In one of his toughest campaign speeches to date, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday characterized Wall Street as a cesspool of "greed, fraud, dishonesty and arrogance" and pledged to clean it up if elected president.
Speaking in Midtown Manhattan, not far from the epicenter of the financial industry, Sanders invoked — and turned on their head — the words of the fictional corporate raider Gordon Gekko.
"Greed is not good!" he said to thunderous applause. "In fact, the greed of Wall Street and corporate America is destroying the fabric of our nation. And here is a New Year's resolution that I will keep if elected president ... If Wall Street does not end its greed, we will end it for them."
"Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!" the crowd chanted.
Though Sanders' 40-minute address was ostensibly directed at corporate villainy, he clearly had another target in mind: Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Throughout the speech, delivered at a lectern in front of five American flags at Town Hall Theater, Sanders repeatedly invoked the former senator from New York.
"My opponent, Secretary Clinton, says that Glass-Steagall would not have prevented the financial crisis because shadow banks like AIG and Lehman Brothers, not big commercial banks, were the real culprits," Sanders said, referring to the repealed 1933 law that limited commercial banks' investment activity. "Secretary Clinton is wrong."
Sanders pointedly noted that it was his opponent's husband, President Bill Clinton, who scrapped the law in 1999.
He mocked Clinton as a handmaiden of the industry who, he said, wants to impose just "a few more fees and regulations" — not the overhaul he would enact.
"My opponent says that, as a senator, she told bankers to cut it out and end their destructive behavior. But, in my view, establishment politicians are the ones who need to cut it out," Sanders said. "The reality is that Congress doesn’t regulate Wall Street. Wall Street, its lobbyists and their billions of dollars regulate Congress."
"Yes, Wall Street makes huge campaign contributions, they have thousands of lobbyists and they provide very generous speaking fees to those who go before them," he said. "Yes, they have an endless supply of money. But we have something they don’t have. And that is that when millions of working families stand together, demanding fundamental changes in our financial system, we have the power to bring about that change."