Bernie Sanders on Corporations
Democratic primary challenger; Independent VT Senator; previously Representative (VT-At-Large)
SANDERS: Elizabeth is absolutely right. If anybody here thinks that corporate America gives one damn about the average American worker, you're mistaken. If they can save five cents by going to China, Mexico, or Vietnam, or anyplace else, that's exactly what they will do. As president, let me tell you what I will do. These guys line up at the federal trough. They want military contracts. They want all kinds of contracts. Well, under my administration, you ain't going to get those contracts if you're throwing American workers out on the street.
Sanders: We have to break up the large financial institutions on Wall Street, who have unbelievable economic power. We have to stand up to drug companies charging us twice as much for medicine compared to other countries. We have to stand up to the insurance companies and move to Medicare-for-All. We have to stand up to the military-industrial complex where there's enormous fraud and waste. We need an economy and a government that works for all of us, not just the 1%.
Q: Do I believe that workers should have more say and be sitting on the boards of large corporations? Yes, I do. Do I believe that we should break up some of the major banks on Wall Street and support credit unions & community banks? Yes, I do. You've got 6 financial institutions that have assets equivalent to 54% of the GDP. Democracy means not just voting every 2 years, it's giving working people more of a say in what goes on in the economy.
"In the long run, the problem of the fleeing corporations must be dealt with on the national level by legislation which will bring about the public ownership of the major means of production and their conversion into worker-controlled enterprises," he said.
SANDERS: Well, I happen to believe passionately that there really is not a blue state/red state division in this country. I think there is a lot of mythology attached to that. People believe that health care is a right. People believe we should raise the minimum wage to a living wage. People do not think, as Trump does, that we should give a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the top 1 percent, but in fact we have got to demand that the rich start paying their fair share of taxes. So, whether you are in Kansas or the Bronx or in Vermont, we have common interests and common aspirations. And we have got to fight for an America that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent.
SANDERS: Yes, I think from a moral perspective it was the right thing to do. But it's a terrible and inefficient way to run a government.
Q: The President's biggest achievement so far is that tax cuts are gaining in popularity as some of these big companies hand out $1,000 bonuses. Do you think that the public should be pleased that workers are getting another $1,000 in their pockets?
SANDERS: Well, sure, everybody should be pleased when any worker gets a raise. But what we should also understand that that tax proposal will add $1.4 trillion dollars to the deficit and at the end of ten years 84% of the tax benefits will go to the top one percent. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, billionaires and large multi-national corporations do not need tax breaks, it is the middle class and working families of this country who do.
I propose restoring the minimum size of an estate subject to the tax from $5 million to $3.5 million, where it was in 2009. This would only impact the estates of the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans who inherit more than $3.5 million. And we should make it graduated to target the biggest estates:
CRUZ: Among many things.
SANDERS: Among many other breaks to billionaires.
CRUZ: I don't want to bankrupt small business owners.
SANDERS: The only people who pay the estate tax are the top two- tenths of 1 percent. It would cost us over $200 billion. And as Ted said, it goes on and on and on.
But it is not just a grotesque level of WEALTH disparity that we are experiencing. It is also horrendous inequality in terms of INCOME, the amount that we earn every year. Incredibly, in the last several years, 52 percent of all new income being generated in this country is now going to the top 1 percent.
When we were kids, we read about "Banana Republics" in Latin America and other oligarchic societies that existed in countries around the world, where a handful of families held almost all of the wealth & power. Fellow Americans, take a look around you. See what's going on in our country today. This obscene level of inequality is immoral. It is bad economics. It is unsustainable. This type of rigged and unfair economy is not what America is supposed to be about. And it's not what America used to be.
The Corporate Tax Dodging Prevention Act would end the loophole that allows corporations to defer paying taxes on overseas profits. Instead, it would require corporations to pay U.S. taxes on offshore profits as they are earned. This bill would take away the tax incentives for corporations to shift profits and move jobs and factories offshore, by taxing their profits no matter where they are generated. American corporations would continue to get a credit against their U.S. tax liability for foreign taxes they pay, but they would have to pay the federal government the difference between the foreign rate and the U.S. rate.
