Fighting Against Special Interests
"America has always promised a straight deal, but for middle-class families, that straight deal is getting harder and harder to find."
One of the things America has always stood for is the basic idea of fairness. But more and more, it seems in Washington like special interests and big corporations play by their own set of rules, while the interests of everyday Americans are being undermined.
That’s why I’m fighting in the Senate for families facing outrageous credit card fees. For teachers and truck drivers who pay a higher tax rate than wealthy investors. For a political system where corporations can’t drown out Rhode Island voices with unlimited, anonymous spending in our elections. And for young people struggling to get out from under a mountain of student loan debt.
As I travel around Rhode Island, visiting with families and small business owners, and one thing I hear again and again from Rhode Islanders is the feeling that the deck is stacked against them. I’ve taken your stories and ideas with me to Washington, and have been fighting for legislation to get our country back on track and restore the straight deal that middle-class families deserve.
Here are some of ways I’m working to level the playing field for Rhode Islanders:
It’s inexcusable that our tax system permits ultra-high income earners like Warren Buffett to pay a lower tax rate than hardworking middle-class families. That’s why I have introduced the Paying a Fair Share Act, which would ensure that multi-million-dollar earners pay at least a 30-percent effective tax rate.
Wall Street banks and credit card companies are not currently subject to state laws that limit outrageous interest rates. I introduced the Empowering States’ Rights to Protect Consumers Act to restore the ability of states to set limits on credit card interest rates, and protect consumers from the unfair tricks and traps of lenders headquartered in faraway states with weak or non-existent consumer lending protections.
In its controversial Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court overturned long-standing precedents to allow virtually unlimited corporate and special interest spending in elections. To undo this corruption of our electoral process, I have signed on as an original cosponsor of a constitutional amendment to grant Congress the clear authority to write common-sense campaign finance rules, and I am leading the fight to require better disclosures of campaign spending.
I introduced the Offshoring Prevention Act to close a tax loophole that rewards companies for moving factories overseas. Our tax code should be designed to help American companies keep and create good-paying jobs right here in the United States, not ship them overseas.
At a time of high gas prices, record oil company profits, and mounting budget deficits, we should not be providing Big Oil with expensive and unnecessary taxpayer handouts. That is why I am a cosponsor of the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, which would end federal subsidies and tax giveaways for these ultra-profitable oil companies.
Holding Those Responsible For The Financial Crisis Accountable
We must investigate and prosecute any criminal behavior behind the financial crisis. That is why I have urged the Justice Department to bring its full resources to bear, together with state law enforcement, to protect the American people from financial crime.
Troops returning from active duty often need time to regain their financial footing. That is why I introduced legislation to lengthen the period of foreclosure protection for servicemembers after their tour of duty. A version of my legislation, extending the grace period from nine months to one year, was approved by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Here are a few examples of the action I have taken to end special treatment for special interests:
- Fought for and helped pass the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to protect Rhode Island families from the dangerous and reckless Wall Street speculation that drove our economy into recession. This landmark bill established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is working to ensure that mortgage, credit card, and student loan agreements are fair and transparent.
- Helped Rhode Island secure nearly $80 million in foreclosure prevention assistance from the federal Hardest Hit Fund. Since January 2011, the Fund has helped over 1,400 Rhode Islanders struggling against the big Wall Street banks.
- Urged the Obama Administration to take steps to expand its mortgage refinancing efforts and to help more families avert foreclosure—actions which were adopted by the Administration.
- Worked to end abusive and deceptive credit card lending practices—such as any-time-any-reason interest rate hikes, retroactive rate increases on existing balances, and charging interest on balances paid off in the previous billing cycle—through passage of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (Credit CARD) Act.
- Fought to enhance federal capacity to investigate and prosecute financial crime by helping to pass the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, which provided additional resources and criminal tools for fighting financial fraud and established the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.
I’m working to help restore the fundamental notion of fair treatment for all Americans.
I’d like to hear from you. What policies would you like to see enacted to make our system work for everyone again?
Share your thoughts and ideas.