WASHINGTON, March 9 (UPI) -- Sen. Bernie Sanders, a leading voice in the fight against income inequality, said Monday he is still considering running for president next year in order to assist the "declining" middle class.
Vermont independent Sanders said he recognizes the challenges he would face in raising money.
Although he would possibly run in Democratic primaries, Sanders pointed to big spenders on the Republican side: The Koch brothers plan to throw $889 million into the 2016 election.
During a luncheon at the National Press Club, Sanders, a senior member of the Budget Committee, said the "most serious problem" the United States faces is income inequality.
"This is a profound moral issue, it is a profound economic issue, and as a result of Citizens United [campaign finance case], it is a profound political issue," he said.
Ninety-nine percent of American workers experienced income growth of 0.4 percent from 2009 to 2012, according economics professor Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley. Those at the top 1 percent saw income growth of 31.4 percent during the same period, Saez said in his report on U.S. incomes.
Such a political system -- with some of the one-percenters pouring money into political campaigns -- is not democracy but an oligarchy, Sanders said.
"That is the system we are rapidly moving toward, and that is the system we must rapidly oppose," Sanders said.
The 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling removed important barriers to corporate and union donations.
As for the prospect of a Sanders campaign, he said he is debating whether he would run on the Democratic ticket or as an independent. But as an independent candidate, Sanders would have to acquire a threshold of support from each U.S. state and territory to qualify for ballots across the nation.
In a possible Democratic race against Hillary Clinton, Sanders said he would stick to the issues. During his political career, the second-term senator said he never ran a negative ad and would not in the future. He said U.S. citizens deserve "civil, intelligent debates."
Questioned about recent reports that Clinton used her private email account during her time as secretary of state, Sanders said "the grotesque level of income inequality" should dominate the 2016 conversation.
Sanders recently visited Selma, Ala., where the 50th anniversary of a landmark civil rights march was commemorated over the weekend. He said he was reminded in Selma that "real change never takes place without struggle."