BILL MOYERS: Welcome – to some ideas you didn’t hear at the Republican and Democratic conventions. Both parties spent their time blaming each other for the fix we’re in, and offering themselves as the cure. But we’ve been governed for years now by one or the other of them, see-sawing back and forth in controlling Congress and the White House, so self-absorbed and corrupted by money that neither seems willing or able to cope with reality, or even to grasp what’s happening to everyday Americans. By their very nature, neither party’s capable of providing the radical critique we need – a blunt, even brutal assessment of a political system so dysfunctional as to call into question the survival of democracy.

For that, we need independent voices and third parties. So, here we go:

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the longest-serving Independent in the history of Congress: 16 years in the House of Representatives, five now in the Senate. Before he went to Washington he served four terms as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, during which time the city was recognized as one of the most livable in America.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I am here to take a stand against this bill, and I am going to do everything I can to defend this bill.

BILL MOYERS: You may recall what happened two years ago when Senator Sanders, having finished his usual Vermont breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, walked on to the floor of the Senate and began speaking:

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: What our job is is to appeal to the vast majority of the American people to stand up and to say: Wait a minute. I do not want to see our national debt explode. I do not want to see my kids and grandchildren paying higher taxes in order to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

BILL MOYERS: He spoke on for eight and a half hours…

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We should be embarrassed, Mr. President…

BILL MOYERS: Castigating the agreement President Obama and the Republicans had made to extend the Bush tax cuts for the ultra-rich, lower their estate taxes, and jeopardize the future of the Social Security Trust Fund by diverting revenue away from it to other purposes.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We have got to stand tall and draw a line in the sand and simply say: Enough is enough.

BILL MOYERS: Around 7 that evening Bernie Sanders finished, and what happened next was phenomenal. The Senate server, overwhelmed, went down – crashed. The switchboards were jammed. And like sparks from a hundred thousand watch fires lighting up the distant hills and hollows, his words flew across the country. That speech is now this book entitled, "The Speech."

I spoke with Senator Sanders earlier in the week.

Good to have you.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Great to be with you, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: I watched the Democratic Convention, as perhaps you did. And I heard all the speeches about opportunity and solidarity. And I saw that vast array of faces, of every color, every age, every gender. And I thought, "There are still two Democratic Parties in this country, the party out across the country of everyday folks like Michelle Obama's parents, working paycheck to paycheck. And then there's the Washington Democratic club, the corporate lawyers, the lobbyists, the Wall Streeters like Robert Rubin and Peter Orszag." And I was wondering, as I watched, if Obama wins reelection, which party goes back to the White House with him? The party of the country or the party of the club?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, we certainly hope it will be the party of the country, the party of 25 million Americans without any jobs, the party of people struggling to keep their heads above water, the party of the people who want to see health care for all of us. But there is no question, Bill, of the enormous impact that big money has, certainly on the Republican Party, but on the Democratic Party as well. And I fear very much that unless we galvanize public opinion, unless we create the kind of progressive grassroots movement the big money interest will continue to dominate.

BILL MOYERS: Tell me how that money works. I mean, you've been on the inside 20-some-odd years, as I sit. How does it actually work? We hear "money in politics."

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, this is how it works. And this is what people do not appreciate. And it's true for Republicans and Democrats, as well. You do not know how many hours every single week, how many hours every single day people walk into the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee or the Republican Committee. And you know what they do? They dial for dollars. They dial for dollars, hour after hour after hour.

BILL MOYERS: Who are they calling?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: They're calling a list of people who have money. That's who they're calling. And what happens when you do that day after day, month after month, your worldview becomes shaped by those people. And most of the money coming into your campaign coffers comes from those people. And you begin representing their perspective.

BILL MOYERS: Well, there are more--it's more than that, isn't it? Because you just released a long report on the billionaires.


BILL MOYERS: --who are pouring money into the—

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Absolutely. We have right now, and this should frighten every American, as a result of this disastrous Citizens United decision, we're looking now at people like the Koch Brothers, putting in one family, $400 million. Adelson, worth $20 billion, putting in $100 million. We have over 23 billionaire families making large contributions, and I think that's a conservative number.

So what you are looking at is a nation with a grotesquely unequal distribution of wealth and income, tremendous economic power on Wall Street, and now added to all of that is you have the big money interests, the billionaires and corporations now buying elections. This scares me very much. And I fear very much that if we don't turn this around, Bill, we're heading toward an oligarchic form of society.

BILL MOYERS: But the people who are in charge of this system and could therefore change it are the people who benefit from the dialing for dollars. So what's the solution when you have the fox in charge of the henhouse?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, the immediate political solution is a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The longer-term solution is people all over this country saying, "We're not going to give up the democracy that has made this country great, so that a handful of billionaires can control the political process. We ain't going to allow that to happen." We need public funding of elections, which I think is probably the most important thing we can do politically. Billionaires cannot and should not be allowed to buy elections.

BILL MOYERS: I was taken that I think 64 villages, towns in Vermont, your home state passed resolutions calling on Congress to endorse a constitutional amendment. What's of that? In fact, when my readers on our website heard that you were coming, a lot of questions were submitted to us online. One of them says, "I've been following Senator Sanders' intention against the Supreme Court Citizens United for two years now. Why has so little happened?" That's from Craig Crawford.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, first of all, this is what happened, has happened. It's not only Vermont. We have a total of six states whose legislatures and governors have come out in support of a constitutional amendment. And just very, very recently, we have the president and his advisors talking about, perhaps, not as strong as I would like, the need for a constitutional amendment.

