Transcript: Thom Hartmann hosts Senator Bernie Sanders for "Brunch with Bernie" 11 Mar '11
Thom Hartmann: Greetings my friends, patriots, lovers of democracy, truth and justice, believers in peace, freedom and the American way. Thom Hartmann here with you. At the beginning of our second hour John Nichols will be dropping in with us, as he has every day this week and last, as I recall giving us an update on what’s going on in Wisconsin. Doug Cunningham, in our third hour, is going to drop by with workers independent News Service. He had a, shall we say a bit of a run in, in Madison. And he’ll tell you all about that. But first, it’s Friday, it’s our first hour of Friday. And welcome to Senator Bernie Sanders, our Brunch with Bernie hour. And Bernie, by the way senator Sanders will be taking your calls, 866-987-THOM. This is our national town hall meeting. And speaking of town hall meetings, first of all, Bernie welcome to the show.
Bernie Sanders: Good to be with you Thom.
Thom Hartmann: Thank you. I had a great time last Saturday at the town hall meeting in Montpelier, Vermont. My old, my old, I can’t call it hometown, I wasn’t born there, but feels like it. I lived there for a decade and loved the city.
Bernie Sanders: Well you did a great job. And I was delighted to see, we had over 500 Vermonters and some people from out of state, coming to the meeting to talk about the Citizen’s United decision. And I think what you saw at that meeting was people outraged at the Supreme Court decision which will allow billionaires and corporations to spend as much money as they want in the political process without any disclosure whatsoever. And we are going to be working on a constitutional amendment on that issue. But I thought it was a great meeting. You were great and we had a number of other panelists who were also very good. So thank you very much for being with us.
Thom Hartmann: My pleasure, my pleasure. By the way, Bernie, I wrote, what I think is the only book in print right now, on this, on the history of this decision. It’s called “Unequal Protection: How Corporations Became 'People'," which I was quoting from in my rant there. And TruthOut.org is going to serialize the entire book online. We’re putting the entire book, even though it’s a bestselling book right now, I don’t think this has ever been done before. Even though it’s doing really well. We’re going to put the entire book online one chapter each week and then it will stay there forever for free, over at TruthOut.org so people can get the real story of what happened behind Citizen’s United, how it got there.
Bernie Sanders: Well, that’s great. And again, this is an issue we have got to stay focused on. It is, I mean it’s too stupid to even talk about at great length, trying to defend a corporation being a person. It is an absurd ruling, brought by a 5-4 Supreme Court Republican majority, which will have a profound impact on making our previously totally inadequate campaign finance system much worse. And what it will mean is that some of the wealthiest people in this country can sit in a room and basically decide where they’re going to be putting their money, having huge impacts on elections, and do it without any disclosure whatsoever. All in the name of freedom of speech and that’s just totally absurd.
In any case, thanks for being there. Let me just touch on what I think is in the midst of a world in which so many things are happening, to my mind what I’ve been focused on is the budget situation in Washington. And let me be very clear. The Republicans in the house have brought forth a budget which in terms of the needs of working families and lower income people in this country is I suspect the most devastating in the modern history of this country and this is just the beginning. I know this all gets very complicated and it’s inside the beltway chatter here. What we’re talking about now is a continuing resolution, i.e. how you continue to fund the government through fiscal year 2011. And then we go to 2012 which is a whole other budget. But just for the fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution, for the remainder of this fiscal year…
Thom Hartmann: That’s up until September, right, the end of September?
Bernie Sanders: September 30th. I want people to hear what the Republicans are talking about and why it is absolutely imperative that we mobilize and say no, that you cannot balance the budget on the backs of the sick, the old, the children, the poor, the middle class. But there must be shared sacrifice. That it is basically immoral and bad economic policy to say we’re going to devastate program after program that impacts millions of working families but at the same time, not only are we going to not give, ask the wealthy, to pay any more in taxes, we’re going to continue the process to give them tax breaks. So what you have is a severe attack on working families and the rich get off scot-free at a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well, never done better, and a time when the effective, real tax rate for the richest people in this country is lower than it has been in recorded history, is lower than what a fireman or a cop or a nurse is paying in terms of effective tax rates at a time when these guys have gotten hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks already. So the unfairness of sticking it to working families who are hurting already in a recession, poverty is increasing. What they are doing is cutting programs for the poor. The rich are getting richer, they’re giving tax breaks to billionaires. That is, just to me, totally obscene.
