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Excerpt: "Welcome - to some ideas you didn't hear at the Republican and Democratic conventions."

Bill Moyers on Wednesday interviews Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: Dale Robbins/Moyers & Company)
Bill Moyers on Wednesday interviews Sen. Bernie Sanders. (photo: Dale Robbins/Moyers & Company)



Challenging Power, Changing Politics

By Bill Moyers and Bernie Sanders, Moyers & Company

14 September 12

 

 

 

ILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company…

JILL STEIN: We have to first fix the broken political system. It is the mother of all illnesses and we can fix it.

CHERI HONKALA: The last thing that we have in this country is our voice and our democracy and once that's taken away from us we're really in trouble.

BILL MOYERS: And…

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I don't think any sane person believes that this economy or the middleclass is really going to recover until we deal with the greed, the recklessness, and the illegal behavior on Wall Street, in my humble opinion. Fraud is the business model for Wall Street.

[Funders]

BILL MOYERS: Welcome – to some ideas you didn’t hear at the Republican and Democratic conventions. Both parties spent their time blaming each other for the fix we’re in, and offering themselves as the cure. But we’ve been governed for years now by one or the other of them, see-sawing back and forth in controlling Congress and the White House, so self-absorbed and corrupted by money that neither seems willing or able to cope with reality, or even to grasp what’s happening to everyday Americans. By their very nature, neither party’s capable of providing the radical critique we need – a blunt, even brutal assessment of a political system so dysfunctional as to call into question the survival of democracy.

For that, we need independent voices and third parties. So, here we go:

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the longest-serving Independent in the history of Congress: 16 years in the House of Representatives, five now in the Senate. Before he went to Washington he served four terms as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, during which time the city was recognized as one of the most livable in America.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I am here to take a stand against this bill, and I am going to do everything I can to defend this bill.

BILL MOYERS: You may recall what happened two years ago when Senator Sanders, having finished his usual Vermont breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, walked on to the floor of the Senate and began speaking:

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: What our job is is to appeal to the vast majority of the American people to stand up and to say: Wait a minute. I do not want to see our national debt explode. I do not want to see my kids and grandchildren paying higher taxes in order to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

BILL MOYERS: He spoke on for eight and a half hours…

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We should be embarrassed, Mr. President…

BILL MOYERS: Castigating the agreement President Obama and the Republicans had made to extend the Bush tax cuts for the ultra-rich, lower their estate taxes, and jeopardize the future of the Social Security Trust Fund by diverting revenue away from it to other purposes.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We have got to stand tall and draw a line in the sand and simply say: Enough is enough.

BILL MOYERS: Around 7 that evening Bernie Sanders finished, and what happened next was phenomenal. The Senate server, overwhelmed, went down – crashed. The switchboards were jammed. And like sparks from a hundred thousand watch fires lighting up the distant hills and hollows, his words flew across the country. That speech is now this book entitled, "The Speech."

I spoke with Senator Sanders earlier in the week.

Good to have you.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Great to be with you, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: I watched the Democratic Convention, as perhaps you did. And I heard all the speeches about opportunity and solidarity. And I saw that vast array of faces, of every color, every age, every gender. And I thought, "There are still two Democratic Parties in this country, the party out across the country of everyday folks like Michelle Obama's parents, working paycheck to paycheck. And then there's the Washington Democratic club, the corporate lawyers, the lobbyists, the Wall Streeters like Robert Rubin and Peter Orszag." And I was wondering, as I watched, if Obama wins reelection, which party goes back to the White House with him? The party of the country or the party of the club?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, we certainly hope it will be the party of the country, the party of 25 million Americans without any jobs, the party of people struggling to keep their heads above water, the party of the people who want to see health care for all of us. But there is no question, Bill, of the enormous impact that big money has, certainly on the Republican Party, but on the Democratic Party as well. And I fear very much that unless we galvanize public opinion, unless we create the kind of progressive grassroots movement the big money interest will continue to dominate.

BILL MOYERS: Tell me how that money works. I mean, you've been on the inside 20-some-odd years, as I sit. How does it actually work? We hear "money in politics."

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, this is how it works. And this is what people do not appreciate. And it's true for Republicans and Democrats, as well. You do not know how many hours every single week, how many hours every single day people walk into the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee or the Republican Committee. And you know what they do? They dial for dollars. They dial for dollars, hour after hour after hour.

