In This Episode
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders sits down with Jon F. to talk about why he feels he’s uniquely prepared to lead a movement for change in the 2020 presidential election, his Medicare for All plan, his strategy for getting an agenda through Congress and whether Cardi B will perform at his inauguration.
Learn more about Bernie Sanders here.
- Bernie Sanders Campaign Website
- Vox: Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all plan, explained
- NYT: “Why Sanders Wanted His Meeting With a Rabbi Kept Secret.”
- JTA: “Bernie Sanders says being the first Jewish president would be ‘another barrier broken down’”
- NYT: “Bernie Sanders: I Know Where I Came From. Does President Trump?”
- NYT: “Gun Issues, Long at the Fringe, Now Loom Large for Democratic Candidates.”
- Vox: “Bernie Sanders’s record on gun control, explained.”
- Business Insider: “Bernie Sanders said debate moderator Rachel Maddow was ‘mischaracterizing’ his words on gun control when she was using a direct quote from him.”
- NBC: “Sanders’ gun votes are again a potential liability among Democratic base.”
- Vox: “Bernie Sanders made Medicare-for-all mainstream. Now he’s trying to reclaim it.”
- New Yorker – The Democratic Divide on the Future of Health Care
- Democracy Now: “Bernie Sanders Introduces “Right to a Secure Retirement” Plan.”
- NYT: “Sanders and Biden Fight Over Health Care, and It’s Personal.”
- Vox: Joe Biden has questions about Medicare-for-All. We answered them.
- FiveThirtyEight – Medicare For All Isn’t That Popular — Even Among Democrats
- New Yorker – Bernie Sanders Imagines a Progressive New Approach to Foreign Policy
- The Atlantic – It’s Foreign Policy That Distinguishes Bernie This Time
- Vox: “Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign and policy positions, explained.”
- The Nation – The Overlooked Difference Between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren
- CNN: “Bernie Sanders defends unionized staffers’ salaries amid clash with campaign over guarantee of $15 an hour”
- Politico: “Warren pulls closer to Sanders in progressive straw poll.”
- Boston Globe: “Bernie Sanders might be losing his N.H. firewall”
- News Week: “BERNIE SANDERS BACKS SCRAPPING ELECTORAL COLLEGE AFTER NEW ANALYSIS FINDS ENTRENCHED ADVANTAGE FOR TRUMP IN 2020”
- NYT Business: “Wealth Tax and Free College Get Poll Support. Democrats Worry It Won’t Last.”
- MoJo: “Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders Have Found a New Issue to Team Up On: Attacking Tom Steyer.”
- BBC: “Bernie Sanders: What’s different this time around?”
- WaPo: “Sanders and Warren have a similar message, but they’re battling different weaknesses”
- Jacobinmag: “Bernie Is the Best Chance We Have on Climate.”
- Vox: “Bernie Sanders’s years-long feud with Goldman Sachs’s former CEO is now part of his campaign.”
- The Atlantic: “Bernie Sanders’s Ideas Dominated the Second Debate.”
- MoJo: “The Untold Story of the Progressive Insurgency That Is Remaking Congress.”
- LAT: “Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to square off at debate, and Kamala Harris and Joe Biden get a rematch”
- CNN: “Bernie Sanders raises $18 million in second quarter, campaign says.”
- NYT: “Outsider or Insider? How Bernie Sanders Learned to Walk the Line”
- BBC: “Bernie Sanders proposes to wipe out $1.6tn in student debt.”
- CBS: “Bernie Sanders reaches salary agreement with campaign staffers.”
- NYT: “Biden and Sanders, Behaving Badly.”
- AP: “Bernie Sanders thinks media is unfair, so he created his own.”
- The Atlantic: “What Sets Bernie Sanders’s Student-Debt Plan Apart.”
- Vox: “This is how Bernie Sanders thinks about foreign policy.”
- NYT: “2020 Candidates on Guns.”
- Vox: “Bernie Sanders’s plan to blow up the filibuster and pass Medicare-for-all, explained.”
- Politico: “Inslee knocks Sanders, 2020 rivals over filibuster support.”
- NYmag: “Bernie Sanders’s Love of the Filibuster Is His Craziest Position.”
- NYT: “Ambitious Climate Plans Might Need a Radical Legislative One: Ending the Filibuster.”
- Bloomberg: “Sanders Campaign Labor Charge Alleges Staffer Retaliation.”
- Daily Beast: “Tensions Between Bernie Sanders and MSNBC Boil Over.”
- Market Watch: “What experts say about Bernie Sanders’s plan for long-term care.”
- Politico: Bernie Sanders says he does not support open borders
Interview: Jon Favreau and Senator Bernie Sanders
Favreau: Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you for being here.
Sanders: My pleasure.
Favreau: I want to start with a version of a question that we ask all the candidates who come through. You spent a lot of time talking about how real change doesn’t happen because of any one candidate or leader, but because of a movement–which I completely agree with. Why are you the candidate who’s best equipped to lead such a movement at this particular moment in history?
Sanders: Because I think, Jon, that’s what we’ve been doing for a number of years. Just as an example: right now we have two million people who have-m-two million individual contributors to our campaign. That’s I think an all-time world’s record to be honest with you. And what we have done is establish a grassroots movement all over this country. Now, after I ended my campaign last time and after the 2016 election, I did something a little bit different than what other candidates who lose do. What I helped do is start an organization called Our Revolution and that–the function of that organization was precisely to build a strong grassroots movement of young people working people and people of color and in many ways it has succeeded. In terms of the [cough] excuse me—election. What I am most proud of is the fact that we saw a significant increase in young people’s political participation.
