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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  February 11, 2015 2:00am-4:01am EST

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they will follow that strong instinct. we had a mission and we need to you get it done. that is a challenge for everyone of a public leadership position to make that case when necessary. >> general marshall once said he thought it was difficult if not impossible for the united states to fight the war more than four years. and i think that reflects americans want to uc a precise value over the conflict. . . as my colleagues have suggested they are not being explained properly to the american public and i agree with everything that you said senator sullivan about the incredible comparative advantage that we have with our people. it was inspiring to go to iraq or afghanistan to see our young folks out there.
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they are initial credable to do incredible things. and i would frequently. when i talk to folks. particularly enlisted do you think that people out here you know. think that they know what you are doing out here? the answer that i would get was no. they think we step on ied's out here. they have no clue what we are doing so i this that i it is important to explain exactly what the stakes are as my colleague. you know. just said. and i would note one other thing americans are note weary when we are not. if you look at the poll data datadata and how the public felt in the videotapes of the beheadings this summer came out and it was a very different set of numbers from previously. and they feel these things deep scompleechlt assign of disrespect to the nation that they do not appreciate thank you. thank you mr. chairman
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senator king? mr. chairman just to put into perspective the number that's we were talking about at the judging and looking back on the history. if we have the 2k3w5i9s budget of 20126789 defense budget this year would be 612 gdp. and under the level 492 2.8% of gdp that is about the lowest level of gdp since world war ii. and it is also. it is the lowest level of federal spending and the lowest percentage of spending for defense since world war ii 4% that is the kind of the post world war ii average that would be 700 billion andal most a hundred billion more. so we are definitely at a very low point in terms of funding of defense at a time of escalating challenge on multiple fronts so putting this on the percentage of
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the gdp is away to look at it and pushing it into historic perspective and you mentioned about ukrainians that is a developing concensus here in washington that it is something that we ought to do and i understand that. and there we would have avoided the catastrophe of world war ii. and also i understand the press denl of guns of august. and stumbling in as catastrophic world war and playing chs he with a russian here and think two or three moves ahead and my concern is that a russia has a historic from the west. putin would not mind a managable war in ukraine to take the people's minds off of the domestic problems
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margaret that much ers approval rating was 23% and two weeks later it was 70% i suspect that putin may not know the numbers but was offend only non and persuade me. that the escalation by arming the ukrainian would not lead to a matching escalation and in fact an increase. we do not live the static world. we cannot assume that they armed putin says oh. this is tough. going home and is he not responsive to bodies in bags or tightening sanctions and give me your thoughts. my colleague will want to speak to us. as is a signatory paper on the subject that brookings institution of atlantic council. ch i can chick cowell
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council. foreign affairs has put out your question is a good one. and to be answered. it will be at multiple levels first in some sense that president putin has what we called in the cold war escalation dominance in the ukraine the stakes are higher for him and the region is closer. he has more force. chips. exactly. and having said that. he also is signatory to his country. is signatory to a number of agreements that make it clear that countries have the right to belong to whatever alliance or multilast the rational organization like the eu they want to associate with. so do you see that. no. we should we should care about it. and the point is that he does haven't allegity mat
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way to protest that we are helping a legitimate government defend itself against his aggression we have to think about it in terms of the moral obgigs to do, that. and and help them if we can and i think that we will need to raise the fact that is body bags are coming home. and the protesting rush ago mothers and the capital flight an amount of money and costs costs are hitting a base of support so he would have to responsive to that in some way. so this is important to remember that while they are potentially across the action there. is a serious cost to inaction here the costs
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could be. catastrophic and they need to understand that if we are willing to provide this type of assistance with whom we have no treaty and legal obligation, that he would think twice then about doing something with a nato member state like the importance of up scoring our commitment to defend the nato allies in europe if the we do not do that the risk that we will miscalculate in the place like latvia or estonia will go up. and that is something that is in terms of regret that we will feel seriously later on all right. my father would say. there lies job than gray. defending a right of way
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would i say that one of the things that we have learned since the collapse of the cease-fire. is that they will continue to escalate and causing the regime to change so. is he on the escalation path anyway. and providing ukrainians with the weapons they need to pose a level of costs on the separatists and the russian backer that's may make him think twice and counter battery radar that's would locate where the rocket fire is coming from. that is casualties in the ukraine. and anti- tank systems to stop harm orred or vehicles from taking further territory. so demonstrating and on the
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escalating path the question is whether there is anything that we can do to help ukraine imposed costs to make him stop and to actually come to the negotiation seriously. i think that it is worth seeing what happens on wednesday and seeing that by a miracle that an agreement is forged barring that i think that it is very important that we will help the ukrainians to defend themselves and impose greater costs on separatists and the russians for their aggression. thank you. very helpful and senator i want to thank both of you for being here and secretary i want to ask you about afghanistan i know that last june you were quoted in the "new york times" about the administration's timeline for withdrawal of afghanistan. and one of the things that you said was that if it was the timeline with the strong statement that would be the
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plan. no plan survived the contact we arality. of course we will adjust based on the conditions on the ground that had no problem in reference to the withdrawal plan. are the afghans on the path that we have planned for? are we not. insurgency. are they factored in what i am hearing out of white house is that a hell or my water this. is what we are going to do. and i am hope that can have you a different sense this right now. i want to get your thoughts on afghanistan many of us i think who have had the opportunity to visit afghanistan and then this weekend and the tunity here. with the president to really understand their plan right now is as it stands president gianni seemed to be very concern that had we not reduce our forces in 2015 in particular and many of us are very concern that had by the end of 2016 and
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under current plan it will be a thousand people based in kabul. so i want your perspective. and what we should be doing a great question. thank you for asking. i this that i at this point, we will need to change the frame of discussion on afghanistan and rather than debating the fine points of the final phases of the draw down. and the ends of the so forth. and we have to stop and say okay. look forward we have an afghan government and pulling it together. and going forward. as a democratically elected coalition government we have continue today develop the capabilities that is in the fight that is taking risk that's is trying to hold their ground and also we will see the continued challenge from an an initialling surge see.
