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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN Hosts Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Presidential Candidate in a Town Hall Discussion. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired April 22, 2019 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CUOMO: All right. Welcome back to Manchester, New Hampshire. This is CNN's special Democratic presidential town hall event. I'm Chris Cuomo.
This is a really interesting night. As you've already seen, we're doing town halls with five of the top Democratic presidential candidates. The potential questioners include college students and young adults representing more than 30 states nationwide.
And to do this, CNN has partnered with Harvard University's Institute of Politics and also with the New Hampshire Institute of Politics right here at Saint Anselm College. Already tonight we've heard from Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth warren, and at 10 p.m. Eastern, it will be Senator Kamala Harris, and at 11 p.m. Eastern, it will be Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
But right now is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, leading the field among young voters, according to the just released Harvard Institute of Politics youth poll. Please welcome Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: How are you doing?
CUOMO: Good to see you.
SANDERS: You too. Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. How about our first question? We ready?
SANDERS: Why not?
CUOMO: Why not, indeed.
SANDERS: What else do we have to do?
CUOMO: That's it. We'll talk later.
SANDERS: All right.
CUOMO: Nick Troisi, OK, he's from Massachusetts, he's a junior at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. What do you got?
QUESTION: Hi, Senator.
SANDERS: Hey, Nick.
QUESTION: How are you?
QUESTION: You recently reintroduced your Medicare for all legislation package, co-sponsored with several other senators, many of which are running alongside you for president of the United States. In this legislation, you call for an end to private health insurance companies. How do you plan to phase out these private insurance companies for your new Medicare for all insurance?
SANDERS: Good. Excellent question on an issue that millions of Americans stay up night worrying about. All right, let's start off, we're talking about the current system. We have a dysfunctional health care system in which 30 million Americans have no health insurance at all, even more are underinsured with high deductibles and co-payments. We pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Our health care outcomes in terms of infant mortality, life expectancy, not particularly good. And for all of that, we end up spending twice as much per capita as any other major country on Earth.
So let me be as clear as I can be. The function of the current health care system is not to provide quality care to all in a cost-effective way. The function of the current system is to make billions of dollars in profits for the insurance companies and the drug companies. That is the function of the current system.
And what I believe is that over a four-year period, which is what my legislation is about, we're going to transform our health care system. So first year, we go from 65 years of age for eligibility to Medicare down to 55, and we cover all of the kids in the country. And by the way, despite what President Trump says, we expand benefits for senior citizens.
Medicare is a very good program, but it doesn't cover dental care. It doesn't cover eyeglasses. And it doesn't cover hearing aids. And we do that.
Bottom line is, I happen to believe from the bottom of my heart -- and I've believed this for my whole adult life -- that health care is a human right, not a privilege, and the best way to go forward in my view is through a Medicare for all single-payer program.
CUOMO: All right. Next question, Anne Carlstein, junior at Harvard, studying mathematics from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Anne? QUESTION: Senator Sanders, you have said that you believe that people with felony records should be allowed to vote while in prison. Does this mean that you would support enfranchising people like the Boston Marathon bomber, a convicted terrorist and murderer? Do you think that those convicted of sexual assault should have the opportunity to vote for politicians who could have a direct impact on women's rights?
SANDERS: OK, thank you for the question, Anne. And let me just say this. What our campaign is about and what I believe is creating a vibrant democracy. Today, as you may know, we have one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country on Earth. I want to see us have one of the highest voter turnouts.
And by the way, what we're seeing is more young people getting involved in the political process, but not enough. And in my view, if young people voted at the same percentage that older people voted in this country, we would transform this nation.
But to get to your point, we live in a moment where cowardly Republican governors are trying to suppress the vote. And in fact, right here, as you may know, in New Hampshire, the legislature and the governor are working hard to make it more difficult for young people to vote. And to me, that is an incredibly undemocratic, un-American process. And I say to those people, by the way, if you don't have the guts to participate in free and fair elections, you should get another job and get out of politics, all right? So we've got to...
So here is -- Anne, to answer your question, as it happens, in my own state of Vermont, from the very first days of our state's history, what our Constitution says is that everybody can vote. That is true. So people in jail can vote.
Now, here is my view. If somebody commits a serious crime, sexual assault, murder, they're going to be punished. They may be in jail for 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, their whole lives. That's what happens when you commit a serious crime.
