Sound Off

Wall Street bankers plan to dip into a $700 billion taxpayer bailout fund to dole out bonuses to executives of firms that caused the crisis. "It's an outrage," Senator Sanders said. He asked Treasury Secretary Paulson to ban the bonuses. He's working on legislation. He also asked for your opinion. "Please tell me this will not happen. Please tell me that all of my hard work, all of my faith, all of my trust in our government is n

In the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Time magazine reported that "Uncle Sam has a new name on Wall Street — Sugar Daddy." Thanks to the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, financial institutions are ready to shell out big bonuses. Senator Sanders asked Treasury Secretary Paulson to ban bonuses at firms that take taxpayer dollars. Here is what you had to say:

I am getting very upset and frustrated with all these bailouts. First they bailout the financial institutions and now they are contemplating bailing out the auto industry. I honestly think the auto industry should have to claim bankruptcy and reorganize. Let's get rid of these personal jets and fancy CEO dining halls and let's downsize the union. I've been a union person most of my working life but I feel the UAW has gotten way too strong within the auto industry. They need to back up and take a realistic look at what is going on in this nation. But I also put the blame on management since they negotiated these contracts in the first place. I am retired and depend mostly on my social security and two very small pensions. So as you can expect money is tight. And it upsets me that my taxes are going to bail out millionaires who I feel will turn around and go the same route they are taking now. And at the same time get huge bonuses on the way out of the door! White River Junction, Vermont

Yesterday, on the NPR show Marketplace, former treasury secretary Robert Reich stated about the 300 billion that has been given to banks in the bailout thus far "What happened to all the money? About a third has gone into dividends the banks are paying their shareholders. Some of the rest into executive salaries and bonuses. Another portion toward acquisitions designed to raise share values." I have not previously been a critic of the bailout, but I was floored when I heard this. Why is any of this money going to dividends and bonuses? Since a chuck of executive compensation is in the form of stock, doesn't this also mean that these executives are getting a piece of these dividends, in addition to these bonuses? On what basis are bonuses being given: nonperformance? For this huge amount of money to be going for these absolutely unintended purposes this quickly, these bankers must be writing checks to themselves as fast as it is coming in. What a colossal theft from the American public. Obviously, the oversight of this program is woefully inadequate, the bailout was ill-conceived and the financial sector cannot be trusted with this money. The bailout is turning into as big a debacle as FEMA's performance after Katrina. Congress should immediately halt payments to financial institutions under the bailout. Congress should convene a special committee to investigate where the money has gone and initiate appropriate criminal proceedings against anyone or any company that has abused these funds. Congress should also ensure that any money that goes into economic stabilization is given under contracts that are well-crafted to ensure that it is a wise investment for all of our people, not the biggest bank robbery in history. Bolton, Vermont

One of your readers responded to the bailout program by saying that there should be no dividends paid to stockholders of companies receiving benefit of a bailout. If that were done such companies effected would probably lose much of their financial support from stockholders and so would be in jeopardy of going bankrupt. Montpelier, Vermont

I hope you will vote no on any bailout plans for several reasons. Our government, the American taxpayers and our Children can't afford it. It's not fair. Why should some industries and companies get it and some don't? I own a small business, why can't I have some? I have worked harder for a lot more hours and for a lot less money than any of the corporate executives or their employees and I'm pretty sure the government is not going to help me make up for the many customers who failed to pay me for my services (nor for any mismanagement). Last and most important, why should we fuel the crisis we have in this country due to the majority of people not taking responsibility for their actions? Let the american auto industry hit rock bottom and take resposibility for their actions. I'm talking about the management and the workers collectively. They have all acted with greed. If I ran a company like they have, I would be in the bread line where I belong not flying to Washington to ask the taxpayers for a bailout. Let them fail and rebuild. They will wake up and come back stronger than ever and make this country proud again. Please show our children that there are consiquences for their actions. Wilder, Vermont

Thank you for fighting these exec bonuses. Here's what I'd like to see: 1. (AIG) Exec bonuses returned, and the bill for their $400K+ "meeting" handed back to those who were there to be paid by them personally. 2. All exec bonuses paid since TARP was passed returned to their companies and future bonuses cancelled. Lincoln, Vermont

I am 100% behind virtually all of the positions you are taking about current issues. The lack of common sense being a common thread in most of the bad issues of the day confounds me. Barre, Vermont

It is appalling to think anyone would allow bonuses for CEOs or any management in the lending industry right now. Look up the word bonus and it is clear this cannot be allowed. This "bail out bill" is a perfect reflection of how we are failing this country by lack of attention, and our irresponsibility. No, no, no, to any bonuses! In fact, I suggest investigations, fines and terminations. Bonuses? Are you kidding me? Portland, Oregon

There will never be real change, nor will the average citizen once again trust Washington, until legislation is passed curbing the excesses of corporate America. It is only fair that this start with the companies benefitting from the bailout, made possible using our money. I agree that no bonuses should be paid until the company in question pays back any money received from taxpayers. Likewise NO money should be used for dividends. I have stock in large companies, and if any were to receive a bailout, I would not expect to get dividends until every last penny of the bailout money were returned to the government. Whatever happened to there not being a free lunch. I think corporate America has gotten too used to free lunches. Let's say no more. New York, New York

I think it is simply criminal to pay the usual salary (then add bonuses) to CEO's of these criminally-negligent companies, especially when these are government funds. Instead of laying off workers, maybe some of these companies should consider cutting their executive salaries; they would save a lot more money by doing that than laying off ten or even one hundred people at seven dollars an hour. These guys are already too rich for their own good. Let's not give them more money for screwing up. You don't punish someone by giving them money; you punish them by imprisoning or fining them. Charlotte, Vermont

If we have to bail out the large businesses to keep our economy from collapsing, fire all the people that made the poor decisions and take back their bonuses. Sullivan, Missouri

