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Neither a borrower, nor a lender

When you owe money, there are plenty of businesses out there ready and willing to help you pay it back … for a price. But are those companies, and the contracts they offer, always on the up-and-up?

One of the principal agencies charged with helping U.S. consumers navigate the troubled waters of consumer debt was supposed to have been the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This was the agency created by last year’s Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act. This fledgling agency, which is the brainchild of former Harvard law professor and longtime consumer rights advocate Elizabeth Warren, officially began operating in July of this year. But like so much else in Washington, the consumer bureau is itself a victim, paralyzed by Washington gridlock.

To help understand the type of situations that this bureau was designed to address, we wanted to bring you the story of one military family who took on more debt than they could handle. When they tried to pay it off, they took on even more. This report is another of our collaborations with our colleagues at the Center for Public Integrity and its iWatch News Project. The print reporter on this story was Jason McLure.

Jeff Madrick on the politics of protecting consumers

Borrower Nightmares: Navy pension signed over as collateral for costly quick cash (iWatch News)

Watch the rest of the segments from this episode.

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    Main Street: Findlay, Ohio
    Need to Know travels to Ohio to assess how workers are faring after the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs over the past 35 years.
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    Following the money: Tax breaks
    New CBO report echoes the findings of Need to Know's "A tale or four tax returns."
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      Certifiably employable
    Rick Karr recently visited Seattle to look at a program designed to give the unemployed the skills they need to find jobs in one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.