But I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy, yes, even for terrible people, because once you start chipping away and you say, well, that guy committed a terrible crime, not going to let him vote. Oh, that person did that, not going to let that person vote. You're running down a slippery slope.
So I believe that people commit crimes, they paid the price. When they get out of jail, I believe they certainly should have the right to vote. But I do believe that even if they are in jail they're paying their price to society, but that should not take away their inherent American right to participate in our democracy.
CUOMO: Applause for the answer. My follow question goes to this being like you're writing an opposition ad against you by saying you think the Boston Marathon bomber should vote not after he pays his debt to society, but while he's in jail. You sure about that?
SANDERS: Well, Chris, I think I have written many 30-second opposition ads throughout my life. This will be just another one. But I do believe, look, you know, this is what I believe. Do you believe in democracy? Do you believe that every single American 18 years of age or older who's an American citizen has the right to vote?
Once you start chipping away at that, believe me, that's what our Republican governors all over this country are doing. They come up with all kinds of excuses while people of color, young people, poor people can't vote, and I will do everything I can to resist it. This is a democracy. We've got to expand that democracy, and I believe every single person does have the right to vote.
CUOMO: All right. Kenya Hunter, Kenya is a graduate student at Emerson College. She's studying journalism. She's here from Georgia. Kenya, your question?
QUESTION: Hi, Senator, how are you?
SANDERS: Hi, Kenya.
QUESTION: Your views on reparations have sort of surprised me, especially since one of the messages of your campaign is closing the wealth gap. For black people, the wealth gaps stems from the aftermath of slavery, like legal segregation and discrimination. If reparations are not part of your plan to end the wealth gap for black people, what is?
SANDERS: Good, good question. And let me say this. What I have said is there is legislation, as you know, in the House. Sheila Jackson Lee has introduced it. And I have said that if the House and the Senate pass it, I will sign it. And that will call for a study of the implications of reparations.
And I think what Kenya is saying is what we all know to be true. Today in America, in the midst of massive income and wealth disparity, we have another level of disparity between black and white. African American families have one-tenth the wealth that white families have, and that is unacceptable, and we have got to deal with it.
Now, the way I think we can most effectively deal with that -- and this is an idea -- I didn't come up with it. A guy, a congressman from South Carolina, Jim Clyburn, he called it the 10-20-30 legislation, which means that you use 10 percent of federal funds -- that is a lot of money -- to focus on communities all over this country, often minority communities, black communities, Latino communities, Native American communities, white communities, who have long-term poverty and we focus on those communities.
We make sure that all of the kids get the education that they need. They get the health care they need. We improve the infrastructure. We improve broadband. We create a situation in these distressed communities where we take people out of poverty all across the country. That is the direction that I think we should go.
CUOMO: All right, next question. Jordan Cook, sophomore studying politics and history here at Saint Anselm College. He is from Maine. Jordan, what's your question?
QUESTION: Hello, Senator Sanders. We live in an age of globalization. Whether we like or it not, international trade has become increasingly necessary for a nation to remain prosperous. Trump in recent years has limited our trade influence in nations in Africa and Latin America, which has given the Russians and Chinese a chance to influence such regions. What will your trade policy be in such regions compared to Trump?
SANDERS: Good. Good question, Jordan. Look, you're right. We live in a global economy. I think all of us understand the importance of trade.
But I happen to believe in fair trade, not unfettered free trade, because, Jordan, in the context of your question, you have got to appreciate that disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, and others, all of which I have voted against, resulted in millions of Americans, hard-working people who have lost their jobs because profitable corporations in this country shut down because they weren't making enough money and they thought they could make more money going abroad paying people $1 an hour or $2 an hour.
So I believe in trade. But it's got to be a trade policy that works for working people and not just the CEOs of large corporations.
And your point is also right. We're seeing China move aggressively in Latin America and Africa and Asia, and this is an issue that we have got to deal with, as well. But bottom line is, trade is a good thing, but there is a reason why millions of Americans have seen a decline in their standard of living, because they once had decent paying jobs. Those jobs were shifted abroad. And that's something that I disagree with strongly.
CUOMO: Senator Sanders, you recently released 10 years of your tax returns.
SANDERS: I did.