BILL MOYERS: Who are they calling?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: They're calling a list of people who have money. That's who they're calling. And what happens when you do that day after day, month after month, your worldview becomes shaped by those people. And most of the money coming into your campaign coffers comes from those people. And you begin representing their perspective.

BILL MOYERS: Well, there are more--it's more than that, isn't it? Because you just released a long report on the billionaires.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: --who are pouring money into the—

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Absolutely. We have right now, and this should frighten every American, as a result of this disastrous Citizens United decision, we're looking now at people like the Koch Brothers, putting in one family, $400 million. Adelson, worth $20 billion, putting in $100 million. We have over 23 billionaire families making large contributions, and I think that's a conservative number.

So what you are looking at is a nation with a grotesquely unequal distribution of wealth and income, tremendous economic power on Wall Street, and now added to all of that is you have the big money interests, the billionaires and corporations now buying elections. This scares me very much. And I fear very much that if we don't turn this around, Bill, we're heading toward an oligarchic form of society.

BILL MOYERS: But the people who are in charge of this system and could therefore change it are the people who benefit from the dialing for dollars. So what's the solution when you have the fox in charge of the henhouse?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, the immediate political solution is a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The longer-term solution is people all over this country saying, "We're not going to give up the democracy that has made this country great, so that a handful of billionaires can control the political process. We ain't going to allow that to happen." We need public funding of elections, which I think is probably the most important thing we can do politically. Billionaires cannot and should not be allowed to buy elections.

BILL MOYERS: I was taken that I think 64 villages, towns in Vermont, your home state passed resolutions calling on Congress to endorse a constitutional amendment. What's of that? In fact, when my readers on our website heard that you were coming, a lot of questions were submitted to us online. One of them says, "I've been following Senator Sanders' intention against the Supreme Court Citizens United for two years now. Why has so little happened?" That's from Craig Crawford.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, first of all, this is what happened, has happened. It's not only Vermont. We have a total of six states whose legislatures and governors have come out in support of a constitutional amendment. And just very, very recently, we have the president and his advisors talking about, perhaps, not as strong as I would like, the need for a constitutional amendment.

And millions and millions of people have signed petitions. We had a petition on our website, over 200,000 people signed it. So it is slower than I would like it to be. But I think interestingly enough, Bill, it is not just progressives who are disgusted. I think your average conservative looks around and says, "Is this really what America's supposed to be when a handful of families can buy the political process?"

BILL MOYERS: What does it take to pass a constitutional amendment? We’ve done it 25 or 26 times in the history of our country but it’s a difficult process, isn’t it?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: It is going to be a long process, but this is what I like about the process. I think in the process we're going to educate the American people about one of the most serious problems facing this country. And that is that virtually no piece of legislation will get passed in Congress unless it has the okay of corporate America and big money interest. So the corrupting, absolute corrupting impact of big money is something we have to address.

And I like the idea of taking it from state to state, legislature to legislature, having the people debate what kind of democracy do they want. I'm very proud. You know, I come from the State of Vermont. We still have town meetings. People get up and they argue about how much money they spend on the town plow. That's what democracy is about.

BILL MOYERS: Do you have to dial for dollars?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I am very fortunate. I have. I have. But I do it a lot less. We raise our money, I have to tell you, I'm very proud of this. We have 130,000 individual contributions, averaging about 40 bucks a piece.

BILL MOYERS: Senator, what's your take on why so many young people and progressives are disillusioned with President Obama?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: In my view, President Obama ran the best campaign for president that I have seen in my lifetime. He did what is enormously difficult, get young people involved, get working people involved, have a vision out there, get people excited. That's not easy stuff. He did it.

What I think happened is, in a sense, the day after the election, he said to all of those people, all of that grassroots activism, "Thank you very much. Now I got to sit down and work with Republicans. And I got to start compromising. And I'm not going to fight for the vision that I campaigned on."

For example, every speech that I give, I talk about the crooks on Wall Street and what their illegal behavior has done to this economy. And people say, "Bernie, why aren't these guys in jail? Why isn't the Obama administration taking these people on? Why aren't we breaking up these large banks?" From the White House, do you hear much about that? You don't.

The power of big money, coming forward with the bold initiatives that get excited, say to them, "Listen, we got some right-wing extremists running the House. I need your help. We're going to change our disastrous trade policies. We are going to create a jobs program to put millions of people to work. But I can't do it taking on all the money guys. I need millions of people standing with me." Have you heard that from the White House?

