The Quiet Fact That Obama Should SHOUT About

Two articles published late yesterday in the New York Times, when juxtaposed with each other, pretty much encapsulate my frustration with this campaign.  One, titled “New Federal Rules for Debt Collectors,” by Edward Wyatt, reports:

Debt collection agencies, whose sometimes aggressive tactics have earned them scrutiny from consumer protection groups and state regulators, will come under federal supervision for the first time beginning Jan. 2, when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau begins oversight.

The next several paragraphs of the article say:

In addition to companies that specialize in collecting money from consumers for personal, family or household debt, the consumer bureau will begin monitoring debt collectors that contract with the Education Department to collect overdue student loans. The department has more than $850 billion in student loans outstanding, officials said.

“Millions of consumers are affected by debt collection, and we want to make sure they are treated fairly,” Richard Cordray, the director of the consumer bureau, said in a statement issued before the public release of the bureau’s rules on Wednesday. “We want all companies to realize that the better business choice is to follow the law — not break it.”

The authority to oversee debt collection agencies comes under the portion of the Dodd-Frank regulatory law that deals with so-called nonbank financial companies.

The consumer agency will examine companies to ensure that they properly identify themselves to consumers and properly disclose the amount of debt owed. In addition, collectors must have a process to resolve disputes and communicate “civilly and honestly” with consumers.

Wow, I said to myself when I read the article last night.  Obama will mention this when he campaigns in Ohio, in Virginia, in Nevada.  Especially, please, in Ohio and Nevada. And all of us who are on the “list-serve” of the campaign will receive notice of the article.  Or at least of the fact that the article is about.

But we didn’t.  Instead, we received a lot of stuff about the Mourdock controvery and about Romney’s refusal to withdraw his support of Mourdock.  Which was fine, but not to the exclusion of the subject of the Wyatt article.

Wyatt is not a political reporter or pundit.  He’s a hard-news reporter, and in that article he reported hard facts.  Katharine Q. Seelye, who wrote the other Times article that got my attention, is a political reporter.  Her article is titled “Crucial Subset: Female Voters Still Deciding,” and it focuses on what she terms “waitress moms.”  Seelye’s report is from New Hampshire.

Indeed.  What Obama needs most in swing states such as Ohio, Nevada, Virginia and New Hampshire is to have white so-called working-class voters—men and woman—step into the voting booth and quietly, maybe even suddenly, decide to vote for him.  And the way to do that, at least with respect to those whose main concern is their own precarious economic situation, is to highlight concrete facts that actually could matter all-too-concretely in their lives. 

Like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other important legislation and regulations that limits the power of banks and other financial institutions, and that Romney surely will try to reverse.  What about the law that became effective in the summer of 2011 that significantly limits bank fees, for example on checking account inadvertent overdrafts—something that matters even to people who are not waitress moms?

PrioritiesUSA, the pro-Obama PAC, has a new ad that I love.  But so many of the pro-Obama ads lately have left me really frustrated, because they mostly focus on some particular phrase rather than on making a point of fact.  Slate yesterday had an article about Romney’s infamous Nov. 18, 2008 “Let Detroit Fail” New York Times op-ed, and that a huge number of people accepted Romney’s and Obama’s Monday-night invitation to check out the op-ed itself.  In a comment to the Slate article, I wrote:

What bothers me even more than that Romney is lying about what his position is is that this is the guy who claims that his business expertise shows that he knows how to create 12 million jobs.  
This guy who thought a federal bailout by the Bush administration to tide the companies over, and who thought that the bailout in early 2009, would virtually guarantee the demise of the Big Three, is so adept at understanding business and how to create jobs that he should become president, on that basis??? 
Why on earth the Obama campaign isn’t putting up ads on this is a real mystery to me.

To which someone responded that the campaign was doing just that in Michigan and Ohio. To which I replied:

No, the ads focus only on the “Let Detroit go bankrupt” language–which lets Romney get away with doing an “It depends on what the meaning of ‘bankruptcy’ is” routine. That’s soooo not enough to make Obama’s point.

The polls now are looking like enough people are figuring this out for themselves; the op-ed speaks for itself, quite well, thank you very much.  And Obama’s current focus on trust—pointing out that the words “trust” and “Romney” are mutually exclusive—is terrific.

But Obama could put this election away within the next few days with a few clearly-stated, specific facts of this sort, in ads and in campaign appearances.