The reason these risky financial schemes were given such favorable ratings is simple: Wall Street paid for them. Rather than providing useful risk information to investors (which is the reason they exist in the first place), the credit-rating agencies were colluding with Wall Street, because that's where the money was.
SANDERS: I know that the middle class in this country is collapsing. I know that the gap between the very, very rich and everybody else is growing wider. I know there is profound anger at the greed on Wall Street and corporate America. Anger at the political establishments. Anger at the media establishment.
Q: But if Hillary Clinton were speaking more robustly on these issues...
SANDERS: The issue is not Hillary. The question is: At a time when so many people have seen a decline in their standard of living, when the wealthiest people and largest corporations are doing phenomenally well, the American people want change. So, let Hillary speak for herself. I know where I'm coming from.
I do not believe that is what American democracy is supposed to be about.
In my view, history will record that the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision is one of the worst decisions ever made by a Supreme Court in the history of our country. While the campaign finance system we had before Citizens United was, in my view, a disaster, as a result of Citizens United, that bad situation has become much worse
The point that needs to be made is, when is enough enough? Greed, in my view, is like a sickness. It is like an addiction. They can't stop. But I would hope that these people who are worth millions of dollars will look around and say: "There is something more important than the richest people becoming richer when we have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world." Maybe they will understand that they are Americans, part of a great nation which is in trouble today. Maybe they have to go back to the Bible, whatever they believe in, and understand there is virtue in sharing. This greed, this reckless, uncontrollable greed is almost like a disease which is hurting this country terribly. During the Bush years, the wealthiest 400 Americans saw their wealth increase by some $400 billion.
I come from a small State. We have community banks. Here is the irony: The banks in Vermont, in the midst of all of this financial disaster, did just fine. They are small, locally owned banks. They know the people they lend money to. The CEOs are not making millions of dollars in profit. They know their community. Now, I may be old-fashioned like Mr. Volcker, but I think that is what banking is about: to lend out money to people in the productive economy, to the business community, who can use the money to expand and create jobs; to homeowners who need that money to buy a home, not to be living in your own world engaged in a huge gambling casino producing and selling worthless products nobody understands.
During the 1980s, the top 1% of wealth holders in this country enjoyed 2/3 of all increases in financial wealth. The bottom 80% ended up with less real financial wealth in 1989 than in 1983--and that trend continues. Today, tragically, the US has the most unfair distribution of wealth and income in the entire industrialized world.
If we are serious about transforming our country, let us bring people together to take on and defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation. Together, Let us fight for economic, social, racial and environmental justice, not unbridled greed.
Today commercial banks still have over $177.46 trillion of derivatives contracts on their books. That is insane. And I'm not alone in thinking that.
We must make sure the derivatives that are held by investment banks, hedge funds, and private equity funds are strongly regulated. Right now, state insurance commissioners and gambling authorities are banned from regulating them. We must lift that ban. They should be treated and regulated like the high-stakes wagers that they are.
The Republicans want us to forget that as a a result of the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street, our economy was in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Some 800,000 people a month were losing their jobs. We were running up a record-breaking deficit of $1.4 trillion, and the world's financial system was on the verge of collapse.
We have come a long way in the last seven and a half years, and I thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for their leadership in pulling us out of that terrible recession.
SANDERS: The bill that Secretary Clinton is talking about was the bailout of the recklessness, irresponsibility and illegal behavior of Wall Street. It was the Wall Street bailout. And I find it interesting that when Secretary Clinton, who was the former senator of New York, of course, when she defended her vote, she said, "Well, it's going to help the big banks in New York. Those are my constituents." And then you go to Detroit and suddenly this legislation helps the automobile workers.