And millions and millions of people have signed petitions. We had a petition on our website, over 200,000 people signed it. So it is slower than I would like it to be. But I think interestingly enough, Bill, it is not just progressives who are disgusted. I think your average conservative looks around and says, "Is this really what America's supposed to be when a handful of families can buy the political process?"

BILL MOYERS: What does it take to pass a constitutional amendment? We’ve done it 25 or 26 times in the history of our country but it’s a difficult process, isn’t it?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: It is going to be a long process, but this is what I like about the process. I think in the process we're going to educate the American people about one of the most serious problems facing this country. And that is that virtually no piece of legislation will get passed in Congress unless it has the okay of corporate America and big money interest. So the corrupting, absolute corrupting impact of big money is something we have to address.

And I like the idea of taking it from state to state, legislature to legislature, having the people debate what kind of democracy do they want. I'm very proud. You know, I come from the State of Vermont. We still have town meetings. People get up and they argue about how much money they spend on the town plow. That's what democracy is about.

BILL MOYERS: Do you have to dial for dollars?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I am very fortunate. I have. I have. But I do it a lot less. We raise our money, I have to tell you, I'm very proud of this. We have 130,000 individual contributions, averaging about 40 bucks a piece.

BILL MOYERS: Senator, what's your take on why so many young people and progressives are disillusioned with President Obama?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: In my view, President Obama ran the best campaign for president that I have seen in my lifetime. He did what is enormously difficult, get young people involved, get working people involved, have a vision out there, get people excited. That's not easy stuff. He did it.

What I think happened is, in a sense, the day after the election, he said to all of those people, all of that grassroots activism, "Thank you very much. Now I got to sit down and work with Republicans. And I got to start compromising. And I'm not going to fight for the vision that I campaigned on."

For example, every speech that I give, I talk about the crooks on Wall Street and what their illegal behavior has done to this economy. And people say, "Bernie, why aren't these guys in jail? Why isn't the Obama administration taking these people on? Why aren't we breaking up these large banks?" From the White House, do you hear much about that? You don't.

The power of big money, coming forward with the bold initiatives that get excited, say to them, "Listen, we got some right-wing extremists running the House. I need your help. We're going to change our disastrous trade policies. We are going to create a jobs program to put millions of people to work. But I can't do it taking on all the money guys. I need millions of people standing with me." Have you heard that from the White House?

BILL MOYERS: No, what we hear is continuing calls for bipartisanship, even as Republicans have waged the most partisan and obstructionist agenda in modern history. And even the other day, the president said, "I'm sure that after I'm re-elected, the Republicans will work with me." I mean, I don't understand that, frankly. And you've been down there all of this time. From his speeches, he seems to be a fighter. But from his behavior, he caves.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I don't understand it, either. Look, there's nothing wrong with bipartisanship. If you and I disagree and we can come up with a decent compromise that's good for the American people, let's do it. But when you have people whose main function in life is to obstruct and destroy every single initiative, when you have the Republican leader in the Senate say, "Our main goal is to make sure that Obama is a one-term president."

And you keep reaching out. And they keep cutting you and cutting you and cutting you, there comes a time when you say, "Hey, I got to stand up to you. I have to rally the American people." He has not done that. Is he a fighter? I think that you have a very competitive guy, in terms of himself getting reelected. I think this guy's going to work like a dog.

BILL MOYERS: That's his career.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: That's right. He's a tough guy in that sense. In terms of public policy, standing up for Republicans, I think we're looking at a different president.

BILL MOYERS: Well, we're coming to a potential serious conflict between the election and the inauguration, no matter who wins. And you made that eight and a half hour speech, because of that agreement, to extend the Bush tax cuts and to do all of that. And we're facing this crisis over the deficit, over social services and the safety, and the safety net over the Bush tax cuts. Do you think Obama will cave again as he did the last time, sending you to the floor of the Senate? I don't think the Senate can take another eight and a half hour speech.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Here's where we are. And here's the-- you want to add another irony on top of all this, Bill, is that the American people support what the president is talking about and are vigorously opposed to what the Republicans want. Every poll that you and I have seen, including polls from Tea Party sympathizers, you know what they say? "Do not cut Social Security. Don't cut Medicare. Don't cut Medicaid. Ask the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. And by the way, take a look at military spending as well." That is what, by and large, the American people are saying.

BILL MOYERS: The polls show that? The polls show that?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Polls show that. So you would think that even if you were a hack politician who didn't believe any of this, you would stand up and fight for those principles. What I am going to do working with some of my progressive colleagues is say, "No, we are not going to balance this budget on the backs of the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor. Social has not contributed one nickel to the deficit. We are not going to cut Social Security."

I am waiting. And we're doing everything that we can to beg the president, "Get up and say what you said four years ago.” And that is you're not going to cut Social Security. That's what the American people want to hear.

BILL MOYERS: You know, everyone seems to agree that our deficits are unsustainable, that something has to give. And many Democrats, some privately, some publicly say Social Security has to be quote "fixed." Now I was there in the White House with President Johnson when Medicare was passed. And I've often said that if Democrats don't take the lead in fixing Medicare, the opponents will. How do we fix Social Security and Medicare? From a progressive standpoint?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Okay, they're two separate issues. Okay. Social Security, as you know, is funded by the payroll tax. So despite what our right-wing friends are going to tell us, Social Security has not contributed one nickel to the deficit, because it's funded independently. In fact the Social Security Trust Fund, according to the Social Security Administration, has a $2.7 trillion surplus. Surplus.

