WASHINGTON - President Obama on Tuesday night touted his administration's financial services rules, called for steps to benefit the middle class such as lower Federal Housing Administration premiums and reiterated support for legislation to address cyber threats.
Obama's State of the Union address was light on details about his financial services policies. But in a speech declaring that "the shadow of crisis has passed," Obama still touched on issues relevant to bankers as part of broader themes.
He pledged not to sign legislation to further roll back reforms passed during his tenure, including financial rules.
"We can't put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we've a got a system to fix," Obama said. "And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto."
Obama included the Dodd-Frank Act and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau among policies that, he said, had critics but have proved workable in a now-growing economy.
"We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition," he said. "Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices."
More concrete policies of interest to banks and other financial institutions had been unveiled in the days and weeks leading up to Tuesday's address than were mentioned in the speech itself. For example, as part of changes the administration is proposing for the tax code, the White House recently called for a 7-basis-point fee on liabilities for the largest financial firms, reviving an idea Obama has raised in the past. But the speech left out mention of a bank tax, instead referencing his tax proposals with a broader brush.
"Let's close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top one percent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth," he said. "We can use that money to help more families pay for childcare and send their kids to college. We need a tax code that truly helps working Americans trying to get a leg up in the new economy, and we can achieve that together."
He also mentioned lower FHA premiums among steps to help the middle class. Earlier this month, Obama announced a 37% cut in the FHA's annual premium, to 85 basis points, during a speech in Phoenix.
"Things like child care and sick leave and equal pay; things like lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage - these ideas will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families," Obama said. "That is a fact. And that's what all of us - Republicans and Democrats alike - were sent here to do."
Of particular note to banks, Obama also used the speech to continue to press lawmakers to pass legislation to improve cyber security. In the days leading up to the speech, the administration had unveiled numerous cybersecurity initiatives as the recent massive breach at Sony Pictures has magnified the need for cyber safeguards. They included support for legislation requiring banks and merchants to inform consumers about a cyber-attack within 30 days, and a proposal to improve information-sharing between the public and private sectors.
"I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children's information," Obama said. "If we don't act, we'll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe."