I’ll just let Bernie Sanders explain it to Wolf Blitzer, who appears to be extremely confused by the fact that someone might have liberal principles. In fairness, it’s not something he hears every day. Usually, it’s a Democrat explaining that he or she is more than willing to drive the social safety net over the cliff but the other side is refusing to kick in gas money.
This is very different:
BLITZER: Do you want this so-called super committee to reach a deal, a big deal by this coming week?
SANDERS: I want them to reach a good deal, a deal that’s fair to the middle class and working families of this country that does what the American people want, which says no cuts in Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, ask the wealthiest people in this country to pay their fair share of taxes, do away with corporate loopholes so that companies making billions of dollars a year in profits start paying some taxes.
BLITZER: But as you know, the compromise in the works has always been there would be some tax increases, which is what you want, but at the same time there would be cuts in what’s called entitlement spending, including Social Security and Medicare.
SANDERS: Well, I think that position is way out of line with what the American people want. I just saw a poll today. Seventy percent of Republicans, of Republicans say do not cut Social Security. Numbers are higher for Democrats and independents. In this economic moment when so many people are hurting, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are enormously important. They are life and death issues.
BLITZER: Are you open to reforms in Social Security, for example, raising the retirement age?
SANDERS: No. I’m open to reforms by lifting the cap taxable income so that millionaires contribute more into Social Security so that it will be solvent for 75 years. Let’s be clear. Social security has not contributed to one nickel to the deficit. Compare every benefit for the next 25 years has a —
BLITZER: Are you open to means testing for Social Security recipients, in other words, if you’re a millionaire, do you still need to get a $2,000 a month check?
SANDERS: Yes, you do. No, you know why — no, the millionaire should be asked to contribute more into it. Once you start with millionaire, trust me, next year it’ll be those making $100,000, and in 10 years it will be those making $50,000 —
BLITZER: So you don’t want to touch entitlement spending at all?
SANDERS: I want to make sure that in the midst of recession, when tens of millions of people are desperately hanging on, that you don’t cut those people at the knees so that they become even more desperate. The issue now, Wolf, let’s be clear, the richest people in this country are doing phenomenally well, large corporation, record- breaking profits. You do not balance the budget in a civilized democratic society on the backs of the most vulnerable. You ask those people who are doing well whose effective tax rates are lower than in that case to start paying their fair share of taxes.
BLITZER: But you know even President Obama is open to some changes on Medicare and Social Security, for example, adjusting what’s called the cost of living index so that there’s less of increase every year to deal with —
SANDERS: President Obama is dead wrong on that issue. He should go back and listen to what he said during his campaign. You go and talk to senior citizens and you say, you know, the COLA that you’re getting, it’s too generous.
BLITZER: COLA is the Cost of Living Allowance.
SANDERS: Right. The Cost of Living, it’s too generous. They’d say you’re crazy. For two years in a row when prescription costs, health care costs were soaring, we didn’t get anything. Zero is too generous? Nobody believes that. And again, the poll that I just saw, 70 percent of Republicans say do not go in that direction.
BLITZER: But based on if everyone took — the Democrats took your position, there would be no compromise with the Republicans because they are adamant they don’t want tax increases.
SANDERS: Then you go — let’s be clear, there is a situation there will be sequestration, which does not —
BLITZER: Automatic cuts, the triggers.
SANDERS: Military and others which do not begin, Wolf, until January, 2013. And then the American people can make a decision in this election, which side are they on? Do they believe and agree with Republicans that you give tax breaks to billionaires and you cut Social Security? If I were a Republican, believe me, I would not want to run on that proposal.
BLITZER: So what I hear you saying, and correct me if I’m wrong, senator, you would rather have what’s called the sequestration, the trigger, the automatic cuts beginning in 2013, half defense, half non- defense, rather than some sort of compromise which would deal with entitlement spending like Social Security?
SANDERS: I would rather have no deal than a bad deal. And the deals that I’m hearing — and in all fairness, I’m not on the committee. But what I’m hearing is revenue, maybe we get it from the middle class, maybe a little bit here and there. I’m not impressed by what I’m hearing so far.