Sanders feels that those who have benefitted the most from years of tax cuts for the wealthy and a laissez faire approach to corporate regulation should be the same people asked to bear the burden of digging us out of that hole. Sanders , a member of the Senate Budget Committee, has pointed frequently to the collapse of the American middle class as median family income has declined and millions have lost their health insurance and their pensions. He said, “The reality is that we have the hollowing out of the American economy.”
Sanders strongly opposed the Bush administration’s bailout of failed Wall Street institutions during the fall of 2008. Sanders called it “the most extreme example that I can recall of socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor.” Sanders supported President Obama’s economic recovery package of 2009, saying at the time that, “It is not everything that I wanted, but it is a significant step forward in moving America in a dramatic new direction.” Sanders opposed the nomination of Tim Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury and the nomination of Ben Bernanke for a second term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Sanders has long felt that Federal Reserve policies have favored Wall Street at the expense of the needs working families. Sanders introduced legislation to audit the Fed and legislation to identify banks and other financial institutions that received trillions of dollars in taxpayer-backed loans and other financial assistance during the financial crisis. During a March 2009 hearing, Sanders asked Fed Chairman Bernanke to name the hundreds of banks that received these secret loans but Bernanke refused to name any of the financial institutions. As a member of the House, Sanders told then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan that he thought Greenspan did not understand what was going on economically in the real world.
In 1999, then-Congressman Sanders opposed passage of the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act which deregulated derivatives trading and allowed more large financial institution mergers. In a House floor speech, Sanders predicted the legislation would “lead to fewer banks and financial service providers, increased charges and fees for individuals, consumers and small businesses, diminished credit for rural America, and taxpayer exposure to potential losses should a financial conglomerate fail. It (would) lead to more mega mergers and a small number of corporations dominating the financial service industry and a further concentration of economic power in our country.” He was proven right by the financial crisis a few years later.
Sanders strongly supports workers’ rights to organize. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” The senator knows that the rights of workers to bond together and bargain for better wages, better benefits and better working conditions have been severely undermined over the years. He is a strong supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act. Employers today often get away with firing workers or threatening to relocate jobs if workers seek to form a union. When workers become interested in forming unions, most private employers force employees to attend closed-door meetings to hear anti-union propaganda.
For years, Sanders has taken on credit card companies to protect consumer rights. In 2009, Senator Sanders introduced the Interest Rate Reduction Act to cap interest rates on all loans at 15 percent, the same cap that Congress imposed on credit union loans in 1980. Sanders supported the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act which became law in 2009. Under the law, lenders would have to post their credit card agreements online, let customers pay their bills online or by phone for free and give customers 45 days notice before interest rates are increased. Another provision says customers would have to be more than 60 days late on a payment before seeing rates go up on an existing balance.
Sanders has long been concerned that employers misused guest worker programs to keep wages and benefits low. Sanders has said, “we have a responsibility to ensure that companies do not use guest-worker programs to replace American workers with cheaper labor from overseas.” Legislation by Sanders and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) became law in 2009 and prohibits bailed-out banks from replacing laid-off American workers with cheaper labor from overseas. He also introduced legislation which would reform the temporary guest worker H-2B visa program to encourage businesses to fill their seasonal labor forces with American workers.
The true greatness of a country is not measured by the sum of its millionaires and billionaires. Rather, a great nation is one in which justice, equality and dignity prevail for all.