Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, a potential 2016 candidate, warns of growing income inequality in the U.S. in a speech before the International Association of Fire Fighters (Bailey Williams/MNS)

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 (UPI) — Sen. Bernie Sanders, a leading voice in raising awareness about income inequality, said Monday he is seriously considering running for president in 2016.

If he gets in the race, Sanders said he would “run to win.”

The Vermont independent conceded he would likely face a number of obstacles, including the financing of a campaign.

Recently the Koch brothers — major Republican donors — said they planned to pour $889 million into the 2016 election. Sanders, who caucuses with Senate Democrats, said one family — the Kochs, in this case — should not be able to influence the outcome of national elections.

In a panel at the Brookings Institution, Sanders outlined some of the issues he would stress in a national race. He said America’s middle class is lagging behind as the economy picks up steam.

“Anyone who doesn’t understand the suffering, anxiety and fear that the middle class and working families of our country are experiencing today has no idea about what’s going on in the economy very much,” he said.

Sanders, who is a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, called for more assistance for working families, a higher minimum wage and more investment in infrastructure.

The minimum wage needs to be increased over time to reach at least $15 per hour, he said.

“We not only need to create jobs in this country, we need to raise wages. The current federal minimum wage…is a starvation wage,” he said.

Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at University of California, Berkeley who conducted research on the top U.S. incomes, said those at the bottom 99 percent had incomes grow by 0.4 percent from 2009 to 2012. However, those who represent the top 1 percent saw an income increase of 31.4 percent during the same time period, Saez said in his reports.

Last week, Sanders said he favored creating American jobs by starting rebuilding projects on roads and bridges, a part of President Barack Obama‘s $4 trillion budget proposal for 2016.

“The president’s budget begins to move us in the right direction. By rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, we can create millions of good-paying jobs,” Sanders said in a statement last week.

In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers scored America’s infrastructure a D-plus. The engineers group, which puts out a report card every four years, estimated the United States needs a staggering $3.6 trillion in infrastructure investments by 2020.

In December, Sanders created a 12-step economic “Agenda for America,” which also included addressing working women’s pay inequity, tax reform, college affordability and the minimum wage.

Asked at Brookings about a possible presidential campaign, Sanders said he has not decided whether he would run as an independent or a Democrat if he gets in the 2016 race. If he ran as a Democrat, he would likely face former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the primaries, although her candidacy has not been confirmed.

If he ran as an independent, Sanders would have to acquire the necessary support from each state and U.S. territory to qualify for ballots across the United States.