Obama on the Record: Credit Card Accountability

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Please, have a seat — I’m sorry. It is a great pleasure to have all of you here at the White House on this gorgeous, sunny day. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Change is in the air. (Laughter.)

This has been a historic week; a week in which we’ve cast aside some old divisions and put in place new reforms that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, prevent fraud against homeowners, and save taxpayers money by preventing wasteful government contracts; a week that marks significant progress in the difficult work of changing our policies and transforming our politics.

But the real test of change ultimately is whether it makes a difference in the lives of the American people. That’s what matters to me. That’s what matters to my administration. That’s what matters to the extraordinary collection of members of Congress that are standing with me here, but also who are in the audience. And we’re here today because of a bill that will make a big difference: the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act.

I want to thank all the members of Congress who were involved in this historic legislation, but I want to give a special shout-out to Chris Dodd, who has been a relentless fighter to get this done. (Applause.) Chris wouldn’t give up until he got this legislation passed. He’s spent an entire career fighting against special interests and fighting for ordinary people, and this is just the latest example.

I want to thank his partner in crime, Senator Richard Shelby. (Applause.) On the House side, Representatives Barney Frank, Carolyn Maloney, and Luis Gutierrez, for their outstanding work. (Applause.) And I want to also thank all the consumer advocates who are here today who fought long and hard for these kinds of reforms.

You know, most Americans use credit cards all the time. In the majority of cases, this is a convenience or a temporary, occasional crutch: a means to make life a little easier; to make the rare, large, or unexpected purchase that’s paid off as quickly as possible.

We’ve also seen credit cards become, for a minority of customers, part of an uneasy, unstable dependence. Some end up in trouble because of reckless spending or wishful thinking. Some get in over their heads by not using their heads. And I want to be clear: We do not excuse or condone folks who’ve acted irresponsibly. We don’t excuse irresponsibility.

But the reason this legislation is so important is because there are many others — many who have written me letters, or grabbed my arm along rope lines, or shared their stories while choking back tears — who relied on credit cards not because they were avoiding responsibilities, but precisely because they wanted to meet their responsibilities — and got trapped.

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