Hillary Clinton isn't ready to confront the nation's billionaires to address rising income inequality, said Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent deciding whether to challenge her for president in 2016.
“It's not what she says, it's what she does,” Sanders said in a meeting with Bloomberg reporters and editors Wednesday in Washington. He said he'll be making a decision “shortly” on whether to launch a presidential campaign.
“Is Hillary Clinton, are other candidates, prepared to take on the billionaire class?” Sanders said. “Based on her record, I don't” think so, he said.
On Tuesday, Clinton criticized executive pay and tax rates for hedge-fund managers during a stop in Iowa as she tries to make her commitment to helping struggling Americans the centerpiece of her campaign rollout. Clinton announced her candidacy on Sunday.
“The only hope that I see,” he said, “is a very strong grassroots movement that says 'enough is enough,'” he said. “The country belongs to all of us and not just the billionaire class.”
“Do I think that's Hillary Clinton's politics? No. No I don't,” said Sanders. “I happen to know Hillary, I like her very much,” he added.
Sanders also cited 17 percent youth unemployment, corporate control of a national media that's more interested in a horse race than covering economic issues, and denial of global warming as the “enormous problems” facing the nation and issues other presidential candidates are unwilling to tackle.
From 2013 to 2015, the nation's 14 wealthiest families, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, and the Koch Brothers, the billionaire brothers underwriting many Republican political campaigns, increased their wealth by $157 billion. That's more than the total wealth of the bottom 40 percent of Americans, and it's “obscene,” he said.
“The message I have has a lot of support,” Sanders said. Still, his decision to run hinges in part on whether he can raise enough money “for a credible campaign” in an era where large outside groups called super-PACs can raise unlimited amounts of money, he said. “It's going to be a gut decision,” he said.
The pro-Clinton group Correct the Record came to the Democratic frontrunner's defense. “Hillary Clinton is a fighter for everyday Americans and her life’s work reflects her belief that the financial health of our nation depends on the financial health of middle-class and working families,” spokeswoman Adrienne E. Watson said in an e-mail. “Hillary has called for ending corporate off-shore tax havens, advocated for the idea of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and proposed increasing oversight of complex financial products—all to level the playing field so every American has a fair shot at success.”