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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders gives speech on the state of the working class

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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders delivers a speech on the "State of the Working Class" at the Capitol Visitor's Center in Washington D.C.

Independent Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is known for his advocacy for low-and-middle-income Americans. On Tuesday he gave a speech in Washington on the state of the working class.

Now Vermont’s senior senator, Sanders began by noting that he was speaking just after the nation commemorated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and with Congress beginning the new term, prompting Sanders to pose two foundational questions.

“What is everyday life like today for the vast majority of our people? And that is the working class of this country, the middle class of this country and lower income Americans. What are the pains? What are the struggles and the hopes that theses millions and millions of people are striving for? That’s question one. Question two: what is Congress going to do to improve life for working families?”

Sanders, an independent who usually caucuses with the Democrats, will serve as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. His speech reflected themes he highlighted in two presidential runs regarding wealth and inequality.

"When we talk about the state of our economy what you will find is that the economy is doing extraordinarily well. It’s doing fantastically – for the people on top, for the billionaire class. Unfortunately, the economy is not doing so well for the working class of our country when we have tens of millions of families falling further and further behind as they struggle to pay their bills, take care of their kids and put food on the table.”

Sanders assessed current and potential implications for policies and what he believes voters expect from the committee.

“The American people want us to substantially lower prescription drug prices. And the American people, regardless of their politics, want universal and lower cost health care. And they want high quality and affordable public education from childcare to graduate school. The American people want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. And these are just a few of the issues within the jurisdiction of the Health, Education and Labor Committee that a strong majority of the American people want us to address.”

Sanders told the audience the issues he highlighted must be discussed in every community across the country.

“I intend to see that our committee gets around this country to hear directly from workers about the struggles that they face on their jobs. I look forward to hearing from seniors who cannot afford the outrageously high health care costs which they face every day. I look forward to hearing from young people around the country who want the opportunity to get a decent education but don’t want to leave school deeply in debt. And I look forward to hearing from parents who want high quality and affordable childcare.”

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