BILL MOYERS: No, what we hear is continuing calls for bipartisanship, even as Republicans have waged the most partisan and obstructionist agenda in modern history. And even the other day, the president said, "I'm sure that after I'm re-elected, the Republicans will work with me." I mean, I don't understand that, frankly. And you've been down there all of this time. From his speeches, he seems to be a fighter. But from his behavior, he caves.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I don't understand it, either. Look, there's nothing wrong with bipartisanship. If you and I disagree and we can come up with a decent compromise that's good for the American people, let's do it. But when you have people whose main function in life is to obstruct and destroy every single initiative, when you have the Republican leader in the Senate say, "Our main goal is to make sure that Obama is a one-term president."

And you keep reaching out. And they keep cutting you and cutting you and cutting you, there comes a time when you say, "Hey, I got to stand up to you. I have to rally the American people." He has not done that. Is he a fighter? I think that you have a very competitive guy, in terms of himself getting reelected. I think this guy's going to work like a dog.

BILL MOYERS: That's his career.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: That's right. He's a tough guy in that sense. In terms of public policy, standing up for Republicans, I think we're looking at a different president.

BILL MOYERS: Well, we're coming to a potential serious conflict between the election and the inauguration, no matter who wins. And you made that eight and a half hour speech, because of that agreement, to extend the Bush tax cuts and to do all of that. And we're facing this crisis over the deficit, over social services and the safety, and the safety net over the Bush tax cuts. Do you think Obama will cave again as he did the last time, sending you to the floor of the Senate? I don't think the Senate can take another eight and a half hour speech.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Here's where we are. And here's the-- you want to add another irony on top of all this, Bill, is that the American people support what the president is talking about and are vigorously opposed to what the Republicans want. Every poll that you and I have seen, including polls from Tea Party sympathizers, you know what they say? "Do not cut Social Security. Don't cut Medicare. Don't cut Medicaid. Ask the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. And by the way, take a look at military spending as well." That is what, by and large, the American people are saying.

BILL MOYERS: The polls show that? The polls show that?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Polls show that. So you would think that even if you were a hack politician who didn't believe any of this, you would stand up and fight for those principles. What I am going to do working with some of my progressive colleagues is say, "No, we are not going to balance this budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor. Social has not contributed one nickel to the deficit. We are not going to cut Social Security."

I am waiting. And we're doing everything that we can to beg the president, "Get up and say what you said four years ago." And that is you're not going to cut Social Security. That's what the American people want to hear.

BILL MOYERS: You know, everyone seems to agree that our deficits are unsustainable, that something has to give. And many Democrats, some privately, some publicly say Social Security has to be quote "fixed." Now I was there in the White House with President Johnson when Medicare was passed. And I've often said that if Democrats don't take the lead in fixing Medicare, the opponents will. How do we fix Social Security and Medicare? From a progressive standpoint?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Okay, they're two separate issues. Okay. Social Security, as you know, is funded by the payroll tax. So despite what our right-wing friends are going to tell us, Social Security has not contributed one nickel to the deficit, because it's funded independently. In fact the Social Security Trust Fund, according to the Social Security Administration, has a $2.7 trillion surplus. Surplus.

Can pay out every benefit for the next 21 years. When Barack Obama ran for president four years ago, he had a very simple and good idea. He said, "Okay, let's lift the cap on taxable income so that instead of having a ceiling of $110,000 now, you lift that cap, start at $250,000." And you know what, Bill? You do that, just that one simple thing, Social Security will be solvent for the next 75 years. That's your solution to Social Security.

Medicare, Medicaid are more complicated issues. And that takes us to the whole issue, why we end up spending more per capita on health care than any other nation, any other major nation. In my view, we have got to move toward a Medicare for all, single-payer system. And by the way, I hope that Vermont leads the nation in that direction.

BILL MOYERS: Well, you know, I, another of the letters that came in on our website were from a man named Chrys Barnes. "How can single payer advocates rise from the ranks of marginalized fringe groups to getting an actual seat at the bargaining table?"

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, in my state, by the way, we're not marginalized. We have a governor who now supports a Medicare for all, single-payer system.

