OTTUMWA — Sen. Bernie Sanders brought his campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination to Ottumwa on Sunday, speaking at the UAW hall and opening a campaign office on East Main Street.
Sanders told an audience of about 45 people at the union hall that critics called his proposal for a $15 minimum wage too radical when he ran four years ago. Last week, he noted, the U.S. House passed a bill to set that amount as the federal minimum wage. The measure stands little chance of passing the Senate and becoming law, though.
“For the last 45 years in this country there has been a tremendous amount of class warfare, and unfortunately the wrong class is winning,” Sanders said. “We’re now in a nation where thre people have more wealth than 50 percent of the country.”
Health care featured strongly in Sanders’ comments. He supports expanding Medicaid to include all Americans over a series of steps. In the first year, Sanders said the system should lower the minimum age from 65 to 55, and the minimum should be lowered another decade in each of the next two years.
The year after the minimum age reaches 35, the program would be opened to all people. Taxes would go up, he said, but the deductions from paychecks and deductibles that are not paid by insurance would end.
Sanders said health care for seniors should also include coverage of dental needs, hearing aids and vision. If creation of the program took only one year from the legislation establishing it was passed, Sanders argued expansion is not so complicated that it will take longer.
Sanders also attacked President Donald Trump, whom he called “a pathological liar.”
“He is trying to win votes by dividing the American people. That is an ugly thing to do,” Sanders said. “We’re Americans. That’s what we are. … We’re doing exactly the opposite of what he is trying to do.”