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Super PACs, Paid Speeches & Living Wages: Take In Sanders' Full Pittsburgh Stump

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders waves to a packed crowd at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday, March 31, 2016.

Bernie Sanders addressed a crowd of more than 8,000 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on Thursday, March 30, 2016. 

This is the full, unedited recording.



Thank you, Pittsburgh! (audience chants Bernie-Bernie-Bernie)

What a turnout, thank you so much.

What an extraordinary turnout, I want to thank everybody for being here. I want to thank Alex Austin, I wanna thank Scott (indistinguishable name) with United Electrical Workers, (indistinguishable name) with the Steel Workers, and Mike Smith and Ryan Gaines who are with the Steelworkers as well.

Let me begin by introducing myself to the people of Pennsylvania, 'cause I think a lot of folks don't know who Bernie Sanders is. I am senator from the state of Vermont. (audience cheers) I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. (audience cheers) My father came to this country at the age of 17 from Poland. (audience cheers) And I grew up in Brooklyn in three-and-a-half room rent-controlled apartment. And like millions of other families throughout this country, I grew up in a home that did not have a lot of money. We struggled economically. And the lessons that I learned growing up about what it means to live in a family that has to struggle everyday economically is a lesson I have never forgotten and never will forget. (audience cheers)

We began this campaign eleven months ago, and when we began it our campaign was considered to be fringe. Not a serious campaign. (audience boos) Well, a lot has changed in 11 months. (audience cheers) In the last two weeks we have won six out of the last seven caucuses. (audience cheers) And we won them all by landslide victories. We started this campaign at 3 percent in the polls, 60 points behind. Secretary Clinton - a poll came out last week, a national poll, had us one point up. (audience cheers) We are fighting hard. In Wisconsin, which has their primary on Tuesday; then to New York; and then, on April 26, here in Pennsylvania. And with your support on April 26, and a large turnout, we're gonna win here in Pennsylvania. (audience cheers)

Now, I have been criticized for a lot of things in this campaign. And one of the criticisms thrown at me is, "well, Bernie Sanders can't win in a general election. Can't defeat a Republican." (audience boos) CNN poll, last week, Hillary Clinton did very well. She was beating Donald Trump by 12 points. We were beating him by 20 points. (audience cheers)

And that is true. That is true of virtually every national poll that has been taken in the last several months. It's the same thing in battleground states. Poll taken just the other day in Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton beat Trump by 10 points, not bad. We beat him by 19 points. (audience cheers)

And we are doing better against other Republican candidates than she is. Not only can we win the Democratic nomination. We can win, with your support, the general election. (audience cheers)

Let me take a moment to talk about some of the very serious differences that Secretary Clinton and I have. Number one, it is important to know how people raise money for their campaigns. (audience cheers)

When we began this campaign way back when, we had to make a decision. Do we establish, like every other campaign, a super PAC and beg billionaires for campaign contributions. (audience boos)

That's exactly what we concluded. (audience cheers) We have done it a different way. We have gone to the working class and the middle class and said, "we will stand with you if you stand with us." (audience cheers)

And in 11 months we have received over 6 million individual campaign contributions. (audience cheers)

That is more contributions than any candidate in the history of the United States of America. (audience cheers) Anyone know what the average contribution is? Try $27. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, this is a campaign of the people, (audience joins in) by the people, and for the people.

Secretary Clinton has chosen another approach. She has several super PACS. In the last reporting period, her largest super PAC reported raising $25 million from special interests. $15 million from Wall Street. (audience boos)

The Secretary has also given, as you may know, speeches behind closed doors in Wall Street for 250 thousand bucks - a speech! You know, I think - I think, that if you get paid $250 thousand dollars a speech it must be an extraordinary, mind-blowing, earth-shattering speech. It must be a speech that reveals all kinds of truths. It must be a speech written in Shakespearean prose. (audience cheers)

And that is why I think the Secretary should release that speech to the whole world.

Now Secretary Clinton says, well, she is prepared to release those transcripts if other candidates release their transcripts. So I have here this morning, a major announcement to make in Pittsburgh. I am announcing that I will release all of the transcripts of all of the speeches that I have given to Wall Street. Are you ready? Here they are. (holds out empty hands, audience cheers)

No transcripts, no speeches. Not for $250 thousand, not for $2 thousand, not for $2. I just don't know why Wall Street has not invited me to speak before them. I've got my cell phone on, I'm waiting for the call. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I would tell them that their greed, their recklessness, and their illegal behavior has - (audience cheers) has done enormous harm to millions of people in this country. (audience cheers)

And maybe I will tell them that we bail them out because the big banks were too big to fail, but three out of the four largest banks today are bigger than they were when we bailed them out because they were too big to fail. (audience boos)

And maybe I would tell them that when financial institutions like Goldman Sachs reach a settlement with the government for $5 billion because of their illegal activities, maybe some of their executives might face criminal justice charges. (audience cheers)

And maybe I might tell them that we have to reestablish Glass-Steagall legislation. (audience cheers) And most importantly, when so few financial institutions have so much economic and political power, we are going to break them up.

