Adding Insult to Injury (Sen. Bernie Sanders)

The Treasury Department has provided the largest financial institutions in this country hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars with more to come. The Federal Reserve has also committed more than $2.3 trillion in taxpayer dollars to these financial institutions with the possibility of trillions more to come.

These banks haven’t used taxpayer money to unfreeze the credit markets. They haven’t significantly increased lending to consumers and small businesses. They have used taxpayer money to reward executives with hundreds of millions in compensation. They continue to pay dividends to their shareholders and have made risky acquisitions.

But there is one thing that these financial institutions are trying to do to save money. During the last three months of 2008, the largest banks in this country have announced 100,000 in job cuts. That’s 100,000 American workers who will be out on the street. The CEOs at most of these firms are still on the job.

Adding insult to injury, while these banks have announced massive lay-offs, they have requested H-1B visas for more than 21,000 foreign workers over the past six years.

The amendment I offered with Senator Grassley is simple and it is straightforward. At a time when the largest banks in this country have caused the worst financial crisis in our country’s history, and at a time when we are losing millions of decent-paying jobs, this amendment says to the big banks that you can’t add fuel to the fire by throwing American workers out on the street while hiring cheaper labor from overseas.

Specifically, this amendment prohibits banks that have received a taxpayer bail-out from the U.S. Treasury Department or the Federal Reserve from hiring H-1B guest-workers from overseas. I am pleased the Senate agreed to our amendment.

Wall Street caused the crisis, millions of people lost jobs, including 100,000 in financial institutions. The very least we can do is to make sure that banks receiving a taxpayer bailout are not allowed to import cheaper labor from overseas while they are laying off American workers.