Transcript: Bernie Sanders: Economy, Bailouts. 19 December 2008
Thom Hartmann talks with Senator Bernie Sanders, 19 December 2008
[Thom Hartmann]: And greetings, my friends! Patriots, lovers of democracy, truth and justice, Believers in peace, freedom and the American way, December 19th, Thom Hartmann here with you, broadcasting live today from home. Here in Portland, Oregon. We have snow. We have been having snow on and off all this week and I could not get out of my driveway today. So it’s me and Higgins in the studio and I’m sure he will weigh in and say Hi! to you in a bit.
And Senator Bernie Sanders of course, our first hour, on the line with us. It’s our “Brunch with Bernie Hour", sanders.senate.gov his website. He’s got a newsletter – a lot of news and information there. And our phone number 866-303-2270. Bernie will be taking your calls as soon as we get through the first break. And Senator Bernie Sanders, welcome.
[Bernie Sanders]: Good to be with you. Thom. We've got some snow here in Vermont but apparently not as bad as you.
[Thom Hartmann]: Well we have 1 inch which is about to shut down the city.
[Bernie Sanders]: We do a little bit better than that.
[Thom Hartmann]: I remember it well, Bernie. In fact I miss it. It's beautiful, I'm looking out--we live in a house boat on the river and I'm looking out across the water at the shore and it's all covered--it's just beautiful. It's a winter wonderland. But you can't move a car in the city. It just shuts down the city. Anyhow, Bush said he is going to loan the automakers some money but he is going to attach some strings to it. Your thoughts?
[Bernie Sanders]: well--before we jump into that, and that's certainly a very important issue--you know what, I'm hearing in my state of Vermont, and I think it's true all over this country, Thom, and we can't underestimate it, there is an enormous amount of fear and apprehension about what's happening in the economy. And the degree to which things are moving so rapidly that a year or two years ago, a year ago, the Bush Administration was talking about how – you remember this? – “the fundamentals of the economy are sound. The economy is robust, everything is wonderful” and now we're looking into the abyss and what we are seeing, and we can’t forget about this, is right now I know people, you know people, people are losing their jobs. 500,000 people lost their jobs just last month. Unemployment is soaring. People are losing their homes and when people lose their homes and their jobs, they're losing their health insurance. People are putting money into savings accounts and investment accounts for their retirement and that's gone. Or a substantial part of that has gone as the stock market has gone down. People trying to save up money for their kids to get a college education. That's going down. This is a real, real tragedy.
And nobody really knows exactly what's going to happen tomorrow. So I think clearly what we have to do as a nation is understand how we got to where we are. Make sure we never repeat this again and then figure out in a very bold way of how we revitalize this economy, how we create good-paying jobs and we don't repeat the mistakes of the past. How we get rid of--once and for all--this extreme right wing Alan Greenspan, George Bush type of ideology which has essentially said that if you do everything that the rich and large corporations want, suddenly somehow it's all going to trickle down to ordinary people and the economy will be prosperous and clearly that's a crock. It hasn't worked and we have to learn that lesson very profoundly.
The immediate concerns that I have, Thom, is that I voted-- I think as many of the listeners know--against this bailout for a dozen different reasons. But one of them was—
[Thom Hartmann]: The bail out the banks.
[Bernie Sanders]: The bail out the banks, and one of them was that I didn't think the middle class and working families who have seen a decline in their income under Bush should have to bail out Wall Street when those guys have made huge increases in their income and wealth. But more importantly right now the Bush people have spent -- I think the last count something like 335 billion of the first tranche and it's amazing, amazing, how little oversight or accountability we have from these financial institutions that we're bailing out. You know, if you came to me, and you said, "Bernie, I need some money", I'd say, "Okay Thom, I'll give you some money but this is what you got to do with it, A, B, C and D, and I'm going to watch you. But apparently ABC did something last week.
They asked all of the banks that had received this bailout and they said, "tell me the loans that you're making, tell me what are doing with the money". Only one of the banks responded, so we really don't know whether they're giving out--or continuing to give out--outrageous bonuses, paying dividends. We don't know if they're making loans to small businesses, if they're dealing with foreclosures. If they're really trying to get our economy stimulated and create jobs, doing the things that this bailout was supposed to do! We don't even know that. And the idea of the Bush administration, perhaps asking for another $350 billion, is totally incomprehensible.