Sanders: And that’s something we have–I’m not suggesting that we did that alone. A lot of groups did it, but that’s something we’ve been working on. So I believe in grassroots organizing. We are about a political revolution, bringing millions of people to stand up and fight for justice.
Favreau: I know you first became politically active as a college student in Chicago during the 60s.
Sanders: That’s correct.
Favreau: When for you did thinking and learning about politics turn into activism and why? Why did you say I need to actually do something about this?
Sanders: Let me back it up a little bit. My political consciousness was raised as a kid and it was raised in two fundamental ways. Number one, I grew up in a working-class family. The son of a Polish immigrant–Polish Jewish immigrant. We lived in a rent-controlled apartment.
So what I learned is a young person is what lack of money does to a family. So I grew up in a good household. We were not poor but we were struggling low middle class. And all kinds of fights would take place in my–among my–between my parents because of the lack of money and that I remember very distinctly and of course that is a reality that impacts tens of millions of families today and I’ve never forgotten it. Unlike Donald Trump, I didn’t get $200,000 a year allowance. I got 25 cents a week. Second of all, I’m Jewish and as a kid, I remember very very well hearing from my parents about the Holocaust and remember getting a phone call that came in the middle of the night, which never happened at our household from some cousin of my father’s I guess who was discovered in Europe at a displaced persons camp.
So, if you lose your your parents–your father’s family–to the Holocaust to a lunatic named Hitler, you become aware, as I think African-American families understand, that politics is not something abstract. It impacts whether you live or you die, whether you’re treated with dignity or not. Those are the two factors that shaped I think my willingness to engage in politics.
Favreau: I thought your speech on Democratic socialism made one of the most compelling economic arguments I’ve heard in the race. I love the inclusion of FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. My question is FDR is a proud Democratic capitalist. Your critique and your solutions are in rough agreement with other progressive Democrats, so what is valuable or important to you about the label Democratic socialist?
Sanders: Good. Fair question. And the answer is–and to a large degree what our campaign is about–it’s not just fighting for Medicare for All. It’s not just about raising the minimum wage to a living wage. It’s not just about combating climate change. It’s not just about making public colleges and universities tuition-free. What it is about–and I think we are unique and I think that’s where the word Democratic socialist comes in–is understanding the we do not accomplish any of that unless we have the courage to do what has not been done. And that is to stand up to an incredibly powerful and [05:00] wealthy ruling class in this country whose greed has wrecked havoc on the working class of this country. So I can sit here and tell you “Jon, look, I want to do this and I want to do that. You’ll have an idea and you’ll say “that’s great Bernie.”” But at the end of the day, this is what I will tell you. And we have to–we have to we have to deal with this and if you disagree with me tell me, but at the end of the day, why are we the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people? Why do we have three people in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of America? Why are we a country unlike many others that doesn’t guarantee our kids the ability to get a higher education? Why do we allow the fossil fuel industry to make billions a year while they destroy the planet? And what’s the answer to that? The answer to that is these guys have incredible power and if you don’t recognize the power structure in America, which I do, and the need to take them on frontally than a lot of the other ideas don’t really mean a whole lot.
Favreau: Yeah. Back when you were mayor of Burlington, you called yourself just a plain old socialist. You argued for nationalizing industries, like, you know, energy industries and banking, but–
Sanders: But let me correct you on that. That’s not you know, that’s not when I was mayor of Burlington. I was elected in ‘81 before that I ran on a third-party ticket, which had some some of those ideas. That’s not what I advocated when I was mayor. In fact, we got along– I wouldn’t say we got along with the business community, but if you check my record, my eight years of Burlington, the entire city did quite well.
Favreau: I guess I guess what I was asking is have your views on socialism and your politics in general changed over time, how have they changed over time? Or has it been the same since 1984?
Sanders: No, it’s not been the same. I think if you don’t change over the years something is wrong, right? You’re not learning anything, right, by saying exactly what I said 40 years ago. Look–this is what I think and this is not radical and I don’t want the word Democratic socialism, you know to get people upset or scared. Look, have you been to Scandinavia?
Sanders: Okay. So what are we have? Just take a look at a country like say Norway. All right, you have a baby in Norway. What do you get? You get, if my memory is correct, you either get 12 months off paid leave or I think you get 12 months off at 80% of your pay or 10 months off at all of your pay. Okay. You have excellent quality and affordable childcare. You have a strong and very good public college–public education system. Do you know how much college costs in Finland or Denmark or Sweden?
Favreau: It’s free?
Sandres: It’s free. Yeah, it’s free. You can go to medical school. Now, you can become a lawyer–it’s free. So, is that really so radical? Germany–public education is free. So when I talk about these ideas, which get people very nervous– guess what? They are existing all over the world. It’s not so scary to say that we should not have three individuals owning more wealth than the bottom half of America, we should not have the top 49 the top 1% earning 49 percent of all income. Maybe–just maybe–we want an economy in a government that works for all and that means we end I’m just–come back to health care, I know we’ll discuss it in a minute. We are the only major country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee healthcare to all people. I live 50 miles away from the Canadian border. You go into Canada, you have a heart transplant. You know how much it costs you when you come out of the hospital? Nothing. All right.
Favreau: Yeah, so you and I have the common experience of being part of campaigns that took on Hillary Clinton.
Sanders: You won, I lost. That’s the difference.
Favreau: [laughing] It was close. What did that primary teach you about yourself?
