Sanders on guns, health care and jail for CEOs

By now, most everybody’s heard of Bernie Sanders.

The independent U.S. senator from Vermont started his campaign for president in May with a deficit of name recognition, but now he’s being played by Larry David on “Saturday Night Live.”

Even more interesting, Sanders’ longtime ideas — Medicare-for-all health care, a $1 trillion infrastructure program, free tuition at public colleges and universities, a $15 minimum wage — are getting plenty of attention, too.

A candidate who went decades without appearing on Sunday morning television shows is now a regular staple. And crowds at his speeches swell into the thousands. People are definitely feeling the Bern.

During a sit-down interview recorded for a special edition of “PoliticsNOW” to air on 8NewsNow this Saturday following the Democratic debate, I asked Sanders some questions he doesn’t usually get on the campaign trail.

If we have Medicare for all, there would be no more insurance companies, and no more insurance company investments in the stock market. What would happen to the economy?

Short answer: Medicare-for-all would deliver health care more efficiently than the insurance company model.

Longer answer: “A Medicare-for-all system would have a profound and positive impact on this country,” Sanders said. “Every other major country on Earth has, in one form or another, a health-care system which guarantees health care for all people. No major country on Earth allows private insurance companies to make huge profits off of human illness.”

You’re resolute on some issues, but when it comes to guns, you say we need to build consensus. Since guns are made by corporations, why not treat Smith & Wesson with the same skepticism as you treat GlaxoSmithKline, for example?

“There’s a huge difference,” Sanders said. “When I talk about [other issues], the vast majority of the American people say, ‘Bernie, you’re right, let’s go forward.’ Now, whether you like it or I like it, this nation is divided on guns. That’s all.

“But here’s the thing: While the nation is divided on guns, I believe there is a consensus that can be established and developed which will hopefully go a long away to end these massacres that we’re seeing in churches and college campuses and we saw in Newtown, this unbelievable tragedy of children just being shot down.”

Part of that consensus, according to Sanders: Universal background checks; closing the gun-show loophole (in which private-party gun sales can take place without a background check); an end to assault weapons sales; and changing the way we deal with mental health.

“So I think in those areas and maybe more — maybe more — we can bring the majority of people together and I want that to happen,” Sanders said. “Because I would hope that every sane American does not want to see what we have seen in Charleston, S.C., what we have seen at the community college in Oregon. We don’t want to see people being mowed down in this country.”

Is it too late to hold CEOs and executives of big banks accountable for the financial crisis?

“The American people are outraged. Millions of people have lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings — and I know Nevada was very hard hit — and nothing happened to these guys on top,” Sanders said. “Some kid possesses marijuana and gets a criminal record, but not one CEO in this country, who helped destroy the American economy, none of them, despite clearly illegal behavior, has a criminal record. So I think we have got to be a lot more vigorous in saying to CEOs on Wall Street, not only are your banks not to big to fail, you are not too big to jail.”

—Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist and co-host of the show “PoliticsNOW,” airing at 5:30 p.m. Sundays on 8NewsNow. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or

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