Bernie Sanders photo

Remarks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines

August 15, 2015

You know, three and a half months ago, we just began to campaign, and everybody said this campaign was a joke. Who believes that the American people are prepared to take on the economic and political establishment of America? And three and a half months have gone by, we have had huge crowds all over America. In Iowa, New Hampshire, California, Oregon, you name it.

And when people ask me why, what I tell them is the American people are saying, "Enough is enough." This country belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires. And before I get going, I want to wish a happy birthday to some institution, it is called Social Security, 80 years old. And let me be very clear, virtually all of the Republican candidates, in one form or another, wants to cut Social Security.

Together, we are not going to let them do that. When we have seniors in this country trying to get by at $12, $13,000 per year, disabled people unable to put enough food on the table, no, we are not going to cut Social Security, we are going to expand Social Security. And we are going to do that by lifting the cap on taxable income. [applause]

In America today, what we are seeing is the disappearance of the great middle class.

We are seeing millions of our brothers and sisters in Iowa, Vermont, all over this country, working longer hours for lower wages, people are working two, three jobs in order to put food on the table. Meanwhile, almost of the new income, all of the new wealth is going to the top one percent. That is going to change. We need an economy that works for working people, not a handful of billionaires.

And let me tell you something about this campaign finance system that we have today. It is a corrupt system. Citizens United will go down in history as one of the worst decisions ever made by a Supreme Court. [applause]

And let me repeat a promise that I have made to other crowds. And that is, no nominee of mine through the Supreme Court will get that position unless he or she pledges to make certain that Citizens United is overturned.

And when we try to understand why it is that so many of our family members, our friends, our neighbors, are working in two or three jobs in order to cobble together an income and some health care, the answer is that wages in our country, for many people, are much, too low. And that is why we have got to recognize that a $7.25 minimum wage is a starvation wage, we have got to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, $15 an hour. [applause]

What we understand also, is that when we live in a competitive global economy, we need the best educated workforce possible. [applause]

It makes no sense to me that we have hundreds of thousands of bright, qualified young people who want to get a higher education, are unable to do so because their family lacks the income. That's wrong. And that is why I have introduced legislation, and will fight for as president of the United States, to make sure that every public college and university in America is tuition free. [applause]

And we have also got to deal with the disgrace of outrageously high student debt. There are millions of Americans, young, and not so young, who are paying 7, 8, 10 percent on their student debt, 20, 25 percent of their limited income. If you can refinance your home at two or three percent today, you should not be paying eight or ten percent on student debt. [applause]

And the government should also not be profiteering on student debt held by working-class families. [applause]

And when we talk about raising the minimum wage to a living wage, we have also got to talk about pay equity for women workers. [applause]

Women cannot continue to earn $.78 on the dollar compared to men workers. Many of my Republican colleagues talk about family values. Their values are that a woman should not have the right to control her own body, I disagree. [applause]

Their values are that our gay brothers and sisters should not be able to get married, or enjoy all the benefits of American citizenship, I disagree. But my family values -- I have been married 27 years, got four kids, seven grandchildren. My family values are that the United States has to earn -- end the international embarrassment of being the only major country on earth that doesn't guarantee pay, family, and medical leave.

When a woman has a baby in this country, regardless of her income, she should be able to spend three months with that baby, getting to know that baby, love that baby. That's a family value. And when we talk about American values, when we talk about where we want to go as a country, I want to end the absurdity of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right. [applause]

And that is why I strongly support a Medicare for all single payer programs. And when we talk about our responsibilities as adults, as parents, as citizens of this Earth, we have a moral responsibility to make certain that we leave this planet in a way that is habitable for our kids and our grandchildren. The debate is over. Climate change is a real, climate change is caused by human activity, climate change is already causing devastating problems in our country and around the world.

What the United States must do -- and I will do as president, is lead the world, working with other countries to transform our energy system. Well, there is Donald Trump, what can we do? I apologize, we left the helicopter at home. It's in the garage, forgot to bring it. But our job is to make sure that we join the rest of the world, major countries around the world, in guaranteeing health care to every man, woman, and child as a right of citizenship.

It makes no sense to me that, despite the gains of the Affordable Care Act, we continue to have 35 million people uninsured, and many of you are underinsured, right? High deductibles, high co-payments, and yet, after all of that, we end up spending almost twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country. That is wrong, that has got to change.

Let me close on one issue that I know a lot of people are thinking about. The truth is, that in America we have made real progress in terms of fighting racism over the years. And I want to thank the people of Iowa for their courage in voting for Obama in 2008. [applause]

And what you showed is that a state which is mostly white could go beyond the color of a candidate's skin and vote for somebody based on their character and their ideas. Thank you, Iowa. [applause]

But anyone who reads the papers, anyone who looks at TV, understands that we still have a long way to go. Anyone who as seen the tapes of Sandra Bland or Samuel Dubose understand that it is unacceptable that African-Americans can get taken out of their cars, thrown to the ground, assaulted, and thrown into jail and die three days later. That is not what this country is supposed to be about.

So you are looking at a candidate who, if elected president, will do everything that he can to end the stain of racism and institutional racism in this country, and bring about major criminal justice reforms. [applause]

I was a mayor for eight years, and I've worked with our police department, and the truth is, most cops have are good, very difficult job, they do the right thing.

It's a very hard job. But when a police officer, or any other public official, breaks the law, that officer must be held accountable. Today in America, we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, including China. We have a disproportionate number of people in jail who are black or Hispanic. So we have got a lot of work to do in criminal justice.

Number one, I will end this absurdity of having private corporations making billions out of jails. [applause]

We are going to end this minimum sentencing by which too many people have criminal records. And when people go to jail, I want to make sure that there is a pathway for them out of jail. If people leave jail without money, without jobs, without education, without housing, without mental health issues being dealt with, the likelihood is they're going to end up back in jail, and that is pretty crazy. So what I want to see, is I want to see us invest heavily in jobs and education, not jail and incarceration. [applause]

Now, let me just conclude by telling you one thing that no other candidate will tell you, and that is I need your help, obviously, to win here in Iowa, and I appreciate the support of so many people. But if we are going to transform America, if we are going to have a government that represents working families and not large campaign donors, we need a political revolution in this country. [applause]

We need millions of people to stand up and make it clear to the billionaire class they cannot have it all. They are going to start paying their fair share of taxes. They are not going to continue to ship out jobs to China and elsewhere. But to make all of that happen, we need a strong grassroots political movement from Vermont to California, and significantly here in Iowa.

So I welcome and urge all of you to join me in helping to make a political revolution, which transforms America, which creates a government that works for all of us, and not just a handful.

Thank you all very much. [applause]

Bernie Sanders, Remarks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/317552

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