Sanders: It’s funny that you asked that because we learned obviously an enormous amount and, as you well know, being part of a presidential campaign–being staff or the candidate is an extraordinary experience. I come from a small state and to be honest with you, I mean, during the course of this campaign going all over the country and meeting all kinds of people, diverse communities that I had really never spent a whole lot of time with was–was a beautiful experience and seeing so many beautiful people, especially a lot of young people out there. Now, you know, people ask me–they say Bernie you do really well with young people, right? That’s what we do. And what was your brilliant plan? What did you, how did you figure this thing out? And the answer is zero plans. We just did it and what–and honest to God. And it turns out you know that among the young people–and this is what I learned–there is a sense of idealism–and I think it is fair to say that the younger generation today is probably the most progressive generation, young generation in the history of the country. Anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-sexist, et cetera. And that also–these young people for the first time may end up having a lower standard of living than their parents. So what I learned, is there a lot of beautiful young people out there want to stand up and they want to fight for justice. They’re a lot of old people out there [10:00] who are hurting because they can’t afford their prescription drugs or their housing or whatever it may be. There’s a lot of pain out there and that’s what we recognized in this campaign.
Favreau: What–what’s–between 2016 and 2020 sort of what was your plan? And what is your plan to grow the movement that you began in 2016 because obviously you need to add more people to win.
Sanders: Yes. Well, I think it’s a multi-pronged approach. Number one, I think for our campaign and frankly to defeat Donald Trump, what we have got to do is grow the voter turnout. Okay, the very good news for us is that two out of three young people are progressive. The bad news is young people don’t vote at the kind of levels that they should be voting–now, they’re doing better and 2018 was good. We got a long way to go. So I would say one of our focuses is to do everything we can to register young people and get them involved in the political process.
Number two, I believe we got to expand our base. A lot of people in African-American communities did not come out to vote for Hillary Clinton, you know that, in Milwaukee, Detroit, and elsewhere. And we gotta create an agenda which speaks to the needs of working class people: black and white and Latino, Asian-American and Native American. And we got to get them engaged in the political process. This is my fear: anybody who thinks that Donald Trump, you the polls, the polls came out today and had me six points ahead of Trump.
Sanders: I don’t take that all that seriously. Trump is a very formidable opponent. He lies all of the time he will use the power of government to help his campaign. Obviously, this man has no scruples at all. And the billionaire class will be behind him with endless amounts of money. So what we need is an energized population of young people, of working-class people, of people of color in order to beat him. We need the largest voter turnout by far in history. I think our campaign can do it. The other thing that we need to do and I think, you know, people disagree with me on this but I think there is a part of the Trump constituency, a part that can be won over–that is not racist or sexist or homophobic or xenophobic. And those are people that you know, I mean, and correct me if I’m wrong here, that you have people out there who voted for Obama, not once, but twice, right? And then that are voting for Donald Trump. Alright, because they felt that the political establishment had failed them. Alright, they’re working two or three jobs going nowhere, right? Their kids can’t afford to go to college. They can’t afford healthcare and they’re saying hey, what did you guys do for me? Did you remember me? You know, I live in the midwest. I’m not in Los Angeles and I’m not New York City. Help me out. I think we can appeal to some of those people.
Favreau: So this is my next question. I mean, there was a study out of Iowa after 2016 that said the most significant factor in that state flipping to Trump was not his economic promises but his nativist appeals. And there’s a bunch of other studies like that–you’ve probably seen them–that racial resentment was one of the main factors in switching over. Do you buy that and do you think that the Democratic party can win those kinds of Voters back with the progressive economic agenda, even if some of those voters have been motivated in the past by racist or nativist appeals?
Sanders: The answer is yes, and I think they’re not– I understand what you’re saying and I do agree with that–those studies. But they’re not unrelated in this sense, okay? If you are somebody in Michigan, in Iowa, Pennsylvania, your job went to China, you’re making 12 bucks an hour, your standard of living is lower maybe than it was 20 years ago, your kid is still living in the house because your kid can’t go and get a decent paying job. Your kid can’t afford to go to college. You can’t afford health care. You’re angry and you’re resentful and what Donald Trump said–and Trump may be crazy, he may be disgraceful and disgusting. He’s not stupid and he said to those people, “what’s happening to your life. Huh? Democratic establishment has ignored you, I hear your pain and I’m going to take on everybody. I’m the anti-establishment candidate.” And he combined that with saying let me tell you who your problem with–the problem really is here and then he goes into his divisiveness and his racism and his xenophobia. So I think that they are–he’s playing on people’s economic resentment and instead of saying we’re going to take on Wall Street and we’re going to take on the insurance companies and the drug companies who are ripping you off– “We’re going to take on the undocumented people. That guy in California makes $10 an hour picking strawberries–that is your enemy. That little girl who goes to high school who was undocumented–we’re going to throw her out of the country. Those are your enemies.” And that’s where I think the two become related.
Favreau: Do you think that we can win those voters back even with a lot of the positions that you all in the primary have proudly taken–like can you win those voters back by talking about decriminalizing border crossings, by talking about reparations for slavery. How do you feel about that?
Sanders: I’m not saying we can’t win them all back, right? Alright, please do hear me say that. But you don’t need to win them all back. You don’t need to. The way we win this election is grow the voter turnout, the basic Democratic base: that is the African-American community the Latino community, the trade Union community, the working-class community that is still voting Democrat. Make sure we get them out to vote. We greatly expand voter turnout among young people and we got a pot of the Trump base. You do that you will only win but you win big and that–you know, as you know, what we’re talking about is 15 or 16 states, really. You’re not talking about California or New York. And I think if you look at states like Michigan, if you look at states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, other states. We can win those states by doing just that but here is my point: I happen to think that good policy, i.e. policy that speaks to the needs of the working class of this country, a working class that has been decimated for the last 45 years and they know they have been decimated. And our job is to make them understand that Donald Trump is a liar and a fraud–you remember–you can correct me if I’m wrong here–this is the guy who campaigned on giving health care to everybody right? Well, that’s pretty good. I support that. And then he tried to throw 32 million people off the health care that they had. Alright. So I think we expose Trump, I’m not going to tell you that we’re going to win all of his voters, I think we can win a chunk of them, expand the voter turnout–we win the election.
