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April 17, 2017, 07:41:44 AM

Bernie Sanders Visits McDowell County, West Virginia

May 6, 2016 - 11:26 AM

Senator Bernie Sanders

KIMBALL, W. Va. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday came to McDowell County, West Virginia, for a meeting with people from nearby towns and hollows who gathered at a food bank in one of the worst pockets of poverty in the United States.

“What is strange about what goes on in America is that we are the wealthiest country in the history of the world,” Sanders told more than 250 people at the Five Loaves & Two Fishes Food Bank.

He pointed to mounting wealth and income inequality nationwide. In West Virginia, while the top 1 percent saw incomes rise more than 60 percent from 1979 to 2012, incomes for everyone else fell by 0.4 percent. He also said 22 percent of American children live in poverty, including about 100,000 in West Virginia.

“What poverty is about is dealing with the stress of whether or not your family is going to make it every single week,” Sanders said. “When you don’t have any money you’re fighting for your survival every single day.”

The senator also cited studies showing how poverty cuts lives short. Here in McDowell County, where suicides and drug overdoses are leading causes of death, men live to be only 64 on average. Women typically live to be 73. That’s a sharp contrast to Fairfax County, Virginia, only a six-hour car ride away, where the average lifespan for a man is 82 and a woman is 85.

Sanders has outlined an agenda to address poverty in America. He would expand Medicare to cover all Americans, raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour, ensure pay equity for women and make public colleges and universities tuition free.

He also called for a major investment in rebuilding roads and bridges to create jobs. More than 1,500 bridges in West Virginia, 22 percent, are functionally obsolete. Sanders would invest $1 trillion in rebuilding roads and bridges. Paid for by closing tax loopholes that let profitable corporations evade taxes, Sanders’ legislation would create at least 13 million jobs.

He also said job-killing trade policies have thrown West Virginia workers out of their jobs. Since passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and permanent normal trade relations with China, West Virginia has lost more than 30,000 manufacturing jobs. Sanders has also introduced a $41 billion plan to transition coal workers into new industries that pay a living wage and to rebuild communities that have been dependent on the fossil fuel industry.

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