Politics

Sanders rails against Trump, GOP in Springfield

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., took questions from a long line of people at a town hall meeting Thursday night at Riverside Middle School in Springfield. Photo by Alan Keays/VTDigger
SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., urged a crowd of more than 1,500 here to join the fight against President Donald Trump’s budget plan, which he said would hurt those who could least afford it.

The senator told people to get involved, run for office and engage voters who backed the Republican businessman’s run for the White House.

Sanders, an independent from Vermont, took part in a town hall-style forum Thursday night in front of a standing room only audience packed into the gymnasium at Riverside Middle School.

“This is a fantastic crowd. We had a hard time finding a parking place,” Sanders said after taking the stage. “Democracy is alive and well in Springfield.”

The senator was greeted by well-wishers who said they supported his 2016 bid for president. One man, wearing a “Bernie 2016” T-shirt, told the senator that he was his hero.

While the crowd came to see Sanders, Trump was on the minds of many who disagreed with the new president on the issues

“I know a lot of people who are really hard workers, good living people who voted for Trump,” said Matt Bean, 23, of Claremont, New Hampshire. “It blows my mind … What is the best way to talk to these people and tell them, ‘You can’t keep voting against your own self-interest.’”

Sanders said he has found some areas of common ground with those who supported the new president.

“If you go to West Virginia, if you go to states all over this country where Trump won, people there don’t have horns, they are not hurtful, awful people,” Sanders said.

“In many cases, they’re really hard working people, worried about their kids and they didn’t see an alternative,” he added. “They did not see the Democrats come up with the kind of alternatives that made sense to them.”

Many Trump supporters, according to Sanders, are working class people who don’t believe in tax breaks for billionaires, or support cuts to Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare.

He encouraged people in the crowd to listen to friends who backed Trump.

“Get outside your comfort zone … Try to go outside just the people you agree with, your own friends,” the senator told the crowd. “Start breaking into conversations with people who are glued to Fox television.”

Sanders’ harshest criticism of Trump and Republicans in Congress focused on GOP-backed health care legislation. Sanders said if approved, millions of Americans would lose health insurance currently provided under the Affordable Care Act, passed during President Barack Obama’s administration.

“Let us be clear, if anybody wants to quote me on this, quote me on this,” he said. “Thousands of people will die if they lose their health insurance and are unable to go to the doctor or cannot afford to go to the hospital when they need to.

“A lot more people will die from this legislation than died from the tragedy of 9/11,” Sanders said.

George Karabakakis, CEO of Health Care and Rehabilitation Services, told Sanders that there is a crisis in Vermont of people suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues, homelessness and poverty. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act, he said, would make it worse.

“We don’t need to build walls,” he told Sanders. “We need to break down walls. What can we do? This is really serious.”

Sanders said the Republican-backed health care legislation is now even starting to lose GOP support, partly due to the heat that party’s members are getting from the public.

He said Vermont’s congressional delegation is in agreement in opposing a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and encouraged people to contact congressional members who support the repeal from outside the state and let their voices be heard.

“They’re in trouble because the American people are catching on as to what a disaster this is,” Sanders said to cheers. “Donald Trump is learning how complicated health care is.”

The senator hit on themes Thursday night that catapulted him to the Democratic Party presidential nomination last year, including income inequality, free college tuition at state colleges and universities, and universal health care coverage.

Sanders was eventually beat out for the nomination by former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in the general election.

Vermont provided Sanders with his largest margin of victory in Democratic presidential primary season last year: He topped Clinton 85 percent to 13 percent.

The Springfield town hall event Thursday night capped the first of a two-day series of events the senator is holding across Vermont. He started earlier Thursday with town hall meetings in St. Johnsbury. He’ll end with a town hall meeting at 3 p.m. Friday at Vermont Technical College in Randolph.

The town hall meeting in Springfield started with a panel of four people telling Sanders about issues important to them and challenges they face.

They included Tim Ford, president and CEO of Springfield Medical Care Systems; Cathleen Corliss of the Springfield Area Parent Child Center; Mark Curran, founder and co-owner Black River Produce; and Matt Powers, a senior at Springfield High School.

