Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is confronted by a native of Denmark about his tax and spend policies in a nationally televisioned debate with Sen. Ted Cruz Wednesday night on CNN. While the Scandinavian said he supported policies hailed by Sanders, he was critical of the Independent Senator for not being upfront with the fact that the nations in northern Europe are one of the most heavily taxed in the world, the price it pays for the benefits citizens receive.
"You have at various times, including just now, expressed the -- I mean, belief that the United States should look to Denmark and the Scandinavian countries for inspiration or the vision where the country is going, I should say. As was alluded to, I grew up and I was born and grew up in Denmark. And, you know, these are countries which -- where the government spends -- taxes and spends approximately twice the level of the United States," Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said to Sanders.
"And while I am very sympathetic to many of your spending proposals, especially on the things you mention on early childhood and single-payer and the like, I also know that these are countries that heavily tax everybody, not just the rich people, middle classes. They have consumption taxes on everything of 20 percent," Kirkegaard said.
"So while I'm very sympathetic to what you're saying, my sense is still that you would like to spend as a Scandinavian but not tax as one, is that right?" the fellow traveler asked Sanders.
Cruz said we just witnessed Sanders admit he wants to raise taxes on everyone, "not just the rich."
"You know, we just witnessed a very important moment in this debate, which is that Bernie admitted that he wants to raise everyone's taxes, not just the rich. The question was, to pay for this socialist state, you've got to raise everyone's taxes, and Bernie said, yep, that's right, your taxes are going up. That is a rare moment of candor in Washington," Cruz pointed out.
"You know, it's interesting when I asked him the difference between a socialist and a Democrat on taxes, he couldn't tell me," the Republican said. "I can't tell you either, because the Democratic Party today, the difference is Bernie admits his policies are socialist."
"You know, Bernie is pointing to health care, and, you know, it's interesting. Socialism is always sold on a promise of tomorrow. Reagan used to point out that something liberals never seemed to notice is that the rifles on the Berlin Wall all pointed one direction," Cruz said.
TAPPER: We're staying with the subject, because believe it or not, on the subject of Senator Sanders' worldview and his support for democratic socialism and his love of Denmark, the next question -- no, I'm being -- the next question comes from Jacob Kirkegaard who is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He's a citizen of Denmark. He works here in the United States, so he pays U.S. taxes. And he has a question for Senator Sanders. Jacob?
QUESTION: Yes, Senator Sanders. You have at various times, including just now, expressed the -- I mean, belief that the United States should look to Denmark and the Scandinavian countries for inspiration or the vision where the country is going, I should say. As was alluded to, I grew up and I was born and grew up in Denmark.
And, you know, these are countries which -- where the government spends -- taxes and spends approximately twice the level of the United States. And while I am very sympathetic to many of your spending proposals, especially on the things you mention on early childhood and single-payer and the like, I also know that these are countries that heavily tax everybody, not just the rich people, middle classes. They have consumption taxes on everything of 20 percent.
So while I'm very sympathetic to what you're saying, my sense is still that you would like to spend as a Scandinavian but not tax as one, is that right?
SANDERS: Well, we have -- the answer is -- you raise some very good points. When we talk about health care, for example, OK, what my proposal would do, as I'm sure you understand -- how much do you pay -- or the people of Denmark pay for health care when they go to the doctor?
QUESTION: There is approximately -- if I'm not -- about $10 co-pay for everything.
SANDERS: $10. And how much do you pay when you go to the hospital? If you have cancer, God forbid, and you went to the hospital, how much would it cost you?
SANDERS: Oh, cost you zero. And how much is preschool in -- high quality preschool for the children in Denmark?
QUESTION: It would depend a little bit on the region of the country, but I'd say $200 or $300 a month.
SANDERS: $200 or $300 a month, OK. And what about college in Denmark? Our kids can't afford to go to college. How much does it cost to go to college in Denmark?
QUESTION: Well, in fact, you get a government stipend to go to college.
SANDERS: Oh. In other words, not only is it free, they give you a stipend, because they want to make sure -- correct me if I'm wrong -- that they take advantage of the wisdom of all of the kids. They want to make sure that every kid in that country gets the best education he or she can have. Is that correct?
QUESTION: If you have the appropriate grade average, yes.
SANDERS: Right, exactly. Yeah, exactly, all right. So here is the point. And your point is well taken. To provide quality, virtually free childcare, to provide free higher education, to provide virtually free health care, it costs money. Nothing is free. Taxes are high. You're right.
