Bernie Sanders would use revenue from his proposed wealth tax to fund free childcare and pre-kindergarten for every kid in America, the Democratic front runner said in an interview with ‘60 Minutes’ on Sunday.
“So what we are calling for is universal childcare,” Sanders, coming off a resounding win in Saturday’s Nevada caucus, told Anderson Cooper. Combined with Sanders’ proposed free public college tuition bill, the plan would mean the United States would guarantee childcare and education from infancy and pre-kindergarten through university.
Sanders’ childcare plan would be funded by the federal government, but run by state agencies and tribal governments, and promises “at least 10 hours a day” of childcare and “would ensure programs operate at times to serve parents who work non-traditional hours.”
The pre-K plan would be “administered locally,” Sanders’ website says, and would guarantee a “full-day, full-week pre-kindergarten education” for every child in the country. In order to build a workforce capable of handling the influx of new children into early childcare and education, the Sanders campaign says it wants to double the number of Early Childhood Education workers from 1.3 million to 2.6 million, and guarantee a living wage to all of those workers.
Sanders’ proposal puts the cost squarely on the government, meaning that of the various childcare plans proposed by the Democratic candidates, it’s the cheapest in the field for many families. The plan Sen. Elizabeth Warren released last year, for example, would provide free childcare to families making up to double the poverty line (in 2020, the poverty line for a family of four is $26,200, according to the Department of Health and Human Services) and cap costs at 7 percent of every family’s income. And although Joe Biden’s campaign has said he supports free pre-kindergarten, the former vice president’s site doesn’t offer a concrete proposal on childcare.
The childcare plan was not the only education-related answer that drew attention from the interview. Asked about his previous comments in support of Fidel Castro’s communist government in Cuba, Sanders praised the advancements Cuba made in education under the late revolutionary leader.
“We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad,” Sanders said. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”
“Unlike Donald Trump, let's be clear, I do not think that Kim Jong Un is a good friend,” Sanders added. “I don't trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.”
The clip made the rounds on social media on Sunday night, notably pushed by the Trump campaign and liberal critics of Sanders. “I'm hoping that in the future, Senator Sanders will take time to speak to some of my constituents before he decides to sing the praises of a murderous tyrant like Fidel Castro,” U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, a Democrat from Florida, tweeted.
Sanders’ comments, however, echo praise from former President Barack Obama on the Cuban education system. “Cuba has an extraordinary resource — a system of education which values every boy and every girl,” Obama said in a speech in Havana in March 2016. Three days later, during a speech in Buenos Aires, Obama again praised Cuba’s educational and healthcare systems.
“Every child in Cuba gets a basic education, that's a huge improvement from where it was,” Obama said. “Medical care — the life expectancy of Cubans is equivalent to the United States, despite it being a very poor country, because they have access to health care. That's a huge achievement. They should be congratulated.” Obama went on to note that the “economy is not working” in Cuba, and that “the market system produces a lot of wealth and goods and services and education.”
After Sanders unveiled the childcare plan, Cooper raised the issue of cost. “For all the people who like the idea of it, there are going to be a lot of Democrats, again, who are saying, ‘Well, wait a minute, yet again, this is another program that it's not clear how it's going to get paid for,’” Cooper said.
Sanders said the plan, which the campaign projects would cost $1.5 trillion over the course of ten years, would be paid for using his proposed wealth tax. The Sanders campaign has estimated the tax would raise $4.35 trillion in revenue over the same period.
“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?’” Sanders pushed back. “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,’” Sanders mocked. “Well, I disagree.”
Sanders did, however, attempt to downplay the “revolution” he’s so often talked about since his 2016 campaign, suggesting the Vermont senator has an eye on the general election. “A lot of voters are voting for candidates who aren't calling for Medicare for All, who aren't calling for a revolution,” Cooper said. “Is everybody really wanting a revolution like that?”
“Yeah, let's go easy on the word rev-- "political revolution", you know,” Sanders said. Cooper then pointed out that Sanders has repeatedly used “revolution” to describe his movement.
“I don't want people, you know, to overstate that,” Sanders said. “But here is the point. It's not good enough to complain, ‘Oh, I cannot afford my health care. I can't afford childcare. I can't afford to send my kid to college. I'm paying half of my income in rent.’ You know? If you're not happy about that, you got to be involved in the political process. Only millions of people standing up for justice can bring about the kind of change that this country requires. And I believe that has got to happen.”
Cover: Senator (D-Vermont) and US Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders addresses a crowd of close to 13000 eager supporters in Austin,Texas on 02/23/2020.The rally was the last stop of a four city "Bernstorming"tour of the state of Texas before the important Super Tuesday primary. (Jeff J. Newman/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)