President Obama Speaks on Appointing Richard Cordray

(applause) The President:
Hello, Ohio! (applause) Ah, it is good to
be back in Ohio. (applause) It is good to be back
in Shaker Heights — (applause) — home of the Red Raiders. (applause) Audience Member:
Mr. President, I love you! The President:
I love you back. And I’m glad to be back. (applause) I’m glad to be here. I want to thank your mayor, Earl
Leiken, for hosting us today; — (applause) — your superintendent,
Mark Freeman; — (applause) — the principal
here, Mike Griffith. (applause) Well, and I know — I’m pretty
sure we’ve got a couple of congresspeople here,
but I don’t see them. Where are they? Okay, we’ve got Marcia Fudge. (applause) Marcy Kaptur’s here. (applause) Dennis Kucinich. (applause) Betty Sutton in the house. (applause) Outstanding members of Congress,
doing the right thing every day. So we thank them
all for being here. (applause) Now, I understand the folks here
at this school have a pretty good basketball team. (applause) Boys and girls. (applause) Unfortunately, I have
no eligibility left. (laughter) So I can’t play with you. I want to wish everybody
a happy New Year. (applause) 2012 is going to be a good year. (applause) It’s going to be a good year. And one of my New Year’s
resolutions is to make sure that I get out of Washington and
spend time with folks like you. (applause) Because folks here in Ohio
and all across the country — I want you to know you’re the
reason why I ran for this office in the first place. You remind me what we
are still fighting for. You inspire me. (laughter) Okay, you do. You remind me that this country
is all about folks who work hard and where
responsibility pays off, an America where anybody who
puts in the effort and plays by the rules can get ahead. That’s the America you deserve. (applause) That’s the America
we’re working to build. (applause) That’s why I told Congress
before the New Year they couldn’t leave for vacation
until we made sure 160 million working Americans wouldn’t
get hit with a tax hike on January 1st. (applause) Now, this wasn’t easy. It should have been
easy, but it wasn’t. But in the end, we got members
of both parties to come together and make sure that you could
keep more money in your paychecks each month. And you’re keeping that extra
$40 in every paycheck because we made sure that we didn’t
stunt the recovery. We made sure that families
got the break that they need. And that means more
security for your families. It also means a boost for our
economy at a time when we’ve got to do everything we
can to keep it growing. Because more money spent by more
Americans means more businesses hiring more workers. And so when I — when
Congress returns, I’m going to urge them to extend
this tax cut all the way through 2012, with no drama, no delay. (applause) Do the right thing. It is a no-brainer. Let’s get it done. Let’s pass these tax cuts. (applause) Now, we still have more to do. So today, we’re taking
another important step — one that will bring us closer
to the economy that we need, an economy where everybody
plays by the same rules. Audience Member:
Yes! The President:
And to help us do that, I’m
joined by somebody you might recognize — Richard Cordray. (applause) Son of Ohio; a good, good man. (applause) Today I’m appointing Richard
as America’s consumer watchdog. (applause) And that means he is going
to be in charge of one thing: looking out for the best
interests of American consumers. Looking out for you. (applause) His job will be to protect
families like yours from the abuses of the
financial industry. His job will be to make
sure that you’ve got all the information you need to make
important financial decisions. Right away, he’ll start working
to make sure millions of Americans are treated fairly
by mortgage brokers and payday lenders and debt collectors. In fact, just this week, his
agency is opening up a simple 1-800 number that you can call
to make sure you’re getting a fair deal on your mortgage,
and hold banks and brokers accountable if you’re not. (applause) Now, I nominated Richard
for this job last summer, so you may be wondering why
am I appointing him today. It would be a good question. (laughter) For almost half a year,
Republicans in the Senate have blocked Richard’s confirmation. Audience:
Booo — The President:
They refused to even give
Richard and up or down vote. Now, this is not because
Richard is not qualified. There’s no question that Richard
is the right person for the job. He’s got the support of
Democrats and Republicans around the country. A majority of
attorney generals — Richard is a former
attorney general — a majority of attorney generals
from both parties across the country have called for
Richard to be confirmed. Your local members of
Congress who are here today — they support him. He has the support of a
majority in the Senate. Everyone agrees Richard
is more than qualified. So what’s the problem,
you might ask. The only reason Republicans in
the Senate have blocked Richard is because they don’t agree with