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able to contest a lot of areas and continued activity and across the border to stop debating whether to the the draw downtime to say. looking forward what kind of posture does the united states need intelligence and military in the region to protect ourselves against future terrorist threats and prevent afghanistan or the border region from becoming a serious safe haven once again for al-qaeda and associated groups with that fresh sheet of paper. with the intelligence posture. military posture we will need to support that and to continue to have the afghan national forces develop and and my sense that is happen certainly inside of the intelligence committee. that is a conversation that we need to have in the next year could we thinking of
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our could not state went and the importance of really looking forward there. and frankly in terms of our own interests the importance of the afghanistan. and the intelligence that we may need from afghanistan for protecting our own interests this is the an area that we will need to continue to be able to have a sense of what the remnants of al-qaeda that remain there and taliban supporters. and the network and eyes and ears. and kabul alone or from bagram alone and inat the against posture here. and military posture and far less is in years. this is the small and continued investment relatively speaking to try to support the afghan government. and continuing on the path of progress and continuing
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to you know. to hold their country and not allow insurgency to regain afoot hold in temps of actually governing or leading the country. and with the naval fleet. and attack i understand with the sequester and the path really to reduce the fleet size to 2260 ships or less overall and having work there had. the navy's current fleet sizes is 285 looking on this. is something that we have even greater need for. especially and asia pacific region. so i want your assessment to as we go forward where we are. it looks like a dramatic decline the importance of
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the attack submarine fleet that is why it is important for us i think that overall the path to too small for what we will need in the future. i agree with you that this is anah of american advantage that we want to do everything in our power to keep and the continued investment in the attack submarine fleet will also require investment of new technologies such as unmanned under sea vehicles and how we will network unmaned systems to get to leverage the capabilities to have a greater impact so it is an area that is ripe for new thinking and development of new technologies and concepts and and this is something to maintain and we
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did not have the type of staffing that would enable us to do the real fine grain analysis. he did conclude as you have suggested in your question as my colleague just suggesting an answer that we are on the path to the free the that is much too small and we an out to try to bracket the problem for you and your colleagues by saying that somewhere between the number that secretary gates requested and the budget that was 320 something to that. and then the number that secretary perry identified in the bottom up review that in the 340s was the place where we ought to be looking to try to get. . >> thank you. senator? thank you mr. chair man. again. thank you for holding the series of broader strategic looks and what is going forward i want to thank you both panelists for being
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here. for your long service to this country following up first and the i should apologize for missing your statements in the earlier questions that i was in a briefing on iran and those negotiations. but i want to follow up on senator aot's question. i am not sure if she asked directly if we should be drawing down troops. remeaning troops in after stan as rapidly as we are this year or if it sends a wrong message to the afghans that are trying to make a new start with the new president and address their internal issue as well as the taliban and the other enemies that are fighting them in afghanistan my sense is that the delay and the government formation process that we have seen post elections of afghanistan
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should put more time on the clock to reexamine that. and fundamentally. i was going to say before is that we will need to rex am initial the pace and scope of the draw down in light of what we will need in the future i don't believe in zero posture in afghanistan this will serve our interest in the long-term. to continued terrorism threats to the given importance of our support. so instead looking back and drawing down. and looking forward to see what we will need in the next five to ten years. and more noddest that it has been. so to figure out what it looks like and to have that inform. and the pace and the scope of the final decision of the draw down is very important and ambassador did you agree senator, you asked a very good question and i am very
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concern that had we will go down too low and it is a source of great regress without press end. the consequences are staring us in the face with the rise of isis and the collapse of the security force? i worry that we may be put ourselves on the same path in avenue stand. i hope that we will not do that. well. thank you both with respect to europe and what is happening in ukraine. how important is um the effort to beef up nato to
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>> >> but really it is you create minus because it reaffirms the principles of the agreement is september makes adjustments for the continued aggression of the separatist. we should have no illusions and it is the reason why for
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the ukrainian government and senator king has raised by the house to respond further escalation and if we do this we have to do is seriously. the way we have been moderating the opposition for the last three years. if we do that will have the effective provocation of president putin without the benefit of deterrence for the ukraine. >> thank you mr. chairman i would be noted as quoting in person for dr. carter.
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i appreciate you doting there is the shift in the conversation regarding what we need to do in the intelligence committee that the shift is happening. that will move us forward but also to retain our seapower and the decreasing size of the fleet for asking that his confirmation how do respond to the threats in the middle east and africa and decreeing - - ukraine to still be committed to the rebalance? then why do believe that it is important to national security?
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>> but when you look long term looking at greater prosperity and security it is the most important so we have to deal with of crisis of aggression and europe we want to ensure that we are adequately investing in asia in the foundations of economic growth in the maintenance of the rules of international order with the alliances and partnerships. and then to invest more but
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also with economic terms and why it is such an important initiative to do signal u.s. state power said the u.s. will remain a critical economic partner going forward. >> the region obviously is growing in wealth and importance of the world and america's future is tied up. leased the land taken pacific station but the impact of the pacific and will be in the future for some time to come. and so the general direction was the right direction. with some concern in effect for a budget levels talk
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about the growing of naval and air capability because behalf this is the theater that we operate with the distance and geography over water in there. -- and air. the need is clear it is important that we move ahead with the rebalance. i concerned what we have done already is fairly limited and cannot say we should not do with but basically 2500 marines with rebalancing of the shrinking fleet. and that is one of the reasons with sequestration.
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>> other nations are decreasing the amount they put into the military. is that where japan is also? >> and it has done a bit to increase the defense capabilities. i don't think they have done enough but japan spends 1% of gdp on defense that with that japanese economy is considerable amounts of money and what i said earlier in response to focus on the capabilities to help complement what we're doing.
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and i think there has been a lot in a more positive direction. >> mr. chairman may i just ask the secretary to respond? >> i would agree japan is moving in the right direction. the prime minister is seeking to have an internal discussion to allow the military to play a more wholesome role in our lives and the depth of the alliance relationship is unprecedented now and we are deeply engaged with a common understandings of the environment the threats and capabilities that are needed
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so i think the alliance is on a strong footing moving in the right direction. with the question is the internal debate about the proper rules of military and what the japanese people are comfortable with moving forward. >> i was of proxy now i'm here for a ride foreign relations. thank you for your testimony especially with respect to the foolishness of the sequestered. with a strategic question i know question mark as morass' to about afghanistan , should activities be based on the calendar or conditions on the ground? but from a strategic standpoint talk about what failure would mean if we
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would pull up precipitously and the gains we have achieved our lost. what would that mean to u.s. credibility with the people of the afghanistan or to people in the region from a security standpoint? >> if history is any guide it could be dangerous for the afghan government and society. recall when the soviets ended their aid the government collapsed if they had no mission that international assistance would drive up -- a dry up to see a decline of the government over a territory as whole in the country. so it would be very dangerous but on the
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opportunities side modest of international support and think the afghan government as an opportunity to keep governing without having government or the overall control being threatened. given the region's remains a homer to terrorist elements that still harbor our intentions against the united states sometimes you have to make sure to keep those threats that day. also it is very damaging for u.s. credibility to put so much into afghanistan to the point where it is today innocent pulled the carpet
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out from underneath their feet. also with military relations given the degree of sacrifice that men and women have announced to make create the possibility for afghanistan to succeed then walk away before we complete the job would be very damaging. >> i agree the reputation low-risk in the homeland risk it would reduce strategic leverage on pakistan and we should not lose sight of a large nuclear weapons that pakistan presides over. >> worry about my police force and economic development you have been doing national security for your whole career. we hear questions of where is the strategy? i am sympathetic as we have
