Give the man credit: President Barack Obama has come twice this year to Alabama, a state so deeply red that it’s hard to remember that it was once ruled by Democrats. And he didn’t pull punches at his March 26 speech before about 1, 000 people at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham.
“So I’m here, Birmingham, to just acknowledge that I didn’t have UAB making it out of the first round, ” Obama quipped about his NCAA bracket. The Blazers pulled off this year’s first NCAA tournament upset.
Obama’s visit to Birmingham came on the same day that his administration announced new policies to protect working families, including tougher regulations for payday lenders.
“Every year, millions of Americans take out these payday loans — here in Alabama there are four times as many payday lending stores as there are McDonald’s, ” Obama said.
“You take out a $500 loan at the rates that they’re charging in these payday loans — some cases 450 percent interest — you wind up paying more than $1, 000 in interest and fees on the $500 you borrowed.”
Obama praised what he described as a bipartisan effort in Alabama to change the situation. “As Americans, we don’t mind seeing folks make a profit. But if you’re making that profit by trapping hardworking Americans into a vicious cycle of debt, you got to find a new business model.”
The president also mentioned his desire to see the cost of community college attendance brought down to zero, which wasn’t lost on the state’s education community.
“Our visit by President Obama represented a very significant and momentous occasion for Lawson State Community College, ” said Geri H. Albright, director of public relations and community affairs. “We further underscore this significance because we have a president who fully supports and values a community college education and the contributions that our graduates make to society.”
Text by Dave Helms