New sheriff in town
Say what you will about President Barrack Obama, this is the hardest working man in politics.
He is the Jackie Robinson of the American presidency. Just as Robinson smashed professional baseball’s segregation barrier and set a new standard for aggressive play on the diamond, Obama crashed the presidential racial barrier and has raised the bar for Presidential work to a level unseen in America for more years than anyone seems able to remember.
This president doesn’t take naps like Reagan, sermonize like Carter, flaunt the lifestyles of the rich and wealthy like the two Bushes, or lose his focus like Clinton. He has been showing up for work every day and still speaks to the electorate with refreshing candor.
During a town hall meeting at a high school in Rio Rancho, N.M., home of one the largest Intel chip manufacturing plants in the world, Obama last week addressed an issue that has consumers in an uproar – the byzantine world of credit card interest rates. And he pushed for Congressional adoption of a consumer-oriented credit-card bill that reflects administration efforts to stop hidden card fees, arbitrary rate increases and underhanded tactics that shackle consumer rights.
Obama called for Congress to send him a credit card bill he can sign into law by May 25.
The House bill already adopted will limit interest rates and fees and require banks to apply payments to the portion of the balance with the highest interest rates. The Senate bill, still under debate, will hopefully give the overall legislation a bit more bite by prohibiting retroactive rate increases until consumers are 60 days late with payments.
Given the litany of credit card abuses cited by consumer advocates like Bob Sullivan whose “Gotcha Capitalism” has become a textbook on corporate abuses against consumers, Obama’s efforts amount to a first step in balancing the marketplace and returning to consumers the rights they once had to redress corporate abuses against them.
Next should be rebuking the stacked deck arbitration system for consumer complaints now in place by bringing back the consumer's right to represent himself without a lawyer and sue corporations and businesses in small claims court.
Somewhere down the line Obama and Congress will hopefully broach the Supreme Court decision in 1978 that made credit card issuers exempt from individual state usury laws.
That wretched ruling allowed lenders to ignore the lending laws of the states where they were headquartered. Since then, banks have operated out of Delaware or South Dakota or anywhere lending rates are not capped at rates reasonable for consumers.
With adoption of Obama’s credit card bill, consumers will begin to get relief in the credit card lending game where they have for years been treated as second-class citizens and stooges to plunder.
In New Mexico, the President said credit card reform built on transparency, accountability, and mutual responsibility is fundamental to building America’s economy and weaning the nation from borrowed Chinese dollars to finance the recovery.
Clear wording followed by action favoring the consumer is hardly what Americans have received from either the White House or Congress in the last two decades.
Maybe it will continue now that there’s a new sheriff in town.