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Powerful New Coalition Aims To Advance Bold Wall Street Reform Agenda

Labor organizations and community groups representing 25 million Americans unite behind tough agenda: closing Wall Street tax loopholes, making banks smaller and simpler, curbing predatory lending, and more 

Senator Elizabeth Warren (image by Ninian Reid FLIKR)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (image by Ninian Reid FLIKR)

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today headlined an event in Washington, DC, where membership organizations, policy experts and elected leaders launched a new campaign for bold reforms to overhaul the country’s broken financial system. The Take on Wall Street coalition represents approximately 25 million Americans, including members of labor organizations like the AFL-CIO, AFT and CWA; grassroots community organizing networks like People’s Action and the Center for Popular Democracy; and others, including faith based organizations, MoveOn.org and the Working Families Party.  

As the 2016 campaign season has demonstrated, Americans across the political spectrum remain angry and frustrated with Wall Street and the Big Banks, which they see as both drivers and beneficiaries of a rigged system.  Wall Street billionaires continue to rake in outrageous profits through business practices that hurt working families—families that are still struggling to recover from the crisis Wall Street greed and recklessness precipitated eight years ago. Poll after poll demonstrates that most Americans strongly favor financial reform to support a fair economy.  

The Take on Wall Street campaign will advance a set of ambitious policy goals for a more equitable and inclusive economy.  The coalition members aim to convert the anger about Wall Street’s growing political and economic dominance into concrete, bold and lasting legislative gains at the state, local, and federal levels. 

“Hardworking men and women across the country want a fighting chance to build a real future for themselves and for their children,” Senator Elizabeth Warren said. “I’m glad to stand alongside the Take on Wall Street coalition to push for changes to make our financial markets safer and to create an economy that works for all our families. These are tough fights, but I know that if we get out there and stand together, we can win.” 

At the launch event, Take on Wall Street unveiled a five-point agenda to rebalance the economy so it is no longer rigged against working Americans: 

1.    Close the carried interest loophole which permits private equity and hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than most working Americans.

2.    Introduce a Wall Street speculation tax on sales of derivatives, stocks, bonds, and other financial products that would raise billions of dollars, bring banks closer to paying their fair of taxes, and stop some forms of destructive high-frequency trading outright.

3.    Make banks simpler, smaller and safer. End ‘too big to fail,’ and reinstitute the Glass Stegall separation between commercial and investment banks.

4.    Close the CEO bonus loophole, which permits corporations to pay less in taxes the more they pay their executives.

5.    End Predatory Lending and expand access to fair safe financial services by supporting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and expanding access to fair and equitable banking through Postal Banking. 

This is a rare moment in history to achieve fundamental change. This campaign is about rewriting the economic rules. The proposals at the heart of this campaign will drastically improve the way financial services function and mean more money in the pockets of working families, and hundreds of billions of dollars to boost our economy,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. 

“Finance has become the master of the economy, rather than a tool to serve it. And the outsized influence of the financial industry defends and extends rules that reward the already extremely wealthy but leave everyone else behind,” said Lisa Donner, Executive Director of Americans for Financial Reform, a broad-based coalition that was formed to work for financial reform and create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “This campaign is about moving people into action to demand change that will unrig the game and build a financial system that works for working people.” 

“Predatory lenders and tax-avoiding corporations work in concert to extract wealth from my community, leaving my customers, the lifeblood of my business, trapped in a perpetual cycle of debt and absorbing a larger share of our mutual tax responsibility. We must usher in a set of rules that reins in predatory lending, holds corporations accountable to pay their fair share in taxes, and returns the wealth of communities to the hands of local consumers,” said David Borris, owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering in Chicago and member of the Main Street Alliance Executive Committee.   

In coming weeks, the campaign will host a tele-town hall with leading champions of reform, and launch a wave of direct actions and media events to call attention to some of the worst Wall Street practices that call out for reform, with particular emphasis on closing the carried interest loophole, which campaign leaders describe as a particularly glaring example of the corrupting influence of Wall Street campaign and lobbying dollars.  

Campaign partner organizations say that they will continue to press elected officials, regulators, and candidates at all levels of government throughout the summer and into the fall. The coalition will focus on naming the executives, legislators, and big banks and financial companies who continue to put our economy in jeopardy – while also shining a light on those champions who are taking action to make Wall Street accountable to working families.  

