Bernie Sanders: 'We will raise taxes' but people will save money

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DES MOINES, Iowa — With just a week to go before the critical Iowa Caucuses, Bernie Sanders Monday night acknowledged in the most clear terms yet that his single-payer health care plan would raise taxes.

"We will raise taxes, yes we will," Sanders said to moderator Chris Cuomo of CNN at a Democratic forum on the campus of Drake University.

It's the kind of blunt, un-politician-like talk that has endeared Sanders to his fans, but it's also a comment ready-made for a political attack ad.

See more from the Democratic town hall:

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Bernie Sanders: 'We will raise taxes' but people will save money
Former Maryland Governor and Democratic Presidential Candidate Martin O'Malley (C) speaks during the CNN Town Hall at Drake University in Des Moines , Iowa, January 25, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (L) confers with CNN's Chris Cuomo during the CNN Town Hall at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, January 25, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 25: Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley participates in a town hall forum hosted by CNN at Drake University on January 25, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. O'Malley is in Iowa trying to gain support in front of the states Feb. 1 caucuses. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, left, speaks with moderator Chris Cuomo during a town hall forum at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. With a week to go until the Iowa caucuses and the Democratic presidential race there in a virtual dead heat, Hillary Clinton and Sanders are mapping out divergent paths toward winning the first votes of the nomination process. Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Pool via Bloomberg
DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 25: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) participates in a town hall forum hosted by CNN at Drake University on January 25, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Sanders is in Iowa trying to gain support in front of the states Feb. 1 caucuses. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 25: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) participates in a town hall forum hosted by CNN at Drake University on January 25, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. Sanders is in Iowa trying to gain support in front of the states Feb. 1 caucuses. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton applauds during the CNN Town Hall at Drake University in Des Moines , Iowa, January 25, 2016, ahead of the Iowa Caucus. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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Sanders went on to say that a focus on taxes entirely misses the point, because his plan would reduce health insurance premiums by even more than it would raise taxes. The campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has attacked her opponent's health plan for tax hikes, a charge Sanders Monday night called "unfair criticism" because his plan would ultimately save people money.

Sanders also said he misspoke when he told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow last week that Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign are part of the political "establishment." "I did not say it well," he said. What he meant to say is that "sometimes the base of the organization looks at the world a little bit differently than the leadership," suggesting that leaders are supporting frontrunner Clinton over the objections of their membership.

Cuomo also pressed Sanders on whether he had the experience to do the "whole job" of being president, including being Commander in Chief. At one point, Sanders abruptly stood up to address the question. "This calls for a standing up response," he said while defending his judgement and noting that Dick Cheney, who is universally reviled by Democrats, had plenty of experience.

Ten facts you should know about Bernie Sanders:

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10 things you don't know about Bernie Sanders
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Bernie Sanders: 'We will raise taxes' but people will save money

1. He's a socialist, and he doesn't deny it. When he ran for office in 1990 he responded to an ad trying to link him to Fidel Castro by saying,  "I am a socialist and everyone knows that."
 

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

2. He used to moonlight as a comedy actor, appearing in the 1999 film "My X-Girlfriends Wedding Reception."

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

4. He made headlines in in 2010 when he tried to block a deal that included a tax cut extension for the wealthy with a filibuster-like stand. The stunt trended on Twitter with the hashtag #filibernie and later crashed the Senate video server.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

5. He is not religious. While all past presidents have been openly religious and Christian, Sanders says he identifies as Jewish but doesn't practice. 

 (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

7. He grew up in a working class family in Brooklyn, and his father was a Polish immigrant.

 (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

8. He released an album called 'We Shall Overcome' in which he reads speeches about peace and justice with a choir singing in the background. It's available on iTunes. 

(Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)

9. He is a big believer in Scandinavian political thinking and has said that the U.S. should adopt some of their principles, including the idea that health care should be a right, and higher education should be free.

 (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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Sanders was loose during the interview. Sitting down as he first came out on the stage, he quipped, "My wife told me to button my coat, but I think I'm too fat, so..."

Later, when Cuomo said Sanders was 75 years old, the senator raised his voice to correct the record — "74!" he said with a smile. He added that he was going to be 75 one day, but so, too, was Cuomo.

Sanders summed up his pitch by saying that though he believed Clinton or Martin O'Malley are good candidates, the country needs more. "It just seems to me that the problems we have," Sanders said, "are so serious that we have got to go beyond establishment politics and establishment economics."

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