Interview with Chris Cuomo of CNN's "New Day"
CUOMO: Good to have you, Senator.
SANDERS: Great to be with you, Chris.
CUOMO: You're going to win tomorrow?
SANDERS: If the turnout is high, we will win.
CUOMO: How high?
SANDERS: Very high. Now, one of the disadvantages we have, as you know, is under New York state law, independents cannot participate in the Democratic primary. We usually win the independent vote 2-1. So, we're kind of spotting Secretary Clinton a whole lot in that regard.
But if the voter turnout is high, if working people come out to vote, if young people come out to vote, we can win this thing.
CUOMO: You're just back from the Vatican?
CUOMO: You hit the ground running, you go to Brooklyn, you talk for about 30 minutes. High energy. Where does the energy come from? What is motivating you through this schedule?
Because it's killing us. So, where is the energy coming from?
SANDERS: It's coming from a belief that in this day and age, it is absolutely imperative that we change course in America, that we get people involved in the political process, that we stand up to the one percent, that we create an economy that works for all our people.
Chris, I worry so much about the major crises facing our country. I worry about climate change, and what happens to our kids and grandchildren if we don't transform our energy system, worrying about kids leaving college, $50, $70,000 in debt. I'm worried about this country moving toward an oligarchic form of society.
We have a handful of billionaires raising huge sums of money to elect candidates who are there for the rich and the powerful, and ignore the needs of working families and the poor. That is what motivates me.
CUOMO: The problem, painfully obvious to many. What is hard is figuring out how to solve it.
One of the things that you've been dealing with in this campaign, the criticism of, well, what are you going to do? That has two prongs where you're involved.
One is, you've been in Congress a long time.
CUOMO: You've been saying these things for a long time.
CUOMO: You haven't been able to achieve what you're saying you'll be able to achieve now.
SANDERS: Not really. I mean, when you're a member of Congress, you have a certain role to play, and I'm very proud of my role. And I'll compare it to Secretary Clinton's any day. She was in the Senate for eight years. We passed a major bill to improve veterans' health care, major provision of the Affordable Care Act is something I offered $11 billion for community health centers, major piece of environmental legislation.
I'm pretty proud of my record. The president is in a different position. And the question of how you pay for it, Chris, has got to be put in the context. But over the last 30 yes, there has been trillions of dollars transferred from working families to the top one-tenth of one percent.
This is not a poor country. This is the richest country in the history of the world. And there's no reason why we should have people living in abysmal poverty.
CUOMO: But the problem becomes, well, then how do you fix it? It's not a new problem.
You point out, hey, free college would help it, that's what I want to do. But you need to have a plan to make that work.
SANDERS: Sure. There's a plan.
CUOMO: A lot of economists attack your plan and say you've burst the deficit to levels that they've never seen before.
SANDERS: No. No, that's just not accurate. I mean, you know, look, when you come up with ideas that run counter to what the one percent want, all of their economists are going to tell us how crazy I am.
In terms of making public colleges and universities -- not all colleges -- public colleges and universities tuition free, we impose a tax on Wall Street speculation. Not a radical idea. It is done elsewhere.
It will raise more than enough money to lower student debt and make public colleges and universities tuition free. Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, huge problem.
We end the loophole that now exists so that major corporations can stash their money in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, and in a given year, pay not a nickel in federal taxes.
CUOMO: The -- I don't know, I'm sure you've been too busy. But you are a frequent either guest or subject on Saturday Night Live.
You had Larry David on there, on Saturday Night Live, and they were singling out what's -- let's just call, the "yada, yada, yada" problem. They used the "Seinfeld" skit to talk about how you'll be able to get these things done.
You know, how are you going to break up the big banks? Well, I'll sit them down, yada, yada, yada, I'll break them up.
How a big a problem do you think it is that people don't think, that group of voters that you want who don't think Bernie can't get it done. I know he believes it, it sounds great -- but he can't break up those banks, he can't get free college, it's too hard or he can't pay for it?
SANDERS: Well, let me respond in this way. If you and I were sitting here and five years ago, not a long time. And I say, "Chris, you know, I think the $7.25 federal minimum wage is a starvation rage. We have got to raise it to 15 bucks an hour."
CUOMO: I was talking to you five years ago. You were saying that. [laughter]
SANDERS: But most people would have thought that that was a crazy idea. Right? Fair enough? You wanted double the minimum wage.
Well, guess what, California, New York, Los Angeles, Oregon have done it. Why? Because people stood up and fought for a $15 an hour wage and appealed to the conscience of the American people.
Second point, gay marriage. You are -- now, I would hear ten years ago, would you have believed honestly that gay marriage would be legal now in 15 states in this country? Probably not. I would not have.
But what happens when people stand up and say, we have got to end bigotry in America. People have a right to love whomever -- change takes place when people stand up and fight for change.
