Senator Bernie Sanders on Occupy Wall Street
The Occupy Wall Street protests are shining a national spotlight on the most powerful, dangerous and secretive economic and political force in America.
If this country is to break out of this horrendous recession and create the millions of jobs we desperately need, if we are going to create a modicum of financial stability for the future, there is no question but that the American people are going to have to take a very hard look at Wall Street and demand fundamental reforms. I hope these protests are the beginning of that process.
Let us never forget that as a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, this country was plunged into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Millions of Americans lost their jobs, homes and life savings as the middle class underwent an unprecedented collapse. Sadly, despite all the suffering caused by Wall Street, there is no reason to believe that the major financial institutions have changed their ways, or that future financial disasters and bailouts will not happen again.
The question now becomes: how do we change the financial system so that it works for all Americans, not just the top one percent?
Here are several proposals that I am working on:
1) If a financial institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. Today, the six largest financial institutiions in America have assets equivalent to 65% of the United States’ GDP – $9.4 trillion dollars. It is time to take a page from Teddy Roosevelt and break up these behemoths so that there will be real competition in the financial industry and, when big banks fail again, there will be no need to bail them out.
2) Put a cap on credit card interest rates to end usury. When credit card companies charge 25- or 30-percent interest rates they are not engaged in the business of “making credit available” to their customers. They are involved in extortion, usury and loan-sharking.
3) The Federal Reserve needs to provide small businesses in America with the same low-interest loans it gave to foreign banks. When Wall Street collapsed, the Fed lent out $16 trillion in low interest loans to central banks around the world and every major financial institution in this country. Now, at a time when small businesses can’t get the loans they need, it is time for the Fed to create millions of American jobs by providing low-interest loans directly to small businesses.
4) Stop Wall Street oil speculators from artificially increasing gasoline and heating oil prices. Wall Street speculators are buying and selling billions of barrels of oil in the energy futures market with no intention of using a drop for any purpose other than to make a quick buck. We have got to end excessive oil speculation and bring needed relief to American consumers in lower oil and gas prices.
5) Demand that Wall Street invest in the job-creating productive economy, instead of gambling on worthless derivatives. The American people have got to make it crystal clear to Wall Street that the era of excessive speculation is over. The “heads, bankers win; tails, everyone else loses” financial system must end.
6) Establish a Wall Street speculation fee on credit default swaps, derivatives, stock options and futures. Both the economic crisis and the deficit crisis are a direct result of the greed and recklessness on Wall Street. Establishing a speculation fee would reduce gambling on Wall Street, encourage the financial sector to invest in the productive economy, and significantly reduce the deficit without harming average Americans.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrators are shining a light on one of the most serious problems facing the United States — the greed and power of Wall Street. Now is the time for the American people to demand that the president and Congress follow that light — and act. The future of our economy is at stake.