Powers talked about trying to decide where to go to college, and more importantly, how he’s going to pay for it.

Sanders, introducing Powers, noted how the student takes part in extracurricular activities, including track and field.

Bernie Sanders
Matt Bean of Claremont, New Hampshire, shows his support for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on his T-shirt on Thursday night prior to a town hall meeting at Riverside Middle School in Springfield. Photo by Alan Keays/VTDigger

“I did that too,” Sanders told him.

Then, the senator listed off more of Powers’ accomplishment and activities, included National Honor Society.

“That I didn’t do,” Sanders said, drawing laughter.

John Sarna, 60, who works in a manufacturing facility in Bellows Falls, said health care, and making sure people can afford it and have access to it, is a major reason for his support of Sanders, and why he turned out to hear Thursday.

“Everyone is concerned about the future of medical care,” he said. “It’s nice to know that people are fighting for care for everybody.”

Republicans weren’t the only ones feeling the sting from Sanders or the people in the crowd Thursday night.

One man told the senator that all elected officials need to be held accountable for the dysfunction in Washington, D.C.

“We need to find a way to come together instead of the party politics, keep that crap out of it,” he said. “Tackle the issues like you try to do … A lot of Democrats don’t want to look at the issues, it’s not just Donald Trump.”

“Absolutely correct,” the senator responded, before thanking the crowd for making him the longest serving independent member of Congress in history.

Sanders added that years ago when Democrats controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress they didn’t take on the pharmaceutical companies to reduce drug prices or negotiate trade deals in the best interest of American workers.

“I think Democrats are far better than Republicans,” he said, “but I’m not here to defend everything Democrats do.”

Sanders was also asked if the time has passed for the Democratic Party.

“I think we can all agree that the last election cycle was nothing short of a disaster, I can’t be anymore blunt,” a questioner told Sanders. “Is it time for the Democratic Party to go away and have new progressive agenda rise up from its ashes?”

Sanders replied that on Friday morning he was planning to talk with the new national chairman of the Democratic Party and would relay that message.

“In my view the Democratic Party needs to be fundamentally restructured,” the senator added. “We need to be a grassroots party with relatively young people and working people to help set the direction. Absolutely.”

A woman told Sanders his run for the presidency inspired her to make her on bid last year for state representative, eventually losing her first election by 40 votes.

“The first time I ran I got only 2 percent of the vote,” Sanders told her. “You did better than I did.”

The senator said that a reason he often hears from people why they don’t run for office, whether on the local, state or federal level, is because they don’t feel qualified.

“My response is always, ‘I work in the United States Senate, and if you think you don’t know enough, work with some of my colleagues,” he said. “We need people who feel strongly about issues … You can do it, you really can.”

Bernie Sanders
A crowd of about 1,500 people filled Riverside Middle School in Springfield on Thursday night for a town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Photo by Alan Keays/VTDigger

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Alan J. Keays

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  • Pete Novick

    1. Congress made the last major changes to Social Security in

    a. 1978
    b. 1983
    c. 1987
    d. 1995
    e. 2002

    2. Congress has employed the following methods to make changes to Social Security except

    a. Provide cost of living increases based on consumer prices
    b. Increase Social Security payroll tax rates
    c. Expand compensation categories subject to Social Security payroll taxes
    d. Increase the Social Security cap on taxable wages

    3. As of the end of FY2016, the approximate value of the Social Security trust funds was

    a. $1.3 trillion
    b. $1.9 trillion
    c. $2.2 trillion
    d. $2.8 trillion
    e. $3.3 trillion

    4. Since 1984, Social Security payroll tax receipts have exceeded outlays every year. The Treasury Department uses the surplus to

    a. Purchase Treasury bonds and bills
    b. Pay down the public debt
    c. Reduce the federal budget discretionary spending deficit.
    d. Invest in investment grade mortgage backed securities issued by government sponsored enterprises

    5. The Social Security trust funds are forecast to continue to run annual surpluses until _____, and based upon interest payable and securities redemptions, to pay full benefits until _____.

    a. 2024 and 2048
    b. 2026 and 2038
    c. 2030 and 2036
    d. 2020 and 2034

    How did you do?

    1. b.
    2. c.
    3. d.
    4. a.
    5. d.

