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President Obama on Final Passage of Wall Street Reform: An End to Bailouts, a Beginning for Accountability

The President commends those in Congress who stood strong to pass Wall Street Reform against seemingly endless opposition from lobbyists and partisans.

When the President came into office, the scope of the challenges and the change needed to address them seemed overwhelming, and maybe more than Washington could handle.  But one by one, these monstrous challenges are being met, despite fierce opposition from hordes of lobbyists driven by a desire to protect a lucrative status quo and an opposition party driven by politics at any cost.  Indeed, as the President praised final passage of Wall Street Reform today, he was forced to point out that “Already, the Republican leader in the House has called for repeal of this reform.  I would suggest that America can’t afford to go backward and I think that’s how most Americans feel as well.”

With the final version of Wall Street Reform having passed the Senate this afternoon, and the House having passed it weeks ago, the bill now comes to the President’s desk.  The President thanked those in Congress who stood strong, and noted that first and foremost, “Because of this reform, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes.”  But that is only a part of what reform means for the American people, and only part of what makes this almost universally described as the most sweeping reform of Wall Street since the great depression:

If you’ve ever applied for a credit card, a student loan, a mortgage, you know the feeling of signing your name to pages of barely understandable fine print.  It’s a big step for most families, and one that’s often filled with unnecessary confusion and apprehension.  As a result, many Americans are simply duped into hidden fees and loans they just can’t afford by companies who know exactly what they’re doing. 

Those days will soon end.  From now on, every American will be empowered with the clear and concise information you need to make financial decisions that are best for you.  This bill will crack down on abusive practices and unscrupulous mortgage lenders.  It will reinforce the new credit card law we passed banning unfair rate hikes, and ensure that folks aren’t unwittingly caught by overdraft fees when they sign up for a checking account.  It will give students who take out college loans clear information and make sure lenders don’t cheat the system.  And it will ensure that every American receives a free credit score if they are denied a loan or insurance because of that score.  All told, this reform puts in place the strongest consumer financial protections in history, and it creates a new consumer watchdog to enforce those protections. 

Because of this reform, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes.  There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts -- period.  If a large financial institution should ever fail, this reform gives us the ability to wind it down without endangering the broader economy.  And there will be new rules to end the perception that any firm is “too big to fail,” so that we don’t have another Lehman Brothers or AIG. 

Because of reform, the kind of complex, backroom deals that helped trigger this financial crisis will finally be brought into the light of day.  And from now on, shareholders and other executives can know that shareholders will have greater say on the pay of CEOs, so that they can reward success instead of failure, and help change the perverse incentives that encouraged so much reckless risk-taking in the past. 

In short, Wall Street reform will bring greater security to folks on Main Street -- to families who are looking to buy their first home or send their kids to college; to taxpayers who shouldn’t have to pay for somebody else’s mistakes or irresponsibility; to small businesses, community banks and credit unions who play by the rules; to shareholders and investors who want to see their companies grow and thrive.