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Americans have suffered for a year through the worst economic decline since the Great Depression. Millions of people have lost their jobs. We're seeing people with very long-term unemployment. We are seeing older people who have lost their life's savings and are now worried about how they are going to retire with dignity. We have seen people lose their homes, and we've seen people lose their pensions. We've seen, in many ways, the collapse of the American middle class.
What's going on in Congress? I and some others have fought for an investigation to ask some simple questions: How did a handful of CEOs of major corporations precipitate this economic crisis? Who is accountable? Who should be going to jail? How do we make sure what happened in terms of the recklessness and irresponsibility on Wall Street doesn't happen again? I wish that I could tell you that Congress is now doing that investigation. It is not.
We have got to understand what caused the problem in order to make the necessary reforms.
Here are three ideas I'm working on:
Cap Interest Rates First, if there is anything we learned from the credit card disaster, where millions of Americans were paying 25 percent or 30 percent interest rates on their credit cards, it is that we have got to have a cap on interest rates in this country. We've got legislation to enact a national usury law. The maximum amount that credit card companies could charge would be 15 percent.
Return of the Trust Busters Second, we need to deal with this phenomenon of business that are considered "too big to fail" so we don't have to ever again spend millions of dollars bailing out financial institutions. Teddy Roosevelt had a good idea a century ago. Let's start breaking them up again today. We should require the Treasury Department to provide a public list of every institution in this country that is "too big to fail" and make recommendations to Congress on how we should break up those companies one by one so that they no longer impose a systemic risk to the entire economy.
Federal Reserve Secrecy We also need to also take a very hard look at the Federal Reserve. I've teamed up with Congressman Ron Paul, a guy whose politics are very different then mine, and I think we're going to succeed in getting an audit of the Federal Reserve. Among other things we're going to demand an accounting for trillions of dollars at zero interest loans. Who received that money, which financial institutions benefited from that and what were the terms of agreements. The Senate voted 59 to 39 in favor of an amendment I offered to the Budget Resolution calling on the Fed to tell the American people who they loaned $2.2 trillion to and how much each bank received. It still hasn't happened
There is a lot more to be done, but the bottom line is that a handful of people plunged this country into a huge economic disaster. We need to know who they are and we need to make sure this never happens again.