(Note: the original title of this post was “Debating Dishonestly with Bernie Sanders” but was changed the focus of the post was an interview, not an actual debate.)
I’m not even sure why Bernie Sanders shows up on Fox News if he’s going to act like he did in today’s interview with Megyn Kelly. He’s listed as an Independent but is a self-proclaimed Socialist, as is abundantly clear in this interview. Here’s a link to the video from Fox. Normally I would just include some parts of this interview, but I did the whole thing here because Fox’s “automatically generated transcript” on the web page linked above is junk. They warn that it “may not be 100% accurate.” But when ”fair tax system” in the interview becomes “theft tax Muslim” in the transcript, the transcript is worthless.
To make it interesting, I’m keeping track of the lies, non-answers, and evasive answers Sanders gives in the interview.
To start off, Kelly plays a clip of the Director of the (non-partisan) Congressional Budget Office stating that the federal responsibility for health care costs will increase if any of the new proposed health care bills pass, despite claims by some Democrats that it will actually bring costs down.
Kelly: The Washington Post calls that a “devastating assessment” for the Democrats who want to overhaul health care. How do you respond, sir?
Sanders: Well, I respond in a couple of ways. I think the CBO does not necessarily (and by definition cannot) take into its calculations the role of disease prevention. We spend a huge amount of money treating chronic disease. We do not do a good job in keeping people healthy. And the effort so far in Congress is to try to do that, and it’s hard to calculate what that will be.
Also, we have a disaster in terms of primary health care, Megyn. We have 60 million Americans who have no doctor at all right now. They end up in the emergency room. They end up in hospital much sicker than they should have been. This legislation puts a great deal of emphasis in getting more doctors out into primary health care and I think we save substantial sums of money in that area as well. And it’s hard to calculate what that will mean in the future.
But the last point that I would make in terms of where I think the CBO Director makes a point. Right now, as a nation, as you know, we spend twice as much — almost twice as much — as any other country on earth in terms of our per capita cost of health care. Why is that? Why do the French in general — they’ve generally got a better system than we do — spending half of what we do? And the answer is that they have, as most countries around the world, industrialized countries, have a single-payer Medicare program for all, which eliminates in our country some $400 billion in waste and inefficiencies, in bureaucracies, that occur when we have 1,300 private health insurance, thousands of different health care programs, millions of bureaucrats.
Some of Sanders’ points have validity. If we reduce health care costs by reducing chronic disease, that’s great. But the CBO report does in fact consider the impact of preventative health care. It’s just that the people pushing the health care bills, like Dick Durbin, think it has underestimated those savings. (Note in the link Christopher Dodd also admits the bill won’t actually decrease costs; he says it will “bend the curve” and slow the rate of growth of costs — those are two entirely different things.) So that’s the first lie for Sanders: he says the CBO doesn’t consider the savings at all, when in fact they do make an effort to account for them. His second lie is that we spend almost twice as much as any other country. We’re at 15% and there are 6 other countries over 10%. We spend about 40% more than the number two country, Switzerland. Facts, shmacts, eh Bernie?
Score: Lies: 2, Non-answers: 0, Evasive Answers: 0
Kelly: Alright, but let me just steer you back on point, Senator, because I know — just for now, anyway, for now I know we’re not talking about one universal health care system that’s being proposed, although many people think that’s where the President wants to take us. I know you’ve said in the past that’s where you think we should be. Despite your criticism of the CBO, they have said — I mean, this is their job, is to crunch the numbers — they’re the ones who said it’s going to cost about a trillion dollars. Now they come out and say this whole thing, not only is it not going to help these skyrocketing costs in the health care system, but it’s going to make them worse, and suggesting that the financial crisis we are in right now is going to be worsened by all of these plans that the Democrats are proposing on Capital Hill. [Note: the "financial crisis" of which she speaks is the federal budget deficit specifically, not the larger economy as a whole.]
