We asked presidential candidates questions about a variety of issues facing the country. This is what Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders had to say about climate change, gun control, health care and other issues.
Do you believe the earth's climate is changing? If yes, do you believe it is caused by humans?
Yes. Bernie knows that climate change is real. It is caused by human activity and it's already causing devastating problems in the United States and around the world. That is why Bernie has proposed his Green New Deal plan to save the planet and create millions of new jobs.
If you could unilaterally make one change, or enact one policy, that would affect the climate, what would that be? And why?
Bernie understands that if we are going to save the planet, we are going to have to be extremely bold and stand up to the fossil fuel industry and Bernie's Green New Deal does just that. Bernie's Green New Deal is the only plan bold enough - mobilizing an historic $16.3 trillion investment - to confront the climate crisis with the urgency it requires, generate the political will necessary for a wholesale transformation of our society, and create an economy that works for all.
How would you engage foreign leaders to work with the United States on issues related to climate?
Bernie will work with the international community to tackle the existential threat of climate change. The threat of climate change is a very clear example of where American leadership can make a difference. Europe can't do it alone, China can't do it alone, and the U.S. can't do it alone. This is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation. American leadership - the economic and scientific advantages and incentives that only America can offer - is hugely important for facilitating this effort.
Read what all the candidates have to say about climate change here.
Should the U.S. explore additional use of nuclear power as an alternative energy source? Why or why not?
We know that the toxic waste byproducts of nuclear plants are not worth the risks of the technology's benefit, especially in light of lessons learned from the Fukushima meltdown and the Chernobyl disaster. To get to our goal of 100 percent sustainable energy, we will not rely on any false solutions like nuclear. As president, Bernie will stop the building of new nuclear power plants and find a real solution to our existing nuclear waste problem. He will also enact a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals in the United States to protect surrounding communities.
Should the U.S. government offer subsidies for renewable energy, such as wind energy or ethanol? Why or why not?
For decades the federal government has given subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Bernie will end fossil fuel subsidies and instead invest in renewable energy to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewables and create millions of jobs in the process. The energy will be publicly owned and sold with preference to public utilities.The New Deal provided inexpensive electricity to America. 80 years ago we electrified America under FDR without modern technologies, and today we will avert climate crisis by transitioning to renewable energy.
How would you address gun violence in America?
Gun violence in this country is an epidemic that must be stopped, and as president, Bernie will pass the common-sense gun safety legislation that the overwhelming majority of Americans want. He will take on the NRA; expand background checks; end the gun show loophole; ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition; implement a buyback program to get assault weapons off the streets; license assault weapons the same way that we do for automatic weapons; crack down on "straw purchases"; and pass "red flag" legislation so weapons stay out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them.
How do you propose making schools safer from acts of violence?
Our schools must be safe for all students. It is absurd that our children must face the terrifying reality of being at risk of being killed in their own schools. Bernie will enact comprehensive gun violence prevention laws to end the epidemic of gun violence in this country and in our schools; pass the Safe Schools Improvement Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act into law to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ students; protect and enforce Title IX; and ensure that immigrant children and their parents are free from harassment and surveillance at school, regardless of their immigration status.
What role, if any, should the government have in regulating large technology companies?
In nearly every part of our economy, the concentration of economic and political power is unprecedented and dangerous. If Teddy Roosevelt were alive, he would break these companies up. So as president Bernie will nominate an Attorney General who will aggressively stand up to monopolies in all industries by breaking up existing monopolies and placing moratoriums on mergers in concentrated industries. We live in an era of unchecked corporate power. It's time to take that power back for the people.
If you are elected, how would you interact with North Korea? What relationship would the U.S. and North Korea have?
Every step we take to reduce the military force of North Korea, open it up to inspections, end the 70-year-old Korean War and encourage peaceful relations between the Koreas and the U.S. to increase the chances of complete denuclearization of the peninsula. Peace and nuclear disarmament must proceed in parallel, close consultations with our South Korean ally. Bernie will negotiate a step-by-step process to roll back North Korea's nuclear program, build a new peace and security regime on the peninsula and work towards the elimination of all North Korea nuclear weapons. This will take some time.
Would you re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran? Why or why not?
