♪♪ Less than 60 days
until Iowans kick off the 2020 presidential race at
caucus sites across the state. We sit down with a
candidate aiming to win Iowa during his second
presidential run, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders,
on this edition of Iowa Press. ♪♪ Funding for Iowa
Press was provided by Friends, the Iowa Public
Television Foundation. The Associated General
Contractors of Iowa, the public’s partner in
building Iowa’s highway, bridge and municipal
utility infrastructure. I’m a dad. I am a mom. I’m a kid. I’m a kid at heart. I’m a banker. I’m an Iowa banker. No matter who you are,
there is an Iowa banker who is ready to help you
get where you want to go. Iowa bankers, allowing you
to discover the genuine difference of Iowa banks. ♪♪ For decades Iowa
Press has brought you politicians and newsmakers
from across Iowa and beyond. Celebrating nearly
50 years of broadcast excellence on statewide
Iowa Public Television, this is the Friday,
December 6 edition of Iowa Press. Here is David Yepsen. ♪♪ Yepsen: On Iowa
Caucus Night 2016, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
came within less than one half of one percent to the
eventual caucus winner and democratic nominee,
Hillary Clinton. The independent Senator
from Vermont has returned to the Iowa campaign trail
for much of 2019 hoping for another strong
Caucus Night here. Senator Sanders joins
us now at the Iowa Press table. Senator, welcome. Good to see you again
Sanders: Thank you very much for having me
Yepsen: Journalists across the table today are James
Lynch with the Gazette in Cedar Rapids and Kay
Henderson is News Director at Radio Iowa. Henderson: Senator, should
the House pass articles of impeachment? You would be sitting as
a juror in the Senate perhaps during the
month of January. Do you have the apparatus
on the ground here to campaign if you’re not
able to get out to Iowa? Sanders: Well, let me
just say two things. First of all, I think
the House should pass the articles of impeachment
and I say this with reluctance. I’m not happy about it. But I think we must
maintain a certain standard for the
Presidents of the United States and that is the
standard that President Trump has not maintained. And I think it would be a
dereliction of duty if the House did not go forward
of bringing articles of impeachment against him. As a United States
Senator I’ve sworn my constitutional
responsibility as a Senator and I will be
there as a juror in the trial if it does go to the
Senate and I will do my job. We will do everything that
we can, and I think the people of Iowa will
understand you can’t be in two places at
the same time. But I am feeling very
good, I have to tell you, about our situation
here in Iowa. I think we have more
volunteers on the ground than any other campaign. We’ve got a great staff
and I think we stand a good chance, a very strong
chance, to win here in Iowa. Lynch: Democratic caucus
goers have a question on their lips everywhere we
go and that is who is most electable? And in 2016 Hillary
Clinton won the popular vote but lost the
Electoral College. Where do you win that she
didn’t win in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania,
Michigan, Wisconsin? Sanders: Well, in fact,
during the democratic primaries of 2016 in fact
we did win in Michigan, we won in Wisconsin, we ran
strong in other states. This is how I think we
beat Trump and why I believe I am the most
electable democratic candidate, and that is to
beat Trump you’re going to need a massive
voter turnout. That is the simple truth. And I believe that our
campaign is the campaign of energy and excitement. I believe that our
campaign is the campaign that will attract working
people who understand that much of what Trump told
them here in Iowa and around the country
turned out to be a lie. He has not been a champion
of working people. He is in many
ways a fraud. And we will make that
point I think effectively. Second of all, if you
need a large voter turnout we’re going to have to
bring young people into the political process and
I’m very proud that in 2016 we ended up getting
more young people, get votes from young people
than Trump and Clinton combined, and that is I
think replicating itself right now. We’re doing very well. So we’ve got to bring
young people into the political process, we have
to bring working people around an agenda that
stands for the working families of America and
not just the 1% and I think we have that agenda. When I was here four years
ago I talked about raising that minimum wage to $15
an hour and everybody said you’re crazy, it
can’t be done. Seven states have done it. I talked about health care
as a human right, the need to pass a Medicare for
all, that has now become part of the
popular lexicon. I talked about climate
change as a national security issue. People didn’t agree with
me then, they are agreeing with me now. So I think we’ve got the
issues, we’ve got the movement to win here
in Iowa and to win the battleground states
and defeat Trump. Henderson: What
about your health? You had a health
scare in October. Sanders: I had a
blocked artery. Two stents were put in. It’s a procedure that
I think impacts about a million people a year,