CUOMO: Let's talk about that topic. We'll start with Ellen Burstein. She's a freshman at Harvard and grew up in Massachusetts. What's your question for the senator?
QUESTION: Senator Sanders, thank you for being here. Your tax returns recently revealed that you are, in fact, a millionaire. How would you respond to concerns that your financial status undermines your authority as someone who has railed against millionaires and billionaires?
SANDERS: OK. Well, that's a good question. And here it is, all right? You ready to have me plead guilty. I plead guilty to have written a book which was an international best-seller, OK? And when you write a book that makes it to the top of the New York Times best- seller list, you make money. And I made money. I suspect that in a couple of years my salary will go back to $173,000, which is what a member of Congress gets.
But I think your question should ask, well, now that you wrote a book, you made money, is that going to mean that you change your policies? Well, you're looking at somebody who not only voted against Trump's disastrous tax plan -- 83 percent of the benefits going to the top 1 percent -- but I have and will continue in this campaign to fight for progressive taxation.
In other words, whether it is Bernie Sanders or your family or anybody else in America, when we have so much income and wealth inequality, when the people on top are doing phenomenally well, yeah, if you are doing very, very well in our economy, you should be paying your fair share of taxes.
We will raise those taxes for the upper income people. We will do away with the tax loopholes and the tax breaks that large private corporations currently receive. Do you happen to know -- anybody here happen to know how much Amazon paid in taxes last year? Zero. All right? Owned by the wealthiest guy in America. That is an absurd tax system, a regressive tax system. And if elected president, I will change that tax system.
CUOMO: All right, two quick follow ups. One, you said you expect your salary to go back down to...
SANDERS: Unless I write another best-seller. I don't know.
CUOMO: Or, who makes more than that? What does the president of the United States make?
SANDERS: You're right. What does he make? I don't even...
CUOMO: $400,000. So are you saying that you're not going to win?
SANDERS: No, I'm not saying that.
CUOMO: All right. I just want to be clear.
SANDERS: All that I'm saying -- you know, all that I'm saying is I don't think anyone seriously believes that because I wrote a best- selling book, it made money...
CUOMO: It changed you?
SANDERS: ... that I've change my views, and you'll now hear me saying, gee, maybe we want to give tax breaks to millionaires. I don't think you've heard me say that. CUOMO: All right, one more on this though. So, you made a lot more money than you did the year before because of the book. Charitable donations, when we look at your taxes went up but they didn't go up proportionately, I'm not coming after you about what you gave in your donations.
My question is this, having the experience of having a lot more money and deciding what you wanted to do with it, did it give you new perspective about how people with more money feel about the government or someone like you forcing policies that demand them to give amounts as opposed to what they want to give.
SANDERS: No, as a matter of fact if you read those tax returns you will find that many people have said it, we were not aggressive, we didn't go to accountants and figure out how we could possibly play the lowest amount in taxes. We probably paid more than we should have. But let me say this, you raise an interesting question Chris. I grew up in a family that was a working class family, I lived in a rent controlled three and half room apartment in Brooklyn, New York and every single day of my life I knew what pay check to pay check life was about.
I knew what tension was about in a family and I will tell you the difference now, you know what, when I was a kid my family had to worry about how they are going to pay this bill or how they're going to pay that bill. I don't have to worry about that now, that stress is off my family and that is a great relief and I have spent my entire life and hopefully will conclude my political life in the White House trying to make sure that every person in this country does not have to deal with the stress of whether they can afford to pay the electric bill, whether they're going to have health care whether they can send their kids to child care.
So that is the difference that I've learned, you know what, it's great not to have to worry about whether your electricity or your phone bill is going to be shut off. And I want every person in this country, the wealthiest country in the history of the world to be able to live in that kind of way.
CUOMO: Next question, Gabriel Seederberg, sophomore at Harvard studying government from Minnesota, Gabriel.
QUESTION: Hi Senator.
SANDERS: Hey Gabriel.
QUESTION: What is one thing that you have changed your mind about recently?
SANDERS: Nothing, I've been consistent for - no, just kidding, I think I am paying more attention right now to foreign policy, OK? And I think I was rightfully criticized the last time I ran but I didn't pay as much attention as I might. And I think the economic issues, whether or not people have health care, whether they have decent paying jobs, whether we deal with climate change are enormously important but you know what, we've got to look at the United States role in the world as well. And probably a few years ago I would have not have been as involved as I have recently been in demanding and helping in the Senate to pass a resolution to get the United States out of the Saudi led intervention in Yemen. Something which I think...