    Social Security delivers benefits to more than 60 million Americans, (about 18% of US population), at the lowest cost per dollar of benefits of any income security program in the known universe.

    Keeping Social Security solvent for another 100 years is as easy as:

    – Increasing the cap on earned income subject to the payroll tax to $240,000.
    – Decreasing total benefit at full retirement age by 1%. (For example, a person receiving a $1000 benefit per month, would see that benefit shrink to $990.)
    – Taxing the first $1,000,000 in capital gains at the current Social Security payroll tax rate: 6.2%. (The other 1.45% is the Medicare portion. Employers and employees both contribute 7.65%.)

    Now, what is for lunch and when is my tee time?

    • Jay Eshelman

      4. Since 1984, Social Security payroll tax receipts have exceeded outlays every year. The Treasury Department uses the surplus to – a. Purchase Treasury bonds and bills

      Here’s the rub. The only reason investments in T-bills (loans to the U.S. government) aren’t considered junk bonds is because the Federal Reserve buys its own debt (the debt China, Japan and others will no longer purchase) in order to maintain the valuation of (demand for) the T-bills – while, at the same time, indirectly increasing the national debt – now approaching $20 Trillion (compare that to the $3.3 Trillion of funny money in the S.S. Trust Fund). There’s no there there.

      Fore!

      • JohnGreenberg

        Jay Eshelman:

        Foreigners own $6.281 trillion of US debt; SS = $2.801 trillion. https://www.thebalance.com/who-owns-the-u-s-national-debt-3306124

        Facts matter.

        • Jay Eshelman

          Yes. You’re right. The S.S. funny money in U.S. Treasuries is $2.8 Trillion, not $3.3 Trillion. It’s still debt backed by nothing but the full faith and credit of the U.S. – for what that’s worth.

        • Jon Corrigan

          Because $2.8 trillion is so much better than $3.3 trillion – thanks, John – we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

          • JohnGreenberg

            Jay Eshelman and Jon Corrigan:

            1) Basing arguments on misstated facts does not produce convincing resuls. $2.8 trillion happens to be the correct amount of the SS debt. $3.3 trillion is a phantasm.

            2) Jay Eshelman also suggested that foreigners will “no longer” buy US debt. Again, there’s no evidence for that at all. The amount held by foreigners has risen from around $1 trillion to around $6 trillion since around 2001. In the last year, it fell by <.2 trillion. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/FDHBFIN

            In fact, despite what Mr. Eshelman thinks, "the full faith and credit of the U.S" is worth a great deal.

          • Jay Eshelman

            Some reports on foreign support of U.S. Debt for context.

            August 16, 2016 Global central banks are unloading America’s debt. In the first six months of this year (2016), foreign central banks sold a net $192 billion of U.S. Treasury bonds, more than double the pace in the same period last year, when they sold $83 billion. China, Japan, France, Brazil and Colombia led the pack of countries dumping U.S. debt.
            It’s the largest selloff of U.S. debt since at least 1978, according to Treasury Department data.

            http://money.cnn.com/2016/08/16/news/economy/central-banks-debt-dumping/

            Nov 17, 2016 One month ago, … we noted something troubling: the number [of Treasuries Held in Custody] had dropped sharply, declining by over $22 billion in one week, one of the biggest weekly declines since January 2015, pushing the total amount of custodial paper to $2.805 trillion, the lowest since 2012.

            http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-11-16/saudis-china-dump-treasuries-foreign-central-banks-liquidate-record-375-billion-us-p

            Dec 15, 2016
            Foreigners are Dumping US Treasurys as Never Before
            Bloodletting in one of the most conservative investments.

            All kinds of things are now happening in the world of bonds that haven’t happened before. For example, authorities in China today halted trading for the first time ever in futures contracts of government bonds, after prices had swooned, with the 10-year yield hitting 3.4%.

            http://wolfstreet.com/2016/12/15/foreigners-dump-u-s-treasurys-as-never-before/

            …a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

  • Chet Greenwood

    Very impressive gathering for Bernie – he doesn’t have the answers but he sure knows what hot buttons to push!
    Regarding the health care fiasco – the way Obamacare got passed in the Democratic controlled Legislature was based on 3 premises:
    If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor
    If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance, and
    your premiums will go down $2500 a year.
    These were the basis of ACA which we now realize were the biggest lies of the decade all promoted by President Obama, Dr Ezekiel Emmanuel and Johnathon Gruber.
    It is now slowly going bankrupt in several states and soon no one will have insurance.
    This fiasco is not the fault of Donald Trump.