Current partners in the campaign include:  

  • AFL-CIO
  • Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action
  • American Family Voices
  • American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Postal Workers Union
  • Americans Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO
  • Americans for Financial Reform
  • Campaign for America’s Future
  • Catholic Alliance for the Common Good
  • Center for Popular Democracy
  • Citizen Action NY
  • Communications Workers of America
  • Consumer Action
  • Courage Campaign
  • Daily Kos
  • Democracy for America
  • Economic Policy Institute
  • Friends of the Earth
  • HedgeClippers
  • Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project
  • International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Media Voices for Children
  • MoveOn
  • National Education Association
  • NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
  • NYC Communities for Change
  • The Other 98%
  • People for the American Way
  • People’s Action Institute
  • Presente
  • Public Citizen
  • Rootsaction
  • Service Employees International Union
  • Strong Economy for All Coalition
  • The Nation
  • The Rootstrikers at Demand Progress
  • UNITE-HERE
  • Working America
  • Working Families Party

Are You Tired Of Congress Manufacturing A Budget Crisis To Force Through Terrible Legislation?

Budget details: you couldn’t make this stuff up, if you tried

It’s not like Congress didn’t know they had to pass a federal budget.

It’s not like they didn’t have lots and lots of time to put an appropriations bill together, either before or after the elections.

It’s not like they didn’t know what happens when the money runs out. (Hint: not all that much, actually. Except that 800,000 federal workers are required to work without being paid.)

No, this Congress knew all too well what would happen. Since President Obama was elected, Congress has:

  1. had a budget crisis in March 2009
  2. had a budget crisis in September 2009
  3. had a budget crisis in September 2010
  4. had THREE budget crises in December 2010
  5. had TWO budget crises in March 2011
  6. had a budget crisis in April 2011
  7. had a budget crisis in August 2012
  8. had a budget crisis in September 2012
  9. had a budget crisis in March 2013
  10. had a budget crisis – and a government shutdown – in October 2013
  11. had a budget crisis in January 2014
  12. and had a budget crisis just three months ago.

(That’s a rough list. No guarantees of accuracy, I may have missed some. And it doesn’t include the debt-limit crises.)

And yet once again, this weekend, right now… Congress finds itself in a budget emergency.

And from listening to some of the politicians, you’d almost think no-one could have predicted this.

And with all their angst (“Emergency!” “Emergency!” “Can’t let the government shutdown again!”)…

… it would be really easy to overlook some of the so-called “details” of this spending bill. Details like:

  1. The so-called “Citibank” provision that would undo part of Dodd-Frank financial regulation, and allow big banks to rely on the FDIC to backstop risky derivative trades. (Read NHLN coverage here and here.)
  2. The Kline-Miller amendment, which would allow cuts to the earned retirement benefits of millions of retirees. AARP calls it a “secret attack by Congress” and a “last minute backroom deal.”   (Read the AARP alert here.)
  3. The (ahem) provision to help the GOP afford its next convention. According to the New York Times, “The secret negotiations that led to one of the most significant expansions of campaign contributions in recent years began with what Republican leaders regarded as an urgent problem: How would they pay for their presidential nominating convention in Cleveland in two years? It ended with a bipartisan agreement … that would allow wealthy donors to begin giving more than $1 million every election cycle to each party’s national committees.” (Wow. 2016 is going to be a record-breaking presidential campaign season.)
  4. The “Collins rider,” which would increase truck driver hours of service, and other provisions that would increase truck weight limits in Kentucky, Mississippi and Wisconsin. “None of these special interest [provisions] has been subject to any committee hearings, adequate safety review or cost/benefit analysis. However, all of them will have a profound impact on highway safety, deaths and injuries.” The bill will “eliminate the two nights off-duty for truck drivers to rest, while significantly increasing working and driving hours for truck drivers up to 82 hours a week when fatigue is already a well-known and well-documented highway killer.” (Read the Truck Safety Coalition alert here.)
  5. Provisions prohibiting the Fish and Wildlife Service from adding the sage grouse to the endangered species list. This one was apparently added “at the behest of grazing, mining, and oil and gas interests.” (Read more here.)

According to the Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the GOP added “nearly 100” special interest riders to the bill.

The five, above, are just the ones that have already attracted public attention.

Can’t help but wonder what ELSE is in that bill.

 

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