The Blog

I'm Marching Today to Make Wall Street Pay

Our message is simple: Big Banks tanked our economy and took our money when they needed a bailout. Now they're thumbing their noses at our communities but making billions in profits. It's time they pay up.
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So now we learn that as millions of America's families were losing their homes, Goldman Sachs cheered because it stood to make huge money betting on a housing market gone bad. Is that Wall Street's vision of American values? It's not mine. And it's not the values of the thousands of working Americans who are marching on Wall Street today in person with me and online.

Our message is simple: Big Banks tanked our economy and took our money when they needed a bailout. Now they're thumbing their noses at our communities but making billions in profits. It's time they pay up.

Pay up by investing in communities to create jobs for the millions of unemployed workers -- like Terry in Florida, who was laid off a week before Christmas. Being forced to return his family's Christmas gifts to the store was just the beginning of his pain. While the corporation he worked for is turning a profit, he fears his family will be homeless by summer.

Meanwhile, in 2009, 25 hedge fund managers were paid the equivalent of the salaries of 680,000 school teachers. That's in 2009, when we taxpayers spent billions of dollars bailing out the financial sector. If Goldman Sachs is cheering at the collapse of the housing market, what's the rest of Wall Street saying? Thanks, suckers?

Those may be Wall Street's values. They're not America's.

In a stunning new Pew poll, more than half of those surveyed say within the past year a member of their household has been out of work -- up 15 percentage points since last year. Fully 70 percent of Americans say they have faced one or more job- or financial-related problems in the past year, up from 59 percent in February 2009.

And homelessness no longer is a scourge of the most troubled of our society. Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, describes the nation's epidemic of homelessness as reaching crisis proportions not seen since the Great Depression -- and it stems directly from the Big Bank-fueled recession in which millions of workers lost jobs and savings and can no longer afford their mortgage or rent.

Meanwhile, the Big Banks announced massive first quarter earnings -- Citigroup, $4.4 billion; Bank of America, $4.2 billion; Goldman Sachs, $3.46 billion; JPMorgan Chase, $3.3 billion; and Morgan Stanley, $1.8 billion. It turns out that much of that money was made by the same risky trading practices that cost taxpayers a $700 billion bank bailout.

The damage inflicted has deepened economic inequality, which has gotten worse since 2007. The richest 10 percent now control nearly 70 percent of the wealth. Those with incomes in the bottom 50 percent have a little more than 2 percent of the wealth.

The bottom line is Wall Street should pay to clean up the mess they made and Congress must enact strong Wall Street reform. We are supporting four ways for the Big Banks to pay -- President Obama's bank tax, a special tax on bank bonuses, closing the carried interest tax loophole for hedge funds and private equity and, most important, a financial speculation tax levied on all financial transactions -- including derivatives -- that would raise more than $150 billion a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The financial speculation tax would have a negligible impact on long-term investors but would discourage the short-termism in the capital markets that led to so much destruction over the past decade.

Congress also must aggressively address the jobs crisis now -- if not because it's the right thing to do, then because of November 2010. That Pew poll I cited above? It found Americans united in the belief that the economy is in bad shape: 92 percent give it a negative rating.

Wall Street's values are based on greed. The American people's values are rooted in working hard, playing fairly and doing right by our family, neighbors and friends.

If you can't march and rally with us on The Street, join us live online today at 4 p.m. EDT. We'll be 10,000 strong on the ground and marching for tens of thousands more who have signed up to take part in our virtual march.

Working people are angry -- and we are right to be angry at the betrayal of our economic future. Help us turn that anger into the energy to create jobs, fix our economy and build a stronger nation.

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