But I would suggest that the average American would rather pay $3,000 more in taxes and see a $5,000 premium to a private insurance company disappear. They will be better off. In Denmark, my guess is, please correct me if I'm wrong, probably the per capita cost in health care is half what it is in the United States. Is that a good guess?
QUESTION: Approximately, yes.
SANDERS: OK. So the point is, they are able to run a high-quality health care system, probably better than ours, at half of the cost because it's a public health care system.
But to answer to your point, and it's a fair point, nothing is for free. But I believe in a kind of society which is different from Ted's does. I want to see all of our people -- the young people, the old, the poor, the working class -- be able to get the education they need, the health care they need, the job training they need. Does it cost money to do that? It does. But I believe, at the end of the day, that is the kind of nation that the American people would like to see us become.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: You know, we just witnessed a very important moment in this debate, which is that Bernie admitted that he wants to raise everyone's taxes, not just the rich. The question was, to pay for this socialist state, you've got to raise everyone's taxes, and Bernie said, yep, that's right, your taxes are going up. That is a rare moment of candor in Washington.
You know, it's interesting when I asked him the difference between a socialist and a Democrat on taxes, he couldn't tell me. I can't tell you either, because the Democratic Party today, the difference is Bernie admits his policies are socialist. Now...
CRUZ: Hold on. I didn't interrupt you, Bernie. He lionized socialized medicine in Europe. If you look at socialized medicine, there are waiting periods. There's rationing. The government says, if you're an elderly person and you need a hip replacement, it says, well, you may not get a hip replacement. We were talking about Denmark. The average wait time in 2014 for cataract surgery was 83 days...
SANDERS: Would you leave that gentleman up there? Come on back. Come on back.
CRUZ: And the average time in Denmark, which he brought up, for hip replacement was 55 days, 59 days for knee replacement. There is a reason why -- Bernie, I didn't interrupt you. Just relax.
SANDERS: I'm not interrupting you. Come on, come on. It's the Italian in me.
CRUZ: You know, as some might say, curb your enthusiasm.
By the way, the impression Larry David does of you is spectacular and uncanny.
SANDERS: And some day you may also have somebody impersonating you. You've got to work on it, though.
CRUZ: You know, all I need is a bunch of left-wing comedy writers to want to glamorize it.
SANDERS: All right, but...
CRUZ: No, hold on. I was in the middle of making a point.
SANDERS: It's a long point, Ted. We're running out of time here.
CRUZ: Bernie likes to glorify socialism, but if you look at the greatest engine of prosperity the world has ever seen, it's the American free enterprise system.
There is a reason millions of people risk their lives to come here. You know, he talks about poverty. Yes, we have people who are suffering in this country, but it's worth noting that in the United States per capita income in the United States is over five times greater than the world average, and it's 50 percent greater than Europe.
There's a reason why my dad coming out of prison and torture in Cuba came here with a hundred bucks in his underwear, because, you know, you go to socialized countries and you don't have the economic mobility. You've got rich people that live like kings, but you don't have penniless immigrants who can go start a small business and work towards the American dream.
And your answer is let's make us like European socialism. I say let's make us like American exceptionalism, free enterprise and opportunity for everybody.
SANDERS: Well, I wish -- I wish we had opportunity for everybody. Now, you heard his remarks about the -- you're with the Peterson Institute, which is a conservative group. So I'm talking to somebody who is a conservative, all right. How bad is the -- and I don't know the answer. You tell me. Is the Danish health care system also terrible?
QUESTION: No, I mean, I think the generally characterization of sort of waiting lists across the board is vastly incorrect. And I'll give you the example of my mother, who was hospitalized with cancer. She was treated, you know, in a matter of one or two days. And this is true on a number of issues. So the demonization of health care systems in Europe is just not true.
SANDERS: Thank you very much. And, look, you can go out...
CRUZ: You know -- you know...
SANDERS: Hold on -- can I -- I was talking now, OK? All right? And, you know, here are the facts. When people are polled as to whether or not they like their health care system, we come down very low on the totem pole compared to other countries.
Furthermore, when you look at our health care system, it has to be understood that not only do we have 28 million without any health insurance -- the only major country on Earth -- you may be proud of the fact that 28 million have no health insurance and you want another 15 million not to have any health insurance. You may be proud of the fact that people have high deductibles so that they can't even walk into the doctor's office. I'm not.
