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Read the full text of President Obama's economic speech in Kansas

December 06, 2011

Some of you may know, my grandmother worked as a banker for most of her life -- worked her way up, started as a secretary, ended up being a vice president of a bank.  And I know from her, and I know from all the people that I've come in contact with, that the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals, they want to do right by their customers.  They want to have rules in place that don't put them at a disadvantage for doing the right thing.  And yet, Republicans in Congress are fighting as hard as they can to make sure that these rules aren't enforced.  

I'll give you a specific example.  For the first time in history, the reforms that we passed put in place a consumer watchdog who is charged with protecting everyday Americans from being taken advantage of by mortgage lenders or payday lenders or debt collectors.  And the man we nominated for the post, Richard Cordray, is a former attorney general of Ohio who has the support of most attorney generals, both Democrat and Republican, throughout the country.  Nobody claims he's not qualified.

But the Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm him for the job; they refuse to let him do his job.  Why?  Does anybody here think that the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors?

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  Of course not.  Every day we go without a consumer watchdog is another day when a student, or a senior citizen, or a member of our Armed Forces -- because they are very vulnerable to some of this stuff -- could be tricked into a loan that they can't afford -- something that happens all the time.  And the fact is that financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interests.  Consumers deserve to have someone whose job it is to look out for them.  (Applause.)  And I intend to make sure they do.  (Applause.)  And I want you to hear me, Kansas:  I will veto any effort to delay or defund or dismantle the new rules that we put in place.  (Applause.)

We shouldn't be weakening oversight and accountability.  We should be strengthening oversight and accountability.  I'll give you another example.  Too often, we've seen Wall Street firms violating major anti-fraud laws because the penalties are too weak and there's no price for being a repeat offender.  No more.  I'll be calling for legislation that makes those penalties count so that firms don't see punishment for breaking the law as just the price of doing business.  (Applause.)

The fact is this crisis has left a huge deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street.  And major banks that were rescued by the taxpayers have an obligation to go the extra mile in helping to close that deficit of trust.  At minimum, they should be remedying past mortgage abuses that led to the financial crisis.  They should be working to keep responsible homeowners in their home.  We're going to keep pushing them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to look for work without having to worry about immediately losing their house.

The big banks should increase access to refinancing opportunities to borrowers who haven't yet benefited from historically low interest rates.  And the big banks should recognize that precisely because these steps are in the interest of middle-class families and the broader economy, it will also be in the banks' own long-term financial interest.  What will be good for consumers over the long term will be good for the banks.  (Applause.)   

Investing in things like education that give everybody a chance to succeed.  A tax code that makes sure everybody pays their fair share.  And laws that make sure everybody follows the rules.  That's what will transform our economy.  That's what will grow our middle class again.  In the end, rebuilding this economy based on fair play, a fair shot, and a fair share will require all of us to see that we have a stake in each other's success.  And it will require all of us to take some responsibility.  

It will require parents to get more involved in their children's education.  It will require students to study harder.  (Applause.)  It will require some workers to start studying all over again.  It will require greater responsibility from homeowners not to take out mortgages they can't afford.  They need to remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.  

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