CLINTON: Everybody should. I want to be the president for the striving and the successful. I want to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share,
Q: Will corporate America love a President Sanders?
SANDERS: No, I think they won't. So Hillary and I have a difference. The CEOs of large multinationals may like Hillary. They ain't going to like me and Wall Street is going to like me even less. We need an economy that works for the middle class, not just a handful of billionaires, and I will fight and lead to make that happen.
CLINTON: There are currently two hedge fund billionaires running ads against me here in N.H. Now, why are they running ads against me? And the answer is: Because they know I will go right after them.
SANDERS: With all due respect to the secretary, Wall Street play by the rules? Who are we kidding? The business model of Wall Street is fraud. That's what it is. Let me make this promise. Whether it's Republican administrations or Democratic administrations, we have seen Wall Street and Goldman Sachs dominate administrations. Here's my promise: Wall Street representatives will not be in my cabinet.
CLINTON: I represented Wall Street and I worked closely with New Yorkers after 9/11 to rebuild.
SANDERS: Many of us supported you in trying to rebuild that devastation. But at the end of the day, Wall Street today has enormous economic and political power. Their business model is greed and fraud. And for the sake of our economy, the major banks must be broken up.
SANDERS: Every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying we are going to have medical and family paid leave. I think we should look to countries like Denmark and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people. Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little by which Wall Street's greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don't. I believe in a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires.
CLINTON: What Senator Sanders is saying certainly makes sense in the terms of the inequality that we have. But we are not Denmark. We are the United States of America.
SANDERS: People do not understand why the middle class of this country is collapsing at the same time as almost all of the new income and wealth is going to the top 1%. People do not like the idea that, as a result of Citizens United, our campaign finance system has become corrupt and politicians are dependent upon super PACs and billionaires for money. People want us to deal with climate change, make college affordable. Those are the issues I have been talking about.
Q: You also talk about taking on the billionaire class. Give us some specifics.
SANDERS: I think that the business model of Wall Street is fraud. And I think these guys drove us into the worst economic downturn into the modern history of America. I think they're at it again. I believe that, when you have so few banks with so much power, you have to not only reestablish Glass-Steagall, but you have got to break them up.
SANDERS: I think what the pope has been saying in a very profound and deep way is that casino-type capitalism is causing devastating problems not only in terms of our climate but in terms of income and wealth inequality. The pope is saying there's something wrong internationally where almost all of the new wealth in this world is going to people on the top and so many other people are falling by the wayside. So, yes, I think that Pope Francis has played an extraordinary role; he has been a voice of conscience all over the world, speaking out for those people who don't have a voice, those people who are suffering. And what are you saying, enough is enough. Money cannot be the God of life. We have got to look at our kids, look at those people who are hurting; we've got to come together to create a new world and not a world in which a handful of people have so much wealth and so many other people are suffering.
I will tell you how we'll do it. We'll do it the way real change has always taken place, whether it was the labor movement, the civil rights movement, or the women's movement. We will have Medicare-for-All when tens of millions of people are prepared to stand up and tell the insurance companies and the drug companies that their day is gone, that health care is a human right, not something to make huge profits off of.
Sanders' rhetoric was strongest during his 1976 campaign for governor of Vermont. "I will be campaigning in support of the Liberty Union utility proposal which calls for the public ownership of Vermont's private electric companies without compensation to the banks and wealthy stockholders who own the vast majority of stock in these companies," he said in a July 1976 press release. "I will also be calling for public ownership of the telephone company."
Reforming Wall Street: It is time to break up the largest financial institutions in the country. Wall Street cannot continue to be an island unto itself, gambling trillions in risky financial instruments while expecting the public to bail it out. If a bank is too big to fail it is too big to exist. We need a banking system which is part of the job-creating productive economy, not a handful of huge banks on Wall Street which engage in reckless and illegal activities.
We need a banking system that encourages homeownership by offering affordable mortgage products that are designed to work for both the lender and the borrower. We need a banking system that is transparent and accountable, and that adheres to the highest ethical standards as well as to the spirit and the letter of the law.