Sanders: Well, two responses, Megyn. Again, I think that the nature of the CBO is not to be able, because it’s very difficult… I mean, if we have, we allow people to go to the doctor before they get very sick and end up in the hospital, could you make a prediction of what kind of savings that would incur? But the second point that we have to address is, what happens if we do nothing? If we continue the disaster by which 46 million Americans have no health insurance and costs go up 10, 15, 20% every year? What studies tell us is that in 10 years, the average American will be paying double what he or she is paying today. Is that sustainable? And the answer, it’s not.
Note that Sanders is now saying that it’s impossible to account for the savings we’ll get by improving patient care and reducing chronic health problems. He already implied that we would save a lot of money, but now he says it’s impossible to know how much. So if you don’t know how much, how do you know that the decrease in spending on chronic care is going to offset the increase in other costs? Does Sanders make any effort to estimate the savings that might result? No, he doesn’t. The CBO actually did, whether Sanders acknowledges it or not. He argues that it’s impossible to get an accurate number without addressing the methodology they used at all. We learn quickly in economics that if you think a model is incorrect, your responsibility is to put forth a better model. Sanders doesn’t even try that here.
Kelly: I think there’s some debate on those numbers, Senator, because I know that that’s the number from the administration: 46-47 million Americans uninsured. But that includes illegals, who will not be covered by this bill, 11 or 12 million of them. That also includes people who have just chosen not to insure themselves because the so-called “invincibles,” people in their 20’s and so on.
Sanders: That may be, but those people…
Kelly: But listen, I want to get to this other point before we run out of time, and that’s this tax hike that’s been proposed by the House, that would now place the so-called high earners, the so-called wealthy, in a tax bracket that is really astronomical, Senator. We’re talking about people, in New York City for example, who would be facing almost 60% of their income going away in taxes.
First, Kelly reduces her credibility as an objective journalist here by throwing in the term “so-called” in front of high earners and wealthy. This plan would impact the top 1% of earners. They’re not the “so-called” high-earners — they’re wealthy, plain and simple. In muddying that, she does a disservice to herself. Second, Kelly is making the argument based on federal income tax, the new health care surtax, state income taxes and city income taxes. But she makes a mistake here by saying that “60% of their income” would go away. She should have said that it was the marginal rate on additional income (above a half million or a million dollars, depending on the bill). The rate at lower levels is obviously lower, so the percentage of the income paid in taxes would be less than 60%. Unless you include sales taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, alcohol taxes, cell phone taxes, cigarette taxes, cable television taxes… come to think of it, Megyn might be close on this one after all.
Sanders: And who are those people? Those are the people, Megyn, those may be the people at Goldman Sachs who just got their compensation at seven hundred…
Kelly: No, sir. It’s not just the Goldman Sachs people.
Sanders: No, well, I don’t agree with you.
In Bernie Sanders’ world, all rich people are Wall Street bankers. You just heard him say it. I have to create a new statistic for this.
Score: Lies: 2, Non-answers: 0, Evasive Answers: 0, Unwillingness to Accept Reality: 1.
Kelly: Oh, yes it is.
Sanders: It’s a graduated, it’s a graduated tax.
Now Sanders is reminding Megyn that this is about marginal tax rates, but that has nothing to do with the point at hand which was about who these people are. He’s trying to change the subject, which I’m not keeping track of, but that’s also a cheap debate tactic. Megyn’s not having any of it, and continues.
Kelly: Listen, don’t take my word for it. Take Steve Forbes’ word for it, who was just on our air about two hours ago explaining how these are small business owners.
Sanders: Well, I might not take Steve Forbes’ word for it either. But the bottom line is, if you look at what’s going on right now, our friends in Wall Street who caused the most significant financial crisis since the Great Depression are now being paid $700,000 a year after being bailed out by the taxpayers of this country.
Megyn: Sir, it’s easy to blame the Wall Street fatcats, but I’m talking about — you know that it’s not all Wall Street fatcats that are going to get hit by this. People who are making $500,000 a year include small business who get taxed as individuals, and they are saying jobs are gonna go away.