BILL MOYERS: Governor Shumlin.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: That's right. And we have a legislature that does. And we have the people who do it. I would say to your writer there, that I think the action is probably in the short term, at least, not going to take place in Washington. It's going to take place in the state level. And if Vermont or perhaps some other state can show that you can provide health care to every man, woman, and child in a cost-effective way, other states are going to say, "You know what? We would like to do that, as well." It spreads; Washington finally acts. But currently, the system is dysfunctional. It is a disaster. It is enormously wasteful. We need fundamental changes.

BILL MOYERS: Do you look at the Democratic leadership as your leadership? And if you do, doesn't that compromise you as an Independent?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I'm a compromised every day of my life. It's a hard life. You know, there are Democrats, including Harry Reid, who are good friends of mine and who I work with. And there are other people in the Democratic caucus, who on many issues are no different than Republicans. So what you got to do is you do the best that you can.

In terms of the Fed, for example, the Federal reform. We got into the financial reform bill, Dodd-Frank important language, which for the first time provided an audit of the Fed so that we learned that $16 trillion was lent out to every major financial institution, et cetera, et cetera. So--

BILL MOYERS: Low-interest loans that they were getting. It wasn't just the bailout, right? It was the—

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Above and beyond the bailout.

BILL MOYERS: Exactly, right. We're coming up on the fourth anniversary of the collapse of this economy. We were on the cliff and almost over. Do you think the reforms that have come in the consequence, in the aftermath of that, is sufficient to prevent it from happening again?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Do we have eight and a half hours to talk about the issue?

BILL MOYERS: You had that one shot in your life. Don't think you’ll get it again.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Bill, look, I don't think any sane person believes that this economy or the middleclass is really going to recover until we deal with the greed, the recklessness, and the illegal behavior on Wall Street, in my humble opinion. Fraud is the business model for Wall Street. Right now, to answer your question, of course, the answer is no. We made some modest, modest little steps, which the moneyed interests are now trying to push aside.

We now have in this country six financial institutions led by J.P. Morgan Chase, which collectively have assets equivalent to two-thirds of the G.D.P. of the United States of America. Over $9 trillion. They write half of the mortgages in this country and two-thirds of the credit cards, okay? Three out of the four large financial institutions that we bailed out because they were too big to fail are today bigger than they were before we bailed them out.

Now, if this were Teddy Roosevelt were president of the United States, what do you think he would say? He’d say, "Break these babies up." Let's create a system where the financial institutions actually invest and lend money into the productive economy, where businesses are trying to produce products or create services, not the kind of casino, this horrendous, ugly casino that we have on Wall Street.

BILL MOYERS: But Senator Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate said to me and to others that the banks, Wall Street, those six firms now own the Senate.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: That's right. That's all absolutely right.

BILL MOYERS: How are you going to, how are you going to get a reform there, when they—

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, that takes us back to another issue that Dick and I and others are working on. And that is public funding of elections. I'll give you an example. I was on-- when I-- it was in the House. It was on the House Financial Services Committee. So Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin and all of these guys and they said, "We have to deregulate Wall Street. We have to allow the commercial banks to merge with the investor banks, to merge with the insurance companies, so they can compete globally."

You had to be a moron to actually believe that. I didn't believe that. I don't think most of the American people thought that Alan Greenspan made any sense at all. Wall Street over a ten-year period, Bill, spent $5 billion dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions. And they got what they wanted with Democratic support.

BILL MOYERS: And?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We are where we are. And how do you take them on?

BILL MOYERS: Yeah.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, you need a political revolution. You need a grassroots mobilization which says among other things, "You got to break these banks up." We need a financial system which supports the productive economy and job creation.

BILL MOYERS: But that's a conundrum, because, you know, some people criticize you because you're what they call "too cordial" to the Democratic Party. On the other hand, some people who support you say, "Well, if he is not cordial to the Democratic Party, he won't be able to slip a progressive idea in here and there." That's a tight rope to watch, isn't it?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: It is. It certainly is. You know, ever since my-- when I was first elected back in 1990 to the House—

BILL MOYERS: As a socialist.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: As an Independent. But, if you ask me, am I a democratic socialist, consistent with what goes on in Scandinavia? I am.

