Speaking just a few dozen blocks from Wall Street Wednesday, Bernie Sanders announced that, with regard to so-called “too-big-to-fail” banks, he would “break them up.”
“If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist,” announced the senator from Vermont, as he brought his presidential campaign to New York City’s Town Hall.
Echoing and referencing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who took on Depression-era bankers and speculators as part of a broad effort to renew the economy, the senator pledged that a Sanders administration would in its first 100 days develop a list of “too big to fail” financial institutions. ”Within one year,” he announced, “my administration will break these institutions up so that they no longer pose a grave threat to the economy.”
In a detailed and aggressive speech, which sought to contrast his positions with those of the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Sanders promised to establish “a 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act” to renew and extend upon New Deal regulations against Wall Street and big-bank speculation.
The senator proposed caps on ATM fees and credit-card interest rates—saying “big banks need to stop acting like loan sharks and start acting like responsible lenders”—and pledged to establish “a national usury law” that would crack down on abusive practices.
Sanders also said he would “structurally reform the Federal Reserve to make it a more democratic institution responsive to the needs of ordinary Americans, not just the billionaires on Wall Street.”
“We need a banking system that is part of the productive economy—making loans at affordable rates to small and medium-sized businesses so that we create decent-paying jobs. Wall Street cannot continue to be an island unto itself, gambling trillions in risky financial instruments,” said the senator, who made it clear, again and again, that he would support prosecuting wrongdoing by speculators, bankers, and CEOs who engage in fraudulent practices.
“Not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy,” said Sanders, who read a long list of media headlines about “unethical and illegal activity” by Wall Street executives and financial-service professionals. “That will change under my administration. ‘Equal justice under law’ will not just be words engraved on the entrance of the Supreme Court,” he said. “It will be the standard that applies to Wall Street and all Americans.”