so it’s not an uncommon procedure. I can tell you I am
feeling really good, better than before I
had the procedure, less fatigue. We’re running a vigorous
campaign and I would not be in this race if I did
not believe I had the strength and the energy
to be a vigorous and effective President. Henderson: We have heard
you often say that you wrote the blanket-blank
Medicare for all — Sanders: I don’t want to
say damn on television, I know, probably lost
votes, but all right. Henderson: Some Iowa
democrats, in fact a majority of those polled
by the Des Moines Register in October, had
concerns about that. They think it will trip
the party’s nominee up if the party’s nominee
supports Medicare for all. How do you allay
those concerns? Sanders: I respectfully
disagree with those folks. I am a strong proponent
of Medicare for all. I did write the bill. And here’s where we’re at. We’ve got to take a deep
breath and look at health care in America and I want
everybody to understand that we are spending twice
as much per capita on health care than the
people of any other country. But somehow in Canada,
most of the European countries, they provide
health care to all of their people while we
have 87 million Americans uninsured or underinsured,
underinsured means high deductibles,
high copayments. 30,000 people a year die,
die because they don’t get to a doctor when
they should. 500,000 people go bankrupt
because of medically related bills. Can you imagine somebody
being diagnosed with cancer, having to deal
with all of the problems, what doctor do I go to,
what treatment do I do, what medicine do I use,
and then they’ve got to worry about financial
ruin for their families. That is not a civilized or
humane health care system. And on top of all of
that we pay far more for prescription drugs as do
the people of any other country. Some of you may know that
I went to Canada a number of months ago with people
in the Midwest who are diabetic, we bought
insulin for one-tenth of the price, 10% of the
price paid in this country, because of the
greed and corruption of the pharmaceutical
industry. So you can’t tinker
around the edges. The function of a rational
health care system is to provide quality health
care to all, not make as was the case last year
$100 billion in profits for the drug companies and
the insurance companies. So under my Medicare for
all plan we eliminate all premiums, no more
premiums, no more copayments, no more
deductibles, no more out of pocket expenses, we
expand health care to cover dental care, to
cover hearing aids, to cover eyeglasses and to
include home health care and we do that in a way
that will lower the cost of health care for the
overwhelming majority of the American people. Lynch: Senator, Medicare
for all is just one of the ideas you have that is
sort of a revolution for health care. But you’re talking about
a revolution, a political revolution, an
economic revolution. After four years, almost
four years of Donald Trump, a lot of people say
they just want to go back to normal. So at the heart of this
campaign there seems to be a debate between nibbling
around the edges, incremental change
and a revolution. So what are voters going
to do in November of next year? Are they going to vote
for a revolution or baby steps? Sanders: Let’s be — I
don’t think it’s either or. I think it is primarily
listening to what the American people want. Often Bernie you’re so
radical, your ideas making public colleges and
universities tuition free, canceling all student
debt, radical idea. Not so radical, that is
what is happening already in states around
the country. Medicare for all,
overwhelming majority of democrats support it. Raising the minimum wage
to $15 an hour, dealing with climate change, does
anyone think we should not deal aggressively with
what is an existential crisis for this
country and the world? So, when we talk about a
political revolution what it means is dealing with
the corruption that now exists in our
political system. And I think most
Americans, by the way republicans as well
as democrats and independents, understand
there is something wrong when billionaires are
able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars
to buy elections. They understand there’s
something wrong when you have governors in this
country engaged in voter suppression. So all that I am trying to
do in this campaign, and we’re having enormous
success, these ideas are resonating in Iowa and all
over this country, is have a government and an
economy that works for all of us and not just the 1%. Is that really such
a radical idea? Right now you have
republican leadership, if Mitch McConnell were right
here today and I would give him credit for this,
for honesty, he would tell you that after giving huge
tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires and large
profitable corporations he wants to cut Social
Security, Medicare and Medicaid. That’s what Mitch
McConnell will tell you. I think that’s an outrage
and that is a Congress, republican leadership,
that are working day and night for the wealthiest
people in this country, turning their backs
on working families. So I don’t want
people to get scared. All that we are trying to
do is what the American people want. The American people