Let me just, kick off, I want people to hear this, and hear it well. Because it’s going to impact millions and millions of Americans. 50 million people today have no health insurance. Many people can’t find a doctor. We have worked hard to expand community health centers so that millions more people can walk into a doctors office regardless of income and get healthcare, dental care, low cost prescription drugs. Republicans want to cut 1.3 billion in funding for community health centers, denying primary health care to about 11 million patients. Everybody knows, every working family knows, how hard it is to find good quality, affordable child care. Head Start has done an excellent job in providing an opportunity for working families to have their kids in good quality, early childhood education so when they get to the 1st grade they’re on par with the other kids. The Republican proposal would cut Head Start by 20%, eliminating the program for 218 thousand lower income kids. Got that? Over 200 thousand children would be thrown off of the Head Start program.
Thom Hartmann: At the same time billionaires are getting tax cuts.
Bernie Sanders: You got it. You got it. Everybody knows how expensive college is, many middle class families today can’t afford to send their kids to college. In recent years we’ve made an effort, not enough, to expand the Pell Grant program, the major source of grants from the federal government to low and moderate income families. Republicans want to slash the Pell Grant program by 5.7 billion dollars. Reducing or eliminating Pell Grants for 9.4 million low income college students. Got that? So everybody talks about how we have to be competitive in the global economy, how we need the best educated workforce in the world, and now we are going to slash Pell Grants for over 9 million low income college students, making college less and less affordable, and probably resulting in many of these young people not being able to go to college.
I can tell you in my office, my case workers get calls every week from elderly people, people with disabilities, who are upset about how long it takes for the Social Security Administration to process the claims that people are eligible for, for their benefits. What Republicans want to do is cut 1.7 billion dollars from the Social Security Administration, meaning significant delays for seniors and disabled Americans awaiting the benefits to which they are entitled.
Thom Hartmann: Wait a minute, the Republicans want to lay off the bureaucrats, I mean is a good word not a bad word, the people who write the checks and process the checks, they want to lay them off?
Bernie Sanders: Yeah. The people who process, right. Yeah. That’s right. 1.7 billion cuts to Social Security Administration. And then they will tell you, you see, Social Security really doesn’t work, you put in your claim, you can’t get it processed.
Thom Hartmann: Right.
Bernie Sanders: We have a situation now where poverty is increasing in America. Communication action programs all over this country, they are the places of last resort for poor people. Republicans want to cut them by 405 million dollars. On and on and on. This is just a small part of the list.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. That’s amazing, it’s amazing. Senator Bernie Sanders with us, it’s our brunch with Bernie. Check out Bernie’s website, Sanders.Senate.Gov. We’ll be back with your calls for Senator Sanders in our national town hall meeting, brunch with Bernie.
Thom Hartmann: That’s “I got work to do" by The Isley Brothers, requested by Vincent. We’re playing all labor bumpers this week. You can request them over at Jacob’s blog over at ThomHartmann.com. It’s our Brunch with Bernie hour, Senator Bernie Sanders with us. Bernie, you’re still here, right?
Bernie Sanders: I am still here.
Thom Hartmann: I got to tell you, I want to get right to the calls right away, but, as you can imagine with this kind of show we’re constantly monitoring the news. With what just happened in Japan, Daily Kos is reporting, you were talking about the budget. The Republicans continuing resolution, tucked into that is a provision cutting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including the National Weather Service, the people who will warn us if tsunamis are headed our way.
