Those looking for the passion missing from the Democratic and White House response to the demands of the GOP/Wall Street/Murdoch media coalition, should tune in to the one man rebel band now playing in Washington named Bernie Sanders. The 69-year-old independent senator from Vermont let loose on the Senate floor last week with the kind of speech that hasn’t been heard since the Progressive Era.
“There is a war going on in this country,” he began. “I am talking about a war being waged by some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country against the working families of the United States of America, against the disappearing and shrinking middle class of our country.”
Sanders is Brooklyn born (James Madison H.S.) which explains the fine Flatbush emphasis that gives his spiel an extra heft:
“Many of the nation’s billionaires are on the warpath. They want mawah, mawah, mawah. Their greed has no end.”
Sanders ticks off the key statistical yardsticks of the ongoing wealth transference the U.S. has seen in recent years. These numbers go largely unchallenged. The debate kicks in only around their meaning (the “Greed is good” economic school, vs. the rest of us).
Sanders said today’s economics are reminiscent of the banana republics he read about back at James Madison High:
“In the year 2007, the top one percent of all income earners in the United States made 23 1/2 percent of all income…More than the entire bottom 50 percent. That’s apparently not enough. The percentage of income going to the top one percent nearly tripled since the 1970s. In the mid-1970s, the top one percent earned about 8 percent of all income. In the 1980s that figure jumped to 14 percent. In the late 1990s that one percent earned about 19 percent. And today, as the middle class collapses, the top one percent earns 23 1/2 percent of all income.”
Bernie from Brooklyn delivered an even bigger headache to the fatcats last week as the Federal Reserve was forced to disclose an itemized list of 21,000 loans it has made since the fiscal crisis, detailing $3.3 trillion handed out to the nation’s top banks and corporations. The information was released pursuant to an amendment Sanders managed to tack on to the Wall Street reform bill.
Here’s Sanders’ statement on what it all means:
What this disclosure tells us, among many other things, is that despite this huge taxpayer bailout, the Fed did not make the appropriate demands on these institutions necessary to rebuild our economy and protect the needs of ordinary Americans.
For example, at a time when big banks have nearly a trillion dollars in excess reserves parked at the Fed, the Fed did not require these institutions to increase lending to small and medium-sized businesses as a condition of the bailout.
At a time when large corporations are more profitable than ever, the Fed did not demand that corporations that received this backdoor bailout create jobs and expand the economy once they returned to profitability.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 6, 2010