President Obama took his credit card reform campaign to the southwest today, urging New Mexicans to back his populist effort to crack down on credit card terms.
“You should not have to worry that when you sign up for a credit card, you’re signing away all your rights,” Mr. Obama said to cheers from a crowd of 2,300 at Rio Rancho High School in Albuquerque. “You shouldn’t need a magnifying glass or a law degree to read the fine print that sometimes don’t even appear to be written in English, or Spanish.”
Sitting in the audience were several dozen local residents who wrote individual letters to the president about their issues with credit card debt. One of them, Christine Lardner, gave the president a feisty introduction that mingled praise for the president with pique for the credit card company that tripled her rate after the card company erroneously accepted a double-charge from her daughter’s school.
“Raising my rate to 30 percent is ludicrous and corrupt,” Lardner said. “I’m proud to say that our president has taken up this cause that has affected so many Americans who are trying to make a living and pay their bills.”
Seizing on a popular issue that has ascended along with Americans’ rising debt, the president said he was confident Congress would approve a bill restricting creditors’ ability to alter fees and rates by May 25.
“Credit Card reform is a top priority for the President and to the American people and he is looking forward to … signing a bill by Memorial Day,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
The White House says this is a bipartisan issue that needs a bipartisan solution, noting that their polling shows that 90 percent of Americans support reforming credit card company practices.
“This is America, and we don’t begrudge a company success when that success is based on honest dealings with consumers,” Obama said. “But some of these dealings are not honest. That’s why we need reform.”
According to statistics from the Federal Reserve, credit card debt in the United States has increased by 25 percent in the last 10 years and reached $963 billion in January 2009. The average amount of credit card debt among families was $7,300 in 2007.
The president took several questions on union rights, health care, struggling small businesses that didn’t require him to venture far off his usual talking points.
Mr. Obama was joined at the event by a Who’s Who of Democratic New Mexico officials, including Gov. Bill Richardson, whose nomination to become the president’s secretary of Commerce was derailed by a state ethics probe.
– John Hendren and Karen Travers