Bernie Sanders: I am not surprised. I mean, believe me, the list goes on and on. I just touched on some, just a few. This list goes on, it is devastating all across the board. And what I get upset about is it has not received the kind of coverage that it deserves. The American people need to know what the Republicans are talking about. And again, this is just for the 2011 budget. The next six months they’re going to come back in 2012 with more attacks on social security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Thom Hartmann: Yep. Okay, Ed in Swedesboro, New Jersey. Ed, you’re on the air with Senator Sanders.
Ed: Yeah how are you doing? You guys keep talking about how corporations are considered people? Well if that’s the case, why don’t they pay personal income taxes instead of corporate taxes?
Bernie Sanders: Well that’s a very good point. There is a lot to be said. If they are people, and they break the law, maybe they go to jail like every other person who breaks the law does. We can go on and on about the absurdity of corporations posing as people. During the town meeting that we did in Montpelier Vermont, Thom and others were talking about well maybe a company can walk in there and claim that they want to vote. Maybe Goldman Sachs wants a vote because they’re a person. I will tell you that one of the funniest moments, Ben & Jerry’s, I think many people know started a famous and successful ice cream company from Vermont and both Ben and Jerry were at the meeting. And Ben got up there and he said you know, my name is Ben I’m a person, this is Jerry, he’s a person. Ben & Jerry’s Company is not a person. And that’s about all that needs to be said about that.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. That got a good laugh and it’s really true. John in South Hadley, MA, you’re on the air with senator Bernie Sanders.
John: Hello, can you hear me?
Thom Hartmann: Yes. Perfectly.
John: First off, Mr. Sanders, thank you for everything you’ve done, you are the response to all politicians are crooked. Copernicans say, they’re not. My question is, at the beginning of this month there was a hearing, Department of Health and Human Services, and Kathleen Sebelius was questioned about a five million dollar Medicare cut that was for used for paying for the law and sustaining the program, she was told it was double counting and fraud. And there has been nothing in the paper or the media about this.
Bernie Sanders: Well I think it probably wasn’t five million, my guess is it was five billion. And I heard about it, it has been a busy week, John, and I just don’t, I don’t know the answer to your question. I think Fox News raised that issue, but I can’t give you more information, I apologize.
Thom Hartmann: Jeffrey, in Los Angeles, you’re on the air with Senator Sanders.
Jeffrey: Yes, Bernie?
Bernie Sanders: Yeah.
Jeffrey: This is Jeffrey and I’m a preschool teacher here in Los Angeles and my kids don’t come in until 11:15 and I was able to go to the nurse’s office here and make this phone call. I just wanted to thank you, number one, for the nine hour oratory you gave in congress. And I think you’re an absolute national hero and I actually started to cry when I heard this grandfather standing up for America. I know your children and grandchildren and the citizens you have are very proud of you. But my big question here was, what was the source of your information? I know you quoted, a lot of it came from a book written by a professor at a university, I missed that. I only watched five hours of that and I’m wondering what book did you get much of your information from? I want to buy the book.
Bernie Sanders: Well Jeff, we are, I don’t want to be too self serving here. “The Speech" is out, is a book. It’s called “The Speech." We used a lot of sourcing. Over the years I have given a lot of speeches on a lot of issues. We do a very good job in trying to make sure that everything that we’re saying is factually correct and I think everything in the book is factually correct. So there are a lot of different sources that we use, we even quoted from one of Thom Hartmann’s books.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah it was from “Rebooting the American Dream."
Bernie Sanders: So there’s a lot of information out there. And you know if you’re interested, the book is available out there.
Thom Hartmann: Right. And in fact I’m holding it up for the camera, for the people watching us on television. It’s called “The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of our Middle Class by senator Bernie Sanders. And it’s published by Nation Books, so it should be, you know in bookstores all over the country. And if not you can over to Nation Book’s website and order the book. And of course all the usual online sources.
Bernie Sanders: But yeah, everything we have in the book is factually correct and we used a lot of sources. But thanks very much for your kind words, Jeffrey.
Thom Hartmann: Okay. Galen in Santa Barbara, you’re on the air with Senator Sanders. We have a minute to the break, sir.
