[complete speech as prepared]
Greed, fraud, dishonesty, and arrogance: these are the words that best describe the reality of Wall Street today.
We can no longer tolerate an economy and a political system that have been rigged by Wall Street to benefit the wealthiest Americans in this country at the expense of everyone else. While President Obama deserves credit for getting this economy back on track after the Wall Street crash, the reality is there is a lot of unfinished business.
That's why today in New York City I announced my plan for taking on Wall Street. We must break up the banks, end their casino-style gambling, and fundamentally change the approach of the financial industry to focus on helping the American people.
When I am president, we will reform Wall Street and our financial system to make it work for all Americans. I want to tell you about what I will do, then ask you to add your name to endorse our plan.
To those on Wall Street, let me be very clear. Greed is not good. In fact, the greed of Wall Street and corporate America is destroying the fabric of our nation. And here is a promise I will make as president: If Wall Street does not end its greed, we will end it for them.
As most people know, in the 1990s and later, financial interests spent billions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions to force through Congress the deregulation of Wall Street, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and the weakening of consumer protection laws.
They paid this money to show the American people all that they could do with that freedom. Well, they sure showed the American people. In 2008, the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street nearly destroyed the U.S. and global economy. Millions of Americans lost their jobs, their homes, and their life savings.
Meanwhile, the American middle class continues to disappear, poverty is increasing, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider and wider by the day. But the American people are catching on. They also know that a handful of people on Wall Street have extraordinary power over the economic and political life of our country.
We must act now to change that. Our goal must be to create a financial system and an economy that works for all Americans, not just a handful of billionaires.
There are eight points to my plan, and I want to go through each of them here because I think it's important for our campaign to discuss specific policies with our supporters. Some of this may seem a little in the weeds, but I trust our supporters to be able to handle this kind of policy discussion.
Here's my plan for what I will do with Wall Street when I am president:
- Break up huge financial institutions in the first year of my administration. Within the first 100 days of my administration, I will require the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a “Too Big to Fail” list of commercial banks, shadow banks, and insurance companies whose failure would pose a catastrophic risk to the U.S. economy without a taxpayer bailout. Within one year, my administration will break these institutions up so that they no longer pose a grave threat to the economy.
- Reinstate a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act to clearly separate traditional banking from risky investment banking and insurance services. It is not enough to tell Wall Street to "cut it out," propose a few new rules and slap on some fines. Under my administration, financial institutions will no longer be too big to fail or too big to manage. Wall Street cannot continue to be an island unto itself, gambling trillions in risky financial instruments. If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.
- End too-big-to-jail. We live in a country today that has an economy that is rigged, a campaign finance system which is corrupt, and a criminal justice system which often does not dispense justice. The average American sees kids being arrested and sometimes even jailed for possessing marijuana. But when it comes to Wall Street executives — some of the most wealthy and powerful people in this country whose illegal behavior hurt millions of Americans — somehow nothing happens to them. No jail time. No police record. No justice.
Not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy. That will change under my administration. “Equal Justice Under Law” will not just be words engraved on the entrance of the Supreme Court. It will be the standard that applies to Wall Street and all Americans.
- Establish a tax on Wall Street to discourage reckless gambling and encourage productive investments in the job-creating economy. We will use the revenue from this tax to make public colleges and universities tuition free. During the financial crisis, the middle class of this country bailed out Wall Street. Now, it’s Wall Street’s turn to help the middle class.
- Cap Credit Card Interest Rates and ATM Fees. We have got to stop financial institutions from ripping off the American people by charging sky-high interest rates and outrageous fees. In my view, it is unacceptable that Americans are paying a $4 or $5 fee each time they go to the ATM. And it is unacceptable that millions of Americans are paying credit card interest rates of 20 or 30 percent.
The Bible has a term for this practice. It's called usury. And in The Divine Comedy, Dante reserved a special place in the Seventh Circle of Hell for sinners who charged people usurious interest rates. Today, we don't need the hellfire and the pitchforks, we don't need the rivers of boiling blood, but we do need a national usury law.
We need to cap interest rates on credit cards and consumer loans at 15 percent. I would also cap ATM fees at $2.
- Allow Post Offices to Offer Banking Services. We also need to give Americans affordable banking options. The reality is that, unbelievably, millions of low-income Americans live in communities where there are no normal banking services. Today, if you live in a low-income community and you need to cash a check or get a loan to pay for a car repair or a medical emergency, where do you go? You go to a payday lender who could charge an interest rate of over 300 percent and trap you into a vicious cycle of debt. That is unacceptable.
We need to stop payday lenders from ripping off millions of Americans. Post offices exist in almost every community in our country. One important way to provide decent banking opportunities for low-income communities is to allow the U.S. Postal Service to engage in basic banking services, and that's what I will fight for.
- Reform Credit Rating Agencies. We cannot have a safe and sound financial system if we cannot trust the credit agencies to accurately rate financial products. The only way we can restore that trust is to make sure credit rating agencies cannot make a profit from Wall Street. Under my administration, we will turn for-profit credit rating agencies into non-profit institutions, independent from Wall Street. No longer will Wall Street be able to pick and choose which credit agency will rate their products.
- Reform the Federal Reserve. We need to structurally reform the Federal Reserve to make it a more democratic institution responsive to the needs of ordinary Americans, not just the billionaires on Wall Street. It is unacceptable that the Federal Reserve has been hijacked by the very bankers it is in charge of regulating. When Wall Street was on the verge of collapse, the Federal Reserve acted with a fierce sense of urgency to save the financial system. We need the Fed to act with the same boldness to combat the unemployment crisis and fulfill its full employment mandate.
Will Wall Street like me? No. Will they begin to play by the rules if I’m president? You better believe it.