Remarks by the President on the Economy
Shaker Heights High School
Shaker Heights, Ohio
1:26 P.M. EST
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 is 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
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 -- 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. 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
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.
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
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?
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.
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 is 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.
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.)
So 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
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
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
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
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.
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