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WHEN: Today, Tuesday, May 26
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is the only self-described socialist in Congress. Now he is mounting a longshot bid for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination against his former Senate colleague Hillary Rodham Clinton, who served most recently as Secretary of State. Mr. Sanders calls for nothing less than a "political revolution" that would use tax policy to reverse what he calls the massive transfer of wealth from ordinary families to the most affluent over the past generation. He sat down to spagehetti and meatballs with John Harwood at a bistro near the Capitol.
A transcript of Speakeasy with John Harwood featuring Senator Bernie Sanders follows. All references must be sourced to CNBC.com:
HARWOOD: People on Wall Street, people in business..some have even likened the progressive/Democratic crusade to Hitler's Germany hunting down the Jews. What do you think when you hear stuff like that?
SANDERS: It's sick. And I think these people are so greedy, they're so out of touch with reality. They think they own the world. And the idea that anybody like me or anybody else are challenging them and say, may be, just maybe there's something wrong when 99% of all new income goes to the top 1%. Oh, this is Hitlerism that you suggest that. What a disgusting remark. If you have seen a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1%, you know what, we've got to transfer that back. Radical socialist Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, I think the highest marginal tax rate was something like 90%.
HARWOOD: When you think about 90%, you don't think that's obviously too high?
SANDERS: No. What I think is obscene and what frightens me is, again, when you have the top one tenth of 1% owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. Does anybody think that that is the kind of economy this country should have? Do we think it's moral? You got people not workin' one job. They're workin' two jobs, three jobs. People scared to death about what happens tomorrow. Half the people in America have less than $10,000 in savings.
HARWOOD: Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, in the last 16 months, have made $30 million making speeches. What does that kind of money do to a politician's perspective on the struggles you were just talking about?
SANDERS: Well, theoretically, you could be a multibillionaire and, in fact, be very concerned about the issues of working people. Theoretically, that's true. When you hustle money like that, you don't sit in restaurants like this. You sit in restaurants where you're spending-- I don't know what they spend -- hundreds of dollars for dinner and so forth. That's the world that you're accustomed to and that's the world view that you adopt. I am not going to condemn Hillary and Bill Clinton because they have made a lot of money. That type of wealth can, you know, has the potential to isolate you from the reality of the world.
HARWOOD: You and I talked some months ago. You said you were going to take a look at running, and you weren't going to do if it was a fool's errand, it if it wasn't viable. What did you see that made you think it was viable?
SANDERS: There is more discontent and more anger at the establishment – that is the corporate establishment, the political establishment, the media establishment if you like.
HARWOOD: Is Hillary Clinton the establishment?
SANDERS: I think it's hard not to acknowledge that Hillary Clinton is part of the establishment. I think that's hard not to acknowledge.
HARWOOD: I've heard a lot of Democrats say, "It's great that Bernie's running. Of course he won't win the nomination." And I wonder if you have any idea that you're, in the end, gonna be seen as this giant cruise ship is rolling by, and you're in a paddle boat, yelling after it and not making an impact.
SANDERS: John, let me say this. I fully concede that I get into this race as a major underdog. No question about it. I've said before though, don't underestimate me. I think we're gonna do better than people think. And I think we got a shot to win this thing.
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