In a September 22, 2008 interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Senator Bernie Sanders famously said that if a bank “is too big to fail, it probably is too big to exist.” That should be a watchword slogan of any effort to fix the financial system. Major responsibility for the financial collapse rests with the deregulation process that allowed for the consolidation of banking power in the hands of Wall Street. Reversing that process should be an immediate priority.

Before Wall Street there was Main Street

I recall the time when banks were community institutions that were limited by law to being single outlet community service organizations. It was called unitary banking. Each bank was rooted in and expected to serve the needs of its community. Deregulation unleashed a wave of consolidation through mergers and acquisitions that shifted the focus from serving Main Street to making as much money as possible for Wall Street. To have a financial system that works, we must reverse the deregulation process and restore the concept of community banking. Nothing less is going to solve the problem.

Wall Street holds government hostage

In a March 8, 2009 CBS Sixty Minutes interview with Sheila Blair, head of the FDIC, it was noted that when one of the smaller banks fails, it is taken over by the FDIC. The depositors are protected by the FDIC. The owners, however, lose everything.

In the interview with Blair, which comes toward the end of the segment documenting the FDIC take over of a small failed bank, she notes that the FDIC doesn’t have the jurisdiction to take over the large Wall Street financial conglomerates that bear the major responsibility for the financial collapse. As the moderator points out, the owners and managers of the small banks are left with nothing. The big banks get government bailouts.

Of the latter Blair says, “Going forward, I think we need to really review the size of these institutions and whether we should do something about that, frankly  I think that may be something that Congress needs to think about  I think taxpayers rightfully should ask that if an institution has become so large that there is no alternative except for the taxpayers to provide support, should we allow so many institutions to exceed that kind of threshold?”

Americans seem to be collectively trying to forget about Iraq, and while we appreciate the president’s decision, his declaration allows us to simply move on and focus on other issues. While this reaction is understandable, it is also dangerous.

We cannot afford to ignore the enormous risks and potential sacrifices that loom ahead. As founders of the Out of Iraq Caucus, our position has been clear all along. We opposed the war and occupation from the start, and we have worked day-in and day-out to end it.

We believe that ending the occupation of Iraq means redeploying all troops and all military contractors out of Iraq. It also means leaving behind no permanent bases and renouncing any claims upon Iraqi oil.

We remain concerned about the president’s plan – not opposed to it, but concerned. The plan calls for 127,000 troops to stay in Iraq until the end of this year, and for 50,000 troops to remain in Iraq for another two-and-a-half years after that. We cannot imagine the need for such an enormous military commitment. How did military planners agree on such a large residual force, one which is comparable in size to our force levels in South Korea at the height of the Cold War?

What role will this transitional force play in the event that violence flares back up?

And what steps are being taken to address the 190,000 American contractors in Iraq and to dismantle our permanent bases? These questions must be addressed before we can move forward.

America’s interests in Iraq and the region will best be advanced by reducing the size of our military footprint and making greater use of our other assets of national power, including diplomacy, reconciliation, commerce, development assistance and humanitarian aid.

As we solemnly mark the beginning of a seventh year of the conflict in Iraq, we not only reflect on the incredible sacrifices made by the men and women who serve in the military, but also demand an honest assessment of the potential future obstacles that their brothers and sisters in arms will face.

We urge everyone to remain engaged and continue to aggressively question Iraq war policy. This includes Republicans, Democrats, independents and, especially, the news media. We must all be willing to ask the hard questions as we work toward the common goal of ending the war and occupation, redeploying all American troops and military contractors out of Iraq and reuniting them with their families and loved ones.

As Obama has said, “We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in.”  

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