NEW YORK — During a campaign speech in Manhattan on Tuesday, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders promised that if he’s elected in November, he will deal with the oversized influence of the finance sector by breaking the nation’s 10 largest banks into “a million little ones.”
“I tell you, in my 74 years of life, I’ve been in plenty of banks,” he said to a crowd of supporters. “Banks in New York, banks in Vermont, and banks in Washington, and not a single one of them required more than a handful of employees.”
“Bank of America alone employs over 200,000 people,” he said. “That’s madness. How you can even fit so many people into a single building without violating a fire code is beyond me.”
Sanders says that he would be willing to allow banks such as Wells Fargo, Capital One and Citi to exist as long as they agreed to remain small.
“A couple of tellers, three when it’s busy, a branch manager, a security guard, and that’s it,” he said. “Five people. Do you hear me, [Chase CEO and president] Jamie Dimon? It’s time to downsize.”
While some Democrats are expressing skepticism about a president’s ability to break up the big banks without the support of Congress, fellow presidential candidate Martin O’Malley says that the Sanders plan is missing the point.
“What’s bad for the country is not how many people these huge banks employ, but that they run virtually all of the ATMs,” O’Malley said. “Have you ever tried to get some cash on a Friday night? You can’t avoid the big banks. Bernie Sanders can break up the banking cartels all he wants, but he won’t nip the problem in the bud.”
The former Baltimore mayor says that the key is reining in Wall Street is to provide help for every American to build his or her own ATM at home so that banks will no longer be needed.
“Imagine that,” he said. “Instead of paying that $2.50 ATM fee to some fat cat bank president in New York so he can buy another pound of imported foie gras to smear on his buttocks, you pay that money to yourself, because you are your own banker. Heck, you can even raise the ATM fee to a hundred bucks, because you own the dispenser. Imagine all the things you can do with an extra hundred dollars in your pocket.”