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Sanders writes: "Now that Occupy Wall Street is shining a spotlight against Wall Street greed and the enormous inequalities that exist in America, the question then becomes, how do we change the political, economic and financial system to work for all Americans, not just the top 1 percent?"

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: AP)
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: AP)

Six Demands to Make of Wall Street

By Sen. Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News

12 October 11


Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns


he 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 the 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.

More than three years ago, Congress rewarded Wall Street with the biggest taxpayer bailout in the history of the world. Simultaneously but unknown to the American people at the time, the Federal Reserve provided an even larger bailout. The details of what the Fed did were kept secret until a provision in the Dodd-Frank Act that I sponsored required the Government Accountability Office to audit the Fed's lending programs during the financial crisis.

As a result of this audit, the American people have learned that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in low-interest loans to every major financial institution in this country, huge foreign banks, multi-national corporations, and some of the wealthiest people in the world.

In other words, when Wall Street was on the verge of collapse, the federal government acted boldly, aggressively, and with a fierce sense of urgency to save our financial system from collapse with no strings attached.

Now that the middle class is collapsing and a record-breaking 46 million Americans are living in poverty, the Federal Reserve has failed to act with the same sense of urgency to make sure that small businesses receive the affordable loans needed to put millions of Americans back to work and prevent millions of Americans from losing their homes.

As a result, Wall Street is back to making record-breaking profits, handing out record-breaking compensation packages, and taking the same risks that caused the financial crisis in the first place. Meanwhile, 25 million Americans are unemployed or under-employed; middle class families are making $3,600 less than they did ten years ago; the foreclosure rate is still breaking new records; and the American people are still paying over $3.40 for a gallon of gas.

The financial crisis and the jobs crisis have demonstrated to the American people that we now have a government that is of the 1 percent, by the 1 percent and for the 1 percent, as Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz eloquently articulated. The rest of the 99 percent are, more or less, on their own. We now have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major, advanced country on earth. The top one percent earn more income than the bottom 50 percent and the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans.

Now that Occupy Wall Street is shining a spotlight against Wall Street greed and the enormous inequalities that exist in America, the question then becomes, how do we change the political, economic and financial system to work for all Americans, not just the top 1 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 institutions have assets equal to more than 60 percent of GDP. The four largest banks in this country issue two-thirds of all credit cards, half of all mortgages, and hold nearly 40 percent of all bank deposits. Incredibly, after we bailed out these big banks because they were "too big to fail," three out of the four largest are now even bigger than they were before the financial crisis began. It is time to take a page from Teddy Roosevelt and break up these behemoths so that their failure will no longer lead to economic catastrophe and to create competition in our financial system.

  2. Put a cap on credit card interest rates to end usury. Today, more than a quarter of all credit card holders in this country are paying interest rates above 20 percent and as high as 59 percent. 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 and loan-sharking. Citigroup, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase should not be permitted to charge consumers 25-30 percent interest on their credit cards, especially while these banks received over $4 trillion in loans from the Federal Reserve.

  3. The Federal Reserve needs to provide small businesses in America with the same low-interest loans it gave to foreign banks. During the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve provided hundreds of billions of dollars to foreign banks and corporations including the Arab Banking Corporation, Toyota, Mitsubishi, the Korea Development Bank, and the state-owned Bank of Bavaria. At a time when small businesses can't get the lending 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. Right now, the American people are being gouged at the gas pump by speculators on Wall Street who 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. Delta Airlines, Exxon Mobil, the American Trucking Association, and other energy experts have estimated that excessive oil speculation is driving up oil prices by as much as 40 percent. We have got to end excessive oil speculation and bring needed relief to American consumers.

  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. Most important, we need to create a new Wall Street that exists not to reward CEOs and investors for the bets they make on exotic financial instruments nobody understands. Rather, we need a Wall Street that provides financial services to small businesses and manufacturers to create decent-paying jobs and grow the economy by productive means. Think of all of the productive short- and long-term investments that could be made in our country right now if Wall Street used the money it has received from the federal government wisely. Instead of casino-style speculation, Wall Street could invest in high-speed trains; fuel-efficient cars; wind turbines and other alternative energy sources; affordable housing; affordable prescription drugs that save people's lives; and other things that America desperately needs. That is what we have got to demand from Wall Street.

