Bernie Sanders in CNN 2015 Democratic primary debate


On Budget & Economy: Almost all new wealth goes to the top 1%

I think most Americans understand that our country today faces a series of unprecedented crises. The middle class of this country for the last 40 years has been disappearing. Millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, and yet almost all of the new income and wealth being created is going to the top one percent.

Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into the political process in order to fund super PACs and to elect candidates who represent their interests, not the interests of working people. What this campaign is about is whether we can mobilize our people to take back our government from a handful of billionaires and create the vibrant democracy we know we can and should have.

It is immoral and wrong that the top 1/10 of 1% in this country own almost 90 percent--almost--own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57% of all new income is going to the top 1%.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Civil Rights: Combat institutional racism and reform justice system

Q: Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?

A: Black lives matter. The African American community knows that on any given day some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car, and three days later she's dead in jail. We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom, and we need major reforms in a broken criminal justice system. I intend to make sure people have education and jobs rather than jail cells.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Corporations: I'm not part of casino capitalism that wrecked our economy

Q: Do you consider yourself a capitalist?

SANDERS: Every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying we are going to have medical and family paid leave. I think we should look to countries like Denmark and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people. Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little by which Wall Street's greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don't. I believe in a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires.

CLINTON: What Senator Sanders is saying certainly makes sense in the terms of the inequality that we have. But we are not Denmark. We are the United States of America.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Corporations: Fraud is the business model of Wall Street

The greed and recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street, where fraud is a business model, helped to destroy this economy and the lives of millions. In the 1990s, when the Republican leadership and Wall Street spent billions in lobbying, when Alan Greenspan said, "what a great idea it would be to allow these huge banks to merge," Bernie Sanders fought them, and helped lead the opposition to deregulation.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Corporations: Make Wall Street bail out Wall Street; but middle class did

Hank Paulson & Ben Bernanke came in, and said, "The economy is going to collapse because Wall Street is going under." And you know what I said? "Your millionaire and billionaire friends caused this problem. How about your millionaire and billionaire friends paying for the bailout, not working families?" It was wrong to ask the middle class to bail out Wall Street. I want Wall Street now to help kids in this country go to public colleges and universities, free with a Wall Street speculation tax.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Crime: America has more people in jail than any country on earth

Today in America, we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth. African-American youth unemployment is 51 percent. Hispanic youth unemployment is 36 percent. It seems to me that instead of building more jails and providing more incarceration, maybe--just maybe--we should be putting money into education and jobs for our kids.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Drugs: I would vote for recreational marijuana, to reduce jailings

Q: In Nevada, there will be a measure to legalize recreational marijuana on the 2016 ballot. If you were a Nevada resident, how would you vote?

A: I would vote yes because I am seeing too many lives being destroyed for non-violent offenses. We have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs on Wall Street walk away, and yet we are imprisoning young people who are smoking marijuana. I think we have to think through this war on drugs which has done an enormous amount of damage.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Education: 1950s "high school for all" is now "free college for all"

A college degree today is the equivalent of what a high school degree was 50 years ago. What we said 50 years ago is that every kid in this country should be able to get a high school education regardless of the income of their family. I think we have to say that is true for everybody going to college. I pay for my program through a tax on Wall Street speculation, which will not only make public colleges and universities tuition-free, it will substantially lower interest rates on college debt.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Energy & Oil: Address climate change so we can leave planet to our kids

Q [to all]: What is the greatest national security threat to the United States?

CHAFEE: It's certainly the chaos in the Middle East. And it all started with the Iraq invasion.

O'MALLEY: I believe that nuclear Iran remains the biggest threat, along with the threat of ISIL; climate change, of course, makes cascading threats.

CLINTON: I think it has to be continued threat from the spread of nuclear material that can fall into the wrong hands.

WEBB: Our greatest long-term strategic challenge is our relation with China.

Q: Senator Sanders, greatest national security threat?