Sanders: Well, what I am saying is that if we do not do something, whatever it may be, you’re gonna see a doubling of health care costs, which will be destructive to small businesses and every American. We’ve got to do something. To the degree we have to pay for it, it should not be the middle class, but upper-income people.
Score: Lies: 2, Non-answers: 0, Evasive Answers: 1, Unwillingness to Accept Reality: 1.
Sanders avoids the Wall Street fatcats question by saying basically, “Well, we have to do something.” Now at this point, if you’ve been reading my blog faithfully, you should know my head is about to explode. I wrote about this back in February: using the “we have to do something” excuse to justify a program regardless of how bad it might be. That led us to the ARRA (aka the Stimulus bill), which we all can see now is not really a stimulus bill at all — which is why unemployment is still rising. And one more reason I love Megyn Kelly: she can read my mind.
Kelly: Something! So now we’re on the same page about something. So let’s accept that something must be done. The question is whether taxing…
Sanders: Well, the Republican party does not accept that, by the way.
First, he’s rude and interrupting her here. Second, he’s lying again. All this “Republicans don’t suggest anything” nonsense is getting old. Democrats come out with a plan. Republicans counter with something else. Then Democrats ignore the plan and say “Republicans don’t have any alternatives.” Just because you don’t like an alternate plan does not mean it’s not a plan.
Score: Lies: 3, Non-answers: 0, Evasive Answers: 1, Unwillingness to Accept Reality: 1.
Kelly: …whether more taxing. Let me finish my question. The question is whether more taxes, in a recession in particular, on the people who create jobs is the answer, as your colleague in the House, Nancy Pelosi, thinks.
Sanders: If you don’t do anything about health care and costs double in 10 years, that will be destructive not only to people but to the economy as well. The top 1% today earn more income than the bottom 50. I am not going to raise taxes on the middle class or working families. Our friends on Wall Street can in fact afford to pay more in taxes.
In case you’re wondering, Sanders’ statistic is actually true. The top 1% of income tax returns account for 22% of total income, while the bottom 50% only account for 12% of total income. However, this part of the interview is about taxes and how much the rich can afford to pay, so here are some more facts: the top 1% of income tax returns paid 40% of the income taxes, while the bottom 50% paid just 3%. The average tax rate paid by the bottom 50% is 3% of income, while the average tax rate paid by the top 1% is 23%. The rich pay a lot in taxes, but the question is: how much would Sanders have them pay?
Kelly: It’s not just Wall Street, sir. At what point do you draw the line? 70% income tax okay with you? 80% income tax okay with you?
Sanders: Well, as you know, under Bush the taxes for the very wealthy went substantially down and the gap between the rich and everybody else grew wider.
Score: Lies: 3, Non-answers: 1, Evasive Answers: 1, Unwillingness to Accept Reality: 1.
Kelly: Well, but you’re fixing that.
Sanders: I do not stay up nights worrying for our friends on Wall Street, as some people may.
Kelly: But really, I’m wondering, where do you draw the line? Does 60% not shock the conscience?
Sanders: Well that’s, we can discuss… Well, again, Bush lowered taxes to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars for the top 1%.
Score: Lies: 3, Non-answers: 2, Evasive Answers: 1, Unwillingness to Accept Reality: 1.
Kelly: But answer my question. Does 60% not shock the conscience?
Sanders: Well, next time around we can talk about a fair tax system. How’s that?
Score: Lies: 3, Non-answers: 3, Evasive Answers: 1, Unwillingness to Accept Reality: 1.
Kelly: No, no. This is, sir, you’re about to have to vote on this. This thing may pass in the House. It’s gonna come over to you in the Senate…
Sanders: (interrupting yet again) If you’re asking me if I will vote…
Kelly: …and I’m asking you if this is okay with you.
Sanders: Well, it certainly is okay for me to tell my friends on Wall Street who just got a bonus of $600,000 they’re gonna pay more in taxes so that we can lower health care costs in America. Yeah, that’s okay with me.
Something tells me he doesn’t really have friends on Wall Street. If he does, he might not after this interview.
Kelly: So you want our viewers to believe that everybody who is going to be affected is a Wall Street fatcat.
