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Bernie Sanders

The Vox conversation

When Sen. Bernie Sanders launched his presidential campaign, few treated it as a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton. Sanders, after all, isn’t even a Democrat: He’s a "democratic socialist." But his campaign struck a chord. He’s raised more than $15 million, primarily from small donors, and he’s turning out the largest crowds of the presidential race. But amidst all the media attention given to Sanders’s rapid political rise, there’s not been that much exploration of what he actually believes.

So on July 16, Vox sat down with Sanders for a wide-ranging interview about his policy ideas and political theories. The discussion touched on everything from single payer to open borders to Zionism, but it began with perhaps the best-known but least-understood facet of Sanders’s political philosophy: his self-identification as a socialist. A transcript of the conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows.

to make sure that everybody in this country gets the nutrition they need, why I'm fighting to expand Social Security benefits and not cut them, making sure that every kid in this country regardless of income can go to college. That's what a civilized nation does.

Here's the point. This is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but nobody in America knows it because their standard of living is going down and almost all of the new wealth is going to the top 1 percent. That is an issue that we have to deal with.

In the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, the top one-tenth of 1 percent should not own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Everybody in this country should in fact have at least a minimum and dignified standard of living. All right?

Ezra Klein

Tell me what it means to be a socialist.

Bernie Sanders

A democratic socialist. What it means is that one takes a hard look at countries around the world who have successful records in fighting and implementing programs for the middle class and working families.

When you do that, you automatically go to countries like Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and other countries that have had labor governments or social democratic governments, and what you find is that in virtually all of those countries, health care is a right of all people and their systems are far more cost-effective than ours, college education is virtually free in all of those countries, people retire with better benefits, wages that people receive are often higher, distribution of wealth and income is much fairer, their public education systems are generally stronger than ours.

And by and large their governments tend to represent the needs of their middle class and working families rather than billionaires and campaign contributors. When I talk about being a democratic socialist, those are the countries that I am looking at, and those are the ideas that I think we can learn a lot from.

Ezra Klein

What is the underlying principle there? What are the situations where you look at a given area of the economy and say, "That's something we should turn over to the market," or, "That's something we should possibly federalize"?

Bernie Sanders

Good questions. Health care, to my mind, is a right of all people. That's what I believe. I think every man, woman, and child is entitled to health care, and that right exists in virtually every other major industrialized country on Earth. We are the odd guys out there. Despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act we have 35 million people who still have no health insurance, and, more importantly, millions more are underinsured with high copayments and high deductibles.

I think a Medicare-for-all, full-single-payer approach is the way to do it.

I believe in Medicare for all people, and I think that is not an area where private insurance companies should be functioning, because once you have private insurance companies their goal is to make as much money as possible, not to provide quality care. In terms of health care, yeah, we should have a public health-care system guaranteeing health care to all people in a cost-effective way. I think a Medicare-for-all, full-single-payer approach is the way to do it.

In terms of education, I don't know how you have the United States being competitive in a global economy if we do not have the best-educated workforce in the world. What does that mean? It means that everybody should be able to get all of the education they need, regardless of the income of their families. What does that mean? It means we should go back to where we were 50 years ago and what Germany and many other countries are doing, and say, "You want to go to college? You have the ability to go to college? You have the desire to go to college? Public colleges and universities will be tuition-free," because education must be a right of all people.

It seems to me that when you look at basic necessities of life — education, health care, nutrition — there must be a guarantee that people receive what they need in order to live a dignified life.

Ezra Klein

The argument people make about single-payer is that a tremendous amount of health-care innovation around the world is other countries freeloading on the amount of money Americans pay to induce innovation in the pharmaceutical sector, in the medical device sector. Do you worry that if we were successful in pushing down those prices, we would actually see a slowdown in health-care innovation?