The financial "crisis" could be solved by giving up the notion of saving the rich. The money used to buy mortgages outright and keep people in the homes would solve everything---if that's what it was meant to do, BUT, it is just a colossal looting. Charlottesville, Virginia

We have got to stop bailing out these fat cats and gamblers. How far in debt is the House and Senate willing to put the American tax payer? We seem to be bailing out all the people that took big chances, on the hopes of making big money, and lost. Why should the American tax payer be paying for this? Throwing good money after bad is not the way. Montgomery Center, Vermont

I agree that there should be no bonuses for CEO's and executives till money is repaid. Why get a bonus for your screw-ups? Most people get no pay increase with a poor evaluation. I feel the bailout is just one last rip-off from the rich before bush leaves office. It all began with Halliburton's "no bid" contract with Iraq war, then the oil companies getting over with huge profits, now Wall Street. They should all go to jail!! Its Enron all over the country. Rich got richer and middle class is now poor. Heartland, Texas

We are 70 years old. Our savings have diminished in value, yet when tax time comes around, we have to withdraw money to pay for our home, regardless of the decreased value of our investments, which were fairly modest to begin with. We both work in home-based businesses, which have fallen off as others watch their budgets. We stand at the doorway to Great Depression II. The Bush administration has funneled huge amounts of money into the finance industry, and, as usual, is writing blank checks. Please continue the fight to prevent dividend, bonus, salary and other compensation hemorrhaging of our tax dollars into the pockets of those responsible for our current situation. Pound Ridge, New York

What makes me angry is the double standard. We have these big business folks taking millions and billions in aid from the government. Yet these same folks, with support from paid-off politicians in Congress, object to paying their fair share of taxes to ensure that the government can function - putting the financial cost of running government on the rest of us, who don't have a whole lot of discretionary income. And then, they have the nerve to complain when we suggest that the government should also help those among us who are suffering from not having jobs, health care, money for higher education, and so on. If it's a good thing for government to give handouts to the "haves" why is it not an even better thing to give handouts to the "have-nots"? We have a history of spreading the wealth that started with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. At that point in time we started to take money and resources from regular folks and pass it on to the rich in the form of deregulation and business and capital gains tax cuts. The promise was that we would be getting our money back in a few years (or decades) in "trickles." Why did we the American people fall for that scheme? Why did our democratic elected representatives go along with that? Why did it take over a quarter of a century before someone finally spoke out, loudly, against it? Just think where we would be if we had been investing in infrastructure, education and research for a quarter of a century, rather than in war, oil, and the creation of a superclass! It makes me sick to think of the time and resources we have squandered. Laguna Woods, California

I am increasingly dismayed by our government's knee-jerk reaction to the current economic "crises", the latest being the suggestion of another taxpayer bailout of the U.S. automobile industry. Tom Friedman in the NYT says it all today in his column, so I won't repeat it. Suffice to say things must CHANGE, and there will be some hard times, but I am opposed to propping up corporations that are not innovative, and that do not react to the market. Did not the government already bail out Chrysler? Did we not have an energy crisis in the 70's? The auto industry SHOULD fail, and there will be investors and innovators who will appear and build a better U.S. automobile business in their wake. Doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results just doesn't make sense. I do not want my tax dollars spent on the ineptitude of American business. Fund infrastructure and innovation. Fund energy research and development. Fund education and research. Consider these investments in our country, to turn us around in the long term, not instant, headline-grabbing knee-jerk reactions. Burlington, Vermont

The executives of these firms where money has been set aside for bonuses should be made to repay those bonuses and all future bonuses to the people they stole the money from: we the taxpayers. They had no problem stealing it these past eight years with Bush or should I say Cheney in charge. Time to pay the piper!! And where is Mr. Cheney's money, not in the markets of the US? All of these felons should be prosecuted, if it was any of us middle class or poor citizens prosecution would be guaranteed. Deerfield Beach, Florida

The continuing "bailouts" for corporate America cannot be allowed to be repeatedly dumped on the backs of taxpayers. They are more like handouts. There have to be conditions set for them to get any of our hard-earned money. First and foremost should be that the CEOs have to be let go with no bonus, no golden parachute and no perks, cash or stocks. I am sure that they do not live paycheck to paycheck like so many Americans do now and could very comfortably retire just on what they have already amassed. They are one of the primary reasons these companies are in the mess they're in now. If the average working person were to foul up at work to the extent that it costs the company vast amounts of money the way these "leaders" have, they would be immediately fired. Second, the boards of directors have abdicated their responsibility and should be restructured. Eliminate half of them and replace them with members of the workforce elected by fellow workers. The only compensation for board members should be no more than the highest paid worker up to, but not including, middle management. "Previously negotiated" salary packages and retirement benefits for upper management should be re-negotiated. The average working person, such as myself, are fed up with the lack of responsibility by corporate America. As a local school board member, it is becoming harder and harder to plan for our children's futures when we don't know how much federal aid "might" be coming through to pay for mandated educational programs. When school budgets are presented to the voters, taxpayers take out their frustrations on one of the few areas they still have control. They vote budgets down. It is truly sad and frustrating that corporate America ends up taking precedence over education. Bennington, Vermont

We need to make sure that the government (taxpayers) makes a profit with the money that we loan the Wall Street companies. All CEOs and company officers do not receive more than their salary. Also, regulation these companies should be stricter so that this does not happen again. Holland, Michigan

Please block these greedy CEOs from getting any bonuses from our taxpayer bailout money! If $70b has been budgeted, get it taken out of the budget! We have a lot more critical uses for $70b in this nation. These cads should not profit one bit from any of this mess! Please tell your fellow senators that the people of Vermont are livid about this! Montpelier, Vermont

We shouldn't bailout any bank's if anything we should be cleaning out CEOs bank accounts to recover some of the lost money. If you don't ban bonuses for CEOs the people won't put up with it we know all about A.I.G.'s little party and that didn't go over real big, A.I.G should pay that back to..stop screwing the tax payer's to cover greedy CEOs actions. Marietta, Ohio

No wonder Paulson wants control of the bailout money with no one looking over his shoulder. There should be close supervision of these monies and companies and where they are spending their share. I don't trust anyone anymore. And the more I see and hear the worse it gets. Valley Village, California

The $700 billion dollar bail out is not going to benefit the most people unless it is monitored very closely. Here is my story: I have worked hard as a Registered Nurse since I was 21 years old. I could never even afford to go away for a vacation until I was 40. I have 4 children; I have been saving for their college education since I was 35. I put the monthly payment into an index-based mutual fund. Even with diligent contributions the amount never went above $21,000. My daughter is in her junior year at college. I just received a bill for $13,000 for her spring semester tuition. I only have $6,000 left in the fund. I still have two other children to educate. I just took a second mortgage on the house to replace old leaky windows and seal it up, insulate, etc. I now need an additional $7,000, that I don't have. My daughter has done everything possible to earn money and is a dorm counselor, on work study, has a presidential scholarship, etc. I lie in bed at night worrying about the missing $7,000. Next year she will not be able to return to the lovely private college that she is enjoying so much. Her choices will be limited to one of the Vermont State Colleges. I haven't broken that news to her yet. Please ask one of the bailed out corporate executives to start a college fund for the children of the working middle class so we can put them through college. By the way, my husband is out of work this year which places the entire burden on my earning capacity. He is an architect. Nobody up here needs him right now. Before we pay for the legal fees for the corporate raiders to defend their actions, please be the voice of reason for the rest of us who have seen our savings wiped out because of their irresponsibility. Brookfield, Vermont

This bailout was an artificially created crisis by Wall Street to soak the taxpayers. Their claims that the banking system was frozen and only a massive influx of cash could free it was a pack of lies. What should have happened was to let the weak institutions that couldn't make it go belly up. New, stronger and better regulated institutions would have taken their place. In a similar fashion, the millionaires club throws a hissy fit and threatens to move elsewhere every time the issue of raising taxes comes up. I say let them leave, and a few of them probably will. Do you know what will happen? Contrary to their doom and gloom predictions of massive unemployment, the fact is, new entrepreneurs will step up to fill their shoes. Better, more productive and efficient organizations will be established by these new individuals, creating more jobs and tax revenues. The days of threats and fear-mongering by the rich and powerful that have led the middle and lower classes in this country to the brink of ruin must be stopped. We must increase taxes as outlined in President-elect Obama's proposed tax plan, cut funding for unnecessary programs and projects, and pay down the deficit that is strangling us with exorbitant interest on our debt. The well-off people in President Bush's "base" have enjoyed successive tax cuts passed in 2001, 2002 and 2003 for the past seven years now. They have failed to re-invest their savings domestically, as had traditionally been done by the investor class prior to the globalization of our economy over the past twenty years. Instead, the money was diverted to foreign investments and tax sheltered accounts offshore, taking jobs along with it, lowering tax revenues, and stalling our economy. We must ensure the lower and middle classes receive tax relief, as they will re-invest that money in their local economies, stimulating demand for goods and services and creating new jobs locally. This will also benefit business owners far more in the long run that the failed "trickle-down" policies enacted during the Reagan administration that have been proven not to work. Robbinsdale, Minnesota

Can you request hearings on possible administration violations to determine if there was any provable illegal activity? South San Francisco, California

I am appalled at the $700 billion bailout period. But if it is needed to keep the economy from tanking completely, I mildly support it. The idea, however, that any executives get a dime of my money infuriates me. These folks failed and they should not be rewarded. As a teacher I make about $80,000 a year. In many ways I think my job is more important than those who failed at their business. I would accept a salary of $80,000 per annum for the heads of these companies. With that salary maybe they would get a sense of how the rest of us live. Tujunga, California

No company - bank, brokerage firm, mortgage lender, automobile manufacturer, whatever - that has been rescued from economic collapse with taxpayer dollars should be allowed to compensate any member of its executive management more than the salary and benefits of the President of the United States until all bailout funds are repaid in full to the U.S. Treasury. Additionally, not one cent of bailout funds should be allowed for use by healthy financial institutions to takeover troubled institutions. If a company wants to expand its operations, let it do so with investor dollars, not my taxes. Columbus, Georgia

The root of the problem is the American voter. As a new Democratic committeeman for my precinct, I've had contact with many in my precinct and its appalling how ignorant most of them are. They are nice people who consistently and in many cases enthusiastically vote for Republican slime balls who fleece them every day. I was recently elected to my position and I hope that I can eventually make a difference but I anticipate a steep, long, hard climb. I refuse to surrender. Thank you for your informative website and above all for your determination to fight for us in the Senate. Bloomingdale, Illinois

This proposal should go into effect immediately. As this has been going on too long. I know that in my business I can not give myself a bonus when my business is doing poorly as a matter of fact I am the very first person to go without a paycheck and use my savings to live and survive. Rutland, Vermont

After living in California with its over inflated housing costs for 8 years I worked myself into a position to buy a little >1200 sqft house for $300,000. Now its worth about $140,000. I make my payment because I can. But it hurts. All the programs to help homeowners are for people that can't or won't make there payments. What about the ones that can. We are going to get discouraged and walk-away from our houses. Just for the mear fact that we are getting ripped off. The banks are not going to help me out. I'm making my payment. They got they're money out of all of us with the bailout. So what incentive do they have to help out the homeowners? None. The whole bailout was a bad idea and won't fix anything. So no I don't want any bank executive that allowed the house industry to explode and then implode on itself to get any bonus or dividens. With those tax dollars. Nor should any of its stoke holders. They invested poorly and need to take a little bit of the punishment for it. Tracy, California

Do you know why these executives do this? They know no one is going to stand in their way. I saw, I think it was 3 or 4 retired political figures on C-Span some time ago. They were all CEOs of their own companies. They're all CEO soul brothers. There's too many personal relationships between business people and publicly-elected leaders. That's why the credit-card industry has gotten away with what they still get away with. That's why the protests against the practices of Wall Street, the pharmacy companies, you name it, never got anywhere. This is a conservative social experiment gone awry. Its consequences for the bad will go on for as long as people are here. Bloomingdale, Illinois

I totally agree that no bonuses should be paid to executives of failed financial institutions! Also they should have salary caps-average Vermonters or hard working citizens in other states do not make millions in salary and their taxes should not be supporting such their outrageous salaries. Springfield, Vermont

Regarding CEO's, Corporations, and Compensation: the CEO's of the nation's largest companies make incredible amounts of compensation compared to the rank and file in the United States. It is estimated by various sources to be between 250-600:1. It was around 25-30:1 40 years ago. We have a minimum wage in this country and although its not nearly enough to keep the lowest wage earners out of poverty in some states, it is better than the alternative which is people working for much less. In the same vein, we need a maximum wage level in this country which will be tied to a fixed CEO vs rank and file average compensation level. My belief is that 50:1 is a good maximum number, because this is still above the majority of industrialized countries but not too much to be obscene. Example: If the average worker is making $50K per year the maximum the CEO gets paid is $2.5 Million. If the corporate board of a company wants to raise the amount of compensation their CEO receives, particularly CEO's at the maximum number, then they would have to raise the average salary of their workers. Severance packages for CEO's who run their companies into the ground and are subsequently ousted by their corporate boards and shareholders should be limited to 3-6 month's of their current salary by law as well. CEO's should not be awarded for imcompetance (think Carly Fiorina of Hewlett-Packard who nearly drove her company into the ground but who still got a nice severance package of $21 million). CEO's and board members in the company should not be allowed to own company stock which can be manipulated to their advantage(think ENRON). Senator Sanders if these companies "are too big to fail" then they need to be broken up using the Sherman Anti-trust Act. My hope is that under the Obama administration this will happen; otherwise we will eventually have the same situation we had in October of this year where a bank robbery was essentially carried out in the taxpayers name. Everett, Washington

The time has come to pass legislation, that would prevent managers of publically held stock corporations,from over coompensation. This is money that belongs to the stock holders and the employees of those companies. Los Altos, California

I just read on msn money that the big 3 auto makers want your help. If we do I hope that the ceo's don't get their 4-6 million dollar pay and bonuses. I think the people are just about sick of getting our noses rubbed in the dirt, and big business ceo's still get their money. Westminster, Vermont

The stock market is in a free fall. How come Congress stays on break when our country is experiencing a financial crisis? Like 911 and Katrina they stayed on break after throwing money at it. "Banking institutions are more dangerous than standing armies." Thomas Jefferson. Lake Zurich, Illinois

Bonuses for these financial bigwigs who helped the country go bust are out of the question! It is unconscionable to even consider such a thing. Don't we ordinary people have enough of the burden to carry? I also read somewhere that these people are contueing to take junkets that cost thousands of dollars and that one of them was heard to say "Let's see how quickly we can blow this money.! Shooting is too good for them. Washington, Wisconsin

At the age of 75, I've lost 40 percent of my retirement in a balanced, conservative account. Why can't we, ordinary citizens, declare these losses, just as any business does? That would help middle income people as myself. Craftsbury Common, Vermont

I enjoy recieving your monthly web letter. It lets me know what you are working on in Washington. I do fear that though we americans have just elected a man that I believe can lead us out of the mess of the last 8 years, we may miss the chance if we don't continue to keep the presure on the powers that be. I look to you, Senator Leahy and Congressman Welch to do just that. I would also like to know what the chances are that some of that $700 billion will be used for work projects like roads, bridges and other infrastructure. I believe that more jobs will help the countries economy more than throwing money at banks. It's simple for me to see that if a person has a job they have then they can buy the goods and services they need and want which is what keeps and economy moving. Brandon, Vermont

We should not allow bonuses, stock holder dividends or other company buyouts that consolidate and limit compitition using taxpayer money. All moneys should be loans that are first priority paybacks to the US Treasury if the company goes bankrupt. As far as I'm concerned, no exceptions! Stowe, Vermont

It is time now for this country to move in a new direction. Let's look toward progressive governments, taxation, and policies of western Europe. We have had a "me first" mentality for too long and it has allowed those at the top to stay entrenched and consolidate their wealth. We have socialism for the top 5% and capitalism for everybody else. I am tired of bailing out the ultra-rich and wealthy stockholders while average Americans are not even "middle class" anymore. We don't talk about the working poor-which is now most of us-or the poorest among us. It is time to work for the common good, not those at the top of the money chain. Groton, Vermont

I am appalled at the way the bailout money is being spent. Executives of failed companies should not receive bonuses. I heard on Vermont Public Radio's "Fresh Air" yesterday that banks who received bailout money are still paying dividends to stockholders so their share value doesn't decrease any further. Unbelievable! Jericho, Vermont

Why are these crooks not be prosecuted like the Enron guys? Waitsfield, Vermont

I did read the same Wall Street Journal article you mentioned and almost had a stroke. It is about time that you senators and lawmakers open up communication channels with average voters. Lobbying for private interests is nothing more than institutionalized bribery. It has been going on so long in Washington, that we end up seeing shenanigans like firms owning more to their executives than to their employee's pension plans. If this is not robbing investors, employees, and the country then what is? It is offensive to basic public decency, especially, given the fact that it accompanied by gross incompetence. Princeton, New Jersey

Let's see some jail time for these crooks, and their 'friends' in Congress who enabled this fiasco. If it was up to 'the people' of this country, we'd be having parties watching the folks who have been screwing us since Ronnie Regan gave them a free pass do their own 'jumping out of windows' as their ill-gotten wealth disappeared to satisfy their creditors and shareholders. I realize that Bernie Sanders is a "Sunny Day Socialist", and usually is indistinguishable from the Dems he hangs with, but what part of Socialist economic theory rewards the international banking cartel with a multi-billion gift (which is what an open-ended "loan" in $700 Billion chunks, with no control or repayment in sight, is) when their failed economic shenanigans catches them with their pants down? These folks were perpetrating what is essentially a huge Ponzi (or pyramid) scheme- fraud by any other name. Unfortunately for the rest of us, there is a massive amount of bad paper out there in the world (about 70 Trillion of it, at last estimate) that we will now be expected to make good as it comes due, while the self-proclaimed elite and their 'banking' shills are laughing their asses off, as we pay for their excesses. To a REAL Socialist, this kind of Capitalist exploitation should be anathema, not the kind of thing to be self-congratulatory about when a token 'rider' gets attached for foreclosure relief. Rochester, Vermont

We should undo the bailout and give none of it to executives. Only small business, the middle class, and states with budgets deficits and revenue shortfalls should benefit! Spend $300 million on social services such as Medicaid waiver, supported employment for people with disabilities so that they can work and not depend on ssi/ssdi. spend $ on public transit, healthcare, human services so that states don't have to layoff state workers, spend $ on higher education, We need to turn America into Denmark and spend more $ on our own people and basic services. Not war and bailing out corporations etc. Every government should get $50 million to use to get out of debt and make up for revenue shortfalls!! Montpelier, Vermont

Unfortunately as well all know, concern for others has been lost in the shuffle of Washington, Wall Street, and Baghdad. Nixon started it and Reagan nourished it much to the long term detriment of the people of the US. Short term gain has taken over much of our country. Excess is the norm, not the exception. Loss of a fundamental concern for others and the larger good has put us in the position of worshipping "slutty capitalism." By that I mean the type of capitalism seen on Wall Street that precipitated the dilemma in which we find ourselves. "Virtuous capitalism" is what allowed the US to enjoy economic, social and political success unparalleled in the modern world. Controlling the compensation for those who got us into this mess is of primary importance, but let us not forget that there were many banks and financial institutions that did not participate in the rapacious greed we have witnessed. In our haste to inflict some revenge on those responsible, let us not punish those financial institutions that have behaved in a socially responsible manner. As a footnote, my wife and I are nearing retirement, and largely due to your political stance and our collective perception of the people of Vermont, have led us to seriously consider moving north for retirement where we can enjoy a more comfortable and peaceful life. Atlanta, Georgia

he CEOs and leaders of many of the financial companies that have failed or are now being bailed out by the taxpayers have done tremendous harm to the financial system of the US and many other countries. Many ordinary people are now enduring extreme financial harm because of the mismanagement and greed of these leaders. Besides limiting pay and bonuses, the Justice Dept. should investigate these companies for possible illegal activities that led to this financial meltdown. Mortgages were being packaged into these CDOs and sold to pension funds, etc. as AAA rated securities while they were really mostly garbage. Some laws must have been violated. Underhill, Vermont

In the center of so many regional and national problems there just seems to be no end to the struggle. Just the other day I received the annual registration for my health insurance. As a retiree from the world's largest pharmaceutical, and living on a very tight fixed income, can you imagine my grief when reading that my monthly co-pay went from $88.00 dollars to $428.00 !!! I just don't have another $4,000! Even if I had the extra money for Catamount I'm just over the max income level. This company, Pfizer, one of the strongest Washington Pharma lobbyist enjoys great tax incentives, extravagant CEO bonuses while even today they are engaged in laying off American workers, and shifting the workforce to India and many other lower priced markets. All this leads me to plead with you and the incoming administration to finally establish an affordable national health care system. I have now become so hopelessly under insured that it is only a matter of time before I and my wife become just another statistic of a failed two level society, the rich, and the poor. Middletown Springs, Vermont

I have been appalled by the bonuses and severance pay executives who are failures get when they are let go--we explain it as they have failed and get fired. It doesn't work that way for most of us. We just get fired for poor work. Anything you can do to insure these very greedy CEO's do not get a penny of the federal money, which is our money, will be a service to our country. We, who are living on fixed income, have lost thousands of dollars in our mutual and stock funds - money which was saved for our retirement through our hard work and sacrifice. We are also hurt because we had to take minimum required distribution out of the funds which have severely decreased. Can something be done to help this? Maybe not include the RMD in our yearly income? Any ideas? West Dover, Vermont

How was this bill good legislation in any sense of the word? I signed your petition to stop this fraud before it began. That did not work. And now the bonus issue. I believe the course of action now, is legal. All people involved in this theft should be indicted. We should be building a case for they're eventual conviction. For all intents and purposes, the money is gone. Lagrange, Illinois

I strongly endorse the policy of no bonuses for executives of banks bailed out by taxpayers. I support Senator sanders' bill establishing a pay cap for top executives, and the policy of "no bonuses, and no dividends, until the money is repaid". Santa Fe, New Mexico

I hope that this doesn't go through. This is absolutely pathetic. I just recently opened my 401k and it was down 45%. I can still recover but my kids college education cannot. What adds salt to the wound that I also got a statement which said my investment person got paid for this horrible effort. Sen. Obama was right, "Wall street cannot benefit from the pains on Main Street". You think that you have an issue now for the elderly, Wall street just took away 50% of their earnings. Milton, Vermont

It is wrong that these company that have been bailed out with government money are giving out a bonus using that money. Who gave them the money without watching what it is that they are doing with it? Why do they have a free hand in how the money is used? Enosburg Falls, Vermont

I was under the impression that the bonuses for ceo's and other top exec's were not going to be paid if their business is one that is being helped by the bail out. Are we being hoodwinked by Bush again? There should not be a bonus for running a company into financial disaster to the point where we, the average person, has to bail them out! Are we forever going to be lied to and pay for the wealthy's mistakes and mismanagement? East Middlebury, Vermont

Over the years thousands of soldiers have given their lives so that America could be a Great Country for all of it's citizens...It now seems that a few CEO's have been so greedy that we are now in the mists of a Great Depression for all, except those CEO's. Have the lives of American soldiers been given so that CEO's can get rich ? And where was the Government Oversight ? In the hands of the CEO's? Weathersfield, Vermont

It is with a sense of enormous relief that the electorate has returned the reins of government back into hands that can sanely address the existential problems our Nation and civilization currently face. I express my gratitude to Sen. Sanders for providing a strong voice for social justice in the Senate, and am jubilant at the prospects of Bernie leading the new majority towards legislation that addresses the problems of the working classes and the imperiled planet. We have heard you way out here in the Northwest corner of the country, Bernie, and we are profoundly grateful for your powerful advocacy on our behalf. Bremerton, Washington

I work for Stanley Tool of Pittsfield Vermont. We just experienced a permanent layoff of 5 people, from a work force of 30 people. That equates to 16% of this facility being laid off. They are not sure if they will be able to keep this plant open because it is not profitable. We make handles out of Vermont wood for Stanley hand tool product line. our plant has a very low environmental footprint. We heat with the scrap wood and sell the remainder to other companies which they use to heat with or make pellets for wood stove. Rutland, Vermont

Not only should these people not get bonuses but they should make them return any bonus they have received in the past 12 months and possibly in the case of Fannie Mae they should go back 10 years and get the monies back. Also there should be a law requiring a certain percentage of profit let's say 90% after expenses to go for dividends for the people and perhaps a small 10% of salary given to those that perform. The ridiculous theft from shareholders by greedy executives has to change. New York, New York

I too oppose bonuses for companies getting bailouts from us. I don't get a reward for stupid, greedy choices and neither should they. I get paid for showing up at work every day, doing the best I can and serving Vermonters (I am a state employee. We don't get turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas bonuses or millions of dollars and do not expect it. Enough is enough with greed and corruption in this country. Go for it Senator and stop the insanity. Bennington, Vermont

Let them earn as much money each year as they want. It is, after all, how they keep score. Then on April 15, tax it all away except for $1 million. Who needs more than that to live on for a year? And even more seriously, why are there earning limits on folks collecting social security? Remove the limits so that the able elderly can earn whatever they need to supplement their income, pay their fuel bills, whatever. Petersham, Massachusetts

I think that any company accepting federal funds in the form of a loan or a grant should be held to strict personnel reimbursement policies. 1. No executive can be paid a salary and benefits greater than 10 times the lowest paid employee in the organization. 2. No bonus or payment other than salary will be allowed unless all employees of the organization receive the same proportionate bonus. 3. If the organization is accepting the federal funds to correct previous actions taken by the executives and board of this company than the executives and board of the company can not receive any pay or benefits greater than a similar position of authority would receive at a GSA rated job. Windsor, Vermont

I realize I don't know much about Economics, however I just wish the government would stop BAILING OUT companies that have made poor decisions. There should be dire consequences to poor business practices. With those consequences EVERYONE would learn not to do again that which brings about failure, jail time and bankruptcy. Why is it everyone else has natural consequences, but when it comes to business that effects national or world economies, suddenly government is there. The rich and their corporations continue to be protected. Where is the learning for our children? Burlington, Vermont

Supplementing a previous post, not only should there be no bonuses and no dividends, there should be, where warranted, civil liability imposed upon and/or criminal prosecution of those who caused or contributed to the economic fraud and that resulted in the loss of trillions of dollars by investors/taxpayer. The few should not profit when the many suffered a loss because of the actions of the few. It is time (really, past time)to reassert and re-impose the principles of justice and fair play. The word "earned" should replace the word "entitled", or at the very least, the two should be connected, i.e., you are "entitled" to something if you "earn" it, or to receive you must first give. Dallas, Texas

There should not be any bonuses... I am facing a pay cut, yes, I work at IBM, my health benefits went up $9.00, we loose 20% of our pay in January and yet the big executives of the banks think they deserve bonuses. How about repaying the $700 billion back from there bonuses. I don't get bonuses, I don't have the houses that my taxes are being used for. I just hope with a new democratic president that he can get the US back to where it belongs. Bring our troops home, bring back work from overseas and HELP the people of our own country instead of all the other countries. Bristol, Vermont

No need to allow the Bonus system to work and I feel all the people who are in trouble should be stopped from doing banking anymore and the can lay off the people who gave the farm away. Plainfield, Vermont

Executive bonuses should not be paid to companies participating in the government "bail-out" of the financial industry. If the companies had been allowed to fail, the bonuses would not be payable due to insolvency. In effect, the companies did fail. Instead of bankruptcy they chose a government backed bail-out. The executives did not earn any bonus and it should be a condition of participation in the government bail-out that all such bonuses be invalidated. Essex, Vermont

Executive bonuses should not be paid to companies participating in the government "bail-out" of the financial industry. If the companies had been allowed to fail, the bonuses would not be payable due to insolvency. In effect, the companies did fail. Instead of bankruptcy they chose a government backed bail-out. The executives did not earn any bonus and it should be a condition of participation in the government bail-out that all such bonuses be invalidated. Essex Junction, Vermont

May I join the thousands/millions of Americans who are so repulsed by the Benefits and Bonuses and Salaries given to the top Corporate heads of Banks and other financial instituations who knowingly screwed up the economic balance of their businesses and eventually the world economy. Not only should they be deprieved of of their extended compensations but of theur base salaries also. Most of us working people would never get a bonus for causing the companies we work for to lose money. Neither should these Bozo's. If Congress has the power to enact some rule(s) or law(s)to make these egregious felons pony up and compensate the American citizens for their unethical and immoral activities then it should be done. And soon. Thanks for tolerating my irrational but heartfelt anger. Stamford, Vermont

BONUS! Heck NO! They are lucky that they don't go to JAIL! Vernon, Vermont

As far as I am concerned the executives that presided over the bankruptcy of their companies should not be getting pay raises or bonuses or anything but fired. I worked as a contractor for over 30 years. I saw the top executives of many corporations plunder their companies. Lay off people to make a stock market expectation. Then bully the employees that were left into working overtime for no pay to make up the man power shortage. I have watched them suck up as much as three quarters of employee's retirement funds and stick it in their own pockets. And there is nothing the government is willing to do to stop this thievery. And I don't expect anything to ever change. That is the reason I worked contract. Wichita, Kansas

I agree with the person from Dorset, Vemront. All golden parachutes, bonuses, etc should be withheld from executives until all other debts have been paid--all other debts would include reimbursing the Federal Government for bailout monies received. In order to stop the practice of terminating American workers and sending their jobs outside of the U. S. should cease immediately. As one whose job went to Canada, I was fortunate in that I could revert to retirement but other less fortunate workers are scraping by on very limited income. It is good that we should help other countries but Americans should still be entitled to highest priority. Jericho, Vermont

There must be some rational balance between protectionism and free-market economy. I'm working on it - but one thing is sure: if ONE PENNY OF MY MONEY goes to disgraced corporate executives, I will know who the enemy is. Dorset, Vermont

What did the gov't expect from the big bailout, of course the big shots will take their big bite from our tax dollaers and what ever is left over the little guy can have it, which is nothing new, they have been doing so for years now and they are not going to change now, they have it made. In my opinion they should get nothing, they must have enough to live on, if not they can down grade and live like the rest of the people, who live on next to nothing, no jobs, no money, we freeze and hope the winter is mild. Let the big shots freeze right along with the rest of us little people. Barre, Vermont

I would like to talk about General Motors wanting federal money to buy Chrysler. I would say sure, But you need to convert one of your factories (a big one) to making the electric cars you gave up on in the '90s. ie "who killed the electric car" AND listen to what Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute has to say. Stowe, Vermont

Banks are now "stealing/blackmailing" sound businesses into relinquishing ownership shares in return for the usual business capital. The FBI should get on this pdq. After all, the credit based on our tax dollars is supposed to have started weeks ago, but it surely was not intended for banks to force their way into sound businesses, take them over and liquidate them to stuff their CEO/Board members' pockets once again. East Hardwick, Vermont

We, the taxpayers are suffering from both the current economic situation and the future increases in taxes for the "$700B Bailout" that was caused be both corporate greed and poor gov't controls on corporations. The fact that Wall Street is lining the pockets of the exec's and just getting bigger is not helping Main Street. The money needs to be allocated for loans to get the economy going and every cent needs to be accounted for. This was not supposed to be a $700B Blank Check and needs stick guidelines. On the gov't controls, look at the US vs. EU. A Board Member of US corporation has one clear fiduciary responsibility, maximize shareholder value. The Board of and EU corporation has mult responsibilities - impact on the customer, community, employees, environment and the shareholders - this is a balanced approach. Look at the quality of life in EU vs. the US based on its global impact, the EU steadily increases year after year. Its time for change, you've got my support. Moscow, Vermont

I think now the message across the country is pretty clear, outside of hitting some one up side the head. We need a new direction and there is a whole lot of fixing up to be done. As charity begins at home you all need to start right here in this country. The top 5 in my opinion are: Economy , Health care, Education, Energy independence, and ending our involvement in Iraq. In addition our new president needs to be advised to put together a Bi-partisan cabinet just like President Lincoln did, made up of people who only have the interest of our country in mind. He needs to engage people like former president Clinton as an ambassador at large with powers to start mending relationships with our friends and allies. Milton, Vermont

I have struggled to build my business over the past 3 years and have always told my crew that my business will always be honest in our dealings. I believe in honesty. CEOs and executives making money after being dishonest really burns me. They don't deserve it. NO BONUSES for them!!! They all know they are in the wrong, but greed blinds them. Shame on these companies. Barre, Vermont

Any corporate CEO connected to the bank(s) responsible for "raping" the American taxpayer shouldn't get any bonuses. Their lucrative assets should be confiscated and the proceeds should be allocated to community outreach programs throughout the U.S. These corporate "misfits" should be "raped" of their wealth that was obtained at the American taxpayers expense. Charlotte, Vermont

I agree that business execs should not be paid any more than the President of USA. This should go on until they repay loan. They are going to use this money to line their own or stockholders pocket, also board of directors who probably got their banks in the situation that they are in now. We should hold the line here and Sen. Sanders is the man to run herd on these people. Burlington, Vermont

I'm a vet of the Korean war, was RA in 1953-56. I've been to some of your VA meetings and am very please at the work you are doing. I guess I do not understand the problem, but when I keep hearing from the press that the Iraq soldiers are not ready to take over the duties that we are performing, it does not seem right to me. When I was going into the service, it was 8 weeks basic training and another 8 weeks of special training. In 16 weeks, 4 months, we were sending out men out into the battle lines. Why is it taking so long for the Iraq soldiers to be trained? It just does not make any sense to me. I just thought I would get it off my chest. Rutland, Vermont

I will not pretend to be a financial wizard or even to truly understand all that has happened because of the "bail-out," but I understand this much. If I made a poor investment with money I borrowed from a friend or neighbor, lost the money and any chance of return then I and I alone would owe the monies back to my investors. I would not still draw a salary. I would not be bailed out on a smaller scale by State Government. I would work two and three jobs to pay back my debt until it was cleared and hopefully learn a valuable lesson about smarter investments for the future. Is that truly too mush to ask of these Wall Street investors and the companies that are in need of a Bailout. In the advice of my late grandfather, what people need is a hand up, not a hand out. Getting something for nothing leaves you in a position of thinking that you are entitled to such and are never vested in being smart with what you have. St Albans, Vermont

I work as an accountant, so I tried to "follow the money" in this whole financial meltdown. All the information from the media says that these "Collateralized Debt Obligations" (CDO's) are worthless because they contain some subprime mortgages in the bundle of mortgages that secure these CDO's. I don't know how many mortgages get bundled together in these CDO's. Nor do I know what percentage are subprime in any given CDO. In my reading, it seems that any where from 5% to 40% of the mortgages in these CDO's are subprime, and presumably, in default. And because of these defaulted subprime mortgages, the entire CDO is worth nothing! Even though 60% to 95% of the mortgages that are bundled into the CDO are on a paying basis! How can that be worth nothing if they have that much cash flow? Mark to market rules say you have to value these at zero if the market says they are worth zero, which is what all the executives at AIG cried about. That was fixed, I believe from the news I saw, by FASB allowing these CDO's to be valued in relation to their cash flow. So they are definitely worth something like 60 to 95% of their original value. So, are all the investment banks that bought these CDO's going to say they are worth zero and thus not be usable as collateral in order to borrow money? Then the bailout team pays them face value for these "worthless CDO's" so that they can start doing business again. Then what happens to these CDO's? The government won't want to hold on to them. Most likely the Feds will unload them at pennies on the dollar, probably to the same investment banks who sold them, who then turn around and sell them to investors as wonderfully secure, AAA rated mortgage backed securities with excellent cash flow! Once again, the taxpayers and the investing public get screwed by the unfettered greed of these Wall Street sociopaths. Burlington, Vermont

I fully agree. It is outrageous, that these people should even consider, that they are entitled to bonuses. I also believe, that we MUST stop the pork barrel spending and the total waste. All the money saved could be put to good use. I believe the amount to be so great, that we don't have to raise taxes, but use that money for infrastructure, healthcare, education and above all alternative energy and drilling, so we can finally wean ourselves from these unstable countries who hate us. We have a small business with 3 employees and it would be devastating for us. I always say, that they should let me take care of the spending, and I could teach them a thing or two. Hopefully you will all do what is right. West Dover, Vermont

Yup. Hank Paulson is sure in the right place. Help create the problem while in the business, "help" correct the problem while getting huge taxpayer support and leave the government to enjoy the fruits of his labor back in the business. Jeffersonville, Vermont

Not only should they NOT get their cut of the $70 billion for bonuses, they should be fined at least that amount, split between them. It was their greed that got us here. I'm sure they could find it in their tax free, off-shore accounts... Saxtons River, Vermont

Why is it that no one of you senators, representatives, or even the presidential candidates (when they were stumping) have said ANYTHING about the US Post Office suddenly terminating SO MANY EMPLOYEES??!! We all know that the people making these decisions are the same people who've wanted to privatize the Post Office, and it looks like they are on their way to that goal. We need our Post Office to be a function of our government, as it was designed to be, not just another FEDEX or UPS. PLEASE, PLEASE put a halt on this "EXCESSING" of Postal Workers, this attempt to force out older workers who did not accept early retirement, and the demotion of full time, permanent career employees to that of part time flexible. We do not need another wave of previously productive workers to become unemployed and a new burden to those few who still hold jobs. Shame on you, for allowing this to happen so quietly on your watch. St. Johnsbury, Vermont

I'm against public funding of private business, that is what the bailout is. Now that you guys have made that decision, against the wishes of the majority of the voters I might add, you are only now trying to make sure the fat cats that helped create the problem don't get a reward. It is too late, by the time you guys enact any regs the $ will already be paid out. This is government misuse of taxpayer resources. All this talk of helping the middle class is bull. The "so called government leaders" are bleeding us dry. We really need a clean sweep down there in DC. Topsham, Vermont

We should turn to the old Ben and Jerrys edict where the top man in the company gets no more than a multiple of the lowest paid employee. I believe they uses 10 as the multiple. I could go with 20. that way the if the top people need more, then the people that make the company work, ie the employees, should get more. Middlebury, Vermont

I think that there should be a rule that if a bank accepts money from Uncle Sam, then no bonuses for the CEOs. If the CEOs get bonuses, no bailout. Usually when someone messes up at work, they get reprimanded and/or fired, not rewarded with a bonus. It's totally preposterous! Essex Junction, Vermont

I think that any executive compensation over 250,000 should be donated to the Social Security system as the pension of last resort for those whose pensions were lost due to mismanagement. This might be in the form of a tax deductable contribution if that was seen as having a lesser personal consequence. This should be a multi-year program. Perhaps matching the time span in which subprime offers were made. The pendulum of public opinion never stops in the middle. I think its all right to let it swing as far from center as subprime instruments were. Morrisville, Vermont

The thought of all that money going to Wall Street and the obscene amount of money the executives get makes me so angry I'm seeing red. My daughter is close to foreclosure on her house that will put her and three small children "in the street" and there seems to be no help for her. Money coming to towns to help alleviate the foreclosure crisis is a farce. The towns buy the houses and fix them up and sell them. The foreclosures still happen. Eden, Vermont

As far as I am concerned the executives that presided over the bankruptcy of their companies should not be getting pay raises or bonuses or anything but fired. I worked as a contractor for over 30 years. I saw the top executives of many corporations plunder their companies, lay off peop