For Bernie Sanders, almost every policy debate comes back to Wall Street and campaign finance reform.
At the fourth Democratic debate in Charleston Sunday night, Sanders tied everything from criminal justice to global warming to Wall Street and the big money he sees infecting the political system.
When asked how he would pay for many of his expensive plans, including his proposal to alleviate student debt, Sanders said, “I want to substantially lower student debt interest rates in this country as well. How do I pay for it? I pay for it through a… tax on Wall Street speculation. This country and the middle class bailed out Wall Street. Now it is Wall Street’s time to help the middle class. ”
On criminal justice reform, the Vermont senator also invoked Wall Street boogeymen. “Who is satisfied that millions of people have police records for possessing marijuana when the CEOs of Wall Street companies who destroyed our country have no police records?” he said.
When Hillary Clinton was speaking about who would advise her on economic policy, Sanders said, “If you have an administration stacked with Wall Street appointees, it ain’t going to accomplish very much. So here’s a promise that I make—and I mentioned a moment ago how corrupt the system is—Goldman Sachs, paying a $5 billion fine, gives this country, in recent history, a Republican secretary of treasury, a Democratic secretary of treasury. Here’s a promise. If elected president, Goldman Sachs is not going to have—bring forth a secretary of treasury for a Sanders administration.”
And even on climate change, Sanders said one of the real issues is campaign finance reform: “It is amazing to me, and I think we’ll have agreement on this up here, that we have a major party, called the Republican Party, that is so owned by the fossil fuel industry and their campaign contributions that they don’t even have the courage, the decency to listen to the scientists,” he said.
Sanders returned to his favorite issue in his closing statement, when the moderators asked what else the candidates wanted to mention that they didn’t get a chance to talk about. “Very little is going to be done to transform our economy and to create the kind of middle class we need unless we end a corrupt campaign finance system which is undermining American democracy,” he said to end the debate. “We’ve got to get rid of Super PACs, we’ve got to get rid of Citizens’ United.”
Sanders has surged in the race through his Brooklyn-accented denouncements of the “billionaire class” and the “rigged” campaign finance system in the U.S. From his performance in the fourth debate, it seems that’s a strategy he’s sticking with.