Galen: Yeah very quickly I wanted to thank you guys for what you’ve been doing. But specifically I’d like to say that the only way we’re going to turn things around is going to be with the voters. And I’m very concerned about making sure the voters have a right to vote. And I understand that in Texas they’re trying to put something through that they’ll only accept, they will accept for example if you have a gun permit card that’s okay, but other things which you normally use aren’t okay. I’m most concerned about what’s happening in Wisconsin and especially there’s a vote coming up very shortly with for the Wisconsin Supreme Court and then there’ll, beyond that, there will be the recall votes. And then beyond that of course 2012. I just really think it’s important that every citizen, and every progressive, and every person get out there and make sure they have valid, some kind of registered id card.
Bernie Sanders: Well here’s what is going on. Thank you for raising that issue. To my mind what democracy means is getting as many people out to vote as possible. What our Republican friend want to do is to limit the number of people who can vote through a number of gimmicks. One of them is for example if you don’t have driver’s license. Well what happens if you don’t have a car and you’re poor? So that’s a very important issue that has to be pursued.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah my mother didn’t have a driver’s license for 30 years, she wouldn’t be able to vote. Senator Bernie Sanders with us. We’ll be right back. Brunch with Bernie.
Thom Hartmann: “Another Day, Another Dollar" by Wynn Stewart, requested by Ephemera over at Jacob’s blog over at ThomHartmann.com. It’s our Brunch with Bernie hour, Senator Bernie Sanders with us. And Bernie, back to the calls here?
Bernie Sanders: Let’s do it.
Thom Hartmann: Okay. Let’s see here, David in Keane New Hampshire. David, thank you for listening to WZBK there in Keane.
David: Thank you. I am calling to ask about this fellow, is his name Peter King, that’s doing these hearings? Why does he have a problem with black terrorists and not the white terrorists that were in Ireland? Is he a racist?
Bernie Sanders: Well I think that David you’ll have to refer that question to Mr. King. But I think the idea of doing a hearing just focusing on one group of people in this country, the overwhelming majority of law abiding citizens, is unacceptable. Terrorism is a real issue, we want to make sure we protect the American people as best we can but to hold a hearing just on people of the Muslim faith seems to me to be total wrong.
Thom Hartmann: And a distraction from the real economic issues that are facing us.
Bernie Sanders: well, much of what goes on in Washington is a distraction, you know, from the real issues. And the real issue is not complicated. The real issue is that the middle class in America today, despite huge increases in productivity over recent years, middle class is collapsing. It’s not only, Thom, you know we talk about unemployment, and that’s a huge issue. Real unemployment today is about 16%. If you factor in people who have given up looking for work, people working part time when they want to work full time. But the other part of the story is that most of the new jobs that are being created are low wage jobs.
Thom Hartmann: Right.
Bernie Sanders: Not middle class jobs. And that is the trend for the future. And that is why we’ve got to reverse this trickle-down economic type of policies. We’ve got to stop giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country. We’ve got to deal with the trade issue. I wanted to mention something, Thom, if I might, very briefly. During the, this week, and I think I mentioned it on the show. We’ve been dealing with the Smithsonian Museum, in terms of their gift shops there in Washington. And the Smithsonian is a great institution, great museums.
But their gift shops, we noticed were selling many, many products, including little statuettes of presidents of the United States, of George Washington and Barack Obama, and many other products, made in China. Made in other low wage countries. And ABC has done a very good job focusing on issues like this. We have just talked to the Smithsonian and what we were told a couple of days ago is one of their gift shops will in a few months sell exclusively products made in the United States of America and they promise us that they’re going to do a lot better of job in trying to sell products in general made in America. So I think we’re making a little bit of progress there.
Point being, when you talk about the decline of the middle class you have to tie that to the fact that we’ve lost some 50 thousand factories in this country in the last 10 years. Harder and harder to buy products made in America because of our trade policies. That has got to be reversed. We’ve got to have corporate America investing in this country and creating decent paying jobs here.