don’t want tax breaks for billionaires and cuts
to Social Security. They want to protect the
working families of this country and that is as
President what I intend to do. Lynch: Senator, you said
some of the ideas like the minimum wage, states
are already raising the minimum wage, some states
are taking action on environmental issues. Why not let that work its
way, rather than from the top down, the federal
government imposing these things? Sanders: James, the idea
of a minimum wage is not a new idea, certainly that
has been going on for many, many decades. Right now though in terms
of the minimum wage it’s a starvation wage. It is $7.25 here in Iowa. Tell me, does anyone here
think that any human being can live on $7.25 an hour? A couple of, a month ago
or so ago a woman in Des Moines raising three kids,
working at Burger King, making $10 an hour,
she is not making it. And, by the way, what ends
up happening when you have these starvation wages
whether it’s Wal-Mart or the fast food industry,
who do you think is subsidizing these workers
in terms of Medicaid, in terms of food stamps, in
terms of public housing? The taxpayers are. So in terms of Wal-Mart,
for example, you have the wealthiest family in this
country paying starvation wages and ordinary
taxpayers are subsidizing the Walton family. That doesn’t make any
sense to me at all. But in terms if you talk
about climate, and some states are moving forward,
let me be very clear, people may disagree
with me or not. What the scientists are
telling us, they have underestimated the
severity of the crisis and that climate change is
ravaging, moving in a much quicker way in ravaging
our country and the entire planet. So we’re talking about,
if we don’t get our act together, we’re talking
about major cities in America and around the
world being under water, we are talking about farm
production in Iowa, in the Midwest and the world
becoming less effective because crops do not do
well under water or in heat waves. Yepsen: But Senator, what
do you say to people who are concerned about
climate change, that a lot of people, some of whom
are logical supporters of you, people in the fossil
fuels industry, workers, miners and oil field
workers, who are going to get laid off? They’re worried. We’re seeing that pattern
— Sanders: David, what we are playing for is the
future of this planet. That’s what we’re
playing for. If there was a fire raging
through this studio right now, you would say how
do we put out that fire? Yepsen: What do you do to
help though — Sanders: I’ll tell you what we do. What we do is in our
New Deal, Green New Deal legislation we make sure
that all of those workers, look you’re talking
to perhaps the most pro-worker member of the
United States Congress. I do not turn my back on
coal miners or guys who work on oil rigs,
I don’t do that. So we have built into our
legislation a five year just transition program
which will guarantee them a paycheck for five years,
good paycheck, health care, educational
opportunity. We are not turning our
back on the workers. But on the other hand I
will not turn my back on the kids and the future
generations of this country who are going to
see more and more extreme weather disturbances, more
drought, more floods, more rising sea levels. We have a moral
responsibility to make sure that the planet
that our kids and future generations inherit is a
plant that is healthy and is habitable. I listen to the scientists
and I know I’ve been criticized for coming up
with the most sweeping and comprehensive climate
change legislation. Let me reiterate this,
we are fighting for the future of this planet. And 20 years from now
you don’t want your grandchildren to look you
in the eye and say, didn’t you listen to
the scientists? Why did you allow
this to happen? We are underestimating
the severity. We’ve got to listen
to the science. Henderson: Speaking of
grandchildren, there are some who argue that money
would be better spent insuring early childhood
education than on paying down student loan debt for
those who go to college. Sanders: It’s
not an either or. I think what the
psychologists will tell you that the most
important years of human development are
zero through four. And the way we treat our
children in general in this station, we have the
highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any
major country on Earth, our childcare pre-K
system is a disaster. I can tell you in Vermont
and I expect here in Iowa very hard for a working
class person to find the quality childcare that
they need for their kids at an affordable cost. That’s ridiculous. So our educational program
invests very heavily into pre-K, but at the same
time I want those kids to be able regardless of the
income of their family to get a higher education,
which is why we’re going to make public colleges
and universities tuition free, and we’re going to
cancel all student debt. Now, your next question
is, hey Bernie, that sounds great. How are you going
to pay for it? Well, I’ll tell you how
we’re going to pay for it. When you’ve got three
people in this country owning more wealth
than the bottom half of America, when you’ve got
Trump giving a trillion dollars in tax breaks
