03/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

My State of the Union

Two months ago, I entered this race declaring we are in the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Every day more and more people lose their jobs, health care, and homes. We are witnessing not the unraveling of a few years of excess, but the insolvency of many of the economic practices and theories that became conventional wisdom over the past 30 years.

Most important of these, and that which has caused the greatest destruction, is the idea that debt is wealth. Over the last 30 years, American wages stagnated and people grew deeper in debt -- their homes, educations, health care, every aspect of life. And at the national level, the story hasn't been much different. We lost manufacturing and borrowed from across the globe. There were only two winners in all this, Wall Street and the banks.

Now, the financial system that created the illusion of debt as wealth, and profited so handsomely, is in crisis. In fact, it has seized up and is seriously causing a massive contraction across the US and the entire global economy. Our economy will not be able to start recovering until our financial system is healthy, and we will not be able to begin the turn around of 30 years of failed economic policy unless we reform our financial system.

So let's do the following:

  1. The government needs to nationalize unhealthy banks. We need to close down insolvent institutions and sell their assets. Healthy institutions can be re-capitalized and re-privatized, with sales helping to pay back the tax-payers.

  2. All banking institutions under government receivership, must immediately cut their credit card rates to 12% and likewise cut fees and charges to consumers. This will be the first step in helping get Americans out of debt.

  3. Foreclosures must end. People struggling with payments must be allowed to reduce their principal. Keeping people in their homes and paying their mortgages is the best way to stop the collapse in housing prices.

  4. We need to relieve the surge in lay-offs and keep people employed so they can continue paying their bills. We need to fully fund state and local governments and help struggling businesses.

These four steps need to be taken immediately. Over the long term, we must engage in a protracted effort of bringing both the American people and government out of debt. We need to shrink the size of the financial sector and make it more profitable to manufacture instead of trading paper. In doing this we will bring down our trade deficit, cut government debt, and decrease consumer debt by raising wages.

Once these initial steps are taken, we must then enact two key reforms. The first is single-payer universal health care or Medicare for all. This will save us money and help make American manufactures more globally competitive. Then we must make Social Security a livable public pension, providing every American true economic security.

These are the reasons I'm in the race. These are the issues I will lead on in Congress. We face a very grave time, but I assure you we have the answers and solutions to move forward. They're just not the same answers and solutions we've heard for much of the last three decades. We must take bold actions and I ask you to join me in taking them.