Favreau: It seems pretty clear that he’s going to make the general election about race, immigration, white identity politics.
Sanders: I think so.
Favreau: And so Hillary had this challenge in 2016. Trump says something you know, she probably wants to talk about her economic message. He says something crazy racist, you’ve got to respond because it’s wrong not to respond, and now the news cycle is about Trump. How do you–do you pivot to an economic message? Do you take on his racism and xenophobia directly? How do you handle that?
Sanders: I’m gonna hire you to figure that out.
Favreau: Okay, great. Perfect. Perfect. That’d be–
Sanders: I mean, who the hell knows? You are dealing with a guy, you know, I probably missed the major news of the day because I haven’t seen his latest tweet.
Favreau: I haven’t either.
Sanders: So I don’t know what its latest tweet said and you’re right and then the media goes crazy and that’s what you’re forced to respond to. So look, you cannot ignore Donald Trump and his tweets and his lies. But if you become obsessed with them, I guarantee you will lose the election. I don’t intend to do that. Alright. So what we have got to do and here’s what I want to get back to because this is the key point. There are tens of millions of people who are hurting very badly as we speak even in a so-called good economy where unemployment is relatively low. You got half this country living paycheck to paycheck and the Democratic leadership for too damn long has ignored that reality. Okay. I believe that in 2016, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It wasn’t that Trump won the election. It was the Democrats who lost the election. You cannot turn your back upon people who are struggling every day in terms of low wages, lack of healthcare, inability to send their kids to college, people who are in debt because they come down with cancer. You cannot ignore those people. They are America and they are as important as anybody else. We got to talk to their issues.
Favreau: Do you think it was the Democratic agenda in 2016 that ignore those people or is it a message issue?
Sanders: It’s not a message issue. I think for too long for too long going–
Favreau: Because Hillary’s agenda was pretty pretty progressive.
Sanders: But it’s not just an agenda–it is the perception that the Democratic party was hanging out with the rich and the powerful, all these wonderful fundraisers, and Hollywood stars–no offense to Hollywood stars. I’m in California– you know, you know, but, you know Southampton and Los Angeles are not necessarily all that there is to America. Maybe we got to get into–into Kansas and into Mississippi and into rural Wisconsin and to talk to family farmers who were being driven off of the land and to talk to the kids who are making $11 an hour and trying to pay off their student debt. All right. So this is what I’m saying: we need a candidate who speaks to what people are feeling in their guts and they you’re–getting back to the very first question you asked me–they understand that there is something wrong when over the last thirty years the top 1% have seen a 21 trillion dollar increase in their wealth or the bottom half of America have seen a nine hundred billion dollar decline in their wealth. They know it. They may not be have PhDs in economics. They know the system is thoroughly rigged. They want a presidential candidate who doesn’t hobnob at fancy mansions with the rich in the powerful, but it’s prepared to take them on and I think I am that candidate by the way–just in passing-
Favreau: Just in case–
Sanders: Just in case anyone had a doubt.
Favreau: So I think it’s a credit to you and to the movement you helped build that the health care debate in this primary is between a public option and single-payer. And and quite a few major candidates have followed your lead on single-payer. Last week, a New Marist poll showed that 41 percent of Americans support Medicare for All defined as a national health insurance program for all Americans that replaces private insurance, 70% support Medicare for All that want it defined as allowing all Americans to choose between a national insurance program or their own private health insurance. So I’m a voter at a town hall who’s fine with my current health care plan. I don’t love it. But I’m fine. I like the ability to choose and I’m worried about my taxes going up. Why should I support your Medicare-for All plan versus the Medicare for All who want it?
Sanders: Okay and Jon, you’re right, that was one poll, there were other polls which have different results which show overwhelmingly that Democrats do support a Medicare for All single-payer program and the ending of private insurance industry. So thanks for the question. And here’s the answer. Number one: the goal is to provide health care to every man, woman, and child as a human right, not a privilege. Now when when we talk about health insurance, you and I know that there are whole lot of people out there who do have health insurance, but they have huge deductibles and co-payments and they can’t afford their premiums and we are spending about twice as much per person on health care as the people of any other country.
Meanwhile, you’ve got over 80 million people uninsured or underinsured and we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. And in a couple of days–Sunday, actually–I’m going to be going to Windsor, Ontario with a busload of folks who are dealing with diabetes. We’re going to buy insulin there for one tenth of the price that has been charged in America.
The current function of the health care system is not to provide quality care to all people. It is to make billions in profits for the drug companies and the insurance companies. That is the fact. So you can talk about well, I want health care for all but if I have a large co-payment and a large deductible and I have to pay out of my own pocket, I may still not be able to get to a doctor. So let me be clear. I don’t want to be disingenuous with folks. What our plan says is–kind of similar to a Canada is about–is you walk into the doctor’s office, any doctor you want and, by the way, there’s some confusion about this. And that is: under Medicare for All, you have absolute freedom of choice regarding the doctor or the hospital that you go to. You walk into that doctor’s office, you come out of the hospital after heart surgery, you don’t have to take out your wallet. It is covered through public funding. And that is an essential difference to what we’re trying to do and what others are trying to do and I talk about health care for all–it means no deductibles. No co-payments. It means, by the way, expanding Medicare for seniors to cover dental care, hearing aids, and eyeglasses. And we can do this because we eliminate all of the waste and bureaucracy. You know this is an incredibly complicated system– hundreds and hundreds of different insurance companies doctors are going crazy, hospitals are going crazy. We eliminate all that–we have a simple system expanding Medicare over a four year period to cover everybody.