  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. There are a number of precedents for this. The U.S had a similar Wall Street speculation fee from 1914 to 1966. The Revenue Act of 1914 levied a 0.2 percent tax on all sales or transfers of stock. In 1932, Congress more than doubled that tax to help finance the government during the Great Depression. And today, England has a financial transaction tax of 0.25 percent, a penny on every $4 invested.

Making these reforms will not be easy. After all, Wall Street is clearly the most powerful lobbying force on Capitol Hill. >From 1998 through 2008, the financial sector spent over $5 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions to deregulate Wall Street. More recently, they spent hundreds of millions more to make the Dodd-Frank bill as weak as possible, and after its passage, hundreds of millions more to roll back or diluter the stronger provisions in that legislation.

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the US Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. your social media marketing partner


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+27 # grindermonkey 2011-10-12 19:44
So much to occupy and so little space.
+120 # DavePrice 2011-10-12 19:57
Bearnie Sanders for President.. A Politician that serves his constituents is very rare!
+21 # AndreM5 2011-10-13 09:38
His six point plan is a fantastic start. I fear it is doomed, however, since the only opportunity to make it happen was prior to the TARP. This is yet another gift from GWB, the tragedy that keeps on giving. The Banksters already have our $16-18 trillion and they use it well to buy policy.
+3 # PhilO 2011-10-13 11:38
Quoting DavePrice:
Bearnie Sanders for President.. A Politician that serves his constituents is very rare!

I note the typo you made in spelling his name (it should be BERNIE)... does this mean you're BULLish on BEARnie? :-)
+52 # Kayjay 2011-10-12 21:45
Thanks again to Sen. Sanders for making his six key points for change on Wall Street. And we all agree with him that our government serves only the one percent crowd. When Wall Street was broke the government coffers gushed open. And now that the middle class is fizzling away, only the sound of crickets chirping emanates from those same offices. Only the one percent matter. We know they have been hogging the trough for more than 30 years. Nothing changes. After the King riots, our government promised to help build up East L.A. Nothing changed, except fatter portfolios for those one percenters. After Katrina, our government promised to rebuild the lower 9th ward. Nothings changed, except for those bailouts. As they say the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Right now, the Occupy Wall Street may be square. But with a lot of noise from us, maybe it will round out and really get rolling. P.S. send those on front lines dried fruit!
+58 # objectiveobserver 2011-10-12 22:27
Wow. The whole tone of the political discourse has been altered since the beginning of the OWS protests. The truth is finally coming out. It is great to witness. This is a fantastic proposal by Sen. Sanders. Makes me wish I could live in Vt. The last paragraph should be repeated over and over again until it sinks in. It is proof of the destruction of our democracy. One comment about the idea that govt should provide small biz loans... If the govt is run by the corporations, it is logical that govt would not help small business. Corporations, by their very nature are anti- small business.
+66 # wrodwell 2011-10-12 22:30
Hey, Bernie! As usual, you're a voice crying in the wilderness (Congress). Let's form a People's Party and forget about the Democrats and Republicans. The first order of business would be to nominate Bernie Sanders for President and Elizabeth Warren for Vice-President. For a start, we can recruit supporters among the unemployed and the protesters on Wall Street.
+23 # mickeynow 2011-10-13 06:55
This is a great idea. Rally around people and let's get started. Bernie and Elizabeth could save the USA if they can get enough money to fight off the wolves at the front door. Oh, and the ones at the back door, too.
+31 # Grouchy 2011-10-12 22:36
Great analysis, great suggestions! Now will the politicos take these ideas and use them? Hell no! This is the ABSOLUTE PROOF that the entire system is owned by those who are causing the abuses Bearnie is speaking of here--and that they don't have the slightest interest in us common citizens--that is, until we can threaten them by voting against THEIR interests and boot out their shills in Congress.
+29 # angelfish 2011-10-12 22:44
Good Luck getting the Fascist ReTHUGlicans and "Blue Dog" Dumbocrats to go for ANY of that Bernie, but I appreciate your having said it anyway! If these MORONS running the show in Washington DON'T start reading the Hand-writing on the wall soon, they WILL pay dearly some day SOON! History will NOT be kind to them. On the OTHER hand, Bernie, YOU should be enshrined on Mount Rushmore to remind us ALL of what a REAL American Senator looks like in the 21st Century! God Bless you for speaking TRUTH to the WILLFULLY Deaf in Congress. They're not listening but WILL live to regret it! The People UNITED will NEVER be defeated! Justice WILL be served on Election Day 2012!
+7 # Yakpsyche 2011-10-12 22:51
All of these are fine proposals. How do you intend to make them come true?
0 # Vermonster 2011-10-19 18:07
For starters, move your money to a local bank and/or credit union.

