Bernie’s Call to Rein in Wall Street, Artfully Clear

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Bernie’s Call to Rein in Wall Street, Artfully Clear

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) pictured here appearing on Bill Moyers Journal in 2004, when she was a professor at Harvard University, describing Hillary Clinton's incredible turnaround on bankruptcy legislation. (Image: Screenshot/Youtube)

At the heart of the matter is Bernie calling out the way Wall Street money has corrupted our democracy and perhaps most especially our election process.  So when I went looking for ways to illustrate how that might have come into play on issues of deep concern to me, I found something that was instructive.

Bernie’s direct statements about the demands Wall Street makes on elected officials are not part of any “artful smear” campaign, as has been suggested.

The issue of medical debt and bankruptcy has been a part of my life since I first discovered how many Americans are driven into bankruptcy by our for-profit healthcare system.  On July 17, 2007, I testified on a witness panel for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee as an American who went bankrupt while insured.  Sitting next to me on that witness panel was then Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, who was one of the co-authors of a groundbreaking study on medical debt and bankruptcy.  Neither one of us knew each other nor did we have any way to know we would follow our respective paths into this election cycle.  Despite a few subtle hints, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has stayed out of the endorsement game so far.

Two years later, I would appear on Bill Moyers Journal where they were able to retrieve a bit of that congressional testimony about 10.34 minutes into this segment that aired on May 22, 2009.  From that momentous point in my life forward, I have kept up with Sen. Warren’s career, especially on the topics of interest to me.  So when I recalled another time I heard Sen. Warren discuss issues related to bankruptcy law, I was taken by her clarity about what happens when representing Wall Street interests becomes more important than doing what is right for large numbers of Americans who have been devastated financially by health crises, medical debt and bankruptcy. 

During Elizabeth Warren’s own appearance on Bill Moyers Journal, she describes in vivid detail one time when Wall Street influence appeared to have caused Bernie’s primary opponent, then Sen. Hillary Clinton, to change her position on bankruptcy law in a very significant way.  Before she was a U.S. senator representing New York, Hillary knew the bankruptcy law would hurt people like me and millions of Americans.  Hillary changed her mind after being elected to the Senate.   If the influence of the financial service industry wasn’t a factor in that change of position, then perhaps another explanation will be forthcoming.   Let me be very clear, this appearance by Warren was years ago and well before anyone could have envisioned a Bernie run at the presidency.  The video seems to confirm the sort of influence peddling Wall Street does and just how accurate Bernie’s reflections are in 2016 about and what is at stake. 

Bernie is right.  And if we are to carry this political revolution forward as it now appears we will, rigorous honesty is demanded inasmuch as is possible that we are honest about those issues that threaten us most.  We live in a digital world, and even if the emails may not matter, the videos don’t fib.  We may just need to give a damn about that.

Donna Smith

Donna Smith
Donna Smith is the executive director of Progressive Democrats of America.  PDA's mission is to strengthen the voice of progressive ideas inside and outside the Democratic Party by using "inside/outside" and "grassroots fusion" models of working both in the Democratic Party as well as working with other progressive organizations both inside and outside the Party.

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