(CNSNews.com) – Senate Democrats united to pass a financial regulatory bill that allows the government to collect data on any person operating in financial markets at any level, including the collection of personal transaction records from local banks that list customers’ addresses and ATM receipts.
The Senate voted 59-39 on Thursday to pass the bill, the chief aim of which is to more-heavily regulate the financial industry. The bill now goes to a conference committee in the House of Representatives, where differences between the House and Senate versions will be ironed out.
The bill, if it becomes law, would create the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection and empower it to “gather information and activities of persons operating in consumer financial markets,” including the names and addresses of account holders, ATM and other transaction records, and the amount of money kept in each customer’s account.
The new bureaucracy is then allowed to “use the data on branches and [individual and personal] deposit accounts … for any purpose” and may keep all records on file for at least three years and these can be made publicly available upon request.
Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said that Democrats who claim this new bureaucracy will protect consumers are misleading the public.
“[T]he American people are being misled,” Shelby said on the Senate floor on Thursday night. “The authors of this bill are telling them that this legislation has been drafted to address the recent financial crisis and that it will ‘tame’ Wall Street. I am afraid that they are going to be disappointed.”
Shelby slammed the new consumer bureaucracy, saying that it was meant not to protect consumers but to “manage” them by monitoring their behavior.
“Mr. President, make no mistake, behind the veil of anti-Wall Street rhetoric is an unrelenting desire to manage every facet of commerce under the guise of consumer protection.
“They may be interested in protecting consumers, but they are more interested in managing them,” Shelby said.
Shelby also criticized the idea that Americans need government to watch over their every financial move, saying that it was better to allow people the freedom to make their own choices and fail than to never allow them the freedom to choose at all.
“Mr. President, I have faith in the American people and their ability to make good choices,” said Shelby. “Granted, we do not always choose well. But I believe that a poor choice freely made is far superior to a good choice made for me.”
“I am afraid that the architects of this bill do not share this sentiment,” he said. “Nor do they share my faith in the American people.”
Shelby further said that the ability of the Federal Reserve to collect such detailed information about the most basic of financial transactions was the beginning of an effort by government to regulate every financial action of every American citizen.
“This new consumer bureaucracy is intended by its architects in the Treasury to begin the process of financial regulation with the intent of changing the behaviors of the American people,” said the senator.
Shelby appears to be correct. The bill allows the bureau to collect any and all information on any person operating in the financial markets.
As it reads: “[T]he Bureau shall have the authority to gather information from time to time regarding the organization, business conduct, markets, and activities of persons operating in consumer financial services markets.”