Thom Hartmann: Amen. Jeff, in Portland, Oregon. Listening to AM620 KPOJ, you are on the air with Senator Sanders.
Jeff: Good morning. I have a question. If President Reagan suspended the Sherman Anti-trust Act when he was president…
Thom Hartmann: Well he didn’t wholly suspend it, he just basically stopped enforcement of it, or reduced the threshold for enforcement of it.
Jeff: Why can’t President Obama reinstate it?
Bernie Sanders: Well, Jeff that’s a good question. It’s not a question of suspending it or reinstating it, it’s a question of how aggressive your Attorney General is going to apply it. And I think that’s a very good question. What I think Jeff is talking about is in industry after industry what you see is just incredible concentrations of ownership. And theoretically what we are supposed to be living in is a free enterprise competitive capitalist society where competition, vigorous competition, is supposed to benefit the consumer. And yet you name the industry, whether it’s media, whether it is certainly the financial industry, whether it is agriculture. You name it and what you are seeing is fewer and fewer large corporations dominating those industries.
The most startling example is in the financial industry. And that is that you have four huge banks in this country today. Four. That have assets of over half of the GDP of the United States of America. They write half the mortgages and two thirds of the credit cards. It doesn’t take a genius or a PhD in economics to understand that that is not a competitive financial industry and that you’ve got to break these guys up. But I think Jeff’s point is that for many years, certainly under Bush, we saw almost no activity, anti-trust activity, and we’re certainly not seeing enough under President Obama.
Thom Hartmann: Excuse me, hang on just a second here, Bernie. I just lost my screen. Okay, here. Okay back we are. Let’s see here, Mike in Detroit, you are on the air with Senator Bernie Sanders.
Mike: Oh can you hear me?
Thom Hartmann: Yes sir, you are on the air.
Mike: Thank you for taking my call. I was thinking about the Republicans are trying to, excuse me I have Parkinson’s Disease. The entitlements, they’re trying to reduce entitlements, especially Medicare?
Bernie Sanders: Yes.
Mike: I found a source of waste, totaling about a hundred million dollars that takes place every year. I’ve been trying to get it to someone’s attention but everyone seems to think there’s no one to give this information to.
Bernie Sanders: Well you can send it to me for a start, send it to your senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow from Michigan who do a very good job. Call up your senators office and chat with some staffer there, and take it from there. But if you wanted to send the information to me as well, we’d be happy to take a look at it.
Thom Hartmann: That’s Sanders.Senate.Gov, right?
Bernie Sanders: Yes.
Thom Hartmann: Okay Mike in O’Fallon Illinois. Mike you’re on the air with Senator Bernie Sanders.
Mike: How are you doing today?
Bernie Sanders: Good.
Mike: I was just wondering why they’re proposing this bill that seems to take all the cuts from the lower income people and yet you hear about cuts, I mean that we’re giving money to big oil and things like that. I just wonder why we are not cutting out some of these kind of things instead of everything against the poor people and if that is true, then why don’t you hear about it on the news?
Bernie Sanders: Well Mike, thank you very much. And let me just tell you a little bit about legislation that I introduced yesterday. Mike you are exactly right. What is going on as I mentioned a moment ago. Horrendous attacks, you name the program, it is being attacked by the Republicans. Massive cuts at a time when poverty is increasing they are going to cut back on the needs of low income people and middle class people. Meanwhile while the rich get richer, Republicans are going to continue to give them more in tax breaks. The legislation that we have introduced yesterday does two things. Number one, it places a 5.4% surtax on income of over one million dollars. Okay, that would raise about 50 billion dollars a year which even in Washington is real money. So it would prevent us, it would allow us not to cut back on Head Start, on education, on healthcare, on community service grants that impact low income people. It would prevent us from having to impose as the Republicans want, if you can believe it, a 30% cut in the EPA so that we’re not regulating companies that make our air and water filthy, etc., etc.
