he next battle in “the banking wars,” said Robert Reich in The American Prospect, “will be over credit cards.” President Obama pushed the major credit card lenders Thursday to change unfair lending practices—an astute political move. Americans are still fuming over the bank bailout, even as growing numbers of consumers get caught in the “credit card squeeze.” Getting tough on the banks puts Obama “on the side of the people rather than Wall Street.”
Obama’s proposed changes are actually “rather weak,” said Debra Borchardt in TheStreet.com. He broadly backs cardholder “bill of rights” legislation that would protect against sharp fee and interest rate hikes, and clarify lending terms. But the government “owns major portions” of big lenders like Citibank and Bank of America—couldn’t it just cap rates or something?
Obama’s reforms would have at least one effect: “Fewer people will carry plastic,” said Laurent Belsie in The Christian Science Monitor. “Is that good or bad?” Who knows, but it won't be equal. Poor people will be the first dropped by credit card companies. And if Congress tries to keep things fair with its “bill of rights,” wealthier cardholders will see higher rates and fees.
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