Favreau: Can you guarantee that no middle-class families taxes will go up by more than they’re currently paying in premiums?
Sanders: Yes, yes we can. And I thank you for making that distinction. What the Republicans will say: “Bernie Sanders wants to raise your taxes.” What they forget to tell you is you’re not going to do any more out-of-pocket expenses for health care. No more premiums. No more co-payments. So at the end of the day if you waive the two–yes, the overwhelming majority of the American people will be paying less for health care than they are right now.
Favreau: So I guess the sort of a larger question on this is why to you is Medicare for All and single-payer so important to spend a lot of money on, making the transition, right? Because you could imagine a situation where you have a very robust public option where you throw a lot of money into making the subsidies more generous and to making sure we don’t have these high deductible plans and you know, there’s some countries that have universal health care that isn’t completely, you know, government-run single-payer when you know, there’s other problems out there, there’s wage stagnation. There’s food insecurity. There’s poverty. Like this is going to be a huge price tag to move the healthcare over–I mean in taxes, right? And obviously we’re going to a lot of savings in health care costs as a nation. But why, to you, is it so important to focus on sort of redoing the entire system?
Sanders: Well, first of all, I personally don’t think it’s quite as difficult an undertaking as other people do. I’ll tell you what was difficult and let’s think about this. Back in 1965 under LBJ and the Democratic Congress. They passed Medicare. And you think back to ‘65, they don’t have the technology that we have today. In their first year, they started a brand new program. They said everybody over 65 was going to have health insurance. Started a brand new program. They got 19 million people into the program in one year. Now do we really think it is that hard in the period that we’re living in now with all of the sophisticated technology that we have, to simply expand–we’re not starting a new program.
Favreau: We did have a tricky time with HealthCare.gov–
Sanders: I heard about that. I do remember that. Computers didn’t work too well–
Favreau: From that experience it was not all that easy.
Sanders: I do remember that very well.
Favreau: It is a serious point because, look I lived through that and a lot of people got these cancellation notices your–you know, and we could try to say look you’re having a different insurance plan, but you’re still going to get more generous benefits, right? It is–I think people’s faith in government is so shaken that it is–you know for reasons that we could talk about to–but I think it is hard for average people to look at a change this big and sort of embrace it.
Sanders: Yes and no. Okay. How’s that for an answer?
Favreau: Yeah, yeah, that’s good.
Sanders: That’s alright. Yes or no is this: for better or worse, I’m not inventing a brand new program. We got a program–by the way Medicare today is the most popular health insurance program in the country–far more popular than any private health insurance company program. And all we are trying to do over a four-year period and people say “Bernie, it shouldn’t take four years.” Here it is. Okay. You got Medicare. Right now, you’re 65, you’re going into Medicare. We’re going to expand Medicare benefits. And I mention that and then the first year we’re going from 65 down to 55. Really? Is that really so difficult, right? And the next year down to 45 and the next year, down to 35–
Favreau: Yeah, it is more gradual than people probably assume.
Sanders: People criticize me for you know, actually the House bill moves it more rapidly than I do. I honestly don’t–I think we’re starting with a strong program which is well respected and popular. We’re strengthening that program and we’re expanding it to everybody and that may be actually even simpler that coming up with even more complexity to the existing healthcare system. You know, Jon, when people get upset about the healthcare system today, and as you know, they are very upset about it. It’s not just that they’re spending in many cases far more than they can afford to pay. Working class people are spending a fortune, you know, small businesses are going crazy trying to figure out how they can get insurance for their workers. It is the complexity of the system, right? Every human being that I’ve talked to has had to sit down and fight with the insurance companies. I thought I was– just a good friend of mine was telling me he thought he had a colonoscopy covered– turns out he has to come up with three thousand bucks to pay for it. Everybody in America has had that experience.
This is a simple system. It is a public system. You walk into any doctor you want, you don’t take out your wallet. It is the right thing to do. It’ll ease the pain of millions of people who are trying to negotiate with the drug companies and make life easier for doctors, by the way, and nurses as well, and hospital administrators.
Favreau: What are the top two or three legislative priorities that a President Sanders would want to get done or at least start before the 2022 midterms?
Sanders: Medicare for All certainly.
Favreau: That’d be number one?
Sanders: I don’t like this number one.
Favreau: Up there?
Sanders: Yeah, it’s up there. And how could anyone run away from climate change? I mean we’re talking about scientists telling us that we have fewer than 12 years to fundamentally transform our energy system or else there will be irreparable damage done to this country and to the rest of the world. So you can’t run away from that. And I think the third one if you want me to limit to three or four or five or what 16? All right, we can go on you–
Favreau: Wow, you know how the Senate works. We don’t have too much time before the midterms.
