MCALLEN, Texas – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders was in the Rio Grande Valley this past weekend to support Texas Congressional District 15 candidate Michelle Vallejo.

Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, participated in a rally at the Cine El Rey in McAllen, and then went block-walking with Vallejo.

At the rally, Sanders spoke about access to healthcare in America, education policy, climate change, sustaining a democracy, wealth inequality, inflation, and federal spending.

Here are his remarks in full:

“Here is the story and it’s not complicated. What politics is all about is which side are you on. You could be on the side of billionaires who want more tax breaks or you can be on the side of a working people who want a decent life. 

“And this is what this campaign here is about and what it’s about nationally. 

“Now, whether you live in Vermont, and I’m going to be back in Vermont tonight with my heavy coat on, or whether you live in McAllen, in many ways the issues are exactly the same. 

“And what are the issues? The issues are if you work 40 hours a week, you deserve a living wage. Raise the minimum wage. The issue is, if you are a worker who wants to join a union, you should be able to do.

“And I will tell you what the other issue is here. And that is that health care is a human right, not a preference. Brothers and sisters, all over the world health care is considered a right guaranteed to all people. And yet in the United States we spend twice as much per person on health care. And we have 85 million Americans, including many in this room, who are uninsured or underinsured. The object of health care is not to provide billions in profits for the insurance companies. It is to guarantee health care to all people.

“It is not a radical idea. I live 60 miles away from the Canadian border. In Canada, if you end up in the hospital for three weeks with a major operation, do you know what the bill is when you leave? Zero. You go to the doctor you don’t have to take out of your wallet. Healthcare is available to all. That is the case in many countries all over the world. We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world. If other countries can guarantee health care to all people so can United States.

“It is not just health care. It is the high cost of prescription drugs. You’ve got a pharmaceutical industry that is is ripping off the American people, charging us in some cases ten times more for the medicine that we need. Michelle is going to join me and have the guts to take on the drug companies.

“And then there is the issue of education. Let me say a word on this. We live, as all of you know, in a very competitive global economy. That’s the fact. Now 30 or 40 years ago when I was a kid, if you had a high school degree, that was good enough. You could go out and get yourself a decent job, you could make it to the middle class. In many cases that is not the reality today. Our people need a higher education in order to deal with the advanced technology that is taking place.

“In America today, we’ve got hundreds of thousands of bright young people who want to get a higher education, they want to go to a trade school, they want to advance themselves to make it into the middle class. But they’re scared to death when they leave school they’ll be $50,000 in debt. That is not what America is supposed to be about. I grew up in a family that had no money. I lived at a rent controlled apartment. And back then, believe it or not, there were public colleges and universities that were tuition free, some of the best in America. If 50 years ago we had public colleges and universities tuition free we can do it today. And that is what Michelle believes and I believe.

“A word about another issue. That is a terrible issue and nobody has a magic solution. What the scientists tell us and you know this right down here, is that if we do not get a handle on climate change the planet, the country, the state that your kids and your grandchildren will be living in will become increasingly unhealthy and uninhabitable. There will be more drought, more flooding, more extreme weather disturbances, more migration because people all over the world are not going to have clean water to drink. They’re not going to be able to grow their crops. They’re going to be dealing with drought. We have a moral responsibility to transform our energy system. And when we do that we create millions of good paying jobs.

“There’s another reason out there which maybe is the most important of many other issues. And that is we have right wing extremists in this country led by Donald Trump who are trying to undermine American democracy. Now here in Texas and in my state of Vermont, you have thousands and thousands of men and women who put their lives on the line and sometimes die to say that America will remain a democracy not an authoritarian society. We will not allow Trump and his friends to undermine our democracy.

“Now I don’t have tell anybody here the nature of the economy in America today. You’ve got two different economies. On one hand, you have the people on top who have never done better in the history of America. We now have more income and wealth inequality than we have ever had. Three people in America now own more wealth than the bottom half of American society. Can you believe that? 

“During this terrible pandemic which has taken over one million lives in our country, millions and millions of people got sick, tens of thousands of workers died because they had to go to work. They didn’t have a choice about whether they would sit at home or in their office with their fancy computer. They had to go into a hospital. We lost 5,000 nurses that had to work; that had to work in a warehouse in to order to run a meat packing plant, that had to work with people that were next to them. Tens of thousands died because they didn’t have any choice. They had to be there for their families and at the same time as workers died, the billionaire class saw a $2 trillion increase in their wealth. 

“If you are a worker in America today for a large corporation, know that the CEO of that corporation is earning 400 times what the worker is earning. As a result of inflation, many working people are falling further and further behind. 