SANDERS: The scientific community is telling us that if we do not address the global crisis of climate change, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, the planet that we're going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren may well not be habitable. That is a major crisis.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Energy & Oil: Climate change is a moral issue: tax on carbon

Pope Francis made this point. This [climate change] is a moral issue. The scientists are telling us we need to move boldly. I am proud that, along with Senator Boxer, a few years ago, we introduced the first piece of climate change legislation which called for a tax on carbon. Nothing is gonna happen unless we with campaign finance reform, because the fossil fuel industry is funding the Republican Party, which denies the reality of climate change. The future of the planet is at stake.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Families & Children: We're the only major country without paid family leave

Q [to Secretary Clinton]: You now support mandated paid family leave. There are so many people who say, "Really? Another government program?"

CLINTON: I know we can afford it, because we're going to make the wealthy pay for it. That is the way to get it done.

SANDERS: Here's the point: Every other major country on Earth, every one, including some small countries, say that when a mother has a baby, she should stay home with that baby. We are the only major country. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. That's not what the American people want.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Foreign Policy: Putin regrets invading Crimea & the Ukraine

Q [to Clinton]: What about Putin's actions involving Russia in Syria [bombing ISIS to defend President Assad]?

CLINTON: We have an opportunity here--and inside the administration this is being hotly debated--to get that leverage to try to get the Russians to have to deal with everybody in the region and begin to move toward a political, diplomatic solution in Syria.

Q [to Sanders]: Putin in Syria?

SANDERS: I think Mr. Putin is going to regret what he is doing.

Q: He doesn't seem to be the type of guy to regret a lot.

SANDERS: I think he's already regretting what he did in Crimea and what he is doing in the Ukraine. I think he is really regretting the decline of his economy. And I think what he is trying to do now is save some face. But I think when Russians get killed in Syria and when he gets bogged down, I think the Russian people are going to give him a message that maybe they should come home, maybe they should start working with the United States to rectify the situation now.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Government Reform: Citizens United means billionaires donate for THEIR interest

As a result of this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, our campaign finance system is corrupt and is undermining American democracy. Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into the political process in order to fund super PACs and to elect candidates who represent their interests, not the interests of working people.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Gun Control: I want to shield gun shops from lawsuits, not manufacturers

Q: For a decade, you said that holding gun manufacturers legally responsible for mass shootings is a bad idea. Do you want to shield gun companies from lawsuits?

SANDERS: Of course not. This was a large and complicated bill. There were provisions in it that I think made sense. For example, do I think that a gun shop in the state of Vermont that sells legally a gun to somebody, and that somebody goes out and does something crazy, that that gun shop owner should be held responsible? I don't. On the other hand, where you have manufacturers and where you have gun shops knowingly giving guns to criminals or aiding and abetting that, of course we should take action.

CLINTON: Senator Sanders did vote for this immunity provision. I voted against it. I was in the Senate at the same time. It wasn't that complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America. Everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Gun Control: Deal federally with straw-man gun purchasers

Q: You voted against the Brady Bill that mandated background checks. You also supported allowing riders to bring guns in checked bags on Amtrak trains.

SANDERS: Let's begin by understanding that Bernie Sanders has a D-minus voting rating from the NRA. Back in 1988, when I first ran for Congress, I supported a ban on assault weapons. And over the years, I have strongly supported instant background checks, doing away with this terrible gun show loophole. And I think we've got to move aggressively at the do away with this gun show loophole, that we have to address the issue of mental health, that we have to deal with the straw-man purchasing issue, and that when we develop that consensus, we can finally, finally do something to address this issue.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Gun Control: Bring together rural states & urban states with common sense

SANDERS: I come from a rural state, and the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states. Our job is to bring people together around strong, commonsense gun legislation.

O'MALLEY: Have you ever been to the Eastern Shore? Have you ever been to Western Maryland? We were able to pass this and still respect the hunting traditions of people who live in our rural areas. We did it by leading with principle, not by pandering to the NRA.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Health Care: Mental health coverage would stop suicides AND homicides

All of us want to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have those guns and end this horrible violence that we are seeing. There are thousands of people in this country today who are suicidal, who are homicidal, but can't get the healthcare that they need, the mental healthcare, because they don't have insurance or they're too poor. I believe that everybody in this country who has a mental crisis has got to get mental health counseling immediately.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Homeland Security: I opposed Vietnam as conscientious objector

Q [to WEBB]: You served in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the man standing next to you, Senator Sanders, applied for status as a conscientious objector.

