Interview with Chris Cuomo of CNN's "New Day"
CUOMO: Senator Sanders, welcome to the race. Good luck to you. The big question is, why you, not Hillary?
SANDERS: Well, I think, for the last 30 years, since I was mayor and a congressman in the Senate, what I have been focusing on is the needs of working families and the middle class. And right now, Chris, we have a situation where, for the last 40 years, the middle class of this country has been disappearing, people are working longer hours for low wages and yet almost all of the new income, all of the new wealth is going to the top 1 percent. Ninety-nine percent of all new income, in terms of wealth, the distribution of wealth, it's absolutely obscene. The top .1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. I am prepared to take on the billionaire class, and I think that's what has to happen if we're going to see a middle class in this country expand rather than continue to shrink.
CUOMO: Amen say families all across the country, senator, but Hillary says the same thing, that she's for everyday Americans. Why Bernie Sanders and not Hillary Clinton?
SANDERS: Well, I think people have got to - first of all, let me tell you this, Chris. I've known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. I like her and I respect her. And I am running for working families in the middle class, not against Hillary Clinton. But I think people have got to look at the record.
I have voted against every disastrous trade agreement coming down the pike and helping to lead the effort against this Trans Pacific Partnership, which will mean the outsourcing of more good paying jobs to low wage countries. People have got to look at Secretary Clinton's record. Later today I'm going to continue my effort to call for a breakup of the largest financial institutions on Wall Street, who, in my view, if they're too big to fail, they're too big to exist. They have simply too much power.
I am calling for and will introduce legislation that will provide a free college university education, public colleges and universities in this country. No tuition. We have introduced legislation that says to the wealthiest people and the largest corporations, you know what, you're going to have to start paying your fair share of taxes. You can't stash your money in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens. I've been a leader in terms of climate change, introduced legislation for the first time that would have a carbon tax and say, this is a globe crisis. America has got to move away from fossil fuel and carbon. Those are my views and people have to judge Secretary Clinton's views.
CUOMO: Testing it, it would be, tax and spend, senator. That's what you're saying. More typical lefty rhetoric. You're going to tax the rich, punish them for doing well and just dump it into programs that never work.
SANDERS: Well, Chris, the truth is, that for the last 25 years there has been a huge transfer of wealth in this country from the middle class and working families. I'm talking about trillions of dollars. So the slice of the pie for the middle class has gotten smaller and all of that money has gone to the top 0.1 percent. And you compound that with this disastrous Citizens United decision in which billionaires are now able literally to control the political process in this country. I am very proud - I've got to tell you this - we announced five days ago on berniesanders.com. We sent out hundreds of thousands of messages. And on our first day we received $1.5 million in campaign contributions. Do you know what the average contribution was, Chris?
CUOMO: What was it?
SANDERS: $43. How's that?
CUOMO: So you're saying you're not going to be about the big money, but you have that big Supreme Court case, Citizens United. I mean that - that says that money is speech and they can play the game and it seems like everybody takes money in politics these days. You'll never change it.
SANDERS: No, Chris, we - look, Chris, let's be very clear. When you have a handful of billionaires able to spend as much money as they want, supporting their candidates, so people like the Koch who are extreme right wing, what you are looking - and let's be clear - is the undermining of American democracy and moving our nation to an oligarchic form of society - and I mean that very seriously - where a handful of billionaires will determine who are elected officials are. We're not going to do that. I'm not going to take - establish a super PAC. We're getting small contributions from working people. I think we can raise the kinds of money we need, not to outspend our opponents, that won't happen, but to run a credible and, in fact, winning campaign.
CUOMO: Do you think that you can match Hillary's position on immigration? She says full path to citizenship for the undocumented. It will be unpopular with the right. It will be unpopular with some in the middle. What do you say?
SANDERS: Well, I have - I haven't seen her position in detail, but what I believe is, you know, we have 11 billion undocumented people in this country. I voted for a comprehensive immigration reform. I support comprehensive immigration reform. And that's what we should do.
CUOMO: Full path to citizenship or qualified?
SANDERS: Over a period of years, a full path of citizenship.
CUOMO: So over a period of years and then you make the adjustments within it?
CUOMO: Now, Hillary Clinton says, I'm going to take on the big banks. I'm against this super wealthy class. I'm every day Americans. I'm going to do the same stuff Bernie does, I just sound different than he does. What do you say?
SANDERS: Well, again, you know, Chris, that's for the American people to decide. I think you have to look at my record. There is, in my lifetime, political life, no special interests that we have not taken on.
I was the first member of the United States Congress when I was in the House to take on the pharmaceutical industry and tell people in my state and around the country, you know what, let's go to Canada and we can buy prescription drugs at a significantly lower price than we can in the United States. I have introduced legislation which says, not only are we not going to cut Social Security.
You know what we have to do? We have so many low income seniors, we have to expand Social Security. You know what we have to do? We have to tell, in terms of the individual taxpayers, that these hedge fund guys are going to have to start paying their fair share. So I think if you look detail by detail at my record, I think you'll find it is a very strong record and standing up for people who are kind of voiceless today, who have given up on the political process, who don't have much power. That's my view.
CUOMO: How do you get them out on the polls?
CUOMO: Because when you say things about expanding entitlements and giving more to the have nots, that's unpopular. It sounds like it's expensive. And the people who vote may not like it.
SANDERS: I disagree with you, Chris. First of all, it is not expensive in the sense that if you say to people all over this country, should large profitable multinational corporations, who today are not paying a nickel in federal taxes because they're stashing their money in Cayman Islands and other tax havens, start paying their fair share? The American people, across the political spectrum, say, yes, they should.
We're losing well over $100 billion every single year because of those taxes. I've introduced legislation that would end that. Talk to Warren Buffett, one of the richest guys in the world. He says, you know, it's absurd. My effective tax rate is lower than my secretaries. The American people understand that. So what we have got to do is spend money intelligently.
We have got to make college affordable for our young people if we're going to compete in the global economy. I'll tell you what else we need to do. Real unemployment in this country is not 5.5 percent, it's 11 percent. We need to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. And when we do that, in terms of roads, bridges, water systems, rail, airports, we can put some 13 million people back to work. And that's the kind of agenda that I'm going to be fighting for.
CUOMO: Bernie Sanders, you're in the race. Senator, there are a lot of issues to cover, certainly foreign (ph) as well, but this is a start. Thank you for joining us on NEW DAY. Good luck going forward.
SANDERS: Chris, thank you very much.
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/323470