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Interview with Senator Bernie Sanders

Interview with Senator Bernie Sanders

By The Situation Room - May 16, 2012

BLITZER: Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM. Senator Sanders, always good to have you here.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Good to be here.

BLITZER: When you heard that JPMorgan Chase lost $2 billion in this one bet, what was the first thing that went through your mind because I've been reading some of your statements?

SANDERS: What went through my mind is these guys have learned absolutely nothing, same old, same old and it scares me in terms of the future and the fact --

Look, if these guys are continuing doing reckless debts, which is got us to where we are right now, which forced the American people to bail out Wall Street, which led to this terrible recession with so many people.

It tells me that these guys have learned nothing and we need to reregulate and in my view, Wolf, we need to start breaking up these huge banks, which control so much of our economy.

BLITZER: How do you do that? You need legislation in order to do that.

SANDERS: Of course, you need legislation. If you point out that Wall Street is enormously powerful with their campaign contributions and lobbying, you're right.

Think back in American history, you know, Teddy Roosevelt did it. What Teddy Roosevelt said these guys are too big. We have to break them up.

Right now, you have six financial institutions that have assets equivalent to two thirds of the GDP of the United States, over $9 trillion, six banks. In my view and I think in most people's views that's too big.

BLITZER: Because JPMorgan Chase says the $2 billion they lost yes, it's a lot of money, but in the scheme of things, they're still going to make billions and billions of dollars in profits this year.

SANDERS: Well, in the great scheme of things. Well, I think what worries the American people is we need financial institutions to be investing in the productive economy, to be helping out businesses expand jobs, produce products and services. And not being part of the great gambling casino that Wall Street is right now. That's what scares the American people.

BLITZER: I know you're concerned that Jamie Dimon, the chairman/CEO of JPMorgan Chase is on the board of the Federal Reserve in New York. Why does that concern you? Don't they need experts on the board of the Federal Reserve?

SANDERS: No. The theory is -- of course, they need experts, but the conflicts of interest are so apparent that they're laughable.

Here you have the fed, which is supposed to regulate Wall Street and then you have the CEO of the largest Wall Street company on the board, which is supposed to be regulated.

This is the fox guarding the henhouse. We are going introduce legislation to end the conflict of interest and get the financial institutions off of the fed.

BLITZER: Because as you realize, I'm sure you agree, until now Jamie Dimon has had a sterling reputation as one of the most brilliant guys on Wall Street.

SANDERS: It is not Jamie Dimon. It is the absurdity of having those people who are supposed to be regulating doing the regulating. They're supposed to be regulating and not sitting on board of the fed.

BLITZER: Monday night, President Obama went to a fundraiser with a whole bunch of big Wall Street guys to raise money for his campaign. He said this. I'll put it up on the screen. He said, "I believe that the free market is the greatest wealth generator ever devised by man and it's at the core of who we are. I think risk takers and innovators should be rewarded. I think all of us benefit from the freedom of free enterprise."

That's obviously the message these Wall Street guys want to hear from the president of the United States. Are you OK with that?

SANDERS: No. I'm not because you have six financial institutions that control the financial industry. That is not free market. That is not competition.

Second of all, these six financial institutions issue half of the mortgages in America and two-thirds of the credit cards. Does that sound to you like a competitive free market situation?

It is not. It is monopolistic and unless you get a handle on that, two things might happen, number one, we'll be back for too big to fail and the need for taxpayers to bail them out. Second of all, it is not good for the economy and the political system when so few institutions have so much power.

BLITZER: Some have criticized the president for being hypocritical. On the one hand, campaigning against Mitt Romney and his period of Bain Capital when he was a venture capitalist, but then going to a fundraiser including guys from Bain Capital seeking money for his re- election.

SANDERS: So what else is new? I mean, Wall Street will fund the Romney campaign. They'll fund the Obama campaign and they'll fund Republicans and Democrats. That's what they do.

You know, I think many people have the mistaken impression that Congress regulates Wall Street. In truth that's not the case. The real truth is that Wall Street regulates the Congress.

They are enormously powerful and it remains to be seen whether we have the capability without an uprising of the American people to say enough is enough.

BLITZER: But Congress did pass Dodd-Frank. Congress did pass Sarbanes-Oxley. These are regulations.

SANDERS: Absolutely, but also, let's remember Wall Street spent huge amounts of money to get the deregulation, which brought us to the financial collapse, doing away with Glass Steagall.

Wall Street has put huge amounts of money in campaign contributions and lobbying in order to weaken the already kind of modest proposals within Dodd Frank.

BLITZER: Last time we spoke, your endorsement of the president is lukewarm. How are you doing about that right now?

SANDERS: Well, I think you have in a candidate like Romney, somebody who is George Bush reincarnated. It's the same old tax breaks for the rich and cut Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, unfettered free trade.

So if people liked the Bush economic policy, you're going to like Romney. I thought the Bush economic policy was a disaster. We lost 500,000 private sector jobs during his tenure.

So I think Obama is by far the preferable candidate. Is Obama doing everything I want, absolutely not, and among other things he has not been as strong as he should standing up to Wall Street.

BLITZER: Senator Sanders, good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for coming in.

SANDERS: My pleasure. 

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