Even though Bernard Sanders is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, he remains a United States senator in the meantime, and he’s working hard at it. This month, he has sponsored or co-sponsored six bills in the Senate. One of those bills Sanders wrote and introduced himself.
S. 1206 – “A bill to address the concept of “Too Big To Fail” with respect to certain financial entities”, was introduced to the Senate on Wednesday. No, not Wednesday last week, but Wednesday on the week before that.
I take special note of the date of the introduction of S. 1206 because it shows what has become of the Republican promise to run the United States Congress more effectively that the Democrats had.
For a moment, let’s put ideology aside and focus in on the simple management of the U.S. Congress. If a political party can’t manage the daily operations of Congress, they’re going to have trouble effectively implementing any political agenda.
What we see with S. 1206 is that the GOP can’t handle the most basic managerial tasks of Congress. It’s been one and a half weeks since Sanders introduced S. 1206, and still there is no officially-available copy of the bill for the public to read online at Congress.gov. That’s because the bill hasn’t yet been printed on paper, and the Library of Congress has a policy of not releasing the text of any bills electronically before they have been printed on paper.
In the past, it’s taken two to three days for the text of a bill to be made available. In this post-Kinkos era, a 10-day-and-counting print job for a document that consists of nothing more than words is absurd.
And now, back to the ideology. The delay in the case of S. 1206 is particularly important, because the bill is a direct challenge to the power that big banks hold over our country’s political system.
Since these banks brought the United States to the brink of calamity in 2007 and 2008, they have grown even larger and more powerful. Sanders explains, “I fear very much that the financial system is even more fragile than many people may perceive. This huge issue cannot be swept under the rug. It has got to be addressed. During the financial crisis of 2008, the American people were told that they needed to bailout huge financial institutions because those institutions were “too big to fail.” Yet, today, three out of the four financial institutions in this country (JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) are 80 percent larger today than they were on September 30, 2007, a year before the taxpayers of this country bailed them out.
These giant banks have received massive amounts of government assistance in the form of favorable legislation and even direct payments of taxpayer money, because they are deemed “too big to fail”. They are so massive that the collapse of any one of them would bring economic disaster, we’re told. So, the government props them up. The banks then find money in their reserves to make big payments to prop up the political campaigns of politicians who support government assistance to banks. As Sanders puts it, “The fact of the matter is that Congress does not regulate Wall Street; Wall Street regulates Congress.”
Bernie Sanders aims to take on this cozy and corrupt arrangement with S. 1206. As its title suggests, the legislation would require the breakup of banks that are deemed to be so large that they cannot be allowed to fail.
Sanders writes, “No single financial institution should be so large that its failure would cause catastrophic risk to millions of Americans or to our nation’s economic well-being. No single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure would send the world economy into crisis. If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist and that is the bottom line.
And, let’s be clear: the reason we are here today is not just because of the danger these institutions pose to taxpayers.
The enormous concentration of ownership within the financial sector is hurting the middle class and damaging the economy by limiting choices and raising prices for consumers and small businesses.
Today, just six huge financial institutions have assets of nearly $10 trillion which is equal to nearly 60 percent of GDP. These huge banks handle more than two-thirds of all credit card purchases, write over 35 percent of the mortgages, and control nearly half of all bank deposits in this country. If the American people are wondering why tens of millions of Americans are being charged interest rates of more than 20 percent on their credit cards, while big banks can receive virtually zero interest loans from the Federal Reserve, the lack of competition in the banking industry is a major reason for that.
If Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, do you know what he would say? He would say break ‘em up.”
In the United States Senate, Senator Sanders has written a strong bill to break up the banks that have created an unjust and anemic economy, and corrupted our democratic government. Yet, so ineffective is the Republican leadership of the legislative branch that the American people can’t even read the Sanders legislation.
I don’t know enough to say that there’s a conspiracy by the Republicans to shut American voters out of the legislative process. What I can say is that, for the politicians who are taking payments from banks like JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, the situation is quite convenient.