Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

President Obama official schedule and guidance, May 14, 2009. New Mexico credit card town hall


Office of the Press Secretary
May 13, 2009

THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2009

In the morning, the President will hold a town hall at Rancho Rio High School in New Mexico to discuss credit card reform and the need for greater consumer protections. He will then take questions from the audience. This event is open press.

The President will return to the White House in the afternoon. The arrival on the South Lawn is open press.

In-Town Travel Pool
Wires: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg
Wire Photos: AP, Reuters, AFP
TV Corr & Crew: FOX
Print: The Houston Chronicle
Radio: AURN
Magazine Photo: Newsweek

Out-of-Town Travel Pool
Wires: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg
Wire Photos: AP, Reuters, AFP
TV Corr & Crew: FOX
Print: Washington Post


12:00PM Pool Call Time


10:00AM THE PRESIDENT holds town hall
Rancho Rio High School
Open Press

12:10PM THE PRESIDENT arrives at Kirkland Air Force Base
Kirkland Air Force Base
Open Press

12:15PM THE PRESIDENT departs Kirkland Air Force Base en Route to Andrews Air force Base
Kirkland Air Force Base
Open Press


5:30PM THE PRESIDENT arrives at Andrews Air Force Base
Andrews Air Force Base
Out-of-Town Travel Pool

5:40PM THE PRESIDENT departs Andrews Air Force Base en route to the White House
Andrews Air Force Base
Out-of-Town Travel Pool

5:50PM THE PRESIDENT arrives at the White House
South Lawn
Open Press (Pre-Set 5:20PM - Final Gather 5:35PM - North Doors of the Palm Room)

Rio Rancho High School Gymnasium
Rio Rancho, New Mexico
10:00 am MDT

On Thursday President Obama will hold a town hall meeting at Rio Rancho, New Mexico where he will discuss the immediate need to reform the credit card industry and his commitment to signing the Credit Card Bill of Rights into law by Memorial Day.

President Obama has been a strong proponent of cleaning up the practices of the credit card industry since he was a Senator, and he called for measures to strengthen consumer protections during the campaign. And last month, he met with representatives from the credit card industry to discuss the impact of the current economic crisis on consumers and the need to better protect the nearly 80 percent of American households that use credit cards.

The audience (2,300) will be made up of area residents -- including approximately 50 local credit cardholders who have submitted letters and emails to the President sharing their frustrations with the credit card industry -- state/local elected officials and other community leaders.


· Father James Andrew Wolff will deliver the Invocation. Wolff serves at the Santa Maria de la Paz Catholic Church in Santa Fe.

· Fermin Rivera will lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Rivera enlisted in the US Army in 1948 and is the recipient of a Purple Heart and Silver Star for his valor and bravery. He is an active member of the Korean War Veterans Association and the American Legion Post 13 in Albuquerque. He is a retired construction and railroad worker and has lived in New Mexico all his life.
· The Rio Rancho High School Choir trio will sing the National Anthem. The trio is made up of Rebecca La Ree Keraly (18), Megan Brook Costello (17), and Melissa Eileen Eisenberg (18).
· Christine "Chris" Lardner will introduce the President. Lardner is a resident of Albuquerque where her husband (Scott) owns a small family business. Together they have three children, two daughters in college at Regis University in Denver (Danielle, 20 and Caitlin, 18) and a son in 7th grade (Sean, 13). As a result of the economic downturn they have resorted to paying for some of their daughters' education with a credit card. Close to reaching the card limit, Lardner contacted the college to change the card on file; however the school charged another payment to the original card, which then put her above the limit and as a result the credit card company more than tripled her rate to nearly 30 percent. Historically responsible with her finances and payments Lardner last week submitted a letter online to the President about her frustration with the rate hikes leveled as a result of the mistaken charge. Once President Obama signs the credit card reform bill issuers will not be allowed to raise interest rates on existing balances, giving Lardner confidence in her ability to manage her debt at the original interest rate.

Below is some background on the impact of credit cards on American families.

Prevalence of credit card debt:
· Credit card debt has increased significantly in the past decade. Credit card debt has increased by 25 percent in the past 10 years, and reached $963B in January 2009. (Federal Reserve 2009)

· More than three-quarters of families have credit cards and close to half carry a balance. Seventy-eight percent of U.S. families have a credit card, and 44 percent of families carried a balance on their credit card. (Nielsen 2008, Federal Reserve 2008)
· Families carry significant credit card debt. The average amount of credit card debt among families with a balance was $7,300 in 2007 (the median was $3,000). (Federal Reserve, 2008)
· Delinquency rates have increased by more than a third since the end of 2006. The number of accounts more than 30 days late has increased from 3.9% in the fourth quarter of 2006, to 5.6% in the fourth quarter of 2008. (FFIEC, 2008)
Credit card fees and interest rates are extremely high:
· Issuers collect $15B annually in penalty fees. Penalty fees on credit cards are around $15 billion annually, an estimated 10 percent of total credit card industry revenues. (Calculation based on GAO 2006 and Federal Reserve 2009)

· One-fifth of those carrying credit card debt pay an interest rate above 20 percent. Ninety-percent of issuers assessed variable rate cards and an estimated one-fifth were charged interest rates above 20 percent (GAO 2006).



Sure wish Mr. Obama's staffers would learn how to properly recognize our nation's military bases. It's Kirtland AFB, not Kirkland...


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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