By now the evident fraud and other crimes that led to and followed the crash of 2008 are widely documented. The culprits include big banks, mortage lenders, ownership registries like MERS, rating agencies, securities firms, insurers, foreclosure agents and other interested parties in our financial system. Millions of Americans have seen it in documentaries like the Oscar-winning Inside Job and books like Matt Taibbi's Griftopia. These crimes destroyed the world economy in 2008 and led to the loss of millions of American jobs.
But these crimes remain largely unprosecuted, with neither defrauded homeowners nor defrauded security holders or pension funds made whole. Two presidents, relieved to have averted an even greater catastrophe, admit being "held hostage" by famously "too big to fail" banks.
Fortunately, for a tiny fraction of the $7 trillion that we learned last year was secretly provided to many of these banks by the Federal Reserve, we can help rescue 11 million Americans with "underwater" homes and turn our housing economy around. Instead of permitting continued (and often illegal, "robo-signed") foreclosures on homes and leaving them vacant -- a process known to destroy entire neighborhoods -- these homes can be rescued and reassessed* at their true market value before the fraud began. Senator Dick Durbin confessed on the Senate floor: "The banks own this place." That's one of the reasons I'm running for Senate -- so the People can be properly in charge.
The problems are big, but we have more than enough resources to resolve them once we have the will. Solutions may include all of the following:
- a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions by any bank that received bail outs or low interest Fed loans
- Occupy our Homes - help rescue residents and whole neighborhoods by keeping homes inhabited
- prosecute bank and rating agency executives and corporations for fraud as in Roosevelt’s Pecora commission or Reagan's 1000+ Savings and Loan prosecutions
- break up big banks
- reinstate rules like Glass-Steagall, so banks aren't making risky gambles with depositor's money
- claw back fraudulently obtained money
- jail time and the threat of it to obtain witness testimony
- return homeowners' fraudulently obtained property
- rescue and refinance underwater homes at true valuations and fixed interest rates*
- make sure residents or veterans live in fraudulently (and other) foreclosed homes to reclaim neighborhoods
*Stephen Lerner of the SEIU estimates this could cost as little as $300 billion. See this excellent video interview beginning 30 minutes in.
Education and innovation have been key to our country's competitive edge. Nowadays we have been habitually, dangerously neglecting education -- under-funding and cutting schools budgets, teachers, their salaries and benefits, and pretending that charter schools or vouchers will solve the problem. State budget shortfalls must be countered by a commitment from the federal government to offer world class education to every American, including college.
Here again, ending wasteful policies, that squander trillions on reckless war and financial bailouts, will provide financial resources for the educational priorities that willl make America competitive in world markets again.
My mother was a math teacher and dean in New York City's acclaimed public schools -- great union jobs that should remain great rather than ber undermined. My NYC public school experiences paved the way for success at Yale and MIT. I will always stand up for teachers and students as a top priority.
Last month I signed the Occupy Our Schools Senate candidate pledge not to cut public school funding, classrooms, or teachers' pay, and attended the local Santa Rosa Teacher's Rally where a fair Millionaire's Tax to fund schools and stop serious ongoing cuts is headed for the ballot. I stood in solidarity with the teachers and students who deserve our support if we're truly safeguarding our nation's children and its future.
Poll after poll shows Americans want Single Payer health care, also known as Medicare for All. Doctors strongly prefer it too. Single Payer provides care for every American keeps costs down by having a large pool of individuals, It's essentially what the 35 countries that have better health care than the US are doing right. Progressive Democrats have been calling for Single Payer for years in the bill HR 676.
But Democratic and Republican leaders refuse to stand up for what doctors and patients want -- they want to continue the insurance based system that adds at least 31% to medical costs, makes more profit when you get less care, and comes with skyrocketing premiums since there's no public option. It's yet another industry whose interests and lobbyists prevent Americans from getting the improved care they want.
It's not rocket science. I'm with the people, not the insurance companies and their politician servants, on this one.
And here's a bonus:
How My Party Prevents Medicare-for-All
Ever since Michael Moore’s award winning 2007 hit documentary Sicko exposed the corrupt US health care system, Americans have understood that the for-profit insurance system that lobbyists and politicians have been forcing on us isn’t what we want.