That is the kernel, the heart of what this campaign is about. And I believe everything that we're talking about. Nothing is radical. These ideas exist in other countries; they have existed in the United States. When you were a kid, how much did it cost to go to city university?
It was virtually...
CUOMO: Under $1,000.
SANDERS: There you go. Virtually tuition free. Why, if we could do it 30, 40, 50 years ago, can't we do it in America today? We can.
But what -- the truth is, is that the people on top have enormous economic and political power. I'm trying to change that dynamic.
CUOMO: Bill Clinton on the hustings said, you know, look, I love that these young people are out there, they're being energized by Bernie Sanders. That's great.
Basically his message to them is, if you kill one out of every three people who work on Wall Street, everything will be fine. You can -- look, that's politics. It's ugly, it's out on the hustings. That's no surprise.
But you know you have a problem with that group of people. I mean, you target the banks all the time as the seed of what's wrong with the capitalist system. They would say they are the capitalist system.
What do you say to the entrepreneurs, to the young business people? Why would they vote for Bernie Sanders?
SANDERS: Because you can run a business in a way that is profitable -- that's what businesses try to do -- treat your workers with respect and protect the environment.
There are thousands of businesses who are into social responsibility. Yeah, they want to make money. But they're not going to shut down today and move to China. They're not going to destroy the environment in order to do that.
What we need -- and this is where we can learn something from the pope. That's what Pope Francis is talking about, he's morality, creating a world economy based on morality, not just on greed. I agree with him.
CUOMO: But -- right. But when you use the pope as an analogy, the pope is not a politician, OK? He is shamelessly socialist in terms of his finding (ph). He is actually way beyond that.
You know, his signature expression of [in Spanish], "make a mess," he wants to go out and challenge capitalism to be different and better. OK, that's the pope.
CUOMO: A president is not a pope any way you want to look at it. And that is what gives America all of its resources, all of its unique capabilities, all of its unique success, is that engine that you're now saying is broken -- and I get the disparity argument.
You would have to be blind not to see it. But do you wind up attacking what makes America great as part of an ability to make it better?
SANDERS: I do not think that America is great when the leadership of major financial institutions engage in widespread fraud.
So, if your question -- I think what your question is, how are we going to create wealth without Wall Street? That's your question.
SANDERS: I think we can. And I think you can break up these large financial institutions...
SANDERS: Well, you can do it through section 121 of Dodd-Frank. You go through my legislation. All you need is the secretary of Treasury to determine which banks, if they fail, will cause systemic damage to our economy.
That is not a hard to do.
CUOMO: It exists now, though.
SANDERS: That's right. The law exists now.
CUOMO: So, why are we different?
SANDERS: I will use it. Just because we can do it doesn't mean we are doing it.
CUOMO: But they have the stress tests and the ongoing analysis now.
SANDERS: And what happened recently? They failed -- five of the major banks failed their stress tests. Failed...
SANDERS: Yeah. So, what I'm saying is, I think when so few financial institutions have so much economic and political power, when their history in recent years has shown them that they're into fraud and illegal behavior, I do not think it is a good thing for the future of this country that they maintain the kind of size that currently have.
CUOMO: Your early rationale on why certain sellers shouldn't be sued was, these are mom and pop shops. Don't go after a mom and pop shop for the fact that we don't like how guns are used in the hands of wrong people.
That's not what Newtown's lawsuit is about. Newtown is about going after the major manufacturers, not the mom and pops, and doing it for their marketing, that they promote the use of these things in video games and otherwise.
Why did you give such a quick no on that about whether or not they should be sued on that basis?
SANDERS: Well, this is -- this is -- this is what I think.
First of all, please understand that we, back in 1988, I ran a campaign for the United States Congress, the only candidate taking on the gun people to say, we should ban these assault weapons which are designed only to kill people.
That was my view then. That is my view now. I want to see that put away.
What I believe right now is, yes, you're right about mom and pop stores. I sell you a gun legally, you go out and kill somebody. Should I be held responsible?
SANDERS: But this is what also believe. Is that if you walk into my shop and you want 10,000 rounds of ammunition -- oh, here it is, Chris, 10,000 rounds. That's pretty crazy. I should be held responsible.
If I am a gun manufacturer, selling guns into areas where I know they're ending up into the hands of criminals, I should be held liable for that as well, [inaudible].
CUOMO: But the Newtown suit is, you put them into video games, you market them to the young, you tell people they're tools of empowerment, that they make you cool, they make you mighty.
SANDERS: It's an ugly thing.
CUOMO: And they want to sue. I'm not saying they would win the suit.
CUOMO: But do you think they should be able to sue?
SANDERS: Obviously, they should and they are suing, and they want to...
CUOMO: Well, you said no.
