as venture capitalists, whom we once called “robber barons”), are more competitive, impulsive and reckless than medically diagnosed psychopaths... luxuries may numb you to other people.. simply being around great material wealth makes people less willing to share.. Vast sums of money poison not only those who possess them but even those who are merely around them. This helps explain why the nasty ethos of Wall Street has percolated down, including to our politics.. They seem to have a hard time enjoying simple things, savoring the everyday experiences that make so much of life worthwhile... Because they have lower levels of empathy, they have fewer opportunities to practice acts of compassion — which studies suggest give people a great deal of pleasure ... they believe that they deserve their wealth , thus dampening their capacity for gratitude, a quality that has been shown to significantly enhance our sense of well-being. All of this seems to make the rich more susceptible to loneliness; they may be more prone to suicide, as well... By and large, those complaints were not about wealth per se but about corrupt wealth — about wealth “gone wrong” and about unfairness. The idea that there is no way for the vast accumulation of money to “go right” is hardly anywhere to be seen... Wealth has arguably been seen as less threatening to one’s moral health since the Reformation, after which material success was sometimes taken as evidence of divine election. But extreme wealth remained morally suspect.. particular scrutiny and stigmatization during periods like the Gilded Age.. only in the 1970s did political shifts cause executive salaries skyrocket, and the current effectively unprecedented inequality in income (and wealth) begin to appear, without any significant public complaint or lament... Certain conservative institutions, enjoying the backing of billionaires such as the Koch brothers, have thrown a ton of money at pseudo-academics and “thought leaders” to normalize and legitimate obscene piles of lucre... high salaries naturally flowed from extreme talent and merit
Country’s president, strongly supported by conservatives, Islamists and nationalists, is accumulating authority, purging thousands accused of involvement in a failed July coup, and ruling by decree
.. A song titled the “Erdogan March” lauds what it calls the lion-hearted protector of the global Muslim community, and became aTwitter top trend in Turkey.
.. Mr. Erdogan delivers daily hourlong speeches, which television stations that haven’t been shut down uniformly broadcast live
..The murder of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey on Dec. 19 capped 10 days of violence, including bombings that killed at least 58 people—volatility that only strengthens Mr. Erdogan’s push for expanded powers.
.. His unfolding efforts to reshape Turkey place Mr. Erdogan in the vanguard of illiberal populism personified by leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.
.. Mr. Erdogan’s movement has been a long campaign against a secular elite installed early last century by Turkish independence hero Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and kept in power by the military.
.. His movement, sometimes called Erdoganismo, is an Islamist-infused cocktail of winner-take-all democracy, nationalism and nostalgia for the past glories of this onetime center of the Ottoman Empire. Those sidelined include the once-dominant secular and West-leaning intelligentsia, along with ethnic and religious minorities.
.. The secret to the power grab is a political base of religious Sunni Muslims who have seen their incomes rise, their formerly circumscribed rights restored, and their pride enhanced by Mr. Erdogan’s policies.
.. Supporters say Mr. Erdogan, who has marshaled nine AKP election victories since 2002, has shown himself a benevolent and capable leader. Dismissing the idea he is autocratic, they credit his skill at developing trust and credibility across society.
.. The narrative is transparent—Erdogan is on a constant march toward absolute power
.. Then his government ousted scores of pro-Kurdish mayors on terrorism charges.
.. Party co-founders have been sidelined or silenced, their names erased from AKP literature.
.. His party swept to power in 2002 after courting European and U.S. policy makers enamored by the thought of an Islamist democratic party in the mold of Christian Democrats like Germany’s.
.. He framed protesters as elitists or foreign agents.
.. He should be handed as much power as he needs, Mr. Toraman in Sivas said, because “he’s restoring Turkey’s historic greatness.”
.. Heartland supporters say outsiders can’t imagine how dramatically Mr. Erdogan’s rule has improved life for Turks once limited by an immutable class system. Seeking treatment for illness was a challenge. Families couldn’t afford to send children to school. Conservative men tell of being ousted from the staunchly secularist military because of their piety.
.. Mr. Erdogan’s party revoked the headscarf law, and her future widened. Now, as she finishes a master’s degree in optical engineering, Ms. Subutay is angling for a coveted job with a defense contractor, Aselsan, which has opened an optics factory in Sivas. Until recently, it would have been impossible for a headscarfed woman.
.. Mr. Erdogan’s appeal also owes in part to a Teflon ability to deflect bad press.
.. The president’s lifestyle has moved beyond comfortable to opulent. He lives in an 1,100-room palace with 1,800 employees.
.. Mr. Erdogan started invoking the phrase “national will” to defend his policies, which primarily cater to his Islamist supporters. Mr. Erdogan has ignored pleas from minorities in favor of rhetoric that galvanizes nationalist feeling and the Sunni majority.
In last year’s elections, however, the HDP doubled its previous showing and won 13%. That was enough to deny Mr. Erdogan’s party a ruling majority in parliament.
Mr. Erdogan then accused the HDP of supporting terrorism. He revived scorched-earth tactics against Kurdish insurgents. He froze the peace talks and called snap elections. With voters spooked by rising violence and insecurity, the AKP was propelled back to majority control of parliament.