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While not committing to 2016 run, Sanders says nation’s middle class needs help

Last modified: 3/17/2015 11:45:59 PM
Let’s get this out of the way: Bernie Sanders is still thinking about running for president.

The Vermont senator, and Congress’s longest-serving independent politician, even says he might have a decision on the matter within the next month.

He just doesn’t want to talk much about it right now.

Or, at least, he’d rather talk about issues that are more important to him.

“One of the problems I have is getting the media to pay attention to these issues instead of political gossip,” Sanders said, sitting in a booth at the Barley House during a brief interview with the Monitor before taping “Pints and Politics” on WKXL Concord News Radio.

What, then, would Sanders rather talk about instead?

“The most significant issue facing this country is the 40-year decline of the American middle class,” Sanders said. “And the fact that people in New Hampshire, people in Vermont, people all over America are working longer hours for lower wages.”

On top of that, he’s troubled by the “grotesque level of income and wealth inequality” that exists in America today. But he has an idea about how to start lifting more people up – the country could create “millions of decent-paying jobs” by focusing on rebuilding the country’s infrastructure.

There are other issues weighing heavily on Sanders: climate change, the gender pay gap, the minimum wage, the possibility of cuts to Medicare and Social Security, the ability of average parents to afford sending their kids to college.

“Those are the issues that are important in New Hampshire, they’re important in Vermont, they’re important all over this country,” Sanders said.

And then there’s his aversion to the corrupting influence of money and special interests on our political system. As someone who is thinking about running for president but also bemoans the current state of political financing, one of the tasks ahead of him is to figure out how he would run a campaign that could keep pace with the big-money tickets.

“Running for president of the United States is not an easy decision,” said Sanders, who hasn’t yet decided whether he would run as an independent or a Democrat. “And if I do it, I have to do it well, which means that we have to make sure that we have to have the kind of organizational support we need for a campaign that takes on the billionaire class.”

For his campaigns in Vermont, he pointed out, the bulk of his money has come from “small individual contributions.” (Data compiled by Open Secrets confirms that 93 percent of Sanders’s campaign committee’s funding has come from individual contributions – and of that, 61 percent have been contributions less than $200.)

“What I can tell you is if I do run, in all likelihood much of my money or most of my money would come from small individual contributions,” Sanders said. “But I could do very, very well at that and have a fraction of the amount of money that the Koch brothers spend. This is a terribly serious problem.”

So on that note, can New Hampshire residents expect to see Sanders back here again soon?

“There is a real possibility that may be the case,” he said, smiling. “We have been here on a number of occasions, some great events around the state, bringing out a whole lot of people, and I look forward to coming back.”

(Casey McDermott can be reached at 369-3306 or cmcdermott@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @caseymcdermott.)


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