Face it. There aren’t very many politicians on the national stage willing to stand up to our corporate and Wall Street overlords. So, when one runs for President, they tend to get their feathers ruffled a bit. When Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, running the most popular campaign for President in history, stopped by Manhattan on Tuesday to threaten FDR-like reforms, the big-money beaks bawked back.
While Wall Street enemy number one, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren hasn’t endorsed anyone yet, she was quick to praise Bernie Sanders for such a powerful line in the sand against big banks and speculative traders, even if she just-as-quickly remembered her place in the DNC and then offered praise to all Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Gensler, Hillary Clinton’s chief financial officer and advocate for deregulation from within Bill Clinton’s administration, was among the first to attack Sanders over his speech by emailing Clinton supporters. What he didn’t share was that it was Sanders who worked to stop Gensler from getting a government regulatory job as he tried to say Sanders was “hands off” about regulations. Truth has never mattered much to the Clinton camp, especially when it comes to Wall Street.
Countering Gordon Gekko from the movie, Wall Street, Sanders announced to a crowd in midtown Manhattan with several notable Democratic Party delegates in attendance, “Greed is NOT good!” He vowed to break up the big banks as soon as he wins the White House and reiterated his now-famous calling-cry of, “if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.”
“If Teddy Roosevelt, the Republican trust-buster, were alive today, he would say “break ‘em up.” And he would be right.
And, here’s how I will accomplish that.
Within the first 100 days of my administration, I will require the secretary of the Treasury Department to establish a “Too-Big-to Fail” list of commercial banks, shadow banks and insurance companies whose failure would pose a catastrophic risk to the United States economy without a taxpayer bailout.
Within one year, my administration will break these institutions up so that they no longer pose a grave threat to the economy as authorized under Section 121 of the Dodd-Frank Act.
And, I will fight to reinstate a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act to clearly separate commercial banking, investment banking and insurance services. Let’s be clear: this legislation, introduced by my colleague Senator Elizabeth Warren, aims at the heart of the shadow banking system.
In my view, Senator Warren is right. Dodd-Frank should have broken up Citigroup and other “too-big-to-fail” banks into pieces. And that’s exactly what we need to do. And that’s what I commit to do as president.
Now, my opponent, Secretary Clinton, says that Glass-Steagall would not have prevented the financial crisis because shadow banks like AIG and Lehman Brothers, not big commercial banks, were the real culprits.
Secretary Clinton is wrong.
Shadow banks did gamble recklessly, but where did that money come from? It came from the federally-insured bank deposits of big commercial banks – something that would have been banned under the Glass-Steagall Act.
Let’s not forget: President Franklin Roosevelt signed this bill into law precisely to prevent Wall Street speculators from causing another Great Depression. And, it worked for more than five decades until Wall Street watered it down under President Reagan and killed it under President Clinton.”
–Sen. Bernie Sanders
January 5, 2016
Bernie laid down specific ways Wall Street should be reigned in to protect American citizens from another financial meltdown and help end radical income inequality by capping interest rates and ATM fees. Sanders advocated for auditing the Federal Reserve to make sure Wall Street influence hasn’t corrupted the system. The Senator who has vowed to lower the prison populace as President also vowed to jail those in the financial industry who break the law. In short, Bernie was tough, and he addressed the very issues of the economic meltdown featured in the hit movie, The Big Short, as well as the economic unfairness destroying our middle-class. He also made sure to show how these policies and positions are quite different from the milquetoast language on Wall Street reform coming out of the Clinton camp.
He probably would have pointed out position differences from the Republican candidates, but they’re too busy blaming immigrants and stock piling guns to talk about the financial crisis at home. Thus, the right against left contrast points in this debate are only offered by Clinton versus Sanders, respectively.
Hillary Clinton still opposes experts about reinstating Glass-Stegall, the post-Great Depression protection her husband suspended, that many blame for the 2009 financial meltdown, or at least for making it worse. More than half of her PAC donations come from business, and the financial industry is always included in the top five industries. Wall Street insiders make up much of her staff. No wonder she never talks about sending financial criminals to jail. With all that money she takes from private prisons, you would think she could get on board with that.
One of the most interesting areas of Bernie Sanders’ economic reform package is allowing the Post Office to take up banking services. Not only would this save the USPS, but it would help poor people who depend on predatory lenders, paycheck cashing services and other dubious businesses to stay afloat.
I’ve never seen a fair economic playing ground in my lifetime. I don’t know what that looks like, but I sure do like the idea that our nation might strive to create one. The American dream is in a coma, but I believe if we take bold action, like Senator Sanders proposes, we might just breathe new life into that classic Gatsby dream, where even the most common of us can make a better future for themselves and their family. I want that for me. I want that for my loved ones. I want that for my neighbors. I want that for strangers. I want that for you. I want an America where we care for each other and support each other to work towards our dreams. Maybe I’m still naive, but I prefer the term idealist.
I believe we will know by Super Tuesday who the Democratic candidate for President will be, and I believe that the Progressive Revolution is real, making Bernie Sanders that nominee. I believe his new New Deal is energizing masses of people. That’s what strangers told me all across this great country of ours. That’s why he has record rallies, record small donors and people holding parades in his name. Bill Clinton won the Presidency on “It’s the Economy, Stupid,” but his wife/co-president’s last two campaigns for office have been too firmly planted in neoconservatism to garner any real excitement from the mostly progressive Democratic base.
It’s STILL the economy. We’re just not stupid enough to believe it will fix itself anymore, or that Reagan and Clinton style deregulation will get us anywhere but further in the hole. We need a new FDR. We need Bernie Sanders. The last time we elected a Democratic Socialist to the Presidency, they had to amend the Constitution to stop us from reelecting him. THAT is populism. A new populist progressive revolution is coming, this Spring, to a polling place near you. I hope you will join us.
Originally published for TheElizabethian.