Bernie Sanders on the Budget

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in 2009. Brian Synder / Reuters-Corbis

Your filibuster lasted eight and a half hours. What's the first thing you did when you left the Senate floor?

I went to the bathroom.

In a 2007 interview you asked, "Did the people send me here to give long speeches, or did they send me here to get things done?" Did you change your mind?

I don't think I changed my mind. Getting things done was to stop a disastrous agreement between the president and the Republicans.

Will the new budget help to stop the decline of the middle class?

It's only going to make a very bad situation much worse. I think most people are not pleased to know that the top 400 families in this country own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent.

There is a huge gap between what the Democrats and the Republicans want to cut from the budget. Where will it end up?

That implies that the only way we can go forward is by cutting. Most Americans don't agree with that.

You propose a surtax on millionaires and the oil industry.

According to a recent poll, the proposal had the support of 81 percent of the American people. There is overwhelming support for asking from the wealthy.

You call yourself a democratic socialist. How did "socialism" become a bad word in America?

I think what obviously happened over many years is that some of our right-wing friends decided to equate socialism with Stalinism, or the authoritarian Soviet Union with democratic socialism. Obviously, those are two very different animals.

Your right-wing friends like to call President Obama a socialist. Is that accurate?


How far is Obama from being a socialist?

That's absurd.

Is it tiring to be portrayed as a pariah?

I don't consider myself a pariah. My last election I got 67 percent of the vote. If your question is, sometimes do I feel it gets hard holding views that the vast majority of the members of Congress don't hold? Yes, it does.

Is Obama leading the budget fight as he should be?

It's not a question of leading the fight. You can lead the fight and do a bad job. The president led the effort in terms of the tax issue. I thought he did a disastrous job.

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