On a beautiful day at Burnett Park in downtown Fort Worth, hundreds of people came out around lunchtime to rally for presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Vendors sold Bernie 2020 t-shirts with tie-dye and Star Wars themes as well as silhouettes of the Vermont senator’s wild hair and glasses. Some attendees carried signs and pins for marijuana legalization and the impeachment of President Trump. A few signs even contained expletives aimed at the president in Spanish.
Sanders lambasted President Trump as a “pathological liar and a fraud,” and used a portion of his speech to defend recent statements he made at a CNN town hall in support of felons, including the Boston Marathon bomber, being able to vote. Sanders also painted Republicans as afraid to run on their principles, which he characterized as cutting Social Security, cutting Medicare, cutting Medicaid, and providing tax breaks to billionaires.
However, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published last year, healthcare expert Chris Jacobs noted that the Vermont presidential contender’s own “Medicare for All” legislation would remove the vast majority of Americans from their existing coverage as part of the transition to a government-run, single-payer system. This would impact the nearly 50 percent of Americans on employer-provided plans and those currently enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare.
Ryan, 28, a native of Sachse, Texas works as a financial analyst for a healthcare company in the Dallas area and proudly considers himself a socialist. When asked about Sen. Sanders’ socialist label, he responded, “I know America is not 100 percent ready for full socialism, but I do think there are a lot of ideas coming out of here that should be implemented. We’re a first-world nation with almost a third-world healthcare system, it’s horrific.”
Proponents of government-run healthcare routinely criticize a perceived lack of taxpayer-funded coverage and services as a reason for rising costs.
Sanders stated on Thursday that, “People are going bankrupt when they go into a hospital, and at the end of all of that, we end up spending twice as much per capita on healthcare than the people of any other nation.”
Government spending on healthcare has indeed increased steadily over the decades. According to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), total healthcare spending stood at $3.5 trillion in 2017. At the time, that number equated to 18 percent of America’s gross domestic product.
A 2017 report from the federal Department of Health and Human Services verifies what Republican critics have long claimed regarding recent cost increases. Namely, that Obamacare’s health insurance regulations are a significant reason that premiums have doubled on average since that law’s implementation in October of 2013.
Nevertheless, hardcore supporters of Sanders’ policies were present and eager to defend their candidate and his positions.
Michael Perry, 25, from Crowley, Texas said he first started supporting Bernie Sanders in 2015 when he was still in college. “Several of his ideas struck a chord with me, including the idea that humanity as a whole is something we need to be concerned about…humanity as a whole and not just specific groups.”
Regarding Bernie’s controversial comments on allowing criminals to vote from prison, Michael said he sided with the candidate.
“The people in prison are minorities, so it’s a form of voter disenfranchisement when you don’t allow them to vote.”
However, not everyone in attendance at the rally supported Sanders’ message.
Nicholas Davilla, 19, also from Fort Worth, attended to hear what the Senator had to say, but shared his belief that “the socialist idea is incompatible with what we have going on here in Texas.”
When asked about Bernie’s remarks on allowing criminals to vote, Davilla said, “You weren’t born a criminal, you weren’t born into incarceration…once you commit a crime, you are no longer a full citizen, you have now placed yourself in debt to society or another person.”
Anthony, 19, was participating in a peaceful protest adjacent to the rally. The young TCU student criticized the Vermont senator’s support for “Medicare for All.”
“The issue with socialized medicine is simply cost,” he said. “His proposal, we looked at the figures, would cost around $32 trillion…simply put, even if we double taxes on low-income and middle-income families, we wouldn’t be able to pay for his proposals.”
Sen. Sanders is currently eligible for the first debate stage in Miami, FL on June 26 and 27.
He has raised $18.2 million from 525,000 donors and is currently polling at 24 percent with Democrat primary voters according to the latest Morning Consult poll.
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