tv Talk to Al Jazeera Al Jazeera October 17, 2013 1:30pm-2:01pm EDT
bernie sanders is our guess. on talk to al jazeera. >> we appreciate you being with us. people have tried to describe your political leanings. can you explain to us what your political ideology and philosophy is? >> politically i'm an independent, which means i'm elected not as a democrat not a republican but independent on the ballot. that's always been the case. i was first elected in 1981, in fact defeating a democrat incumbent in the city of burlington. that's my political label. i'm now longest serving independent in the history of the united states congress. politically i am or ideal okay cli i'm a socialist. >> what does that mean? >> it means we have enormous problems in this country in
terms of income and equality. and i want this nation to be a country in which all people have at least a minimum standard of living and where we don't have the kind of incredible gaps between the very, very rich and everybody else that we currently have. so being a democratic socialist means everybody should be entitled to health care as a right. it means we should have a living wage, minimum wage so if you're working 40 hours a week you're able to take care of your family. it means we have a tax system in which the wealthy and large corporation contribute their fair share which is not the case right now. it means that if you, because we believe in families, presumably, it means that when you have a baby, as a mom you can stay home, with your baby and your husband can be -- father can be with you for a while nurturing that kid. and basically, it means to move in the direction that many of the scandinavian countries have moved in.
a few months ago we brought the ambassador from denmark to the state of vermont. we did some town meetings. people were amazed. do you know how much it cost to go to college in denmark, do you know? zero. or graduate school or medical school. they have the kind of radical and craze imri idea that they want to in your you are -- that they want to nurture the intellectual ideas of their kids. you can't go to college because you can't. >> we're having enough trouble handling the debt we've already got. how idealistic is it? >> the point being that in recent years, in the last 20, 30 years we have seen an explosion in technology, right? we have seen an explosion in productivity and where has all
that new wealth gone? where it's gone is a recent study came out, 95% of all of the new income generated in the lastthrough three years you know where it went -- last three years, you know where it went, top 1%. we have a situation where the top 1% owns the top 38% of wealth is. no one knows this. the top 63% 2.3%. the bottom 63% owns 2.3%. >> you talk about things that people do care about but maybe are not seeing on a daily basis. but the label they get is this guy is the only guy who's serving on capitol hill and has been for six decades, the -- >> not quite six decades. >> not that you've been up here but to use the word socialist in this city of washington, d.c. is rather a dirty word, the in fact there are people that have used the word socialist to speak disparagingly of the president.
although you would say that the president isn't a socialist. >> yes, i would say that. i think president himself defined himself i think it was last year on a television interview obama said you know if this was the 1980s people would think that my economics was about moderate republican, which i think is probably somewhat accurate. >> there are people that would think that maybe bernie sanders is just a very, very liberal democrat. >> i caucus with the democrats sure i do. a growing increasingly right wing republican party, there isn't much of an option. but if you ask me what i believe in, issue by issue, i don't think it's that radical. issue by issue i did get reelected in vermont with 71% of the vote. it's not like this is such crazy stuff. you ask american people should every american think health care
is a right of citizenship? you think they should. you could parring about the nature of the system. >> who's going opay to pay for it. >> that's the nature of the system. what every other major country of the world has general health care. we do not. i think every kid in this country who has the ability to go to college regardless of his or her income? what do you think we would say? yes that makes sense. in the midst of the crisis we're in if we should invest heavily in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, what do you think people would say, yeah. i don't consider myself very radical. i think most of the positions i hold are consistent with what at a american people want. what has happened, the
republican party is owned by billionaires, the democratic party also heavily influenced by big money. i'm out there because i'm not all that rad cam. >> people say look, bernie sarntdseanders sanders couldn't get elected in a anywhere but the democratic republic of burlington. >> i wouldn't say that. pretty progressive guy and it's not just new york or massachusetts i think it doesn't happen overnight. if you live in oklahoma or you live in mississippi or you live in alabama these are states where people have gotten very little exposure to progressive ideas. i mean they're dominated by rush limbaugh radio and limbaugh wannabes, your political leaders there are extremely conservative
and it doesn't happen overnight. but i kind of think if you talk sense to working families and you say do you think it's appropriate that your kids have no health insurance and give tax breaks to billionaires not a whole lot of people in any state in this country believe that. >> are there people like you who would step forward who share your ideas and who want to be involved in civil service who say you know what i might want to do that but i don't want to be like bernie sanders and go out there for a big target painted on my back for everybody to call me that nut guy that difficult figure from vermont, i don't want to appear like that, do you think there are others that would step up to your idea? >> the answer to your question is yes. it's becoming especially as a result of in citizens united decision -- >> which enabled more organizations to be able to give
money corporate interest -- >> which means if you were to run for office right now, i'm a billionaire and i don't like you, i could run the most ugly negative adds and my name isn't attached to it. it's not just any point of view, my god, husbands saying to their wives don't do it, they're going to be watching you every minute, they're going to go after your kids, do you really want to do it? so politics today is so destructive and so personal that you know, regardless of what point of view a lot of people are hesitating to be involved. >> we'll talk more with senator sanders about the current issues facing capitol hill and the current challenges here after a break. this is the 900-page document
