An Economy in Crisis

Amid one of the worst financial crises in American history, Senator Bernie Sanders laid out a four-part plan to cope with the collapse of financial institutions and avoid future failures of businesses "too big to fail." First, Sanders proposed a surtax on the very wealthy to pay for bailouts of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and American International Group. "The wealthiest 400 families in America saw an increase in their wealth of $670 billion since President Bush has been in office. They have seen

Follow Rules "The time for hand wringing is over. This Congress needs to put an end to the radical deregulation that was pushed by Senator Phil Gramm and many other Republicans, and Democrats who went along with that as well. We need to put the safety walls back up in the financial services sector. We need to regulate the electronic energy markets. We need to end the use of unregulated credit default swaps. In other words, what we need to do once again is have the U.S. Government play an important role in protecting the people of this country against the greed of large corporate interests."

Surtax on the Wealthy "In my view, we need an emergency surtax on those at the very top in order to pay for any losses the Federal Government suffers as a result of efforts to shore up the economy. It should not be hard-working people who are trying to figure out how they are going to keep their families economically above water, people who are working longer hours for lower wages, people who have lost their health care, people who cannot afford to pay their fuel bills this winter. Those are not the people who should be asked to pay for this bailout. If there is a bailout that has to be paid for, it should be the people, the segment of society that has benefited from Bush's economic and tax policies over the last eight years. It is this very small segment of our population that has made out like bandits--frankly, some of them are bandits--during the Bush administration. We have to recognize that when we talk about who is going to pay for the bailouts."

No More ‘Too Big to Fail' This country can no longer afford companies that are too big to fail. If a company is so large that its failure would cause systemic harm to our economy, if it is too big to fail, then it is too big to exist. If it is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. We need, as a Congress, to assess which companies fall in this category. Bank of America is certainly one of them. Those companies need to be broken apart. We cannot have companies so huge that if they go under they take the world economy with them. Then once we break them up, if a company wants to act in a risky manner, if they want to take risks in order to make some quick bucks, that is okay. If they want to take the risk and they want to lose money, that is okay. The American people should not have to, and would not be under those circumstances, be left to pick up the pieces."

Save Social Security "In the midst of a major economic crisis, when people today--especially senior citizens on fixed incomes--are wondering about how they are going to heat their homes, how they are going to purchase the food they need--I wonder about three years ago, had we listened to President Bush, if we had listened to John McCain, if we had listened to the Republican leadership and we had privatized Social Security--can one begin to imagine the anxiety that would be existing all over this country in terms of senior citizens wondering what kind of retirement they would have, what kind of funding would be there for their remaining years? So thank goodness we did not follow the advice of President Bush and John McCain and the Republican leadership; thank goodness we kept Social Security strong."

The Economy and Real People "While Senator McCain and President Bush think the fundamentals of our economy are strong, while they talk about how robust things are, the reality is that the middle class in this country is collapsing, and if we don't make the kind of bold changes we need to make for the first time in the modern history of America, our children will have a lower standard of living than we do. Since President Bush has been in office, nearly 6 million Americans have slipped out of the middle class and into poverty. Since Bush has been in office, over 7 million Americans lost their health insurance. Over 3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost. Total consumer debt has more than doubled. Median income for working-aged Americans has gone down more than $2,000 when adjusting for inflation. The typical American family is paying over $1,700 more on their mortgages, $2,100 more for gasoline, $1,500 more for child care, $1,000 more for a college education, $350 more on their health insurance, and $200 a year more for food than before President Bush was in office."

To read a full transcript of the senator's remarks, click here. To watch excerpts, click here.