"I've always opposed the death penalty... Part of the need for real criminal justice reform is for the United States to do what virtually every other major country on earth is doing, and that is not to participate in murder itself. The state should not be involved in murdering. You have people who have committed horrific crimes, people who are dangerous, people should spend the rest of their lives behind bars. But I do not believe in capital punishment."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "18 Questions With Bernie Sanders," nytimes.com, June 19, 2019
"[W]e will never be able to end mass incarceration until we ban private prisons and make it clear that our justice system exists to rehabilitate people, not to make money for corporations...
There are many ways we must go forward to fix our criminal justice system: abolishing cash bail and civil asset forfeiture, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and making it easier for formerly incarcerated people to reintegrate into society, for starters. But we absolutely must end the existence of the private for-profit prison industry."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "Abolish For-Profit Prisons," medium.com, May 16, 2019
Pro Should the Federal Government Provide Universal Childcare?
"We must prepare the next generation to rebuild, rather than to abandon, rural America. We must guarantee a strong public education system from childcare up to college and jobs training programs for every child and young adult in America.
Enact a universal childcare program for every child in America that provides rural Americans access to local daycares. It is unacceptable that more than half of all children in Iowa don't have access to a childcare space, while tens of thousands of Iowans live in childcare deserts."
[Editor's Note: Sen. Sanders introduced the Foundations for Success Act in 2011 to provide child care and early education to all children six weeks old through kindergarten, but the bill died in committee.]
"At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country that is based on the ability to pay... If we are serious about reforming the tax code and rebuilding the middle class, we have got to demand that the wealthiest Americans, large corporations, and Wall Street pay their fair share in taxes. When we are in the White House, we will:
Pass the For the 99.8 Percent Act to establish a progressive estate tax on multi-millionaire and billionaire inheritances...
End special tax breaks on capital gains and dividends for the top 1%.
Substantially increase the top marginal tax rate on income above $10 million."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "Demand that the Wealthy, Large Corporations and Wall Street Pay their Fair Share in Taxes," berniesanders.com (accessed Sep. 4, 2019)
"We will no longer accept 46 percent of all new income going to the top 1 percent, while millions of Americans are forced to work 2 or 3 jobs just to survive and over half of our people live paycheck to paycheck...
In the richest country in the world, there is no state in which working 40 hours at the state minimum wage generates enough income to afford a one-bedroom apartment...
We must: Raise the minimum wage to a living wage of at least $15 an hour."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "Fight for Working Families," berniesanders.com (accessed Aug. 15, 2019)
Con Should the US Implement a Universal Basic Income (UBI)?
"Audience member: I know you've expressed support for Universal Basic Income in the past in your interviews. There's this guy Andrew Yang that wants to give everyone a thousand bucks a month.
Sanders: Nah. I got a better idea...
You’ve got an infrastructure which is crumbling. We can put millions of people to work doing that. Transforming our energy system in terms of weatherizing homes all over this country, building a more efficient transportation system. Putting more money into wind and solar and other sustainable technologies. We can create millions of jobs doing that.
We need more doctors in rural areas and in urban areas. We need more nurses. We have a dental crisis all over this country. We need to train dentists and get them out there. We need more social workers...
There is an enormous amount of work to be done. And what we believe in is guaranteeing a job in this country to anybody who is prepared to work. I think that's the better approach."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "Bernie Hosts Town Meeting in Malcom, Iowa," YouTube.com, Apr. 7, 2019
"Today, the United States has more income and wealth inequality than almost any major country on Earth, and it is worse now than at any time since the 1920s...
In order to reduce the outrageous level of inequality that exists in America today and to rebuild the disappearing middle class, the time has come for the United States to establish an annual tax on the extreme wealth of the top 0.1 percent of U.S. households.
This wealth tax would only apply to net worth of over $32 million and would raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over the next decade. Anyone who has a net worth of less than $32 million would not see their taxes go up at all under this plan."
Pro Should the Federal Funding to Historically Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs) Be Increased?
"Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were established at a time when segregation was the law of the land in the United States. In the decades since the 1964 Civil Rights Act, HBCUs have continued to serve an integral role in African American education. Other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) educate a disproportionate number of students who are the first in their families to attend college and serve 40 percent of underrepresented students. As President, I will make historic investments in HBCUs and MSIs to strengthen and support those institutions and create environments for future generations of graduates to thrive."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "Supporting Historically Black Colleges & Universities and Minority Serving Institutions," berniesanders.com (accessed Dec. 10, 2019)
"What Bernie believes is that the American people deserve freedom – true freedom. You are not truly free when you graduate college with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt. You are not truly free when you cannot pursue your dream of becoming a teacher, environmentalist, journalist or nurse because you cannot make enough money to cover your monthly student loan payments...
