Sometimes, you have to turn to late night television to find out things that are not covered very well during the network or cable news shows. The below is a clip from the March 22 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live. On that show Kimmel interviewed Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist who is running for the Democratic Party nomination for President.
The interview reveals several points of commonality between me and Senator Sanders.
Video Clip Transcript
Kimmel: Have you ever met Donald Trump?
Sanders: No. And I didn’t go to his wedding either. [Laughter]
Kimmel: That’s a thing. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton at Donald Trump’s wedding. I think I asked her about that the last time she was here. It makes it feel like the whole thing is professional wrestling. It makes it feel like you have the bad guy and the good guy, the good guy and the bad guy and then behind the scenes everyone is watching each other shower. [Audience laughter]
Sanders: Ahhh, I don’t know that I have been in that shower room. [Audience laughter and applause]
Kimmel: I know you support states rights and legalized marijuana. You’ve also said you’ve smoked it a couple of times and it’s not your thing. What is your thing? Do you have a thing?
Sanders: Yeah. My thing is my grandchildren.
Kimmel: Your grandchildren? You smoke your grandchildren? [Laughter and applause]
Sanders: No. [chuckling] I am very blessed, Jane and I are very blessed. We have seven beautiful, beautiful grandchildren and they’re a delight. We try to spend as much time as we can with them. [Big, proud, grandpa smile]
Kimmel: We talked about the income inequality and the top 1% having a huge percentage of the money. Do you think there should be a limit on how much an American can make?
Sanders: I would approach it in another way. I think when we have cities like Flint, Michigan, where children… And I’ve got to tell you, I was there and it was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. Listening to parents who tell me about what happens to the cognitive capabilities of their children when they are poisoned by lead in the water. That is painful.
And it’s not just Flint, Michigan. All over this country we have deteriorating schools, we have people not getting the health care that they need. Not getting the jobs; unemployment for kids off the charts and yet you have a handful of people… The 20 wealthiest people in this country owning more wealth than the bottom half of America, 150 million people, Jimmy.
And I don’t think that is what America should be about. And I do believe we should raise taxes on upper income people and large, profitable corporations. That is my deal.
Kimmel: And you’re not a Republican, I guess. It is an interesting thing, because most Republicans are not wealthy people, but they also kind of go along with that principle.
Sanders: That’s the corruption of the campaign finance system. It’s that if you are going to run for President, you are going to need many, many hundreds of millions of dollars. And that’s where you are going to get it. Let me give you one example.
I’m on the Senate Environmental Committee. I’ve talked to scientists all over the world. Climate change is real; it’s caused by human activity. And yet you don’t have one Republican candidate prepared to say that.
Kimmel: Isn’t that crazy?
Sanders: It is crazy, but it’s more than just crazy. The reason for it is… They say it, they come on your show and they say it; their campaign funding is cut by the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry.
Kimmel: Didn’t Lindsay Graham, um, doesn’t he…
Sanders: Maybe. Vaguely. Look, we’ve got an international crisis with climate change. And what the scientists tell us if we don’t move quickly, we’re going to see more droughts, more floods, more rising sea levels, acidification of the ocean. We’ve got a crisis, and these guys… Trump, for example, thinks it’s a hoax created by the Chinese of all people. [Laughter]
But, but the truth is that if they stood up and did the right thing, the Koch brothers and the big money fossil fuel industry people would not fund their campaigns. That is how corrupt our current campaign finance system is.
I also have never met Donald Trump and I’m somewhat disturbed by his long time relationship with the Clintons. In my most cynical and conspiratorial moments, I wonder if his campaign isn’t a sneaky, convoluted way of achieving a personal victory by ensuring the election of a candidate from a dynasty he’s been investing in for decades.
Like Senator Sanders, I believe marijuana should be legal. I also have smoked it a few times. Actually, there was a period during my senior year in high school — in South Florida, where it was almost as available as beer — when I smoked it more than a few times.
I decided to stop the day I received my appointment to attend the US Naval Academy. I knew that was a sure way to get kicked out and lose a terrific opportunity to have someone else pay for my college education. I don’t recall if I actually stopped on that day, but I know I stopped before entering the Academy.
Like Senator Sanders, smoking pot is not my thing and hasn’t been my thing for almost 40 years.
My thing, as Senator Sanders said, is spending as much time as possible with my grandchildren. My wife and I have 5 of them with one more on the way, so he has me beat with his 7. His wife’s name also has an extra ‘e’ compared to mine.
Being grandparents might help explain our shared passion for trying to correct what we believe is wrong in our country’s current economic and political situation.
Income inequality leads to vast inequality of public infrastructure, services and basic opportunities. The way to address the problem is not through capping or otherwise limiting income. My preferred solution differs in a nuanced way from the one Sanders articulated. I think we should tax the accumulated wealth of individuals, asset-rich corporations, and endowments of foundations and private institutions like museums and universities.
Aside: Here I need to give some credit to John C. Dvorak of the No Agenda Show Podcast. He frequently reminds people that taxing income isn’t the right way to tax wealthy people because they have ways to make their annual income appear to approach zero. Instead, he advocates a wealth tax that is based on a small percentage annual tax on assets, not on income. End aside.
Sanders and I agree that the fossil fuel industry — which I prefer to call the hydrocarbon economy establishment — has a strong influence on our political system. In my opinion, that influence goes far beyond a resistance to honest discussions about solving climate change. It extends to honest discussions about the proper tools we should apply to the task.
Sanders says he listens to scientists all over the world and that he believes it when they tell him that there is a real and growing problem that qualifies as a crisis. He says he believes that we need to be taking effective action now.
Sanders needs to also listen to the vast majority of scientists and engineers that specialize in energy production and hear their message. The single sharpest, most effective arrow in the quiver is nuclear energy, especially if it is freed from the shackles that have been purposely invented to slow its growth.
He his trust of scientists and his distrust of the fossil fuel businesses should help him recognize that hydrocarbon interests have most to lose from advanced nuclear energy technology deployment. People and companies whose wealth and power is related to maintaining fossil fuel sales are severely threatened by competition from reliable, ultra low emission, non fossil fuel power sources.
There is only one such power source that has proven its utility on every continent, on remote installations, on fast ships carrying thousands of sailors, under the deep ocean and even in the vacuum of space.