Since 2009 -- when the Democratic party controlled the House, the Senate and the White House -- polls have overwhelmingly confirmed Americans want universal single-payer health care. That’s the cost-effective expansion of Medicare -- not-for-profit group insurance -- to include younger, healthier members so it covers every American affordably: Medicare for All.
How have Americans failed to obtain universal, not-for-profit health care - - when every other civilized country has it? Why are we instead -- under a new Democrat-sponsored law known as the Affordable Care Act or Obama Care -- now being required to pay insurance premiums to companies that profit most when they deny us the health care we need?
One 10 minute video of Senator Dianne Feinstein helps us unravel this mystery, and demonstrates how the senior Senator and her party leaders routinely prevent Americans from getting what we want. (I've set up the cue points properly, but it won't stop automatically after each point is made, so you'll want to pause it, read, and scroll down to start the next one.) Let’s break it down:
Early on the Senator says, “I looked at some statistics” and discovered the US was down at 36th place in health care quality:
You have to wonder -- did our Senator and health care expert really miss the most popular, acclaimed, award-winning documentary of 2007 that a billion other people saw, focussed on health care? Why isn’t she mentioning Sicko? Those statistics were beyond prominent in the movie. They were even in the trailer:
Maybe somehow Senator Feinstein never saw or heard of ‘Sicko’. But I doubt she’s as out of touch as she seems. She doesn’t want to mention that movie because she’s determined to escape its conclusion that for-profit insurance is bad for America. She has other plans.
Almost 7 minutes in, the Senator says: “Now I know people don’t like this plan, some of them. But the question comes, do we keep doing what we’re doing, spending more and more of our gross domestic product, and not really improving our over all performance, not improving our longevity, the way good, practical medicine should?”
We might be grateful the Senator is acknowledging these problems. But this is where an accountable Senator, a representative of California - would point out, “Polls show 59% of Americans want single-payer Medicare for All.” Instead she’s framing it the way lawyers and politicians so often do: Do you want the changes my party is proposing, or to stick with what we have now? The solution Americans overwhelmingly want is never introduced, discussed or debated by the senior Senator. When the whole Progressive Caucus introduces House bill 676 or Senator Bernie Sanders proposes single payer health care, Senator Feinstein declines to introduce, co-sponsor, or champion it. She wants for-profit health care to continue without debate -- so that’s what we’ve got.
Next the Senator raises a gravely serious issue but, unfortunately, dodges that too.
“I want to talk about one thing that isn’t in any bill that I’m very much worried about. ... We have about 9 very large for-profit medical insurance companies in the United States. As a product of an earlier action, they’re the only industry other than Major League Baseball that has an anti-trust exemption. And what they have been doing is merging and acquiring companies so that they can control markets. ... And once you have this market share and control, you can raise premiums with abandon. ... Can you imagine getting a notice that your insurance has gone up 40%? And then, to add insult to injury, they say, they may come back in the middle of the year and ask for another.”
To her credit, the Senator acknowledges that the CEO of the insurance company is paid $9 million a year, and that costs like those add more than 30% to our premiums and health care costs.
But then, in the final seconds of the video, the Senator proposes a potential solution that she believes would solve the problem and explains, “That, madame president, is not in the bill. These rate increases go into play May 1, so it is vital that we take some action before May 1 or all throughout the United States there are going to be substantial premium increases.”
Got it? The Affordable Health Care Act the Senator insists on promoting skips the “affordable” part -- it just keeps the “mandatory” and “for profit” parts instead. That’s what she got us instead of introducing, co-sponsoring or debating the Medicare for All we want.
Unfortunately this is the Senate’s and the senior Senator’s standard modus operandum.
Voting on the National Defense Authorization Act with unconstitutional provisions that allow indefinite detention without charges or a trial? The Senator votes Yes -- eager to introduce an Amendment later that might exempt US citizens - and hope that it passes. No accountable citizen would dream of voting for such an unconstitutional bill. None of my debate opponents in this race would either. Only someone who has been in a corrupt Washington bubble for years -- including 93 Senators led by Senator Feinstein.
Pushing through an unconstitutional FISA Amendments Act renewal in the Intelligence Committee (where Senator Feinstein is the Chair) that allows data collection on Americans without warrants, without oversight, and without limits? Let’s quietly renew it until 2017.
These days most Americans are in favor of Marriage Equality. Poll after poll confirms it. But the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties oppose it. The president likes to add that he's "evolving". (On May 9, 2012, the president updated his view. He now says he supports marriage equality; however, none of the policies discussed below has changed.) Meanwhile, they keep marriage and family a privilege for people like them, not a right for all Americans.