to the top 1% and large profitable corporations,
when we have more income and wealth inequality
today than at any time since the 1920’s, yes, I’m
‘here to tell you that I will bring forth
legislation to make sure that the rich and large
corporations start paying their fair share of taxes. Yepsen: Senator, we’ve got
way too many questions. James? Sanders: I’ve
provoked you. You’re ready to go, huh? Lynch: I want to talk
about trade, which is an important issue here in
Iowa for agriculture and manufacturing. You oppose TPP, the
Transpacific Partnership, like Donald Trump. How would your trade
policies differ from the current administration’s
in a way that would benefit Iowa? Sanders: Good, good. Not only did I oppose the
TPP, I helped lead the effort against NAFTA, I
helped lead the effort against permanent normal
trade relations with China. These were disastrous
trade agreements that have cost us something like 4
million decent paying jobs in the Midwest and
all over this country. I believe in trade but I
believe in fair trade, not unfettered free trade. I do not believe that we
should be shutting down factories in America and
having corporations run to desperate countries where
people are paid a dollar or two dollars an hour. I don’t believe in that. So we are going to develop
trade policies not by tweet in the middle of
the night, we are going to develop trade policies
with the input of workers and farmers, trade
policies that work for ordinary people, not
just the CEO’s of large corporations. Yepsen: Tariffs? Sanders: When tariffs are
necessary, absolutely, we’ll use all the
tools that we have. But the bottom line is
I want to protect family farmers here in Iowa and
the Midwest and all over this country and I want to
make sure that we protect workers as well. The function of trade is
not just to make large corporations wealthier. Lynch: You mentioned
you opposed NAFTA. What about USMCA? Sanders: I’m sorry? Lynch: USMCA, the
successor — Sanders: Well, we’re going
to look at that. I have reservations
about that. It’s something that
has to be studied more. Henderson: A real quick
follow up about student debt. There are thriving
colleges in small communities in Iowa like
Indianola and Pella who argue that doing that,
having a free public education, will
kill small colleges. Sanders: Nope, because
part of the program that we have brought forth will
also very significantly increase Pell Grants, work
study programs and other programs. So if a kid wants to go to
a private college that is the choice of the young
man or woman and we are not there to hurt
private colleges. The goal here is to make
sure that every person in this country regardless of
his or her income can get a college education,
making public colleges and universities tuition free,
helping students if they choose to go to
private schools. Henderson: Something that
has happened this week, the Trump administration
is advancing new rules for the food stamp program. Will you support
those rules? Sanders: No, I will not. It’s a wonderful thing,
we give tax breaks to billionaires, we provide
hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies and
tax breaks in the fossil fuel industry whose
product is destroying the planet, and then at a time
when so many of our people are struggling we’re going
to be cutting back on food stamps. We have got to change the
priorities of this country and it’s not only standing
up for the working class in this country, it’s
standing up for the most vulnerable people which
is the children and the elderly. I do not want to see
anybody in this country go hungry. This is the wealthiest
country in the history of the world and I will not
be part of a program which increases hunger
in America. Lynch: Some of the
candidates out here campaigning this year
are calling for the abolishment of the
Electoral College and they point to 2016 as an
example of why we should. You come from a
small, rural state. Abolishing the Electoral
College, is that a good thing for Vermont? Is it a good
thing for Iowa? Sanders: Here’s where
I think we’re at. I think we have to ask, if
we believe in democracy, and I am a vigorous,
unlike the President of the United States I
actually do believe in democracy, that we have
to ask ourselves a simple question. The guy in the White House
lost the popular vote by over 3 million votes. Last I heard when you win
the majority of the votes or the popular vote, if
I beat you I should be elected, if you beat
me you take office. And that is not what
happens right now. The other problem with
the Electoral College, we don’t talk about this
enough, is that in many ways, as you know, the
presidential campaign ends up really centering
around 15 or 16 so-called battleground states,
Iowa being one of them. But is that fair to the
people of California? Is it fair to the
people of New York? Is it fair to the people
of Wyoming who vote republican overwhelmingly? So in a sense the
presidential candidates ignore their needs. I think you want a
presidential campaign which addresses the needs
of people in 50 states in this country, not
just 15 or 16. Yepsen: Senator, we’ve got
just a few minutes left and I want to switch to
a question of foreign policy. Are we the
world’s policemen? What is America’s role in