Bernie Sanders

I don't. A lot of the money in health-care research goes into me-too drugs, copycat drugs where they will come up with another drug that really doesn't substantially increase the kinds of benefits that it has on the patient. In my view, the high cost of prescription drugs is a huge issue — it's an economic issue, it is a moral issue — and I very much reject what goes on in this country right now. Right now in America, uniquely among major countries, drug companies can double the prices for a drug tomorrow for no particular reason, just because they can make more money. We have seen that with name-brand drugs; now we're seeing it increasingly with generic drugs.

I think absolutely that the cost of prescription drugs should be regulated. I will never forget taking a group of Vermont women across the border to Canada, where they purchased medicine they needed for breast cancer at one-tenth the price they were paying in the United States of America. I also find it very interesting that many of my friends who are great free traders, who want to see lettuce and tomatoes brought in from small farms in Mexico, have no problem with the fact that we cannot import name-brand prescription drugs from other countries around the world. That speaks to the power of the pharmaceutical industry.

I talk to physicians who work in working-class communities, and they tell me one-quarter of the prescriptions they write are not filled. That is insane. I think we need to deal with the cost of prescription drugs very, very differently than is currently the case.

Ezra Klein

You said being a democratic socialist means a more international view. I think if you take global poverty that seriously, it leads you to conclusions that in the US are considered out of political bounds. Things like sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders. About sharply increasing ...

Bernie Sanders

Open borders? No, that's a Koch brothers proposal.

Ezra Klein

Really?

Bernie Sanders

Of course. That's a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States. ...

Ezra Klein

But it would make ...

Bernie Sanders

Excuse me ...

Ezra Klein

It would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn't it?

Bernie Sanders

It would make everybody in America poorer —you're doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don't think there's any country in the world that believes in that. If you believe in a nation state or in a country called the United States or UK or Denmark or any other country, you have an obligation in my view to do everything we can to help poor people. What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don't believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country, I think we have to do everything we can to create millions of jobs.

You know what youth unemployment is in the United States of America today? If you're a white high school graduate, it's 33 percent, Hispanic 36 percent, African American 51 percent. You think we should open the borders and bring in a lot of low-wage workers, or do you think maybe we should try to get jobs for those kids?

I think from a moral responsibility we've got to work with the rest of the industrialized world to address the problems of international poverty, but you don't do that by making people in this country even poorer.

Ezra Klein

Then what are the responsibilities that we have? Someone who is poor by US standards is quite well off by, say, Malaysian standards, so if the calculation goes so easily to the benefit of the person in the US, how do we think about that responsibility?

We have a nation-state structure. I agree on that. But philosophically, the question is how do you weight it? How do you think about what the foreign aid budget should be? How do you think about poverty abroad?

Bernie Sanders

I do weigh it. As a United States senator in Vermont, my first obligation is to make certain kids in my state and kids all over this country have the ability to go to college, which is why I am supporting tuition-free public colleges and universities. I believe we should create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and ask the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. I believe we should raise the minimum wage to at least 15 bucks an hour so people in this county are not living in poverty. I think we end the disgrace of some 20 percent of our kids living in poverty in America. Now, how do you do that?

What you do is understand there's been a huge redistribution of wealth in the last 30 years from the middle class to the top tenth of 1 percent. The other thing that you understand globally is a horrendous imbalance in terms of wealth in the world. As I mentioned earlier, the top 1 percent will own more than the bottom 99 percent in a year or so. That's absurd. That takes you to programs like the IMF and so forth and so on.

But I think what we need to be doing as a global economy is making sure that people in poor countries have decent-paying jobs, have education, have health care, have nutrition for their people. That is a moral responsibility, but you don't do that, as some would suggest, by lowering the standard of American workers, which has already gone down very significantly.

Ezra Klein

Do you think service sector jobs can be made into high-wage jobs?

Bernie Sanders

Not only do I think they can, I know they can. If you look at what the culinary workers have done in Las Vegas, you have people who are cleaning toilets, who are making beds, who are making $35,000 or $40,000 a year and have good health-care benefits. So the answer is there's nothing magical [about working in a factory]. I mean, what we have historically seen in this country, until recently, by the way, is that if you worked at a union factory in Detroit —and this is changing, sadly, as part of the race to the bottom — generally speaking, you can make a middle-class wage, $20 to $25 an hour, you have good benefits, you have a retirement program. And that's being attacked every single day.

