WASHINGTON, February 4 - Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called a $500,000 pay cap for top executives at companies that take taxpayer bailouts "a step in the right direction," but the senator said Congress should write stricter limits into law.
President Barack Obama announced new executive compensation rules at the White House today in response to public outrage over gigantic pay packages and other extravagant perks for executives at companies that have taken billions in bailouts.
"It is a good step forward, but we have to go further," Sanders said. "People are furious that a handful of Wall Street executives - through their greed and their irresponsibility and probably through illegal behavior - have plunged us into a very deep recession."
Sanders faulted companies that have taken taxpayer funds for refusing to say how they are using the money, charging loan-shark interest rates on credit cards, continuing to shell out huge bonuses and excessive salaries, and - until caught red-handed - forging ahead with purchases of private jets and lavish corporate retreats at Las Vegas and other resorts.
In an October 28 letter to Senate colleagues, Sanders proposed capping compensation for executives of the rescued companies at no more than the $400,000 salary paid to the president of the United States. A bill to cap compensation, the Stop the Greed on Wall Street Act, formally was introduced on November 19.
Sanders had called in a letter last October 24 to then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for a ban on bonuses at bailed out banks.
The senator also has proposed a major investigation into what caused the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. In a January 29 letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sanders proposed expanding a congressional review of how up to $700 billion in Wall Street bailout funds are being spent to also investigate how the financial crisis started in the first place.
Sanders voted against the Wall Street bailout. He warned in a speech last October 1 that the measure would not rein in outlandish executive pay. "This bill does not effectively deal with the issue of executive compensation and golden parachutes. Under this bill, the CEOs and the Wall Street insiders will still, with a little bit of imagination, continue to make out like bandits."