The senator from Vermont and avowed "Democratic socialist" is unlikely to prevail in his campaign against Hillary Clinton, but he has unexpectedly generated excitement among young voters and may be forcing Clinton to the left on certain issues.

In contrast to Clinton's campaign and those of her GOP rivals, Sanders has made financial issues one of his top priorities. Here's how he stands on the issues:

'Too Big to Fail'

Sen. Bernie Sanders has been very vocal in his desire to break up the biggest banks in the country. On his website he targets the six largest banks, noting that their assets equal 60% of the country's gross domestic product, they issue more than two-thirds of all credit cards and they control more than 35% of the country's mortgages. In a speech on Jan. 5, Sanders provided more details of what he plans to do.

Sanders' Wall Street reform plan calls for:

  • Having the Treasury secretary draw up a list of "too big to fail" institutions and using the Dodd-Frank Act's Section 121 to break them up within a year.
  • Restoring the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which separated banking from other activities, including securities and insurance. Sanders sees the repeal of that law in 1999 as a key cause of the financial crisis.
  • Taxing high-speed trading and other forms of Wall Street "speculation." The money raised would be used to help provide college tuition to students.
  • Banning banks and other firms from providing big bonuses to executives who take senior-level government jobs.
  • Capping credit card and other consumer loan interest rates at 15% and ATM fees at $2
  • Turning the credit rating agencies into nonprofits in order to ensure their independence
  • Allowing U.S. post offices to offer banking products.

Regulatory Relief

Sanders has not substantively addressed regulatory relief for community banks.

'Crony Capitalism'

Sanders attacked Clinton at the second Democratic debate in November over her significant funding from banking industry employees.

Candidates who receive "huge amounts of money" from big industries often say, " 'These campaign contributions will not influence me. I'm going to be independent,' " Sanders said, calling Clinton's defense "not good enough."

Sanders continued his attacks during the Jan. 17 debate with Clinton, criticizing the speaking fees she has received from Goldman Sachs, among others.

The Vermont lawmaker held up Goldman as what's wrong with American politics, noting that two recent Treasury secretaries – Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson – came from the firm. "If elected president, Goldman Sachs is not going to bring forth a secretary of treasury for a Sanders administration," Sanders said.

CFPB

Sanders has not talked in depth about the CFPB.

Fed Policy

Sanders has heavily criticized the Federal Reserve, arguing it has been effectively captured by the banks. In his January speech, Sanders called for board members of the 12 regional Fed banks to be nominated by the U.S. president and confirmed by the Senate. He has said that no big-bank executive should serve on the board of the main Federal Reserve or its regional banks.

Sanders has also sharply criticized the transparency of the Fed, supporting calls by conservatives to allow the Government Accountability Office to audit the central bank annually. He has also said that full, public transcripts from Federal Open Market Committee meetings should be released after six months, rather than after five years. "If we had made this reform in 2004, the American people would have learned about the housing bubble well in advance of the financial crisis," Sanders said in a New York Times op-ed.

Sanders has also criticized the interest the Fed pays on bank reserves, suggesting it is a big bank giveaway. It "keeps money out of the economy and parked at the Fed," he said.

Instead, he said the Fed should charge banks a fee "that could be used to provide affordable loans to small businesses to create hundreds of thousands of jobs."

Tax Policy

Sanders' various proposals have given would-be Republican candidates a target to aim at, in part because he has offered a number of specifics on plans that would attempt to decrease income inequality. He is also currently backing legislation that would use a new payroll tax to fund 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all U.S. employees.

Individual income tax: Sanders has said he would "expand Social Security" by lifting the cap on taxable income above $250,000.

Capital gains: Sanders would increase the net investment income tax to 10%. He has stated that he would raise taxes on dividends and capital gains.

Corporate tax: No official position taken, though his website says he would stop corporations from shifting profits overseas to avoid U.S. income taxes.

Estate tax: Sanders would increase the top estate tax rate to 65% and lower the estate tax exclusion to $3.5 million.

Health Care and Employee Benefits

  • Supports Medicaid expansion.
  • Supports a single-payer health system.
  • Supports lifting the taxable income retirement cap.
  • Opposes raising the retirement age.
  • Supports a national minimum wage of $15 an hour.
  • Introduced the "Workplace Democracy Act" to strengthen the role of unions and the voices of working people on the job.
Top 10 Financial Donors
Bank of America $4,950
Wells Fargo $4,912
Citigroup $3,221
Scopia Capital $2,798
Commerce Co. $2,700
Falconwood Corp. $2,700
Commodity Trading $2,550
JPMorgan Chase $2,160
Bank of America $2,119
UBS $1,579

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