Sanders: You know, and the third one is to deal with an economy today that works extremely well for private–for large multinationals and for the wealthy, but is not working well for working class people. And we got to create an economy and decent paying jobs for all Americans. And and that’s why we have what we call guaranteed jobs program. If you want to work, you’re going to work and earn a decent wage and we’re going to expand unions to make it easier for workers to engage in collective bargaining. And then you got education. I mean that–the difficulty with answering your question all these issues are so important. As you know, you know and I know, I mean in many parts of this country our educational system–often in minority communities–is failing the kids. Teachers are leaving the profession because they’re overwhelmed with the problems of the lack of resources that they have. So it is not a radical idea to say that we’re going to put our–instead of expanding military spending, instead of giving tax breaks to billionaires, we’re going to put money into public education. We’re going to attract and pay the best and the brightest young people to get involved in education. We make public colleges and universities tuition free. And by the way, we cancel student debt in this country and we pay for it with a tax on Wall Street speculation.
Favreau [30:00]: So you’ve said in the past that you would try to get Medicare for All done through the reconciliation process and keep the filibuster in place. Could you explain to people what that means?
Sanders: Look at the end of the day, I think everybody knows that the Senate historically functions very differently than the House. The Senate is a more conservative body, moves slower than the House. House, you got the majority by one you move it. Senate, not the case. You have filibuster and so forth. So this is what I believe: do I believe that the Senate should simply become a majority-based institution like the house? No, I don’t. But on the other hand, I will not allow as President of the United States, one person to block what tens of millions of people need. So what we need for a start is filibuster reform.
Sanders: Alright, that means people are going to have to be on the floor of the House, talking–they have a right to express their opposition, but they’re not going to do it by, you know, sending– have a staff member sending a piece of paper to the leader. That’s number one. Number Two–I believe that we can use you know, as you well know Bush used budget reconciliation to get his huge tax breaks for the wealthy. Alright, we can use budget reconciliation. And by the way if I’m President, my Vice President will be the president of the Senate, who I suspect will be in agreement with me in interpreting–
Favreau: Because the vice president–the president of the Senate sets the rules and so–
Sanders: Right, exactly.
Favreau: And so if someone says, “oh that shouldn’t be in budget reconciliation”, he or she can say, yes it can.
Sanders: That’s right.
Favreau: Okay, so that is that is essentially getting rid of the filibuster in another way.
Sanders: Not completely, not completely. Because I do believe you know, look–I do believe you know sometimes–it’s easy when you’re in the majority, but when you’re in the minority you want the opportunity. I was on the floor a number of years ago for I don’t know, it was eight and a half hours or so–longer, you know, talking about my concerns about legislation–Oh! It was Obama’s tax bill coming to think of it. Just, you may remember that–
Favreau: I do remember that.
Sanders: But you know, I think people have the right to be in opposition and get their voices heard and I don’t want to do away with that–
Favreau: But you’re not expecting any–you’re not expecting any Republican votes for any of your agenda in the Senate at least right?
Sanders: Probably, you know, look–
Favreau: ‘Cause it does then– it does seem like it’s 51 votes or nothing.
Sanders: No, that’s right. So, I mean, I think we use budget reconciliation. We move aggressively to filibuster reform. People have the right to voice their opposition. They have the right to gain control over the Senate floor and talk, but they don’t have the right to stop progress in this country.
Favreau: What would you do differently from President Obama to keep the movement alive and active once you’re in the White House. This was our–this is our challenge, right?
Sanders: Funny you ask that question. I discussed that with President Obama.
Favreau: Oh good. Okay. Well, what did–what did that? What did he–what advice did he give?
Sanders: He was very kind. We were in the Oval Office in a couple of occasions talking about many many issues. And here’s what I will do if elected president and I say this not out of generosity of spirit, but because I think it has to be done when we talk in our campaign and our central message is a political revolution, our central message is: us not me. What do I mean by that? What I mean by that is I happen to believe that there will never be real change in this country unless we take on the incredible power of Wall Street. Alright, and I know that was an issue I suspect–I was in the White House along with a number of other Senators talking to the president about that issue, you recall that in 2009?
Favreau: I do, very well.
Sanders: Okay, and you got to take on the insurance companies and the drug companies and the fossil fuel industry and the prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex. And you know what? No president–not Bernie Sanders, not Barack Obama, not anybody else can do it alone. Now, I know that during the 2008 campaign which you were involved in. I happen to believe that Obama ran one of the great campaigns in American history. That’s my view but I think and this is what the president and I talked about is, how do you continue that grassroots activism? How do you do that? And what he said is, and I remember exactly what he said is that, “Bernie, it’s harder than you think.”
Favreau: I will agree with him there because I saw it too.
Sanders: It is harder than you think. But I think that’s what has to be done. So when I talk about us not me, this is my understanding: I’m not running for president simply to get elected president. I’m running for president not only to defeat the most dangerous and ugly president in history this country. I am running for president to help transform this country and it cannot be done alone. It is absolutely imperative that we figure out a way to maintain millions of people in the political process. How you do it, I can’t give you the script right now, but it has to be done. It has to be done and that’s what the political revolution is about because you asked me will we have Republican support for this and that– Well, you know what? If we go to Kentucky and tens of thousands of people tell Mitch McConnell: “you know what? We’re working for nine bucks an hour and we can’t make it. You are going to vote to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour!” Can we have that impact? I think maybe we can. Alright. So we need to mobilize millions of people to stand up for justice and as President of the United States, I would be part, you know, you’d be Commander in Chief of the military but you’re commander-in-chief of a strong grassroots movement as well.
Favreau: You said you want to pass comprehensive immigration reform, dismantle cruel and inhumane deportation programs and detention centers. You do that. How would enforcement in a Sanders Administration differ from the Obama Administration? Immigration enforcement–or would it?
Sanders: I think the first thing that we do, and I know Obama was sympathetic to this, is the need to go forward with comprehensive immigration reform. And you know what I think? I think this is what the American people want.