BILL MOYERS: Which means?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Which means that health care should be a right of all people, that higher education should be a right and kids shouldn't graduate $50,000 in debt, which means that we should pass legislation that represents the interests of working families, not big money interest, which means that we should be aggressive in reversing global warming and protecting the environment for future generations. You know, which means that workers earn a decent wage. All of these ideas, which people have talked about from Eugene Debs on, you know, for 200 years.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, but somewhere in socialist heaven, Senator Patrick Moynihan is looking down and say, "Go on, Bernie, go on, I’m with you" Right, right?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Maybe.

BILL MOYERS: But, you know, the right says that Obama is a socialist. They keep calling him a socialist. Can you prove he's not a socialist?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Can I prove he's not a socialist? Yeah. Look at his record. He is not a socialist. I mean, that's-- I mean, to be a socialist, a democratic socialist is to say, "Hey, we have 15 percent of our people unemployed today, that's the reality, or underemployed, some, close to 25 million workers. We are going to have a jobs program to put those people back to work. We're going to deal with the deficit in a progressive way."

Bill, among all of the other issues out there, what really drives me a little bit nuts, and we don't talk about it, is distribution of wealth and income in this country. Distribution of wealth, I want people to listen up on this one. You got one family, the Walton Family of Walmart, that now own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of the American people. One family, top one percent owns 41 percent of the wealth in America. The bottom 60 percent, you want to take a guess? Now I'm going to ask you the question.

BILL MOYERS: No, I ask the questions. You can ask it and answer it.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: It's less than two percent. Can you believe that? One percent owns 41 percent. Bottom 60 percent owns less than two percent. And with that grotesquely immoral and unfair distribution of wealth and income, these billionaire guys putting this money under their mattresses. They are saying, "I’m the Koch brothers, I got $50 billion. Hey, that’s not enough, I need to invest $400 million in this campaign so I get more tax breaks on whatever it may be." So they’re using their money and their power to create an even more unfair America.

BILL MOYERS: Are we at a tipping point between what we think of as democracy and oligarchy, which is the political rule by the wealthy?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Bill, I think we are. I think if you add up this grotesquely unfair distribution of wealth where so few have so much money. When you look at the economic power of Wall Street and other very powerful corporate entities, and then you look at Citizens United and the ability of these people to fund elections, I believe, you know, you may have the trappings of a democracy. But I believe for all intent and purposes, you're looking at a situation where a handful of families will control the economic and political life of this nation, unless we educate, organize, and take these guys on.

BILL MOYERS: How do you explain as an experienced politician, the fact that despite the Republican Convention and the Democratic Convention and all that's happened, we have a country that's divided 45 percent to 45 percent, maybe 46 percent to 46 percent, with about three percent to five percent of the voters undecided? And most of the experts say that's where the-- that's where the election will be decided with three percent to five percent. How do you explain that close division?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Okay, I look at it a little bit differently. This is what I think. I think we know where the Republicans are. The Republican Party over a period of years has moved from what we call a center-right party. And we used to have governors and senators coming from Vermont, who were Republicans. But you know what? They were sane human beings that actually were concerned about education, the environment, more conservative than you and me. They weren't crazies.

The party has now moved to the extreme right, all right? That's the Republican Party. The problem is the Democratic Party, if you go out, it is beyond my mind, Bill, that you have a Democratic Party of F.D.R. of L.B.J. that today is losing by a significant percentage the White working class of this country and senior citizens. The party that created Social Security and Medicare is losing the vote of seniors and white working class people. How does that happen?

It happens because they are not there making it clear. Listen to Roosevelt's speeches in 1936. He'd say, "Hey, the big money interests hate me. I welcome their hatred, 'cause I'm standing with the unemployed and working peoples." You hear that coming from too many Democrats right now? So yeah, the Democrats have become a party which does some good things, environment, women, gay issues, very good. Protecting white, well, not white, any working class people. They're not strong.

BILL MOYERS: How do they get them back? Not that you're in the business advising Democrats, but what, how do they get them back?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, let me tell you for a start. President of the United States goes on television, holds a press conference just to say, "Ladies and gentlemen, I just want to tell you, there's a lot of pressure for me to cut Social Security. Ain't going to happen. Bill comes before me, I'm going to veto it. Social Security is solvent. I'm going to make it solvent for 75 years. And I want every working person in this country to know Social Security will be there for them."

I think that would be dramatic. Number two, an issue that, again, there's been a lot of collusion between Democrats and Republicans about. And that is our disastrous trade policy. When I was in the House, the corporate entities, Chamber of Commerce, "free trade, NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, will be the greatest thing since sliced bread." All right?

