Bernie Sanders Pulls Out Costings for Medicare for All, Hands Them to Chris Cuomo at CNN Town Hall

Those attending a CNN-hosted town hall cheered and clapped Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders when he presented a sheet of paper which outlined how he would pay for his ambitious healthcare and education plans.

At the event in Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday night, Sanders faced a question from a member of the audience who was concerned over how the Vermont senator would pay for his much vaunted plans.

Emmanuel Ferguson, the second vice chair of the Charleston County Democrats, told Sanders that he "gets really excited" when he hears the senator speak but he was worried that it was comparable to President Donald Trump exciting his base in the 2016 campaign with a promise to build a wall, with no real plan to pay for it.

"Your plan for free college tuition and free "Medicare for All" seems like a way to excite the Democratic base but with no real plan to pay for it. Now, how is your position and your campaign different than what Donald Trump did?" Ferguson said.

Sanders paused and started by saying he had spent his whole life "fighting against everything that Trump stands for" adding, "trust me, we are a little bit different."

Following applause, he said, "I thought that question might come up" as he took out a sheet of paper from his pocket and handed it to the host and CNN anchor Chris Cuomo.

Holding up another copy of the paper in his right hand, Sanders said: "This is a list which will be on our website tonight of how we will pay for every program that we have developed," as the audience cheered while he put the piece of paper back into his suit pocket.

He started by describing how public colleges and universities could be free of tuition fees and all student debt could be cancelled if there was a "modest tax on Wall Street speculation."

Cuomo then challenged Sanders to account for how he would pay for the estimated $30 trillion figure over 10 years that his Medicare for All could cost.

Sanders cited a Yale University study which concluded that significant savings could be made by getting rid of "administrative waste" in managing "thousands and thousands" of different plans.

"It is a disaster. When you get rid of all of that administrative waste...when you get rid of the profiteering of the drug companies, we can in fact pay for Medicare for All and substantially lower the cost for the average American worker."

He said that an average American family earning $60,000 a year is paying an "outrageous" $12,000 a year for healthcare, which should be replaced by paying a four percent tax in income over $29,000—reducing a family's annual liability to just $1,200.

His campaign website published the costing for his healthcare plans, which included a suite of measures such as raising the top marginal income tax to 52 percent on income over $10 million, charging employers a 7.5 percent income-based premium, and increasing the top corporate tax rate.

Under fire from both Republicans and Democrats for his comments that praised the literacy program of the former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Sanders also used the Town Hall to defend his views, saying, "I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing."

"I have been extremely consistent and critical of all authoritarian regimes all over the world, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia. I happen to believe in democracy, not authoritarianism."

In a statement to Newsweek, Sanders' spokesperson Mike Casca said: "Senator Sanders has clearly and consistently criticized Fidel Castro's authoritarianism and condemned his human rights abuses, and he's simply echoing President Obama's acknowledgement that Cuba made progress, especially in education."

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Party "First in the South" dinner on February 24, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. During a CNN Town Hall he explained how he would pay for Medicare for All. Drew Angerer