In the classic 1935 Marx Brothers film, A Night at theOpera, Otis B. Driftwood is seen explaining the finer points of a contract inlegalese that the Italian, Fiorello, doesn't quite understand.
It goes something like this:
Driftwood: Now pay particular attention to this firstclause because it's most important. It says the, uh. "The party of thefirst part shall be known in this contract as the party of the firstpart."
How do you like that? That's pretty neat, eh?_
Fiorello: No, that's no good. _
Driftwood: What's the matter with it?_
Fiorello: I dunno. Let's hear it again. _
Driftwood: It says the, ah, "The party of the firstpart shall be known in this contract as the party of the firstpart."_Fiorello: That sounds a little better this time._Driftwood: Well, itgrows on you. Would you like to hear it once more?_
Fiorello: Just the first part._
Driftwood: What do you mean? The party of the first part?
Fiorello: No, the first part of the party of the firstpart._Driftwood: All right. It says the, uh, "The first part of the partyof the first part shall be known in this contract as the first part of the partyof the first part shall be known in this contract." Look, why should wequarrel about a thing like this? We'll take it right out, eh?
Some 74 years later, the "party of the firstpart" is on its way to Capitol Hill - legislation proposing the creationof a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a unit purportedly dedicated toprotecting those who take out loans or sign up for financial products andservices (read: credit cards).
Aside from the fact that this is currently governmentoversight agency No. 2,004 established under the current administration, thenew entity will "have the power to set standards that consumersunderstand."
The party of the first part...
Now, I'll be the first one to admit that contractagreements for credit card companies and mortgage offers are far from pithy,and often deceiving, but somehow the president managed to keep a straight faceassuring the public that a government-run protection agency will be created andat their disposal to simplify matters.
The mandates for the new agency will be to continuouslymonitor the financial marks for consumer risks (real or imagined) and will beprovided - and here's where it gets a bit Orwellian - to regulate financialproducts providers including both banks and non-banks.
The agency is also intended to address some of the rootcauses of the mortgage crisis by having the ability to oversee all types ofhome mortgage lenders. Here's my suggested first step: Excoriate Rep. BarneyFrank, D-Mass.,and Sen. ChrisDodd, D-Conn. for their complicity and legislative inaction with Fannie Mae andFreddie Mac.
One can only imagine not the amelioration of servicescontracts, but rather their unbridled expansion and increased costs totaxpayers. After all, hundreds of unnecessary staff members at a gratuitous andbloated federal agency have to be paid somehow.
For those unsure of what the next four years will looklike, may I suggest a viewing of A Night at the Opera. I'm afraid it will bererun many more times than we'd like.
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