Breaking up the big banks would reduce systemic risk in our financial system. It would also mean increased competition. Oligopolies--where the market is dominated by just a few economic actors--are never good for consumers. Smaller banks are more likely to offer affordable financial products that Americans actually want and need.
Media is not just about what is covered and how it is covered. More importantly, it is about what is NOT covered. And those decisions, of what is and is not covered, are made by human beings who often have major conflicts of interest.
As a general rule of thumb, the more important the issue is to large numbers of working people, the less interesting it is to corporate media. The less significant it is to ordinary people, the more attention the media pays. Further, issues being pushed by the top 1% get a lot of attention. Issues advocated by representatives of working families, not so much. This was, to be honest, not a new revelation to me. I had seen it for years as a congressman.
In 1983 the largest fifty corporations controlled 90 percent of the media. That's a high level of concentration. Today, as a result of massive mergers and takeovers, six corporations control 90 percent of what we see, hear, and read. This is outrageous, and a real threat to our democracy.
CLINTON: You can look at what I did in the Senate. I've laid out a very aggressive plan to rein in Wall Street-- not just the big banks. We have to go after what is called the shadow banking industry. Those hedge funds. I want to look at the whole problem; my proposal is much more comprehensive than anything else that's been put forth.
Q: Sen. Sanders, you said that the donations to Secretary Clinton are compromising. So what did you think of her answer?
SANDERS: Not good enough. Let's not be naive about it. Over her political career has Wall Street been the major campaign contributor to Hillary Clinton? You know, maybe they're dumb and they don't know what they're going to get, but I don't think so. If Teddy Roosevelt, a good Republican, were alive today, you know what he'd say? "Break them up." Reestablish Glass-Steagall. And Teddy Roosevelt is right.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and I don't agree on much, but I thought he did a great job of describing the Fed and the bank bailouts as: "A clear case of socialism for the rich; and rugged-you're-on-your-own-individualism for everyone else."
The Fed, with unlimited ability to print money, now prints that money to lobby against Congressional oversight. It is a disgrace and every citizen in the land should rise up and say: We the people are in charge and we demand an audit!
Bernie Sanders [was] the first one to push to launch an antitrust investigation of Dean Foods. He opened with a striking fact: one company, the milk processor Dean Foods, controls at least 70% of the milk market in the triangle between Michigan, Florida and New England. He advanced with more numbers: in the last year, milk prices to farmers had dropped from $19 per hundredweight to just $11. Then he came in with the knockout blow: "Meanwhile, Dean Foods reported $76.2 million in profits for the first quarter of 2009, up 147% from the first quarter of 2008. Is there anybody in this room who doesn't see a connection between those facts? Nobody raised a hand.
"Clinton's claim is unavoidably true. In 2000, Sanders voted for the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. The act prevented the government from regulating credit default swaps and the trading of financial derivatives. Swaps like these, which are a type of financial derivative, were largely vilified during the financial meltdown of 2008. Sanders was far from the only Democrat who voted for the bill. It passed the House by a wide margin: Only four representatives did not vote for it. Not to mention, Clinton's husband, then-president Bill Clinton, supported the bill and signed it into law."
Bernie now says he regrets that vote, but Hillary was accurate.
Now, a $91 million bonus for executives who were laying off 17,000 workers is obscene enough. Fully 1/3 of that money, $31 million, was to come from the Pentagon as "restructuring costs." As soon as I learned about this outrageous federal giveaway, I drafted an amendment to prevent the Pentagon from paying the bonus. Imagine: workers thrown out of their jobs paying taxes so that the bastards who fired them could stuff their pockets. We termed the legislation the "payoffs for layoffs" amendment. The amendment passed by voice vote.
OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Requires any national of the United States that employs more than 20 persons in a foreign country, either directly or through subsidiaries or licensees, to take the necessary steps to implement a Corporate Code of Conduct with respect to the employment of those persons.