WEBB: As long as they go through the legal process that our country requires, I respect that.

Q [to SANDERS]: Tell an American soldier why you can be commander-in- chief given that you applied for conscientious objector status.

SANDERS: When I was a young man, I strongly opposed the war in Vietnam. Not the brave men like Jim who fought in that war, but the policy which got us involved in that war. That was my view then. I am not a pacifist. I supported the war in Afghanistan. I supported President Clinton's effort to deal with ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. I support air strikes in Syria and what the president is trying to do. Yes, I happen to believe from the bottom of my heart that war should be the last resort that we have got to exercise diplomacy. But yes, I am prepared to take this country into war if that is necessary.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Homeland Security: Shut down the NSA surveillance program

Q: You're the only one on this stage who voted against the Patriot Act in 2001 and the reauthorization votes. Would you shut down the NSA surveillance program?

SANDERS: Absolutely. Of course.

Q: You would, point blank.

SANDERS: Well, what exists right now is that virtually every telephone call in this country ends up in a file at the NSA. That is unacceptable to me. But it's not just government surveillance. I think the government is involved in our e-mails; is involved in our websites. Corporate America is doing it as well. If we are a free country, we have the right to be free. Yes, we have to defend ourselves against terrorism, but there are ways to do that without impinging on our constitutional rights and our privacy rights.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Homeland Security: Snowden showed us our civil rights are being undermined

Q: Is Edward Snowden [the federal employee who released thousands of NSA documents] a traitor or a hero?

CHAFEE: The courts have ruled that what he did was say the American government was acting illegally.

CLINTON: He broke the laws of the United States.

O'MALLEY: Snowden put a lot of Americans' lives at risk.

Q: Senator Sanders, on Edward Snowden?

SANDERS: I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined.

Q: Is he a hero?

SANDERS: He did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that. But I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration before he is [sentenced].

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Homeland Security: PATRIOT Act was 99-1, and I was the one

Q: You and Hillary Clinton both voted for the Patriot Act which created the NSA surveillance program. You've emphasized civil liberties, privacy during your campaign. Aren't these two things in conflict?

CHAFEE: No, that was a 99-to-1 vote for the PATRIOT Act, and it was seen as modernizing our ability to tap phones which always required a warrant.

Q: Do you regret that vote?

CHAFEE: As long as you're getting a warrant, I believe that under the Fourth Amendment, you should be able to do surveillance. And in the Patriot Act, section 215 started to get broadened too far. So I would be in favor of addressing and reforming section 215 of the Patriot Act.

Q: Secretary Clinton?

CLINTON: No, I don't. I think that it was necessary to make sure that we were able after 9/11 to put in place the security that we needed.

SANDERS: It was 99 to one and I was maybe the one. [Note: See related FactCheck--he was not the one!]

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Homeland Security: I pushed bill for $15B for veterans' healthcare services

What we did is pass a $15 billion dollar piece of legislation which brought in many new doctors and nurses into the V.A. so that veterans could get health care when they needed it, and not be on long waiting lines. The other part of that legislation said that if a veteran is living more than 40 miles away from a V.A. facility, that veteran could get health care from the community health center or the private sector.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Immigration: 2007: No comprehensive reform: guest workers are semi-slaves

Q: In 2007, you voted against immigration reform. Why should Latino voters trust you now?

A: I voted against that piece of legislation because it had guest-worker provisions in it which the Southern Poverty Law Center talked about being semi-slavery. Guest workers are coming in, they're working under terrible conditions, but if they stand up for their rights, they're thrown out of the country. I was not the only progressive to vote against that legislation for that reason.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Jobs: Obama rebuilt jobs; but middle class is disappearing

Q: You've argued that the gap between rich and poor is wider than at any time since the 1920s. We've had a Democratic president for seven years. What are you going to be able to do that President Obama didn't?

