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Truthdigger of the Week: Sen. Bernie Sanders (Video)

Posted on Mar 2, 2014

    Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Photo by Blair Kelly and Tylor Bohlman

By Alexander Reed Kelly

(Page 3)

Kelly: If I had a hundred billon dollars, why should I invest in a movement solely for publicly financed elections?

Sanders: If you had a hundred billion dollars?

Kelly: If I was rich like the Koch brothers, yeah.

Sanders: Because, you understand that greed is not the end-all in life. You understand that if you’re the Koch brothers with $75 billion, that’s kind of enough to get by. You really don’t need more. You don’t need more tax breaks. You don’t need to continue your war against working Americans. So if you were a wealthy person, and you love this country and you are proud of the fact that this country has led the world in many respects—not to mention the many problems we’ve had, we all know them—but we have been a democratic force for good in many respects around the world, and if you believe in the virtues of democracy, and the desire to see people participate in the political process, and young people getting excited about living in a democracy, then you want to play an important role in helping us defeat Citizens United and move to public funding.


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Kelly: The people who have this much money, do they believe this?

Sanders: A few do. Most don’t. I mean, really, above and beyond campaign finance, one of the really sick elements, aspects of the world we live in today is some of these billionaires are like alcoholics or heroin addicts who need another fix. I mean, it is, literally—I mean this sincerely—I grew up in a family that never had any money, but it is hard for me to understand how someone who is worth a billion dollars just needs that next billion, and needs to fight so hard to break unions, or not increase the minimum wage. I mean, if you have a billion dollars, really, why do you have to stay up nights worrying about your next billion—

Kelly: Well, the fear is that if they give a little then they’re going to give a lot later on. The dam is going to break, and everyone in this society is afraid of becoming impoverished.

Sanders: Well, you know what, if you’ve got a billion, you can give a little.

Kelly: Yeah, but there’s this irrational fear that takes over, right?

Sanders: No, I don’t think so.

Kelly: I’m not defending this view. I’m just—

Sanders: I know. I don’t think so. I think there are a couple of factors. And I’m not a psychologist, because this is really—you should look at the issue of greed in the top 1 percent like a psychologist would look at heroin addiction, or alcoholism, and that is the need to have more and more and more in an uncontrollable way. You can’t control yourself. And I think it has No. 1 to do with a power trip. To be honest with you, power’s a pretty good thing. If you were worth a few billion dollars, you could sit down there with your brother and say, you know what? We’re gonna elect that governor. We’re gonna elect that senator. You know what? We’ve got a shot to elect the president of the United States. Hey, mom would feel pretty good about this, just a couple of us sitting here around the kitchen table. So power is a huge, I think, incentive, for these guys. It’s not just more money; it’s the power that goes with that money.

Now, do you want a happy story in the midst of difficult times? Three or four years ago virtually every Republican in the United States Congress wanted to cut Social Security and privatize Social Security. Sadly a number of Democrats joined them, including the president of the United States who supported a so-called Chained CPI. You had Pete Peterson, do you know who Pete Peterson is? He’s not quite the Koch brothers. He’s only worth a couple billion dollars. But he has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to cut Social Security. We ended up defeating all of that. Now how did we defeat it? The president just came out and said he’s not gonna put cuts in Social Security into his budget. How did we end up doing that? We did that because we rallied the American people.

So here’s the good news. If you educate and you organize, the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of the American people believe in an economy which works for everybody, not just the few; they do not believe that billionaires should control the political process. They do not believe we should cut Social Security and Medicare. They are concerned about climate change, etc., etc. So our job is to understand that we have a lot of people behind us, including some of them who define themselves as conservative. How do you bring them together? How do you organize them? How do you get their input into the political process? That’s the goal that we have.

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