Maybe that's why they haven't invited me to speak to Wall Street, I don't know.

Now, Secretary Clinton and I also have a very very different perspective on trade. And you've heard some of the folks from the United Electrical Workers and the Steel Workers talk about what trade and our disastrous trade policies have done to working people in this country. When I came to Congress in the early 1990s, I didn't need a PhD to understand that these trade policies were written by corporate America for one very simple purpose. And that purpose was to not have to pay workers in this country a living wage. The purpose of these trade agreements was to enable them to shut down factories in Pennsylvania, in Vermont, and all over this country and move to low-wage countries where they pay people pennies an hour and don't have to deal with unions or obey environmental regulations. (audience boos)

That was the purpose of those trade agreements and that is exactly what has happened over the last 30 years. We have lost, since 2001, almost 60 thousand factories in this country and millions of decent-paying jobs. There was once a time when people could get a job in manufacturing, earn good wages, good health care, decent pensions. Those jobs, increasingly, are gone and the new jobs are McDonald's and Burger King.

Let me just give you a very few, very few examples of how our disastrous trade policies have impacted impact the people of Pennsylvania. 2013, General Electric announced that it would eliminating 950 jobs at its Pennsylvania locomotive plant in Erie, moving many of those jobs to Mexico (audience boos). Last year, Allegheny Technologies shut down two steel plants in Western Pennsylvania, laying off 600 workers, moving to China. (audience boos) 2009, Hershey shut down its York peppermint patties plant in Redding, destroying 300 jobs and moved that plant to Monterrey, Mexico where workers are paid a fraction of the wages that workers here were paid. In 2008, Sony closed the last TV manufacturing plant in America in Westmoreland, destroying 560 jobs and moved that plant to Baja, Mexico. (audience boos) And on and on it goes.

I have opposed, from day one in Congress, every one of these disastrous trade agreements. (audience cheers)

Secretary Clinton has supported virtually every one of these disastrous trade agreements. Now, my message to corporate America is, "your greed is going to end. (audience cheers)

"You're not going to continue to de-industrialize the United States of America. You are not going to continue to shut down plants here and move to cheap labor abroad. You are not going to cut the wages and benefits of American workers and give CEO's huge compensation packages. (audience cheers) Together, we are going to create and economy that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent. (audience cheers)
Then there's another issue that Secretary Clinton and I have disagreed on. All of you know that foreign policy and military policy is one of the very important things that a president does. Back in 2002 I was in the House. Secretary Clinton was then the senator from New York. And we both heard from President Bush and Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld - (audience boos) both heard about the need to go into Iraq. Well, I listened very carefully to what they said; I didn't believe them, I voted against the war in Iraq. (audience cheers)

Secretary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq. And let me just say this, I know it is very easy for politicians, especially Republicans, to really talk tough about war, war in this country, war in that country. In my view, we must destroy ISIS, which is a barbaric organization. But we can and must do it without sending our brave men and women in the military into perpetual warfare in the Middle East. (audience cheers, chants Bernie-Bernie-Bernie)

No more stupid wars that our young people die for. (audience cheers)

And it is very easy, very easy for politicians to give rabble-rousing speeches about the need to go to war. Because it is not their kids who are going to war, it's your kids. (audience cheers)

And by the way, while some of these guys talk big about war and sending our young people off to get killed and mutilated, they sometimes forget about those people when they come home as our veterans. (audience cheers) And that's something we will never do. We will stand with the veterans.

This campaign is doing so well because we are doing something unusual in American politics. We are treating the American people as if they were intelligent human beings. (audience cheers) And we are telling them the truth even if it's a hard truth. (audience cheers)

Truth is not necessarily pleasant. Not in our personal lives, not in our political lives, but you cannot go forward unless we address the real crises facing this country. (audience cheers)

Crisis number one: Today we have a campaign finance system which is corrupt and is undermining American democracy. (audience cheers) Democracy is not a complicated idea. You got a vote, and you got a vote, and you got a vote. Democracy is not about billionaires buying elections. When the Koch brothers and a handful of billionaires are gonna spend $900 million in this election cycle, that is not the democracy, that is oligarchy. We will not accept it (audience cheers). And that is why we are going to overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision. (audience cheers)

