As a consumer advocate, I engage in small battles for consumers every day. Trump’s surprise victory in the race for the White House leaves many of us who fight for consumer rights wondering what shape the consumer landscape will take.
That lurking question in our minds may cause anxiety, and rightly so. The president-elect has not expressed favorable opinions toward consumer protection policies, vowing to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, even as consumers question their long-held trust in Wells Fargo and other financial institutions.
So should consumers be worried? Turns out, we already were.
Not long ago, I wrote an article about the inherent unfairness of airline loyalty programs. A reader named Eugene Santhin responded to that article, describing how the passenger experience has deteriorated in his lifetime, and how he wasn’t quite sure whether we had really hit bottom yet. Santhin wondered whether corporate greed could take new forms, and whether air travel could possibly get worse.
Ultimately, he asked, “What will the future bring? I will leave that to your imagination — at 88, my future is limited.”
His comment hit me like a ton of bricks. I hope to have another 50 years ahead of me. But what if I don’t? Who will stand up for consumers if our elected representatives won’t?
But remember progress is slow, and working for consumer rights is playing the long game.
I have two boys, ages 8 and 6. Over the summer, all four of us smooshed together on the sofa and watched “Back To The Future” for the first time as a family. It was pretty fun to experience the movie through my kids’ eyes, listening to their analyses and observations. For those of us who grew up in the 1980s, it’s one of the more memorable movies, and it reminds us that what we do today (or in Marty’s case, the past), will have some bearing on our future.
The next morning, my kids were still talking about the movie. I asked them whether they thought time travel was a real thing, or whether it was only possible in the movies. Their position: “Time travel is only possible in the movies, but in the future, it will be possible in real life.”
That’s the unbridled optimism of youth — the blue sky thinking that has been abandoned by most as too difficult, not worth pursuing, or worse — impossible.
As we reflect on the challenges that lay ahead in a Trump presidency, we must continue to fight for the rights of consumers, challenge the status quo and influence thought. We may not be able to slay the enemy in a single blow, and instead, it may be death by a thousand cuts.
The future of the consumer landscape will be in part determined by us. If we give up, there will be clear winners and losers. If we keep going, and focus on the right issues, there will be a very different future.
It’s clear we have our work cut out for us in the coming years. Instead of allowing fear to creep in — fear of unfavorable legislation, fear of unfriendly consumer policies, and simply, fear of the unknown — let’s renew our resolve to continue the fight for what we know is right — transparency, fair corporate policies, and equal access to the courts. The only failure is in giving up.
As Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech: This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.
It is. It is worth it.