    • Homer sulham

      Bernie is good at lip service.

      • walter carpenter

        “This fiasco is not the fault of Donald Trump.”

        It was a law written by health insurance lobbyists for private insurance by lavishly greasing the skids of both parties. It can be correctly called the “private insurance self-preservation act,” and the beneficiaries of this law are of the Trump vintage.

        • Phil Greenleaf

          Best Digger Post of the month so far! Really good concise statement Walter. Nailed it. There is only one “single” answer for health care.

  • David Dudley

    “They’re in trouble because the American people are catching on as to what a disaster this is,” Sanders said to cheers. “Donald Trump is learning how complicated health care is.”

    I think that we (the people) might actually get to read this bill before it passes to know whats in it……..Just saying.

    • walter carpenter

      “I think that we (the people) might actually get to read this bill before it passes to know whats in it……..Just saying.”

      Don’t be too sure of that and also don’t be too sure that it will help you in any way

  • Jay Eshelman

    “George Karabakakis, CEO of Health Care and Rehabilitation Services, told Sanders that there is a crisis in Vermont of people suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues, homelessness and poverty. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act, he said, would make it worse.”

    What came first, the chicken or the egg? HCRS has been expanding its social services for decades and still, the suffering gets worse. Has anyone considered that the social services industry sees mental health and substance abuse issues, homelessness and poverty as a business growth opportunity benefiting its administrators, employees and subcontractors? If HCRS and others were actually successful in their endeavors, wouldn’t we need their services less and less over time?

    There’s no need to explain the obvious. We know there’s a problem. Tell us how your services are going to start eliminating the problem and when you expect to complete the process. If you can’t do that, perhaps we should invest our money elsewhere.

    • Phil Greenleaf

      In response to criticism of social service agendas:

      Perhaps, as Jay E suggested in one comment, investing elsewhere is exactly the current Republican plan (just as it was in the 80’s).

      The strong message coming from the right is we need healthcare that affirms our capitalist ideology, excludes millions from any participation in a risk pool (which is what capitalist insurance is founded upon) and bows once again to the product mentality of the pharmaceutical corporations. The proposed result of this timeless American ideology should be a “product” that Americans just can’t wait to buy. What do we know about this theory historically? 2 things primarily: 1) Initially the product will only be independently consumed by the affluent 2) that eventually competition can make for a market saturated with cheap, but ultimately outdated and throw away goods.

      Using this outcome predictability in healthcare pretty much assures that the system always works for some (no matter what), never provides much of any quality for the vast majority, but makes a massive profit for the producers. Expecting “results”, if we realize the fallacy of merging health and capitalism, and fail to change, is really more of a critique of the systems or national leaders that refuse to provide proper funding than any of the providers that try to manage with marginal budgets (executive pay issues are another matter – problematic, but not even close to the amounts we really need to spend to get it right). Healthcare and insurance systems cannot, by definition, provide sustainable cutting edge care using this model – but they sure can turn a profit.

      So what is the alternative investment most adherents to monotheistic capitalism recommend? Not much of an alternative at all – it’s the status quo (pHARMA and Private Insurance) – A recipe for generalized economic stress due in large part to uninsured emergency room use and the problem of recapturing costs.

      Jay E seems to argue that repeal of ACA is a type of alternative investment connected to a proposed failure of entities like HCRS. As he suggests, social services (like medical care) are not really designed to fade – and that’s not a bad thing. Without HCRS and other mental health and addiction programs the societal impact would be far worse because the burden would fall to hospitals and the issues that lead to homelessness would again go unaddressed. Karabakakis is stating that there is an ongoing crisis that is exacerbated by financial inability to provide truly comprehensive services. If we made it a national commitment to provide cutting edge care and programming in Mental health, addiction and employment services, instead of senseless billion dollar military actions, we might not hear reports of crisis.

