“It always seems impossible until it is done,” Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a rally Friday night at Iowa Western Community College, quoting Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa.
“The greatest obstacle we face is not just Wall Street and drug companies and insurance companies and fossil fuel companies and the prison complex and the military-industrial complex,” Sanders said. “The greatest obstacle is the (limitations) of our imaginations.Now is the time to tell the corrupt wealthy and elite that enough is enough.”
Democratic New York Rep.Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who publicly endorsed Sanders for president three weeks ago, joined him on his campaign stop in Council Bluffs, rallying the crowd of several thousand people. She urged supporters not to sit on the sidelines but to get involved.
“This is not a movie, it is a movement,” she said. “We don’t watch the polls, we change the polls.”
Ocasio-Cortez implored listeners to not just participate in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses but to take others with them.
She then introduced Sanders, who took the stage around 6:35 p.m. and talked about his trademark issues, including perhaps the best known, Medicare for All.
“Health care should be a right, not a privilege,” Sanders said. “If you want to provide quality medical care for all, you’ve got to take on the drug companies; you’ve got to take on the insurance companies. There is no other way around that.”
The government would offer training to current employees in the insurance industry, of which Omaha has thousands, so they could transition to work in the Medicare program, he said.
Right now, 87 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured, Sanders said.
“That’s why half a million people go bankrupt each year because of medical bills,” he said.
Sanders added that he would expand Medicare to include dental care, eyeglasses, hearing aids and home health care. The age to qualify would gradually be lowered over a four-year period to include everyone.
The government should pay all past-due medical bills, which would cost an estimated $81 billion, he said.
The senator also wants to take on homelessness in America.
“We will build up to 10 million livable, affordable houses,” he said.
Sanders wants to make public colleges and universities tuition free.
“We believe education is a human right, from preschool to graduate school,” he said.
And it’s time to cancel all student debt, Sanders said. People have asked how the federal government could afford to cancel an estimated $1.6 trillion in debt.
“We pay for that through a modest tax on Wall Street speculation,” he said.
Sanders also talked about his wealth tax plan, which would apply to single adults with a net worth of more than $16 million and couples with wealth of more than $32 million. It would start at 1% a year for couples with $32.5 million in net assets and increase by 1% for each wealth bracket up to a maximum of 8% per year for couples with wealth of $10 billion or more. The tax would raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over a decade.
“But 99.9% of the American people would not be affected by that,” he said.
On climate change, Sanders said, “We have proposed the most comprehensive climate change plan ever introduced by any candidate for office. We have a moral responsibility to make sure this planet is inhabitable by our kids and for future generations. That is why we are going to take on the greed and corruption of the fossil fuel industry and, whether they like it or not, we are going to transform our economy to renewable and sustainable energy and create 20 million jobs in the process.”
He has called for a public investment of $16.3 trillion to combat climate change. He would fund that, in part, by ending tax breaks and subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and generating income by building wind and solar farms and other green power plants and selling the electricity to power plants across the country.
“When we talk about climate change, all we are doing is listening to the scientists,” Sanders said. “I don’t know how you put a price tag on saving this planet.”
Added Ocasio-Cortez, “When we talk about climate change, we don’t have a choice on what we spend. The question is not are we going to expend the money, it’s about how we are going to spend the money.
“The question is, are we going to spend that money on preventative measures and decarbonization of our economy so that our children don’t have to be recovering from disasters their entire lives, or are we going to continue down this dangerous path of ignoring the problem and then not knowing which family will be next and who will be devastated next?”
Sanders’ campaign is about thinking big, he said.
“The only way real change can take place — has ever taken place — is for it to happen from the bottom up, not the top down.”