To my mind to add insult to injury, as you may have seen in the papers today, the Fed came out dealing with this horrendous situation with credit cards. And I was on the House financial services committee for many years and we dealt with this issue--I raised this issue, I should say, we didn't deal with it--and what you have is credit card companies ripping off people in the most unbelievable ways. Through bait and switch tactics, saying "sign up and will give you zero interest, 2% interest", then of course they end up changing the interest rates anytime they wanted, late fees are extraordinarily high. Coming up with all kinds of ways to raise money from unsuspecting consumers.
And then the Fed comes out and says, okay we should do A,B,C, and D, all of which are fine ideas, but then they say that they shouldn't go into effect until July 2010, which is basically absurd. We have to deal with the credit card crisis and the ripping off of people, especially from many of the same institutions that are receiving bailouts from taxpayers who are now getting money from the Fed at almost 0 interest and are now charging in some cases consumers on their credit cards 25 or 30%. So that's an issue that has got to be dealt with.
The other concern and major issue that people are going to see a lot of action on in January before Obama becomes president, but certainly immediately after, is this stimulus package which I strongly, strongly support. I am not in favor of bailing out Wall Street with no strings attached but I am in favor of rebuilding our infrastructure to create millions, creating millions of good jobs, dealing with the crumbling of our bridges, our roads, our water systems. And also to a significant degree -- and this is one of the great challenges that the Obama administration and all of us are going to face--breaking our dependency on fossil fuel and foreign oil, moving to energy efficiency and wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other sustainable energies. And doing that, in the process, creating millions of good paying jobs.
We also have to be mindful in this economic downturn that we don't want to forget about people falling--the most vulnerable people in our society; the kids, the elderly, and the sick--falling through the cracks and so we have to make sure that nobody in America goes cold, nobody in America is sleeping out on the street. We have to worry about the cities and towns.
But bottom line here, I think, in this moment of great economic uncertainty, the time is now for the American people, for the president of the United States, the new president, for the Congress to start rethinking this trickle down ideology of tax breaks for billionaires, unfettered free trade, anti-trade-unionism, and all of the other aspects of a right wing ideology which has clearly failed.
[Thom Hartmann]: Yeah. Even their approach to the auto bailout is--you know--we need to drive down wages to make this -- it's a race to the bottom.
[Bernie Sanders]: Thom, that is exactly right and anyone who thinks that a lot of the Republican opposition to this automobile bailout -- when the Republicans defeated it a couple of weeks ago -- didn't have a lot to do with trying to destroy the United Automobile Workers and to in fact drive down wages--which are already plummeting in the automobile industry -- is sorely mistaken.
Now some listeners may say, "Well you know, frankly I don't live in Detroit, I don't make cars -- why should I worry about it?" Here's why you should worry about it. Historically the gold standard for manufacturing workers was the automobile industry. Workers there earned good wages. They had good benefits. They had a strong union. They had a pension program, and so forth. And by raising that standard, it meant that in non-union manufacturing in the state of Vermont, or the state of Arizona, you had a standard by which people had to respond to. And if in your gold standard area wages go down, so that people are entering the automobile industry now making 14 bucks an hour with lower benefits, how do you think people are going to make a living wage working in a non-union shop elsewhere in this country?
And you're quite right--what we're talking about here is a collapse of the middle class. A race to the bottom.
Our big money interests tell us that in China they only make $.50 an hour, how dare you ask for a living wage for your family? So what we have seen under Bush is that race to the bottom, a growing gap between the rich and the poor, an increase in poverty, and those are the kind of, kinds of trends that we really have got to reverse if we're going to save the middle class of this country.
[Thom Hartmann]: We learned yesterday that for working men between the ages of 30 and 39, since Reagan came into office, average wages have gone down almost 16%.
[Bernie Sanders]: It's unbelievable. That's right
[Thom Hartmann]: You know, when you start breaking out the numbers and looking at the individual groups it's incredible.
[Bernie Sanders]: And the other thing, Thom, there was a study that came out some years ago, it was unbelievable, is that if you are a high school graduate, okay, you leave high school and you go off to work, the decline in wages for that sector of our society is extraordinary, because the manufacturing jobs are no longer there. What's there is Wal-Mart and McDonald's.
