Sanders Brushes Off Questions on Costs, Age on ‘60 Minutes’

Steven T. Dennis

(Bloomberg) -- Bernie Sanders struggled to provide details on exactly how he would pay for his sweeping proposals to expand health care, child care and more, and also brushed off questions about his age in an interview broadcast by CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday.

The Vermont senator heads to the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29 after crushing the field in Nevada and is considered the front-runner among the 2020 Democratic presidential field.

The self-described democratic socialist said the Democratic Party has moved toward him over the past four years -- since he waged a lengthy primary fight against Hillary Clinton -- and “that the ideas that seemed radical four years ago are now kind of mainstream.”

But while he’s proposed options such as higher taxes on the wealthy to pay for the roughly $30 trillion price tag for his centerpiece Medicare for All health care plan -- as well as a Green New Deal, universal child care and canceling student loan debt -- Sanders was reticent about specifics.

“I can’t rattle off to you every nickel and every dime,” Sanders said when asked repeatedly by correspondent Anderson Cooper how much his plans would cost. “But we have accounted for -- you -- you talked about Medicare for All. We have options out there that will pay for it.”

Sanders Says as President He Would Meet With Dictators

On canceling all student debt, Sanders said he would pay for it through “a modest tax on Wall Street speculation.” And on his new plan for universal child care, Sanders said it would be paid for by a tax on wealth.

“It’s taxes on billionaires,” he said. “You know, I get a little bit tired of hearing my opponents saying -- ‘Gee, how you going to pay for a program that impacts and helps children or working class families or middle class families? How you going to pay for that?’”

He added: “And yet, where are people saying, ‘How are you going to pay for over $750 billion on military spending? How you going to pay for a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the 1% in large corporations which was what Trump did?’ When you help the billionaires and you help Wall Street, ‘Hey! Of course we can pay for it. That’s what America’s supposed to be about.’ Well, I disagree.”

Sanders brushed off a question about whether his age -- he’ll turn 79 in September -- and his heart attack last year would be concerns if he were to seek a possible second term.

“Being old has an advantage in the sense that the issues that I fight for are not new to me,” he said.

Sanders reiterated he would support anyone who wins the nomination, including Michael Bloomberg, with whom he sparred in last week’s debate in Nevada. Sanders said he doesn’t think Bloomberg would be a strong candidate, but added, “I said on day one I will support the Democratic nominee, no matter who that nominee may be.”

(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven T. Dennis in Washington at sdennis17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Max Berley

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