There's nothing holy about working in a factory as opposed to making a bed or cleaning a toilet. In the case of workers in the hotel industry, we have seen with good unions they can in fact earn a living wage and good benefits.

Bernie Sanders

Ezra Klein

So is it fair to say, then, that your strategy for bringing back that middle class, for improving those jobs, is increasing union density?

Bernie Sanders

Oh, absolutely. No question about it.

Ezra Klein

How do you do that?

Bernie Sanders

You do that by passing legislation which makes it easier for workers to join unions. Right now it is pretty hard. I'm not telling you every worker wants to join a union, that's not true, but you've got millions of people who do. Right now employers are able to take workers, put them in a private room, threaten them that if this company becomes union we're moving to China, or say that if you try and organize the union, well, you've been late lately, I'm afraid we'll have to fire you.

I think we have to make it easier. There's legislation — which I support — the Employee Free Choice Act that says if 50 [percent of] workers in an agency plus one sign a union card, they have a union. And I believe in that.

Ezra Klein

That legislation had, as I remember, virtually every Democrat sign on to it in 2008, and Democrats had huge majorities in Congress in 2009, and it just didn't go anywhere. What makes you optimistic it can be passed?

Bernie Sanders

I think what we need in this country is to understand that given the power of corporate America, the billionaire class, the big campaign contributors, what takes place in the United States Congress today has nothing to do with the reality of middle-class working families in this country. It has to do with the power of big money. The only way that real change is going to take place is when millions of people get involved in the political process and tell the United States Congress and any president of the United States that "You have to start working for us and not just for the wealthiest people in this country." When that happens, huge things occur.

Let me give you an example. Three or four years ago, the minimum wage was $7 and a quarter, and no one was talking about it. You know what's happened because of grassroots organizing? Not only have [cities] and states all over this country raised the minimum wage because of grassroots activism, what you saw recently a few weeks ago in a Wall Street Journal poll, by a 10 percent margin the American people think we should raise the minimum wage, not to $10.10, which Republicans oppose, but to 15 bucks an hour.

Give you another example. Social Security. You have heard here in Washington virtually every Republican wants to cut Social Security, right? That's their mantra. You know what the American people want, according to that same poll, by a 3-to-1 margin? They don't want to cut Social Security, they want to expand Social Security benefits by lifting the cap on taxable income.

When you organize at the grassroots level, whether it's gay rights, raising the minimum wage, expanding Social Security, that's when change takes place.

Ezra Klein

I think a lot of people would have thought that the amount of grassroots support Democrats had in 2008 would've led to that kind of effect. Why don't you think it did?

Bernie Sanders

Because the Democrats, to a much too great degree, are separated from working families. Are the Democrats 10 times, 100 times, better on all of the issues than the Republicans? They surely are, but I think it would be hard to imagine if you walked out of here or walked down the street or went a few miles away from here and you stopped somebody on the street and you said, "Do you think that the Democratic Party is the party of the American working class?" People would look at you and say, "What are you talking about?"

There was a time — I think under Roosevelt, maybe even under Truman — where it was perceived that working people were part of the Democratic Party. I think for a variety of reasons, a lot having to do with money and politics, that is no longer the case. In my view that is exactly what shouldn't be happening. Instead of spending all of our time raising money, I think we should go out organizing people and getting them to unite around a progressive agenda which expands the middle class, which tells the billionaire class that they cannot have it all, which says to corporate America, "You're going to have to start paying your fair share of taxes," which says we're going to raise the minimum wage, we're going to make college available to all regardless of their income, that we are going to have pay equity for women workers, that we are going to create millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. You need a progressive agenda, then you need the ability to go out and organize people. When that happens, things change here; it's not the other way around.

Ezra Klein

What does it mean to organize people?