So I believe, yes, that when we're paying twice as much per capita as the people in Denmark or the people in Canada, I happen to believe that health care is a human right and that every man, woman and child should have the right to health care as an American citizen.
TAPPER: Senator Sanders, I just want to ask a follow-up, because just to be clear, Danish citizens pay the highest tax rate of all developed nations as a percentage of GDP. The United States on that list ranks 32nd.
SANDERS: That's right.
TAPPER: Denmark number one. Do you think Americans are ready for -- to pay taxes like that?
SANDERS: Well, but here's the point. If we can have sensible discussions like this, yeah, I think they will be. Here is the point. If you're an American watching this, listening to Senator Cruz say, oh, my god, Bernie Sanders want to raise my taxes.
But let me also tell you what he's not telling you is that we're going to do away with your private health insurance premium. Maybe you're a family of four today on an individual insurance account and you're paying $15,000, $20,000 for your family. And if I ended that private insurance that you're paying to Blue Cross Blue Shield or some other private insurance company and said you're going to pay $8,000 more in taxes, you'd be $12,000 to the good. And you and your kids would have comprehensive health care. So, yeah, you're raising taxes, but you're doing away with private insurance.
Same thing with college. You know, you talked about America being low tax. By the way, Ted Cruz was busy telling us how high taxed we are. You've just told us we're one of the lowest taxed countries in the world.
But here is a point. If you're a mom or a dad out there and you've got a high school kid, you say, isn't it great, I am low taxed, but how in God's name am I going to come up with $40,000 next year to send my kid to college? So what we do is we only look at taxes. We don't look at the other expenses of life.
In Vermont, do you know how much it costs to send a kid to desktop childcare? $12,000, $15,000 a year. Other countries cover that.
So, yes, to answer your question, Jake, if we can explain to people, yeah, you're going to be paying more in taxes, it's going to be a progressive tax system. The wealthy are going to pay their fair share, not the middle class, not the working class, but everybody will pay some more. But you're going to get free health care and maybe you're going to get free childcare, and maybe your kids are going to be able to go to college tuition-free, you know what, you're going to be better off than under Ted's system.
TAPPER: Senator Cruz?
CRUZ: Well, there you go again. It -- we had another moment that's important.
CRUZ: Earlier, Bernie said he wanted to raise everybody's taxes. And now Bernie has admitted not only does he want to raise everyone's taxes, he wants to raise them to the highest level in the world like Denmark.
SANDERS: Did I say that, Ted?
CRUZ: You said if we had this conversation, the American people will be ready to do that. You know what....
SANDERS: No, you're -- stop putting words into my mouth.
CRUZ: That is a debate and quote.
SANDERS: No. What I said is...
CRUZ: Bernie, I didn't interrupt you.
SANDERS: Yes, you did.
CRUZ: Well, I stopped when you pointed it out.
SANDERS: Don't interrupt me when I'm interrupting you!
CRUZ: Well said. Well said. You know, Bernie is pointing to health care, and, you know, it's interesting. Socialism is always sold on a promise of tomorrow. Reagan used to point out that something liberals never seemed to notice is that the rifles on the Berlin Wall all pointed one direction.
As a Cuban American, I have a different way of looking at it. Something liberals never seem to notice, if you go down to Key West, the rafts from Cuba are all coming one direction. We don't see any Hollywood liberals jumping on rafts and heading to Cuba for free health care, because it doesn't work in practice. It's a disaster in practice.
You know, we have an example of what government control of health care is. That's Obamacare. That was proposed. Bernie voted for it. It was his party. What has happened under Obamacare? Obamacare was sold to the American people on a mountain of lies. They were -- you were told if you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Over 6 million Americans found out that was a lie and had their plans canceled.
President Obama promised average premiums would drop $2,500 a year. In fact, they rose $5,000 a year...
SANDERS: We had the debate on health care. This is not health care.
CRUZ: You've been talking about health care for 20 minutes.
SANDERS: No, you've been talking about Obamacare...
TAPPER: While you guys -- while you guys -- we're going to take a very quick break.
CRUZ: Bernie, is it true or false...
TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break...
CRUZ: Is it true or false that the profits of insurance companies doubled under Obamacare?
TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break. CNN's Debate Night returns after this.