And while we are at it, let’s boycott sociopath Koch brother's products. Here is a short list of those that are commonly encountered:

Angel Soft toilet paper
Brawny paper towels
Dixie plates, bowls, napkins and cups
Mardi Gras napkins and towels
Quilted Northern toilet paper
Soft 'n Gentle toilet paper
Sparkle napkins
Vanity fair napkins
Zee napkins

Below is a link to a more complete list:

Corporations Are NOT People! Money Is NOT Speech!
+42 # acohen8919 2011-10-12 23:18
Thank God for Bernie Sanders - a clear voice amidst all the money-massaging bullshit we hear from nearly all politicians. We need to support Elizabeth Warren to gain another voice of clarity and truth into congress.
+19 # bluebluesdancer 2011-10-12 23:29
No...not Bernie Sanders. He is proposing some changes, but the same old system, which is a lose-lose system for US.
Dennis Kucinich (you remember him... he's the one full of good, sensible ideas that everyone ignores) has put together a REAL plan. It is Bill #HR 2990 called the "NEED Act"
What can a government money system do for all of us? Both the American Monetary Institute's American Monetary Act (AMA) and Congressman Dennis Kucinich's National Emergency Employment Defense (NEED, HR 6550) Act outline the opportunities. It could pay for what the American Society of Civil Engineers describes as the $2.2 trillion in needed national infrastructure repairs over the next five years. That ends unemployment!
It also gets rid of taxes.
+21 # Financial Slave 2011-10-13 00:56
Thanks for the great comment. The American Monetary Act is definitely the right course of action to take. It is imparative that the people take back their money system as you suggest. Constitution: Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 5, "Congress shall have power to coin money and regulate the value thereof..." Even Bernie Sanders agrees with you. It is merely a matter of how much can be chewed at one time. Bernie is on the right course, but takes smaller bites. But he supports your suggestion--as we all should--just the same.
That's good thinking!
+28 # MainStreetMentor 2011-10-13 05:57
Instead of Kucinich in PLACE OF Sanders, why not Kucinich AND Sanders, together?
+47 # DUKETYPE 2011-10-12 23:42
Tax corporations that offshore jobs!
+23 # Paul Scott 2011-10-13 00:50
The only thing that Wall Street will feel is the OWS crowd growing in numbers. If we go weak now Wall Street will double its crimes.
+5 # pbbrodie 2011-10-14 08:29
Quoting Paul Scott:
The only thing that Wall Street will feel is the OWS crowd growing in numbers. If we go weak now Wall Street will double its crimes.

Mayor Bloomberg is evicting the occupiers this morning. Everyone needs to start raising absolute hell NOW or it will soon be over!!!
+15 # seeuingoa 2011-10-13 01:27
Dear Bernie
Please get on a ticket with Elizabeth Warren for the election in 2012.

You won´t need campaign money as you already have all the 99% votes.