Can pay out every benefit for the next 21 years. When Barack Obama ran for president four years ago, he had a very simple and good idea. He said, "Okay, let's lift the cap on taxable income so that instead of having a ceiling of $110,000 now, you lift that cap, start at $250,000." And you know what, Bill? You do that, just that one simple thing, Social Security will be solvent for the next 75 years. That's your solution to Social Security.

Medicare, Medicaid are more complicated issues. And that takes us to the whole issue, why we end up spending more per capita on health care than any other nation, any other major nation. In my view, we have got to move toward a Medicare for all, single-payer system. And by the way, I hope that Vermont leads the nation in that direction.

BILL MOYERS: Well, you know, I, another of the letters that came in on our website were from a man named Chrys Barnes. “How can single payer advocates rise from the ranks of marginalized fringe groups to getting an actual seat at the bargaining table?”

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, in my state, by the way, we're not marginalized. We have a governor who now supports a Medicare for all, single-payer system.

BILL MOYERS: Governor Shumlin.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: That's right. And we have a legislature that does. And we have the people who do it. I would say to your writer there, that I think the action is probably in the short term, at least, not going to take place in Washington. It's going to take place in the state level. And if Vermont or perhaps some other state can show that you can provide health care to every man, woman, and child in a cost-effective way, other states are going to say, "You know what? We would like to do that, as well." It spreads; Washington finally acts. But currently, the system is dysfunctional. It is a disaster. It is enormously wasteful. We need fundamental changes.

BILL MOYERS: Do you look at the Democratic leadership as your leadership? And if you do, doesn't that compromise you as an Independent?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: I'm a compromised every day of my life. It's a hard life. You know, there are Democrats, including Harry Reid, who are good friends of mine and who I work with. And there are other people in the Democratic caucus, who on many issues are no different than Republicans. So what you got to do is you do the best that you can.

In terms of the Fed, for example, the Federal reform. We got into the financial reform bill, Dodd-Frank important language, which for the first time provided an audit of the Fed so that we learned that $16 trillion was lent out to every major financial institution, et cetera, et cetera. So--

BILL MOYERS: Low-interest loans that they were getting. It wasn't just the bailout, right? It was the—

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Above and beyond the bailout.

BILL MOYERS: Exactly, right. We're coming up on the fourth anniversary of the collapse of this economy. We were on the cliff and almost over. Do you think the reforms that have come in the consequence, in the aftermath of that, is sufficient to prevent it from happening again?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Do we have eight and a half hours to talk about the issue?

BILL MOYERS: You had that one shot in your life. Don't think you’ll get it again.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Bill, look, I don't think any sane person believes that this economy or the middleclass is really going to recover until we deal with the greed, the recklessness, and the illegal behavior on Wall Street, in my humble opinion. Fraud is the business model for Wall Street. Right now, to answer your question, of course, the answer is no. We made some modest, modest little steps, which the moneyed interests are now trying to push aside.

We now have in this country six financial institutions led by J.P. Morgan Chase, which collectively have assets equivalent to two-thirds of the G.D.P. of the United States of America. Over $9 trillion. They write half of the mortgages in this country and two-thirds of the credit cards, okay? Three out of the four large financial institutions that we bailed out because they were too big to fail are today bigger than they were before we bailed them out.

Now, if this were Teddy Roosevelt were president of the United States, what do you think he would say? He’d say, "Break these babies up." Let's create a system where the financial institutions actually invest and lend money into the productive economy, where businesses are trying to produce products or create services, not the kind of casino, this horrendous, ugly casino that we have on Wall Street.

BILL MOYERS: But Senator Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate said to me and to others that the banks, Wall Street, those six firms now own the Senate.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: That's right. That's all absolutely right

BILL MOYERS: How are you going to, how are you going to get a reform there, when they—

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, that takes us back to another issue that Dick and I and others are working on. And that is public funding of elections. I'll give you an example. I was on-- when I-- it was in the House. It was on the House Financial Services Committee. So Alan Greenspan and Robert Rubin and all of these guys and they said, "We have to deregulate Wall Street. We have to allow the commercial banks to merge with the investor banks, to merge with the insurance companies, so they can compete globally."

You had to be a moron to actually believe that. I didn't believe that. I don't think most of the American people thought that Alan Greenspan made any sense at all. Wall Street over a ten-year period, Bill, spent $5 billion dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions. And they got what they wanted with Democratic support.


SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We are where we are. And how do you take them on?


SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, you need a political revolution. You need a grassroots mobilization which says among other things, "You got to break these banks up.” We need a financial system which supports the productive economy and job creation.

BILL MOYERS: But that's a conundrum, because, you know, some people criticize you because you're what they call "too cordial" to the Democratic Party. On the other hand, some people who support you say, "Well, if he is not cordial to the Democratic Party, he won't be able to slip a progressive idea in here and there." That's a tight rope to watch, isn't it?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: It is. It certainly is. You know, ever since my-- when I was first elected back in 1990 to the House—

BILL MOYERS: As a socialist.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: As an Independent. But, if you ask me, am I a democratic socialist, consistent with what goes on in Scandinavia? I am.