Yes. The agreement with Iran was one of the strongest anti-nuclear agreements ever negotiated. It prevented a war and stopped Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Bernie would re-enter the agreement on day one of his presidency and build upon it with additional measures to further block any path to an Iranian nuclear weapon, restrain Iran's offensive actions in the region, and forge a new strategic balance in the Middle East.
How do you plan to address the threat of extremism in the U.S.?
The United States must come together as a nation and combat the rise of violent white supremacist extremism. As president, Bernie will use the power of the presidency to redirect federal resources to address this threat to our national security. Incredibly, the Trump administration has spent limited federal law enforcement dollars caging immigrant children while cutting funding from initiatives designed to fight the growing influence of white nationalist propaganda and violence. As president, Bernie will fight white supremacist extremism once and for all.
Do you believe there is equal access to voting in the U.S.? If not, how would you go about expanding access to voting?
The right to vote is fundamental in America for every eligible voter. Bernie believes we must expand equal access to voting in the U.S. by implementing measures such as automatic voter registration for every American over 18 and by making Election Day a national holiday. As president, Bernie will restore and expand the Voting Rights Act, fight the scourge of right-wing voter suppression, and make sure our elections are secure.
Do you believe voter fraud is a problem in the U.S.? If yes, how do you plan to you address it?
No. Unfortunately we are facing widespread and politically motivated voter suppression across the United States, which greatly impacts voters of color, students, those living in rural areas, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. Bernie stands against voter suppression by supporting the restoration of the Voting Rights Act, abolishing burdensome voter ID laws, and ending partisan gerrymandering. Bernie also believes we must re-enfranchise those who have had their vote taken away by a felony conviction and incarceration. Voting is a fundamental right of all citizens above 18.
Should it be a crime to enter the U.S. illegally?
Entering the U.S. without documentation should not be a criminal offense. Bernie believes that no human being is illegal, and we should not treat families who travel thousands of miles to escape violence and misery as criminals. The criminalization of border crossings does not serve public interest or safety, wastes valuable government resources and taxpayer dollars, and has been utilized by President Trump to rip families apart and cage children. As president, Bernie will handle border crossings as a civil matter and push Congress to repeal 8 US Code Section 1325.
Should the U.S. expand or limit legal immigration?
Bernie believes immigrants make our country, our economy, and our society stronger. Bernie supports a family-based immigration system grounded in civil and human rights. As president, Bernie will protect and expand family-based visas, welcome asylum-seekers fleeing persecution and violence, lift Trump's un-American refugee caps, and create a program to settle refugees who are displaced from their homes by climate change, with a floor of 50,000 in his first year.
In many areas of the country, there is a critical shortage of affordable housing. What would your administration do to address it?
Bernie is the only candidate to propose filling the full 7.4 million unit affordable housing gap in this country. Bernie's Housing for All plan will build 9 million affordable and social housing units, expand Section 8 vouchers to all who are eligible, enact a nationwide rent control standard, establish a tenants bill of rights to protect vulnerable renters against unscrupulous landlords, end exclusionary zoning, repair and modernize public housing.
What is your plan to address the growing national debt?
For too long in this country, there has been austerity for the poor but windfalls for the rich. Trump's tax cuts added trillions to the deficit for a giveaway to the wealthy and large corporations. Meanwhile, we've seen decades of cuts to essential public services and stagnant real wages for workers. Bernie will ensure the rich and corporations pay their fair share, and he'll reduce our bloated military budget. Bernie's proposals are fully paid for, but he will not make the deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare that many in both parties demand under the guise of deficit reduction.
Do you think our national debt is a national security issue? Why or why not?
Bernie believes our most pressing national security issue is climate change. Scientists are clear that if we do not take decisive action immediately to transform our energy system, the cost of inaction will total trillions of dollars by the end of the century. We must stop cutting taxes for the wealthy and large corporations and start mobilizing the federal government and our substantial resources to meet the most important challenge of our lifetimes.
Is capitalism the best economic structure for the United States? If yes, why? If no, what is better and how do you believe it will benefit Americans?
Three families control more wealth than the bottom half of America. Unfettered capitalism has left millions of working-class people, in the wealthiest country, suffering incredible economic hardship. Bernie believes we must guarantee everyone in our country basic economic rights: the right to health care, quality education, a good job that pays a living wage, housing, a secure retirement, and the right to a clean environment. As Dr. King said, "Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God's children."
In many parts of the country, there is a skilled worker gap. How would you close that gap to get more people employed in the industries that need them?
