OTTUMWA — Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders slogged through the snow on Sunday to see him during a campaign visit to Ottumwa.
Sanders is making his second run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. He used much of his speech to push back against rivals’ arguments that his positions are too radical, saying they represent a return to the promise available to previous generations.
“Fifty years ago you could graduate high school and go get a good-paying job,” he said. “That’s all changed.”
The advance of technology and the demands of today’s job market mean young people need some form of education past high school, though Sanders said both college and technical training can fill that need. But the cost is a burden, he argued, making that postsecondary education less accessible than it was for previous generations.
Lowering that cost, even allowing free college educations, is Sanders’ solution. He said the country must find ways to allow more students to get the education they need without saddling them with debt.
“If we could do it 50 years ago, we can do it today,” he said.
Sanders targeted Iowa’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, saying it is not enough for people to live on. He called the state’s failure to raise the minimum wage the outcome of “a radical, extremist idea.” Sanders was an early proponent of a $15 per hour minimum wage, and reiterated that call Sunday evening.
The argument for raising the minimum wage coupled with Sanders’ statement that the nation’s top earners have seen increases in their incomes for the past 30 years, while those in the middle and lower-income groups have lost ground. He said it makes little sense to hollow out the majority of the people’s earning power.
“It is bad economics. It is immoral. And we are going to change that,” he said.
Former County Supervisor Steve Siegel introduced Sanders. He said that while Sanders is not the only candidate making some of the proposals, there is a key difference between him and his rivals for the nomination.
“Other candidates may support some of these policies,” he said. “But Bernie Sanders is the one we can count on to deliver all of them.”
Sanders also offered his definition of Medicare for all, a phrase that several of the candidates for the party’s nomination have used to describe various plans. He said it means an end to insurance premiums, co-payments and deductibles.
“In America, some 500,000 people go bankrupt every year because of medically related debt,” Sanders said. “What we are fighting for is a health care system that has health care as a human right.”