BILL MOYERS: Which means?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Which means that health care should be a right of all people, that higher education should be a right and kids shouldn't graduate $50,000 in debt, which means that we should pass legislation that represents the interests of working families, not big money interest, which means that we should be aggressive in reversing global warming and protecting the environment for future generations. You know, which means that workers earn a decent wage. All of these ideas, which people have talked about from Eugene Debs on, you know, for 200 years.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, but somewhere in socialist heaven, Senator Patrick Moynihan is looking down and say, "Go on, Bernie, go on, I’m with you” Right, right?


BILL MOYERS: But, you know, the right says that Obama is a socialist. They keep calling him a socialist. Can you prove he's not a socialist?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Can I prove he's not a socialist? Yeah. Look at his record. He is not a socialist. I mean, that's-- I mean, to be a socialist, a democratic socialist is to say, "Hey, we have 15 percent of our people unemployed today, that's the reality, or underemployed, some, close to 25 million workers. We are going to have a jobs program to put those people back to work. We're going to deal with the deficit in a progressive way."

Bill, among all of the other issues out there, what really drives me a little bit nuts, and we don't talk about it, is distribution of wealth and income in this country. Distribution of wealth, I want people to listen up on this one. You got one family, the Walton Family of Walmart, that now own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of the American people. One family, top one percent owns 41 percent of the wealth in America. The bottom 60 percent, you want to take a guess? Now I'm going to ask you the question.

BILL MOYERS: No, I ask the questions. You can ask it and answer it.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: It's less than two percent. Can you believe that? One percent owns 41 percent. Bottom 60 percent owns less than two percent. And with that grotesquely immoral and unfair distribution of wealth and income, these billionaire guys putting this money under their mattresses. They are saying, “I’m the Koch brothers, I got $50 billion. Hey, that’s not enough, I need to invest $400 million in this campaign so I get more tax breaks on whatever it may be.” So they’re using their money and their power to create an even more unfair America.

BILL MOYERS: Are we at a tipping point between what we think of as democracy and oligarchy, which is the political rule by the wealthy?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Bill, I think we are. I think if you add up this grotesquely unfair distribution of wealth where so few have so much money. When you look at the economic power of Wall Street and other very powerful corporate entities, and then you look at Citizens United and the ability of these people to fund elections, I believe, you know, you may have the trappings of a democracy. But I believe for all intent and purposes, you're looking at a situation where a handful of families will control the economic and political life of this nation, unless we educate, organize, and take these guys on.

BILL MOYERS: How do you explain as an experienced politician, the fact that despite the Republican Convention and the Democratic Convention and all that's happened, we have a country that's divided 45 percent to 45 percent, maybe 46 percent to 46 percent, with about three percent to five percent of the voters undecided? And most of the experts say that's where the-- that's where the election will be decided with three percent to five percent. How do you explain that close division?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Okay, I look at it a little bit differently. This is what I think. I think we know where the Republicans are. The Republican Party over a period of years has moved from what we call a center-right party. And we used to have governors and senators coming from Vermont, who were Republicans. But you know what? They were sane human beings that actually were concerned about education, the environment, more conservative than you and me. They weren't crazies.

The party has now moved to the extreme right, all right? That's the Republican Party. The problem is the Democratic Party, if you go out, it is beyond my mind, Bill, that you have a Democratic Party of F.D.R. of L.B.J. that today is losing by a significant percentage the White working class of this country and senior citizens. The party that created Social Security and Medicare is losing the vote of seniors and white working class people. How does that happen?

It happens because they are not there making it clear. Listen to Roosevelt's speeches in 1936. He'd say, "Hey, the big money interests hate me. I welcome their hatred, 'cause I'm standing with the unemployed and working peoples." You hear that coming from too many Democrats right now? So yeah, the Democrats have become a party which does some good things, environment, women, gay issues, very good. Protecting white, well, not white, any working class people. They're not strong.

BILL MOYERS: How do they get them back? Not that you're in the business advising Democrats, but what, how do they get them back?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, let me tell you for a start. President of the United States goes on television, holds a press conference just to say, "Ladies and gentlemen, I just want to tell you, there's a lot of pressure for me to cut Social Security. Ain't going to happen. Bill comes before me, I'm going to veto it. Social Security is solvent. I'm going to make it solvent for 75 years. And I want every working person in this country to know Social Security will be there for them."

I think that would be dramatic. Number two, an issue that, again, there's been a lot of collusion between Democrats and Republicans about. And that is our disastrous trade policy. When I was in the House, the corporate entities, Chamber of Commerce, “free trade, NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, will be the greatest thing since sliced bread.” All right?

The end result is that in the last ten years, we have seen 55,000 factories in America shut down, millions of decent-paying jobs lost. You go out to elderly people and they say, "I can't buy a product made in America anymore. Where are the factories? Where are the decent-paying jobs?" So I would like to see the president get up there and say, "You know what? We're going to rethink our trade policies. I want corporate America to start investing in America, not in China."

Other things that he could be doing, certainly, I think the much maligned stimulus bill, to my mind, was one of the most important pieces of legislation passed in my lifetime, in my state, money into bridges, into roads, into Head Start, into sustainable energy, created 6,000, 7,000 jobs when we needed it a whole lot. You need more of that. I just got off a plane a little while ago. Believe me, our airports are in trouble. Roads, bridges, schools, water systems, waste water plants. Let's put people back to work.

