Easy Street

While the middle class has declined under President Bush's reckless economic policies, the people on top have never had it so good. For the first seven years of Bush's tenure, the wealthiest 400 individuals in our country saw a $670 billion increase in their wealth, and at the end of 2007 owned over $1.5 trillion in wealth. We have the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on earth, with the top 1 percent earning more income than the bottom 50 percent. There has be

While the middle class has declined under President Bush's reckless economic policies, the people on top have never had it so good. For the first seven years of Bush's tenure, the wealthiest 400 individuals in our country saw a $670 billion increase in their wealth, and at the end of 2007 owned over $1.5 trillion in wealth. We have the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on earth, with the top 1 percent earning more income than the bottom 50 percent. There has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the very wealthiest people in this country, when, among others, CEOs of Wall Street firms received unbelievable amounts in bonuses, including $39 billion in bonuses in the year 2007 alone for just the five major investment houses.

""Maybe I am the only person in America who thinks so, but I have a hard time understanding why we are giving $700 billion to the secretary of the Treasury, who is the former C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs, which, along with other financial institutions, actually got us into this problem," Sanders said. "Maybe I am the only person in America who thinks that is a little bit weird, but that is what I think."

"Most of my constituents did not earn a $38 million bonus in 2005 or make over $100 million in total compensation in three years, as did Henry Paulson, the current secretary of the Treasury, and former CEO of Goldman Sachs," Senator Bernie Sanders said moments before the Senate voted Wednesday for a $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

"Most of my constituents did not make $354 million in total compensation over the past five years as did Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers," Sanders added. "Most of my constituents did not cash out $60 million in stock after a $29 billion bailout for Bear Stearns after that failing company was bought out by J.P. Morgan Chase. Most of my constituents did not get a $161 million severance package as E. Stanley O'Neill, former CEO Merrill Lynch did."

Sanders argued that those who caused the problems in our economy should pay for the solution. "If we are going to bail out Wall Street, it should be those people who have caused the problem, those people who have benefited from Bush's tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, those people who have taken advantage of deregulation, those people are the people who should pick up the tab, and not ordinary working people," the senator had argued.

He offered an amendment that would have taxed the very wealthy to pay for the bailout. It lost on a voice vote.

So Sanders voted against the bailout bill, which nevertheless passed by a lopsided majority in the Senate. The plan reportedly is gaining ground in the House, which could take it up on Friday.