Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders passionately addressed a packed auditorium at the University of Virginia’s Old Cabell Hall that was left with standing room only on Thursday evening.
The visit was part of a tour promoting Sanders’ new book “It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism.”
“The book breaks through a lot of the irrelevant discussion that takes place regarding politics in America,” the senator, who identifies as a socialist but caucuses with Democrats, told his audience. “I wanted to tell the American people that politics is more than polls, it’s more than dumb things politicians say. … It is asking you, what you might think is an easy question, but it’s not. What’s going on in American life today? Who’s winning?”
“The rich,” the audience responded in unison.
“The rich,” Sanders agreed.
The senator’s book, released on Feb. 21, reiterates Sanders’ positions in favor of income equality, inflation control, eliminating student loan debt, increasing taxes on billionaires and major corporations, limiting artificial intelligence and job automation and supporting local news to prevent news deserts.
Larry Sabato, director at UVa’s Center for Politics, introduced the free ticketed event by calling Sanders a “very consistent” politician who has been focused on serving the shrinking middle class and addressing the growing income and wealth gap that exists in the United States.
Sabato also said tickets for the Thursday night event sold out within 30 minutes of being posted on the Center for Politics website.
“What other elected official could do that?” he asked the audience.
UVa students were lined up outside of Old Cabell Hall as early as 4 p.m. to get the best seats in the house – and the best views of Sanders. Several younger attendees seated in the first few rows of the lecture hall were wearing shirts that said “Bernie Sanders” in rainbow lettering and “I Love Bernie.”
Sanders told the students, most of whom will enter the workforce in just a few years, that he is concerned that artificial intelligence will automate thousands of jobs out of the market while consistent increase in inflation will prevent them from earning their worth.
“The weekly average wage for an American worker today, in real inflation-adjusted dollars, is lower than it was 50 years ago,” Sanders said. “Think about the explosion in technology. People are much more productive than they used to be, yet the average worker’s weekly income today is less than it was 50 years ago. In the richest country in the history of the world, over 60% of our people are living paycheck to paycheck.”
Sanders used similar logic to explain why universal health care and student loan debt are feasible and “not radical” plans to help U.S. citizens cut costs.
With 16 years in the House of Representatives and 17 years in the U.S. Senate under his belt, Sanders is the longest-serving independent member of Congress in U.S. history.
Today, Sanders serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and was tapped by Senate leadership to chair its Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He also serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee, where he is focused on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. As a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sanders said he and other committee members are dedicated to supporting more efforts to convert the country’s fossil fuel energy system to a renewable one.
Sanders will continue his book tour, with stops in Dallas and California this weekend and into next week.
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