SANDERS: Let's remember where we were when Bush left office. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month. My Republican friends seem to have some amnesia on this issue. Are we better off today than we were then? Absolutely. But the truth is that for the last 40 years, the great middle class of this country has been disappearing. And in my view what we need to do is create millions of jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; pay equity for women workers; and our disastrous trade policies, which have cost us millions of jobs; and make every public college and university in this country tuition free.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Principles & Values: Political revolution: millions of people vs.few billionaires

Q: How would you not be a 3rd term of Pres. Obama?

SANDERS: I believe that the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of the drug companies, the power of the corporate media is so great that the only way we really transform America and do the things that the middle class and working class desperately need is through a political revolution when millions of people begin to come together and stand up and say: Our government is going to work for all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.

WEBB: I got a great deal of admiration and affection for Senator Sanders, but Bernie, I don't think the revolution's going to come.

Q: What do you mean by "revolution"?

SANDERS: What I mean is that we need to have one of the larger voter turnouts in the world, not one of the lowest. We need to raise public consciousness. We need the American people to know what's going on in Washington in a way that today they do not know.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Principles & Values: American people are tired of hearing about Hillary's email

The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails. I go around the country, talk to a whole lot of people. Middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living in poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. Our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we're going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens Union. Enough of the e-mails. Let's talk about the real issues.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Principles & Values: I do not have a Super PAC nor raise money from billionaires

I think that there is profound frustration all over this country with establishment politics. I am the only candidate running for president who is not a billionaire, who has raised substantial sums of money, and I do not have a super PAC. I am not raising money from millionaires and billionaires, and in fact, tonight, in terms of what a political revolution is about, there are 4,000 house parties--100,000 people in this country--watching this debate tonight who want real change in this country.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Social Security: Defend against chained CPI, and expand Social Security

Q [to CLINTON]: Senator Sanders would expand Social Security. What's wrong with that?

CLINTON: I fully support Social Security, and will defend it against continuing Republican efforts to privatize it.

Q: Do you want to expand it?

CLINTON: I want to enhance the benefits for the poorest recipients of Social Security.

SANDERS: When the Republicans in the Congress and some Democrats were talking about cutting Social Security and benefits for disabled veterans, for the so-called chained CPI, I q founded a caucus called the Defending Social Security Caucus. When you have millions of seniors in this country trying to get by--and I don't know how they do on $13,000 a year--you don't cut Social Security, you expand it. And the way you expand it is by lifting the cap on taxable incomes so that you do away with the absurdity of a millionaire paying the same amount into the system as somebody making $118,000. You do that, Social Security is solvent until 2061 and you can expand benefits.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On War & Peace: Syria is a quagmire within a quagmire; don't get involved

Q: What to do in Syria?

CLINTON: I applaud the administration because they are engaged in talks right now with the Russians to make it clear that they've got to be part of the solution to try to end that bloody conflict. And, to provide safe zones so that people are not going to have to be flooding out of Syria at the rate they are.

SANDERS: Well, let's understand that when we talk about Syria, you're talking about a quagmire in a quagmire. You're talking about groups of people trying to overthrow Assad, other groups of people fighting ISIS. You're talking about people who are fighting ISIS using their guns to overthrow Assad, and vice versa. I will do everything that I can to make sure that the U.S. does not get involved in another quagmire like we did in Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country. We should be putting together a coalition of Arab countries who should be leading the effort. We should be supportive, but I do not support American ground troops in Syria.

Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On War & Peace: Support force only when we are threatened & have coalition

When President Clinton said, "let's stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo," I voted for that. I voted to make sure that Osama bin Laden was held accountable in Afghanistan. When our country is threatened, or when our allies are threatened, I believe that we need coalitions to come together to address the major crises of this country. I do not support the United States getting involved in unilateral action.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

On Welfare & Poverty: We should not lead the world in childhood poverty

We should not be the country that has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country and more wealth and income inequality than any other country. We should not be the only major country on Earth that does not guarantee health care to all of our people as a right of citizenship and we should not be the only major country that does not provide medical and parental leave.
Source: 2015 CNN Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Oct 13, 2015

The above quotations are from CNN Democratic primary debate
Five candidates in Las Vegas, October 13, 2015.
Click here for main summary page.
Click here for a profile of Bernie Sanders.
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Page last updated: Nov 01, 2015