Sanders Echos Warren with Call to ‘Bust Up the Big Banks’

Nonpartisan League
A cartoon from the Nonpartisan League, a group of prairie populists who took on the industrialists and the Wall Street banks in the early 20th century, during the first progressive era.
Teddy Roosevelt
President Teddy Roosevelt was America’s original “trust-buster,” taking on monopolies and big banks in the early 20th century.

One day after Senator Elizabeth Warren rekindled the spirit of President Teddy Roosevelt and called for breaking up the Wall Street banks because they have too much political power, Senator Bernie Sanders has seconded that proposal.

From Sanders’ press release:

“Over the last several days, it has become abundantly clear that Congress does not regulate Wall Street but Wall Street regulates Congress.  If Wall Street lobbyists can literally write a provision into law that will allow too-big-to-fail banks to make the same risky bets that nearly destroyed our economy just a few years ago, it should be obvious to all that their incredible economic and political power is a huge danger to our economy and our way of life,” Sanders said.

Lobbyists for Citigroup drafted the measure and JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon reportedly called congressmen to lobby for the provision that would gut a key provision of Dodd-Frank, the Wall Street reform law passed in 2010.

“Enough is enough,” Sanders said. “Today, almost all of the too-big-to-fail banks are bigger and even more powerful than they were before we bailed them out. The six largest financial institutions have over $9.8 trillion in assets — the equivalent of more than 60 percent of GDP.  They issue over half of the mortgages and more than two-thirds of the credit cards in America.

“If Congress cannot regulate Wall Street, there is just one alternative.  It is time to break these too-big-to-fail banks up so that they can never again destroy the jobs, homes, and life savings of the American people.

Nonpartisan League
A cartoon from the Nonpartisan League, a group of prairie populists who took on the industrialists and the Wall Street banks in the early 20th century, during the first progressive era.

“At the beginning of the new Congress, I will be introducing legislation that will break these behemoth banks up once and for all. If a financial institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.  I look forward to working with both progressive and conservative Senators who have the courage to stand up to Wall Street and protect the working families of this country,” Sanders said.

The idea of busting up banks and other monopolies is not a new one. Around the turn of the 20th century, as industrialists were becoming more economically and politically powerful, the first American progressive movement began to fight for “the little guy”. Across the prairie states, groups like the Nonpartisan League organized farmers who were enraged by Wall Street bankers and big business. Wall Street was foreclosing on family farms, and the railroads were charging unfair shipping prices to farmers. Progressive leaders like President Teddy Roosevelt became champions who led the charge against unfair practices by big business and big banks.

Will Sanders, Warren, and grassroots groups like Progressive Democrats of American, People Demanding Action, Occupy, MoveOn, and the Public Banking Institute lead the charge against corporate greed and power in this New Progressive Era?

[P.S. To learn more about Teddy, Eleanor, and Franklin Roosevelt, check out great 2014 PBS documentary here.]


  1. Ever since the DLC took over the Democratic party in 1992, there has been a huge dissonance about a Democratic message. This is now coming to a head. Chuck Schumer is the heir apparent to Harry Reid in the Senate, and he is bought and paid for by Wall Street. All the Republicans need now in the Senate is 6 Democratic votes to break a filibuster.
    We need better Democrats, and we need a message that appeals to working Americans. As long as we try to compete with the Republicans for bankster money, we will get nowhere.

    • Grijalva, Kirkpatrick, and all of the Republicans voted “no”. Sinema, Barber, and Pastor voted “yes” to the budget and all of the corporate giveaways. Not sure about McCain and Flake.

      • That is a very interesting split on the votes. Grijalva and Kirkpatrick voting with the GOP is particularly startling because I never though I would agree with Grijalva on anything. The banks are too big and something needs to be done to reduce their size and power. I just don’t know how to do it that won’t result in a thousand little loopholes that strip any power from legislation that might pass.

  2. In response to Cheri I would say it’s up to us to figure out a way to motivate good people to run for office who’ll clearly describe the problem & motivate people to vote.

    • There ARE good people that are in office now and have run for office before. That isn’t the problem. The problem is a few things, actually. You have an entire political party that thinks nothing of employing voter suppression tactics, and a populace that is truly ignorant about the simple workings of govt. Until the dots are connected that voting is a civic duty and part of being a participating American citizen EVERY ELECTION, then you will have situations like we have now…where the 38% of the people that voted, make the rules (that no one likes) for the rest of us. Until we value our voice and make it heard, it means nothing and the crooks and liars will get a foothold and when everything we value is gone, and it’s too late to matter, people will finally get a clue. Woulda. Shoulda. Coulda. Worse fear.

  3. All this is fine, well and good…but it doesn’t mean a tinker’s damn unless more Dems and others that feel the same way, vote. Otherwise, it’s all just theater. Nice to stand for that, and understand how consolidating that much power and access with these huge banks/bankers….but unless Americans get a clue, it doesn’t mean squat.

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