Bernie Sanders, AOC target Wall Street’s credit card ‘extortionists’

May 9, 2019 GMT

With former Vice President Joseph R. Biden surging in the polls, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday sought to regain some of the momentum he has lost in the 2020 Democratic primary race by teaming up with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to announce a plan to take on “loan sharks” and “extortionists” from Wall Street and big banks that are profiting off the poor.

Mr. Sanders, 77, and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, 29, announced in a livestreamed video feed, which was not open to the press, that they are pushing companion bills in the Senate and House that would cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent, and give states the power to establish lower limits.

“This to me is not just an economic issue, it is a moral issue, where you have Wall Street and credit card companies charging people outrageously high interest rates when they are desperate and they need money to survive,” Mr. Sanders said, sitting alongside Ms. Ocasio-Cortez at a conference table.

“We are talking about economic brutality,” the Vermont independent said.

The pushback against the credit card companies could help define the differences in worldviews between Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden, who has been criticized for being too cozy with credit card companies and on the wrong side of a 2005 debate over bankruptcy laws.

Mr. Biden’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination has shaken up the race, and siphoned support away from Mr. Sanders.

“It is not a dip or a drop in Sanders numbers compared to Biden’s, it is a flat out free fall,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Mr. Sanders trailed Mr. Biden by a 29 percent to 19 percent margin in late March and now trails him by a 38 percent to 11 percent margin, Mr. Malloy said.

It remains early in the race, and Mr. Sanders supporters are betting that the excitement over Mr. Biden’s entrance into the contest will wear off over time as voters get more familiar with the field of candidates and their positions on the issues.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, has yet to endorse a candidate in the race - though she has said that Mr. Biden wouldn’t “animate me” for various reasons.

In the livestream video on Thursday, the New York Democrat echoed Mr. Sanders’ complaints, saying credit card companies and big banks have been given a blank check to charge poor people “extortion-level interest rates.”

“We should not be using people’s misfortune and using people’s income status as a basis for extortion and a basis for predatory lending,” she said.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez volunteered for Mr. Sanders’ campaign in his stronger than anticipated bid against Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination.

The volunteer work helped inspire her decision to launch a primary challenge against then-Rep. Joseph Crowley, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, in New York’s 14th Congressional District that saw her shock the political world.

Mr. Sanders did not endorse her campaign, but the two campaigned together for liberal candidates during the 2018 midterm elections and have become natural allies on Capitol Hill, where they are leading the charge on liberal policies that would steer the party further to the left and are testing party leaders.