On Sunday, March 5, during the Tucson Festival of Books, Sen. Bernie Sanders and co-author John Nichols visited the University of Arizona's Student Union Memorial Center for a discussion about their new book, "It's OK to Be Angry About Capitalism." The visit was part of a series of a not-for-profit tour to promote the book and Sanders’ progressive platform.
In his book, Sanders — known for his long career as a self-described democratic socialist — discusses climate change, economic inequality, healthcare and other pressing issues facing our nation. These issues were at the forefront of his presidential campaign, and he continues to interact with them in his role as senator of Vermont.
Throughout the discussion, he called on the audience to redefine politics.
“Politics is not what some Democrat said about a Republican or what a Republican said about a Democrat […]. I want you to think [about] why things are the way they are. Who has the power?” Sanders said.
His answer? Billionaire elites.
“We live in a democracy, but it is the best democracy that money can buy,” Sanders said. “This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. We are seeing an explosion of technology making us more productive. We have the potential to do extraordinary things. What we don’t talk about is that upper-income people in America in terms of life expectancy do just fine. Their numbers are up there with the rest of the world. Working-class and lower-income people live 10 to 15 years less than upper-income people.”
Sanders continuously asked the audience what it means to be free, and how do we — as a developed nation — continue to fail to provide for the basic needs of the poor and working class.
“Are you really free if you’re sitting here and can’t afford to go to the doctor? Are you really free if you hate your job and the only reason you work there is because you have health insurance? Are you really free if you’re working 50 or 60 hours a week living under humongous stress?” Sanders said.
Sanders specifically mentioned a record-breaking $858 billion defense bill that he recently opposed that would increase military spending by $80 billion.
“Do you know what $80 billion could do for this country?” Sanders asked. “It could allow everybody in this country to at least walk into a doctor’s office.”
Sanders was asked by the Daily Wildcat what he thinks the role of young people is in combating the problems that he addresses in his book.
“Your generation is an extraordinary generation. I want you to know, truthfully. Your generation is the most decent generation […] the most anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-xenophobic generation in the history of this country,” Sanders said. “My generation has not done very well by you […]. We’re leaving you with low-wage jobs, we’re leaving you with a lot of student debt, we’re leaving you in a situation where you may not be able to afford the housing that you would like to have.”
He said it is this current young adult generation in America that must make a change.
“What your generation has got to do is bring people together and do what my generation has not been able to do,” Sanders said. “That is to ask questions and to have the courage to take on some very powerful special interests […]. Tell them that their greed is destroying our nation and you will not accept it.”
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