SANDERS: ...and for the first time in 45 years under the War Powers Act it has been successfully used, we did it in the Senate, we did it in the House sadly, tragically Trump vetoed it. But to answer your question I think I think a little bit more about foreign policy issues than I previously did.
CUOMO: All right, good place to stop for our first round of questioning, we're going to take a quick break, please come back we have a lot more of CNN's special democratic presidential town hall event right now with Senator Bernie Sanders, go no where.
CUOMO: Welcome back to CNN special democratic presidential town hall event, we're live on a campus of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Right now we're talking with Senator Bernie Sanders.
Question about the Mueller investigation. It was interesting to hear your colleague, Senator Elizabeth Warren, say on this stage earlier, you know, there is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution. Her argument was, if any other human being in this country had done what's documented in the Mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail, and she is obviously referencing this president. Do you agree that it is time for impeachment proceedings, as she says?
SANDERS: Well, what I agree is that we have the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country, somebody who is a pathological liar, somebody who the Mueller report said basically left the question open, which the Congress has got to explore, as whether or not he obstructed justice, a very serious crime.
So what my view is -- twofold. I think, first, it goes without saying that the Congress has got to take a hard look at that, a hard -- and do a hard investigation and ask -- subpoena the people who were mentioned in that report and bring them forward, so to get to the truth. Did Trump actually obstruct justice?
But here is my concern. At the end of the day, what is most important to me is to see that Donald Trump is not re-elected president, and I intend to do everything I can to make sure that doesn't happen.
But if -- and this is an if -- if for the next year, year-and-a-half, going right into the heart of the election, all that the Congress is talking about is impeaching Trump and Trump, Trump, Trump, and Mueller, Mueller, Mueller, and we're not talking about health care, we're not talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, we're not talking about combatting climate change, we're not talking about sexism and racism and homophobia, and all of the issues that concern ordinary Americans, what I worry about is that works to Trump's advantage.
So to answer your question, Chris, I think there has got to be a thorough investigation. And I think the House Democrats will do it. I would very much appreciate if my Republican colleagues in the Senate who run the Senate had the guts to do it, as well, but I won't hold my breath. So I want to see that investigation. We'll see where it goes. But right now, you know, that's my view.
CUOMO: All right. So you don't know where you are on impeachment yet, but what if you reverse your argument and say you just had that answered twice. Mueller said he couldn't come to a conclusion, he can't exonerate, but he can't prosecute, and then you had the AG and the deputy AG look at it and say no obstruction. You got your answer twice. Why look again?
SANDERS: Oh, that's what -- no, the issue of obstruction -- no, what Mueller said is that was an open question, and that is something that the House of Representatives and the Senate should take a very...
CUOMO: And the AG and deputy AG said no obstruction.
SANDERS: Well, I would rather have an objective investigation done by the House.
CUOMO: All right, next question. Samantha Frenkel-Popell. Samantha is a sophomore at Harvard studying social studies from California. I have a sneaking suspicion I didn't say your name right. Did I get it right?
QUESTION: It's Frenkel-Popell, but it's OK.
CUOMO: It's not even close to what I said.
SANDERS: But you got Samantha right.
CUOMO: I did, I got that right, good.
QUESTION: A lifetime of it. It's OK.
CUOMO: What's your question?
QUESTION: Hi, Senator Sanders. So my father's family left Soviet Russia in 1979 fleeing from some of the very same socialist policies that you seem eager to implement in this country. So my question is, how do you rectify your notion of democratic socialism with the failures of socialism in nearly every country that has tried it?
SANDERS: And do you think that...
Thank you for asking that question. Is it your assumption that I supported or believe in authoritarian communism that existed in the Soviet Union? I don't and never have. And I opposed it.
I believe in a vigorous democracy. But you have asked me the question about democratic socialism. Fair question. And let me answer it.
I happen to believe that in the United States there is something fundamentally wrong when we have three families owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society, 160 million people. Something wrong when the top 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 92 percent. Something very wrong when 49 percent of all new income today is going to the top 1 percent.