And when Republican governors all over this country are trying to suppress the vote, trying to make it harder for people of color - (audience boos) for low-income people, for elderly people, for young people to participate in the political process, we will stop them. (audience cheers)

And I say, and this really gets me. You know, I've run in a lot of elections, sometimes I've lost, sometimes I've won - that's democracy. But I really, really get outraged by Republican governors who do not have the guts to participate in free and fair elections. (audience cheers)

And I say to those Republican governors, if you don't have the guts to participate in an open and free elections, get out of politics, get another job. (audience cheers)

But it's not just a corrupt campaign finance system. It is a rigged economy. (audience cheers)

Here is what a rigged economy is about, you don't see this on TV too often, don't read about it in the newspapers. But this is what a rigged economy is about. It is about today, the top one tenth of 1percent now owning almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. (audience boos) It is about the wealthiest 20 people in this country owning more wealth that the bottom half of American, 150 million Americans. (audience boos) It is about the very very rich getting richer and almost everybody else getting poorer. It is about the Walton family, the wealthiest family in American owning more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of the American people. (audience boos) A rigged economy is when you have the Walton family, the owners of Walmart, paying wages to their employees that are so low that many of those workers have to go on Medicaid or food stamps. (audience boos) And you know who pays for those food stamps and Medicaid? You do. So I say to the Walton family, the wealthiest family in American, get off of welfare, pay your workers a living wage. (audience chants Bernie-Bernie-Bernie)

You know, it's a little bit stupid, it's a little bit stupid when struggling working class families have to subsidize the wealthiest family in American. We're gonna end that.

This campaign is listening to working people all over this country. And what workers are telling me is they cannot make it on $8, $9, $10 an hour. And that is why we're gonna raise the minimum wage to a living wage - $15 an hour. (audience cheers)

This campaign is listening to disabled veterans and senior citizens who cannot make it on $11, $12 thousand a year Social Security. Many of our Republican colleagues in the Senate, they wanna cut Social Security benefits (audience boos) ain't gonna happen, we're gonna expand Social Security benefits (audience cheers)

This campaign is listening to women. (audience cheers) And what women are saying is they are tired of working for 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. (audience cheers) And I know that every man here today will stand with the women in the fight for pay equity (audience cheers).

This campaign is listening to young people. (audience cheers) And what the young people are telling me, and what their parents are telling me is, why is it that with the huge increase in productivity and an expansion of technology, why is it unless we change this economy, the young generation today, for the first time in the modern history of America, will have a lower standard of living than their parents. (audience boos) That is the American dream in reverse, we will not allow that to happen. (audience cheers)

And young people, they say, "Bernie, our parents, our teachers, everybody said it's important that we get the best education that we can," (audience cheers) "That in a global economy,  we need the best educated workforce in the world." And then these young people are asking, why is it, after we did what we were supposed to do, we went out, we got a good education, why are we $50, $70 thousand in debt? (audience cheers) We should not be punishing people for getting an education. We should be rewarding them. (audience cheers)

You know, 50 years ago, high school degree - you got a high school degree, the likelihood is you were gonna go out and get a pretty good job, make it into the middle class. The economy has changed, technology has changed, people need more education today. And that's a fact. So in my view, in my view a college degree today is in many ways the equivalent of what a high school degree was 50 years ago. And therefore, when we look at public education - public education? Great! For decades, for 100 years, first grade through twelfth grade public education, free education - fantastic. But the world has changed, and in my view, when we talk about public education today, it must mean making public colleges and universities tuition-free. (audience cheers)

I want, you know I grew up in a family, my parents never went to college. I want every kid in Pittsburgh in the fourth grade, in the sixth grade, no matter what the income of their families may be - I want those kids to know that if they do their schoolwork well, if they take school seriously, yes, they will be able to go to college. (audience cheers)

And we have also got to substantially lower the level of student debt in this country. (audience cheers) That is why I believe that people with student debt should be able to refinance their loans at the lowest interest rates they can find. (audience cheers)

Now people say, now Bernie, you're Santa Claus, you're giving away all of these nice things - how are you gonna pay for it? Well, let me tell you exactly how we are going to pay for it. Eight years ago, after the greed, the recklessness, and the illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this economy into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, a downturn that millions of Americans have yet to recover from, Congress bailed them out. (audience boos)

I believe that now is the time to impose a tax on Wall Street speculation. (audience cheers) If we can bail Wall Street out, now it is Wall Street's time to help the working families of this country. (audience cheers)

