Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took on Wall Street on its home turf Tuesday, telling supporters at a Manhattan campaign rally that “corporate greed is destroying the fabric of our nation.”
Sanders, a Vermont U.S. senator seeking the Democratic nomination against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, unveiled plans to increase oversight of the nation’s banking industry in a nearly hourlong address at Town Hall near Times Square.
Sanders said the industry was fueled by “dishonesty and arrogance,” and cast Clinton as beholden to Wall Street political donors.
“We will no longer tolerate an economy and a political system that has been rigged by Wall Street to benefit the wealthiest Americans in this country at the expense of everyone else,” Sanders told a crowd of more than 600 supporters, who chanted, “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”
Sanders announced plans to “break up” financial institutions that have been labeled as “too big to fail,” referring to firms that economists say could trigger an economic downturn if they collapsed and were not bailed out by the government.
Sanders said that if elected, he would direct his treasury secretary to create a list of such institutions, with the aim of restructuring them into smaller firms within a year.
“To those on Wall Street who may be listening today, let me be very clear: Greed is not good,” Sanders said. “Wall Street and corporate greed is destroying the fabric of our nation. And here is a New Year’s Resolution that we will keep: If you do not end your greed, we will end it for you.”
Sanders also proposed capping ATM fees at $2, interest rates on credit cards and consumer loans at 15 percent. He also said the U.S. Postal Service should be allowed to offer banking services, noting the need for banks in low-income communities.
Clinton’s campaign released a statement calling on Sanders to “endorse” Clinton’s Wall Street policies.
Gary Gensler, chief financial officer for the Clinton campaign, criticized Sanders for taking a “hands-off approach” to “shadow banking” institutions, such as mortgage companies that played a role in the subprime mortgage crisis.
“Any plan to further reform our financial system must include strong provisions to tackle risks in the ‘shadow banking’ sector, which remains a critical source of potential instability in our economy,” Gensler said in an email to reporters. “This includes certain activities of hedge funds, investment banks like the now-defunct Lehman Brothers, and insurance companies like AIG.”
Sanders, an independent who has made Wall Street reform a central theme of his campaign, continued to attack Clinton for accepting political donations and speakers fees from financial firms and investors.
Clinton has repeatedly responded to Sanders’ criticisms by saying she her record of taking on the industry when she served as a U.S. senator from New York from 2001 to 2009, supporting measures often unfavored by Wall Street.