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>> and welcome back to talk to al jazeera. our guest is senator bernie sanders of vermont. we were talking before the break about some of your ideas. let's put them into practical application, the crises we're facing oaf the budget governmental sequestration, all of that, where does it leave the american people? is there a sense that the american people have really had it with all of you folks up here? >> i think if you look at the favorability ratings, we're occasionally in single digits. people are angry frustrated disgusted with what's going on here. and joie it's not just because of the shutdown, that's terrible it's essentially because they are in a lot of trouble. now what we don't talk about as a nation very much, and there are reasons for that, is the fact that the middle class of this country is disappearing, it's collapsing. poverty is a number of people
living in poverty is at an all time high. people are saying what about us? my graduated college deeply in debt can't find a job, what are you doing about that? >> and has moved back home. >> has moved back home. i'm 55 years of age, my boss fired me, i may never have a job in my life, i'm one of the 48 million people who can't afford to go to the doctor what about me? or i was working at a factory and you know what they shut it down. >> at what point is government that? if you look at the fight over obamacare, the challenge of making obamacare work not be picked apart not be run out of town, not be held hostage, if you look at how difficult all that has been, how can you say that we're ever going oget to a point in this country where we can finance more of these
services through federal government? >> good question, not the best question because your question -- >> thank you for giving me that. >> the questions you're right in saying that with this congress, with a -- essentially a right wing very strong right wing extremist element in the house, who are funded by billion airs who have huge -- billionaires who have huge sums of money whose goal in life, people have got to understand us it's not just obamacare. they want to end social security. they think the government should not be involved in retirement issues. as you well know in the house they passed a budget to end medicare as we know and make it into a voucher program. massive cuts in medicaid. they want to abolish the concept of minimum wage. my point is if you're asking me that do i think that any of my ideas are going ogain traction with these types of people in
the house, you're right. they will not. on the other hand if the question is do i think that that ideology, represents more than 15 or 20% of the american people i don't. then i'll go further, i think the democrats have been very weak in not speaking to working class people and not ral ying rallying working class people so this right wing extremist portion is defeated. i think the republicans have become right wing extreme is their opinions are way out of touch. the democrats have been heavily influenced by big money. do you think you go out to any working class area do you think the democratic party is vigorously representing your interest, people will not say yes.
gay rights, women rights many i strongly represent those. >> what about obamacare? >> obamacare is a good moderate republican proposal which does several things, expands health insurance to another 20 or 30 million americans, very important. it puts restrictions on what private insurance companies can do. but if we are serious in providing health care to all people in a cost effective way you have got to move to a medicare for all, single payor program. >> when you talk about single payor you are talking about national health insurance? >> single payor is what you have in canada. you don't have private insurance companies but people can go to private clinics and so forth. >> but the government is still the single payor. >> exactly. >> that means what for me as the
taxpayer? >> guess what it means, you don't have to pay blue cross blue shield $16,000 a year anymore. as bernie sanders wants to raise your taxes yes your taxes will go up but you don't have to pay the ten, 12, 14, $16,000 a year to the insurance company. >> i get stuck on the guy, on the second term in the senate you know the one you're in the one socialist on capitol hill. >> but i also know that joie i happen to live in where i live in burlington, vermont one hour from the canadian border. they don't look any different they don't act any different. they've been operating under their health care system for 30 years. they like their system more than
we like our system and we end up pace twieg as much and our health care options are not as good. does that make sense to you? i don't think that makes sense to people. people are going to be frightened by that idea and they are so dumb that they can't figure out that it's a good thing not to pay 16,000 for a private insurance company and to pay $10,000 more in taxes they can't figure that out? i don't believe that. >> i'm not going to disparage the american people and their intellect. but i do wonder where you think all this is going. you also talk about living wage. that's a real change of thinking. i mean we have had people in the streets and on al jazeera we have reported very extensively about the people on the streets this year trying to get a living wage. and they're not even close. >> and they will not succeed so longs as we -- long as we have
right wing extremists running the house of representatives. if you want me to look at the world the way it is today on capitol hill nothing i have told you will pass. i'm not arguing with you. but what i'm saying is i think those people that ideology of trying to abolish, do an interview that's what guys do, do you think it's a good thing to abolish the minimum wage to people can work for $4 an hour, that's ridiculous, that's what those people want to do. so long as they are there i worry very much about the future of america. i think they can be defeated because i think they represent a small segment of the american population. >> you think they can be defeated how? there are a lot of powerful forces with a lot of money in hand. >> i think what we need is a very aggressive grass roots effort to knock on millions of doors on this country and to do a kind of political education
and organizing that we have never seen. obama did a very good job in his campaign in getting people out to vote and yet we still end up with 40% of our people that don't vote at all. many are working people and lower income people. we got them into the political process. too many young people are not voting, we have to get thank youthem intothe political proce. the bottom line is i don't believe this is a right wing extremist country. i think this is a center left country, we are being hindered by right wing extremists in the house. >> we'll take a break on talk to al jazeera and return to what senator sanders has to say to >> while you were asleep, news was happening. >> here are the stories we're following. >> find out what happened and what to expect. >> international outrage.
