What happens when consumer advocates are fired

The world needs consumer advocates.

You’re fired!

No one likes to hear those words. But when people like Kathleen Engel and Judith Fox are on the receiving end of them, it can have a profound effect on the rest of us.

Engel and Fox were members of the Consumer Advisory Board of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). They were among a group of volunteers who received their walking papers last week.

Now, I realize that the CFPB has become highly politicized recently. I try to stay out of politics in my work. In fact, Elliott Advocacy has a strict policy of assisting everyone regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation or political persuasion. We’re here to help. Period.

As we reach the halfway point of our spring fundraiser, I hope you’ll consider lending us your support no matter what you believe in.

This isn’t about politics – this is about you

But consumer advocates losing their job isn’t a political issue to me. Every time a fellow advocate disappears, it makes the world a worse place for consumers. I mourned the loss of Jon Yates, whose excellent “What’s Your Problem” column used to appear in the Chicago Tribune. I also felt the void left behind by the Consumerist when Consumers Union shut down that helpful blog.

The only people who benefit from politicizing consumer advocacy are the greedy companies who want to operate completely free of regulation or responsibility. And unfortunately, it’s the little guy — the average consumer — who gets hurt as government strips away important protections and sends volunteer advocates scattering back to academia.

No, my friends, if you let them make this political, the consumer loses. This is actually about you and making the world better for consumers. Never forget that.

A safe place for consumer advocacy

That’s what we’re trying to do: to create a safe place where we can practice our advocacy. During our spring fundraiser, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

At the halfway mark for our fundraiser, we’ve collected roughly half the money we need to keep the site running through fall. I see the recent collapses of consumer advocacy in journalism and government as a call to action. Unless you and I do something soon, the consumer landscape will become a bleak place.

Imagine companies operating without fear of regulation or enforcement and where the only protectors are completely ineffective, corporate-funded organizations that do little more than congratulate themselves, but otherwise help no one.

I fear that world is coming too soon. It happens when the rhetoric of politicians divides people and prevents them from realizing their common interests. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This new nonprofit organization can unify consumers and empower them to fight back. Will you help us do that?

Don’t let anyone else get fired!

I have to admit, I’m losing sleep about this. The dismantling of essential consumer protections and now, the termination of advocates, weighs heavily on me. The burden on my fledgling consumer organization is heavy. With rules being lifted and advocates being terminated, that leaves my team of advocates and me to fight a lonely battle for you.

If you lean to the right in your politics, you’ll definitely want to support this effort. In a sense, this is the next evolutionary phase of a free market. The regulatory shackles are off. Now it’s up to private individuals — that’s you! — to counteract the powerful forces of corporate money and influence.

If you lean to the left, you’ll also want to get behind this initiative. You’re probably alarmed by the current administration’s steps to undermine decades of thoughtful consumer regulation. You look at the consumer landscape and see a deck stacked against the little guy.

My volunteers and I can’t do this alone. We need your help, no matter what your beliefs. Because when you need our help, we’ll fight for you — no matter what you believe in.

We can’t afford to lose any more consumer advocates. Please take a stand with me now.

Here’s how to get involved.

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