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Playboy Interview: Bernie Sanders
  • October 17, 2013 : 07:10
  • comments

SANDERS: The Supreme Court has always been political, but it’s much more so now. The Republicans are tougher than the Democrats. They nominate right-wing judges who act very boldly. Democrats nominate moderates. Citizens United will go down in history as one of the worst decisions ever made by the U.S. Supreme Court. Does anyone really think Bush v. Gore was decided on the legal merits? I saw a study that said when the Chamber of Commerce weighs in on a case, the justices decide in the business lobby’s favor almost 70 percent of the time.

PLAYBOY: The collapse of the middle class didn’t happen overnight. This is a process of at least 30 or 40 years, right?

SANDERS: It happened in a few ways. Number one, the decline of trade unions in America. At the end of the day unions are what workers have to negotiate decent contracts, and unions are what give working people political clout. When you see a devastating reduction of the trade unions, as you see in Michigan, workers will have less power to negotiate contracts and less political clout.

PLAYBOY: In your youth, unions represented probably 35 percent of the workforce. Now it’s 11 percent.

SANDERS: Exactly. Most workers now have nobody to look after them, so the employer says, “Oh, by the way, good news! We’re giving you a job, but you don’t get any vacation time.” Where are you going to go? You’re going to go to your union rep to talk about it. But you don’t have a union rep, so you say, because everybody else is unemployed, “Thank you very much. I’ll take the job.”

PLAYBOY: How do you think the U.S. should view and engage China?

SANDERS: We should do everything we can to avoid a hugely expensive cold war with China similar to what we had with the Soviet Union. We should also do our best, in a respectful way, to support those elements in China fighting for a democratic society. But I vigorously opposed the permanent normal trade relations agreement with China that was pushed by corporate America and supported by many Democrats as well as Republicans. The motive for that agreement was to shut down plants in this country and take advantage of cheap labor in China.

PLAYBOY: You complained recently about ExxonMobil, “They had a bad year in 2009. They only made $19 billion in profit, and they paid nothing in federal income taxes, but they got a $156 million refund from the IRS.”

SANDERS: Bank of America operated 200 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands. In 2010 it got a $1.9 billion rebate from the IRS. There’s a list of about 15 companies that paid nothing, or very little, in taxes. Many of these institutions—Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase—were actually bailed out by the American people. They were wonderful, proud American companies when they came for their welfare checks from the American people. After the bailout, they suddenly love the Cayman Islands and are parking all their money there. The next time they go broke, they can go to the Cayman Islands for a bailout, not the American people. There’s an estimate out there that we’re losing about $100 billion a year because companies are taking advantage of the tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and so on—$100 billion a year!

PLAYBOY: That’s a sizable pile of cash.

SANDERS: Today one out of four major profitable corporations pays zero in federal income taxes. Got that? Today, what corporations are paying into the U.S. Treasury, as a percentage of GDP, is lower than in any other major country on earth. You would think that before you cut health care, education, nutrition or Social Security, you might want to take a hard look at that issue. I mean, am I missing something here?

PLAYBOY: You once said, “It is Robin Hood in reverse. We are taking from working families who are hurting and giving it to the wealthiest people.”

SANDERS: Welcome to America 2013. We are in the midst of intense class warfare, where the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are at war with the middle class and working families of this country, and it is obvious the big-money interests are winning that war. They are winning the war in terms of their lobbyists negotiating tax breaks for people who don’t need them and then fighting for cuts for working families. The Business Roundtable—CEOs of the largest companies in the U.S.—came to Washington earlier this year and proposed that we raise the Medicare and Social Security eligibility ages to 70. Can you imagine the chutzpah of guys who are worth hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases and have retirement packages the likes of which average Americans couldn’t even dream, proposing that? Can you imagine somebody who will get a golden parachute of perhaps tens of millions of dollars—who is not going to have a financial worry in his or her life—coming to Washington and saying, “I want you to raise Medicare eligibility to 70”?

PLAYBOY: Is the problem that wealthy CEOs are out of touch with the concerns of the common man?

SANDERS: Absolutely. These are people whose kids live in gated communities, people who get into their chauffeured cars when they travel, into their own jet planes, and go all over the world. They eat at the finest restaurants; they work out in the greatest gyms. They haven’t got a clue or a concern about what’s going on with ordinary Americans.

PLAYBOY: We saw one calculation that said if the productivity of workers was matched to the minimum wage, the minimum wage in America would be $22 an hour, three times what it is.

