Since his early days as a presidential candidate, Donald Trump has made one thing very clear: He doesn't like regulations.
We're going to "get rid of job-killing regulations," he has said. We're going to "cut regulations by 75 percent," he has said, and "get rid of pointless red tape." Etc., etc.
I understand the excitement of his crowds. The business wing of the Grand Old Party always has pushed for less government oversight and more freedom for members of the business class to do whatever they jolly well please to create bigger profits.
No big surprise there. Businesses are in the business of making money.
But whenever I hear President Trump work up crowds at his rallies with attacks against "unnecessary regulations" without going into what he means by "unnecessary," I have to wonder: Why are these people so eager to be ripped off?
After all, what we have not heard a lot about is which regulations are going and what impact their departure will have on real people. But we're finally getting a clearer idea.
Now that President Trump has made Mick Mulvaney acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, while retaining him as director of the administration's Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney seems to be dismantling the CFPB one brick at a time.
Ideologically, installing Mulvaney in the CFPB amounted to putting a wily fox in charge of a very large henhouse.
The CFPB, you may recall, was created during the Obama administration with the help of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in response to the global financial crises to protect consumers from malpractice in the financial industry.
As a fiscal hawk Republican House member from South Carolina, Mulvaney called the CFPB, created under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a "sick, sad joke" and drafted legislation to abolish it.
That message has come through good and hard as Mulvaney has acted to defang the agency's powers. Among other drastic actions in the past two months, the agency has put the brakes on a rule that would have put new limits on payday lenders and their high interest rates.
Then it abruptly dropped a lawsuit against an alleged online loan shark, Golden Valley Lending, which the lawsuit claimed has been illegally charging people up to 950 percent interest rates.
To agency staff who had been building that case for years, dropping it made about as much sense as Eliot Ness taking a pass on investigating Al Capone.
Well, OK. It was not quite that bad. But put yourself in the shoes of the alleged victims.
NPR financial reporter Chris Arnold found a familiar horror story in Julie Bonenfant, 27, who does administrative work for the city of Detroit. She was having a tough year, a breakup with her boyfriend, the theft of her car and she fell behind in her rent.
Facing eviction, she turned to Golden Valley Lending online. "It was just misleading," she said of the lender. "The way it was presented was ... I was going to make four large payments and then be done."
But she wasn't done, she said. Even after those four payments, the lender continued to deduct from her bank account. Payments for her $900 loan will total $3,735 after 12 months, or more than four times what she borrowed, NPR reported.
Her boss and CFPB lawyers determined the loan's terms to be "illegal" and the bureau sued in April for unfair, deceptive and abusive practices. A successful court action could result in a settlement that would claw back millions of dollars to others who are found to be victims. But just as the CFPB was preparing to go to court, Mulvaney's agency dropped the suit.
Some people see that as payback time, since Mulvaney as a congressman took $62,000 from payday lenders. "And now at the CFPB," said Karl Frisch, executive director of the consumer watchdog group Allied Progress, "he's doing their bidding."
But Bonenfant — who took out that $900 loan — sees it as something else: betrayal. A political betrayal. The ironic political twist to this story, she said, is "I actually voted for Trump."
"So knowing that his guy threw out this case that affects people like me, I feel kind of like stupid — just kind of like betrayed."
I share her anger. Mogul Trump campaigned as a populist, a man of the people. But his presidency reminds me of a popular motto among Washingtonians I know: Never fall in love with politicians; they'll only break your heart.