We need you both urgently so please use the very special moment we have now.
+31 # Peace Anonymous 2011-10-13 04:21
There are more demands, not necessarily of Wall Street, but of the system that supports it. #1.How about an end to campaign contributions and lobbyists? This is essentially the purchasing of political favoritism. The Regan - Carter election was funded by tax dollars. There were no campaign contibutions. Go back to that. If the corporations are using their wealth now to buy politicians why not tax them and use those funds to hold elections? Take the power and control for democracy away from the corporations and put it back where it belongs - with the people.
#2. Break up the media monopolies. One of the first things Hitler did after being elected in 1933 was to gain control of the media. 25 years ago the media was owned by thousands of people and today, thanks to changes in legislation designed to protect the people from this, only a handful of people control the media. The truth and the integrity has disappeared in the process. We want our voice back.
+10 # Regina 2011-10-13 15:07
The fly in the ointment, or the elephant in the room, is the ruinous expense of election advertising. The networks are at least as voracious as the banks -- do we need an Occupy 30 Rock??? Even though the TV channels are federal property, assigned with licenses for their use, the rates are cosmological (bigger than astronomical). The national interest must be met with time slots assigned for election campaigns, equitably distributed. But there is no such move in sight. We are totally owned.
+10 # MainStreetMentor 2011-10-13 04:52
The suggestions made are things we, as a nation, can – and should – address. But I don’t see them as the root cause, but rather as major symptoms of a larger issue. The cancer here is: Greed. Avarice and Greed are mindsets, and until those mindsets are diluted or removed through whatever legal means, there will always be the malfeasance we see today on Wall Street and within the banking and credit industries.
+8 # jon 2011-10-13 08:26
"Greed. Avarice and Greed are mindsets, and until those mindsets are diluted or removed through whatever legal means, there will always be the malfeasance we see today on Wall Street "

There has always been greed, there will always be greed, even animals display greed. There is no "removing" greed.

Greed can only be regulated, and penalized/criminalized.

Somebody said - I can't remember who - "blaming the financial meltdown on greed is like blaming airplane crashes on gravity".
+7 # pbbrodie 2011-10-14 08:32
You can't control gravity but you can control greed. You can't get rid of it but you can at a minimum regulate it to death!
+19 # RLF 2011-10-13 05:47
How about limiting the CEO/lowest paid worker ratio. It has gotten crazy and the benefit goes to CEOs that ruin companies. There is nothing super about these CEOs...they are only the best self promoters from the good ole boys schools.
+28 # Carolyn 2011-10-13 06:33
Yes! to Dennis Kucinich
Yes! to Bernie Sanders
Yes! to Elizaeth Warrne
Yes! to Rabbi Lerner's "The Network of Spiritual Progressives"
Yes! to every individual, every organizational contribution for the good of the whole
Yes! to you and me
+16 # seniorcitizen 2011-10-13 09:12
If the protesters, who I consider the unpaid lobbyists for our country get large enough, with growing numbers all across the country, I believe it will bring about policy changes in Congress. It seems that writing and calling our congressmen for what we want (the 99%) of us,is going nowhere.There has to be a great enough force for a long enough time
(as long as it takes) to show that we are going to get this country back on the right track. America has been too complacent and now it is time for "hands on" to take away the power of the banking corporations. Rally and protest,take the bull by the horns. Demand Congress to act on jobs, instead of bailouts for big banks.We want the money back that they stole.
+11 # skydog70 2011-10-13 09:26
My one request Bernie, please is REPEAL THE TAFT-HARTLEY ACT.... It was my ANCESTORS the Hartleys from NEW JERSEY, who put that into Place in the 40's and it was Truman who vetoed it and made sure it never took effect in occupied Germany--- And now look at them- a powerhouse and a good country.
+10 # pbbrodie 2011-10-14 08:52
This is a terrific suggestion and really needs to gain traction. When you make comments such as this, you should try to provide a little bit more information about exactly what Taft-Hartley is and why it is so detrimental to worker's rights. One thing that should be expressly pointed out about it is that it was the nail in the coffin for union membership and started the long slide that effectively removed unions from the national discourse. Finally, Harry Truman prophetically stated that the Taft-Hartley Act would be ruinous for our nation and vetoed the bill when passed by Congress, which was subsequently overridden. Taft-Hartley was the first shot fired in the continuing class warfare of corporations against the middle class and it's repeal is an essential step in regaining worker's rights in this country. It should be pointed out that Germany still has a strong, profitable manufacturing industry AND strong unions with good pay for the employees.
+14 # seniorcitizen 2011-10-13 10:53
Mr Sanders, your proposals are sound. Thanks you for the work that you are doing in Congress. We need a leader who will get things done. Some are proposing that you run on the ticket for 2012 for President. Do you think that you can accomplish more in Congress, or as President of the USA? You have been around a long time and know how Washington works.Could you break the gridlock that the Republicans and Democrats are in and get things rolling again if you were President? Could you win on a 3 way ticket? Your proposals need to be addressed in the public forum
and the best way to get people listening
is to go center stage and run as a presidential candidate.
+12 # Nominae 2011-10-13 15:01
Dear Senator Sanders - As an adjunct to your first demand, the breakup of the "too big to exist" banks, let us please reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act.

