Obama on the Economy

Since I know a lot of people claim to be perturbed by Obama's alleged lack of detailed, specific talk about policy issues, I'm sure all those people took the time to read his speech in Jamesville, Wisconsin on the economy but perhaps not everyone got the chance to take a look at the policy white paper (PDF) associated with the speech. The credit card bill of rights has a lot of appeal:

  • Ban Unilateral Changes: Currently, credit card companies can unilaterally change the terms of a credit card agreement at any time for any reason with only a 15-day notice to the consumer. Barack Obama will ban these unilateral changes in credit card agreements unless companies have obtained written consent from consumers and have followed the rules and terms of the agreement.
  • Apply Interest Rate Increases Only to Future Debt: Credit card companies often apply increased interest rates to both new debt incurred by the cardholder, as well as previously incurred debt. Barack Obama will require increased interest rates to apply only to future credit card debt, and not to debt incurred prior to the increase.
  • Prohibit Interest on Fees: Credit card companies often charge interest on transaction fees, such as late fees or paying a bill by telephone. Barack Obama will prohibit credit card issuers from charging interest on transaction fees.
  • Prohibit “Universal Defaults”: “Universal defaults” are a practice in which a credit card company raises an individual’s interest rate based on failure to pay a different creditor on time. Barack Obama will prohibit this practice.
  • Require Prompt and Fair Crediting of Cardholder Payments: Barack Obama will require credit card issuers to apply payments first to the credit card balance with the highest rate of interest and to minimize finance charges.

But the most substantial proposal from the speech was probably the call for the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank, which I believe is based on a proposal Chris Dodd and Chuck Hagel made back in August 2007. It's a good issue for Obama, since on one level it's a kind of goo-goo process reform question about changing the way the budget works, but on another level it's a very bread-and-butter question of sustaining the demand for workers in the construction sector and building infrastructure to keep America plugging along. Basically, it meshes well with his existing political persona but reaches out to a broader set of concerns than the ones his campaign's usually been associated with.