OTTUMWA, Iowa – Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont discussed his signature Medicare For All plan among other issues during a campaign rally in Ottumwa, Iowa on Sunday evening. The stop in Ottumwa was the last in a four-stop swing in southeastern Iowa that also included stops in Burlington, Keokuk, and Fairfield.
The 78-year-old candidate addressed an audience of approximately 130 people for almost 45 minutes and then took questions for almost 20. Sanders also was interrupted once by a heckler during the Q&A time.
Sanders took a subtle shot at billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, after complaining about the influence of multi-billionaires.
“Here’s the truth. If one of you happens to be a multi-billionaire, I’m sure we have many of them in this room flocking to our campaign, but if there was one and you announced that you were running for President of the United States, suddenly you have all sorts of media attention, you would be a very important person no matter whether you accomplished anything or not and that is because you have the money to buy TV ads and to be consequential,” he said.
Sanders advocated the overturning of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and public funding of elections. He also said that under his administration he would end what he sees as a “disgraceful amount of voter suppression” in the United States.
Sanders, who identifies as a democratic socialist, continued to attack the “one percent.”
“We have got to deal with the fact that today in America we have got more income and wealth inequality than any time since the 1920s. We have three people owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society. How absurd is that? You have got one percent owning more wealth than the bottom 92 percent. Over the last 30 years, the top one percent have seen a $21 trillion increase in their wealth, the bottom half of America have seen a decline in their wealth,” he said.
“That kind of grotesque income and wealth inequality is bad economics, is immoral, and we are going to change that,” Sanders added.
He insisted that his agenda is not radical, but what the American people want.
“I don’t think it is a radical thing to say that if you work 40-hours a week in America you should not live in poverty. It ain’t a radical idea. What is a radical idea is that you have a federal minimum wage and an Iowa minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. That is a radical, extremist idea. Because no body I know, can live on $7.25 or $8 or $9 an hour,” Sanders stated.
He said he is going to do what “the American people want” and what seven states have done and raise the minimum wage to a “living wage” of $15 per hour.
Sanders also touted equal pay for equal work. “Women should not make 80 cents on the dollar,” he said.
He also said his administration will make joining unions easier.
“None of that sounds terribly radical to me,” Sanders declared.
He also promoted “quality, universal child care,” starting public school teachers at a salary of at least $60,000 a year, tripling funding for Title I low-income schools, and canceling all student debt.
Sanders claimed his education agenda isn’t radical either.
“If you can bail out the crooks on Wall Street, give huge tax breaks to billionaires, I do not think canceling all student debt in this country is a radical idea,” he claimed.
Sanders said he would pay for these proposals by a “modest tax on Wall Street speculation.”
He turned his attention to health care.
“How does it happen that in the richest country in the history of the world, which is what we are, we are the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a human right?” Sanders asked.
He pointed out with audience participation how Americans spend thousands annually on insurance premiums and deductibles before insurance covers the cost of health care. He said the average American spends about $11,000 a year on health care and that 87 million go without health insurance or are under insured.
Sanders claimed 30,000 people a year die as a result of not having health insurance and 500,000 annually go bankrupt as a result of medically-related debt. Something he said is not “normal” or acceptable.
“People in American should not go bankrupt because they are suffering from a serious illness. That is cruel and unacceptable,” he exclaimed.
Sanders said his Medicare For All plan would eliminate co-payments, deductibles, and insurance premiums and would expand it to include dental care, home health care, vision care, and mental health care.
He claimed he could pay for this by ending the profiteering of insurance companies and price gouging of drug companies though did not state how that would directly pay for universal health care. He also said he would simplify the health care system which still didn’t address the question of how the federal government could pay for a plan that will cost the taxpayers an additional $32 trillion over ten years.
Sanders finally admitted how he plans to fund Medicare for All through a four percent income tax increase after an exemption. So for a family with an annual income of $60,000, after an exemption of $29,000, they would pay an additional $1,240 in income tax. He pointed out that this is in exchange for not having to pay co-payments, deductibles, or health insurance premiums.
Families under Sanders’ Medicare For All plan will also have to exchange private health insurance plans they may like in exchange for a single-payer, government-run plan they may not like.
Sanders concluded his remarks by discussing climate change by promoting the Green New Deal that could cost up to $93 trillion to implement.
Watch his remarks below:
Watch is Q&A session: