As the Senate prepared to debate financial industry reforms in the coming week, the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday charged Goldman Sachs with fraud. The civil lawsuit is one of the biggest moves by authorities in response to the financial crisis. "While its action was slow in coming, I applaud the SEC for finally beginning to deal with the illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms which, in my view, knowingly sold junk products and as a result helped cause the worst recession since the 1930s," said Senator Bernie Sanders.
Financial Reform As the Senate prepared to take up financial services regulation in the coming week, Sen. Bernie Sanders went to the floor Thursday to say he will offer amendments to cap interest rates on credit cards at 15 percent and require the Federal Reserve to name financial institutions that received emergency assistance. Sanders also said stronger measures are needed to protect taxpayers from having to bail out financial institutions considered too big to fail. He said large financial companies should be subject to break-up orders, not just to protect taxpayers, but also to address "a concentration of ownership" issue. To watch what the senator's floor speech on credit card charges, click here.
Credit Cards Religious leaders and community organizations came together on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to support Sanders' proposal to cap credit card interest rates. He cited passages from the Bible and the Quran during a speech to more than 300 leaders of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, a network of congregations and community organizations. At the same rally, it was announced that Massachusetts' treasurer is pulling millions of dollars in state funds from banks that refuse to obey a state law limiting interest rates. To read more about it in The Washington Post, click here.
Federal Taxes Drop While last-minute filers rushed to meet the April 15 filing deadline for income tax returns, Sen. Sanders said federal taxes went down during the past year for middle-class Vermonters. Despite the political rhetoric from the so-called tea party movement, Sanders said 99 percent of Vermont working families and individuals received an average federal tax cut of more than $1,100 for 2009. Some 300,000 Vermont households and nearly 60,000 small businesses received tax cuts through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Sanders also called on Congress to make tax laws fairer and simpler. To read more about middle-class tax cuts in the Brattleboro Reformer, click here. To listen to a Vermont Public Radio interview about tax fairness, click here.
Food Safety The Senate health committee put finishing touches on a bill to modernize food safety operations at the Food and Drug Administration. A similar bill last year was passed by the House. The bill that would strengthen FDA's enforcement powers is supported by much of the food industry, particularly the fruit and vegetable growers impacted by recent outbreaks of food-borne illness. The sustainable agriculture coalition also said the bill would contain an amendment sponsored by Sanders, a member of the health committee, to provide FDA with the authority to exempt small farms from regulations.
Health Centers Sanders met Monday with leaders of Vermont's eight community health centers that provide primary and dental care, mental health counseling and low-cost prescription drugs. Sanders successfully fought for an increase of $12.5 billion over five years for FQHCs and the National Health Service Corps, which helps train doctors and other health care professionals who work in medically underserved parts of the country. To read more about it in The Burlington Free Press, click here. To listen an interview on Thursday about health centers with Patt Morrison at KPCC-FM, an NPR station in Pasadena, Calif., click here.