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a national security strategy like you're not until the soviet union collapsed then we went into a period of at hawk were read debt -- stilts with challenges as they rose and then 9/11 the policy was a war on terror. that is not a great policy for the country's biggest u.s. and now we recognize we're looking for a a a broader definition. are we back to the ad hoc or as those who have done this as a lifetime, what would you suggest as a big picture strategy? >> of this is the $64,000 question. it is something we have got
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to rise above the crisis of the day to get back to a strategic framework a sense of purpose to garner bipartisan support i personally believe one of the key elements is to defend the international rules based order after world war ii but is the basis of stability and for economic growth and security we have a lot riding on that challenge in asia questioning the order is being challenged in the least and the boundaries of nation states and to have the conflict the rise of the terrorist elements and now
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it is challenged in the heart of europe with aggression across international borders. so sustain that order is something at the heart for any strategic framework we develop. >> i agree with everything my colleagues said is that makes it easier. there was a turtle that had a provocative title strategy is an illusion and i teach a course at johns hopkins and my a student say it is easy when you have it is an adversary but it is too hard and we said we are dealing with a volley style and a complex security environment and then just say it is too hard to do but my view is as
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hard as it may be nearing objectives is the essence of good governance and if you don't try it becomes an excuse to take any road to where you want to go without a road map. there is a lot of merit what kissinger has suggested to be faced with regional challengers the strategies that are interconnected with the over archie global vision and that is the beginning of wisdom on that subject. >> in the reagan doctrine and the words of margaret thatcher may be there are
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some of us that have different views of history. >> i just have one quick follow-up question that relates to the broader issues we're struggling with and i like your views and your thoughts on the coming debate on the authorization of the use of military force. and you mentioned a fresh start looking for word, how would you would bias members of congress to look at that year's orchards it would be important and i appreciate your views. >> it is important to have the discretion of the emf of
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what should the strategy me with counterterrorism of the middle east. as you have that discussion and it is very important to remember something that was said to revere the we are very bad at predicting exactly how complex will unfold or how things will morphy and change. this though to say no boots on the ground to be over the restrictive could become a problem over time. that centcom it is very important to recognize a lot of realities have moved beyond that and we need to
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recognize that groups seek to distance themselves from the al qaeda and weighed the to have the authorization and to do with them. the guy would caution against overly protective or specific in restrictions because we don't exactly know how we need to evolve. >> senator i a agree with that i would just add to the other element there is a lot of interest and a timeline that we frequently talk about this. but to do that is to set up a difficult debate later down the road. things are worked out and do have problems if you have to let the people fighting the war fight the war. and also you don't want to
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signal a lack of resolve to tell them how long they have to wait some mx thank you. >> can ask one more question? >> i want to follow-up on the senators' questions about strategy. there has been high profile articles the last few months about the lessons learned in afghanistan and iraq and the dod commissioned report from the rand corporation about the lessons learned. also a to take a look at decision making structures and to get each of you to comment if that is an accurate analysis and how to
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make those decisions in the future. >> two catalog which lessons we should be exerting there is the desire to get this in the rearview mirror and move on but it is very important to understand what we should take away. so a year exercises at the inter agency level to go forward looking at different models the new ways they have operated different results over time and history and you can draw
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conclusions about what works better and what doesn't. in the field those innovations to have all interagency players to share with operations that is something we don't want to lose. >> but i have to confess to a certain degree of skepticism. and it doesn't ever change by the national security act it is a flexible system. ended is flexible lot of it
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each president has developed the system that fits them best for better or worse. this system is so presidential centric that unless you want to take over the constitution i am not sure anything else is more than moving boxes around on the diagram. it is certainly worth looking at lessons learned and i am struck by the fact that the relationship between process said the outcome is not always clear and direct. with the transcripts during the cuban missile crisis i
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would give it the latter half. no agenda not doing anything their teaching you at the kennedy school of government but he came to the right decisions on how can that is testimony to what i was saying that it is the system that revolves around the president. and he or she's should not be constrained by efforts to tinker with the machinery. >> your testimony has been very helpful. so to work on a commission with very important area is that needs to be a part of the discussion nor the dialogue we have bumbles
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sides of the aisle on pennsylvania avenue. contributing a great deal to the thought process and i thank you for it. >> want to express the same feeling for your efforts. thank you very much. [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations]
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march. the brookings institution hosted this event. >> i want to welcome everyone here today. i and ej d on.
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i am a senior fellow here at brookings. it is a great honor to welcome senator bernie sanders as part of our ongoing conversation on the future of our economy and our shared economic growth. for those of you out there who want to comment on twitter, the hashtag is #sandersatbrookings. it is a pleasure to welcome a self-described proud democratic socialist. these days, the word socialist is the runaround as an event. people are insulted when president obama is called a socialist because they argue he is too moderate to be a socialist.
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we forget that the vibrancy of the democratic socialist tradition in the united states. in the american tradition, we are talking about people from michael harrington to people like barbara aaron wright. this is a lively american tradition that has influenced policy in our country in a great many ways. it is refreshing to see a senator who does not run away from a particular part of our american tradition. senator sanders is a senator from vermont. he spent 16 years in the house of representatives, making them the longest-serving independent member of congress in history. he has dedicated his career to public service. he addresses the growing income gap. he has always tried to build our
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infrastructure and six environmental -- fix environmental crises. we worry a lot these days about congress being able to do nothing. i think it is worth noting that when two sides are willing to seek agreement and willing to recognize the urgency of government action, you can actually have things happen. very recently, senator sanders with senator mccain and others negotiated a very comprehensive bill to deal with the problems in the v.a. medical system. when we have senator sanders and senator mccain working together, we can produce miracles in public policy. while senator sanders will not be talking about miracles today i will close by saying that he is a fan of pope francis.
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welcome bernie sanders. [applause] >> let me begin by thanking brookings for hosting this event. thank you jay for moderating it. thank you for being here this morning. before i begin my remarks in trying to explain what is going on in our country and where i think we should be going, let me say a few words about myself. my journey and how i got here is to say the least a little bit different than many others who have been on this platform. i was born in brooklyn, new york in 1941. my father came to this country at the age of 17 without a penny in his pocket and without much of an education. my mother graduated high school
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in new york. my family was never really poor. my dad was a paint salesman. he never made much money. i mother's dream was to get out of the 3.5 room rent-controlled apartment we lived in for my entire life. we never made it out. what i learned as a kid is what lack of money does to a family. the kind of stress and pressure that families that don't have the money they need what happens to them. that is the lesson i've never forgotten. my wife, jane, and i have been married for 27 years. we have four kids and seven grandchildren. without being overly dramatic, the truth is that my involvement in politics has everything to do with what kind of country i hope they will be living in. as long as serving an
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independent -- as longest-serving independent, let me describe my political journey. it is an unusual one. i first came to vermont in 1964. in 1971, there was a special election to replace a senator from vermont who had passed away. i ran for the united states senate on a third-party, the liberty union party. i received 2% of the vote. next year, i ran for governor of the state of vermont and i received 1% of the vote. i was on the move. heading down. two years later, i ran for the senate. i received 4% of the vote and i ran for governor in 1976 and received 6% of the vote. then i decided to give the good people of the state of vermont a break and i stopped running for