When Bernie is in the White House, he will: Cancel the entire $1.6 trillion in outstanding student debt for the 45 million borrowers who are weighed down by the crushing burden of student debt. This will save around $3,000 a year for the average student loan borrower."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "College for All and Cancel All Student Debt," berniesanders.com (accessed Sep. 5, 2019)
"Today, we say to our young people that we want you to get the best education that you can, regardless of the income of your family. Good jobs require a good education. That is why we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition free, and cancel all student debt.
When Bernie is in the White House, he will:
Pass the College for All Act to provide at least $48 billion per year to eliminate tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities, tribal colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs. Everyone deserves the right to a good higher education if they choose to pursue it, no matter their income."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "College for All and Cancel All Student Debt," berniesanders.com (accessed Aug. 15, 2019)
"Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed a bill [in 2014] to designate 'Democracy Day' as a national election holiday to make it easier for Americans to vote...
In America, we should be celebrating our democracy and doing everything possible to make it easier for people to participate in the political process. Election Day should be a national holiday so that everyone has the time and opportunity to vote. While this would not be a cure-all, it would indicate a national commitment to create a more vibrant democracy."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "Make Election Day a National Holiday," sanders.senate.gov (accessed Sep. 29, 2019)
"I believe that it is hard to defend the current system in which one candidate receives 3 million votes less than his opponent, but still becomes president. Further, presidential elections cannot be fought out in just a dozen 'battleground' states. I believe that we need to reexamine the concept of the electoral college."
Source: Kevin Uhrmacher, Kevin Schaul, and Jeff Stein, "Where 2020 Democrats Stand on Democratic Changes," washingtonpost.com, Sep. 16, 2019
[Editor's Note: On July 19, 2019, Sanders tweeted "Abolish the Electoral College" with a link to an MSNBC article.]
Con Should the US Expand Fossil Fuel Extraction on Public Land?
"Keep fossil fuels on public lands in the ground. Scientists have been clear that in order to solve the climate crisis, we must leave fossil fuels in the ground. We will immediately end all new and existing fossil fuel extraction on federal public lands."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "The Green New Deal," berniesanders.com (accessed Oct. 15, 2015)
Pro Should the US Adopt a Climate Change Plan such as the Green New Deal?
"As president, Bernie Sanders will launch the decade of the Green New Deal, a ten-year, nationwide mobilization centered around justice and equity during which climate change will be factored into virtually every area of policy, from immigration to trade to foreign policy and beyond...
We must pass a Green New Deal to achieve 100 percent sustainable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and to fully decarbonize the economy by 2050 at the latest...
[T]he Green New Deal will redress historical injustices, by tackling poverty, inequality, and the disproportionate impacts of environmental damage on poor neighborhoods, communities of color, First Nations, and rural America."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "The Green New Deal," berniesanders.com (accessed Sep. 4, 2019)
Con Should the US Expand Its Use of Nuclear Power?
"[W]e got a heck of a lot of nuclear waste, which as you know is going to stay around this planet for many, many, many thousands of years. And you know what? We don't know how to get rid of it right now. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me to add more dangerous waste to this country and to the world when we don't know how to get rid of what we have right now.
Number two, in terms of cost, the truth is that it costs a lot more to build a new nuclear power plant today than it does to go to solar or to go to wind. So I think that it is safer and more cost effective to move to sustainable energies like wind, solar, and geothermal, and not nuclear...
And I think if you talk to the people in Japan in terms of what happened at Fukushima, talk to the people in Russia what happened in Chernobyl, you know what, they may not feel so comfortable with nuclear power."
Source: CNN Transcripts, "Climate Crisis Town Hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Presidential Candidate," transcripts.cnn.com, Sep. 4, 2019
Not Clearly Pro or Con Should the Tariffs Imposed on China by President Trump Be Maintained?
"My administration will begin a full review of all of the tariffs Trump has imposed, including advice from experts about which tariffs are working and what policies will substantially reduce our record-breaking trade deficit in goods and bring back good-paying jobs in the US that have been outsourced overseas.
Tariffs may be part of the answer, but the Trump administration lacks a serious strategy for reducing our trade deficit or bringing back US jobs that have been shipped to low-wage countries. Instead of conducting trade policy by tweet, we need a complete overhaul of our trade policies to increase American jobs, end the race to the bottom, raise wages and lift up living standards in this country and throughout the world."
Source: Gina Heeb, "We Asked Every 2020 Democrat How They Would Approach a Trade War That Has Shaken the Global Economy. Only a Handful of Them Had a Plan.," cnbc.com, Oct. 18, 2019
Pro Should the US Re-Enter a Nuclear Deal with Iran?
"By withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement, a move opposed by his own top security officials, Trump has isolated the U.S. from its closest allies and put us on a dangerous path to conflict. We should rejoin the deal and work with allies to effectively enforce it."
Con Should the US Have Withdrawn Troops from Northern Syria in Oct. 2019?