[Thom Hartmann]: And this is why so many kids are dropping out of high school. Because they're figuring "Hey--a high school degree means nothing. And I'm not going to be able to go to college--my family can't afford it, or maybe I can't handle it, the book work, so to heck with it!" and we've thrown away an entire generation.
[Bernie Sanders]: I think that's an important point.
[Thom Hartmann]: Bernie Sanders with us. Sen. Bernie Sanders taking your calls right after this.
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[Thom Hartmann]: It's 17 1/2 minutes past the hour, Thom Hartmann here with you and Sen. Bernie Sanders on the line with us. It's our "Brunch with Bernie Hour." 866-303-2270, our telephone number. sanders.senate.gov is Bernie's website. Our live chat room which I am in is ThomHartmann.com. Our video feed today is down because I'm broadcasting from home rather than our studios over at Clear Channel KPOJ so it's just audio feed today, with apologies.
[Thom Hartmann]: Bernie--ready to take some calls?
[Bernie Sanders]: Let's do it.
[Thom Hartmann]: All righty. Mark in Minneapolis, Minnesota--you're on the air with Sen. Bernie Sanders.
[Mark] My question, Bernie Sanders, listen, it sounds like you're going to get a fellow Minnesotan, Al Franken coming up.
[Bernie Sanders]: Well, I'm following that closely. Al is an old friend of mine. He has been to Vermont on a couple of occasions and I certainly hope that he wins that recount, he will be a real asset to the U.S. Senate. A very, very smart guy.
[Mark]: well good, I want to paraphrase Sen. Chuck Grassley and you talked about what caused the problem, and he referred to the SEC as being either incompetent or corrupt. And we see another example of that with how they missed the Madoff scandal. But I just want to go back to in 2005 the SEC had open investigations into both AIG, Bear Stearns, and Fannie Mae that they suddenly, inexplicably stopped, that could have averted the subprime crisis. Do you think the SEC, given its--you know, pandemic--failures should be investigated for incompetence or corruption?
[Bernie Sanders]: You mean as one part of an overall investigation of the incompetence of the Bush administration which will clearly go down in history as perhaps the most incompetent administration that we have ever had? The answer is yes. SEC has clearly failed. I think Chris Cox has even indicated that but it's not just the Madoff scandal. Imagine a $50 billion Ponzi scheme and nobody picking up on it but more significantly, how we were told year after year that our economy, that the fundamentals of our economy were strong, things were going really well and then suddenly out of nowhere Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke announced a few months ago, "Oh! If we don't act immediately, the whole economy collapses."
But this does speak to the absolute incompetence of the Bush administration. And it also deals with their concept of deregulation, their feeling that leave these big companies alone--we don't want to punish them, we don't want to regulate them, we don't want to investigate them--trust these guys to do the right thing. And now we're spending hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars bailing them out because people were not looking over their shoulder and opposing their illegal activity.
[Thom Hartmann]: James, of New Paltz, New York, you're on the phone with Sen. Sanders.
[James] Greetings, gentlemen. Thom, were getting a foot of snow in the Hudson Valley.
[Thom Hartmann]: We're all in it together, James.
[James] ... I wanted to give a shout out to Sen. Sanders. Your piece in the Huffington Post about the squander of the GAO report is incredible. I am just upset, dismayed that the Times or the Washington Post or any major news outlet has not picked up on it.
But I have a question related to the auto bailout of the auto industry in general--isn't there a relationship between our military and Detroit? Are a lot of our tanks, military hardware, are they not manufactured there? If something happens to the American auto industry, will that not affect the military? Do we want Japan or Germany manufacturing our tanks and planes and jeeps?
[Bernie Sanders]: James. You've asked a very, very important question. The first point that James was making--I recently requested a meeting with Chairman Graves in the House about the GAO investigation about the significant amount of waste that exists in the Navy where they are purchasing spare parts that they don't need. As of now I think they're sitting on some $7 billion of spare parts which they really don't need. Similar problems exist in the Air Force. We expect similar problems to exist in the Army.
