(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) laid out the principle components of Wall Street Reform she believes must be included to help protect Washington families. In a speech delivered on the floor of the U.S. Senate, Murray discussed the need for reform to provide:
- Strong protections for Washington state consumers,
- An end taxpayer funded bailouts, and
- Tools that will help consumers take personal responsibility for their finances.
“For far too long the financial rules of the road have favored big banks, credit card companies, and Wall Street,” Murray said. “And for far too long they’ve abused those rules. Whether it was gambling with the money in our pension funds, making bets they could never cover, or peddling mortgages to people they knew could never pay.
“Wall Street made expensive choices that came at the expense of working families. Wall Street used its ‘anything goes’ rules to create a situation where everybody else paid.”
The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:
Mr. President, as we prepare to consider legislation that includes some of the strongest reforms of Wall Street ever - I think that it’s important that we not lose sight of exactly what’s on the line for the American people.
That we not allow complicated financial products and terminology to distract from the fact that this is really a debate about fairness, family finances, and protecting against another economic collapse.
That we remember that for Wall Street lobbyists this may be complex but for the American people it’s simple -
For them - this is a debate about whether - when they walk into a bank to sign up for a mortgage, or apply for a credit card, or start a retirement plan: Are the rules on their side, or are they with the big banks on Wall Street?
Mr. President, for far too long the financial rules of the road have favored big banks, credit card companies, and Wall Street. And for far too long they’ve abused those rules. Whether it was gambling with the money in our pension funds, making bets they could never cover, or peddling mortgages to people they knew could never pay.
Wall Street made expensive choices that came at the expense of working families. Wall Street used its “anything goes” rules to create a situation where “everybody else paid.” And Wall Street created a system that put their own short-term profits before the long-term interest of this country.
Mr. President, the simple truth is that it’s time to end this system that puts Wall Street before Main Street. It’s time to put families back in control of their own finances. It’s time to focus on making sure the rules protect those sitting around the dinner table…. not those sitting around the boardroom table.
And to do that we need to pass strong Wall Street reform that cannot be ignored.
Reforms that I believe must include three core principles:
- A strong, independent consumer protection agency.
- An end to taxpayer bailouts.
- And tools to ensure that Americans have the financial know-how that empowers them to make smart choices about their finances and helps them avoid making the same poor decisions that helped create this crisis.
Mr. President, first and foremost, Wall Street needs a watchdog.
Right now, what we have is a patchwork of federal agencies, none of which are tasked with focusing solely on consumer protection. What we have is confusion, and duplication, and an abdication of responsibility. What we have quite simply is just not working.
What we need is a single, strong, independent agency – a cop on the beat - whose sole function is to protect consumers. A cop on the street who will expose big bank rip-offs, end unfair fees, And curb out-of-control credit card and mortgage rates.
A cop on the street that ensures that when you make important financial decisions the terms are clear, the risks are laid out on the table, and the banks and other financial companies offering them are being up front with you. What we need is one agency - with one mission looking out for one group of people – and that is American families.
Second, Wall Street Reform must spell the end of taxpayer financed bailouts.
There is nothing that makes me or my constituents in Washington state angrier then the fact that Wall Street ran up a huge bill and we had to pick up the tab. Wall Street Reform must end this once and for all. It has be a death sentence for banks that engage in reckless practices. And it must make them pay for their funeral arrangements if they do.
Third, reform must address the fact that Wall Street is not alone in deserving the blame for this crisis
And that it therefore must not be the only target of reform. We cannot ignore the fact that millions of Americans walked into - sometimes predatory home loan agencies - all across the country - unprepared to make big, important financial decisions.
We have to acknowledge that too many Americans, put too little thought into signing onto the dotted line. And those bad decisions had a huge impact. That’s why I’ve been fighting to pass a bill I introduced called the Financial and Economic Literacy Improvement Act.
That legislation would change the way we approach educating Americans about managing their finances and making good decisions about housing, employment, and retirement. We add a fourth R to the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic – resource management.
And it gives Americans young and old the basic financial skills to heed warnings in the fine print and avoid mounting debt. And I believe that if we are going to avoid many of the mistakes that led to this crisis, we need a similar component in this bill.
Bringing Wall Street Out of the Backroom and into the Light
Mr. President, we all know the old adage that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Well, with all of the reforms I have been talking about today we have the potential to bring a whole lot of sunlight to Wall Street .
But as we have seen in the lead up to this crisis - and with Wall Street’s response to our reform efforts so far – they don’t like to do their work in the sunlight. They like to do it in the backroom.
And you know what - they’ve had some company recently in those backrooms.
In fact, over the last several days, we’ve been hearing that some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have been huddling with Wall Street lobbyists to figure out just how they can kill this bill.
To figure out how they can preserve the status quo. How they can talk their way out of change.
They’ve been calling out to special interests in Washington, bankers back on Wall Street, and big money donors. In fact, just about everyone has been invited to those meetings, except of course the American people.
And that’s because the vast majority of Americans - including the hard-working families in my state who were hurt by this crisis through no fault of their own - want to see the strong Wall Street reforms I’ve talked about today passed.
They want to hold Wall Street accountable for years of irresponsibility and taxpayer funded bailouts. And more than anything, they want to ensure we never go through this again.
But you know what, there is still a widely held view on Wall Street - and with too many here in D.C. - that the voices of the people can somehow be drowned out with big money and even bigger fabrications.
Wall Street still thinks they can get away with highway robbery because for all too long…you know they have.
They think they can get away with telling the American people that more regulation is bad - when the absence of regulation is largely what got us in this mess.
They think that people will be satisfied with watered down rules that Wall Street can simply side-step and ignore. They think that they can pull a fast one on Main Street. But you know what that they are flat out wrong.
A Return to Main Street Business Values
And I know it because I grew up - literally - on Main Street in Bothell, Washington - working for my Dad’s five and dime store with my six brothers and sisters. I know they’re wrong because Main Street is where I got my values.
Values like that the product of your work is what you can actually show in the till at the end of the day. That if it that money short - you dealt with the consequences. And that if it was more than you expected - you knew that more difficult days could lie ahead.
Values like that a good transaction was one that was good for your business and for your customer. That personal responsibility meant owning up to your mistakes and making them right. That one business relied on all the others on the same street. That customers were not prey and businesses were not predators. And that an honest business was a successful one.
We Will Hear from those with Main Street Values
And believe me these same values are still strong throughout our country today. They exist in small towns like the one I grew up in and big cities in every one of our states.
And next week when we put out a strong Wall Street Reform bill on the floor - everyone in this Senate is going to hear from the people who still hold these values dear. And I’m sure that they will tell you in no uncertain terms - it’s time to end Wall Street’s excesses.
It’s time to bring sanity back in the system.
That it’s time to protect consumers, to end bailouts and backroom deals, restore personal responsibility, and bring back accountability.
I’m certainly hopeful that we will all listen. Because there is certainly a lot on the line for the American people and they deserve all of our support.