Dear Mr. Cordray:
Congratulations on your recent appointment to head theConsumerFinancial Protection Bureau. I'm confident I speak for millions of people when I say it's about time for this kind of effort on behalf of American citizens.
I have one simple suggestion that won't cost much, but it could have a lasting positive effect on our democracy. Please rename your agency. Stop calling us consumers. We are Citizens with a capital C. In addition, please lead an effort to ask all kinds of media to follow suit.
Nothing captures the contemporary dilemma of political disengagement more than the commercial reality of consumer versus citizen. So many people view the government not as us but as them. “We the people” means that we are the government, because we are citizens, not because we are consumers. Citizens are responsible; consumers just devour.
Citizen versus consumer is an issue that transcends political affiliation. Arguments about inequality aside, I don’t think it’s that hard to convince the political left, right, or center, that a return to the ubiquitous use of the word citizen, while scrapping the word consumer, would have a positive effect for democracy. It seems like such a small thing, and some will no doubt think it silly, but it would likely result in a paradigm shift in democratic expectations.
Charles D. Hayes