All of you are aware of Republican running all over the country talking about family values - how much they love families. I want everybody here to know exactly what they mean. What they mean is that no woman in this huge room, in this, state, in this country should have the right to control her own body. I disagree. (audience cheers)

What Republican family values mean is that our gay brothers and sisters should not have the right to marry. I disagree. (audience cheers)

Now, I have been married - Jane and I have been married for 27 years, we're blessed with four great kids, seven beautiful grand kids. But when we talk about family values, it is a very different set of values than Republican family values. When we talk about family values, it is about ending the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee paid family and medical leave. (audience cheers)

That is a family value. Today, in Pennsylvania or Vermont, working class women are giving birth, but they will have to separate themselves from their beautiful newborn babies in one week, two weeks, three weeks because they have to go back to work to earn income to take care of the babies. (audience boos)

You're right. You are absolutely right. That is a total disgrace. And we will join the rest of the world, we're gonna pass three months paid family and medical leave. (audience cheers)

This campaign is listening to our brothers and sisters in the African American community. (audience cheers) And they are asking me, "how does it happen that we have trillions of dollars to fight a war in Iraq that we never should have gotten in, but somehow we don't have the money to re-build inner cities all over this country?" (audience cheers)

I was in Flint, Michigan about a month ago and honest to god, the discussion that I had with parents there is something I will never forget as long as I live. Talking to parents who have seen the cognitive capabilities of their children deteriorate over several years because their kids were drinking poisoned water. (audience boos)

But it is not only Flint, it is cities and communities all over this country. Water systems falling apart, waste water plants, educational systems, health care systems. We have got to get our priorities right. We can rebuild inner cities in America. (audience cheers)

I have been in African American communities where there is no grocery store. (audience boos) Where this is no bank branch, people have got to go to pay-day lenders and get ripped off, unbelievably. (audience boos)

We will change that, and when we rebuild inner city America, we create millions of jobs doing that. (audience cheers)

This campaign is listening to our brothers and sisters in the Latino community. (audience cheers) There are 11 million undocumented people in this country. Many of them are being exploited, living in fear, living in the shadows. They want, I want, comprehensive immigration reform and a path towards citizenship. (audience cheers)

This campaign is listening to the Native American community. (audience cheers) Native Americans have been lied to,they have been cheated, the treaties they negotiated have been abrogated from day one, that has got to change. (audience cheers)

I am a member of the US Senate committee on the environment. (audience cheers) I have talked to scientists throughout our country and throughout the world. Climate change is real, (audience cheers) climate change is causing devastating problems in our country and around the world. And climate change is caused by human activity. (audience cheers)

We have a moral responsibility to leave this plant in a way that is healthy and habitable for future generations. (audience cheers)

We have got to work with countries all over the world - China, Russia, India - all countries. Take on the fossil fuel industry, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainability. (audience chants Bernie-Bernie-Bernie)

 Every major country on earth - every major one - the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Scandinavia, Canada - every major country on earth guarantees health care to all of their people as a right. (audience cheers) Now, the Affordable Care Act, and I'm on the committee that helped write the Affordable Care Act, has done some very good things. We have done away and eliminated this obscenity called pre-existing conditions. (audience cheers) We have managed to keep young people up to 26 on their parents' plans. (audience cheers) We have added 17 million people to the ranks of the insured. (audience cheers) We have done away with discrimination against women who are paying too high prices for their healthcare premiums. (audience cheers)

But, this is an important "but". Today, 29 million Americans still have zero health insurance. Many of you who do have health insurance are under-insured with high co-payments and high deductibles, alright? And every person in this room and in this country is getting ripped off unconscionably by the drug companies who are charging us the highest prices. (audience cheers)

Drug companies who are charging us the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. You wanna hear about crazy? Crazy is one out of five Americans get a prescription from their doctors - they cannot afford to fill those prescriptions. That's crazy. (audience boos)

Crazy is elderly people in this country cutting their pills in half because they can't afford to buy the medicine they need.

Crazy is the top three drug companies last year made $45 billion dollars combined in profits. They make huge profits and people die in this country because they cannot afford the medicine they need.

