Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont doesn’t have to worry that when he rails against Wall Street, he’ll be called a socialist, since that’s what he calls himself (a “Democratic Socialist,” to be sure, who appears on the ballot as an “independent,” then caucuses with the Dems in the Senate. Still, he’s the only self-styled socialist to make it to the Senate in this generation, and I think maybe ever. What are those Vermonters smoking?)
Perhaps that frees him up to make certain statements like these, in a Boston Globe op-ed this week in solidarity with the Wall Street occupiers:
“The demonstrators and millions of sympathetic Americans understand that odds are stacked in Wall Street’s favor because of the extraordinary economic and political clout of the big banks. Believe it or not, the country’s six largest financial institutions (Bank of America, CitiGroup, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs) now have amassed assets equal to more than 60 percent of our gross domestic product. The four largest banks issue two-thirds of all credit cards, half of all mortgages, and hold nearly 40 percent of all bank deposits. Incredibly, after we bailed out the behemoth banks that were ‘too big to fail,’ three out of the four are now even bigger than before the financial crisis.
Later in the same piece, Sanders (who won his last reelection with slightly more than 65 percent of the vote), calls for the breakup of the giant financial institutions because:
“Left to their own selfish devices, Wall Street bankers will continue to gamble with other people’s money. Sooner or later, when their bets go wrong, they will come back to Congress asking to be bailed out again. Why not nip that in the bud? There also is a sound economic argument against too few owning far too much.
The idea that six giant financial institutions can exert such enormous control over the economy should frighten anyone who believes in a competitive free-market system. Good Republican presidents like William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt broke up Standard Oil, the railroad trusts and other huge monopolies a century ago. Now is the time for us to end the financial oligarchy that has been so destructive to our economy. If a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.”
Sen. Sanders, by the way, will be the guest speaker at the DFL’s Annual Founders Day Dinner on October 29, if he isn’t in prison yet. (That’s a joke, about the prison, not the dinner.)