- Jeffrey Sachsis a leading economist and the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University. He’s the author of many books, including, most recently, Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable. The book’s foreword is by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Following President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, Vermont senator and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders responded forcefully to Trump’s speech. We air part of Sanders’ response last night and speak to his former advisor, economist Jeffrey Sachs.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to what President Trump said about healthcare on Monday, when he spoke before a room full of state governors.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Jeffrey Sachs, “unbelievably complicated,” he said. Something that isn’t unbelievably complicated is Medicare for all. This is something that—well, that Bernie Sanders has talked about a great deal. In fact, I wanted to turn to what Bernie Sanders’ response was to last night’s—you can’t call it a State of the Union address, but that—the speech that President Trump gave before a joint session of Congress.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I urge President Trump: Keep your promises. Tell the American people, tweet to the American people, that you will not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Further, I did not hear President Trump tonight mention—mention the words “income and wealth inequality” or the fact that we now have the widest gap between the very rich and everyone else since the 1920s. I did not hear President Trump mention the fact that as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, a five-to-four decision, we now have a corrupt campaign finance system that is allowing billionaires to buy elections and undermine American democracy. How could you give a speech to the nation and not talk about that enormously important issue?
Furthermore, not only did President Trump not mention the issue of voter suppression, what Republican governors are doing all over this country to make it harder for people to participate in our democracy, but the truth of the matter is, his administration is now working, working overtime with Republican governors, to make it harder for young people, low-income people, senior citizens and people of color to vote. That is an outrage.
Perhaps most astoundingly, at a time when the scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activity, that it is already causing devastating problems in our country and all over the world, I did not hear President Trump say one word—not one word—about the need to combat climate change, the greatest environmental threat facing our planet.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bernie Sanders, his response online last night to President Trump’s address. You were the foreign policy adviser for Bernie Sanders, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, and you’re head of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia. But we started on the issue of healthcare and the issue that certainly Sanders has put forward, which is Medicare for all. What about what’s happening to the ACA and—or maybe what isn’t? Because it’s clear they’re having a great deal of trouble. Everywhere Republicans go, they’re being faced by massive protest, and a lot of that is centered around “Don’t take away my healthcare.”
JEFFREY SACHS: This is true of every part of Trump’s agenda, which is that it’s not thought out. And on the health side, they don’t have an alternative plan. And people do not want to lose their access to healthcare. And the governors in Republican states, as well, are saying, “You cannot take these people off the rolls.” So they’re stuck. They do not have a plan.
What is interesting, I think there’s one thing that we should also mention: Donald Trump rightly said we need to get drug prices down. This is something where both sides could agree. We have incredible abuse by the pharmaceutical industry. We have medicines, like sofosbuvir, which is for hepatitis C, that Gilead charges 1,000 times its production cost. This is an incredible abuse of the American people. And I think we should take up the president on that and say, “OK, let’s get these drug prices under control.” They’re hideous, and they’re a big reason why our health system is so expensive.