READING, Pa. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday talked about jobs and unfair trade deals as he returned to the campaign trail in Pennsylvania ahead of next Tuesday’s primaries here and in four other Atlantic coast states.
He also split with Clinton over her support on Wednesday for a regressive tax on soft drinks, juice drinks, sports drinks and teas.
During his speech to more than 2,600 supporters at the Santander Performing Arts Center, Sanders detailed differences with Clinton on issues ranging from health care to the environment and from the minimum wage to college affordability.
One key difference he detailed was on trade policies that have destroyed decent-paying jobs in the United States. “We have seen the middle class of this country decline,” Sanders told more than 2,600 supporters at the Santander Performing Arts Center.
Sanders led the fight in Congress against the North American Free Trade Agreement and other job-killing trade pacts that Clinton supported. Pennsylvania was especially hard hit by a manufacturing decline in the past 15 years that saw 60,000 factories and almost 5 million jobs disappear as companies moved operations to low-wage countries overseas.
Hershey in 2009 shut its York Peppermint Patties plant here and 300 jobs were shifted to Monterey, Mexico where workers are paid a fraction of what they were paid in Pennsylvania. Sony in 2008 closed the last TV manufacturing plant in the U.S. in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, destroying 560 Pennsylvania jobs when the plant was moved to Baja, Mexico.
Campaign funding was another major difference with Clinton. Sanders on Wednesday reported raising a record $46 million last month, mostly in donations averaging about $27 apiece. Clinton raised $19 million in her traditional campaign fund last month and another $11.8 million for a super PAC, Priorities USA Action, which is funded by wealthy donors and special interests.
Turning to immigration policy, Sanders spoke out on a local issue. “It is time to shut down the Berks Family Detention Center,” he said. “The government should not be in the painful and inhumane business of locking up families who have fled unspeakable violence in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and other countries throughout the world. Instead, we should treat these families with the compassion, the dignity and the respect they deserve.”
The rally here followed a stop earlier Thursday in Scranton. The Vermont senator was headed later for an event in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Meanwhile, Sanders spoke out on a proposal by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney to provide universal pre-school for all 4-year olds in Philadelphia.
“Making sure that every family has high quality, affordable pre-school and childcare is a vision that I strongly share. On the other hand, I do not support paying for this proposal through a regressive tax on soda and juice drinks that will significantly increase taxes on low-income and middle class Americans,” Sanders said in a statement. “At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, it should be the people on top who see an increase in their taxes, not low-income and working people.”
Sanders also chided Clinton for supporting the soda tax. “Frankly, I am very surprised that Secretary Clinton would support this regressive tax after pledging not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000. This proposal clearly violates her pledge. A tax on soda and juice drinks would disproportionately increase taxes on low-income families in Philadelphia.”