The end result is that in the last ten years, we have seen 55,000 factories in America shut down, millions of decent-paying jobs lost. You go out to elderly people and they say, "I can't buy a product made in America anymore. Where are the factories? Where are the decent-paying jobs?" So I would like to see the president get up there and say, "You know what? We're going to rethink our trade policies. I want corporate America to start investing in America, not in China."

Other things that he could be doing, certainly, I think the much maligned stimulus bill, to my mind, was one of the most important pieces of legislation passed in my lifetime, in my state, money into bridges, into roads, into Head Start, into sustainable energy, created 6,000, 7,000 jobs when we needed it a whole lot. You need more of that. I just got off a plane a little while ago. Believe me, our airports are in trouble. Roads, bridges, schools, water systems, waste water plants. Let's put people back to work.

BILL MOYERS: There was a report just last weekend on N.P.R., National Public Radio, 8,000 bridges in this country in need of serious reconstruction. And that would put a lot of people to work. But you can't seem to get Washington's attention on those particularities.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Look, you got in-- this is an example where the president has got to go to every state in this country and say, "We can create jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure." And then he has to remind people that when Clinton left office and Bush came in, we had a $236 billion surplus.

And I happen to believe that Paul Ryan and his friends are total and absolute hypocrites on the deficit issue. They voted for two wars, didn't pay for it, gave a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the rich, didn't offset it. Passed a Medicare Part D prescription drug program, written by the insurance companies, $400 billion over a ten-year period, didn't pay for it. Now, after all of that, they think we have to cut Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid.

BILL MOYERS: This is going to be the big issue after the election, when we face the problem of those staggering debts, the Bush tax cuts and the other issues that are facing us. What will you be watching for in that period when we're on the edge of the so-called fiscal cliff? And the president, it'll be Obama. He'll still be in the White House, even if he loses in November, negotiates with the Congress. What are you going to be watching for?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, it's taking place right now. I don't have to watch after the election. Right now, you have CEOs, meeting with Democrats and Republicans, trying to work out some kind of deficit reduction plan. If some of us and the American people are not successful in stopping them, there will be cuts in Social Security, I suspect Medicare and Medicaid. Not anywhere near as Draconian as what the Republicans, let alone, want.

There is an answer to the deficit crisis. And that is when you have this grotesquely unequal distribution of wealth and income, somebody's going to have to say, "Hey, what, you're a billionaire, you know what, you're going to have to contribute." One quarter of American corporations don't pay anything in taxes. We're losing $100 billion a year, because these companies are stashing their money in the Cayman Islands. There are ways to deal with the deficit without attacking the middleclass and working class of this country, who are already reeling and in pain.

BILL MOYERS: Senator Bernie Sanders, thanks for being with me and happy birthday to you.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you very much, Bill. My pleasure to be with you.

 

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+33 # tswhiskers 2012-09-14 09:25
I agree solidly with Sen. Sanders. He is the one member of Congress who consistently talks sense re the good of the country. Unfortunately the major problem with reforming govt., in my opinion, is the unfailing weakness of human nature. We've tried term limits (that idea disappeared quickly) but people can't say no to the trappings of power and celebrity. The need to remove money from politics is certainly dire, but it has been a very long time since we Americans have elected great-minded politicians to Congress, and few of the mediocrities we have elected have the courage, not mention the willingness to to forswear private contributions. Amending the Citizens United decision would be a great start. If this amendment actually gets off the ground during Obama's 2d term, I may start to believe that legislators really can do their jobs.
 
 
-2 # wantrealdemocracy 2012-09-14 19:28
The only way we can change our rotten corrupt government is to vote out each and every person in office now. They are bought and paid for and they don't care diddly squat for the working people of this nation. We must RESOLVE (and stick to it) that we will not vote for either a Demopublican or a Republicrat---t hey are ONE AND THE SAME---and equal in evil. There is no lesser evil between these two gangs of greedy creatures. NO DIFFERENCE. Do vote, but not for the creeps of the dreadful duo. There are other candidates on the ballot. These independents won't win this time but we can reach a tipping point where no one in their right mind will even consider voting for the corrupt to continue screwing the working people of this nation and destroying the planet Earth.
 