BILL MOYERS: There was a report just last weekend on N.P.R., National Public Radio, 8,000 bridges in this country in need of serious reconstruction. And that would put a lot of people to work. But you can't seem to get Washington's attention on those particularities.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Look, you got in-- this is an example where the president has got to go to every state in this country and say, "We can create jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure." And then he has to remind people that when Clinton left office and Bush came in, we had a $236 billion surplus.

And I happen to believe that Paul Ryan and his friends are total and absolute hypocrites on the deficit issue. They voted for two wars, didn't pay for it, gave a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the rich, didn't offset it. Passed a Medicare Part D prescription drug program, written by the insurance companies, $400 billion over a ten-year period, didn't pay for it. Now, after all of that, they think we have to cut Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid.

BILL MOYERS: This is going to be the big issue after the election, when we face the problem of those staggering debts, the Bush tax cuts and the other issues that are facing us. What will you be watching for in that period when we're on the edge of the so-called fiscal cliff? And the president, it'll be Obama. He'll still be in the White House, even if he loses in November, negotiates with the Congress. What are you going to be watching for?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, it's taking place right now. I don't have to watch after the election. Right now, you have CEOs, meeting with Democrats and Republicans, trying to work out some kind of deficit reduction plan. If some of us and the American people are not successful in stopping them, there will be cuts in Social Security, I suspect Medicare and Medicaid. Not anywhere near as Draconian as what the Republicans, let alone, want.

There is an answer to the deficit crisis. And that is when you have this grotesquely unequal distribution of wealth and income, somebody's going to have to say, "Hey, what, you're a billionaire, you know what, you're going to have to contribute." One quarter of American corporations don't pay anything in taxes. We're losing $100 billion a year, because these companies are stashing their money in the Cayman Islands. There are ways to deal with the deficit without attacking the middleclass and working class of this country, who are already reeling and in pain.

BILL MOYERS: Senator Bernie Sanders, thanks for being with me and happy birthday to you.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Thank you very much, Bill. My pleasure to be with you.

Bernie Sanders on the Independent in Politics

Bill welcomes to his studio Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who’s been an independent in Congress for 21 years — longer than anyone in American history. Sanders talks about  jobs, the state of our economy, health care, and the unprecedented impact of big money on the major political parties.

“What you are looking at is a nation with a grotesquely unequal distribution of wealth and income, tremendous economic power on Wall Street, and now added to all of that is big money interests, the billionaires and corporations now buying elections,” Sanders tells Bill. “I fear very much that if we don’t turn this around, we’re heading toward an oligarchic form of society.”

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks to Bill Moyers for giving this esteemed member of Congress an opportunity to air his critical views on the current state of our Constitutional Republic.

    I had the opportunity to view a debate between a Black Educator and a Black Columnist this morning (9/7/12) on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now. One of the contenders was Mr. Glen Ford, a Black columnist for the Left leaning Black Agenda Report website. I expected to hear a litany of praise for President Obama but was very surprised when Mr. Ford unleashed an unexpected attack on the Obama Administration and the Liberal base of the Democrat Party who has done little to sway the Obama administration to change directions and stop moving toward the extreme Right with policies that cut funding for various established social programs while escalating moves toward a military empire that wages wars against sovereign countries in the Middle East who have not provoked these unwarranted attacks by U.S. and NATO forces as well as from various U.S. allies and agencies. It appears that the Black population in this country is way ahead of a White Liberal sector that is slowly waking up but still continues to be oblivious for the most part to the dangerous policies the current administration is pursuing. Mr. Ford lays a lot of blame on a White Liberal base that vigorously pursued legal equality for Black Americans over the past 50 to 60 years and now they are afraid to contradict the policies of the first Black President lest they be branded heretics of the civil rights movement. For those of you who would like to read more of Mr. Ford’s analysis, the link to his Blog page on the Black Agenda Report website follows.

  • Gary Richardson

    Sanders for President!!

  • James Tennier

    A Nevada based court recently found that the option of voting for “None of the Above” should not be allowed on “my” ballot in Nov.
    I am now aware of the option of voting for the Green Parties candidates. Thank You.

  • Austin Adams

    Kudos to Bernie Sanders! When someone from the inside confirms what so many have been saying about money and it’s takeover of “our” representatives in Congress, it deserves to be reported. Bill, thanks for not retiring. Your Moyers & Company programs have been a wakeup call, and we just don’t get this kind of information anywhere else in the televised realm.

  • croegner

    Bernie Sanders has it dialed in ! If we could just stop the blather from the moronic congress and air the philosophy of Sanders America might have a chance . Is anyone listening ? Let Bernie speak !

  • Rahim Moosa

    I find the whole concept of belonging to a party rather ludicrous. What value do they bring to the task of solving problems? They seem to create artificial lines in the sand when in reality human opinions and concerns are more fine grained and nuanced.

  • DblTrbl

    Sanders has great points, but is hardly truly independent. He never mentions Soros and his obscene contributions to the Dems, like those never happened. Get the money out of politics should mean ALL politics, left and right.

  • Mass voter

    A great interview. I’d like to wish and say Happy Birthday to Bernie Sanders, too! But truly, truly — HOW ARE WE TO GET THE WORD OUT & CHANGE THINGS? (Thanks for your part, Moyers Team.) What Sanders is saying is correct…and a soft pedal. Just sitting with the FACTS. It’s totally outrageous, totally damning, and VERY bad news for civilization and OUR CHILDREN…and ourselves. This is happening in OUR MIDST! So this is how Germany headed south, this is how Orwell/Huxley’s vision will come to be!?!? We MUST act. And behind all this – the ecological reality – an Artic melting at alarming rates, the Belo Monte Dam and all it implies – a climate BREAKDOWN. An energy future that IS bringing irreparable damage. Its hard, but necessary, that we grown-ups keep out heads above these waters and TAKE ACTION NOW, before or after we tuck the children into bed.

