A few weeks ago, I noted that the Defense Department had offered its support for consumer financial protection; here is a copy of the letter [PDF] that DOD sent to Treasury. Today, Secretary Tim Geithner followed up by meeting with David Julian, the director of the DoD's Office of Personal Finance, and a number of other advocates for military families and consumers. Military families have experienced serious problems with consumer finance, particularly around predatory auto lending, that are indicative of broader problems in the system.
"[Consumer financial protection] is not just about making sure that American taxpayers don’t have to see their money used to bail out large financial institutions in the future," Geithner said. "It’s about providing basic protections for consumers across the country from the kind of predation, abuse that was the center of this financial crisis. A basic responsibility of government is to provide that kind of protection."
Julian was more emphatic about the importance of the agency. "DOD firmly believes that the financial readiness of their troops and families equates to mission readiness and anything that we can do to help our families be financially ready, we will support the family and the mission," he said.
This is first time that Treasury has promoted a consumer-finance meeting to the media; it's clear they see the burgeoning alliance between the military and consumer advocates as a useful avenue to pursue the creation of a strong consumer regulator. Will Republicans oppose protections that will help keep military families from being the victims of predatory lending now that a vote against consumer protection is a vote against mission readiness?
-- Tim Fernholz