Bernie Sanders

That's a great question. In terms of my campaign, on July 29 we will be holding, as I understand it, at least 1,000 organizing meetings simultaneously all over this country involving 20,000 or 30,000 people. What we will be urging our supporters to do is to go out, knock on doors, register the people to vote, talk about the important issues facing our country in a way that the media very often does not. Talk to our Republican friends and neighbors and ask them why they are voting for candidates who are prepared to send their jobs to China, deny their kids the ability to have health care or get a higher education, engage people in that discussion.

I often make the joke, although it's not such a joke, that if we can spend half of the time in this country talking about why the middle class is collapsing, as opposed to football or baseball, we would revolutionize what's going on in America. I want that discussion. I want to know why the rich get richer and everybody else gets poorer. I want to know why the United States is the only major country on Earth that doesn't provide health care to all of its people, the only major country that doesn't have family and medical leave so that women can stay home with their kids when they have a baby. Those are the questions we should be discussing.

Ezra Klein

You talk a lot about the class outcomes in the American economy. Another way of cutting a lot of these issues, and it came up when you talked about youth employment, is by race. Do you think we need specific issues to address the racial wealth gap, the racial jobs gap?

Bernie Sanders

Sure. Everybody knows that racism has existed from day one. Think about what people who came from Europe did to the Native Americans, the atrocities committed. Think about the horrors of slavery. Think about what we did to the Asian folks that came to build the railroads and the Asian Exclusion Act. Think about discrimination against Italians, Irish, Jews, virtually everybody else who was not like the people who were here. What we're seeing today is of course some people developing a wage issue between native-born Americans and those people who have come into our country.

We have 51 percent of African-American kids who are unemployed, the poverty rates in the African-American community are far higher than whites, the wealth ownership much lower than whites, so of course we have that gap.

What we have got to do is create economic policies that improve the lives of all of our people. The white working class is disappearing, the middle class is disappearing, and it's worse in Hispanic and African-American communities. We have got to come together and develop economic policies which improve the lives of all of our people. In terms of prejudice, yeah, of course that's an extra issue. Is there racism in America? Of course there is. We've seen an explosion of that recently.

Ezra Klein

When you talk about the power that the billionaire class has over outcomes in American Congress, in American politics, a lot of the reason is that politicians end up traveling in the CEO/Wall Street class. How do you think the actual class of politicians' social networks ends up affecting political outcomes?

Bernie Sanders

The answer is you're right, but I would approach it from another way. If I am a regular politician and I need to raise $20 million to run for the United States Senate, or $50 million, where am I going to go to? You think I'm going to go to the American Legion hall? A trade union hall, talk to working-class people? Especially with the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, where we saw the candidates are increasingly dependent on the very, very wealthy.

I'm a regular politician, and I'm proud, by the way, the vast majority of our money comes from working people, not from the rich, but if I'm a normal politician who needs to raise $20 million, $50 million, where am I going to go? I'm going to sit down with the wealthy, I'm going to go to the country club, I'm going to do my fundraisers at fancy resorts, and I get to know those people. But that's the whole point of this corrupt campaign finance system. If you're going to contribute a million dollars to my Super PAC, well, maybe it's you're a hell of a nice guy and you like to participate, or maybe you want something. I think you want something, and you and I are going to become really good buddies so I can do your bidding. In other words, the millionaire class and the billionaire class increasingly own the political process, and they own the politicians that go to them for money.

I worry very much, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, that we are moving very, very quickly from a democratic society, one person, one vote, to an oligarchic form of society, where billionaires would be determining who the elected officials of this country are. I'm going to do everything I can to stop that.

Ezra Klein

When you say you want to see elections be publicly funded, do you want to cut the ability to privately fund them?

Bernie Sanders

The first thing that I want to do is overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which is a total disaster. Free speech does not equal the ability of people to buy elections, and what I've said is if elected president of the United States, any Supreme Court nomination I make will make it very clear that he or she is going to vote to overturn Citizens United.

