Good morning, good to see you! Thank you, Raul, thank you, Raven, thank you, Nolan, thank you, Mary, thank you, Nathaniel, thank you for bringing us all together. It is so good to be here. This is family, this is family, so good morning Netroots Nation, good morning!
I was getting ready this morning and it occurred to me it has been exactly five years since my first Netroots Nation, golly, five years. So much change, so much progress. We have a new consumer agency that has forced banks to return more than ten billion dollars directly to people they cheated. Equal marriage in every state in the union. Proof positive that in the end, love wins, alright. Comprehensive health care reform all across this country, we’re getting there. Confederate flags coming down. Here's one, that guy who is senator from Massachusetts five years ago? Now sends around shirtless pictures of himself and sells diet pills. Seriously, look it up. Okay, that's a lot of change and yet some things are constant, some things never changing. Five years, five years. I am not going to point fingers or name names, but I see a lot of friends out there who are just as hungover from a night of karaoke as you were five years ago at my first Netroots. Way to go.
Now look, I know there were some controversy about being in Arizona, and it's not because it is hot enough out there to melt your flip-flops. But I want to start right off the bat, before we get any further in this, as loud as I can, no ifs, no ands, no buts, Arizona's SB 1070 is a stupid law. It is stupid. It is racist. It is unconstitutional, and it should be struck down. And let’s say it, loud and clear to the Republicans. If you truly want to do something about immigration, then get out of the way, get on the right side of history, and let us pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Now last year I came to Netroots to talk about what we believe. Immigration reform was high on that list, along with equal pay for equal work, along with raising the minimum wage, social security, climate change, marriage equality, Wall Street reform, it was a very long list. But if you work with us in Detroit, don't worry, Sarah Palin did a fascinating line-by-line analysis of the whole thing on YouTube. Deep. But look, no matter who wants to make fun, yes, we do talk about our beliefs. We talk about our values. We talk about what it means to be a progressive. Because these are the things that define what we're fighting for. And here's the heart of it; we believe that the real strength of this country starts with people, not with corporations. Yes. We believe that the economy grows when hard-working families have a chance to improve their lives. We believe that the country gets stronger when we invest in helping people succeed. Our lives improve when we reach out to our neighbors. We're tired of a game that is rigged for the rich and the powerful. For progressives, it’s all about a fighting chance, not just for some of us, but for all of us. That’s what we believe.
Now, I hear the naysayers, the lobbyists, and the public relations machines, the political pundits, and the talking heads, the well-greased politicians, and the oh so important experts, who write off our values as too liberal, too unrealistic to be in the mainstream. They've spent millions of hours, and billions of dollars to help create an insider Washington. A Washington where everything works wonderfully for those with money and power. They have built the ultimate cozy, comfy game that is rigged for the insiders. It’s the Washington where, despite all the down-home ads that run during election season, the values at the American people are mostly ignored. Now insider Washington watched one of its own representatives nearly die from a gunshot to the head just a hundred miles from here, and then refused to hear the country's calls for common sense gun reform. Insider Washington worries that we’ve been too tough on Wall Street, while the American people know that banksters who broke our economy belong in jail [applause]. The insider Washington labels any idea with a hint of spunk, or ambition as radical, and outside the mainstream, while millions of Americans show up for a rally’s, or chip in 10 bucks to support a democracy that represents our true values. That's what's happening here. Well I'm here to make an announcement to insider Washington. America is far more progressive than you are, yeah. When it comes to the economy, when it comes to building a future, Americans across this country know the direction we should hit, and if we give them a chance they're ready to go there.
I wanted to start this morning by saying let's look at some facts, I want to but in facts. And we can post the numbers in the footnotes later, look at the facts about America. Last November, when Democrats across the country had a truly terrible day, four Republican states voted to raise their minimum wage. In South Dakota, 55 percent voters supported a minimum wage increase. In Nebraska, 59 percent, in Arkansas 66 percent, in Alaska, 69 percent, and that shouldn't surprise anyone. Seventy percent Americans across this country support increase in the federal minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour. Now Republicans may vote to keep workers in poverty, but on minimum wage the American people are progressives.
Progressives believe that students shouldn't be crushed by debt, and the federal government should not make a profit on student loans. And so do seventy-three percent Americans. Beltway Republicans may vote is stomp on people who are deep in debt, but on student loans the American people are progressives, and to them debt-free college sounds pretty darn good.
Progressives believe that people should be able to care for sick family members, without fear losing their jobs, and so do eighty percent Americans. Republicans may pander to their big business pals, but on paid sick leave, the American people are progressives, that's what we have to remember.