  • Kent Ashton

    Sanders and Moyer are like Lenin telling Stalin how the world should work–two dinosaurs utterly past their time. Sanders says “Soc Sec never contributed one cent to the deficit. B.S. Soc Sec taxes were collected and spent in Sanders’ welfare paradise. Now there is nothing but IOUs in the “Trust Fund” that we’ll have to pay back with enormous tax increases or cut Soc Sec benefits. What a joke of an interview!

  • LSchelin

    So, I suppose you know more than Bernie about if SS contributed to the national debt? As a Senator he works with budgets on a daily basis and certainly knows how the money spent. If he says that SS hasn’t contributed to debt, I believe him not someone like you who is just blowing off steam for some crazy reason

  • Will Patten

    Nothing is more frightening than a huge concentration of wealth that is willing to lie and deceive.

  • Alitza

    A great interview. Happy Birthday Senator Sanders! I have realized (again) this morning, that Mitt and the Republican Party in general are con men…

    … so is most of Wall Street. Why is that not as plain as the nose on their face?

  • Chadwick

    Bill Moyers… one of the few out there asking the questions that really matter. Questions for which I want answers myself.

  • Ruby

    I’m a socialist, too.

  • Rahim Moosa

    As of May, Soros had given 2M to groups that support Obama. That pales in comparison to:
    Harold Simmons: 18 M to Repuplican PACS as of March; Koch Bros: 400 M pledged to Repuplicans. Sheldon Adelson : Order(100 M) pledged to Republicans; Peter Thiel: 2.6M to Ron Paul.

    Nevertheless, I agree that all money should be out of politics. It taints reasoned problem solving. The neo-democrats (Clinton) perhaps went for repealing Glass-Steagle due to contributions from the financial sector.

  • Zen Dog

    Excellent show.

    I vote for the Honorable Senator.

    : D

    Is there a transcript of the interview available? I would love to be able to use it to beat repelicans about the ears.

  • Anonymous

    Bernie Sanders — a true social democrat who would be right at home in the Canadian NDP, or would have been right at home before the NDP became the official opposition and now feels constrained to knuckle under to at least some of the radically right-wing policies it strenuously resisted when it was simply “the conscience of Parliament.”

    Like Saunders, I find it mind-boggling that the self-described “greatest country in the world” can continue to support a military institution so muscle-bound that it can’t even win wars any more, not even with the help of an army of criminally-inclined high-priced mercenaries. And don’t get me onto the topic of that other sink-hole, the Department of Homeland security — a euphemistic name for the Department of Threat Inflation — not only support them but raise their budgets every year, never mind even ponder whether or not a raise will finally succeed in making them useful.

    As a non-American and thus not someone who was obliged to fall in love with Obama in 2008, much less turn him into a messiah, I had reservations about the promises he heaped up during his campaign. My estimation of him — not terribly high to begin with — slipped a notch when he promised to take a serious look at NAFTA with a view to dumping it, while at the same time “telegraphing” Stephen Harper, telling him not to take it seriously, since it was only “campaign talk.”

    It slipped another notch when, the morning after he’d won the nomination, he scurried over to the AIPAC convention to genuflect before his real masters and assure them that despite all his rhetoric about repairing America’s relationship with Muslims in the Middle East and supporting the Palestinians in their quest for a dignified conclusion to the I-P conflict, Jerusalem would never be divided on his watch.

    In my view he wasn’t much different than every other slippery politician, but even I have been stunned at the number of promises he didn’t even try to keep, much less explain to the American electorate why he couldn’t or wouldn’t try to keep them. So much for his promise of transparency.

    I am so pleased to hear that Bernie Saunders continues to work towards the two things that need to be done before anything else can be accomplished: the buying of politicians by a handful of filthy-rich families, and the tax code, which needs to be burnt in a big public bonfire on the White House lawn and a new, fair, and progressive one written from scratch. Those two things are the lynchpins of corporate imperialism, which is not “on the horizon,” but rather fully entrenched.

  • Joel Kuhlberg

    The sad thing is that those who should really hear this, won’t. The hardover position of both parties is truly sad.
    I would love to hear how we the little people can effectively take on the 1 percenters. At this point it seems to me that they have the only voice in Washington.
    Joel Kuhlberg Londonderry, VT

  • The 99% Campaign

    O.K. so now what are we going to do? We need a brain storming site. Here’s mine for today. Let all send some bucks to Move-On for a fund that will print a gigantic letter to Obama in every main newspaper. Let’s ask him to stand up and we’ll get his back. We’ll pick one issue- how about a Wall Street sales tax for every sale, to be put toward the deficit? He announces it and we all hit the street as well as another round of ads everywhere for paying off the debt. Obama might be chicken but he’s all we’ve got right now and maybe he’ll be a little braver with millions of people pouring into the street for him.