SANDERS: Well, within a broader context. Do I think somebody should be held liable, is what I said, for selling a legal product? Should somebody have the right to sue and make their case? Of course they should.
CUOMO: So, the Newtown families should be allowed to sue the manufacturers on the basis of marketing?
SANDERS: They are doing that, they are doing that.
CUOMO: And the judge said yes.
CUOMO: But many people said you were on the wrong side of that issue.
SANDERS: Well, if what I said in my own personal view, if I sell you a legal product, do I -- am I liable for the crazy thing that you do with it? I think not.
CUOMO: I help -- I'm trying to get you to clarify it, because it has been -- [inaudible] so much.
SANDERS: All right. But should somebody have the right to sue? Anybody can sue for any reason. We'll see how the courts react to that suit.
CUOMO: All right. Another issue that's going on right now, the G.I. bill. OK?
CUOMO: What's happening in Congress? They have a no roll call vote. Sneaky. Dirty pool already. They get through this bill that says the following: there is money that -- you know what the bill is. Just for you at home. There's money that they're taking that people from the military used to use for their dependents, that they weren't using themselves for housing allowance. It's money that they needed.
Now Congress is saying, we're going to take that money, we're going to use it to fund other programs. The veterans, the IAVA, big associations are coming out and saying, "Don't use the G.I. Bill as a piggybank."
CUOMO: "Find your savings somewhere else. You already don't honor your commitment to the troops." Where are you on that bill?
SANDERS: Yes. I agree with the veterans organization.
CUOMO: Will you fight it?
SANDERS: Absolutely, absolutely. Look...
CUOMO: Because it's passing through right now.
SANDERS: I know, I got to -- you know, my problem is, there are only 24 hours to a day. But the answer is, yes. The veterans are saying there is, there is money available in a dozen different ways.
Some of these guys who are pushing this cut are the same people who want to give tax breaks to billionaires. In my view, that's pretty crazy. You have got to stand by the men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend us.
You do not make cuts in the housing allowance which people need.
CUOMO: All right. Tone. It's becoming more and more subject to this.
We know that it is more critical, it's closer than people expected it to be, maybe even you included in that. So, part of that happens in politics.
But the concern is going to be, if you don't win and you wind up in the convention, you have a lot of followers who, in their mind -- I mean, you know when you're out there, they're not looking for anybody else.
How -- have you given a thought yet to what you would do if you don't get the nomination, to keep this massive group of people who believe in you with the party that you say you are beholden to, the Democrats?
SANDERS: Well, it's -- first of all our major focus right now is trying to win.
CUOMO: Is winning. I get it.
SANDERS: But I got your question. And the question is that it's a two-way street. I mean, the Clinton people are also going to have to listen to what these people are fighting for.
And the Clinton people are going to have to say, well, you know, maybe Bernie has a point, that we should not be the only major country on Earth to not guarantee health care to all people, or have paid family or medical leave.
And maybe, yes, the billionaire class should start paying their fair share of taxes, and maybe yes, we should break up Wall Street.
So, it is a two-way thing. And it's not me; I don't control millions of people. But the Clinton campaign is going to have to make the case to those young people that, in fact, they are prepared to stand up for some real fundamental changes in this country.
And that's a case they have not yet been able to make.
CUOMO: You do not believe that the Clinton campaign has said, in any compelling way, that they have what that group of voters, whose hashtag, #feelingthebern, that they have the solutions for those people's problems?
SANDERS: No, I really don't think they have. I mean, they're very good at rhetoric, and certainly, she has moved to the left in this campaign in response to many of the initiatives that we have brought forth.
But I think, not only our supporters, I think the average person understands that when you collect such large sums of money from Wall Street and other special interests, they have their doubts as to whether the Clinton people will stand up to these powerful forces.
CUOMO: What did you think about the question from Wolf at the debate where he said, "Can you point to one single vote, one single action...
CUOMO: ... that makes this allegation about her too closely tied to reality?" She didn't have -- you didn't have one.
SANDERS: Well, let me give you proof -- well, first of all, one is the bankruptcy bill that she ended up voting for, which was not a good piece of legislation.
But you see, the question suggests that, just because somebody gets campaign contributions, do they automatically respond? As you well know, it's more than that.
So, I'm not suggesting that money immediately results in a vote or -- either way.
But the more important issue, Chris, the point I did make, which I believe is the fundamental point, if we know -- and the evidence is not debatable -- that major Wall Street firms have been operating in a fraudulent manner. If we know that a handful of these firms have incredible economic and political power, should they be broken up?
I began this campaign by saying, yes, too much economic and political power, too much fraudulent activity. Hillary Clinton has not come on board that point of view.
CUOMO: Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you very much for making the time for "New Day." Good luck tomorrow.
SANDERS: Thank you.
Bernie Sanders, Interview with Chris Cuomo of CNN's "New Day" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/323514