SANDERS: If I give you a new tool—for example, a computer as opposed to a yellow pad—we have a right to expect you to be more productive, right? If I give a guy in the woods a chain saw as opposed to an old-fashioned saw, that guy’s going to cut down more trees. Here is the irony: Our society has become far more productive—productivity has soared—and yet all the gains from that productivity have gone to the people at the top. While you have become more productive as a worker, your wages, income and benefits have gone down.

PLAYBOY: Is anyone in Washington concerned about this?

SANDERS: Every speech I give, I get a question. “Bernie, I don’t understand. These CEOs and large financial institutions were clearly engaged in fraudulent behavior, but none of these guys is in jail. Why?” Attorney General Eric Holder said he had concerns about the Department of Justice prosecuting large financial institutions because if they became destabilized, it would have an impact on our economy and the world economy. In other words, these guys are not only too big to fail, they’re too big to jail.

PLAYBOY: How powerful is Wall Street in Washington?

SANDERS: The Wall Street folks spent billions and billions of dollars to deregulate Wall Street. Then they proceeded to create the world’s largest gambling casino, which then ended up collapsing and was bailed out, against my vote, by the American people. Then, the American people looked to the president of the United States and Congress to say, “How did it happen? Hold these bastards accountable. Throw the crooks in jail. Do something.” I was new to the Senate at the time. I remember we went to the White House and met with the president, the secretary of the treasury, the whole financial team, and our message was: The American people are outraged. Wall Street has just caused immense suffering in this country. People want action. What are you going to do about it?

PLAYBOY: And the president said…?

SANDERS: Oh, I hesitate to tell you—I don’t like to talk about private sessions behind closed doors with the president, but let’s just say the response to that discussion from the president and his team was not inspiring, and the proof is in the pudding. The president has hired people from Wall Street, obviously. We had Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke come before the Senate Budget Committee, and I said, “Mr. Bernanke, can you tell me the role the Fed played—how much money the Fed provided to financial institutions, and which ones, during the financial crisis?” He said, “No, I can’t tell you that. I’m not going to tell you that.”

PLAYBOY: Do you think the term class warfare is a hard thing to explain to or use with most Americans?

SANDERS: People understand it. Sometimes people come up to me and say I’m courageous for saying all these things. I say, “I’m not courageous. Go look at these guys who want to give more tax breaks to billionaires and cut programs for working families. That is incredibly courageous, because the vast majority of the American people think that’s crazy.” The polling says: Don’t cut Social Security, don’t cut Medicare, don’t cut Medicaid. Ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay more taxes. The political question is, why have the Republicans not been reduced to a 15 percent marginal third party?

PLAYBOY: And the answer is?

SANDERS: Most people do not perceive a heck of a lot of difference between either party. The Democrats are too diffuse, and their message is so unclear the American people don’t see the real difference.

PLAYBOY: Some people claim Obamacare was really a payoff to the drug companies and the insurance companies to continue to make billions of dollars.

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read more: News, politics, interview, playboy interview, issue november 2013


