Updated 5:45 p.m. Wednesday
President Barack Obama today to announce the appointment of Richard Cordray, who will run the new consumer protection agency.
Obama told a crowd at Shaker Heights High School that people need a consumer watchdog to defend and advocate for them.
"For way too long, we’ve had a financial system that was stacked against ordinary Americans," Obama said. Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, accompanied the president on the trip.
“Does anybody think the reason we got in such a financial mess, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in a generation, that the reason was because of too much oversight of the financial industry?” Obama asked. People booed in response.
“Of course not. We shouldn’t be weakening oversight … we should be strengthening it, especially when it comes to looking out for families like yours.”
He said he nominated Cordray for the job last summer, but Republicans in the Senate denied his confirmation. Obama bypassed Elizabeth Warren, the woman who helped form the agency and is now running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, for Cordray.
"When Congress refuses to act, and as a result, hurts our economy and puts our people at risk, then I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them," Obama said.
He mentioned Endia and William Eason, whom he and Cordray visted on their way to the event, as an example of people who've been tricked by dishonest lending practices. The couple was scammed by a mortgage broker and ended up owing $80,000 for home repairs that were never made, he said.
"Every day that Richard waited to be confirmed, and we were pretty patient ... was another day where millions of Americans were left unprotected. Because without a director in place, the consumer watchdog agency that we've set up doesn't have all the tools it needs to protect consumers against dishonest mortgage brokers. Or payday lenders and debt collectors who are taking advantage of consumers. And that's inexcusable. It's wrong. And I refuse to take no for an answer."
Marti Franks, 66, of Twinsburg, said she was surprised and relieved that Obama made the Cordray announcement today.
"I've advocated for Richard Cordray for years. To have a man with that much ability just sitting there, gathering dust, while they argue about whether or not they enact a law that's so obviously necessary in this economic time," Franks said, shaking her head.
The president's visit Wednesday was his third trip to Ohio in five months, an illustration of how important the state will be to his re-election effort. Obama also visited Shaker Heights High School in July 2009.
"It's such an honor to have him at our school a second time," said Katie Inglis, a 17-year-old senior at Shaker Heights High. "This is important because we are children of the economy, and we need to understand how the economy works."
The White House invited all Shaker seniors to the event, and nearly 400 attended. The Shaker Heights Fire Marshal estimates that about 1,300 people were there.
Shaker Heights senior Alena Payne kicked off the afternoon by leading the Pledge of Allegiance, and senior Jonah Weinstein sang the National Anthem. The Shaker Heights Jazz Combo — the most advanced students in the school's jazz band — entertained the crowd, who waited about three hours for Obama to speak.
Before the event, White House officials billed it as speech to tout and the job market, including ways to use his executive power to help despite congressional foot dragging.
The president’s remarks "will be focused on the economy and on what he can do as president to deliver on his promise to do everything he can to help the middle class, grow the economy and create jobs,” press secretary Jay Carney told the Washington Post on Tuesday.
Obama emphasized at the beginning and at the end of his speech that people who work hard should be rewarded, which is why he fought to ensure the payroll tax cut was extended for two months past its Dec. 31 expiration date.
"As long as I have the privilege of serving as your president, I promise to do everything that I can every day, every minute, every second, to make sure this is a country where hard work and responsibility mean something. And everybody can get ahead. Not just those at the very top, not just those who know how to work the system, but everybody."