Meanwhile, on top of all of that, we end up paying far more per capita for health care than do the people of any other country. Almost three times the British, 50 percent more than the French, far more than the Canadians. And that tells me that the time is long overdue to understand that in American we've got to recognize health care is a right of all people. (audience cheers)

And that is why we need a medicare for all, single-payer program. (audience cheers)

And that program will save middle class families thousands of dollars a year on their health care bills, save small and large businesses substantial sums of money, and will improve the health of all Americans. (audience cheers)

Now, everybody in this room knows that real change never takes place from the top on down, it always goes from the bottom on up. (audience cheers) Our brothers and sisters here in the trade union movement know that 100-plus years ago when workers had no, no power on the job at all. They're working seven days a week, 14 hours a day - they could be fired arbitrarily. That, in order to gain dignity on the job, millions of workers all over this country came together and they said, "we're not animals, we're human beings and we are going to form trade unions." (audience cheers)

And it is the trade union movement that has helped build the middle class of this country. (audience cheers) And if I have anything to say about it, we are gonna make it a lot easier for workers to join unions. (audience cheers)

All of you know that not just for the last 50 years, but for hundreds of years, African Americans and their allies came together - we don't know how many people were killed in the fight for racial justice, how many people went to jail, how many people were beaten. (audience cheers) But we do know that millions of people stood up and said, "racism, bigotry, segregation is not acceptable in the United States of America." (audience chants Bernie-Bernie-Bernie)

A hundred years ago, 100 years ago, not a long time from a historical perspective, women in America did not have the right to vote, could not get the education they wanted, could not do the work and jobs they wanted. (audience boos) That's a hundred years ago, no time at all, but women and their male allies came together. Women went on hunger strikes, they went to jail, some of them died to say that in America, women will not be second-class citizens. (audience cheers)

If we were in this room ten years ago, which is no time at all. Ten years ago and somebody jumps up and says, "you know, Bernie? I think that gay marriage will be legal in 50 states in this country in say, the year 2015," person next to him would have said, "what are you smoking? You're crazy." (audience laughs) Which raises a whole other issue, but - (audience cheers)

But here's the point, the point is that the gay community and their straight allies against horrific levels of hatred and bigotry - they stood together. Decade after decade after decade. And they said that in America, people should be able to love the people they want regardless of the gender. (audience cheers)

Let me give you another example, even closer to home. Just listen to this. If we were here, say, six or seven years ago - five years ago - somebody jumps up and says, "you know, Bernie? This seven dollar and twenty-five cent federal minimum wage? That's absurd, it's a starvation wage, nobody can live on it. We gotta raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour." The person next to him would have said, "$15 an hour?! You wanna double the minimum wage? You're nuts, you're crazy, you're radical! It can't happen. Maybe eight bucks an hour, maybe nine bucks an hour - $15 an hour? Be realistic." And then, you know what happened? As a result of the efforts of the trade union movement, people in the fast food industry, in McDonald's, in Burger King, in Wendy's - people went out on strike. They stood up, they fought back. (audience cheers)

And then you know what happened, the impossible became true. Seattle, 15 bucks. San Fransisco, Los Angeles. (audience cheers) Oregon, California, New York state. (audience cheers) And if I have anything to say about it, 15 bucks an hour in every state in this country. (audience cheers)

What is my point? My point is that change takes place, historically and now, when people stand up and they look around them, and they say, "the status quo is not acceptable." (audience cheers)

When the exploitation of workers, or racism, or sexism or homophobia is not acceptable, we change things. (audience cheers)

And in my view, that is where we are at this pivotal moment in American history. From coast to coast - I've been all over this country. People are looking around them and they're saying, "wait a minute, why do we have more wealth and income inequality than any other major country on earth? Why do we have to work two or three jobs to cobble together some income. Why are the only major country on earth that doesn't guarantee health care to all and paid family and medical leave? Why are our kids graduating school $50 or $100 thousand in debt? Why do we still have institutional racism? (audience cheers) And unarmed people being shot by police officers? (audience cheers) Why are women making 79 cents on the dollar compared to men? Why aren't we more aggressive in saving this planet from climate change?" (audience cheers)     

People are looking around and they are rejecting the options that the corporate media gives us. They are rejecting the options that Congress gives us. And what they are saying is we can create an America that works for all of us, not just the few. (audience chants Bernie-Bernie-Bernie)

Lemme just say, lemme just tell you what no other candidate for president will tell you. I very much appreciate the support, but nobody - let me be clear - so we lay this out on the table, here. No president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else can do what has to be done in transforming this economy, protecting the middle class, by himself. Can't be done alone. (audience cheers)

The truth is, that Wall Street, corporate America, the wealthy campaign contributors, and the corporate media who tell you what you should see or not see are much too powerful. The only way we make change is the way change in this country has always happened. And that is with a political revolution. Millions of people stand up. (audience cheers, chants Bernie-Bernie-Bernie)

On April 26 there will be a very important primary here in Pennsylvania. (audience cheers) If the turnout is large, we'll win, if it's small, we'll lose. Please, do everything you can to make sure that Pennsylvania helps lead this country into a political revolution. (audience cheers)

Thank you!