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office. five years later, some friends of mine suggested that i could do well in a race for mayor of the city of burlington. it is the largest city in the state of vermont. in that race, i ran against a five-term incumbent, a democratic mayor. i ran as an independent. nobody thought we had a chance to win. nobody. and that very remarkable election, the point i want to make here was a profound political lesson i learned. we did what is not done terribly much today. we did coalition politics. we put together an extraordinary coalition of workers and unions of environmentalists neighborhood activist, low income organizations, the very first press conference i had was at a low income housing project
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of women's that is the coalition we put together. and that type of politics, bringing people together around the progressive agenda is something that i believe was right then and i believe is right today. i should also state that that campaign for mayor cost something like $4,000, and in the process i personally knocked on thousands of doors in the city. on election night when the votes were counted, we won the working class wards of the city by two to one, and we won the election by all of 14 votes. it was, in fact, the biggest political upset in vermont history. and after the recount, the margin of victory was reduced to 10 votes. now, without going into any great lengths here, actually,
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there have been books written about this -- i took office with 11 out of the 13 members of the city council, those were the democrats and the republican, in very, very strong opposition to my agenda. and trust me, if you think that the republicans have been obstructionists to the president obama, you ain't seen nothing with what happened in my first year as mayor of the city of burlington. but what happened, and this is also a lesson that i've never forgotten, by doing what we could do despite the opposition and reaching out to people, what happened is a year later the slate of candidates that i supported won a huge victory against the people who were obstructionist. and the other lesson that i will never forget is that the year following when i ran for re-election, we almost doubled the voter or turnout. almost doubled the voter turnout from what it had been when i first won. and the lesson that i will never forget and what i believe is that when you stand up for
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people and you keep your promise, people will, in fact, get involved in politics. so i think it was true then, and i think it's true today. in 1986 i ran for governor of the state of vermont as an independent, received 14% of the vote. 1988 i ran for the u.s. congress, and in that election i was told by my democratic friends that i would be a spoiler, taking away votes and enabling the republican candidate to win. in fact, the republican candidate did win with 41% of the vote. i got 38. democrat got 19%. two years later i ran again for congress defeating the incumbent by 16 points. in 2006 with the retirement of senator jim jeffords and with the support of democrats, i won vermont's united states senate seat against the fellow who i think was the wealthiest person
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in the state of vermont who spent three times more money than had ever been spent in our state previous to that. i received 67% of the vote. in 2012 i won re-election with 71% of the vote. as mayor of burlington, my administration took on virtually every powerful special interest in the city, in the state. we had a very active city attorney's office. against the wishes of the developers and the railroad, we created an extraordinarily beautiful people-oriented water front and bike path on lake champlain, we developed the first municipal housing land in -- land trust in the country an , idea that has spread worldwide. we won national recognition for urban beatification by planting thousands of trees throughout the city, often using a lot of volunteers to make that happen. we made major improvements in our streets and sidewalks, we implemented the largest
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environmental program by building a program to prevent untreated waste from going into the lake. we started a youth office which created an extraordinary daycare center, after school programs and a sustain center, all of which -- and a teen center all of which 25, 30 years later are still in existence today. we were the first city in vermont to break our dependence on the regressive property tax. we made major changes in the burlington police department to move toward community policing. we started a very active and successful arts center and women's council. and i say all of that to invite all of you to burlington and the state of vermont. [laughter] it's a beautiful place to visit. in 1990 i became the first independent, nondemocrat nonrepublican elected to the u.s. house in 40 years. during my first year there along with four other house members, we put together the congressional progressive caucus which today is one of the largest and, i think, more effective caucuses in the house.
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one of my first votes in the house was a vote against the first gulf war. i believe that history will record that that was the right vote as was the vote i cast years later against the war in iraq, a war which has cost us many thousands of brave young men and women, untold suffering for those who returned and has driven up our national debt by trillions of dollars. it has also -- that war in my opinion -- has also opened up the can of worms which we now see in that region of the world in which we are trying to deal with today. while a member of the house financial services committee, i was one of those leading the fight against the decan -- deregulation of wall street. and i will never forget having alan greenspan up there are visiting the committee, telling us how great deregulation was. i didn't buy it then, and i don't buy it now.
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i also opposed the free trade agreements that came down the pike, nafta, cafta, permanent normal trade relations with china. i never believed then, and i don't believe now that forcing american workers to compete against people who make pennies an hour is a good thing for the united states of america. while in the house i took on the pharmaceutical industry, and the outrageous prices they charge our people. and how it is that they end up charging us far higher prices for the same products than do the people that are charged to the people of any other country. the was the first congressman to take americans over the canadian border and will never forget women buying the same exact breast cancer drug for one-tenth of the price that they were paying in the united states. as a united states senator and former chairman of the segment veterans -- senate veterans affairs committee, i worked hard in a bipartisan way with republicans in the senate, a number of senators including
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senator mccain, jeff miller in the house on what turns out to be one of the more significant piece of veterans legislation passed in recent years. i also led the effort with representative jim clyburn to put some $12 billion into federally-qualified health centers which has result inside -- resulted in some 4 million lower income americans now getting health care and dental care, which is a huge issue in our country. and low cost prescription drugs, and i'm proud of that. with senator bob menendez, i helped pass the energy efficiency block grant program which put billions of dollars into weatherization and sustainable energy as we do our best to try to reverse climate change. now, that is my life and political history in five minutes. let me get to something more important now, and that is the future of our country. on saturday, just this last saturday, i had been invited to speak in harrisburg, pennsylvania, and my friend and i were driving back to d.c., and
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we drove through gettysburg, and we stopped there for a while at the battlefield of monuments and the museum. and while we were there we, of course, saw the lincoln statues, and we read from his gettysburg address. and you all know about lincoln's extraordinary gettysburg address where he said a hell of a lot more than i said in ten times as much time as he said it. but he said of hope, that this would -- this nation would have quote, a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth, end of quote. what an extraordinary statement. and as we drove back from gettysburg to washington, it struck me hard that lincoln's extraordinary vision -- a government of the people, by the
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people for the people -- was, in , fact, perishing, was coming to an end and that we are moving rapidly away from our democratic heritage into an oligarchic form of society where today we are experiencing a government of the billionaires, by the billionaires and for the billionaires. today, in my view, the most serious problem we face as a nation is the grotesque and growing levels of wealth and income inequality. this is a profound moral issue it is an economic issue, and it is a political issue. economically, for the last 40 years the great middle class of our country, once the envy of the world, has been many -- has been in decline.
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despite, and here's the important point to make that we have got to answer, despite an explosion of technology, can despite a huge increase in productivity, despite all of the so-called benefits of the global economy, millions of american workers today are working longer hours for lower wages, and we have more people living in poverty than almost any time in the history of our country. today, real unemployment is not the 5.7% you read in the newspapers, it is 11.3% if you include those people who are working part time when they want to work full time or those people who have given up looking for work entirely. we don't talk about it. pope francis does, by the way. but we don't talk about the fact that youth unemployment in this country is 18%, and african-american youth unemployment is nearly 30%.
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shamefully, we have by far the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. i hear a whole lot of discussion about family values from my republican friends but nothing about the fact that almost 20% of our kids are living in poverty. despite the modest success of the affordable care act, some 40 million americans continue to have no health insurance while even more are underinsured with high deductibles, high co-payments, high premiums. we remain today the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right, ask can yet -- and yet we end up spending , almost twice as much per perp -- per person on health care as do the people of any other nation. now, as all of you know, there are a lot of angry people out there. all across the country. some of them are in the occupy wall street movement and
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consider themselves progressives, some are in the tea party movement and consider themselves conservatives. but let me give you an explanation as to why they have every right in the world to be angry. since 1999 the typical middle class family, the family right in the middle of the economy has seen its income go down by almost $5,000 after adjusting for inflation. incredibly, that family earned less income last year than it did 26 years ago back in 1989. the median male worker, that guy right in the middle of the economy, made $783 less last year than he did 42 years ago. while the median female worker earned $1300 less last year than she did in 2007.
