Senator Bernie Sanders (I- Vt.) discussed his goal to establish Medicare for all, as well as the current state of the United States economy at a book tour event at Old Cabell Hall Thursday. This event was one stop on Sander’s national tour to promote his new book “It’s Ok to Be Angry About Capitalism.”
Sanders said one goal he has with his book is to break through the irrelevant discussions that take place in American politics. He said politics is more than polls, more than things politicians say, even more than elections.
“The point is to ask questions, to think about things that you don’t usually see — you don’t see on TV or reading the paper,” Sanders said.
The event was hosted by the Center for Politics. Sanders was interviewed by Robert Costa, chief election and campaign correspondent for CBS news and Center scholar. After the interview portion, Sanders answered select questions from the audience.
During the event, Sanders discussed the current American healthcare system’s shortcomings, such as no required paid family leave and high cost of prescription drugs. He compared other countries’ healthcare systems to the American system, saying that America is the only major country in the world to not guarantee health care to all of its citizens.
The American healthcare system is built on a for-profit model, which Sanders said is not designed to treat illnesses in a rational way that would prioritize patient care. His response is to expand the current Medicare system so that it will eventually be available to all citizens.
“I feel very passionately that if we can come up with a Medicare for all system, it will profoundly improve the quality of life in this country,” Sanders said.
Sanders opted to stand up for the majority of the event as he addressed the audience with sweeping hand gestures.
When talking about the American economy, Sanders referenced Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He pondered a question that he attributed to Roosevelt — can people truly be free without economic rights? Sanders said no, answering the question with a reference to Dr. King.
“[Dr. King said] what good is it to desegregate a restaurant if somebody can’t afford to walk into that restaurant and get the hamburger,” Sanders said.
While on the subject of the economy, Costa asked Sanders about the ongoing controversy over Starbucks workers attempting to unionize. Sanders currently serves as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will meet March 8 to vote on whether to investigate potential violations of labor laws by major corporations. When asked if he would compel Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz to testify before Congress, Sanders answered yes.
Sanders said the people who earn the most money in America have exceptional economic, political and media power — including the power to heavily influence elections.
“You have to ask yourselves, what kind of democracy do you live in when billionaires can buy elections,” Sanders said.
Sanders is currently serving his third term in the U.S. Senate, making him the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history.
When asked if he would run for reelection in 2024, Sanders said Americans spend too much time worrying about who will be running when they should be focused on what currently-elected officials are doing. As for his own reelection, Sanders did not give a clear yes-or-no answer.
An audience member asked Sanders if he was worried about digital fatigue in younger generations affecting their involvement in politics.
“You don’t get to be fatigued,” Sanders said. “We don’t have the right to be fatigued. We have the right to roll up our sleeves, to get to work and transform this country.
Tickets to the event were free to the public and sold out in under five minutes. There were over 800 audience members in attendance, with more people waiting in a standby line outside of the venue.