The following is a word-for-word transcript of the announcement made by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders that he intends to campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016.
“Thank you all very very much for being out here today. Let me just make a brief comment and take a few questions. We don’t have an endless amount of time. I have to get back.
Let me just say this. This country today in my view, has more serious crises than any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
For most Americans, their reality is that they are working longer hours for lower wages. In inflation-adjusted income, they are earning less money than they used to, years ago, in spite a huge increase in technology and productivity.
So, all over this country, I have been talking to people, and they say, “How does it happen? I’m producing more, but I’m working longer hours for lower wages. My kid can’t afford to go to college, and I’m having a hard time affording health care. What happened, while at exactly the same time, 99 percent of the income being generated in this country is going to the top 1 percent?”
How does it happen that the top 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent? And, my conclusion is that that type of economics is not only immoral, is wrong, it is unsustainable. It can’t continue.
We can’t continue having a nation in which we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major nation on Earth, at the same time as we’re seeing a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires.
So, that’s the major issue. The major issue is how do we create an economy that works for all of our people rather than a small number of billionaires, and the second issue, directly related, is the fact that as a result of the disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, we now have a political situation where billionaires are literally able to buy themselves elections and candidates. Let’s not kid ourselves. That is the reality right now.
So, you’ve got the Koch Brothers and other billionaire families who are prepared to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in elections to buy the candidates of their choice, often extreme right wing candidates.
I am the former chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, and I can tell you that I don’t believe that the men and women who defend American democracy fought to create a situation where American billionaires own the political process. That’s a huge issue that we’ve got to deal with.
Right now, in terms of issues, we have a Republican Party that with few exceptions does not even recognize the reality of climate change, let alone that it is caused by human activity, let alone that the scientific community tells us that this is the major global environmental crisis that we face, and I want to see this nation lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels, to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.
Real unemployment in America is not five and a half percent, if you include those people who have given up looking for work, and people who are working part time when they want to work full time. Real unemployment is 11 percent. We need to create millions of jobs, and the best way to do it is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and I’ve introduced legislation to do just that: Create and maintain 13 million jobs.
In my state of Vermont, and throughout this country, young people, bright, young, able kids, cannot afford to go to college and are leaving school deeply in debt. In Germany, countries around the world, they understand that you tap the intellectual capabilities of young people, and you make college tuition in public colleges and universities free. That is my view as well.
So, there are enormous issues facing this country. Let me conclude by saying this, and I say this to the media: I have never run a negative ad in my life. I have been in many campaigns, and you ask the people of Vermont, they will tell you, “Bernie Sanders has never run a negative ad. I hate and detest these 30 second ugly negative ads.
I believe that in a democracy, what elections are about are serious debates about serious issues, not political gossip, not making campaign soap operas. This is not the Red Sox versus the Yankees. This is the debate over major issues facing the American people.
Honest people, my conservative friends, differ with me. That’s fine. That’s called democracy. It’s a good thing, but I’ve got to hope, and I have to ask the media’s help on this thing: Allow us to discuss the important issues facing the American people. Let’s not get hung up on political soap opera, and all the other aspects of modern campaigns
Thank you, and just let me take a few…
Essentially, well, I’ll give you a detailed proposal right now. I regard it as unacceptable that you have major corporations in this country who make billions of dollars in profit who do not pay a nickel in federal income tax because, among other things, they stash their money in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda and other tax havens.
The wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations have got to join the United States of America. They’ve got to come back to this country, and they’ve got to maintain and respect their responsibilities, and their responsibilities are not to ship jobs to China. They responsibilities are not to avoid paying federal taxes. So, we need real tax reform that says to the wealthiest people and the largest corporations, you’re going to have to start paying your fair share.
I owe my brother an enormous amount. I grew up in a family that did not have a lot of money. My dad came to this country at the age of 17, dropped out of high school, never made any money. My mother graduated high school. We didn’t have a whole lot of books in the house. It was my brother who actually introduced me to a lot of my ideas. So, I hope my brother does very well in his race for Parliament in the UK.
Absolutely not. No, that’s a fair question, and let’s be clear. To say that people disagree on issues, and the point of these issues, that’s what a debate is about. That’s what democracy is about. So, no, certainly I would be doing that.
What I’m saying is, you know this better than I do, is turn on these vicious 30-second ads, and vicious personal attacks against other candidates, I think the American people are sick and tired of it and I’ve never done it in my life.
I think what is more fair game for my campaign is the role of money in politics. Where are the conflicts of interest, when the Koch brothers are going to be spending 900 million dollars in this campaign, making a lot of their money from fossil fuel, and having a platform which, as I understand it, calls for the elimination of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, ideas which are increasingly palatable to my Republican colleagues. That’s a conflict of interest.
So, the issue here is not the Clinton Foundation. That’s a fair issue. The issue is the huge amounts of money that it takes to run a campaign today.
And let me say this, and I say it honestly. One of the hesitancies that I had about deciding whether to run or not, is obviously about money. I’m not going to get money from the Koch brothers, and I’m not going to get money from billionaires. I’m going to have to raise my campaign contributions through BernieSanders.com, and small, individual contributions. That’s how I’m going to do it.
But, I seriously wonder, and it’s not just Bernie Sanders, I wonder now, in this day and age, whether it is possible for any candidate who is not a billionaire, or who is not beholden to the billionaire class, to be able to run successful campaigns, and if that is the case, I want you all to recognize what a sad state of affairs that is for American democracy.
It’s too early. We don’t know what Hillary’s stances are on all the issues, but this is what I can tell you, and maybe let me conclude on this: I voted against the war in Iraq, and not only did I vote against it. I helped lead the effort, and many of the things I said back then turned out to be true, I mean the massive destabilization in the region.
I am helping right now to lead the effort against the TransPacific Partnership, because I believe it continues a trend of horrendous trade policies that have cost us millions of decent paying jobs. I helped lead the effort against the Keystone pipeline, because I don’t think we should be transporting some of the dirtiest fuel in the world, and we have to be really vigorous in terms of transforming the energy system.
So, those are some of my views, and we’ll see where Secretary Clinton comes out.
All right. With that, I have to get going.
Oh, no, not at all. We are in this race to win. It’s not a question, but you’ve got to understand, I have asked people to understand my history.
You are looking at a guy undisputably, who has the most unusual political history of anybody in the United States Congress.
I have run, it’s not only that I am the longest serving independent in the history of he United States Congress, I have run for statewide office and I got one percent of the vote. I don’t know if I should be proud of that, but my last election, I got 71 percent of the vote. The point is, that’s not the right question.
The question is, if you raise the issues that are on the hearts and minds of the American people, if you try to put a movement together that says, we have got to stand together as a people and say that, this capitol, this beautiful capitol, our country belonged to all of us, and not the billionaire class, that is not raising an issue. That is winning elections. That is where the American people are.”