2020 presidential candidate makes quick stop in Fort Madison to talk about the state of health care, education, taxes under President Donald Trump
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – About 200 people crowded an enclosed muggy shelter house Sunday afternoon to hear 2020 Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders rail against the current state of America.
Sanders made the stop at Fort Madison’s Rodeo Park as part of a swing through eastern Iowa. After a quick 30-minute speech to the crowd, many carrying “BERNIE” signs they used to wave off the humidity in the room, Sanders bolted into an SUV and headed to the airport for a flight to Vermont.
Sanders said he wanted to talk about issues that aren’t prevalent in the media and among other candidates.
He said there is a massive attack against the working class in America.
“We are seeing efforts to break unions…efforts to throw millions out of health care that they have…efforts to refuse to raise the minimum wage to a living wage,” he said.
“Our path now is to make it very clear that the working class of this country is sick and tired of working two or three jobs to make ends meet- sick and tired of seeing their kids, in many respects, have a lower standard of living then they do, and very sick and tired of seeing all the new income and wealth created in America going to the top 1%.”
Sanders said it’s immoral that three people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of the American people and the top 1% owning more wealth than the bottom 92%.
He said there is a need to end what he called “the dysfunctional health care system that currently exists”.
“We are going to do what every other major country does and that is to guarantee health care to all people as a human right, not a privilege,” Sanders said.
He said big pharma and the Republicans cannot defend a system where Americans pay the highest drug prices in the world, and so many people are uninsured or under-insured. He said the industry recorded a $96 billion profit last year.
“We say to the American pharmaceutical industry, you will stop ripping off the American people.”
Sanders said not only is it practical to move to Medicare for all, but it’s impractical not to make the move. He said in 1965 under Lyndon Johnson, the government realized seniors needed public health insurance, or Medicare, a program serving seniors very well.
“They did that in 1965 without the technology we have today. Don’t tell me we can’t do that in four years what they did back then in one year.”
Sanders said in year one, he would lower the Medicare age from 65 to 55. He said in the following years, the program’s eligibility would expand by 10 years each year with the fourth year covering every person in the country, and would expand to cover dental care, hearing aids, and eyeglasses.
He said the plan would also cap the amount any American would pay for prescription drugs to $200.
Lynn Fingerhut, of Peoria, drove two hours with her children for the rally. Her 9-year-old son, Henry Hawkins was the only one in the crowd to get an autograph on his sign.
Hawkins said he didn’t know what the best thing about the campaign stop was, but he said he was happy to see Sanders.
Fingerhut said her family is a strong supporter of Sanders.
“We’re pretty passionate about Bernie and his message of Medicare for all, student loan forgiveness, and because we are very concerned about where Trump is taking things.”
Sanders also touted his plan to move the federal minimum wage to a $15 living wage. He said four years ago when he campaigned he said the wage needed to move to that rate and now he pointed to seven states that have raised the wage to $15 and last week the House of Representatives passed a bill moving the federal minimum to $15 per hour.
He also said the country has the wealth to cancel all student debt. He said many colleges are moving toward programmatic free tuition or free tuition based on income.
“Of course we can do that and of course we must do that,” Sanders said.
Back in 2008, Congress, against his vote, provided $700 billion in bailouts to Wall Street and trillions of dollars in 0 interest loans from the federal reserve.
“If we can bail out Wall Street…you know what, we can cancel student debt in this country.”
Sanders called Trump the most dangerous president in the modern history of America, and said scientists have proclaimed the world has 12 years to transition out of fossil fuels before irreparable damage is done to the planet.
“If we don’t get our act together, cities like Miami will be partially under water in 40 or 50 years,” he said. “What we’re fighting for here is not just ourselves, but making sure our children, grandchildren, and future generations have a planet that is healthy and inhabitable. We cannot afford to fail in this struggle.”
Tom Gooding traveled up from Quincy and said it was his first political rally ever.
“I supported Bernie four years ago and there was a huge anti-establishment uprising in the country, which is why Trump won, right?” Gooding said.
“For the left, it was Hillary’s turn quote-unquote, and so they chose her and that didn’t work out. I just think Bernie has the right ideas for the country.”
State Rep. Jeff Kurtz served as part of the warm-up before officially endorsing Sanders.
Kurtz said the state is struggling under Republican leadership with regard to education and health care.
“This year in the state of Iowa, we only gave education a 2% raise in funding, which kind of keeps us inline with inflation, but coupled with last year’s 1.5 percent and the year before’s 1%, we have actually underfunded education for the past 10 years,” Kurtz said.
Kurtz also talked about rebuilding the state’s public employees rights and giving those workers back their right to negotiate for benefits.
“Iowa is a right to work state which means you can join a union but you don’t necessarily have to pay union dues. So it starves the union out. On top of that, we have a system called Chapter 20 implemented back in the 20s under Robert Ray who was a Republican,” he said.
“He came up with this system to allow public union employees to negotiate and it would give them privileges so they wouldn’t strike. A couple years ago our legislature in all its wisdom decided they would gut that system.”
Kurtz also spoke about climate change and global warming citing Anchorage, Alaska’s 90 degree temperatures last week.
Kurtz has a son who works for NASA and spoke with a climatologist who told him if people don’t believe in science, there is nothing we can do for them.