Faverau: Yeah, it’s very popular.
Sanders: You know Trump talks about throwing millions of people out of this country. Thank God very few Americans think that that is the right or decent thing to do. So I think you rally the American people and you sit down with some sane Republicans and one of the things that we have to be imagining is that right now we have a racist President who is trying to divide the country up and sadly and tragically, I don’t know if you were planning to talk about this, we have seen the essential collapse of the Republican party around this guy. People are afraid to stand up to him. He can say or do anything and you don’t hear more than a whimper out of Republicans. But if you have a president who talks about justice who is rallying the American people, some of these Republicans who today are too afraid to stand up may start coming forward–can’t guarantee it–but they may so I think we move toward comprehensive immigration reform. We stop these terrible raids which are terrorizing communities.
I was just the other day here in LA talking to teachers and as you know, the LA school district is largely people of color–kids of color–and you got kids, Latino kids, scared to death that they’re going to come home from school and their parents are not going to be there. You know what this means to the kids? How do you live under that stress and anxiety? So we stop these raids, we move forward with the support of the American people, and I think some Republicans, in passing comprehensive immigration reform.
And in terms of border policy, what we need is a rational asylum process which understands that if a mother takes a kid a thousand miles by foot in order to escape the violence in Honduras or El Salvador that mother and child are not criminals. They are desperate desperate people and we have to figure out how we create a humane asylum process. We get the judges that we need to move that process along in a rapid way, which we don’t have right now. So those are some of the things that we got to do.
Favreau: You know, we didn’t start off too well, but by the end of the Obama Administration the deportation priorities were limited to dangerous criminals and recent arrivals.
Sanders: That’s right.
Favreau: Would you maintain those deportation priorities or enforcement priorities?
Sanders: Well, I think also, if I may say so, I’ll answer your question is, you know what Obama did finally is develop a DACA program, right? Alright, which is no small thing. And Trump of course is eliminating that program and we would re-establish that and expand that program.
I think that I understand that Trump is going to be running his campaign for re-election as they do in Europe right now, significantly on a racist anti-immigrant basis. I’m not quite so sure that he succeeds. I think the American people are much more sympathetic to the plight of immigrants–my own father came to this country from Poland many other families are in the same boat–so–
Favreau: I guess my question longer-term on immigration is you take Trump out of the picture. We’re going to have climate refugees that are gonna be moving up from the south. We have you know, we’re looking at the problems in Venezuela right now. We’re going to have other refugees looking for not just escaping violence situations, but looking for economic opportunity. How do we think about immigration in that context? Because you know you talk about the Scandinavian countries all the time– some of the countries that have, you know, generous socialist programs also have more restrictive immigration policies. Having a multiracial democracy that welcomes immigrants and has very generous social programs hasn’t really been tried anywhere or succeeded really–well anyway–
Sanders: You know, Jon, that is an excellent question and it is not an easy question to answer. I mean, it’s a question we have to wrestle with. Is it my view– Trump wants to accuse all Democrats and Bernie Sanders–I mean open borders. “They’ll open the borders–everybody in the world is going to come in–hundreds of millions of people are going to flee [40:00] to the United States.” Obviously that’s nonsense. So long as we have nation states in this world called the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico, whatever it is, you know. They’re going to be limitations and I think first of all, you’re absolutely right in suggesting that especially with climate change and the incredible poverty that exists in so many countries in the world. This is going to be a challenge not just for the United States but countries industrialize–wealthier countries all over the world and we’re going to have to figure out humane policies to deal with. I would say probably the most effective way certainly in our hemisphere is to try to address the reasons why so many people are fleeing Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and other poor countries, and the truth is these are small countries and one of the points that I have made is–as president, in the first week in office, I will bring together the leaders of Mexico and Central America, other Latin American countries and say look, we have a hemispheric problem. People are fleeing drug violence in your country. They’re fleeing poverty. How do we work together, so that we can improve life in your countries because everything being equal, I don’t think a poor person wants to travel a thousand miles to come to a country where they can’t speak the language. So that would be the main goal and I think are true all over the world. The industrialized countries of the world that have to sit down and figure out how we improve lives in the poor countries so that people do not have to flee.
Favreau: On that topic, you know, you’ve talked a lot about the rise of right-wing authoritarianism fueled in part by tremendous global inequality.
Favreau: What tools does the United States have to stop that and how would you address that as president?
Sanders: It is an incredibly significant issue. I think you got 25, 30, or a hundred people who own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population. And you know, we have to sit back and say that is really not acceptable and there are a number of things that we have to do–one of the scandals–and we learned this from the Panama papers.
You recall Panama papers? And other studies. Is that large corporations and the wealthiest people in the world including people like Mr. Putin of Russia are hiding unbelievable–talking about trillions and trillions of dollars–in offshore banking systems in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Luxembourg and other countries around the world. We’re talking about trillions and trillions of dollars that are escaping taxation while countries around the world are imposing austerity programs on working class people. And we have to deal with that we can’t deal with it, you know, obviously in the United States we can do what we can do and I will do that. But it’s a global problem impacting not only our country but the rest of the world. So as a planet, as a globe, the countries of the world are going to have to work together to end the ability of the very very rich in the powerful to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. It’s one thing that we have to do.
Favreau: You’ve been very critical of Bibi Netanyahu in the Israeli government. We spend a few billion dollars on Aid to Israel. Would you ever consider using that Aid as leverage to get the Israeli government to act differently?
