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House financial services bill protects consumers

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar submitted the following statement for the record on the passage Friday of HR 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act:

Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This legislation will protect consumers, end the concept that an institution is "too big to fail," and ensure that the American people never again have to be the lifeline for failing Wall Street firms.

The failure of President Bush and a Republican Congress to regulate financial markets and to reign in excessive greed has had devastating consequences for families in northeastern Minnesota and across this country. In short, we have lived through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Irresponsible lending and bets by speculators against the housing market led to a mortgage meltdown that sent the nation into a deep recession. By the fall of 2008, the failure of major Wall Street firms put in jeopardy our entire economy and threatened jobs in every community. Families watched as the value of their college and retirement investments were decimated. Excessive greed threatened the very livelihood of most Americans.

As families in my district have been facing layoffs, stagnant wages and reduced hours, the greed of Wall Street has shown no restraint. Last year, the nation's nine largest banks ran up more than $81 billion in losses, and they accepted tens of billions of dollars in emergency aid from taxpayers. The culture of Wall Street led these institutions to respond with more than $33 billion in bonuses. Where else is such reckless performance so highly rewarded?

Today, the House takes a bold step toward changing the rules of Wall Street. In the e-mails and phone calls that I have received from across Minnesota, my constituents have sent a resounding message. They work hard to earn their pay, to pay their bills, and hopefully, to have a little left over at the end of the month. They play by the rules and expect others to do the same.

This legislation places Wall Street under some of the common-sense rules that people on Main Street live by every day. That means no institution is "too-big-to-fail," failure will not earn a taxpayer-funded bailout, speculators will no longer be able to hide behind an unregulated marketplace, shareholders will be given a say on executive compensation, and consumers will be protected from confusing and abusive financial products.

My constituents have asked me to focus on creating jobs. This legislation is part of that effort, and I am pleased to support this necessary reform.

Jim Oberstar, DFL-8th District, is a member of the U.S. House and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.