Populist firebrand Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has made it very clear where his priorities lie. While Republican candidates are obsessed over fearmongering about terrorism and demonizing President Obama for passing commonsense gun reform laws, Sanders held a rally in Manhattan today and declared war against the oligarchs that have corrupted our political system and the Wall Street banks that recklessly gamble with public money, promising to break up the big banks and keep the American people from being exploited by the wealthy.
The American people are catching on. They understand that something is profoundly wrong when, in our country today, the top one-tenth of 1 percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent and when the 20 richest people own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans – half of our population. They know that the system is rigged when the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, while 58 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent.
They also know that a handful of people on Wall Street have extraordinary power over the economic and political life of our country. As most people know, in the 1990s and later, the financial interests spent billions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions to force through Congress the deregulation of Wall Street, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and the weakening of consumer protection laws in states.
In 2008, the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street nearly destroyed the U.S. and global economy.
Millions of Americans lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings.
While Wall Street received the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world with no strings attached, the American middle class continues to disappear, poverty is increasing and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider and wider. And Wall Street executives still receive huge compensation packages as if the financial crisis they created never happened.
Greed, fraud, dishonesty and arrogance, these are the words that best describe the reality of Wall Street today.
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.
It is a landmark speech that puts squarely in perspective what is truly at stake in this election, and highlights what are the real issues facing this nation are. While Republicans insist on distracting us by scapegoating minorities and petty social issues like gay marriage, Bernie Sanders knows that a Republican win would completely undo all of the progress that President Obama has made to rein in the power of Wall Street and the 1%.
Listen to any Bernie Sanders speech and the true threats to America are put into stark perspective. Republican tax cuts and austerity spending cuts are not the answer; neither is crushing the unions that made our nation great and letting multinational corporations run roughshod over our economy. We need a true progressive who will raise wages, break up the big banks, and make the well-being of the American middle class their foremost priority that supersedes all others. Once we restore our middle class to its former glory, many other problems will fall into place.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.