Bernie Sanders campaigns in Oskaloosa

Deb Van Engelenhoven/The Herald

Sen. Bernie Sanders visited Oskaloosa on Sunday, April 7, 2019. William Penn University's Musco Technology Center was filled with attendees.

OSKALOOSA — Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visited Oskaloosa Sunday afternoon.

The Musco Technology Center at the William Penn University campus buzzed with activity as the space filled with people from not only Oskaloosa and southeast Iowa, but out-of-state attendees as well.

Duane McClure, of Oskaloosa, said before the town hall that he was on the fence and looking forward to hearing what Sanders had to say.

"Want to find an alternative to what we have now," he said. "[The election is] a long ways away and want to see what he has to say. I want a general overview of his basic policies."

Kyle Wilkie, of Oskaloosa, will be attending William Penn University and said he never attended a Bernie Sanders town hall or rally before.

"I'm looking to learn more. Not set on a candidate yet," he said. "Hope to learn more about him and his policies."

William Penn University student Anthony Bodily, North Mahaska second-grade teacher Jamie Nelso, and Ohio Sen. Nina Turner took turns at the microphone before Sanders was introduced.

Health care

Sanders said the United States of America is the only major country on earth to not guarantee health care for all people as a right.

"Health care is a human right, not a privilege. It is absurd that we've got 30 million people uninsured and even more underinsured with high deductibles and high co-payments," he said. "We are now spending twice as much per capita on health care as people of any other nation."

The cost of health care is going up, Sanders said, and is unsustainable.

"So let me make a very radical statement now. You ready for a really radical statement? The function of health care is not to make insurance companies and drug companies rich," he said. "The function of health care is to guarantee health care to every man, woman and child in this country and to do it in a cost-effective way, which is why we will implement a Medicare for all single-pay system."

Paying for it

Sanders said his opponents often ask, "Where are you going to get the money?"

"Good question," he said. "Anybody know how much Amazon, one of the largest corporations in America, paid in taxes last year? They paid zero. It's owned by the wealthiest guy in America. They paid zero."

It's not just Amazon, Sanders said, it's true for many other companies and the ultra-wealthy.

"Billionaires stashing their money away so they're not taxed," he said. "Well I think it's time to end austerity for working families and maybe bring a little bit of austerity to the 1 percent. Under our administration, they will begin to start paying their fair share."

A woman, Elaina, from Serbia, said Republicans say there is no way to pay for some of Sanders' ideas.

"And there is a big fear that many of these companies, if you raise the minimum wage," she said, "that they are going to start laying people off and they're going to just start replacing all the jobs that it can with computers, et cetera."

Republicans, Sanders said, have been opposed to programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Sanders suggested asking Republicans why it is a good idea to have some of the wealthiest people and largest corporations pay virtually no taxes.

"Our health care proposal will lower the cost of health care for the overwhelming majority of the American people. Hard not to do that when we're spending twice as much per capita on health care than any other nation," he said. "Truth is, we are the wealthiest country in the history of the world."

The problem is, Sanders said, are grotesquely unfair levels of income and wealth distribution.

"Republicans don't like to hear this. But I think it is wrong, it is bad economics it is amoral when you've got three people owning more wealth than the bottom half of America."