As a nation we are spending $540 billion a year on military spending above and beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a huge sum of money and I have been very concerned that neither the House or the Senate or the White House take a really hard look at the waste, the duplications, the fraud that exists within the military-industrial complex. So this is what we have done, it's kind of the tip of the iceberg, but I'll be working with other senators on trying to get rid of a lot of the waste that exists in the military.
James raises a very important question. And James says essentially that if Detroit goes down, if we lose our ability to produce vehicles in this country, what does that mean for, what does this mean in terms of the military? Isn't historically Detroit also producing tanks and other types of products, vehicles for the military? And the answer is yes. They certainly are.
Thom and I have talked on the show for many years now about our real concern about the collapse of manufacturing in general in the United States. Not just in terms of automobiles. The loss of good paying jobs, and what it means, A, as a military power, B, as a serious economic world leader. If you are not producing the products that your people need, can we really be a great economic power just doing derivatives on Wall Street or selling hamburgers?
So I think--and Thom and I have talked about this many, many times--we have got to rebuild manufacturing in America. That's what makes a nation into a strong economic force. It creates good paying jobs and the decline of manufacturing in this country through our disastrous trade policies and through other economic approaches has been very harmful to our nation and working people.
[Thom Hartmann]: You're singing my song, Bernie. Sen. Bernie Sanders with us--our "Brunch with Bernie Hour” -- here on the Thom Hartmann program. We're broadcasting live from our house in Portland and Bernie is in--are you in Vermont or Washington DC today?
[Bernie Sanders]: I'm in Burlington, Vermont.
[Thom Hartmann]: In Burlington, Vermont. It is 29 minutes past the hour. We'll be right back. Stick around for more "Brunch with Bernie" here on the Thom Hartmann program.
[Thom Hartmann]: It's your radio support group for democracy in the United States of America, 34 minutes past the hour, Thom Hartmann with you, 1-866-303-2270, our "Brunch with Bernie Hour", Sen. Bernie Sanders with us. And let's see here, Drew, in Reedborough, Vermont. Hey, Drew, you're on with your own Senator.
[Drew]: Hey, thank you. I appreciate it. Listen, I tell you what, Bernie, I love you, I think you are probably the best Senator but I gotta hold you guys--I have to say you guys failed. The whole Congress--I mean, you know, you have Pat Leahy capitulating to Arlen Specter about the hearings to confirm Holder. I mean once again we learned that, "Oh, my God! Bush isn't doing what he is supposed to do.” I mean you guys roll over and let the Republicans run roughshod all over you guys and now we got Nancy Pelosi telling Obama he better not pull any backdoor deals--I mean, where has she been for the last two years? I mean you guys have been a complete failure protecting my tax dollars in terms of all of this crap. It's really gotten disgusting that you guys have not stood up to him and Bernie, I mean, they need your vote. I mean, you can filibuster this stuff. You can say 'no, I'm not going to go along with this'. If you could leave me on hold, I'm not in my car so I'd like to hear the response.
[Bernie Sanders]: OK. Well Drew, thanks for your thoughts and I suspect there are millions of Americans who agree with you. The only thing--and I think you make a point, which I won't argue with, on the other hand what I have to say to you is that many people don't understand this. Drew --it takes 60 votes right now in the Senate to get anything done. The Republicans have waged more filibusters than in any time -- in this session -- than any time in history, as I understand it. Some 95. Could the Democrats have been more aggressive? Could the Democrats have called their bluff and said, "you want to filibuster this? Fine. We're going to be here seven days a week, 24 hours a day, exposing you to the American people.” I think they could've done a better job on that. So I won't disagree with you on that, but I do want you to understand that the problem with the Democratic leadership here is they also have to accomplish something. And if they sit around and they filibuster and deal with an issue for a month then nothing gets done. You don't have a budget, you don't have some things that we have in fact succeeded on.
I would point out to you among many other achievements--the minimum wage was raised in the last two years. As high as we would like it? No. Is it something? Yeah. For low-wage workers, it's something. We passed the most significant increase in veterans benefits since World War II. We essentially brought back the old G.I. education bill which is going to make it possible for every soldier to get a quality education regardless of income. That's a big deal.
