Bernie Sanders: Get Rid Of Budget Sequester, Tax Billionaires, Make College Free

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Bernie Sanders speaks with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell about his plan to get rid of the budget sequester, raise taxes on billionaires and corporations, and make college tuition-free.

"We need to reform our disastrous trade policies so Corporate America invests in our country and not low income countries abroad," Sanders said.

"These are very concrete ideas that talk to the needs of a disappearing middle class and massive wealth and income inequality. It's not the kind of demagoguery that I think you’re hearing from Mr. Trump."

Andrea Mitchell's final question: "But what do you say to Democrats, Senator, who say that they agree with you on many of these issues, but that a self-described socialist, Democratic Socialist, cannot win in a general election?"

"I think people will understand that what I am talking about are some of the programs that exist in countries like Denmark," Sanders said. "Where health care is a right for all people and they do it much more cost effectively than we do... Where college education is either free or very, very inexpensive. Where retirement benefits are strong."

"I think the more we get those ideas out, I think more comfortable people will be with the ideas that we're espousing."


Full transcript:

ANDREA MITCHELL: If you were elected president how would you work with, if it were, a Republican Congress? How would you work on budget issues, for instance? How would you work on the sequester? Given the defense needs, for instance, would you want to hold the sequester in place for military spending and not for domestic spending? Or would you take a hard look at both sides?

SANDERS: I think we've got to lift the sequester. It is an absurd way to do budgeting. I think we have to reform our national priorities. I do believe that we need substantial new revenue. By asking the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations -- some of whom, by the way, in a given year, made billions in profits and don't pay a nickel in federal taxes. These guys are going to have to start paying their fair share of taxes, not stashing their money in the Cayman Islands or in other tax havens.

We need to change our national priorities in understanding that we have, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. So it makes no sense for me to give tax breaks to billionaires and have so many of our kids living in poverty.

So do we have to do away with sequester? Yes, we do. And I think we need to put more revenue in the needs of working families. I think by the way, Andrea, that while my Republican friends want to cut Social Security, you're looking at a senator who believes that we should expand Social Security benefits by lifting the cap on taxable income.

MITCHELL: But if you taxed all the billionaires, excessively taxed all the billionaires, closed all the loopholes, you still wouldn't have enough money for all of the social needs that I think you would identify. Does there need to be another kind of tax?

SANDERS: When I talk about making public colleges and universities tuition-free, the way we pay for that particular important program, and the way we reduce substantially interest rates on student debt, is through a tax on Wall Street's speculation. It's not a new idea. It exists in other countries around the world. And that could dampen, by the way, Wall Street speculation in addition to bringing in huge amounts of revenue.

So I do believe that at a time when we have massive income and wealth inequality, very rich are getting richer. You have the one-tenth of 1 percent owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Under that scenario, yes, I think we can raise substantial sums of revenue to address the needs of working families, the elderly, and the children, by asking those people who are doing phenomenally well to start paying their fair share of taxes...

MITCHELL: How does it make you feel when some pundits compare you to Donald Trump and say that you're basically reaching out to the same anger against Washington? And obviously in different wings, but that you are reaching the same sentiment, the same "throw the bums" out idea?

SANDERS: No, I don't accept that for one moment. We are not engaged here in demagoguery. We’re not engaged in racist attacks, outrageous attacks against Mexicans. What we are trying to do is talk about the reality facing the American people and come up with real concrete solutions.

Look, Andrea, real unemployment in America -- not 5.3 percent, it's over 10 percent. Youth unemployment, 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent. We have a plan to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure which will create 13 million jobs. That’s a concrete proposal. We believe in raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour. Pay equity for women workers. We need to make college -- public colleges and universities tuition-free. We need to make sure that the wealthiest people and large corporations pay their fair share of taxes. We need to reform our disastrous trade policies so Corporate America invests in our country and not low income countries abroad.

These are very concrete ideas that talk to the needs of a disappearing middle class and massive wealth and income inequality. It's not the kind of demagoguery that I think you’re hearing from Mr. Trump.

MITCHELL: But what do you say to Democrats, Senator, who say that they agree with you on many of these issues, but that a self-described socialist, Democratic Socialist, cannot win in a general election?

SANDERS: Well, I would suggest for a start that they look at some of the polls that have been recently which show us beating, in some cases, all of the Republican candidates -- other cases most of the Republican candidates -- despite the fact, Andrea, that I am still not known by 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent of the American people.

In terms of Democratic Socialism, I think people will understand that what I am talking about are some of the programs that exist in countries like Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, where a health care is a right for all people and they do it much more cost effectively than we do. Where the cost of prescription drugs are substantially lower than it is in our country. Where college education is either free or very, very inexpensive. Where retirement benefits are strong. Where you have governments which actually, radical idea as it may seem, represent the middle class of those countries rather than the billionaire class.

I think the more we get those ideas out, I think more comfortable people will be with the ideas that we're espousing.

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