Second of all, I think what you want to do is at least make sure that candidates who are running will have as much money as their opponents, who may have unlimited sums of money. Thirdly, I think there are various ways — and we're going to come out with a position on it — various ways that you can approach the issue. One way which I find intriguing is that you basically provide $100 for every citizen in the United States of America, and you say to that person, "Here's your hundred bucks, you can make a contribution, you can get a $100 tax credit if you spend $100 on any candidate you want." I think that would democratize very significantly the political process in America and take us a long way away from these Super PACS controlled by billionaires who are now buying elections.

Ezra Klein

I want to make a turn to foreign policy. Is there a particular foreign policy school of thought you ascribe to? Do you describe yourself as a realist or a democratic socialist?

Bernie Sanders

I don't know what that means. I trust we're all realists.

Ezra Klein

I'm not sure we are.

Bernie Sanders

I don't know what that word means. Look, here's what I will tell you. When you talk about foreign policy you're talking about many, many things, but maybe the most important thing that you're talking about is war. Voting to go to war is the most difficult decision that any member of Congress has to make. I'll tell you a little bit about my foreign policy history if you like.

I was elected in 1990 to the House. You remember the first Gulf War once Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait? The first Bush was telling us the only alternative was war. The only way we can get them out — you have your whole world united against Saddam Hussein, and President Bush was saying the only way we can get him out is an invasion of that region. I voted no. That was a tough vote, because most people believed that we should go to war.

In 2003 the second Bush told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that it was absolutely imperative that we invade Iraq, that our soldiers would come home in six months, that we would establish democracy in Iraq and perhaps the whole region, everything would be wonderful. I didn't believe it, and if you check the speeches I gave on the floor of the House, sadly much of what I said about the destabilizing impact of that invasion turned out to be true.

I'm not a pacifist, and I understand that sometimes you do have to go to war. I think war is the very, very, very last option. In terms of Iran, which is what we're dealing with right now, I applaud the President and I applaud Secretary Kerry for their enormously difficult work of trying to reach out an agreement with the P5+1 in Iran, to try to figure out how we can prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, which to me is an absolute imperative, but you do it in a way that doesn't go to war. I get very nervous listening to many of my Republican colleagues who apparently have learned nothing from the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and they're ready to go to war again, that's the simple truth.

I am the former chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee. Most people don't know that. People know that we lost 6,700 brave women in Iraq and Afghanistan. They don't know that 500,000 came home with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, and they don't know what that has done to those individuals and to their families. Before you go to war, you explore every other option. That would be the basic tenet of my foreign policy.

Ezra Klein

If it came down to it, do you think it is worth it for America to go to war to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?

Bernie Sanders

That's a hypothesis. You're asking me a hypothetical, and I surely applaud what the president has done to prevent us from looking at that option.

Ezra Klein

You won't say if that was the choice whether ...

Bernie Sanders

That is not the choice right now. I've got to examine this proposal. It just came out the other day, and I can't tell you I've read every word of it; I have not. What the president has tried to do is to make it certain that we have a verifiable agreement that prevents Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I applaud him very, very much. That's where we are right now, and I hope after examining this treaty, I hope and expect that I can be strongly supportive of it.

Ezra Klein

Let me ask you, then, not a hypothetical but a retrospective. Should America have intervened to stop the Rwandan genocide?

Bernie Sanders

Yes, but it's not just America. This is the damn problem that we face. We are spending more money on the military than the next nine countries behind us. Where is the UK? Where is France? Germany is the economic powerhouse in Europe. They provide health care to all of their people, they provide free college education to their kids. You know what? Germany and France and the UK and Scandinavia and the rest of Europe, all of us have got to work together to prevent those types of genocide and atrocities, and we have to strengthen the United Nations in order to do that.

Ezra Klein

Do you view yourself as a Zionist?

Bernie Sanders

A Zionist? What does that mean? Want to define what the word is? Do I think Israel has the right to exist, yeah, I do. Do I believe that the United States should be playing an even-handed role in terms of its dealings with the Palestinian community in Israel? Absolutely I do.