Sanders: I want your viewers to believe that if we do nothing right now, this country’s gonna be in very serious trouble.
Score: Lies: 3, Non-answers: 3, Evasive Answers: 2, Unwillingness to Accept Reality: 1.
Kelly: Okay, but sir, you’re not answering my question.
Sanders: Well, I did my best.
Score: Lies: 4, Non-answers: 3, Evasive Answers: 2, Unwillingness to Accept Reality: 1.
Yes, I scored that one as a lie. If this is truly his best, he’s too stupid to be a U.S. Senator. (Or maybe not – we did just get Al Franken.) Regardless, I choose to believe that he’s lying about giving his best.
Kelly: You and I both know it’s not all Wall Street fatcats. You won’t answer the question about how much is too much. You know, our viewers want answers to these questions, sir.
Sanders: Well, I will answer the question. When the top 1% earn more than the bottom 50%, I’m not gonna ask the bottom 50% to pay more.
Score: Lies: 4, Non-answers: 3, Evasive Answers: 3, Unwillingness to Accept Reality: 1.
No, Senator, you did not answer the question. Maybe some of the people who vote for you are too stupid to know when you’re answering a different question than the one you were actually asked, but some of us are not.
Kelly: All right. So I guess 60, 70, 80% is all right for now.
Sanders: No, that’s not what I said, Megyn. Don’t put words in my mouth.
Kelly: Well, you won’t answer one way or the other, sir, so I can only assume the answer’s yes.
Beautiful work, Megyn. He actually thinks that not answering the question when it was asked 3 times means we don’t know what he really thinks. At this point, I don’t know if Sanders is an idiot or if he just thinks everyone watching the interview is.
Sanders: Well, we’re gonna go after the top 1 or 2%. I think that that’s appropriate if we need to raise revenue rather than going after the middle class.
Score: Lies: 4, Non-answers: 4, Evasive Answers: 3, Unwillingness to Accept Reality: 1.
I do love his use of the phrase “go after” here. It is so revealing.
Kelly: Alright. Senator Bernie Sanders, thanks for coming on. We appreciate you being here.
Sanders: Thank you.
There you have it. In a 7-minute interview, Bernie Sanders either lies, evades a question, or simply doesn’t answer a straightforward question a total of 11 times. Shouldn’t we expect better from the people who represent us and are so willing to spend our money?
I am so sick of people debating dishonestly, which is what Sanders does here. Don’t like a question? Don’t answer it. Don’t have an answer for something, or think your true answer might shock the people who are watching? Don’t answer it, or change the subject and hope we’re too stupid to notice. Don’t like the results other people find in their study? Lie about their methodology, or say it’s impossible to know what the right answer is.
I see a lot of this happening now with the health care debate. People pick one statistic that helps their argument (U.S. pays more per capita than other countries), while ignoring another that hurts it (our cancer survival rates are better than practically every other country). When a statistic runs contrary to their position, they pick it apart and argue that it is not accurate. When the statistic supports their argument, they believe it is the gospel truth and don’t care to learn more about what’s behind it. For example, people who want health care reform often cite the statistic that our life expectancy is lower than other countries. It’s 100% true but totally misleading if your goal is discussing the efficacy of different health care systems. When you account for our rate of violent crime death and fatal accidents, our life expectancy is actually higher than almost every other country. This is because a larger percentage of our population dies due to crime than most other developed countries, and we drive more miles per person than any other country on the planet, so we have more fatal accidents. These people don’t die because of our health care system — if you get shot in the head or are in a head-on collision without a seatbelt, you’re going to die whether you’re in the U.S., Canada, or Cuba. Life expectancy depends on more than just the health care system, so it’s misleading to use that one statistic as a barometer for our entire health care system. Yet people do it all the time.
The sad part is that Sanders thinks he’s a brilliant man. He likely thinks he did great in that interview. But by not answering the questions he didn’t like, or trying so hard to change the topic, his true views are crystal clear. We’re not as stupid as you think we are, Bernie.