In addition, let's also consider the breakup of these recently formed Media Monopolies, and restore the "Fairness In Broadcasting Act".

These steps would be excellent "place holders" serving as a stop gap until these young people in New York, and now their compatriots all over the world, determine the totally *new* systems of economics, government, politics and collective human interaction that will fully and finally replace the old paradigm that has been in place since we as a species first climbed down out of the trees.
+6 # bobby t. 2011-10-13 16:27
the ralph nadar effect. i would love to vote for bernie, elizabeth and dennis, but i remember 2000, where i was the democratic whip in my huge condo. we got out 99 percent of the registered voters in broward county florida. that was the highest in the country. gore still lost to bush. the one percent nadar vote was the difference. in 2008 obama got 51 million votes to 49 million votes to a ticket with sarah palin on it. that is only one percent difference, and this result after having the horrible experience of bush cheney for eight years. one percent.the nadar effect would happen again. no president is a messiah my friends, but some can be pure evil. i will not vote for someone who probably will be wonderful in pure political terms, but will only take away the only massive effect we have, the democratic party. i am an independent, but in florida there is no independent primary, and i was told not to register as an independent when i first came down here as i would have no voice in the primaries. remember ralph. and bush.then think clearly. and yeah, i know....
+14 # old cynic 2011-10-13 17:54
I fear a revolution will be required to change the system that favors the 1% at the expense of the 99%.
+8 # pbbrodie 2011-10-14 08:55
AND, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised!"
+5 # 2011-10-14 11:52
Mr Sanders, Let's create public banks and take away their power. Demanding something of the banksters seems like asking them to be good people. We know otherwise. But, taking away their power leaves no guess work behind. Public banks that invest in local schools, local housing, local jobs, etc., and the interest from these loans comes back to the public, not the 1%. North Dakota did it in 1929 and they're almost unaffected by these banksters' follies.
+7 # noitall 2011-10-14 14:22
Excellent advice, as usual, from Bernie. At this moment, Republicans are filibustering Obama's jobs bill. Don't want to take away money from "hard workers" to give it to "welfare cases". That's their story and they're sticking with it no matter how debateable it is by someone still capable of critical thinking. Unfortunately for the country and most of us who don't believe that our beliefs are a represented by one of the two Parties, Republicrats and Republicrat-lit es, so-called Democrats aren't all on board either behind their President. Bernie's list of 6 are measures that MUST be taken to save this country are something that I can believe in. Unfortunately, its looking like 'fat chance' time if these A-holes can't find integrity (or shame) to toss the slave class a bone over the fort wall. This country is a far cry from being desperate enough to ram down those walls in demand for what this country is all about. Until then, this once-great country will continue its slide to a feudal state. A MINORITY in this country cheer this direction of gravity the rest of us should join our peers and fill the streets. Abort this monster before it grows fangs and venum.
+6 # Doubter 2011-10-15 14:24
Wasn't the original purpose of Wall Street to furnish capital for productive enterprises and hasn't it become a gambling casino rigged to favor the "house?" There should be a way to disconnect these parasites from the economy and allow them to continue playing with their money without screwing up the country.

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