News & Politics

Sanders on Funding His $16T Climate Plan: ‘It Will End Up on Some Taxpayers' Shoulders’

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders moderated by Anderson Cooper. CNN Democratic Presidential Town Hall: The Climate Crisis New York, NY Photo: CNN

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a Democratic presidential candidate, said fossil fuel companies and wealthy individuals would pay for his $16 trillion climate change plan.

Sanders was asked how he plans to pay for his $16 trillion climate change plan other than eliminating tax breaks for fossil fuel companies. To put that number in perspective, the entire U.S. national debt is currently $22 trillion.

In response, Sanders said most scientists have concluded that the world needs to act within 11 years to address global climate change.

“I think we have a moral responsibility to act and act boldly, and to do that, yes, it is going to be expensive.  This is how we get the money.  For a start, insanely, but honestly, what goes on right now is we are giving the fossil fuel industry approximately $400 billion every single year in subsidies and tax breaks.  Obviously, we end that.  And we’re paying for this over a 15-year period, by the way,” Sanders said at CNN’s climate town hall on Wednesday evening.

“Second of all, we believe that the federal government is the best way to move aggressively to produce sustainable energy, like wind and solar.  We will expand concepts, public power concepts like the TVA right now to produce wind and solar and actually make a profit on that as we sell that to electric companies all over the world,” he added. 

Sanders also said that his administration would not have to “spend money on the military defending oil interests around the world.  We can cut military spending there, as well.”

Sanders estimates that his $16 trillion plan would “create up to 20 million good-paying jobs” over 15 years.

“You’re going to have a lot of taxpayers out there who will be paying more in taxes.  You’ll have people who are not getting food stamps and so forth.  So those are the basic ways that we pay for this program,” he said. “But most importantly, we are dealing with what the scientists call an existential threat to this planet, and we must respond aggressively, we must listen to the scientists.  That is what our plan does.”  

CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Sanders, “Would you guarantee to the American public tonight that the responsibility for $16.3 trillion, which is a massive amount of money, wouldn’t end up on taxpayers’ shoulders?” 

“Well, it will end up on some taxpayers’ shoulders.  If you are in the fossil fuel industry, you’re going to be paying more in taxes, that’s for sure.  Yeah.  And I happen to believe, in general, that at a time when we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality, where the richest three people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of American society, where major profitable corporations like Amazon, who made over $10 billion in profits last year, didn’t pay a nickel in taxes, am I going to guarantee Jeff Bezos he’s not going to be paying more in taxes?  No, I won’t,” Sanders said.