the law that set up a consumer watchdog in the first place. They want to weaken the law. They want to water it down. And by the way, a lot of folks
in the financial industry have poured millions of dollars
to try to water it down. That makes no sense. Does anybody think that the
reason that we got in such a financial mess, the worst
financial crisis since the Great Depression, the worst economic
crisis in a generation — that the reason was because
of too much oversight of the financial industry? Audience:
No! The President:
Of course not. We shouldn’t be
weakening oversight. We shouldn’t be
weakening accountability. We should be strengthening it
— especially when it comes to looking out for
families like yours. (applause) The President:
The financial firms have armies
of lobbyists in Washington looking out for their interest. You need somebody looking out
for your interest and fighting for you, and that’s
Richard Cordray. (applause) Now, I have to say,
Richard’s a really nice guy. (laughter) You know, you look
at him and you think, this guy is not somebody who’s
going around picking fights. And yet, this fight on behalf
of consumers is something that Richard has been waging here
in Ohio for the better part of two decades. (applause) As your attorney general, he
helped recover billions of dollars in things like pension
funds on behalf of retirees. He protected consumers from
dishonest lending practices. Before that, Richard
was the state treasurer, where he earned a reputation for
working with folks from across the spectrum — Democrats, Republicans, bankers, consumer advocates — had a
great reputation across the board doing the right thing. And, Cleveland, you’ve seen the
difference that Richard can make for consumers, and I have, too. And that’s why I want Richard
to keep standing up for you — not just here in Ohio, but
for consumers all across the country. Now, every day that Richard
waited to be confirmed — and we were pretty patient. I mean, we kept on saying to
Mitch McConnell and the other folks, let’s go ahead
and confirm him. Why isn’t he being called up? Let’s go. Every day that we waited was
another day when millions of Americans were left unprotected. Because without a
director in place, the consumer watchdog agency
that we’ve set up doesn’t have all the tools it needs to
protect consumers against dishonest mortgage brokers
or payday lenders and debt collectors who are taking
advantage of consumers. And that’s inexcusable. It’s wrong. And I refuse to take
no for an answer. (applause) I’ve said before that I want
to look for every possible opportunity to work with
Congress to move this country forward and create jobs. I’m going to look for every
opportunity to try to bridge the partisan divide and
get things done — because that’s what the
American people need right now. And that means putting
construction workers back on the jobs repairing our
roads and our bridges. (applause) That means keeping our
teachers in the classrooms. (applause) That means keeping our cops and
firefighters doing what they do, protecting us every day. (applause) That means helping small
businesses get ahead. (applause) That means serving our veterans
as well as they’ve served us, like this young man
right in the front. We are grateful for
him, for his service. (applause) These are ideas that have
support from Democrats; they have support from
Republicans around the country, independents around the country. I want to work with
Congress to get them done. But when Congress refuses
to act, and as a result, hurts our economy and
puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as
President to do what I can without them. (applause) I’ve got an obligation to act on
behalf of the American people. And I’m not going to stand by
while a minority in the Senate puts party ideology ahead
of the people that we were elected to serve. (applause) Not with so much at stake, not
at this make-or-break moment for middle-class Americans. We’re not going to
let that happen. (applause) For way too long, we’ve had
a financial system that was stacked against
ordinary Americans. Banks on Wall Street played by
different rules than businesses on Main Street. They played by different rules
than a lot of community banks who were doing the right
thing across the country — hidden fees, fine print that
led consumers to make financial decisions that they
didn’t always understand. Richard and I,
before we came here, had an opportunity to visit with
a wonderful elderly couple — the Easons. And Mr. Eason is
a former Marine, served in the Korean War. Ms. Eason makes a really
good sweet potato pie. She gave me one. (applause) I’m going to eat
it later, after. (laughter) I didn’t want to eat it before
because I didn’t want to get sleepy having a big piece
of pie right before. (laughter) But their story was the story of
a lot of folks in this region, where a mortgage
broker came to them, said that they could do some
home repair for a few thousand dollars, and they ended