Unfortunately, for much of the United States, we have a situation where employers are not willing to raise wages to attract necessary workers. And to educate the next generation, Bernie will make public community colleges, trade schools, colleges, and universities tuition and debt free so all who want to can attain a higher education. We also have a crumbling infrastructure in our country, from repairing roads and bridges to moving our energy system to 100 percent renewable energy. Bernie will implement a federal jobs guarantee to ensure that all who can work are guaranteed a job.
Should the government forgive student loans? If yes, why and for whom? If no, why not?
Yes. 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. And by cancelling all student debt we will cut the racial wealth gap for young Americans by more than half - from 12:1 to 5:1. We can do better than burdening people with debt to carry until they die for the "crime" of getting an education.
Should community college be free to anyone who wants to attend? Should other colleges and universities be free to attend?
Today, there is universal access to free, public schools across the U.S. for kindergarten through 12th grade. In the 21st Century, a free public education system that goes K-12 is no longer good enough to fully succeed. Every human has the right to a good and free education, no matter family income, immigration status, race, disability, or religion. Bernie's College for All plan will make all four-year public colleges and universities, HBCUs, tribal colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs tuition and debt-free, and we must cancel all student debt.
Is more funding needed for mental health care in America? If yes, what amount and how should it be allocated? Where should that money come from?
Yes. We are experiencing a crisis in mental health treatment in this country. Bernie's Medicare for All plan would address this crisis by providing comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment services as well as prescription drugs free at the time of service - no co-payments, premiums, deductibles, or surprise bills. By cutting unnecessary administrative costs, bringing down the outrageous prices of prescription medication, and ensuring large corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share, we can afford to guarantee quality health care to all people in the U.S.
Read what all the candidates have to say about health care here.
How would you address rising prescription drug costs, specifically for medications that are necessary for people to live, such as insulin and mental health medications?
We pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. While about one out of five Americans cannot afford to pay for the medicine prescribed by their doctors,10 big drug companies made $69 billion in profits last year. Under Medicare for All, Bernie will stop the pharmaceutical industry from ripping off the American people by making sure that no one in America pays over $200 a year for the medicine they need by capping what Americans pay for prescription drugs.
What do you believe is the biggest health care issue facing Americans? How would you solve it?
America is the only major industrialized country that doesn't guarantee health care as a human right. Thirty million Americans remain uninsured, millions more are underinsured, and profit-driven pharmaceutical and insurance companies fill the system with bloat for their own benefit at the expense of patients. Despite the groundswell of support from Democrats, Republicans, and independents for Medicare for All, insurance, drug, and hospital lobbyists have teamed up to protect their profits by pouring large sums of money into an attack campaign on a plan that would guarantee health care to all.
How would you address the opioid crisis?
The opioid epidemic is killing thousands of Americans every year, caused by the greed of pharmaceutical companies, which lied about the dangers of these products. These companies have profited billions each year and not one of them has been held fully accountable. Bernie will address this crisis with the urgency it requires by investing in treatment, prevention, and research and guaranteeing health care as a right to all, including substance abuse and mental health services. Bernie will hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for this epidemic by passing the Opioid Crisis Accountability Act.
Should marijuana be legalized federally for medicinal use? Should it be legalized for recreational use?
It is time to admit the criminalization of marijuana was a disaster, especially for communities of color, and to take action to undo the terrible damage caused by the war on drugs. Even though people use drugs like marijuana at roughly the same rates across all races, black Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Americans. Our job now is to legalize marijuana and vacate and expunge past marijuana convictions, and ensure that revenue from legal marijuana is reinvested in communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.
Do you support a public health insurance option for all Americans? If yes, do you support the elimination of private health care in favor of a government-run plan, or do you support an option where Americans can choose a public or private plan? If no, why?
Yes. Bernie is running for president because the time is long overdue for the United States to join every other major country on Earth and guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare for All program. The goal of a health care system should be to keep people well, not to make stockholders rich. Bernie's plan would provide comprehensive health coverage to all with no premiums, deductibles, copayments, or surprise bills, period.
Should the federal government re-institute the death penalty? If yes, for what crimes?
Absolutely not. The death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment, is applied disproportionately to people of color, and has been debunked as a deterrent to violent crime. Nearly every other major country on Earth has abolished the death penalty and as resident, Bernie will do the same.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders shares views on current issues