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that is why people are angry. they're working longer hours for lower wages, they're seeing an explosion of technology, they're watching tv and seeing all the great benefits supposedly of the global economy, and they're working longer hours for lower wages, and they're scared to death as to what is going to happen to their kids, what kind of jobs are their kids going to have. are we better off today economic, than we were six years ago when president bush left office? of course we are. but anyone who doesn't understand the suffering anxiety and fear that the middle class and working families of our country are experiencing today has no idea about what's going on in the economy, and i fear very much a lot of the pundits here on capitol hill don't understand that. it might be a good idea to get off of capitol hill, go into the real world and find out what's going on with working people. meanwhile, while the middle class continues to disappear the wealthiest people in this country and the largest
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corporations are doing phenomenally well, and the gap between the very, very rich and everybody else is growing wider and wider. the top 1% now own about 41% of the entire wealth of the united states while the bottom 60% own less than 2% of our wealth. and this one is incredible. today the top one-tenth of 1% -- that is the wealthiest 16,000 families -- now own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. one-tenth of 1% owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. is that really what the united states of america is supposed to be about? i don't think so, and i don't think most americans think so. today the walton family, the owners of walmart, and the wealthiest family in america are now worth about $153 billion.
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that one family owns more wealth than the bottom 40% of the american people. in terms of income as opposed to wealth, almost all of the new income generated in recent years has gone to the top 1%. in fact, the latest information that we have shows that in recent years over 99% of all new income generated in the economy has gone to the top 1%. in other words, for the middle class gdp doesn't matter. 2%, 4%, 6% doesn't matter because middle class and working families are not getting any of it. it's all going to the top 1%. in other words, while millions of americans saw a decline in their family income, while we have seen an increase in senior poverty throughout this country, over 99% of all the new income generated goes to the top 1%.
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an example, an example, the top 25 hedge fund managers made more than $24 billion in 2013. that is equivalent to the full salaries of more than 425,000 public schoolteachers. anyone really think that is morally acceptable, economically acceptable? is that really what our country should be about? but income inequality is not just the moral issue of whether we are satisfied about our country where we have seen a proliferation of billionaires at the same time as millions of families are struggling to make sure they are able to feed their kids, it is also a profound political issue. as a result of the disastrous supreme court decision, the 5-4
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decision on citizens united, billionaire families are now able to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase the candidates of their choice. the billionaire class now owns the economy, and they are working day and night to make certain that they own the united states government. according to media reports, it appears that one family -- the extreme right-wing koch brothers -- are prepared to spend more money than either the democratic party or the republican party in the coming elections. in other words, one family, a family which is worth about $100 billion, may well have a stronger political presence than either of our major parties. now, i know that people are not
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comfortable when i say this, but i want you to take a hard look at what's going on, take a deep breath, and you tell me whether or not we are looking at a democracy or whether or not we are looking at an oligarchy. when you have one family that has more political power than the democratic party, than the republican party which can spend unlimited sums of money not only on campaigns, but on think tanks, on media, i worry very, very much about the future of democracy in our country. and that is why it is absolutely imperative that we pass a constitutional amendment to overturn citizens united and, in fact, why we must move forward toward public funding of elections. i want young people out there, whatever their point of view may be, who like the idea of public servants to be able to run for
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office, to get involved in politics without having to worry about sucking up to billionaires in order to get the support that they may need. now, given the economic crisis that we face -- i talked a little bit about the political crisis, given the economic crisis and i laid out a little bit of what that's about, where do we go? what should we be doing? how do we rebuild a disappearing middle class? last month i introduced a 12-point program that's i called -- that i called an agenda for america, but relate me briefly summarize it. first of all, you ask the average american what the most important issue they are concerned about, enters a four letter word, called jobs. we need a major federal jobs
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program to put millions of americans back to work. the fastest way to do that is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, our roads bridges, water systems wastewater points, airports, railroads, and schools. it has been estimated that the costs of the bush/cheney iraq war with, a war we should never have waged, will total $3 trillion by the time the last veteran receives needed care. a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could support 13 million decent-paying jobs and make our country more efficient, productive and safer. and along with senator barbara mikulski, i introduced that legislation two weeks ago. further, we must understand that climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating harm. we must listen to the scientific community and not fox tv and lead the world in reversing climate change so that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. and what that means, that we have the technology to do it
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transform our system from fossil fuel to energy efficiency, weatherization and sustainable energies like wind, solar, geothermal and other technologies. and when we do that, we not only lead the world in reversing climate change, we can also create many jobs. we not only need to create jobs in this country, we need to raise wages. the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. we need to raise the wage to at least $15 an hour over a period of years. no one who works 40 hours a week in this country should live in poverty. we must also demand pay equity for women workers who today earn 78 cents of what their male counterparts make for doing the same work. we must also end the scandal of overtime pay. we are people at mcdonald's who make $25,000 as, quote-unquote managers who make 60 hours a
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week but because they are managers, they don't get overtime. further, we must make it easier for workers to join unions by passing card check legislation. in my view, and this is relevant with the transpacific partnership trade agreement coming down the pipes, we need to take a hard look at our trade policies, which have resulted in the outsourcing of millions of good paying jobs. the evidence is overwhelming. nafta, calf the, they have all failed. it makes no sense to continue a failed policy which leads us on a race to the bottom. we need new trade policies. we need to demand that corporate america invest in this country not in china. in today's highly competitive global economy, millions of americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good paying jobs.
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all of you know the hundreds of thousands of young people have literally given up on the dream of going to college while others are graduating schools deeply, deeply in debt. a few months ago, i met with a woman in burlington, vermont. her crime was that she went to school to become a physician for low income people. that was a crime. a result of that crime is that she is $300,000 in debt. that is nuts. and we have got to learn that in countries like germany scandinavia, many parts of the world that are competing against us people are smart enough to , understand that the future of their countries depends on their education their young people get, their college education in graduate school is free. we have got to learn that lesson. free public education does not have to end at high school. president obama is, president obama's initiative for two years of community college is a good start. we have got to go further.
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further, we cannot run away from the fact that the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior on wall street caused the worst economic downturn in this country and, in fact, the world since the great depression. that's a fact. i know it's easy not to talk about it, but that is the fact. today, six huge wall street financial institutions have assets equivalent to 60% of our gdp. close to $10 trillion. if teddy roosevelt, a good republican, were alive today, i know what he would say. and what he would say is that when you have six financial institutions issuing half the mortgages and two-thirds of the credit cards in this country, it is time to break them up, and i've introduced legislation to do just that. in terms of health care we have got to grapple with the fact that we remain the only country
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, major country, without a national health care program. right now, in fact, i say in -- i say this as the ranking member of the budget committee my republican colleagues are going to begin their effort to try to cut social security benefits. they're going to start off with disability benefits and go beyond that. in my view, at a time when senior poverty is increasing when millions of seniors, and i see it in vermont, people are trying to get by on 12,000 dollars, $14,000 per year, we should not be about cutting social security benefits, we should be about expanding those benefits. as i mentioned a moment ago, we live in a time of massive inequality. we need a progressive tax system in this country and an effective tax rate.