“And I want to say a word about this inflation because Republicans are going around and they’re saying inflation is a serious problem. It is. A lot of people are hurting, gas prices, food prices, drug prices, whatever it may be. What they don’t tell you is what the causes of inflation are. They want to blame Joe Biden, they want to blame Bernie Sanders for inflation. Well, we have got to explain basic economics 101 to them. That is, inflation is not just an American issue. In the United Kingdom, inflation is 10 percent, two points higher than it is in America. In Europe it is 11%. We’re at 8%. The causes of inflation are the pandemic and the breakdown of supply change, raising prices. The causes of inflation are the terrible, terrible war, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and all that that has done. 

“But, there is another cause of inflation which Republicans in a million years will never talk about. A major cause of inflation today, the reason why prices at the gas pump, in the grocery store, are soaring is because of corporate greed. If you want to know why you’re paying high prices at the gas pump, ask Exxon Mobil who are enjoying record breaking profits right now. If you want to know why food prices are high ask the major food companies who have jacked up their prices to unconscionable levels. And the pharmaceutical industry. 

“Think about the morality of the issue. We live in a moment because of this pandemic (where there is) a lot of instability in the country. A lot of uncertainty. People are hurting. You have the war in Ukraine. You have a breakdown of supply chains, and what corporate America is saying is not how can we help working people? How can we lower prices in this country to make things more affordable? What they are saying – the guy from ExxonMobil is pretty honest about it – is, this is an opportunity to raise prices as high as we can. And what we say is that is immoral, it is wrong and that is why we are going to impose a windfall profits tax.

“Republicans go around and they say the cause of inflation is the large amount of federal spending with the American Rescue Plan. And as the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, I helped write that bill. I want you all to think back a few years ago. We were a country without vaccines. Thousands of people every day were dying. People by the millions were losing their jobs. Remember that? What the President of United States and what Congress did, without one Republican vote… what we said is, you know what, when working people are struggling and hunger in America is on the rise, when people are worried about being evicted from their apartments because they can’t afford to pay the rent, you know what? Yes, we will provide $1,400 for every man, woman and child in this country. And I don’t apologize for that. And not one Republican voted for that. 

“And when millions of people because of the pandemic lost their jobs, remember that? Unemployment went off the chart. We said, yes, we’re going to extend unemployment benefits. And, when working moms and dads were unable to provide for their kids, we said yes, we are going to provide a $300 a month child tax credit. And when some hospitals in America were on the verge of collapse, because so many COVID patients were entering and their doctors were getting sick and the nurses were getting sick, we said yes, we’re gonna spend billions to help hospitals care for their patients. And we’re gonna help universities and public schools survive the pandemic. I apologize to no one.

“That is what government does. What the government says is, when people are hurting, we are in this together. And the President and Congress did the right thing without one Republican vote. 

“Now that was an expensive bill. I don’t deny it. It was $1.9 trillion. That’s a lot of money. But let me tell you what the Republicans had in mind because their vision is a little bit different. They don’t want to help working parents. They don’t want to make it easier for kids to go to college. They don’t want to guarantee healthcare to all people. They’ve got a different plan. And their plan is to repeal the estate tax which applies to the top one tenth of one percent. It would give a $60 billion tax break to Elon Musk. 

“And in order to pay for this one and a half trillion dollar tax break they want to cut Social Security and Medicare. Under our proposal, under Michelle’s proposal, we say that at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, where the billionaires are doing better and better, they have more money than they can spend it in thousands of lifetimes… they’ve got so much money they’re literally buying rocket ships to go to the moon. And what Republicans want to do is give those greedy bastards tax breaks. Well, we don’t agree with that.

“We think that the rich should start paying their fair share of taxes. And we should use that money to improve lives for working families all over this country. 

“Now, right now, as you know, in the Senate it is a 50-50 tie. Democrats control because of the vice president. In the House Democrats have a very small majority. The vote right here in this district could determine which party controls the US. House of Representatives. And I think the choice is clear. The choice is whether we give more tax breaks to billionaires and cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and other needed programs or whether we stand up for the working class of this country.

“So, please do everything you can, to not only make sure that you all vote, but bring out your friends and your relatives and your uncles and aunts and everybody else. Bring them out. It’s going be a very, very close election. We desperately need Michelle in the Congress. Let’s go out. Let’s do it. Let’s win this thing.

“Thank you very much.”

Here is an audio recording of Sanders’ speech:


Editor’s Note: Credit for the main image accompanying the above news story goes to Imanol Miranda.

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