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Senator Bernie Sanders participates in the Tom Joyner Morning Show Round Table with Don Lemon, Roland Martin, Reverend Al Sharpton and Jacque Reid along with TJMS hosts Tom Joyner and Sybil Wilkes.

In the exclusive interview, Sanders fields questions about his reported inflated involvement with the development of Obamacare; his plans regarding HBCUs; criminal justice reform; the Flint Water Crisis; the gender wage gap and much more.

Listen to the entire interview below.



Or read the full interview transcript below: 


We have been discussing health care and some of the changes you want to make. You’ve heard of Kenneth Thorpe. He says your health care plan is a loser, that it would end up costing people more and that it would end up costing lower and middle income people more and that the cost of your healthcare plan would outweigh the benefits. How do you respond to that?

I think it’s absolute nonsense. We are taking on the Establishment. We are taking on the moneyed interests. We are taking on the insurance industry; we are taking on the drug industry. Every major country on Earth – Europe, Scandinavia, Canada has national health care programs which guarantee healthcare to all of their people. And without exception, the United States is spending far more per capita on healthcare than any of those countries because they don’t have drug companies and insurance companies ripping them off. We have hundreds of healthcare experts and economists who are refuting Mr. Thorpe’s point of view. A Medicare single payer program will guarantee healthcare to every man woman and child in this country and it will save the average middle-class family $5,000 a year in health care costs.

He [Thorpe] says you’re underestimating the cost of your health care plan by $1.1 trillion dollars a year.

When you take on the Establishment, the question that we have to ask ourselves is are we satisfied with 29 million people have no health insurance, with even more being underinsured with high deductibles and high copayments, living in a country in which we pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs such that one out of five Americans can’t afford to fill the prescriptions their doctors write.

Every other country on Earth has said No, that’s not the way to go. We need a national health care program. The insurance and drug companies don’t like what I have to say. But as I’ve mentioned, there are hundreds of economists and health care experts who are refuting Mr. Thorpe and who are saying this is the more cost-effective way to go. I helped write the Affordable Care Act.

It has done some very good things. But we still have a long way to go to provide quality health care to all of our people. There are people out here right now who have $5,000 or $10,000 deductibles and they can’t afford to go to the doctor because they don’t have the money in their pockets.

Politifact says that you did not write the Affordable Care Act –that you were involved in helping getting it passed but you and your spokesman saying that its simply not true.

I was on the committee that helped write that bill. I’m on that committee. It’s The Health, Education and Labor committee, formerly chaired by Ted Kennedy, then chaired by Chris Dodd for a little while, then Tom Harkin. I am on that committee that helped write that bill. I’m still on the committee.

That’s irrefutable. In fact, one of the major provisions in that bill was an expansion of federally qualified community health centers which I helped write with Jim Clyburn over in the House, which is now providing health care to 6 million people who otherwise wouldn’t have had it.

ROLAND MARTIN, NEWS ONE: What is your plan to strengthen HBCU’s in America and what will you do about charter schools and vouchers? Black parents we polled at TV One – 81% are in support of charter schools and vouchers. What will you do about HBCU’s and K-12 public education?

I’m very, very strongly supporting HBCU’s. They are playing a very phenomenal role in providing an education to young people that otherwise would not have it. I’m also very supportive of making public colleges and universities tuition-free, some of which are HBCU’s. At the end of the day in America, young  people need higher education to compete in a competitive global economy, regardless of the income of their family if they have the ability and the qualifications to do so. Too many of our kids are not getting their college education because they can’t afford to or they are leaving school deeply, deeply in debt. And that’s an issue that we are focusing on very deeply in this campaign.

What about charters and vouchers, which Black parents are very supportive of?

If they are for private schools, I do not support it, because they are undermining public education. But if it’s in the context of public education, I do support it.

So you support public charter schools?

Yes, but not private.

TOM JOYNER: You talk a lot about free education. How will that affect HBCU’s?

It’s not free education. It is making sure that public colleges and universities are tuition-free. Today in many respects, a college degree is the equivalent of what a high school diploma was many years ago. I think anyone in this country who wants to get a higher education should be able to regardless of the income of his or her families. We are going to be very supportive of the HBCU’s and those that are public will be tuition-free.