"The crisis here... is when you begin to betray people, in terms of the Kurds, 11,000 of them died fighting ISIS, 20,000 were wounded. And the United States said, 'We're with you, we're standing with you.' And then suddenly, one day after a phone call with Erdogan, announced by tweet, Trump reverses that policy.
Now, you tell me what country in the world will trust the word of the president of the United States. In other words, what he has done is wreck our ability to do foreign policy, to do military policy, because nobody in the world will believe this pathological liar."
Source: The Fix Team, "The October Democratic Debate Transcript," washingtonpost.com, Oct. 15, 2019
"Despite major advances in civil and political rights, our country still has a long way to go in addressing the issues of gender inequality and reproductive freedom. Right now, extreme forces on the right are launching political attacks and passing draconian laws at both the state and national level with the goal of ending a woman’s right to choose. We must fight back together, and defend a woman's right to control her own body and economic future. When we are in the White House, we will...
Fully fund Planned Parenthood, Title X, and other initiatives that protect women’s health, access to contraception, and the availability of a safe and legal abortion...
Oppose all efforts to undermine or overturn Roe v. Wade, and appoint federal judges who will uphold women’s most fundamental rights."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "Fight for Women’s Rights," berniesanders.com (accessed Aug. 15, 2019)
Pro Should the US Switch to a Medicare-for-All Healthcare System?
“[H]ealth care in my view is a human right. And we have got to pass a Medicare for all, single-payer system.
Under that system, by the way, vast majority of the people in this country will be paying significantly less for health care than they are right now…
People who have health care under Medicare for all will have no premiums, no deductibles, no copayments, no out-of-pocket expenses. Yes, they will pay more in taxes, but less in health care for what they get.”
Source: Jeremia Kimelman, "Full Transcript: 2019 Democratic Debate Night Two, Sortable by Topic," nbcnews.com, June 27, 2019
Con Should the US Continue to Build a Border Wall at the US/Mexico Border?
"I think the [border] wall is an absurd idea. I think it's a waste of money. It just fans Trump's illusions. No, I am not going to support $5 billion or money for a wall... Everybody is concerned about border security, but if you want to do border security intelligently and cost-effectively, you don't do it with a wall. There are much better approaches than that... We have a lot of needs in this country and spending $5 billion on a wall is not, to me, one of our priorities."
Con Should the US End the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Policy?
"Bernie supported President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). He will expand and fully implement these programs to provide security and stability to these families, using his full executive authority to provide relief for parents and caregivers of citizens and lawful permanent residents. He will go further, ensuring that the 85 percent of those undocumented immigrants who have lived, worked, and contributed in America for five or more years can live their life without fear of deportation. Bernie will use every executive tool available to remove barriers to legal permanent residence and naturalization for as many as possible, even if he has to sign every form by hand.
As president, Bernie will:
Immediately extend legal status to the 1.8 million young people currently eligible for the DACA program, and provide administrative relief to their parents, those with Temporary Protected Status, and parents of legal permanent residents.
Expand to all those who came to the United States under the age of 18 and remove arbitrary cut off dates."
Source: Bernie Sanders, "A Welcoming and Safe America for All," berniesanders.com (accessed Dec. 12, 2019)
Pro Should the US Decriminalize Illegal Border Crossings?
"If a mother and a child walk thousands of miles on a dangerous path, in my view, they are not criminals. They are people fleeing violence."
Source: Rev, "Transcript of July Democratic Debate 2nd Round Night 1: Full Transcript July 30, 2019," July 30, 2019, rev.com
[Editor's Note: Sanders raised his hand at the June 27, 2019 Democratic Presidential Debate when the moderator asked "raise your hand if you think it should be a civil offense rather than a crime to cross the border without documentation?" His campaign confirmed in an email to NPR that "Bernie believes crossing the border should be a civil, not a criminal, offense," as stated in a Sep. 12, 2019 article by Danielle Kurtzleben, Lexie Schapitl, and Alyson Hurt titled "Immigration: Where 2020 Democratic Candidates Stand on Border Crossings and More," available at npr.org.]
Pro Should LGBTQ+ People Have Protection from Being Fired for Being LGBTQ+?
"People have the right to love who they want to love and get married regardless of their sexual orientation. Incredibly, today in many states, it is still legal to fire someone for being gay. That is unacceptable and must change...
We must: Pass the Equality Act, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act and other bills to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people."
Pro Should Transgender People Be Allowed to Serve in the US Military?
"In announcing this ban on transgender people in the military, the Trump administration has shown once again that it is on the wrong side of history. There is a reason the administration has not provided any scientific evidence to justify this policy: there is no justification for this sort of discrimination. Transgender people have served and continue to serve our country honorably in the military.
Unfortunately, this administration is not treating them honorably. The struggle for equality for all Americans continues, and Donald Trump's efforts to divide us will not succeed."
Source: Bernie Sanders, Facebook.com, Mar. 24, 2018