EXCERPTS OF CONGRESSIONAL FINDINGS:
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to House Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade; never came to a vote.
Whether you own a business, represent one, lead a corporate office, or manage an association, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of AmericaSM provides you with a voice of experience and influence in Washington, D.C., and around the globe.
Our members include businesses of all sizes and sectors—from large Fortune 500 companies to home-based, one-person operations. In fact, 96% of our membership encompasses businesses with fewer than 100 employees.
"To advance human progress through an economic, political and social system based on individual freedom, incentive, initiative, opportunity, and responsibility."The ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
Supporter's Comments: (by CUNA, a pro-credit union organization)
America's small businesses are the engine of growth of our nation's economy. The effects of the financial crisis of the past few years have spread to all types of lending, resulting in a reduction in the availability of business credit. At a time when banks are withdrawing credit from America's small businesses, credit unions have actually been expanding credit to small businesses, but with more credit unions approaching the cap, this growth is threatened. Congress should enact legislation which increases the credit union member business lending cap from 12.25% of assets to 27.5% for well-capitalized credit unions
Opponent's Comments: (by the Independent Community Banks of America, Nov. 15, 2012)
The tax-subsidized credit union industry is pressing for doubling the statutory cap Congress placed on member business loans. Shifting assets from tax-paying banks to tax-exempt credit unions would reduce tax revenue to the government; the CBO estimates the revenue impact at $354 million over 10 years. We believe that banks are currently meeting the needs of credit-worthy businesses, as substantiated by numerous business surveys.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is North America's Neighborhood Union--1.3 million members with UFCW locals in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. Our members work in supermarkets, drug stores, retail stores, meatpacking and meat processing plants, food processing plants, and manufacturing workers who make everything from fertilizer to shoes. We number over 60,000 strong with 25,000 workers in chemical production and 20,000 who work in garment and textile industries.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:[Supreme Court majority opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, for which the Constitutional Amendment is proposed as a remedy. The FEC had ruled that the movie "Hillary", released in 2008 to persuade voters against Hillary Clinton, was illegal because it was a disguised campaign contribution made by a corporation. The Supreme Court overruled the FEC]:
Modern day movies might portray public officials in unflattering ways. Yet if a covered transmission [is broadcast] during the blackout period, a felony occurs solely because a corporation, [instead of a candidate or donors, paid] in order to engage in political speech. Speech would be suppressed in the realm where its necessity is most evident: in the public dialogue preceding a real election. Governments are often hostile to speech, but it seems stranger than fiction for our Government to make this political speech a crime. Some members of the public might consider Hillary to be insightful and instructive; some might find it to be [unfair]; those assessments, however, are not for the Government to make.
Excerpts from Letter from 35 Senators to the CFPB: We write to commend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for its proposed rule to limit the use of mandatory, pre-dispute ("forced") arbitration clauses in consumer financial product and service contracts. Every day, Americans across the country are forced to sign away their constitutional right to access the courts as a condition of purchasing common products and services like credit cards, checking accounts, and private student loans. Binding arbitration is a privatized justice system that studies show consistently produces results that favor large corporations and offers no meaningful appeals process. As a result, consumers are left without redress, and companies are unaccountable for their unscrupulous behavior.
Opposing freedom argument: (Cato Institute, "ATLA monopoly," May 2002): The trial lawyers new goal is to tighten their monopoly grip on the court system, and prevent the rest of us from choosing a more efficient means of resolving our disputes. Arbitration is simply private court. Lawyers with a vested interest in a monopoly court system are trying to stop the arbitration business from developing. But there's nothing forced or mandatory about it. Contracts are the result of choice. People should be free to choose for themselves what contracts to make and what rights to give up.
Opposing economic argument: (Heritage Foundation, "The Unfair Attack on Arbitration," July 17, 2013): Any study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should examine whether a limit on arbitration would:
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