 
+1 # Rita Walpole Ague 2012-09-15 04:49
My contribution to getting this amendment "...off the ground...":

My precious, 49 year old son with autism is a clown every Holloween, and loves to march in Holloween parades, Thes year, he's gonna be a PRETEND POLICIAN CLOWN, with fake money attached to and flowing out of the pockets of his clown costume.

Communicating is great through legit, people serving pols. like Sen. Sanders (he and Kucinich are my heroes). My contribution to their great, so needed effort to restore liberty and justice for all (a.k.a. democracy): a bit of Irish humor with my precious son's PRETEND POLITICAN CLOWN statement.
 
 
+28 # Abigail 2012-09-14 09:28
The main reason it costs so much to run for national office is the amount of money needed for TV ads. In England, candidates are forbidden to advertise on TV. We may not want to go that route, but we can make it fairer. Congress should pass a bill that forces TV channels who wish to carry political ads to DONATE a pre-set amount of time to ALL candidates for national office, specifically the Presidency. If any candidate BUYS more time, then the selling channel must GIVE the same amount of time to all other candidates for that
office. After all, TV channels belong to us, and are merely leased to specific interests, with the requirement that they must give a set amount of time for public service. If saving our Democracy isn't public service, then I donit know what is.
 
 
+6 # chomper2 2012-09-14 13:26
TV channels belong to us? Such a dreamer you are. That's just more of the same problem.
 
 
+12 # WhoKilledJFK 2012-09-14 11:48
Been there, done that. It was called the Fairness Doctrine. Done in by the Great Deregulator - Raygun Ronnie. Too many opposing views, too much debate. Bad, very bad. Came up again under 1000-Points-of- Light - GHW Bush. You guessed it, vetoed again. Read about it here: http://uspolitics.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=uspolitics&cdn=newsissues&tm=201&f=00&su=p284.13.342.ip_&tt=2&bt=0&bts=1&st=38&zu=http%3A//www.museum.tv/archives/etv/F/htmlF/fairnessdoct/fairnessdoct.htm
 
 
+10 # in deo veritas 2012-09-14 11:54
Too bad we can't go to war with the Caymans and obliterate them like the neocons want to do with Syria and Iran. Neither of those countries pose any threat to us. However the Swiss Banks (same ones in custody of the Nazi gold) and the Caymans have been partners in crime to the corporate looting of America- are therefore the real enemy of the American people and deserve retribution.
 
 
+6 # independentmind 2012-09-14 13:23
Why is it that the same obstructionist members of congress are re-elected by their constituents every time, even though the constituents hate all the (other) members of Congress that do the same thing? When we find the answer to that question we may be able to change things.

Putting issues on the ballot has been quite successful here in Ohio (notwithstandin g all sorts of attempts at thwarting these initiatives by our sitting politicians). More of that type of work at the grass roots level needs to be done to get our democracy back. Kudos to the Republican Judges that were willing to stand up to those of their own party trying to undermine the will of the people.

We need to make sure that ALL of our representatives pay payroll taxes, Social Security and Medicare and that they earn no more than the Median income of the district with the poorest population in the US. They get no pension benefits (401K excepted) and no Federal benefits at all.

During their stay in DC their housing in the Capital (regular military housing) is paid for; transportation back and forth to their district is on their own dime.

All candidates get the same set amount of money from the Federal Government to pay for their elections, and any additional money from other sources they raise or are given for their elections is to be paid into a fund that is used to balance the budget.

Maybe we can take our democracy back.
 
 
+12 # MindDoc 2012-09-14 13:28
Amazing interview, as one might expec, so refreshingly lucid and honest. Would that freshmen in Congress who were fed Ayn Rand as their occupational Bible according to Ryan and the Tee Party, were forced to read this, and sign a pledge to flush away the voices of the ruination of American democracy, Norquist/Rove/K och and their patrons at Scalia, Thomas, & Co.

Sen. Sanders speaks truth in that "virtually no piece of legislation will get passed in Congress unless it has the okay of corporate America and big money interest. So the corrupting, absolute corrupting impact of big money is something we have to address."

My "quote of the day" from the incomparable Bernie Sanders, is this: " I don't think any sane person believes that this economy or the middleclass is really going to recover until we deal with the greed, the recklessness, and the illegal behavior on Wall Street..." and of course their proxies in Congress who would give whatever crumbs remain of the American Dream to the "corporate people" who SCOTUS promotes, in abandoning the word of G-d (and dictionary) as to the meaning of (we the) PEOPLE.