up getting scammed; the loans got flipped. They ended up owing $80,000,
almost losing their home, and the repairs were never made. Those kinds of practices,
that’s not who we are. We cannot allow people
to be taken advantage of. And it’s not just because it’s
bad for those individuals. All that risky behavior led —
helped to contribute to the economic crisis that we’re all
still digging ourselves out of. All those subprime loans,
all those foreclosures, all the problems in
the housing market — that’s all contributing to an
economy that’s not moving as fast as we want it. And that’s why, last year,
we put in place new rules — new rules of the road to make
sure that a few bad apples in the financial sector
can’t break the law, they can’t cheat consumers, they
can’t put our entire economy in danger. And many of these provisions
are already starting to make a difference. For the first time in history,
we put in place a consumer watchdog — someone whose only
job is to look out for the interests of everyday Americans. And we are so fortunate to have
somebody like Richard who’s willing to do it, despite
great sacrifice to his family. He’s the right man for the job. (applause) So if you’re a student — I see
some young people out here — (applause) — his job will be to protect
you from dishonest lending practices and to make sure that you’ve got the information you need on student loans. (applause) He has already started
up an initiative called “Know Before You Owe.” (laughter) That’s a good slogan —
“Know Before You Owe.” You don’t want to
owe and then know. (laughter) If you’re a veteran, he’ll help
make sure that you aren’t taken advantage of when you’re coming
home from serving your country. And it turns out that military
families are some of the folks who are most vulnerable to
some of these financial abuses. If you’re a senior, Richard
is going to help make sure you don’t lose your home or your
retirement because somebody saw you as an easier target. And that’s what
happened to the Easons. Endia, who I think is here
— Ms. Eason, are you here? You’re somewhere here. There’s — Ms.
Eason is down there. Ninety-one years old. (applause) And as I mentioned, Ms.
Eason’s husband, William, is a former Marine —
also a former boxer. So don’t mess with him. (laughter) And I just want to repeat, 10
years ago they were approached by a broker who offered them a
loan to make needed repairs on their home; made
everything sound easy. The Easons agreed. Broker ended up disappearing. They get left with $80,000 in
debt, almost lose their home. They didn’t lose it because
of the intervention of some terrific non-for-profits
that Richard, when he was treasurer here
in Ohio, helped to support. (applause) East Side — that’s right. (applause) Now, the Easons are good people. They’re what America
is all about. They worked hard. They served their country. They saved their money. They didn’t live
high on the hog. It’s a modest house. They earned the right to retire
with dignity and with respect, and they shouldn’t have to worry
about being tricked by somebody who’s out to make a quick buck. And they need somebody who is
going to stand up for them, and millions of Americans need
somebody who is going to look out for their interests. And that person is
Richard Cordray. (applause) And we know what would happen
if Republicans in Congress were allowed to keep holding
Richard’s nomination hostage. More of our loved ones would
be tricked into making bad financial decisions. More dishonest lenders could
take advantage of some of the most vulnerable families. And the vast majority of
financial firms who do the right thing would be undercut
by those who don’t. See, most people in the
financial services industry do the right thing, but they’re
at a disadvantage if nobody is enforcing the rules. We can’t let that happen. Now is not the time to play
politics while people’s livelihoods are at stake. Now is the time to do everything
we can to protect consumers, prevent financial crises like
the one that we’ve been through from ever happening again. That starts with letting
Richard do his job. So I know — let me just
close by saying this. I know that you’re hearing a
lot of promises from a lot of politicians lately. Today you’re only going
to hear one from me. As long as I have the privilege
of serving as your President, I promise to do everything I
can every day, every minute, every second, to make sure this
is a country where hard work and responsibility mean something
and everybody can get ahead. Not just those at the very top,
not just those who know how to work the system, but everybody. That’s what America
has always been about. That’s what America is going to
be about today and tomorrow and 10 years from now and
20 years from now. And with the help of people
like Richard Cordray, that’s the country
that we will always be. Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United
States of America. (applause) ♪♪(music playing)♪♪

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