We've raise funding for the VA. We have dealt somewhat with global warming. So, bottom line is we have accomplished some things against enormous Republican opposition. Could we have been stronger? I think we could. The real challenge right now Drew, if I may say so, is right now you're going to have a Democratic president, you're going to have a larger number of Democrats in the House and more Democrats in the Senate, and I think the American people have got to demand from the democratic leadership now is no more excuses. Let us move this country forward boldly for the middle class and working families. Let's do it, and let's do it now! And there are no more excuses. So Drew, I would hope that you and millions of other people at the grassroots level will make that demand and let's see what we can do.
[Thom Hartmann]: Sort of like Franklin Delano Roosevelt saying, "Make me do it." Thanks a lot, Drew. JR, in Vancouver, you're on with Sen. Bernie Sanders.
[JR]: Morning. I've got two quick comments and I'd like to see if you can suggest a solution. Number one, the only thing that will be accomplished by the UAW workers who are losing income is their local economies will also lose income and that's going to drastically affect them. There is no guarantee whatsoever that people are going to be able to buy automobiles unless the financial institutions start loaning money to people who have lower credit scores than over 700. And number two, I believe that this issue was created because of the financial institutions. They created a false sense of demand by putting money on the market that was not available. People can't afford what they're buying and now the bill is due and no one can pay it. So everything is crumbling.
[Bernie Sanders]: Well, let's start off with the UAW. I think Thom and I agreed a moment ago that one of the things that we are seeing in this country right now--which is a horror show--is the destruction of the middle class. It is the race to the bottom and I could tell you that at the same time as very few people in the Senate had any problem with some of these guys who run hedge funds literally making billions of dollars in a relatively short period of time, with 30-year-old guys making tens and tens of millions of dollars, selling derivatives on Wall Street. No problem with that.
Suddenly people say, 'what an outrage that an automobile worker can actually make 50 or $60,000 a year. What a terrible thing! We can't allow that to happen'. And this is the race to the bottom, and so it impacts not only the local economy, it impacts every worker in America. If you're involved in a race to the bottom, that means our wages are going down. They're not going up. And this is at the heart and soul of the collapse of the middle class. Second of all, JR raises the question of the cause of the problem. Making cheap money available and so forth. All we can say, I mean, there are many, many causes to this problem -- but I will tell you this, what I worry about very much about today compared to 1929 is today, not only are we seeing unemployment going up, we're seeing people deeply in debt, much more deeply in debt than was the case back in 1929 which gets me very, very worried. It's not only that people don't have any money, it's that they are deeply in debt. So we could be looking at some very, very serious problems.
[Thom Hartmann]: Very, very well said. Let's see, here. Sean, in Vancouver, Washington, you're on with Sen. Bernie Sanders.
[Sean]: Senator Sanders, would you agree that the two most important things we need to accomplish in the new administration would be number one, repeal Taft-Hartley and number two, get the Employee Free Choice Act signed. And I guess I'd also throw in there restore tariffs on countries who produce products and export them to us with bad environmental, labor standards. Just to get back--
[Thom Hartmann]: I'm sorry Sean.
[Bernie Sanders]: Sean raises very, very important issues. I don't know that, you know, the most immediately important issue we can do is get this economy back on its feet and pass a very significant stimulus package which puts millions of people to work. Sean raises the question of the Employee Free Choice Act, which is very important, something I very strongly support. Thom and I have talked for a very long time about the reasons that the middle class is in decline, and certainly one of the reasons has to do with the fact that millions of workers who want to be members of unions are not able to do so because the deck is stacked against them. Their employer can fire workers who are involved in union organizing activities. The National Labor Relations Board is extremely right wing. The Employee Free Choice Act will make it easier for workers to join unions in a democratic way, and that is just terribly important for our whole economy and for working class people.
The second issue has to deal with our trade policies and I agree with Sean--absolutely! We currently have a trade deficit which I believe is somewhere around $700 billion. This is Christmas time. Go to any of your local stores and see how many products you can buy that are actually manufactured here in the United States of America. To my mind we need to fundamentally change our trade policies. We need to demand that corporate America, who want us to buy their products, start producing some of these products here in America, and pay workers a decent wage.
So those are two very, very important issues and I certainly agree with Sean on that.