The second thing that we do, to Mike’s point, is we end tax breaks for big oil and gas companies. The fact of the matter is that over the past decade the five largest oil companies in the US have earned nearly a trillion dollars in profit. Meanwhile some of the very largest companies in this country have paid absolutely nothing in federal income tax. How’s that? Pretty good idea. So we think we should end that, we’d raise about 3 and ½ billion a year doing that. So to answer Mike’s question, he is absolutely right and he’s also absolutely right is that what the Republicans are trying to do in terms of decimating programs that millions and millions of people depend upon, people who are really hurting today have not gotten the kind of media attention it deserves.
Thom Hartmann: Mike in Atlanta Georgia, you’re on the air with Senator Bernie Sanders.
Mike: Senator Sanders, it’s very nice to talk with you. My name is Mike, I live in Atlanta.
Bernie Sanders: How are you Mike?
Mike: Oh I’m good. I understand your philosophy and we all know the budget problems that we’re in. I’m just curious. We have massive deficits in this country. What programs, Senator Sanders, are you willing to cut, or the Democrats willing to cut, and shouldn’t it be a situation where we cut every program until we get this, so that our, my generation, so that my children’s generation and my grandchildren’s generation aren’t paying for this massive debt that we’ve accumulated?
Bernie Sanders: Mike, you’re absolutely right. I think that the deficit is a very, very serious problem. I have four kids and six grandchildren and we do not want to leave them a legacy of debt. But here’s the point, Mike. What a budget is about is two things. It is spending and I believe absolutely that we should cut unnecessary spending. And I think that there is probably no agency of government where cuts cannot take place. I would point out that in the defense department we have almost tripled funding since 1997. A lot of weapons systems there that we could take a look at. But not exclusively to defense, there are other agencies too. But there has got to be revenue raised as well. So maybe we’ll pursue that, Thom, when we come back.
Thom Hartmann: Sure. We’ll pick that up on the other side of the break. Senator Bernie Sanders is with us. It’s our Brunch with Bernie hour here on the Thom Hartmann Program. Excuse me. Our national town hall meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. We’ll be right back.
Thom Hartmann: “Which Side Are You On" by Natalie Merchant, one of our most requested songs including by Doug Mays over at Jacob’s blog. Welcome back, it’s the Thom Hartmann program and it’s our Brunch with Bernie hour, our national town hall meeting. Bernie, just as we hit the break in the last segment, you were talking about the budget.
Bernie Sanders: Well Mike was saying, expressing concern about the deficit, and Mike is absolutely right. And what Mike, and others have got to appreciate is how we got to where we are today in terms of the deficit. Let’s not forget when Clinton left office we had a huge surplus. As a result of two wars unpaid for, huge tax breaks for the wealthy, unpaid for. Medicare Part D insurance program prescription drug program written by the insurance companies unpaid for, all pushed by Republicans, Wall Street bailout, unpaid for. We are now in a serious deficit situation. So Mike, my point is do we have to cut spending in certain areas? We do. I think we’ve got to look hard but we should do it. Including defense spending. But you cannot simply move towards a balanced budget by cutting cutting cutting and at the same time giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country. It is wrong to throw kids off of Head Start and say to the rich who are getting richer, and we now have a situation, Thom, there was a piece I think in Forbes. The 400 wealthiest families in this country own more wealth than the bottom 50% of families. Got that? 400 small number are more wealthy than the bottom 50% of American families. They have got to be shared sacrifice. You don’t throw children off of Head Start, you don’t deny healthcare to low income people and then say to the wealthiest people, you don’t have to contribute at all, in fact we’re going to give you tax breaks. That, I think, is wrong.
Thom Hartmann: Okay. Wendy in Matthews, North Carolina, You’re on with Senator Sanders.