So Marriage Equality is yet another area where the party system has been opposing our wishes, holding us back and shamefully letting us down.
My family has been in the front line of the fight for marriage equality for more than 60 years, when interracial marriages like theirs were illegal in 28 states. But Dr Martin Luther King wasn't just fighting for the rights of people of color. He was fighting for Equal Rights -- Freedom for all Americans and all human beings.
Our current policies are hazardous to families everywhere, especially US soldiers and veterans. In fact they literally create a new class of orphan: by opposing Marriage Equality while ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, our leaders have a ensured that the family of a same-sex parent killed in the military won't be compensated, since they're not legally a family. Their children, and their children's surviving parent (if any), won't qualify for Veteran's Benefits, Social Security benefits -- literally more than 1000 federal rights. Rather than stand up for those families and those veterans, corrupt politicians calculate whether standing up for equality could lose them votes.
This informal video is from back when I first began thinking about running for Senate - when Don't Ask Don't Tell was first reversed.
Leaving Afghanistan in 2013 can save thousand of lives, millions of needless injuries, and trillions of dollars.
Most Americans want the US out of Afghanistan. We live in a democracy, so let's make it happen.
The only problem: professional politicians who think they look Tough on Terror when they risk brave soldiers' and innocent civilians' lives in needless war. They've spent trillions of our tax dollars on them already. And it's a key reason we citizens need to take our government back.
The invasion of Afghanistan has never made Americans any safer.
As with the Iraq war, the Congress and the White House cruelly exploited our anger and fear over the 9-11 attacks, and took violent action overseas that didn't catch the planners of 9-11 and hasn't made us any safer.
There were no Iraqis, no Afghanis, and no Taliban on any of the 9-11 flights. There were none involved in the planning -- which took place in Hamburg, Germany, not Afghanistan. Thanks to our corrupt Congress, most of the US troops who volunteered to fight didn't know this when they risked their lives. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, one of the most relentless advocates of Middle East wars and war spending in the US Senate, has been a leader in this negligence and deception.
The Taliban government of Afghanistan had no foreknowledge of the 9-11 attacks; condemned them immediately; and offered to help prosecute Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan or in a third country if there was evidence he had a role.
The US president rejected the Taliban's offer answering, "There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty."
Almost a decade later -- after countless thousands of Afghanis and Americans had died in the longest war in US history, with still no US charge or indictment showing evidence of a bin Laden role in the 9-11 attacks -- bin Laden was located. In a different country.
Meanwhile, all the US military attacks, drone strikes and illegal prisons have made Americans less safe. The handful of attempted terrorist attacks since 9-11, like the underwear and Times Square bombers and the Fort Hood attack, were carried out by Americans angry over the way Muslims have been mistreated in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib -- and civilian deaths in our multiple Middle East wars.
This has been cruelest to the 9-11 families, and to US soldiers who risked their lives - believing war in Iraq and Afghanistan would bring the perpetrators of 9-11 to justice. Instead, bin Laden got just what he said he wanted: a US nearly bankrupted by Middle East wars costing over a trillion dollars. Over the past decade, this unaccountable US Congress has achieved bin Laden's dream – and tripled it.
That's just one reason the Democrats and Republicans who were complicit in starting these reckless wars won't end them now. Instead of re-thinking it, they plan to stay in Afghanistan for years to come, regardless of what the American people want.
If we want to save those precious lives and those trillions of dollars, we need to replace those politicians in November.
We need an honest new group that can say, "Maybe refusing to cooperate wasn't the fastest way to catch bin Laden. Maybe trying him in a third country in 2001 wasn't such a terrible idea. And actually, when we're not distracted by Terror, we Americans think asking for the evidence is a good idea. And probably bombing Afghani civilians and raiding their homes hasn't helped the cause of justice. Probably we'd all be safer if our soldiers came back to our own country."
A cease fire and pull out from Afghanistan in 2013 can save thousand of lives, millions of needless injuries, and trillions of dollars. We need those brave Americans and all that money back in the USA doing something much more worthwhile.
It all starts with replacing the advocates of these needless wars. Let's replace Senator Dianne Feinstein with a new California Senator who didn't help start the Afghanistan war and is ready to end it.
Let's make it happen.