the world going forward? Sanders: Look, I want
to tell you two things. When I first was elected
to the Congress in 1990, I took office in ’91, one of
my first votes was on the Gulf War, the first Gulf
War when getting rid of Saddam Hussein, I voted
against that war and that was a difficult
political vote. In fact, I thought my
political career was about to end. But it was the right vote. And I helped lead the
opposition to the war in Iraq which turned out
to be perhaps the worst foreign policy blunder in
the modern history of this country. I was chairman of the
Senate Veterans Committee, I talked to so many of our
young men and women who came back from that war
wounded in body and in spirit, not to mention the
hundreds of thousands of people in the region who
were killed or displaced, that was a danger. So to answer your
question, I will do everything I can to
end endless wars. Henderson: Briefly, if
Major League Baseball closes a few minor league
teams — Sanders: More than a few, 42. Henderson: — including
three in Iowa, should they lose their
monopoly status? Sanders: And
one in Vermont. In fact, that’s the city,
Burlington, I brought baseball to Burlington,
Vermont, minor league baseball so I’ve got a
personal interest in this one. Look, Major League
Baseball is enormously profitable, these guys are
making all kinds of money. Many of the heads, the
owners of Major League Baseball are billionaires. And now they decide for
their own kind of greedy reasons that they want to
shut down baseball in 42 small communities, three
in Iowa, one in Vermont, all over this country. That’s wrong. So I met with the
Commissioner of baseball last week. I will do everything that
I can to tell them that when they receive an
enormous amount of corporate welfare,
when they have received exemptions from anti-trust
legislation, do the right thing, protect those
communities all over this country with baseball
that is so important. Yepsen: Senator, just a
couple of minutes left. One other thing that
happened earlier this week, one of the problems
you have in this state there are a lot of Clinton
voters who are unhappy with what are the
leftovers of that campaign. As she told Howard Stern,
one of the things that hurt her in the November
election was your endorsement didn’t
come soon enough. She said, he hurt me,
there’s no doubt about it, and I hope he doesn’t do
it again to whoever gets the nomination,
once is enough. What is your
reaction to that? Sanders: I’m sorry
that Hillary Clinton is re-running 2016 and if I
had it on me I could take out a letter from Hillary
Clinton saying, thank you, Bernie, for working so
hard to try to make me the President of the
United States. Let’s be clear, in the
last, during my efforts to get Hillary Clinton
elected and to defeat Donald Trump, I ran to
something like 14, 15, 16 states right here in Iowa. I worked as hard as
humanly possible. We did dozens and dozens
of rallies around this country. Now, what I tried to do
after she won the primary is to sit down with her
staff, and we did, to create a democratic
platform that was as progressive as it could
be and that ended up happening. So I don’t want
to rerun 2016. Right now our goal is
to defeat Donald Trump. I think I am the strongest
candidate to do that. If it turns out that I am
not the democratic nominee I will strongly
support anybody else. Lynch: New job numbers
out show that 266,000 jobs were added in the past
month and wages grew by about 3%. If Donald Trump runs on
the economy, are democrats sunk? Sanders: Wait a minute,
wage went up by 3%, but that does not
count inflation. The fact of the matter is
that the average American worker today is scarcely
making in real dollars a nickel more than he or
she did 45 years ago. You’ve got half of the
American people living paycheck to paycheck. I have talked to many
people in this state trying to make it at
$9, $10, $11 an hour and they’re not making it. 87 million people
uninsured or underinsured at a time when we give tax
breaks to billionaires, you’ve got a half a
million people tonight sleeping out on the
streets of America. So what I would say is
the economy is doing very, very well for the wealthy
and the powerful, not so well for the average
working class person. Yepsen: Senator, I
have to leave it there. Thank you very much
for being with us. Sanders: My
pleasure, thank you. Yepsen: And we’ll be back
next week with another edition of Iowa Press when
the republican majority leader of the Iowa Senate
Jack Whitver joins us. That’s Iowa Press at our
regular times, Friday night at 7:30 and again
at Noon on Sunday. So for all of us here at
Iowa Public Television, I’m David Yepsen. Thanks for
joining us today. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Funding
for Iowa Press was provided by Friends, the
Iowa Public Television Foundation. The Associated General
Contractors of Iowa, the public’s partner in
building Iowa’s highway, bridge and municipal
utility infrastructure. I’m a dad. I am a mom. I’m a kid. I’m a kid at heart. I’m a banker. I’m an Iowa banker. No matter who you are,
there is an Iowa banker who is ready to help you
get where you want to go. Iowa bankers, allowing you
to discover the genuine difference of Iowa banks.