As we learned from the endless coverage of the Occupy Wall Street events in 2011 and 2012, the problem with America is that one percent of the population receives unwarranted protection by our government at the expense of the other 99 percent.
While I agree with this issue, I have a different definition of the two groups than most.
Who are the 99 percent?
They are the overwhelming majority of Americans who stay on top of their finances, care about their health, honor their obligations and thoughtfully decide who to do business with.
They worry about being victims of fraud or identity theft, being late for appointments, not taking prescriptions, missing flights or forgetting to make a payment on a bill.
If their bank, doctor, airline or creditor reached out and informed them that they are at risk of any of these things, they wouldn’t complain, they’d say “thank you” and do something about it.
That brings me to the one percent.
While the 99 percent are “taking care of business,” the rest are missing payments, not managing their health and too casually deciding who to conduct business with. When faced with the consequences of these behaviors, they shift blame away from themselves and onto their service providers by submitting complaints to regulators and filing lawsuits for technical violations of outdated regulations.
The U.S. adult population was estimated at around 210 million in 2012, so one percent of that total would be about two million people. This means that if 99 percent of Americans are not complaining about or suing their service providers, there are two million folks that are.
Since its inception in 2011, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has received approximately 131,300 complaints from consumers about their credit cards, mortgages, checking accounts and student loans. That’s not nearly enough complaints! Granted, the CFPB is a relative newcomer to the regulatory landscape and have been primarily focused on financial services, so let’s cast our net a little wider.
Over roughly the same time frame, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has gotten 1.6 million complaints about things other than fraud and identity theft. Among the more popular categories they track are debt collection, banks and lenders, telephone and mobile services, credit cards and health care.
If we combined the complaints filed with the CFPB and the FTC, we would get about 1.7 million. Throw in another 300,000 for folks who felt they were wronged in some way but did not know how to make a complaint, and we’ve got our one percent.
Please don’t mistake what I’m saying. I’m not advocating that the one percent is always wrong or that we should never complain about the products we purchase or the way we are treated by our service providers. That would be un-American. However, I do think the pendulum has swung too far away from a government that protects consumers from fraudulent, dangerous or abusive products and services toward one that provides a ready-made excuse for anyone looking to avoid the obligations they willingly took on.
Today, the cost of complying with an ever growing and increasingly onerous set of regulations driven by the complaints of the one percent falls squarely on the shoulders of the 99 percent. Rather than block services that are helping consumers stay aware and informed about their busy lives, regulations should walk that line between delivering customer service solutions that help the masses, with providing protections for the one percent who need or want them. I think it’s time that someone starts caring about that 99 percent more.