  • Sam

    I watched the interview with Bernie Sanders, and it was wonderful. I tell you what this country economy division is unsustainable and not fair specially to the poor. The republicans created fear mongering about Socialist ideology, by stating no religion, and the rich is going to pay of for the poor. I disagree on that issue because name labeling any political party is just a name. The main humanly thing to do is support those people who need equal right. Where there no opportunity to prosperity and the suffering of the unemployed, the homeless, the bleak hope of the middle class, the rising cost of every thing of the 99% of population will ignite social movement all over the nation. On the other side the rich getting excessively richer, with its power controlling, and lobbing with money talks, as we know it our voice is going to be controlled by few greedy human being.We must stand up and ask for equal opportunity and protect our right. Our social welfare is neglected by our leader because we left to them without any demand.

    I thank Bill Moyers program and Sen. Sanders for standing up for the poor. Mr. Sanders people are hearing and listening carefully about the direction of America.

  • Helena Guerrero

    Bernie is such an amazing guy, he should be the President of the US…

  • Florida Independant

    Thank you Mr. Moyers for having Bernie Sanders on your program to help spread the truth about money and politics. Please do more to help get the facts and not the typical network/corporate BS out to the American people. What about a future show with Senator Sanders, a leading Democrat, a leading Republican and a Green Party representative to discuss and debate the facts.

  • Marie Callow

    Make sure you and your friends are registered.. and VOTE. Your future is in your hands. Thank you, Bill Moyers.

  • Marie Callow

    I just listened to Face the Nation with Mitt. When asked, would he balance the budget in his 1st term? : his answer, no.. at the end of his second term… LOL He thinks Obama should have cleaned up the mess the Repubs left in one term . but he wants 2 terms…..

  • IndependentThinker

    I can’t get either vimeo player to play this all the way through (Flash or HTML5). I really wanted to hear this interview.

  • lostsouls remembrd11

    Oh Senator Sanders, you made me cry. I feel such sorrow over the state of my Country. Even more sorrow over the division of the people. Humanitarianism is lost for the most part. How do we unite to stand against this take over of the Republic?

    This Country has been through so much and survived. I fear Sir that we will not survive the Corporations.

  • lostsouls remembrd11

    OR air the voices of the people united as one and with one goal: Take our once great country back, state by state.

  • lostsouls remembrd11


  • lostsouls remembrd11

    I had a dream one night recently Mr. Moyers that you were my grandpa. You and I spent time in the garden and you taught me so much. I felt so safe and loved in my dream. I know it sounds silly and all but I’ll cherish this dream forever. I also still have the ‘sense of self’ that I felt in the dream………thank you Sir.

    You and yours: many blessings from our Creator.

  • lostsouls remembrd11

    Great catch Marie. Thanks for sharing it w/me/us.

  • lostsouls remembrd11

    I’m on board.

  • Wayne

    Fantastic Interview. I emailed the link to all my friends and asked them to forward it.

    There’s actually alot we can do individually, and even tho small in respect, if multiplied by millions, we can affect changes and some hurt to the power players. Start by taking most of your money out of the bank.

    I’m voting independent from now on. Out with the old and in with the new.

  • Terry

    It’s a shame, but easy to understand, that many PBS stations didn’t air this show.

  • Pat Werhan

    What a way to celebrate your Birthday, Bernie!! You are giving US the gift. I would hate to wish it on you – but I surely wish you could be the President and take America on the road where we need to be. You covered so very much in this talk w/ Bill Moyers that My head is spinning and would encourage you to take part as much as possible in straightening our country out. Thank you for your knowledge and your willingness to use it for our country’s benefit.

  • Ben B. Boothe, Sr

    What a message. From my perch atop Mt Boothe in northern New Mexico, Senator Sanders has it right. Keep up the good work. Information is power.

  • MikeinMichigan

    All the groups fighting for government reform need to unite and build a critical mass. Maybe Bill fould hold a conference or rally in washington!!!!!

  • Rahim Moosa

    I have a point to make about public financing of elections. Why should there be such a high cost for campaigns in the first place? Can’t we get enough information about candidates from media interviews, debates, web-sites, policy statements? Why do we need expensive ads that have zero information content. The cost of elections should be practically zero.

  • vdbwong

    Thank heavens that Sen Sanders is around to remind our Democracy of the malaise we have fallen into, the malaise of apathy and greed. Heavens also knows that Pres Obama does not have the backbone to stand up to the GOP agenda. The only thing worse than Pres Obama’s re-election is the election of ANY Republican, esp Romney and Ryan. In a Democracy, the people deserve the government they elect.

  • Francoise Arouete

    Psst. Click the button that says “full transcript”

  • Francoise Arouete

    Or the one that says “print transcript”

  • davidcoast

    Bill, I admired your interview with Senator Sanders; at least you-he had no problem pointing to the inexplicable failures of our current present, noting that, once in office, he caved in. So you do take your favored party to task.

    But why did not not ask the senator for his take on Mitt Romney — putting aside his vacillating positions (the ALL do that, Bill), but, centrally, how Senator Sanders believes that Romney might do in dealing with the MAJOR crisis facing this country, its recklessly irresponsible indifference to economic issues.

    Why not?

    You leave the impression that Sanders is really a liberal wearing independent threads.

  • davidcoast

    (spell checked message)

    Bill, I much admired your interview with Senator Sanders; at least you and he had no problem in pointing to the inexplicable failures of our current president, who has sold out to Wall Street, noting that, once in office, he caved in. So you do take your favored party to task.

    But why did you not ask the senator for his take on Mitt Romney – putting Romney’s vacillating positions aside (they ALL do that, Bill, including Barack Obama – check out his history), but, centrally, how Senator Sanders believes that Romney might do in dealing with the MAJOR crisis facing this country, its recklessly irresponsible indifference to economic issues.

