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Senator Sanders, thank you for being with us tonight.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Great to be with you.
KLEIN: So, why aren`t we?
SANDERS: Well, the answer is pretty simple -- everything you said is
true. Everybody knows you have to invest in infrastructure. We can create
millions of decent paying jobs in the long term and I speak as a former
mayor, you obviously save money because you don`t have to do constant
repairs as we`ve just seen.
The simple reason is I`m afraid that you have a Republican mindset
that says, hmm, let`s see, we can repair the infrastructure, save money
long time, create millions of jobs, bad idea. Barack Obama will look good.
And we`ve got to do everything that we can to make Barack Obama look bad.
So, despite the fact that we had a modest bipartisan transportation
bill, roads, bridges, public transit pass the Senate with over 70 votes,
Inhofe, the most conservative guy in the Senate, working with Barbara
Boxer, one of the most progressives, we can`t get that bill moving in the
House of Representatives.
So if you`re asking me why, I would say 100 percent political. If
it`s good for America, if it creates jobs, if it`s good for Barack Obama,
we can`t do it.
KLEIN: Now, some Republicans say and some people say didn`t we do
infrastructure a couple years ago? You heard a lot in the stimulus we had
done infrastructure. So, how come we have all of this outstanding --
SANDERS: Because we ignored the needs for a long, long, time. Yes,
we did put infrastructure. We put it into the state of Vermont, put more
money into roads and bridges. But we need a lot more and that`s true for
the other 49 states as well.
We have -- it`s not only roads, it`s not only bridges, it`s not only
water systems. It`s mass transportation. It is rail. China is building
high-speed rail all over the place. We are not. Our rail system is in
many ways deteriorating.
We have schools that are aging. We have culverts that need work. We
have tunnels that need work.
We have an enormous amount of work that is ready to go right now and
it is beyond comprehension that our Republican friends will not support
KLEIN: Now, one of the things I think people sometimes miss in the
infrastructure conversation is for the last couple of years, we used to do
infrastructure bills for many years at a time, five years, six years,
something like that. In the last couple of years, we`ve passed nine short
term bills in Congress, instead of one.
The Inhofe-Boxer bill is only two years, but that`s longer than a
couple of months. And that`s meant states and localities can`t plan future
projects because they don`t know what the federal government will be doing
in a couple months, making essentially every dollar of spending in
infrastructure now less effective because people can`t plan for the future
SANDERS: Absolutely. And I`ll tell you something -- every day that
we delay right now getting this modest transportation bill done is a
serious problem because -- in the state of Vermont, you know, you don`t do
roads in January and February. We do them in the summertime. The
construction companies need to know they`re ready to go and they need to
know it now.
KLEIN: One of the things we used to do in infrastructure and that I
know is holding up the transportation bill in some ways is we had a gas tax
for it. It was a tax on gasoline. Ronald Reagan raised it by a nickel
when he invested in infrastructure.
One thing that`s been remarkable to me in this conversation last
couple of years, just showing how far both parties have moved right on the
tax issue is that even Democrats refuse to broach the idea of a gas tax.
And with that not even on the table anymore, you know, I do wonder where
we`re going to be funding it in a sustained way going forward.
SANDERS: Well, that`s a good question. I`m not a great fan of the
gas tax because I come from a rural state, a lot of people traveling long
distances to work, and they`re making 10 bucks an hour. We`re living in a
country right now with the most unequal distribution of income and wealth -
- the wealthiest people paying the lowest effective tax rates in decades.
There are ways to raise money to create jobs and rebuilding our
infrastructure without doing it in a regressive way in my view.
KLEIN: Senator Bernie Sanders, thank you so much for being around
SANDERS: My pleasure.
KLEIN: And one of the brainiest, best-equipped policy people among
Republican leaders is saying stuff that he cannot seriously believe. That
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