  • Jeff Healitt
    Jeff Healitt
    The United States needs Bernie Sanders. Great interview!
  • crewoldt
    Well, then I guess that entitles you to government benefits. I am a vet of the Gulf War, and everyone in my family are vets, Vietnam, WW II, and fighting currently. That is why I piss on the likes of the Teabaggers who hate out government, our Commander-in-Chief, and seek to destroy our way of life. Maybe you should consider it if you want to keep getting that check. Those are the facts. Too many died to defend this country for one of our own to be defending seditionists and seperatists.
  • bronxflash
    wow. you are a very simple minded person who lives in a world of hyperbole so as to make her world view correct. if i thought voting was important, i'd ask you not to vote.
  • Cissy
    And you were on the PLAYBOY site because..........?
  • Jason
    With all due respect, you sound like a complete twit. Playboy is the gateway to sex trafficking and torture? Playboy is a porn magazine? You sound like a delusional bible thumping old maid who thinks sex means missionary with the lights off and a nude body is regarded as pornographic and sinful. Playboy has done more for blacks, gays and sexual freedom rights than any other magazine publication in the world, so grow up.
  • Kalar Walters
    Kalar Walters
    It's time for Bernie to remind folks that closing loopholes equates to cutting spending. Tis true. It's a twofer. You cut spending and increase revenue at the same time.
  • Trawg
    And this is what a useful idiot looks like, ladies and gentlemen. Let's give him a round of applause.He votes. Do you?
  • Roddick BIngham
    Roddick BIngham
    Chopped garlic should cure that post-coital bunny-eared political bias. Timber Chippers!
  • TommyD
    Keep up the fight Bernie. You are a wonderful man and a gift to the working families in America. You inspire me to be more active on the issue of inequality, I have become more active, and there is more to come.
  • brown7228
    Spoken like a true fascist. What ever happened to by the people for the people.
  • Roddick Bingham
    Roddick Bingham
    What a load of booby cue garbage. We all know he's as left wing as a plane with no right rudder. Smashed apples under the bonnet to anyone who thinks he's the real mountain ranger. U get me?
  • Roddick Bingham
    Roddick Bingham
    It can't be bought it has to be earnt by cleanin' windows. As far as the strength of the rabbits claw goes I'd say congress is about as tough as a worker ant's jaw on sedative. Ain't gonna be no flow from those old croons when the finger of fate slides further beneath the door. All a game they say anyway to play and come what may it ain't gonna keep our trade smarts at bay. Tough call!
  • lex
    Actually, a plane with no right rudder would tend to bank left, that is, be more right winged...just sayin'
  • ABBAFan77
    Rimshot testicle miracle spray
  • bb
    You raise a good point, Diana. I'm guessing It's just a good idea to get the message out and to reach all kinds of people.
  • Rob Reese
    Rob Reese
    The mans got a sharper tongue than a polished diamond blade soaked in Venezualan artificially flavored tabasco sauce. But he's our teddy bear so let's not forget that! Vermont ahoy!!!
  • Diana Fka Desi Foxx
    Diana Fka Desi Foxx
    It's too bad he thinks it's okay to hang out with Playboy. They are the gateway to sex trafficking, torture and destruction of families. How can anyone support a politician when he's in a PORN magazine??
  • John Aldridge
    John Aldridge
    We have the best Congress money can buy.
  • ridgewalker1
    What statistics do you "believe" are off?
  • crewoldt
    Spoken as a true retiree who has not had to live in this economy, but entered the work force before reagonomics pissed all over us. Enjoy just living off the fat of your retirement and social security at our expense. The "I got mine, screw you" generation will be remembered as one that lived off the 'dole' of the greatest generation.
  • Brandon Ross Fontaine
    Brandon Ross Fontaine
    T.T I want to meet Bernie and give him a hug. I feel like he's a tired old grandpa to the country. Trying and trying to help the whole country and he's only able to help one tiny little corner of it. Vermont you guys sure are lucky.
  • Jeremy
    Jeremy "The Gizz" Spooner
    Hopscotching for butterscotch, that's my motto. Bernie's flow is immaculate, much like the 66 chicago bears. If hives could fly, honey would rain down and smother his buttocks.
  • Sheldon Green
    Sheldon Green
    Excuse me, but Playboy is the gateway to free speech and consensual sexual relationships between adults. What you are suggesting is inappropriate and downright wrong.
  • Kellie Nicholson
    Kellie Nicholson
    I love me some Bernie! There are some like him coming up locally and on the state level. Let's look for them to carry the torch, but I so hope Bernie stays with us for a long time to come.
  • builder7
    Yeah, that's right, they ought to displace you with somebody from India that makes 5 cents an hour!
  • Diana Fka Desi Foxx
    Diana Fka Desi Foxx
    And yes, I did see your photo. Playboy ain't what they were when you all were boys. Time to take the blinders off!
  • woostock
    Our problem is fascism.
  • Matt
    Bernie is a backstabbing tool of the political establishment. Vermonters who follow local politics know that he is a favorite of pro-military republicans in our state and the whole 'pro-middle class' thing is just to cover up his real agenda: putting money in the pockets of large VT businesses at the expense of new Americans and the low & middle income Vermonters.
  • dmo
    all of us middle class Americans simply have been pissed on from reaganomics trickle down bs
  • TommyTuna
    And the evidence for your postulation? Bernie cited statistics to back up his assertions. Where is the evidence to support your hypotheses?
  • TommyTuna
    As evidenced in the Gizzer's statement and the copious philosophic spooge espoused by fdfdf wtf, when people like Bernie Sanders put forth a reasoned argument supported by facts and statistics (and it happens to conflict with the worldview they hold), the only response is incoherent gobbledeegook.
  • AA Mobham
    AA Mobham
    Nah its the same you're just chonky
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