REV. AL SHARPTON: Senator Sanders, You have talked, when you met with civil rights leadership, about mandatory minimums and in the campaign about criminal justice, particularly about non-violent offenders and mandatory time and about police abuses and the need for police reform. In light of that, what type of Attorney General would you appoint, based on your announced platform in those areas, what would you require of an Attorney Genearal you would appoint? And if you were elected and had one or two openings on the Supreme Court, would any of that be part of your consideration about what you would want to hear from a Justice that you would nominate?

Thank you very much for that excellent question. An Attorney General of mine would be extraordinarily aggressive in attacking a broken criminal justice system. It’s absolutely insane that today we have more people in jail than in any other country on Earth – 2.2 million people. Among many other things, I want to take marijuana out of the Federal Controlled Substance Act. Too many people’s lives are destroyed because they get police records. We’re going to hold police officers accountable if they break the law. Anytime an individual is killed, whether being apprehended by the police or in police custody, that would call for a Department of justice investigation.

We will have model programs which make police departments look like the communities they serve, in terms of diversity. Your point is a good point about mandatory sentencing. Too many people have been sent away for too long. What we also want to do is deal with this horrific rate of recidivism. People are coming out of jail and getting back into the same environment that got them into jai in the first place. We need people to have the job training and the education they need, so they can create strong and constructive lives once they are on the outside. In terms of the Supreme Court, I regard our broken criminal justice system and the need to reform that as one of the major, major issues facing this country and my appointee to the Supreme Court would have to be prepared to address those issues.

JACQUE REID:  The Detroit News and others are blaming the Environmental Protection Agency for having a huge role in the Flint Water crisis, specifically for knowing how dangerous the water was for an incredibly long time, but not saying anything to the public.

You’ve been playing close attention to what’s going on in Flint, you’ve even asked for Gov. Snyder’s resignation. But some people are saying the EPA is useless and others are calling it corrupt. Do you think it’s corrupt or as President, would you revamp it or eliminate it altogether?

Obviously, I would not eliminate it. The people there are calling it corrupt are right-wing people who want the opportunity to pollute our environment and to obtain fossil fuels in this country. Could the EPA be doing much, much more? Look, I was in Flint. What I heard, I have to tell you Jacque, was beyond belief. I could not believe that they were living in the United States of America in 2016. Their children are being poisoned. The intellectual capabilities of their children are in decline.

We have to strengthen the EPA and we have to make sure that as a country we control the pollution we don’t allow corporations to put pollution into our water, our air, and our land. In terms of Flint, if the local government there doesn’t have the resources and if the state government – and I have asked for the governor’s resignation – is unprepared or uninterested in helping the people of Flint, then the federal government has to move in very, very aggressively. These people need to have new water pipes, they need to make sure that their kids and the adults there are checked out for potential lead poisoning there is an enormous of work that needs to be done.

How long do you think it should be until the federal government moves in?

Jacque, I wold say very, very quickly. I was just there a few days ago. It is a disaster. The state government does not have the inclination or the desire to help I don’t think, the local government doesn’t have the resources. The federal government should move in aggressively.

SYBIL WILKES, TJMS: I’d like to know about the role of Black women in your administration, especially as it relates to some of these issues. How are you going to work on this pay gap? We know women generally make .78 on the dollar compared to men and Black women even less. How are you gong to go about bridging this gap?

We are gong to make a Cabinet look like America. There are a lot of Black women in America and they are gong to be on the Cabinet. The issue you raised is a very important issue. Nationally the pay rate is about $.78 cents on the dollar compared to men. For African-American women, that gap is much, much wider. I believe absolutely that we need pay equity in this country. There’s no need, except sexism and racism that an African-American woman is making .30, .40 cents less than the guy sitting next to her. So pay equity for women is a very important goal of a Sanders administration. On top of that, having a Cabinet that is diverse, that looks like America, which certainly includes Black women –

A Black female running mate?

It’s a little early to talk about that right now. Right now, I gotta win the Democratic nomination. But after that we can talk about that. But first things first.

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EXCLUSIVE: Bernie Sanders Defends Ties to Obamacare; Talks HBCUS, Flint Water Crisis & More  was originally published on blackamericaweb.com