Kall: So, I'm so glad you could be with us speaking to the Philadelphia area. You're really doing a great job standing up in this conversation and I figure I'm let you talk to the audience and tell them what you want to—make sure you get after them, and then we can have a conversation if there's some time after that.
Sanders: Sure, well, my main concern is that, since President Bush has been in office, what we have seen is a significant decline in the standard of living of the middle class; people's median income's gone down; Six million have slipped out of the middle class and into poverty; seven million people have lost their health insurance; the gap between the very rich and everybody else has gone wild;
Meanwhile, while the middleclass is slipping, the people on top have done extraordinarily well: you have the incredible reality that the top 400 individuals in this country have seen a 670 Billion dollar, that's a B, Billion dollar increase in their wealth since Bush has been president. So when I look at this proposed bailout, the first question that comes to my mind is, "Who's going to pay for this thing?
Given the disastrous impact that Bush's policies have had on the middle class, why should it be the middle class that really has to bail out the excesses of Wall Street, when those guys have done very, very well.
So, my main concern right now is to make sure that this bailout is paid for by those people who have benefited out of Bush's policies. There is the top .01%, who now earn more in income, by the way, than the bottom 50% so, that's my first concern.
My second concern is if we go forward in this proposal, that we make certain that the assets purchased for banks are realistically discounted; in other words, taxpayers of the country don't pay more for assets than they should and I also want to make sure that when taxpayers put money into an asset that in fact, we end up receiving equity stakes in the bailed out companies. If we're going to put up the money we need to own a percentage of those companies.
The other concerns that I have, Rob, are that we have to understand how we got into this precipitous, this very dangerous situation and that has a lot to do with the deregulation that we have seen for the last many years.
I voted while I was in the House (I was on the Banking Committee there) against the Gramm Leach Blithely legislation, which took down the firewalls that had been established since the Great Depression and I think that is one of the precipitating factors that leads us to where we are today.
Also, when we see the tremendous volatility in oil prices, we understand, I believe, anyhow, that there is a great deal of speculation going on there as well. So, what we need to do is do sensible re-regulation; I think we have, if we've learned anything in this crisis, it is that we cannot trust these major financial institutions to do the right thing in terms of protecting consumers. Nor will people who are purchasing oil futures show any concern for people who have to pay $3.70 for a gallon of gas.
So I think the function of government is in fact to protect consumers, protect workers. We have let those principles slide very significantly in recent years on these right wing economic principles which include not only deregulation, but tax breaks for billionaires under the great "trickle down" theory that somehow we all benefit when billionaires get tax breaks and also unfettered free trade—somehow it's going to work wonders for the middle class while we allow companies to throw America workers out on the street, move to China and then bring their products back tariff free so that's an important part of what I want to see done; I think sensible re-regulation is important and the other thing; a couple of other things that are important to me.
This is not being talked about is the reason we are where we are today is because you have institutions that are too big to fail, and they have to be bailed out because if they fail, they're going to take down a significant part of the economy with them. I believe, and it seems to me pretty commonsensical, that if an institution is too big to fail, then it is too big to exist.
Kall: Boy, do I agree with that…
Sanders: But you're not hearing much discussion; let me give you an example and then I'll give it all over to you; right now, which is in the last few weeks, Bank of America which is the nation's largest depository institution has taken over Country Wide, which is the nation's largest mortgage lender and they've absorbed Merrill Lynch, the nation's largest brokerage house. Now you tell me what happens in five years if Bank of America teeters, do you have a doubt for a second that they're going to have to be bailed out?
Kall: Absolutely, that's what's going to happen; in your petition (here) you say not only that they're too big to exist, but we need to determine which companies fall into this category and then break them up?