The 2012 Election & Your Credit Cards

By Scott Bilker

It has long been said that people vote with their wallets in presidential elections. The idea is that people will vote for the candidate who they believe has economic policies that will benefit them. Whether it is lowering their taxes, giving their business a subsidy or increasing funding for a federal program they use, voters tend to vote for the candidate who they think will be best for their bank account.

This idea is what shaped the messaging behind Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign (It’s the Economy, Stupid) and Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign (Are you better off than you were four years ago?).

But for voters who are already in hock to banks and credit companies, they may want to be more precise with their vote in this year’s election. What if someone wants to vote with their wallet, specifically the credit cards in their wallet, in 2012?

[Related article: 7 Reasons to Hate & Love Your Credit Card]

Here is a scorecard for you to determine what the presidential election will mean for you and your credit cards:

In political campaigns, credit cards are usually talked about as a piece of a large financial regulation or reform. Candidates never zero in on credit cards and propose a law or an action that would address the problem of credit card debt in isolation. It is always part of some larger omnibus package that the candidates are either “for” or “against” in its entirety. 2012 will be no exception to this rule.

At issue in the 2012 election will be two pieces of legislation that affect your credit cards: the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the Credit CARD Act of 2009.

A few months before President Obama signed the CARD Act into law, I appeared on CNN to talk about these changes and how credit card banks can still get around them. You can see that video here.

[Related Article: The Best Balance Transfer Credit Card in America]

The contrast is pretty clear. President Obama enacted both of these laws with the help of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and he will proudly defend them in the upcoming campaign. The Republican candidates, specifically Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, oppose both of the laws and have vowed to repeal them if they are elected president.

President Obama and the Democrats argue that these new laws protect consumers from exploitation and the deceptive practices used by the credit card companies. They also claim the bills improve transparency and accountability in the credit card industry with new requirements for explaining their terms and conditions clearly. These provisions, along with increased oversight powers given to Congress, the Department of Justice and the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would seem to protect the average voting credit card customer.