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it is not acceptable to me that a number of profitable corporations have paid zero federal income taxes in recent years, and that millionaire headphone and -- hedge fund managers pay less taxes than truck drivers and nurses. it is absurd that we lose $100 billion a year revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their money in offshore tax havens like the cayman islands, bermuda and other places around the world. the time is now for real tax reform. so let me conclude by saying this: the struggle that we're in now is not just about protecting social security or medicare or medicaid or making college affordable to our kids or raising the minimum wage. it is something deeper than that. it is about whether we can put together a vibrant grassroots movement all over this country which says to the billionaire
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class, sorry, government in this country is going to work for all of us and not just the top 1%. thank you very much. [applause] >> for the cameras i've got to connect. hold on. are we connected? >> thank you, senator sanders, for that carefully-hedged, cautious political speech. [laughter] >> i was very quiet.
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this is brookings -- >> yeah. >> and i didn't want to -- >> this is a moderate version of the speech. i have a whole lot of questions i would like to ask. i'm going to try to limit myself to a few and then i want to bring in the audience. i will have a bias, and i hope you will forgive me. i'm going to ask members of the media to ask questions because they're bringing this to other people, but i will open it up to everyone before we're done. i want to start with one philosophical and one political question. the philosophical question is what do you actually think of , the market economy? you know, in this long list of proposals you do not propose you know, public ownership of the means of production distribution in exchange, and you are very critical of the way capitalism works. but what is your view of the market economy in general and capitalism in particular?
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>> well, in that regard i think i come down somewhere where pope francis is. who i think, by the way, has played an extraordinary role in the last several years in raising issues internationally that have not been raised by such a prominent figure. i think casino capitalism, runaway capitalism which is what we are experiencing right now, is a disaster. there is no way to defend internationally the top 1% owning more wealth than the bottom 90% of the world's population. i think it's impossible to defend that. it is impossible to defend the incredible inequities that we see in american society today. what i believe when i talk about these issues, what i look at is
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countries like denmark, and we have the danish ambassador come to vermont a year and a half ago, and it's not that the government is going to take over every mom and pop store. that is not what we're talking about. but what we are talking about is that in a democratic, civilized society, the basic necessities of life should be available to all people. not a radical idea. it exists in scandinavia and elsewhere. should everybody have a right the health care? -- to health care he echoes? the answer is, yes. should everybody, regardless of their income, be able to get as much income as they need? the answer is, yes. in the united states when you have a baby, we managed some years ago to do the family and medical leave act, and you get three months off if you work for a large company without pay. how many americans know that all over the world that women get six, eight months off with three-quarters pay in order to bond with their babies? when you get old, you should have strong retirement security, stronger than we have right now. so, e.j., capitalism does a lot
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of good things. it creates wealth, you've got a lot of vibrant, small businesses, entrepreneurs that are coming up with fantastic ideas, that is great. but we cannot at the end of that process have these situations where a handful of people own so much and so many people have so little. so the government plays a very important role in making sure that all of our people have the opportunity to succeed in life. >> now, you hint at this, but i'd like you to be more specific. this is a very ambitious program, a trillion dollar investment in infrastructure broader rather than narrower social security, free higher education and so on. how are you going to pay for this? >> well, it addresses the issue of income and wealth inequality, and you're doing two things at the same time. for example, in terms of social security, everybody in this room understands that if somebody's making ten million a year, somebody is making $118,000 a year, both people are paying the same amount into the social
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security trust fund. if you simply lift the cap and begin taxing at $250,000, you will extend social security for decades and be able to expand benefits. in terms of other infrastructure, for example, we are losing about $100 billion every single year because corporations and wealthy people are stashing their money in the cayman islands and elsewhere. real tax reform should be used to generate a significant sum of money for infrastructure and education. >> um, there is many years ago two folks you probably disagree with, but they made a very interesting point, richard stanton and ben wattenberg said the problem with liberals is they often come along and say our programs have failed, let us continue. and i raise that quote because while you do say that we are better off economically than we were six years ago, you have a pretty tough litany of what's wrong with the economy as it
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exists. the real unemployment rate is 11.3%, youth unemployment 18%. i'm sorry, 30 -- and african-american unemployment 30 percent and so on. yet you voted for a number of programs to try to get the economy moving including the recovery act, otherwise known as the stimulus. if somebody listens to you and says, you know, bernie sanders is saying that the programs of the last six years haven't worked, what do you say back to them? >> compared to what? you know, i think history, and you know, i was on the floor eight and a half hours a couple years ago in opposition to president obama's tax proposal so, you know, i have been very critical of him. but i think what you will find is history will judge president obama a lot better than his contemporaries have. i'll tell you programs, e.j. that have not worked, and that is trickle down economics. trickle down economics, which
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means tax breaks for the rich and large corporations deregulation of wall street, etc., etc., has been a grotesque failure. and any economic analysis will suggest that that is true. has the obama program, has the stimulus package worked? of course it worked. it created millions of jobs at a time when we desperately needed those jobs. so i would argue in terms of infrastructure, putting money into infrastructure and creating jobs, it's not a question of whether it works, how do you ignore the fact that our infrastructure is crumbling? so i am proud to defend in terms of single payer, health care. all over the world. i live 100 miles away from the canadian border. they have a conservative premier, they have a single-payer health care system under a conservative premier because it is more cost effective, provides health care to all of their people. >> but more generally, i mean, i guess when you look back on the last six years, what would you
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have done that we didn't do to get the economy moving to deal with some of the problems you're talking about here? >> i would have been stronger than president obama in a number of areas. i think he missed the opportunity politically of doing what roosevelt did when he was elected. and making it clear to the american people what is happening and why is it happening. when he was elected, this economy was on the verge of collapse, financial system maybe wouldn't make it. and at that point what he should have done is what roosevelt did. he should have looked in that camera and said -- what roosevelt said was the economic royalists hate me, and i'm going to take them on. i think that's what president obama said. these people have destroyed millions of lives because of their greed and recklessness. i will take them on, ask is -- we are going to rebuild an
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economy so that it works for all people and not just for the very wealthy. i voted for the affordable care act. we managed to get $12 million into community health certains very important. i would have gone forward trying to fight for a single payer or at least greatly expanding medicare, making it simpler, more inclusive. >> and what do you say to folks who put a heavy emphasis now on the cost of retiring baby boomers? in other words, basically you're saying that if we simply lift the cap, we can cover that problem. is that your answer to that critique? >> we are exactly where people anticipated we would be when the last social security adjustments were made. no great surprise, people can add. they do know demographickings. -- demographics. just a couple of points on social security, because there's a lot of misinformation that is out there. social security is not going broke. there's $2.8 trillion, can pay out every benefit for the next 18 years. social security, obviously
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doesn't add to the deficit because it's paid by an independent source of revenue, the payroll tax. so the answer is, yes, should we strengthen social security? absolutely. and the way to do that is to lift the cap. i would start at $250,000. >> is there a place for something like wall street in a bernie sanders economy? >> well, look, banking plays an important role, obviously, in our society. and in that i am pretty conservative. what banking is about, traditional banking is i work, i make money, i put it in the bank. i get a guaranteed interest rate, the bank then invests money into the economy. what has happened in recent years is something radically different. wall street, instead of being the grease for the economy taking money in and getting it out to small businesses, medium-sized businesses, what wall street has become is an island unto itself where its goal is to make as much money as it can in however way that it
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can do it. and i don't want to, again, you know, try to be, you know, too dramatic here. i happen to believe that the business model of wall street is fraud and deception. and as you know, recently you pick up the papers every single day there's another large bank that is fined, reaches a settlement with the government. so their job is banking plays an important role. it helps get money out to the economy. the businesses that are producing products, producing services. that is what we want from a banking, the banking community. we don't want a small number of people coming up with incredibly complicated, speculative dangerous financial tools. and then when it all goes down the taxpayers of this country bail them out. that is what we don't want. >> by the way, the headline on the event so far is bernie sanders calls himself "pretty conservative." [laughter] i just wanted to note that. i will ask this question to get
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it out of the way. are you running for president? if so, will the result be closer to the 1971 special elections or the 2012 reelection? >> with a bit of luck, we are beyond 1971. let me say this. it is no big secret. i'm giving thought to running for president. at a time when the middle class is disappearing, when we have grotesque levels of wealth inequality, when climate change threatens not only this country but the entire planet, when you have a handful of billionaires in the process of buying a united states government and our political system, i think it is important to have candidates who stand up for the working class and are prepared to take on the big money interest. i am giving serious thought --
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don't tell my wife actually. she doesn't necessary agree. -- necessarily agree. >> tell her to turn off the tv right now. >> on the other hand, i also want to say, when you take on the billionaire class, it ain't easy. and if i do something, i want to do it well and it's important not just for my ego i do it well it's important for millions of people who share the same set of beliefs that i hold. so to do it well we would have to put together the strongest grassroots movement in the modern history of this country with when millions of people saying you know what? enough is enough. we are going to take on the billionaire class. we're going to have a government that starts working for working values rather than just the top 1%. to be honest with you, i am going around the country and talking to a lot of people. there are a lot of people coming out. there is a lot of sentiment that enough is enough. that we need fundamental changes, that the establishment, the economic or political or the media establishment is failing the american people.