Progressives believe that millionaires, and billionaires should pay the same taxes as their secretaries, and so do two-thirds of all Americans. The Republicans may support special breaks for the rich and powerful, but on tax fairness the American people are progressives.
Progressives believe but after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means a commitment to strengthening and expanding social security. And seventy-nine percent of likely voters in last year's election, also supported increasing social security benefits. So Republicans may try to cut benefits, but on social security, the American people are progressives and they are ready to take on the retirement crisis in this country.
Progressives believe in trade, but not the kind written behind closed doors by corporate lawyers, that leave American workers eating dirt. And nearly two-thirds of Americans favor some sort of trade restrictions, more than half oppose fast-tracking trade deals. Republicans and some Democrats may want to make it easier for multinational corporations to ship jobs overseas, but on trade the American people are progressives.
The progressives believe that powerful corporations and billionaires have far, far, too much influence over our politics, and their stranglehold over our government rigs the system. Nearly three-quarters America agrees. Now, Republicans make cozy up to their billionaire sugar daddies, but on campaign finance in Washington reform, the American people are progressives.
Progressives believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules, and tougher legal enforcement, yes. And five years after Dodd-Frank, it's time to stop pretending, and really end too big to fail, with rules like Glass-Steagall. That's right. And here's the deal, seventy-nine percent of Americans believe Wall Street should be held accountable, with tougher rules. Beltway Republicans may be willing to let the biggest banks break our economy again, but on Wall Street reform, the American people are progressives. I want to make one more point, one more very important point. Progressives believe shouldn't take a revolution on YouTube to drive a revolution in law enforcement. It shouldn't take a hurricane in New Orleans, or a massacre in Charleston for Americans to wake up to what is happening, what is still happening to people of color in this country. And it sure as heck shouldn't take poll numbers to unite us in our determination to build a future for all our children, that's right. Now look, House Republicans may still want to fly the Confederate flag, and Republican leaders make cower in the shadow of Donald Trump, but the American people understand that black lives matter, and America is not a country that stands for racism [applause]. This is a moral issue and an economic issue. To build an economy that creates real opportunity, that doesn't lock up millions of our fellow human beings behind bars, and that uses talents of all our people. America must prove that on quality and justice, the American people are progressives.
I don't care what insider Washington says. They can be oh so sophisticated, and they can tell us how our ideas are too progresses, too far left, or just not realistic. But here at Netroots Nation, we have news for insider Washington, the American people are progressive, and our day is coming. Our values are American values, and America’s values are progressive values.
So that raises the question, and this is what I really wanted to talk with you about. How does insider Washington survive, when the insiders are so far out of sync with the American people? How can they keep calling the shots? How do they keep the game rigged? Well I will tell you, a big part of it is money. Money. Money for campaigns, money for packs, but money for so much more. Money to hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers. Money for PR firms, and trade associations, to sell a message. Money, for think tanks, to give the cover respectability for genuinely ugly ideas. Money that flows like a river through Washington. Money that rushes everywhere, sweeping along as much as it can, and threatening to drown anything, or anyone, that gets in its way.
And there's a pot of money we need to talk about. The money that keeps the revolving door spinning. It's about big bonuses that Wall Street banks pay their executives, to spend a little time running our government, and about the big payoffs that these big banks offer when people leave government and head to Wall Street. I just want to talk about one example up those revolving doors. The gold-plated door with Citigroup's name engraved in big letters. How fast has that revolving door spun? Well, let's count it. Three of the last four treasury secretaries, under Democratic presidents, have had close Citigroup ties. By the way, the fourth was offered the CEO position at Citigroup, but found another job. The vice chairman up the Federal Reserve System is a Citigroup alum. The undersecretary international affairs for treasury is a Citigroup alum. The US Trade Representative it is a Citigroup alum. The person nominated to be the deputy US trade rep, who is currently the assistant secretary of treasury, is a Citigroup alum. A recent chairman of the National Economic Council at the White House, is a Citigroup alum. A recent chairman at the office of management and budget, went to Citigroup immediately after leaving the White House. Another recent chairman at the office of management and budget, is also a Citigroup alum, but I'd be double counting, because now he's the secretary of the Treasury. And those are just the most visible parts. The revolving door spins just as fast for all the deputies, and assistance, and special assistance too. So what has the revolving door helped provide for Citi? Well, during the financial crisis, Citigroup received nearly half a trillion dollars, in government bailouts. That was trillion, with a T. Last December, the Cromnibus bill, the one that we had to either pass or shut down the government, that had little provision written by Citigroup lobbyists tucked into it. A provision that would make it easier for big banks like Citi, to gamble with taxpayer money, and once again get bailed out. And listen to this, even when we discovered the giant giveaway buried down in the fine print, even when we blew the BS whistle long and loud, even when it was all over the blogs and all over the press, even when the issue was red-hot, even then, Citi managed to rake together enough votes in both the house and the senate to pass it into law. I want you to think about how much power it takes to get that done.