Lots of information, but so much at stake. Thanks to two of the great discussants of our day, Moyers & Sanders. We need to enact campaign reform and tax reform which promote fairness and take unlimited money for propaganda and influence out of the equation. Indeed, the only way is for "People Power" to speak out until heard.
 
 
+11 # lollie 2012-09-14 13:35
Bernie-2016!!!
 
 
+11 # brux 2012-09-14 14:55
I'd vote Bernie.
 
 
+13 # angelfish 2012-09-14 16:55
Bernie Sanders is a National Treasure that has ALWAYS fought for his State and the American people! WHY are there so few like him in our Congress? Fools like Willard Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have NO business running for Pubic Office because the HATE the Public! They are unconscious and oblivious to the needs of the People and serve ONLY their Wealthy Masters. A Senator LOOKS like, SOUNDS like and BEHAVES like Bernie Sanders! God Bless, you Senator for ALWAYS speaking Truth to Power and ALWAYS fighting for your Constituents!
 
 
+6 # Antemedius 2012-09-14 18:39
The silence from both democratic and republican supporters and shills is deafening in here.

Where they are incapable of discussing real issues they simply ignore. Even here, as in mainstream media.

There is no greater evidence that neither the democratic party or the republican party in any way represent the common man and woman.

Stein, Honkala, Sanders, and Moyers, are indisputably right. And such a threat to established power that even established power recognizes that they cannot be attacked, but only ignored.
 
 
+3 # charsjcca 2012-09-14 19:04
What I find truly interesting is that Americans have three presidential choices: Ron Paul or either of two Harvard lawyers. That is not much of a choice. Third party candidates do not have much of a chance. Hence we have one Harvard lawyer or the other. For Harvard, it matters little which one. At the end of the day it will look the same.
 
 
+5 # eldoryder 2012-09-15 04:45
Well, here is one Democrat who is completely in agreement with everything Bernie has to say.

What WE, as individual party members MUST do, is find a way through our county and state convention platforms, to put referendums on many of these issues on the Party ballots in upcoming elections.

Clean Election laws would level the playing field for ALL potential candidates, for local, state and national positions. Even a vibrant third party politician would have a chance under these rules.

Economic fairness would also have to be addressed. If our present elected representatives will not do it, WE must be the change that gets things done.

State by state, we can and MUST send a message to Washington that "politics as usual" is no longer acceptable by the electorate.

It's our only hope at this point.
 
 
+8 # wfalco 2012-09-15 07:48
A speaker for factual truths is rare. Bernie has the luxery of being a spokesman for the struggling masses only because he represents Vermont.
So much could be fixed if open-minded people(as exists in Vermont)rallied this nation to uplift ourselves from the verge of an oligarchical society.
But there are not many Vermonts in this country, unfortunately.

How can we uplift the masses who have been bamboozled,for the most part, into thinking freedom only refers to less taxes, less government, less regulation, and more military spending?Essent ially, freedom to make a crap-load of money-regulatio ns be damned!

Enlightenment of our citizenry can only de done at the ground level. People have to see and feel how and why they have been forgotten. However, the recent U.S. does not have the same "class consciousness"t hat existed in years past.
This old class identity was extremely important and has been strategically removed by the "masters" at the top. All by design. All with a dangerous goal in sight.
 
 
0 # tclose 2012-09-21 14:06
wfalco is right - Bernie would be voted out of office in most other States for courageously speaking factual truths.

Facts? We in the Romney campaign don't deal in facts.
 
 
+1 # lollie 2012-09-15 11:52
Saw a doc. today that not only validates what Bernie is saying but takes it a step further. For those interested :
http://www.ethosthemovie.com/taking-action/
The whole thing is available on Link.
 
 
+1 # RICHARDKANEpa 2012-09-15 15:47
I like the local touch such as Cheri Honkala in Philadelphia fighting the picture ID laws that would make Philadelphia the most public transit oriented city in the country picked on more by the rural parts of Pennsylvania,
http://www.care2.com/news/member/412766260/3452148
 
 
+5 # Sweet Pea 2012-09-15 16:04
If Obama thinks he can fool the people into believing that the Republicans will work with him to pass laws in the best interest of the common people, it will be like the old saying, "Fool me once shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on me.
The people are not stupid enough to believe it.
 

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