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but, the gut feeling, the decision i will have to reach is whether there is that willingness to stand up and fight back. if there is not, i don't want to run a futile campaign. i want to run to win. we need millions of people actively involved. in terms of money that's all this is out absurd the stories. if you had a candidate who reached out and generate a lot of excitement and you had 2 million people, we are going for putting 100 bucks into the campaign, and by the way, in my senate race, you know my average contribution was? $45. if you had 2 million people , phenomenal response putting in , 100 bucks, that $200 million that is 20% of what the koch brothers themselves are prepared to spend. can you take that on? i don't know the answer. maybe the game is over. maybe they have bought a united states government. maybe there is no turning back.
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maybe we have gone over the edge. i don't know. i surely hope not but we have to look at that reality. >> last on that issue, when candidates run for president they often have two objectives. the first objective obviously is to win the nomination of election but there've been plenty of candidates in our history who have won to advance an agenda even when they didn't win. and so, obviously, you've had to have thought about both sides of this equation if i run and when -- if i run and win, i run and win. but if i run and lose, how can i have an effect on the agenda of the winning candidate which at this point, on the democratic side we assume will be hillary clinton. can you analyze the politics? i think the politics matter in trying to advance an agenda not simply win an election spirit if
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-- >> if i do this and people have to appreciate how difficult a decision that is, but if i make the decision i would be running to win. but having said that let me also take something about myself. you are looking at a candidate who ran four times for mayor eight times for the house and twice for the senate. you know how many negative ads i run it during the whole period? zero. never ran a negative ad in my life. negative ads disgust me. in my state they don't work. if i run and if secretary clinton runs, what i would hope would happen is that we would have a real serious debate. this is a woman i respect, a very intelligent person who i think is interested in issues, by the way. i think we would have a debate about how you would rebuild a crumbling middle-class. and debate about how you reverse climate change, a debate about the foreign policy and the wisdom of the war in iraq, and
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how we deal with what we deal with. a debate about trade policy. a debate about wall street, and that would be i think good for the american people, to be honest with you. but it is not my style to trash people. it is not my style to run ugly negative ads. never have, never will. would you -- >> would you really register as a democrat yack? >> a lot of my constituents say, you have to go outside the two-party system. and other people do and say you've got to run to you been in the democratic caucus, and if you want to go where the action is and you want to be in the debates and to want to get media attention, you've got to run within the democratic caucus. that is an issue i'm talking to a lot of people about. >> we have a lot of voices. by the way, as i begin with a journalist first and i want to
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have my friend and colleague, a brookings person and a journalist, if you want to jump in now or later, let me know. among journalists who are here, who would like to ask a question? hold on. say it again so people were no. >> i am from politico. does the pressure to comprise up to hillary clinton make it harder for you to introduce or sell to voters on their own terms? >> well, i'll tell you a funny story. i do a number of interviews. often, i do what i am doing today, talk about the issues that i think are important. somewhere along the line, able ask about hillary. i try not to attack her. no matter what i say, usually it becomes hillary clinton. to me, if i run, what i am running on are the issues i talked to you about today issues, by the way, which i
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think the vast majority of the american people understand and support. clearly, in terms of hillary clinton, her name recognition is about 10 times greater than mine. if i run, it would take a lot of work hitting around the country introducing myself to people. but i will tell you this, and this is the interesting point. when you look at the republican agenda which boils down to more tax breaks for billionaires and large corporations, cuts in social security, medicare, medicaid, education, what percentage of the american people support that? i would say, 10, 15% but when you look at my agenda, massive jobs program to put people back to work, rebuild our infrastructure, raising the minimum wage, tackling climate change, we have a lot more support. so the question is how we get out to people, and how we bring people together to go forward. >> do you view the working families endorsement of all -- elizabeth worn as a setback?
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>> i am not sure senator warren will be running. >> do you have a thought on senator warren? >> i knew elizabeth warren before she was elizabeth warren. [laughter] she was a mere brilliant harvard law school professor. we brought senator, well , it wasn't senator, elizabeth warren to the town meetings and she blew me away with her ability to deal with complicated economic issues in a language that people could understand. we had town meetings around the state. i'm a fan of elizabeth warren and we worked together on a number of issues. >> way in the back. when the back there. >> thank you. kevin with the hill. i'm wondering if senator warren, she says she's not running for president if she were to get in , the race, would that change your plans at all for 2016? >> this is kind of what media does. they like speculation. sorry, you will forgive me, i am
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not much into speculation. >> mark, do you want to come in? mark shields appear in the middle. welcome, mark. great to have you here. >> thank you, e.j. thank you, senator. no one would accuse you of being morning america with your presentation. >> with you, maybe. >> what does give you hope? >> my wife to -- often tells me that after i speak, we have to have anti-suicide kits. i have been trying to be more cheerful. you didn't catch that obviously. i'll tell you, i'll tell you there's another part of my speech that often give and i'll tell you where i am. this is serious stuff. regardless of one's political views, if we sat in this room, 30 years ago and i were to say
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to you, i think our country would, which has a terrible history of rachel prejudice if i told you in the year 2000 and eight, we would elect an african-american president, and he would be reelected four years later, if we would overcome our racism into that, you would have said, what are you smoking? ain't going to happen. we did it. we did it. 30, 40 years ago you had one or two members of the united states senate who were women. today, you have had, we have had states, the government is a woman, senators are women, members of congress are women. and while we still have a long long way to go to break down sexist barriers in this country, nobody would deny that we have come a long way. i remember when i was mayor, i appointed the first woman police officer back in the 1980s. what a big deal that was. walk around capitol hill today it's not such a big deal.