[Thom Hartmann]: Vic, in Cedar Creek, Texas, you're on the air with Sen. Bernie Sanders.
[Vic] Yes, Sen. Sanders--General Motors just opened up two new plants. One in Russia, one in India, in the past few months. They're doing quite well in those countries. They also are doing really well in China. Why didn't we, I guess we the people, you know, nobody knows that. Why didn't we compel them to build those cars here and then ship them overseas instead of hire workers over there and then cry about their poor performance in the United States?
[Thom Hartmann]: Or if I can add to that, Vic, those plants in India and Russia are for the domestic markets. They also have a huge factory down in Brazil and I think one in Argentina that they use to sell cars into South America. But Michael Moore's first movie, "Roger and Me" was about GM shutting down five, as I recall, factories in Flint, Michigan, moving them down to Mexico and reopening them. That's--there is an issue for you. Bernie?
[Bernie Sanders]: Well, it's interesting that Vic raises that very important point. Vic, about a year ago or so the Senate met with the leadership of the big three. We had the big three guys there, UAW was there, and I asked the big three -- my question was, "In how many years do you think you'll be shutting down virtually all of your plants in the United States and moving to China? Producing your cars there and bringing them back into this country?" And I thought they would say, "No! don't be silly! That will never happen!" But you know they weren't so vehement in what they had to say. So when we look at what's going on in automobile manufacturing you're absolutely right. There has been a significant decline in the number of good jobs in this country. They're opening up plants all over the world.
And what I worry about, very, very much, is the construction of major plants in China where wages are far lower and bringing those cars into this country at costs that would be much lower than even the Japanese can do. So, it is a big issue and again the question is, as a nation, this gets right into our whole international trade policy, it gets into globalization. We are losing millions of good paying, blue-collar jobs. We're losing millions now of white-collar jobs which are going to India and to Russia and how do you sustain a middle class if we don't have those jobs?
So those are the very, very big questions that have got to be asked in the coming months and years.
[Thom Hartmann]: A caller a couple of days ago, Bernie, who called his bank, one of the banks which got the bailouts, called about his credit card, was connected to someone in India. This is absolutely incredible.
Sen. Bernie Sanders with us, "brunch with Bernie" here on the Thom Hartmann program taking your calls at 866-303-2270. ThomHartmann.com also for our free live chat room. We'll be right back.
[Thom Hartmann]: And welcome back, 9 1/2 minutes before the hour. Thom Hartmann with you, our "Brunch with Bernie Hour.” Senator Bernie Sanders with us. By the way, the next hour we're going to have Ravi Batra, the professor of Economics at Southern Methodist University, a regular on this show. I think one of America's most brilliant economists, the author of the book "Greenspan's Fraud". Stick around, that is going to be a good one too. Bernie, back to the phone calls.
[Bernie Sanders]: Okay.
[Thom Hartmann]: Okay, Dave in central Idaho. You're on with Senator Bernie Sanders.
[Dave]: Hi! My name is David. I just want to throw some sunshine out on the whole thing. We do have a product that is really made in America, and every time you get on a commercial Boeing airliner it's the best in the world. It's made all in the United States. They moved their headquarters to Chicago, Illinois, which is not Dubai…
[Thom Hartmann]: They make their tail assemblies in China now, for the Boeing planes.
[Dave]: But I'm sure that the unions are really heavy in Seattle, and they are still making most of it in Seattle, and it's a Seattle Corporation. And their Corporation headquarters is in Chicago.
[Bernie Sanders]: Well that is good to hear. Obviously there are many products and many strong companies in the United States. But the fight that we have right now is to stop corporate America from destroying our manufacturing center. Moving to third world countries, paying people low wages and then bringing these products right back into this country. That whole trend is doing devastating harm to the working class of this country, and that's a major issue which frankly has not been discussed enough. So it's not just permanent normal trade relations with China. It's just not just NAFTA. It has to do with the WTO. It has to do with how do you develop trade policies which work for working families and not just for large CEOs. For the CEOs of large companies, which certainly has been the case for decades right now.
[Thom Hartmann]: Alex, in Palm Desert, California. You're on the air with Senator Bernie Sanders.
