Today, the United States is in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. More than 17% of the American workforce is either unemployed or underemployed. Millions more have lost their homes, their savings, their health care and their pensions.
The immediate cause of this economic disaster is the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of the largest financial institutions in the country. One of the major functions of the Federal Reserve is to protect the safety and soundness of our financial institutions and to oversee their actions. It is clear to almost everyone that Chairman Bernanke was asleep at the switch while Wall Street became the largest gambling casino in the history of the world and hurtled into insolvency. His failure to adequately regulate financial institutions should not be rewarded with a reappointment.
As part of the huge taxpayer bailout of Wall Street, the Fed provided trillions of dollars in virtually zero-interest loans to large financial institutions. Bernanke consistently has refused to provide the transparency needed so that the American people can learn which banks received those loans. Our democracy cannot tolerate this kind of secrecy. We need a new Fed chairman who believes in transparency.
As the country desperately tries to work its way out of this severe recession, the Federal Reserve has the capability of playing a significant role in improving the economy for working families and small- and medium-sized businesses.
Today, it could protect consumers by lowering outrageously high credit card interest rates that millions are paying.
Today, it could help create millions of new jobs by providing low-interest loans to credit-worthy small businesses.
Today, at a time when four of the largest financial institutions issue two-thirds of the credit cards and half the mortgages, and when three out of the four largest are even bigger now than when we bailed them out last year, the Fed could begin the process of breaking up these "too big to fail" banks so we will never have to bail them out again.
We need a new Fed chairman who understands that his or her major task is to protect ordinary Americans, and not just Wall Street CEOs. Ben Bernanke must go.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., serves on the Budget Committee and has placed a procedural hold on the Bernanke nomination.