Wendy: Oh thank you so much, you guys are both heroes of mine. One of the things that’s been frustrating me in the news media is not talking about something that seems pretty obvious to me. The Republicans keep giving these massive tax breaks to corporations with the idea that then those corporations will move to their state and create jobs. What I am wondering is that you know, and then obviously they’re doing this by cutting all of the public services and schools and all these sorts of things. Every time my husband and I have relocated to an area because a company wanted to move us, one of the reasons the company moved there was because of the good schools, good infrastructure, state parks, all of the things that contribute to quality of life was actually a bigger positive for us moving into, or my husband accepting a job in a particular area, than you know than his salary was. And I’m wondering if the Republicans are cutting off their nose to spite their face in these tax cuts that are going to make low taxes is not really going to bring jobs to their states. Because if the schools are terrible, they’re not going to be able to attract employees with them.
Bernie Sanders: Right. Well Wendy I think you make a very, very good point. One of the things that happens is states compete against other states, countries compete against other countries. Giving more and more tax breaks and benefits to large corporations and then as you’ve just indicated, more articulately than I have is that there is less public money available for schools, for parks, for quality of life. And I, can’t say any more than you have. I think you are absolutely right. What we should point out in terms of corporate tax breaks, you have large corporations in America today who are making substantial amounts of revenue and are paying nothing in taxes. The percentage of revenue that corporations are now contributing into our national coffers compared to individual taxes has gone way, way down in recent years. So I think the point you make is a very good one.
Thom Hartmann: Jim in Seattle, you’re on the air with Senator Bernie Sanders.
Jim: Gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. Hey I have a question for you and I would like your opinion on this, to see if I can make sense here. Okay, 88% of the economic power that takes place is your common buyer, goods and services rendered. Whether it’s an insurance company or say a sandwich shop, or a restaurant, or a tire store. Your general person that is a worker, like say your middle class, is the one who keeps these businesses going. Is the one who brings revenue to these businesses.
Bernie Sanders: Right.
Jim: So if you’re in the top 400 of the wealthy that own these businesses, now why would you want to come up with a game plan like the GOP has to basically lessen the economic power, lessen earnings. Isn’t that a way almost like eventually bankrupting yourself by doing that, following that pattern? It doesn’t make any sense to me.
Bernie Sanders: Good question. I’ll give you my answer. What I think Jim is taking about is he’s thinking about Henry Ford who was a very strange guy who, you know, started the first mass production of automobiles in America in Michigan. And Ford had the idea, Ford paid very good wages to his workers. I think at that point he paid $5 a day which was an excellent wage. Is that number right, Thom, do you remember?
Thom Hartmann: It is. The prevailing wage was a dollar a day and that’s why Horace Dodge sued him in Michigan Supreme Court and ultimately lost.
Bernie Sanders: Alright so, prevailing wage was a buck a day, Henry Ford is paying five times the prevailing wage. And people said Mr. Ford you’re crazy, why are you paying those outrageous wages to your workers? And you know what Ford said, he said, “I want them to have the money to be able to buy my automobile." And what Jim, our last caller is saying, doesn’t it make sense for working people in this country to have a decent income so they can go out and buy the products that the companies are selling?
And the answer is that I would give you Jim is that I think what many of the leaders of corporate America has decided upon is their future is not necessarily with the United States of America. They are looking at a global economy. And while they may be based in the United States today, tomorrow in fact they may be based in China. They really don’t stay up nights worrying about American workers. They’re worrying about the short term process of their companies and what their compensation is about. I remember Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric. He said I wish if I had my druthers he said our factories would be on barges, i.e. we could move them to the lowest paying countries in the world. If wages went up, we move them to someplace else.
Thom Hartmann: Just to punctuate that Bernie, GE this year for the first time made more than 50% of their income outside the United States than inside the United States.
Bernie Sanders: So you know to answer Jim’s question, is trust me these guys are not staying up worrying about the American middle class or the American worker.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah, there you go. Senator Bernie Sanders, Bernie thanks again so much for this town hall meeting, for being on the show with us.
Bernie Sanders: Okay, well great to be with you Thom. Bye bye.
Thom Hartmann: It’s great talking with you. Well see you next week. Brunch with Bernie. Get over to Bernie Sanders’ website there at Sanders.Senate.Gov. Check it out.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.