[Alex]: Hi! And congratulations for all you guys do and thanks from everybody out here. Senator Sanders, this is a follow-up on your constituent from Vermont and the Democrats bases in the Congress seemingly caving in on everything, this has to do specifically with Harry Reid. Is there any way, any mechanism that he can be replaced with someone who was someone with more fire, I mean you would be ideal even though you're an Independent. But there's a bunch of us out here that would love to see that happen, so--Waxman did it with Dingell, is it possible at all to get Harry Reid out of there and someone there with a little more fire? Thanks.
[Bernie Sanders]: Well, let me tell you, first of all, thank you, Alex. It will not be me and that's for sure. I think that Harry Reid may not have fire but Harry Reid has a very, very difficult job and that is, he has got to put together in one room people like myself, Barbara Boxer, and other progressives, along with some very, very conservative people. So it's easy to blame Harry but I think what you have to look at is who is in the Senate and the fact that he has got to put together a coalition of some pretty conservative people along with some quite progressive people. But I think the issue that we've got to focus on right now, Alex, is what is a progressive agenda? How do we achieve it? How do we demand that the Congress and the president pass it?
Understanding that every step of the way we will be opposed by big money interests who have enormous power. But we can do it, and we've got to do it. This country has got to join the rest of the industrialized world and have a national healthcare program guaranteeing health care to all people. You know what? That doesn't cost us any more money than the enormous amount that we are currently spending in a wasteful and bureaucratic system.
We have talked today over and over again about the need to change our trade policies. We have got to make sure that we have an early education program for kids. We have millions of kids today who are getting off to a terrible start, because they don't have the adequate child care that they need. We have millions of middle-class families that are having a very difficult time sending their kids to college. How do we create good paying jobs, breaking our dependency on foreign oil and moving to sustainable energy? How do we end the war in Iraq? Bring our troops home as soon as possible. Figure out what the right thing is to do in Afghanistan and create a different picture for us in the international community so that we are leaders in the effort for world peace. Not simply the largest military power on earth.
So, there is an enormous number of issues out there. Primarily restoring the middle-class, growing the middle class, lowering poverty. Dealing with this great gap between the rich and everybody else. Lot of work out there. We need to fight for a progressive agenda and we need to put as much pressure as we can on Congress because the opposition out there, whether it is Wall Street, military-industrial complex, drug companies, insurance companies, is just enormous.
[Thom Hartmann]: Cass in Phoenix Arizona, you're on with Senator Bernie Sanders. Hey, Cass. Hello? Okay, Renée in Camus, Washington. You're on with Senator Bernie Sanders.
[Renée]: Hi. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you. I am a realtor and have been a realtor for over 15 years in the United States here, specifically, Clark County. No one has addressed the subculture of realtors and what is happening in our industry. Everything has been focused on subprime mortgages, people that are losing their houses which is a very severe problem. But nobody has addressed, in the Congress or anything else, that whole category of professional people that are losing their jobs and they're being impacted nationally, as far as trying to pay bills and all the accoutrements that goes along with just daily living. Has anybody thought about maybe focusing on that a little bit? I mean I don't know how you can regroup after 15 years of being in an industry.
[Bernie Sanders]: Well, I think what Renée is saying is obviously there has been a lot of focus on foreclosures and the housing market plummeting. But maybe we're not paying attention to the people who are in that industry and what's happening to them. I think Renée--the simple and straightforward answer is that we can revitalize housing in this country if we can create a situation where people can afford to buy houses and keep their houses. Are you going to create an industry which is vibrant and people will be able to have jobs within that industry.
[Thom Hartmann]: And get access to credit and the banks don't seem to be doing that with a $350 billion that they've gotten so far.
[Bernie Sanders]: Well, that's exactly right and that is why I voted against that bailout and why we're going to fight very hard to make sure that we don't have another bailout without very strong conditions.
[Thom Hartmann]: There you go. Senator Bernie Sanders, "Brunch with Bernie". It's sanders.senate.gov is his website. Bernie thanks so much for being with us today.
[Bernie Sanders]: Good to be with you Thom.
[Thom Hartmann]: It's always great to have you on. And coming up next, Doctor Ravi Batra. Ravibatra.com his website. We'll be right back. Stick around. Thom Hartmann with you on "Anything goes Friday."
Transcribed by Caleb Burns.