And something is equally wrong when we have a corrupt political system made even worse by this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision which allows billionaires to spend unlimited sums of money to elect candidates who represent the wealthy and the powerful.
So answer number one, to your question. This is a radical idea. Maybe not everybody agrees. But I happen to believe we should have a government that represents working families and not just the 1 percent and powerful corporations. All right? That's point number one.
Point number two. What do I mean when I talk about democratic socialism? It certainly is not the authoritarian communism that existed in the Soviet Union and in other communist countries. This is what it means.
It means that we cherish, among other things, our Bill of Rights. And Franklin Roosevelt made this point -- Chris, I don't know if you remember -- read about it, in 1944, in a State of the Union Address that never got a whole lot of attention, this is what he said basically. It was a very profound speech toward the end of World War II.
He said, you know, we've got a great Constitution. Bill of Rights protects your freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and all that stuff, great, but you know what it doesn't protect? It doesn't protect and guarantee you economic rights.
So, Samantha, let me be very honest with you. I believe in a democratic, civilized society, health care is a human right. Government should make that happen.
I believe that every young person in this country, regardless of his or her income, has the right to get all of the education they need. That's why I have fought hard with some success to move toward making public colleges and universities tuition free and very substantially reduce student debt.
And I believe that there is something wrong in America today when you got millions of families paying 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent of their limited incomes to put a roof over their heads, and that millions of working-class families, young parents, cannot find quality and affordable childcare.
So I happen to believe that we have to address the issue of grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality, very, very rich getting much richer, middle-class struggling, 40 million people living in poverty. And what democratic socialism means to me is we expand Medicare, we provide educational opportunity to all Americans, we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. In other words, government serves the needs of all people rather than just wealthy campaign contributors. That's what that means to me.
CUOMO: You were asked earlier on, as a quick follow on this, what do you feel differently about now? I was reviewing what CNN's K-File had come up, taking a look at your evolution in politics. You used to argue that you should have government control the means of capitalism, energy companies...
SANDERS: When did I say that?
CUOMO: In the '70s.
SANDERS: OK, right.
CUOMO: No, but hold on.
SANDERS: What did you say in the '70s?
CUOMO: Hold on. Gaga goo-goo.
SANDERS: That's right.
CUOMO: What I'm saying is that you've changed.
SANDERS: Well, wait a minute. You know, first thought, you know, he hears me criticizing media all the time and he gets nervous about it, right?
CUOMO: One of many things that makes me nervous.
SANDERS: All right.
I was a mayor of a city for eight years. Did I nationalize any of the industry in the city of Burlington, Vermont? I don't think so. Congressman for 16 years.
Look, I said what I said, and that is I want to live in a nation in which all people in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world can have a decent standard of living. I'm not talking about everybody owning a big, fancy house or a Cadillac or anything like that. But I think we can do what other nations in the world are already doing.
I mean, the ideas that I'm advocating for you tonight, you know, they're not so radical. Health care -- you know, health care as a right exists in virtually every other major country on Earth. How much -- does anyone here know how much it costs to go to college in Germany? Anyone know? Yeah, it's free.
I once was giving a speech, Chris, and I said that in Finland college is free. And some guy jumped up and said, I'm from Finland, you're wrong, it's not free. I said, oh. He said, yeah, they pay us to go to college.
All right, you know, so these ideas about guaranteeing economic rights to working people rather than seeing in New Hampshire and in Vermont and all over this country people working two or three jobs, you know, for $8 or $9 bucks an hour, living under great stress, not having time for their kids, marriages dissolving as a result. You know, that's what I believe. I believe in a nation in which we guarantee fundamental economic rights, basic necessities of life to all of our people.
CUOMO: All right. You've said that you've also been thinking more recently about foreign policy. So let's get a question on that. Shelly Tsirulik, a junior at Harvard, studying astrophysics from New Jersey.
SANDERS: Oh, god, don't ask me about astrophysics, please.
QUESTION: I won't, I promise.
QUESTION: Hi, Senator Sanders. You've been an outspoken critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
QUESTION: Yet Israel is also one of America's most important allies in the world. Given the Prime Minister Netanyahu just won another term in office, how do you plan to maintain the strong U.S.-Israel relationship, despite those critiques?