Again, I think that you have volatile regions in the world, the Middle East is one of them, and the United States has got to work with other countries around the world to fight for Israel's security and existence at the same time as we fight for a Palestinian state where the people in that country can enjoy a decent standard of living, which is certainly not the case right now. My long-term hope is that instead of pouring so much military aid into Israel, into Egypt, we can provide more economic aid to help improve the standard of living of the people in that area.

Ezra Klein

Let me ask you about the economic side of foreign policy. I think one of the overwhelming background issues, and sometimes the foreground issue, is whether the economic rise of, particularly, China, but to some degree India and others, necessarily means a diminishment in American power and sway. Do you see it as zero sum in that way?

Bernie Sanders

No. I should also tell you when you talk about foreign policy, what you didn't ask me, which may be as important an issue as any, is the issue of climate change. If you talk to the CIA, if you talk to the Department of Defense, and I have, what they will tell you is that one of the great security issues facing this planet is the fact that as we see more and more drought, as poor people around the world are unable to grow the food they need to survive, you're going to see migrations of people in international climate.

I happen to believe that when you talk about foreign policy, a the very top of the list is the need for the United States to lead the world, to work with China, work with Russia, work with India in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. This is not just an "environmental issue," this is also a global national security issue as well.

Ezra Klein

Do you think the international capacity and relationships exist to price carbon in a verifiable way?

Bernie Sanders

Yeah, I do, and we've introduced legislation to do that.

Look, I happen to agree with Pope Francis and with virtually all of the scientific community. I'm a member of both the Energy Committee and the Environmental Committee. I listen to what the scientists say not only in America but around the world, and that is climate change is real, it's caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating problems.

It is an international crisis, and I have to tell you, without being overtly political here, it is an embarrassment to me that we have a major political party called the Republican Party, which with few exceptions refuses to even recognize the reality of climate change, let alone [be] prepared to do anything about it. That is an embarrassment, that you have a major party refusing to listen to science.

Ezra Klein

Do you believe we need to price carbon?

Bernie Sanders

Yes.

Ezra Klein

Would you do it through a carbon tax or cap and trade?

Bernie Sanders

Carbon tax.

Ezra Klein

Why?

Bernie Sanders

It's the simple and direct way to do it, and I've introduced legislation with Senator [Barbara] Boxer to do just that. Once you're into cap and trade you're into all kinds of complicated stuff. Folks on Wall Street are going to make a whole lot of money.

Look, we have got to come up and answer a simple question. Are the scientists right or are they wrong? If they are right they're telling us that the planet Earth will be 5 to 10 degrees warmer by the end of this century Fahrenheit. That will cause cataclysmic changes in terms of drought, weather disturbances, rising sea levels, acidification of the ocean, international conflict. If they are right — I believe they are right — we have got to move in a very, very bold way. We have to do it yesterday.

Ezra Klein

Then that goes a little bit to the question of China and India. What do you say to countries that look at us and say, "Well, you got rich off of cheap energy, now you're telling us we can't?"

Bernie Sanders

That's a fair point and a good question. Let's understand that the United States could do everything right. We could transform our energy system tomorrow to significantly cut back on carbon. And yet if other countries are producing enormous amounts of carbon, the game is lost. It has to be a global commitment.

It's not an accident that people in China are wearing surgical masks when they walk the streets, and their water systems are being destroyed. They have major, major, major environmental problems. I think the role that we can play with our scientific community is to work with these countries and talk about a win-win proposition.

Can, in a few years, solar actually be cheaper than the more mature forms of energy, coal, oil? I believe it can. Wind, as well. But we have got to start investing in the kinds of technologies which are useful not only in America but work with China, work with Russia, work with India. These countries need energy. There's no question about it. No one should go to them and say, "You've got to cut your energy in half." What we should be able to say to them is, "We're going to work with you to transform your energy system to make sure you have the energy you need to maintain a strong economy," but it is not in India's advantage, China's advantage, Russia's advantage, to destroy this planet. Nobody gains from that, and I think many of them understand that.