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overcome huge barriers in terms of sexism. disability issues. when you and i were kids and families had a baby born with a disability, it was an embarrassment in the part of the family. kids were institutionalized. today we have come a long, long way as a result of the ada and other programs where kids with a disability are loved and welcomed into our schools. they are a part of our communities. we have made more progress on that than anyone would've dreamed. and last but not least, and i know this firsthand because the state of vermont helped lead the effort with regard to civil unions, if you and i were talking 10 years ago and you said, you know i think maybe , some of the more conservative states in america, gay marriage would no longer be a big deal in the year 2015. you would have thought that would be completely crazy, right? and yet i go to kids schools in the state of ormonde, the conservative parts of vermont,
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and i asked kids, what do you think about gay marriage? they look at me like i'm crazy, what are you talking about? no problem. you ask me about optimism, those are the areas, some of the areas. where we have now taken it for granted, you've got a black president, so what? 20, 30 years ago no one would've dreamed that would be possible. so i believe we have the capacity to change but i think what we're up against now, by the way, is something tougher. because you are taking on the greed and the power of the billionaire class, of the koch brothers who are out to destroy social security, medicare, medicaid, et cetera. we go back to 1920 to have the money to try to do that. this is a tough fight but am -- i am optimistic. i think we have the capacity to bring change to this country and we have done in recent years. >> thank you, mark, for allowing the senator to listen to his wife's advice. that was helpful. who do we have over there? the gentleman who has his hand up.
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could you identify yourself he? >> my name is peter. senator i would like to ask you , your opinion on the speech that prime minister netanyahu is planning to give to congress and would you consider boycotting it? >> yes. i think, look, again people disagree. the president of the united states, he argued the president was even consulted, that is wrong and not a good thing. >> are you thinking of not going? have you decided yet? >> i am not going. i may watch on it on tv but i'm not going. [applause] spent how many of your colleagues do think we'll -- will do that? >> ej, you are sounding like the media. >> i am the media. >> that's right. >> the lady in the front please. >> anything but don't ask me to speculate. >> this verges on speculation.
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i remember your votes about the gulf war and iraq war. i'm wondering what we can do and what you think we can do to stop this path we are on of endless war? >> thank you for phrasing it that way. that is exactly what my nightmare is, is endless war. it goes without saying that this isis, it is beyond pathetic to think this is going on in the year 2015, the barbarianism we are seeing. and anyone who tells you have a -- that they have a magical solution to this problem is getting you. they don't. what i do believe, the most important thing we can do, is to demand that the people in the region, by an extremely -- play an extremely active role militarily and politically. it will shock people in this room to know that the country that has the fourth-largest defense spending in the world is not france, not the u.k., it is saudi arabia. owned by a group of billionaire
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thugs. do you know what? that's their neighborhood and i , think the united states and the west should be very supportive but i think nations , in that region are going to have to put some real skin in the game, more than our right -- more than they are right now. >> can you imagine a use of force resolution against isis that would be framed in a way you could vote for? >> again i don't, look, isis is beyond, what they've done to you can't even speak about it it is so horrible. i want to see them destroyed. but as this woman aptly pointed out, there are some of my colleagues in the congress who really have in mind and endless war. god knows how many years we were in afghanistan and iraq. i was chairman of the veterans committee. we've got 500,000 men and women who came back from iraq and afghanistan with ptsd and traumatic brain injury.
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thousands of lives have been terribly impacted. i do not want to see an endless war in the middle east. i don't. having said that, i don't have a magical solution. but at the heart of it must be regional activity on the part of the country's most impacted. >> let me press you on that because this is not a speculative question. if president obama called you up and said, i know there are a lot of people in the senate and the house were very reluctant to keep at wars in the middle east, yet you agreed, we agree that isis is a particular threat. can you write me a resolution that you could vote for? >> again, the devil is always in the details, and i don't want to speculate without seeing a document. i think it's fair to say i do not disagree with the air attacks the united states is coordinating. but i don't want to see a ground presence and never-ending war. >> who else?
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a lady in the back on the aisle. those two folks on the aisle. >> leeann, sputnik international news. just had a follow-up question on what you have raised about the oligarchical trend in u.s. politics. and i just would like to know what kind of impact that has on the united states as a world leader, so how this trend in the u.s. impacts economic justice worldwide? >> thank you. that's a great question. i will answer in a couple ways. first of all, the way it impacts american politics, and again everybody knows my political views. i don't need to be partisan here. if you were the republican party, or any group of people, do you really think you would put up the keystone pipeline as
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your first order of business? i am against the keystone eye blind, i fought it very hard. but do you really think that a canadian pipeline which will provide 35 private jobs is the most important issue facing america? you would make -- that's your first bill. do you think it may have some to do with the fact that the coke or others are major owners of leases in that part of canada? how it impacts our foreign policy is that, i am afraid people who have the money will have more influence than will ordinary americans. i'll give you an example. i want to applaud the president. this does not get a lot of attention. the people of greece are hurting terribly. unemployment in greece is 25% 26 percent. their economy has shrunk by a quarter. there are people living in dire poverty right now.
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right now, what you have is an effort on the part of the european central bank to talk about more austerity for greece rather than letting the new government start implementing the agenda and the promises that it made. and president obama spoke on that issue and talked about how more austerity in a country whose economy is shrinking, is not the way to go. but, to answer your question globally, the problems we are facing in the united states are not dissimilar to what many other countries are facing around the world. more and more wealth and income inequality, more and more austerity. i think the american people have got to work with people around the world to say that when you have a handful of billionaires owning as much wealth as half of the people in this world, we need radical changes in the way we do economics. >> the gentleman right there. >> larry. i agree with most of what you say, senator. i would offer one caveat.
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if you're going to invite people to vermont, to burlington, do it in the summertime. >> the skiing is good. >> what scares me a little bit is, if you are willing -- every do not go over to the democratic side, would you run as an independent? are you willing to be the son of ralph nader? >> no, i will not. let me make it very clear. i will not be a spoiler. >> the gentleman in the back. someone tell me when we are running short of time. we are at the end. >> senator, thank you. i talked to some of our constituents in vermont and they have said that something they like about you is independent
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nature. i am keeping it nice. [laughter] >> acquired taste. >> do think that if you become a democrat to run for president, does that hurt you with not only our constituents in vermont but people around the country who may vote or you and like the fact you are not affiliated with a party? >> i think some could be wrong but i think in the last election, in vermont, we got about 25% of the republican vote. i think that a lot of working-class republicans who are not uncomfortable with what i am saying. i think in vermont and around the country, you have a norm is numbers of people to say, you're not a democrat? you're not a republican? i do not know what you stand for, but i'm with you. i'm getting bolder and bolder
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trying to figure these things out. i am not mr. bloomberg of new york and i do not have millions of dollars. to try to put together an independent, political effort, you would not be spent at a norma's amount of time and money and energy getting on the ballot. will the media cover you if you run as independent? these are some of the issues we are wrestling. >> i want to close by saying he was for the left wing of the possible. i think senator sanders is pushing the definition of the possible and i think 10 -- thank him and all of you for a very enlightening explanation of what can be done. thank you very much. [applause]
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