Sanders: Wealthy should have to help bail out Wall St.

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(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders has some ideas for what Congress should do when it debates how to rescue the financial industry.

Sanders says the wealthy should pay to bail out banks and other financial institutions. And he wants those big corporations to be broken up by the government.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd has the story.

(Sneyd) Wall Street’s crisis has shaken confidence across the country, including in the halls of Congress.

(Sanders) “You have an economy on the precipice of collapse.”

(Sneyd) Senator Sanders says corporate greed is to blame. So he says the people who run companies like Lehman Brothers or American Insurance Group should foot the bill for whatever bailout Washington devises.

Sanders’ solution is a surtax on the rich. He’s not sure who would be subject to that tax or how much they’d have to pay. But he does know who wouldn’t be paying.

(Sanders) “To my mind, it would be absolutely wrong to have the middle class and working families have to pay for the very serious errors of the Bush administration, which have benefited, absolutely disproportionately, the wealthiest people in this country. Since Bush has been president, just one example, the wealthiest 400 people – 400 people – have seen their wealth increase by $670 billion.”

(Sneyd) Sanders is eager for the Senate to take up the bailout bill.

To win Sanders’ support, the bill will have to include stricter federal regulation of the finance industry. It’ll have to include a new stimulus package that creates jobs.

And Sanders wants Washington to dismantle the corporations that he says got Wall Street into this crisis.

(Sanders) “I think we have to deal with this concept of too big to fail. Ironically, what’s going on now, companies like the Bank of America, which have swallowed up Countrywide and Merrill Lynch and may be swallowing up other companies, they are now too big to fail and you’re going to have to bail them out in 10 years. So you need to take a hard look at this too big to fail doctrine and start breaking up these very huge corporations.”

(Host) All of these proposals will be debated in the context of a national political campaign.

So Sanders knows it won’t be easy to enact his ideas. But he says it won’t be any easier to adopt the other difficult choices that face Congress.

That’s why he’s hopeful that policies he’s advocated for for three decades might get a hearing.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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