      The idea that we should de-fund social services unless there is proof we will one day be free from drug abuse (or for that matter immigration issues or terror) is simply unenlightened. Using this philosophy we would eliminate all non-surgical physicians, entrust early education and childcare only to families or cults, automate all transactional services, abolish trash services and recycling, etc, etc – all because we can’t “eliminate the problem” with a contract end date. That just isn’t how these services work. The process of social services will not be complete and it is a disturbing utopian vision that leads to the imagination that they should or could.

      The commenters unleashing venom on Bernie would do well to realize that self-satisfied status and moral indignation comes about in large part because the antiquated mono-capitalist system has built absurd expectations and conflated economics with human health care. What we can say for sure is that the chronic fundamental economic inequities in our current system are a perfect predictor of how societal backlashes will identify the vulnerable, and prolong suffering in the name of “the market”.

  • How many students in attendance were from Burlington College?

  • Stanley Wood

    Did anyone ask Bernie if he was going to pay his fair share of taxes, Like Pres. Trump did? On health care is he willing to work with the republicans to make the healthcare bill better, or is he just going to be an obstructionist like most of the democrats are being and have said they will be.

  • Phil Greenleaf

    In response to criticism of social service agendas:

    Perhaps, as Jay E suggested in one comment, investing elsewhere is exactly the current Republican plan (just as it was in the 80’s).

    The strong message coming from the right is we need healthcare that affirms our capitalist ideology, excludes millions from any participation in a risk pool (which is what capitalist insurance is founded upon) and bows once again to the product mentality of the pharmaceutical corporations. The proposed result of this timeless American ideology should be a “product” that Americans just can’t wait to buy. What do we know about this theory historically? 2 things primarily: 1) Initially the product will only be independently consumed by the affluent 2) that eventually competition can make for a market saturated with cheap, but ultimately outdated and throw away goods.

    Using this outcome predictability in healthcare pretty much assures that the system always works for some (no matter what), never provides much of any quality for the vast majority, but makes a massive profit for the producers. Expecting “results”, if we realize the fallacy of merging health and capitalism, and fail to change, is really more of a critique of the systems or national leaders that refuse to provide proper funding than any of the providers that try to manage with marginal budgets (executive pay issues are another matter – problematic, but not even close to the amounts we really need to spend to get it right). Healthcare and insurance systems cannot, by definition, provide sustainable cutting edge care using this model – but they sure can turn a profit.

    So what is the alternative investment most adherents to monotheistic capitalism recommend? Not much of an alternative at all – it’s the status quo (pHARMA and Private Insurance) – A recipe for generalized economic stress due in large part to uninsured emergency room use and the problem of recapturing costs.

    Jay E seems to argue that repeal of ACA is a type of alternative investment connected to a proposed failure of entities like HCRS. As he suggests, social services (like medical care) are not really designed to fade – and that’s not a bad thing. Without HCRS and other mental health and addiction programs the societal impact would be far worse because the burden would fall to hospitals and the issues that lead to homelessness would again go unaddressed. Karabakakis is stating that there is an ongoing crisis that is exacerbated by financial inability to provide truly comprehensive services. If we made it a national commitment to provide cutting edge care and programming in Mental health, addiction and employment services, instead of senseless billion dollar military actions, we might not hear reports of crisis.

    The idea that we should de-fund social services unless there is proof we will one day be free from drug abuse (or for that matter immigration issues or terror) is simply unenlightened. Using this philosophy we would eliminate all non-surgical physicians, entrust early education and childcare only to families or cults, automate all transactional services, abolish trash services and recycling, etc, etc – all because we can’t “eliminate the problem” with a contract end date. That just isn’t how these services work. The process of social services will not be complete and it is a disturbing utopian vision that leads to the imagination that they should or could.

    The commenters unleashing venom on Bernie would do well to realize that self-satisfied status and moral indignation comes about in large part because the antiquated mono-capitalist system has built absurd expectations and conflated economics with human health care. What we can say for sure is that the chronic fundamental economic inequities in our current system are a perfect predictor of how societal backlashes will identify the vulnerable, and prolong suffering in the name of “the market”.