SANDERS: Look, what I have said over and over again -- and I repeat to you -- and I happen to -- as a young man about your age, I spent a number of months in Israel. I worked on a kibbutz for a while. I have family in Israel. I am not anti-Israel.
But the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly.
So, you know, what I believe -- you know, and the United States gives billions of dollars in military aid to Israel. What I believe is not radical. I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis. In other words, the goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing, you know, dare I say, racist government. So...
So I am not -- you know, I am 100 percent pro-Israel. Israel has every right in the world to exist and to exist in peace and security and not be subjected the terrorist attacks. But the United States needs to deal not just with Israel, but with the Palestinian people, as well.
CUOMO: Another question, Nicholas St. Germain. He's a junior at Saint Anselm College from Massachusetts and he's an aspiring police officer. Nicholas?
SANDERS: Good. Nicholas, how are you?
QUESTION: Thank you -- hi, Senator. With mass shootings becoming more rampant in this country, what is your stance on putting armed guards or a heightened police presence inside of schools?
SANDERS: I'm against it. But let me also...
Let me say this to Nicholas and to a lot of young people, we need fundamental reform in our criminal justice system, which is very, very broken now. And one component, Nicholas -- and I'm really delighted to hear that you're going into criminal justice. We need a lot of young people to get involved in criminal justice and to help us transform a criminal justice system that is not working right now.
Let me just give you a few examples. As Americans, none of us, I think, are proud that we have more people in jail than any other major country on Earth. We have more people in jail than China does, disproportionally African American, Latino, and Native Americans.
We have got to invest, in my view -- in my view, we have got to invest in young people in jobs and education. You've got a lot of kids hanging out on street corners who are then going to get involved in destructive and self-destructive activity. It makes more sense to me at a time when we're spending $80 billion a year locking fellow Americans up, more important to invest in jobs and education for young people, rather than more jails and incarceration. We have got to end the so-called war on drugs.
OK? Many lives have been destroyed because of criminal records associated with possession of marijuana. And I'm delighted to see not only that state after state are legalizing marijuana, or decriminalizing marijuana, but we're also seeing some communities move to expunge the records of people who were arrested for possession of marijuana.
And also, Nicholas, I would say we need police department reform. And what that means is, you know, we have a lot of departments that spend more time on teaching the officers how to shoot a gun and less time on teaching the officers how to break up disturbances in a non-lethal way.
So you need training for police officers. And being a cop is an enormously important job. It is an enormously difficult job. And most police officers -- to my mind, I was a mayor for eight years -- they are trying hard and they're trying to do the right thing under very difficult circumstances.
But one of the points that we should make, and as president I will help lead that effort, is that lethal force, use of a weapon to kill somebody, should be the last response, not as is too often the case the first response.
CUOMO: All right. Let's bring in Georgia Dumars. Georgia is a sophomore here at Saint Anselm College studying environmental science from Pennsylvania. Georgia?
QUESTION: Hi, Senator.
SANDERS: Hey, Georgia.
QUESTION: Given the current political climate in this nation that is so polarized, how will -- what will you do as president to reach across the aisle to compromise with the GOP?
SANDERS: Well, I have done that throughout my political career. In fact, it may surprise some people that there were some years when I was in the U.S. House of Representatives that I passed more amendments in a given year than any other congressman precisely because I reached across the aisle and found common ground with Republicans who agreed with me on a particular issue.
And I mentioned a moment ago that I was very proud to have helped pass a resolution in the Senate to get the United States out of the war in Yemen, and the co-sponsor, a guy I work with very closely, was a very conservative Republican from Utah named Mike Lee.
And I think that if there is good leadership in the White House, it turns out that there is a lot more commonality of interests than the media often portrays. And I think we can bring people together on that.
For example, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, you know there is something wrong when our infrastructure is crumbling. Our roads and our bridges, our water systems, our wastewater plants. And I believe that I can bring Republicans and Democrats together to say, you know what, if we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, we make sure that every American family has clean drinking water and people's cars don't get destroyed when they go through a pothole, I think we can have Republican support for a sensible infrastructure program.
I'll give you another example. This country, and I think everybody understands it, is being ripped off by the pharmaceutical industry. We pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. The 10 major pharmaceutical companies made $69 billion in profit, and yet one in five Americans can't afford the medicine they need.
