Targeting wealth inequality and the climate change crisis, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed a large crowd at Fresno City College Friday amid a sea of “Bernie” signs and episodic chants of his first name.
Sanders spoke about a litany of proposals his administration would support including health care as a human right, free college education, the legalization of marijuana in every state, expunging the records of people arrested for marijuana crimes and erasing student debt.
He called the huge gaps in levels of income and wealth in the United States obscene.
“It is not acceptable to me, or you, that three people in America own more wealth than the bottom half of American society,” he said as the crowd cheered.
He said that he would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
“In America, the wealthiest country on earth, if you work 40 hours a week you should not live in poverty,” he said.
But his biggest focus for the evening was climate change. It’s not just a California issue, he said, and it’s not just an American issue. “It is a global issue and that is the crisis and emergency that we face,” he said.
He said that climate change deniers are not only threatening the planet, but the well-being of their own children and grandchildren and future generations.
And he made a swipe at President Donald Trump. “We have a global crisis and it is a disgrace that we have a President who doesn’t understand the first thing about climate change,” he said. “Well we do. And we are going to listen to the scientists, not the politicians.”
He said the scientific community is virtually unanimous in saying that climate change is real.
“It is caused by human activity, it is already causing devastating problems all over the world. And what the scientists are now telling us is that they have underestimated the severity, and the speed at which climate change is causing harm all over the world.”
He also touted The Green New Deal, a proposal first introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, to reduce fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions. “Building on The Green New Deal, we have introduced the most comprehensive climate change proposal ever brought forward by any candidate for federal office,” he said promising to transform the energy system away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy like wind and solar. He said retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient would create millions of jobs.
After the rally, Lynn Swope, a retired nurse holding a Bernie sign, almost teared up talking about Sanders.
"I’ll tell you what, at 71, almost 72 years old, that’s the only man that never lied to me,” she said. “He’s the only man worth fighting for, and he’s fighting for us.”
She said she likes his Medicare for All plan. She said she has a child and a grandchild who are disabled and they can’t get health care. “I can’t leave this planet knowing they’ll never have the health care they deserve under this administration,” she said.
Ronnie Cassis, 23, said he found the speech empowering.
He said Sanders resonates with young people like him. “He welcomes you and he’s warm," he said. "He’s not snooty, snotty rich.”