So here's a point I want to make today. Laws matter, sure they matter, but it also matters who interprets those laws, who enforces those laws, who monitors what's going on, who exercises judgment. Judgment, to indite a bunch of bankers who break the law, or to cut a more civilized deal that lets banks pay a fine and all the Executives go home and sleep comfortably at night. Think of it this way, how would the world be different today, if, when the economic crisis hit, Joe Stiglitz had been secretary of the treasury, and Simon Johnson and Robert Reich the economic advisors. Think about that. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Personnel is policy. Wall Street insiders have enough influence in Washington already, without locking up one powerful job after another in the executive branch of our government. Sure, private sector experience can be valuable, no one ever said otherwise, but there is a point at which the revolving door compromises the public interest, and we are way beyond that point.
We need a government that doesn't just work for the rich and powerful, we need a government that works for the people. And Netroots, that's why I came to you. We have a presidential election coming up [applause]. I need your help on this. I think that anyone running for that job, anyone who wants the power, to make every key economic appointment and every key nomination across the federal government, should say loud and clear we don't run this country for Wall Street and mega corporations, we run it for people. That’s right. No one is disqualified, just because they have Wall Street Experience, but public service is about more than serving one industry. Anyone who wants to be president should appoint only people who have already demonstrated that they are independent, who have already demonstrated that they can hold giant banks accountable, who have already demonstrated that they embrace the kinds of ambitious economic policies that we need to rebuild opportunity and a strong middle class in this country [applause].
So I want to turn it into something specific. Just two days ago Tammy Baldwin introduced, yeah, let’s hear it for Tammie, alright, just a couple days ago Tammy Baldwin introduced a new bill to slow down the revolving door. Now, I want to I want to help out here, this bill would put an end to Wall Street banks giving multi-million dollar bonuses to their executives for taking government jobs. That's what her bill is. No more paying people of to remember their Wall Street friends, while they run our government. No more wink and a nod working in the public interest, while pocketing millions of dollars from your friends on Wall Street. The same friends who will welcome you back, once your turn through government is over. Now look, this bill won’t fix everything, but it'll throw some heavy sand in the gears of the revolving door. And it's a bill that any presidential candidate should be able to cheer for.
So that's why I'm here today. I'm here today because I need your help, Netroots Nation. The country needs your help. The only way that candidates for president, or for any office, will slow down that revolving door, the only way that candidates will say, enough is enough, is if you demand that they say it. We're running out of time. The middle class in this country has been hacked at, squeezed, and hammered, and it's nearly at the breaking point. Unions are under brutal attack. With no job growth in the middle, the poor are trapped with opportunity only a distant dream. A generation of young people is caught in a slow-growth economy in the US, while giant corporations are building their investments overseas. And as our world heats up, and our oceans rise, billionaires protect their investments in coal mines and oil wells by buying more and more elections. America is running out of time.
We can't afford to nibble around the edges anymore. Money and influence-peddling is strangling our country. Insider Washington is calling the shots. We need leadership that is willing to fight for this country. Leadership that is willing to make working people a first priority. Leadership that recognize the importance a major structural change on everything from Wall Street regulation, to tax policy, to education, to trade. We need leaders to show they understand the urgency of this moment. Leaders to show some ambition, and some backbone. That’s what we need. You've heard the numbers, I started with the numbers. You heard those numbers, on minimum wage, on student loans, on Wall Street, on taxes. You heard them, two-thirds, seventy-three percent, and eighty percent. Those were Democrats and Republicans, independent and libertarians, young people and seniors, people who breathe party politics and people who would rather swallow a slug, than admit to liking any political party. That’s America, and as different as we are on these key economic issues, on the economic issues that will shape the future this country, America is progressive.
But insider Washington can't hear you. Insider Washington isn't listening. Insider Washington turns its back. So it’s on us, it’s on us to show that our agenda, is America’s agenda, and that America’s agenda is a progressive agenda. It's on us to show what we believe in, and to fight for the values that we believe in. I'm here today because this one thing I know. You don't get what you don't fight for. So I came to Netroots because we need fighters out there. We need fighters who are ready to say enough to insider Washington. Fighters who are ready to fight for America’s agenda, for a progressive agenda, are you ready to fight? Are you ready to do this? Then let’s do it! We win when we fight. Thank you.
Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7YL5U2tEh0.