They are an incredibly greedy entity. I think there are a number of Republicans who know that, and I think we can work together -- and we have some very specific ideas to do that -- to cut prescription drug costs in this country in half so that the American people are not paying any more than people around the world are paying.
CUOMO: All right, let's hold it right there. Let's take a break. When we come back, we have more with Senator Bernie Sanders. Stay with CNN.
CUOMO: Welcome back. We're live in New Hampshire for CNN's special Democratic presidential town hall event. We're with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
How about taxes? Let's bring in Kyle Machado from Rhode Island. He's a freshman here at Saint Anselm College studying classical archaeology. What do you have?
QUESTION: Senator Sanders, your plan for free college appeals to many students here. One of the methods you proposed for funding this initiative would be through raising taxes on the wealthy. Because people with a college education tend to have higher incomes, could this plan eventually hurt us?
SANDERS: Kyle, I don't think so. I mean, I think what our campaign is about is justice. It's a fight for justice -- economic justice, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice. And at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself whether it is acceptable that corporations like Amazon, and Netflix, and General Motors pay nothing in federal taxes, whether Trump's tax proposal gives massive tax breaks to families like the Koch brothers, one of the wealthiest families in America.
So I think what we need is a fair and progressive tax system in order to raise the revenue that we need to help working families in this country and deal with the very serious problem of income and wealth inequality.
So I have no apologies to make in saying that we are going to do our best to end the tax havens that exist in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and other countries, where corporations and wealthy individuals around the world, not just from America, stash trillions of dollars, and then back home in the United States or in other countries, they're cutting back on education, they're cutting back on health care. That does not make a lot of sense to me.
So, you know, I do believe that very wealthy people and large profitable corporations should begin to pay their fair share of taxes. And I got to tell you that I think Trump's tax proposal which gave $1.5 trillion in tax breaks over a 10-year period to the top 1 percent and large profitable corporations driving up the deficit was an absolute outrage. If elected president, I will rescind those tax breaks.
CUOMO: Senator Warren, obviously on earlier tonight, arguably goes a little bit further than you, because she has a piece in her plan that is about debt forgiveness. If your family makes $100,000 or less, you can forgive up to $50,000 in student loans, sliding scale. Do you support her plan?
SANDERS: I haven't see -- I really haven't studied it, but I think, you know, Elizabeth and I end up agreeing on a whole lot of issues. And what she understands and what I understand is we don't punish people for the crime of getting a higher education. So, you know...
Bottom line is -- you know, I have -- you know, I have talked to so many young people -- I just had some young people from Howard University who are teachers in my office a couple of weeks ago. This fellow now who's working as a teacher, getting I think his master's degree, is $182,000 in debt. How do you pay that off on a teacher's salary?
I talked to a young woman in Burlington, Vermont, a doctor, young doctor, $300,000 in debt. So we have got to do, as I said earlier, two things. And I'm proud. You know, I raised this issue, you remember, four years ago, Chris. Everybody four years ago goes, oh, Bernie is a little bit crazy, talking about making public colleges and universities tuition free. Ain't such a crazy idea today.
It's an idea that's taking hold all across this country, and the idea talked about four years ago. And we can argue about the best way to do it. And I don't think Elizabeth and I have terribly many differences on this. But the bottom line is, people should not have to forgo getting married forgo having kids, forgo having a car for the crime of getting a college education. And we will deal with that in a very, very significant way.
And then people say, well, how are you going to pay for that? Well, it gets back to the question that the young man asked a moment ago. Yeah, when Wall Street was bailed out by Congress to the tune of at least $1 trillion, don't tell me we don't have enough money in this country to substantially reduce student debt.
CUOMO: Another question. Amisha Kambath, she's a freshman at Harvard, studying government and economics. She's from California. What is your question?
QUESTION: Hi, Senator Sanders. The Green New Deal has really energized the Democratic Party recently. And while I completely agree that climate change needs to be one of our top priorities, my concern with the Green New Deal has been its lack of specificity and detailed policies in regards to how we will actually become carbon-neutral.
QUESTION: So what are specific reforms that you have? And how will you ensure that feasible support is given to workers within carbon- heavy industries that will be most impacted to ease that transition?
SANDERS: Good. Excellent question.