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and welcome back to talk to al jazeera. our guest is senator bernie sanders of vermont. a very independent voice. before the break i suggested this would be your opportunity to speak to america's young people about what should be important to them and what kind of difference they can make in this country's future. >> i would say to the young people don't accept things the way they are. the way you see this country politically ask an aberration today. it doesn't have to be. we can live in a country with good meaningful jobs, you shouldn't be accepting that they're going to be earning less than their parents. they should not be accepting that many of the meaningful and important jobs do not pay very much. but on the other hand if they
want to sell their souls and go to wall street they can make huge amounts of money. we can do better than that. >> which means -- >> teaching, what the scientific community, the scientists who are studying global warming are telling us ask it is 95% likely that it is caused by human activities. if we do not get our act together this planet in years to come is going to be a very inhospitable planet for the people of planet earth that we are already seeing terrible destruction as a result of globalling warming it will only get worse. we need the young people all over this world to stand up and say wait a second we cannot continue the destroy this planet we need to transform our energy system. you know who's working on solar, geothermal, biomass, what an incredible opportunity.
when i was a kid they sent a man to the moon. this is even more important. we need the energy of the young people to help trant form the energy system. >> to talk about what we have said before. the partisan environment that has taken over this city, the capitol, how you are in it, how do we change it where it isn't the constant battle between left and right? >> firm there is no battle between left and right. there is not a left, president obama is not a left. it's not fair to talk about left and right. what you have is a house of representatives endowmented by right wing extremists. what i would tell the young people in the country if they believe, as they do in a democratic civilized society, where we respect people, where we continue the progress we make in breaking down discrimination
based on race and gender and sexual orientation all that stuff, if they believe in a country where young people can come forward an use their energies to make this a better world then you got to take a hard look at right wing extremists and what they stand for they have to be defeated. they have to be defeated. the message i want to put forward is i'm very pessimistic about this country when people not only want to deny health care to millions of people, they want to go further than that, decimate medicare and medicaid. they don't believe it's constitutional. i'm here to work with republicans, conservatives and decent but what you have is a new breed of right wing extreme is who are wreaking havoc, and we have to defeat them. >> you are the chair of the
veterans affairs committee which might puzzle some people for a guy who has been antiwar. why was this an assignment you wanted? >> i very much wanted it. we have learned as a nation, we didn't learn this during the vietnam war which i owned, by the way, the people who came back -- i opposed, you don't blame those people, they were doing what they were asked to do. so i think that we owe our veterans a whole lot and we are working very hard with the veterans organizations to improve and expand health care. to do a whole lot of things that i think will improve the lives of our veterans and i'm very proud to be chairman of that committee. >> do you have, though, at the end of it all, do you have
frustration as a member of congress? you've been in the house, you're in the senate now, you've seen how things work. if anything i would suspect things are more entrenched than when you started up here. >> yes. >> haven't you just had enough? >> that's a very good question so to answer part a of your question, every single day i'm depressed frustrated, disgusted. i see people often backed by people with huge amounts of money, breaking the backs of the working folk, that breaks my heart. i can't get out of here, i have seven grandchildren four of my own kids. as frustrating and as difficult as it is i can't turn my back on the struggles that people are going through. people are hurting very, very badly.