Sanders: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean we are giving large sums of money look, let me let me back it up before the tweets start flowing in–I lived in Israel. Actually, I worked in a kibbutz for a number of months. I have family in Israel. I am Jewish. I am not anti-Israel. Okay, I believe that the people of Israel have absolutely the right to live in peace, independence and security. End of discussion–that is what I fervently believe. But I think what has happened is in recent years under Netanyahu, you have an extreme right-wing government with many racist tendencies. The role of the United States and this is not easy–you know, believe me–Clinton tried it, Obama tried it, Jimmy Carter tried it. This is not easy stuff–is to try to finally bring peace to the Middle East and to treat the Palestinian people with a kind of respect and dignity they deserve. Our policy cannot just be pro-Israel pro-Israel pro-Israel. It has got to be pro-region working with all of the people, all of the countries in that area and it’s a similar position–and Hillary Clinton and I had a bit of a disagreement on this in 2016–Saudi Arabia is a vicious ugly dictatorship. That’s what it is, you got to call it out. That’s what it is. They do not tolerate dissent, they treat women like third-class citizens and yet they have been on wonderful ally. We followed them into this terrible war in Yemen where I’m proud to say, I helped lead the effort to get us out of that terrible war. Alright. So what we need to do is not say we’re 100% pro-Israel or 100% Pro Saudi Arabia. We hate Iran, we hate the Palestinians–that is not the role that the United States of America should be playing. We got to bring people together and say, you know what? We spend a whole lot of money not only in aid to Israel and to Egypt, we have spent trillions of dollars on the war on terror. Alright, we are going to sit down and by the way, I’ve been critical about Trump every single day of his administration, but one area I’m not critical of. He went to sit down with Kim Jong Un. You know what? I think that’s okay. I think that’s the right thing to do. And I, as president of the United States will sit down in a room with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, with the leadership of Iran, with the leadership of the Palestinians, with the leadership of Israel and hammer out some damn agreements which will try to end the conflicts that exist there.
Favreau: Do you think today in 2019 the distance between the Democratic establishment and the grassroots activists, progressive activists is as large as you might see on Twitter or in the news. Do you think it’s that big?
Sanders: I don’t know if it’s as big as you might see on Twitter. It’s pretty big. It is pretty big.
Favreau: What drives you craziest about the Democratic party?
Sanders: It’s that they’re not open to young people and working class people. And that’s just simply the truth. It is–
Favreau: Is that openness–would you say that’s a result of what you said earlier, which is too much time raising money from the wealthy? Is that your main?
Sanders: I think it’s it’s what the establishment does. The establishment hangs out with the wealthy and the comfortable and people in power and the establishment kind of forgets that as we speak there are millions of people living paycheck to paycheck, who can’t afford health care, who can’t–are paying 50% of their limited incomes in rent, who are scared to death about an illness in the family that might bankrupt them. I think the Democratic establishment to a significant degree, there’s a lot of rhetoric out there, but has really forgotten about that and has forgotten about the need to stand up the power. You know, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about it– you gotta–truth to power. There’s a lot of power in there–maybe you can disagree with me, but I’m not quite sure that the Democratic leaders would’ve said to Wall Street, “you know what you’re not going to charge 25% interest rates on credit cards after we bailed you out to the pharmaceutical industry.” We’ve dealt with that for a few years, right? You explain to me how the hell they can charge ten times more insulin in this country than in Canada and its drug after drug after drug. Has the Democratic party stood up to these people?
Favreau: I guess, I guess my view is, at least a lot of the Democratic politicians I’ve known and worked with are in it for the right reasons. They want to stand up to these industries. They’re stuck in a very shitty campaign finance system where sometimes you have to raise money from wealthier people and they don’t like that, but they do it. But when it comes down to taking the votes to stand up to powerful interests, they take the votes, but Republicans have blocked progress for a long time. And the insurance industry wasn’t thrilled with the Affordable Care Act–
Sanders: The pharmaceutical industry was pretty happy–
Favreau: Yeah, they were happier than they should have been, correct. I agree.
Sanders: So the answer to your question — I agree with what you said. Look, I get tired of hearing, you know politicians including the people I’m running against by and large are decent honest people who are in it for the right reasons. People don’t understand that–so I agree with you but on the other hand, I think we would be hard-pressed to really state that the Democratic leadership has said to Wall Street, has said to the insurance companies, has said to the drug companies, fossil fuel industry, you know: “you can’t destroy the planet, you can’t do it anymore.” It’s not only a question of making cars more fuel efficient. We got to go further than that. So I happen to think that there is a gap between grassroots America, young people, working class people who are hurting very badly who want leadership to create, to take on the big money interests and create an economy that is fair, that is just, that will improve life for ordinary people. Democrats, by and large, with some exceptions have not done that.
Favreau: And what do you think the the left could be doing better to be more politically effective?
Sanders: I think what progressives have got to do is to spend a great deal of their time and energy in going out into distressed communities all over this country and knocking on doors and doing a whole lot of educating and getting people who have given up on the political process. There are so many people, as I’m sure you know, who are so disillusioned–you can knock on the door, “We need you to vote”–“I’m not going to vote. It’s all bullshit. Don’t bother me.” We have somehow–and it is not easy–going to have to bring these people into the political process and I don’t know the progressives, you know, we’re working on this in our campaign. We have got to do better than we’re doing but that’s really what the goal is going to be: get people involved in the political process and have our working class and young people stand up to the one percent who have just unbelievable power and wealth in the country today.
Favreau: Final and most important question will you have Cardi B perform at the inauguration?
Sanders: We’re putting together a committee to take a look at that.
Favreau: Okay. Alright, that’s good. Bernie Sanders, thank you so much for–thank you so much for joining us.
Sanders: Hey, Jon, thanks for having me.