All the others were excellent, too. I don't mean to suggest -- look, here's what you got. And this is where I come from on this issue. And I got to tell you that, you know, a number of years ago, I introduced the most sweeping legislation to combat climate change in the history of the Senate.
Here's where we are. You know this. The scientists who know the issue the best some months ago made it clear that if we do not significantly transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energies, this planet and our country will suffer irreparable damage.
So to me, the issue of moving very aggressively on climate change is a moral issue, because it speaks to whether or not we are going to leave this country and our planet -- and I've got seven grandchildren, including three here in New Hampshire -- in a way that is healthy and habitable. And if we do not act aggressively, it will be a disaster, in my view, for the entire planet and the United States.
All right, to answer your question, what does that mean? It means that we have got to take on the fossil fuel industry and make it very clear that we are moving away from fossil fuel and, at the same time, not blaming those people who work in the coal industry or the gas industry or the oil industry. All they are trying to do is feed their families. And we support that.
So we, in all of the legislation, we have many, many, many billions of dollars to go into those communities to help workers get the training and the education that they need to get jobs that will pay them as much or even more.
But at the end of the day, this is what we've got to do, in my view. We have got to move aggressively toward energy efficiency. That means we can create -- and one of the points that the Green New Deal makes is we have the potential to create millions of good-paying jobs as we transform our energy system away from fossil fuel. There are buildings all over New England, homes all over New England that are wasting an enormous amount of energy. We can weatherize those homes.
I've been in homes in Vermont where the fuel bill went down by 50 percent because people got the insulation, the windows, the roofing that they needed. Millions of people can be helped in that respect.
We should invest very significantly in solar and in wind. I know the president thinks that wind turbines cause cancer.
Only person in the world who happens to believe that, but we can move aggressively toward and should wind and solar. We have got to rethink our transportation system and build the kind of state-of-the-art rail system that our country needs which will help us transport people and cargo in a much more nonpolluting way.
The bottom line is, this is an issue that we cannot run away from. And, you know, of all my disagreements with Trump, on virtually every issue, the idea that he continues to talk about climate change as a hoax or not real is so dangerous and so harmful, not only to our country and the world. The United States of America under a Sanders presidency will lead the world in transforming our energy system, create millions of jobs, create a less polluting society, and that is something we have no choice but it's exactly what we have to do.
CUOMO: All right, let's bring in Nathan Williams, a senior studying neuroscience at Harvard. He's from California. Nathan?
QUESTION: Good evening, Senator Sanders.
QUESTION: If elected, you would be the oldest president in the history of the United States, yet in 2016 millennials favored you strongly over Hillary Clinton. Why do you think young people have been attracted to your campaigns? And how will you ensure that our voices are represented in your administration?
SANDERS: Well, young people are very smart, that's clear.
(LAUGHTER) Look, I'll tell you why. And, you know, this is the truth, Nathan.
When we began the 2016 campaign, if anybody thought we had some diabolical plan, how are we going to reach out to young people? Not true at all. It just happened because it happened.
And I'll tell you why I think it happened. First of all, your generation is the most progressive generation in the history of this country. Your generation, more than any previous generation, is anti- racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobia, anti-religious bigotry, and you should be very, very proud of that.
But the other thing -- and I think that my campaign kind of speaks to the idealism of young people who know that -- who understand what's going on today is not -- we're not where we should be. And young people have a tendency to want to think bigger than older generations.
The second point, to be more specific, your generation, unless we turn things around, will be the first generation in the modern history of America to have a lower standard of living than your parents. All right?
So what we have seen in recent years is an explosion in technology. We have seen an explosion in worker productivity. But everything being equal, many people in your generation will earn less money than your parents, you're going to leave school more deeply in debt than your parents, you're going to have a harder time finding affordable housing than your parents.
So the issues that -- and your generation also, obviously, is very, very concerned about climate change, and racial justice, and immigration reform, and so forth. So I think those are some of the reasons why our message has resonated with young people.
CUOMO: Senator Sanders, thank you very much.
SANDERS: Thank you, Chris.
CUOMO: All right, we have three town halls down, two more to go tonight. A five-hour, five-candidate event. At 11:00 p.m., we'll be hearing from Mayor Pete Buttigieg on this stage. And when we come back, Senator Kamala Harris. Don Lemon's got that one, next.