Bernie Sanders: Time to Save the Middle Class

The survival of the American middle class is at stake. If we do not act and organize now, when will we?

Bernie Sanders

(epicharmus / Flickr)

Now is the time for Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and Con­gress to take the bold steps nec­es­sary to reverse our eco­nom­ic decline and to strength­en and expand the strug­gling mid­dle class. As part of this effort, we need to pass a strong finan­cial reform bill and a robust jobs bill that puts Amer­i­cans back to work at decent-pay­ing jobs.

We need to pass a strong financial reform bill and a robust jobs bill that puts Americans back to work at decent-paying jobs.

We must nev­er for­get that this eco­nom­ic cri­sis was caused by the greed, reck­less­ness and ille­gal behav­ior of a hand­ful of exec­u­tives on Wall Street. If we are going to get the econ­o­my back on track, we have to fun­da­men­tal­ly change the way Wall Street does busi­ness (see Roger Bybee’s arti­cle Reg­u­late or Capit­u­late”). Wall Street must invest in the job-cre­at­ing pro­duc­tive econ­o­my instead of engag­ing in the casi­no-style risk-tak­ing that led to the largest tax­pay­er bailout in U.S. history.

Among many oth­er things, a strong finan­cial reform bill should:

Break up too-big-to-fail” finan­cial insti­tu­tions so they no longer pose a threat to the entire econ­o­my. Incred­i­bly, three out of the four largest finan­cial insti­tu­tions are big­ger today than before the finan­cial cri­sis start­ed. Today, the four largest banks in Amer­i­ca issue two-thirds of all cred­it cards and about half of all mort­gages. As a result, Amer­i­cans are pay­ing exor­bi­tant bank fees and cred­it card inter­est rates, and have few­er choic­es. We can­not let this continue.

Estab­lish a nation­al usury law to stop large banks from rip­ping off the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Mil­lions of Amer­i­cans pay cred­it-card inter­est rates as high as 35 per­cent. Big banks charg­ing these usu­ri­ous cred­it card inter­est rates received the largest tax­pay­er-fund­ed bailout in his­to­ry. It is time for them to stop act­ing like crooked loan sharks.

Audit the Fed­er­al Reserve to make it trans­par­ent. Since March 2008, the Fed has pro­vid­ed more than $2 tril­lion in vir­tu­al­ly zero-inter­est loans to large finan­cial insti­tu­tions. But the cen­tral bank has refused to tell the Amer­i­can pub­lic who received this mon­ey. This mon­ey does not belong to the Fed. It belongs to the Amer­i­can peo­ple and they have a right to know where their tax­pay­er dol­lars are being spent.

In addi­tion to reform­ing Wall Street, we have got to pass a major jobs bill. As part of this leg­is­la­tion, we should put mil­lions of Amer­i­cans back to work rebuild­ing our crum­bling infra­struc­ture through major invest­ments in roads, bridges, dams, schools and sew­ers. A jobs bill should also trans­form our ener­gy sys­tem and break our depen­den­cy on for­eign oil by invest­ing in ener­gy effi­cien­cy and renew­able ener­gy tech­nolo­gies such as wind, solar, geot­her­mal and biomass.

But Con­gress will not do this alone – in fact, it will not act in a pro­gres­sive and vig­or­ous man­ner at all with­out a strong grass­roots move­ment in every state and region of the coun­try to push our elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives to act as they should. It is time for pro­gres­sive Amer­i­cans and work­ing fam­i­lies to bring their needs, con­cerns and visions into the polit­i­cal strug­gle. For too long the debate has been dom­i­nat­ed by the cor­po­rate inter­ests from Wall Street, the mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex, oil com­pa­nies and those that make bil­lions from our health­care system. 

The sur­vival of the Amer­i­can mid­dle class is at stake. If we do not act and orga­nize now, when will we? 

Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.) was elect­ed to the U.S. Sen­ate in 2006 after serv­ing 16 years in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. He is the longest serv­ing inde­pen­dent mem­ber of Con­gress in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Elect­ed May­or of Burling­ton, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 elec­tion as Ver­mon­t’s at-large mem­ber in Con­gress, Sanders lec­tured at the John F. Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment at Har­vard and at Hamil­ton Col­lege in upstate New York. Read more at his web­site.
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