Transcript: Thom and Senator Bernie Sanders on the Ft. Hood shootings, concentration of ownership, energy efficiency and sustainability. 06 November 2009

Thom Hartmann: And it being Friday, of course, our first hour, actually today it’s only gonna be our first half hour because he’s gotta catch a plane. But senator Bernie Sanders taking, you’re in an airport Bernie?

Bernie Sanders: I am.

Thom Hartmann: Okay, well thank you so much for going out of your way to be with us on this Friday. We really value you and our listeners really value you. Um, a couple of topics I want to just toss at you and let you go with them. First of all, 12 people dead, this tragic shooting down in Ft. Hood. Secondly, you have introduced a piece of legislation into Congress, or are going to be, to break up the two big to fail banks. Our economic numbers just came out, another over 100,000 people unemployed after we’ve declared the recession over; seems a little premature to me, and of course global warming is problematic. So let me just toss that load at you there.

Bernie Sanders: Yeah, well Thom, it’s good to be with you and I think I speak for everybody in the state of Vermont and throughout this country when I express our horror about the incident at Fort Hood and our condolences to the affected families. It was just a terrible, terrible tragedy.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah.

Bernie Sanders: Um, yesterday, last night, what we did is we introduced legislation which is all of two pages. It’s pretty simple. And what it says is if an institution is too big to fail it’s too big to exist. I think there is outrage throughout this country at the fact that taxpayers had to put up 700 billion dollars to bail out a handful of Wall Street institutions whose greed has plunged us into where we are today. And you just already mentioned that unemployment, official unemployment, is now at over 10%. But Thom, what we should understand is that the official unemployment statistics literally tell only half the story. They do not take into account people who have given up looking for work, people who are working part time and want to work full time, and if you add all that together, Thom, you’re somewhere around 17 1/2 % and some 27 million Americans and that’s the worst statistics that we have seen since decades and decades and decades.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Since the 2nd year of the Reagan administration, actually. Since ’83. And numerically we have more people out of work now than ever in the history of the country. Not as a percentage, but in absolute numbers. You know, Bernie, on December 5th 1881 senator Sherman from Ohio introduced a piece of legislature to deal with just this problem. It was passed, it’s called the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Bernie Sanders: That’s right. And I think the issue here is, I think many of the listeners would be shocked to know that three out of the four largest financial institutions that we bailed out are now larger than they were before the bail out. So the argument was they were too big to fail then, they are even bigger right now which means there is real potential for even greater bail out in years to come and on top of that of course, Wall Street is spending millions and millions of dollars to make sure that we don’t have the kind of reforms that we need to stop their gambling and the speculative activities.

So there’s a reason to believe that what has happened last year could happen again. So what we are proposing is something pretty simple. I mean it can’t be simpler, this is a two page bill. I think we have a petition on our website,, to ask people to give me some support on this issue, so that we can move it forward. And what it says is in the first three months we want the Treasury Department to tell us all of those financial institutions that are in fact too big to fail, i.e., meaning that if they go down there will be systemic damage to the entire economy and we would have to bail them out again.

Thom Hartmann: Now the Sherman Act dealt not just with banks but with all kinds of monopolies. Does your legislation?

Bernie Sanders: No, this is just dealing with financial institutions. The other, you raise an important issue. Because we’re seeing concentration of ownership in many areas of our economy. But this just deals with the financial institutions. The second point that has to, touching on what you’ve said, is that this is not only a liability for tax payers, and that is the 700 billion in bail out plus the trillions of dollars in zero interest loans that the Fed gave to these institutions. But there’s another issue out there, which we don’t talk about very much, and that is that right now the four largest financial institutions in the country, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, Thom these guys now issue 1 out of every 2 mortgages. Got that? Half the mortgages in American come from these four. They issue two out of three credit cards.

Thom Hartmann: They’ve got us by the throat.

Bernie Sanders: You got it. And they hold four out of every 10 dollars in bank deposits in the entire country. So what you’re looking at is not only the financial liability that tax payers are under if these guys collapse as they did last time, but just the concentration of ownership and the lack of real competition. So what you see, and you know, we get calls almost every week on this issue, people calling up and they say you know I paid my credit card bills on time and then these guys double my rates, right? 25, 30%. And we’re having 20% of the people in this country now paying more than 20% interest rates on their credit cards, which is outrageous. But that is also related to this concentration of ownership. You may have heard, your listeners also may have heard, that in the United Kingdom right now they are beginning to do exactly what I’m talking about. You have people from the progressive perspective, even some conservatives who are beginning to understand that this type of concentration of ownership leads to less competition and of course endangers the tax payers in terms of having to bail them out again. So we’ve introduced this legislation, uh, there is other type of legislation I think going to be introduced in the house, maybe not going as far and as quickly as we would go. But I would hope that our listeners would give us support on this, sign the petition. And let’s see what we can do in moving this forward.

Thom Hartmann: Amen.

Bernie Sanders: So that’s one issue that is very very huge, tied into the economy. Second issue, yesterday, I’m on the environmental committee chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Uh and what we passed is, I guess, the strongest global warming legislation uh that has been passed in congress. It goes significantly further than the house legislation did. What was troubling of course is that our Republican friends boycotted the bill, boycotted the markup where we...

Thom Hartmann: Wasn’t there one democrat who actually voted against this?

Bernie Sanders: Yes, Baucus, Max Baucus of Montana voted against it. But we had the votes that we need to get it out of committee and now it will be combined with other pieces of legislation and here’s the point. There’s just three basic issues that I think we deal with fairly effectively. I will try to make this a stronger bill as it moves on but this is what it deals with. Number one, we spent an incredible 350 billion dollars a year, almost a billion dollars a day, buying oil from Saudi Arabia, from Iraq, from Venezuela, from countries all over the world, 350 billion dollars a year. If we just took a fraction of that money and invested it in this country making us energy independent, moving us to energy efficiency. In Vermont for example, I think Vermont is leading this country. We now consume less electricity than we used to. We can do this. We can, if the rest of the country did what Vermont did for example, you could prevent the construction of 390 coal burning plants. So, number one: energy efficiency we have to invest in.

And number two: we have to invest in public transportation. And number three: We have to invest in sustainable energy, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass. And if you do all of those things what you end up doing is not only cutting back greenhouse gas emissions, not only making our country energy independent, which is important also for a geopolitical point of view in the sense of not having to fight wars, like the wars in Iraq. But it also, Thom, creates millions of good paying jobs. And that is the issue of the moment. Transforming our energy system away from greenhouse gas emitting technologies like coal and oil to sustainable energy and energy efficiency, public transportation, and in the process we strengthen our economy, we clean up the economy so the kids aren’t sick from asthma inhaling all these particulates.

Thom Hartmann: Yep.

Bernie Sanders: So that’s kind of the mission that we’ve got to undertake, I think.

Thom Hartmann: Spain’s doing it, Australia’s doing it, China’s doing it. Time for us! Okay, Senator Bernie Sanders with us,, his website. A great resource. He’s only gonna be with us for one more segment, he’ll be taking your calls right after the break. Stick around. It’s our brunch with Bernie half hour today, on the Thom Hartmann Program.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

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