By GRACE GADDY
U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, representing counties in Texas' fifth congressional district, told members of the community who turned out for a town hall meeting Tuesday that Washington needed to lower regulations and increase accountability.
Over topics that were discussed, Hensarling emphasized a need for oversight in Washington and the Obama administration with agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFSB) and the Federal Reserve.
“I think we have a federal government that has grown too large, too powerful, too intrusive, too nosy, too expensive, too wasteful, and it is encroaching upon the freedoms and prosperity of we the people,” Hensarling said. “Now we have this growing army of federal bureaucrats, and they’re not all bad, but the system is bad to where essentially, lawmaking has been turned over from the relatively accountable and elected to the pretty well unaccountable and unelected.”
Hensarling said this is bad news.
“We are seeing an erosion of the traditional checks and balances that were enshrined within our Constitution.”
As chairman on the House Financial Services Committee, Hensarling said he'd observed some of these issues firsthand — for instance, a divide between two economies: the “Washington insider economy and the Main Street competitive economy.”
“I’m here to support the Main Street competitive economy,” he said, grounded in free capitalism, hard work and merit.
At the moment, Hensarling said he is in a battle to get rid of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) “which is a bank that is owned by you the taxpayers.”
The Ex-Im Bank, a self-sustaining export credit agency, was established by former President Franklin Roosevelt as a chartered government corporation.
“It’s been around since FDR, and some people call it the ‘bank of Boeing,’ because half of their commitments — they give out loan guarantees, direct loans, credit insurance — half of their liabilities go to the aircraft industry, and they’re basically committing your funds to pay people like the United Arab Emirates to buy Boeing aircraft,” Hensarling said.
“It principally benefits… big Fortune 50 companies that I think could probably do quite well on their own, and they’re taking your money and risking it to loans to the United Arab Emirates.”
Hensarling also noted the agency had loaned almost a billion taxpayer dollars to the Republic of Congo — which basically “disappeared,” he said.
“But why is it that the federal government should come in and subsidize your product if you’re going to export it, but they won’t subsidize your product if you’re going to sell it in Texas? Why does that make sense?”
Hensarling called the agency the “poster child of the Washington insider economy and ‘crony capitalism,’” which is a term used to describe an economy in which success depends on self-serving relationships between businessman and government officials, often denoting corruption.
“I think we need to have an economy based on hard work, based on merit, based on integrity, and not based on special connections in Washington D.C.”
Additionally, Hensarling said he was working on housing finance reform.
“Right now, your federal government almost has the monopoly on that,” he said. “If you want to get a mortgage, you pretty much have to go through the federal government. Want to get a credit card? They have to approve the credit card. Want to get a line of credit from your local community bank? There’s some federal regulator between you and a local line of credit. That’s not right.”
Hensarling said agencies such as the CFSB are “totally unaccountable to the American public,” and was in a “contest,” so to speak, with the National Security Agency to see who could collect the most data on Americans’ spending.
“This agency is collecting not thousands or hundreds of thousands, not millions or tens of millions — they are collecting hundreds of millions of financial records on every American today,” he said.
As for Washington’s own spending habits, he said the Obama administration was involved in “a spending spree” — “where we are borrowing the money from China and are sending the bill to our children and grandchildren.”
Hensarling said the nation needed more economic growth and lower tax rates to get greater tax revenues. He said Washington needed to “reduce the red-tape,” as evidenced in the thousands of pages of regulations in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (commonly referred to as the “Dodd-Frank”) — a compendium of federal regulations affecting financial institutions and their customers.
The Obama administration passed the act in 2010 in an attempt to avoid events that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
“We are drowning in federal regulation and red tape today,” he said, adding this discourages small businesses.
Hensarling said he wanted to pass the REINS Act (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny), requiring “Congress proactively to vote on rules that have a major impact on the economy.”
Historically, Hensarling said people came to America for economic, religious and political freedom. He said while such freedoms were being threatened under the current administration, he was encouraged that people — such as those present at Tuesday’s meeting — still cared enough to want to “take your country back.”
The meeting was held in the Ben E. Keith Community Room in Palestine, located at 2019 W. Oak St.