Ezra Klein

Do you think that the way Americans view China's rise in economic development is accurate or misguided? I mean particularly there, to go back to the question of whether it is a zero-sum competition between us for influence?

Bernie Sanders

I think what the average American sees is that for many decades now, what corporate America has said is, "Hey, I'm not going to pay you 20 or 25 bucks at a factory, I don't need you anymore. We're going to shut your factory down. I'm going to move to China, pay people there a buck or two an hour. I don't have to worry about environmental regulations, I don't have to worry about trade unions, and I'm going to produce products there and I'm going to bring them back to the United States of America." Now, is that the fault of China? No. That issue has to do with the greed of corporate America who sold out American workers and essentially moved manufacturing to China and other low-wage countries.

Are Americans concerned about that ... when they walk in a department store and product after product after product that is not made in the United States but is made in China, are they concerned about it? Yeah, they are. So am I, as a matter of fact. Does that mean that we have to make China into an enemy? Absolutely not. What we need is a trade policy in this country, among other things, that works for the American worker rather than the CEOs of large corporations. I voted against [permanent normal trade relations] with China, that was the right vote, and if elected president I will radically transform trade policies.

Ezra Klein

If I were Chinese, though, that would sound very zero sum to me, because those factories have been part of the tremendous rise in living standards there.

Bernie Sanders

That's great, but you know what? At the same time, the living standards of the American people have gone down. As I indicated to you earlier, I am an internationalist. I want to see poor people around the world see their standard of living increase, but you talk about zero sum. A lot of people tell me the American worker's going to have to become poorer so we can help poor people in China. I don't believe that for a second.

I want to see the people in China live in a democratic society with a higher standard of living. I want to see that, but I don't think that has to take place at the expense of the American worker. I don't think decent-paying jobs in this country have got to be lost as companies shut down here and move to China. I want to see the Chinese people do as well, but I do not want to see the collapse of the American middle class take place, and I will fight against that as hard as I can.

Ezra Klein

To go to another continent, do you think the euro was a mistake?

Bernie Sanders

That's a very good question. I can't give you a definitive answer right now. I will tell you this of what's happening in Greece. I am very concerned that the Germans have led an effort to squeeze blood from the stone. The Greek economy has contracted by about 25 percent over the last 5 years, unemployment is 26 percent, youth unemployment somewhere around 60 percent, and the idea that Germany and European banks are pushing more austerity on the Greek people I think is not only a terrible economic mistake, it's a political mistake, and I'll tell you why.

The third-largest party in Greece is the party called "Golden Dawn," you know who they are? They're a Nazi party. Not even neos. These are real Nazis. If you remember what happened in 1932 in Germany when you had hyperinflation, when you had an economy that was in a terrible depression — that's the kind of climate that a Hitler could come to power in. I think that the European community has got to work with Greece to create economic growth, deal with unemployment, create an economy so that they can, over a period of years, pay back their debt, but you cannot keep squeezing that country, so I have concerns about that.

Ezra Klein

Let me end on a question about a policy that is getting, seems to be, some momentum but it's not often talked about in Washington, which is a universal basic income. You've begun to have people go back to both Milton Friedman and Martin Luther King Jr., saying we should really have a fundamentally guaranteed standard of living in this country.

Bernie Sanders

I am absolutely sympathetic to that approach. That's why I'm fighting for a $15 minimum wage, why I'm fighting to make sure that everybody in this country gets the nutrition they need, why I'm fighting to expand Social Security benefits and not cut them, making sure that every kid in this country regardless of income can go to college. That's what a civilized nation does.

Here’s the point. This is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but nobody in America knows it because their standard of living is going down and almost all of the new wealth is going to the top 1 percent. That is an issue that we have to deal with.

In the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, the top one-tenth of 1 percent should not own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Everybody in this country should in fact have at least a minimum and dignified standard of living. All right?

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