Kerry Would Appoint Director of 'Pocketbooks'

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) says his administration would include a "pocketbook watchdog" to protect the financial security of consumers and small-time investors.

In a speech to New Hampshire business leaders, Kerry says he would appoint a "director of personal economic security" to protect workers' pensions (search) and retirement benefits, crack down on identity theft (search) and ensure fair housing lending.

The appointee also would oversee efforts to enforce financial consumer protection laws, develop new ways to help people save money and promote programs to educate them about the financial world.

"This will be more than another box on a bureaucratic flow chart," Kerry said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday in Bedford. "I will appoint a powerful advocate whose job - morning, noon and night - will be to look out for the everyday investors who are too often exploited to benefit a powerful few."

The new position is part of Kerry's "workers' bill of rights" - a collection of policy proposals designed to highlight his willingness to stand up to big corporations and defend working people. The package includes his earlier plans to expand health insurance coverage, enforce trade agreements, end corporate welfare and repeal President Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

"But here's what I won't do: I won't raise taxes on the middle class or cut basic benefits for children and older Americans," Kerry said. "Hard working Americans have already had to deal with George Bush - and they don't need more pain."

Workers also have a right to secure retirements, safe workplaces, and fair and equal pay, Kerry said, but instead have suffered under what he called "George Bush's Special Interest Bill of Privileges." Under the Bush administration, Wall Street (search) greed has been met by a "look-the-other-way attitude," Kerry said.

"It's time we had an economy where every worker - from a small cubicle to the corner office - has the same rights," Kerry said. "The workers' bill of rights starts with a government that puts a fair break for workers and the community over a fast break for corporations."

The Director of Personal Economic Security will strengthen financial security by helping workers make better decisions about their retirement savings, Kerry said.

The Massachusetts senator is highlighting economic issues during a two-day trip to New Hampshire. He planned to visit several workplaces Wednesday and Thursday to hear from employees and illustrate his plan.