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Bill Maher and Bernie Sanders Debate Socialism: U.S. is 'Already a Socialist Country

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"I don't think most Americans realize they're already socialists."

Image source: YouTube

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders sparred with Bill Maher during a segment of his HBO show Friday evening over the connotation of socialism and the efforts of his presidential campaign.

Sanders, a self-described socialist and Independent vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, said while appearing on "Real Time with Bill Maher" that his campaign, among other things, is focused on fixing the perceived income and wealth inequality — an issue he said was deemed by Americans as immoral.

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"See, Bernie, you always say that, and I think even the Republicans are not for income inequality," Maher argued. "They hear that but it doesn't compute that that's going to be solved by socialism. Socialism is the programs they already like. They like social security. That's socialism. They like Medicare, they like the [Department of Veteran Affairs], they like the military. It's already a socialist country."

Sanders disagreed with Maher's assertion that the U.S. is a socialist nation and contended that his campaign needs to "remind people" that healthcare is a "right" for citizens of other major countries. The presidential candidate also touted more of the issues that make up his platform, including free public college tuition and criminal justice reform — although Maher said the senator still wasn't doing enough to make the connotation of "socialism" less taboo.

"We have to make the movement, if you like, to correlate what we're talking about," Sanders said. "Because on every one of the major issues I am talking about, the American people agree."

"I don't think most Americans realize they're already socialists," Maher said.

At the beginning of the segment, Maher said he wanted to help Sanders secure the nomination, but the political commentator also criticized Sanders' plan of taxing the top one percent to pay for his programs as not being enough financially. Specifically, Maher criticized Sanders for not being able to implement a single-payer healthcare plan in his state of Vermont as the costs were too high.

"Well, I'm not the governor of the state of Vermont. I'm the senator from the state of Vermont," Sanders said in response. "Tell me, why is it that every other of the major countries on Earth..."

"They control both ends of it," Maher interrupted. "If you're saying that the government is going to pick up the tab but not make the insurance companies, the hospitals and the doctors not gouge people, then we are going to break the budget. It has to work both ways. So you're going to make the hospitals do that?"

Eventually Sanders agreed that his proposals could all be paid for by not just taxing the top one percent but  "may have to go down a little lower than that but not much lower."

Watch Maher and Sanders spar on "Real Time with Bill Maher" below.

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