    Why not?

    You leave the impression that Sanders is really a liberal wearing independent threads.

  • Tony Talley


  • Tony Talley

    We need to have “We The People” running the country…no political party!

  • Molly Holme Barrett

    Thank you, Mr. Moyers and Senator Sanders for having the courage to illuminate this topic. As you point out, the public CAN do something about this. We can lobby our elected representatives, and we can petition our state legislators, in support of a Constitutional Amendment. If they ignore our pleas and petitions, we can “fire” them on Election Day.

    Surely, if everyday people in the Near East can organize a revolution, using cell phones, we, the American people, should be able to mount a campaign (no pun intended) to effectively address this threat to our democracy. But who will take the lead, and who will organize such an effort?
    I am about to turn 72. Over the years, I have watched special interest groups–many with lots of money and some with very little–organize to bring about change on an issue they cared about. Some of the changes have been good; some have been disproportionate in their effects, and some have been downright dangerous. While these things were happening, most of us just sat and watched because we didn’t appreciate how profound the changes would be–for good or ill–and how they would affect us on a personal level.
    Here’s an idea: Mr. Moyers, please convene a group of people who have experience in organizing grass-roots movements and ask them to talk about their successes and challenges. Then, ask them to brainstorm ways to involve the public in bringing about campaign finance reform. If you do, I’ll be watching and eager to learn what WE can do to make our voices heard.

  • Frank Luke

    Shoutout to Sen Sanders! Also to the women who spoke so convincingly of the need for a third party and the Green Party. All Power and good wishes for success in their efforts. I’m in total agreement and wish them well !

  • Frank Luke

    Are you up for a recommended book read? That would be Steven Bhaerman’s important and great “Spontaneous Evolution”. The last chapters re 21st cent. politics and government that may be most pertinent to your interests but after reading them, you may be inspired to read the whole book ! He’s aka Swami Beyondayonda which give you an indication of his being not only insightful but witty and funny as well. I hope you will agree. Aloha, Frank Luke

  • Chris Aquino

    As much as I liked what Senator Sanders had to say I believe he is tilting at windmills. He has very wonderful Ideas, but he is working within a corrupt and morally bankrupt system. He is right about one thing. We need a constitutional convention. That way we bypass the current national political system. In a constitutional convention we could propose election reform, term limits and get rid of Citizens United. That’ s something I could get behind!

  • John Luckett

    Notice How the “Old McCarthyism” is still hanging around in Polarized Minds–Since You went from “Socialist” to “Independent” Your Popularity has definitely been on the Increase and now the Time To Strike (!) is Upon Us!…It’s too bad that you can’t say: “As Vermont Goes–So Goes The Nation!….

  • mcav

    As much as I liked Bill Clinton’s DNC speech, if Mr. Moyers is correct about there being two Democratic parties – one outside the Beltway and one inside – then perhaps Mr. Clinton did a fine snow job re-convincing us Outsiders of the merits of voting for Obama without necessarily having any intention of getting the Democratic Insiders to really confront the problems and to use the solutions Senator Sanders so nicely articulated.

  • Carol Riboldi

    Senator Bernie Sanders is right on target and he should run for President!

  • Jedi

    A true American

  • David F., N.A.

    After the America people takes back its dysfunctional government from the people controlling the global economy, I think Sanders’ name should go down in history as a true American hero.

  • philip gregory

    heading toward an oligarchic form of society.”

    Heading? Please. We’re there.

  • philip gregory

    The people in this country who were, and are, hurt the most by the Republican lead dominance of the rich and powerful, still vote Republican.

    What chance even if they read this they would understand or care. They just believe no matter the evidence – blind faith. What can you do against that?

  • Tre

    Businesses and individuals are able to influence elections because Congress can be bought. Congress can be bought because they have too much influence on our lives. Only they can pass laws that direct the actions of business and individuals. There is too much government involvement in our lives!

    Ways to limit the influence of Congress: 1) Term limits and 2) get Congress out of the tax business – Congress uses the tax code to reward their friends, punish their enemies, and influence our behavior. The tax code should be to raise funds for the operation of government – PERIOD.

  • Bobjoy

    According to the Lexicon of Historical & Political Terms an oligarchy is “rule by the few”, and a “plutocracy” used in reference to either a government controlled or dominated by the wealthy, or to that social and economic class which dominates the government.

    Yet the term plutocracy was not used to describe what may happen in the near future. Should it have been used instead?

  • Anonymous

    One of the best politicians Bernie Sanders!

  • Anonymous

    Maybe. It’s a “dog” vs “doberman” kind of distinction. Regardless, the future is here.

  • Christopher Michael Ripple

    Who exactly are you referring to as Wolf you Troll…. Did you invest a minute to watch interview, my guess is no, prolly spent that 28 minutes trying to forward corporate interests…. Do you realize they brainwashed you to go against your own interests? And my families….. Let us know who you are and why you support a life of serfdom

  • Anonymous

    Though this is from 2012, it’s just as timely today. If Bernie Sanders runs for POTUS, this is the great progressive vision we’ll hear!

  • Edward Moriarty

    Sanders / Warren or Warren / Sanders. What a ticket, either one works for me.

  • Edward Moriarty

    Roll, roll, roll, troll!

  • Edward Moriarty

    A year later, it appears the Plutocracy owns our Oligarchical Rulers.