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Bernie Sanders bashes Trump tax law in Michigan

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Republican President Donald Trump won Michigan and the White House in 2016 because he appealed to voters struggling to keep their heads above water and told them he would defend their interests, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday.

“Unfortunately, he lied,” Sanders told more than 1,000 supporters who packed an event center several blocks from the Michigan Capitol.

The Vermont Independent, who ran for president as a Democrat in 2016, railed against Trump for a recent tax law that he argued would primarily benefit the wealthy and corporations. He chastised the president for proposing a federal budget that would cut Medicare and other social programs.

“Donald Trump said he was going to stand with working families and take on the establishment,” Sanders said. “He has stood with the establishment and brought forth legislation that would do devastating harm to working families of this state and the entire country.”

The Sunday evening speech, Sanders’ sixth in the Midwest since Thursday, had the feel of a campaign rally. While he has not confirmed whether he’ll run for president again, merchants outside the Lansing Center convention hall sold “Bernie 2020” T-shirts, and supporters inside said they were hopeful the 76-year-old will take on the president in two years.

“He’s not too old,” said Jim Richardson, 68, of Jackson. “He’s got more of his marbles than Donald Trump.”

“Bernie speaks to me, and when he does, I feel and hear his integrity and his intent,” said Deb Richardson, 69.

Sanders opened his speech by recounting his 2016 campaign, including his surprise Michigan primary victory over eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The self-described Democratic socialist said many of his ideas once criticized as too “radical” or “extreme” have become part of the mainstream debate, including his calls for tuition-free college, a “Medicare for all” single-payer health system and a $15 minimum wage.

He urged supporters to continue those fights. “You can have great candidates, you can have great ideas, but unless you have a movement of people behind those ideas, we will not succeed,” he said.

Referencing mass shootings that killed 17 at a Florida school and 58 in Las Vegas, Sanders said he supports “common sense” gun reforms including enhanced background checks.

The speech was part of the “not one penny” tour opposing the recent tax overhaul approved by Congress and signed into law by Trump. The plan initially cut taxes for most Americans and included large cuts for corporations, some of which have subsequently announced plans to increase production, give employees bonuses or hire more.

The Michigan Republican Party touted the benefits of the tax law ahead of the Sanders rally.

“Instead of supporting the reforms that help Americans keep more of their hard-earned money, Senator Sanders is calling for higher taxes and the implementation of his socialist agenda,” deputy chief of staff Sarah Anderson said in a statement. “Where do Michigan Democrats stand? With a socialist U.S. Senator, or with the hardworking men and women of Michigan?”

Campaign staffers and volunteers for several 2018 Democratic candidates were collecting signatures or passing out information outside the rally, but governor hopeful Shri Thanedar was one of the only high-profile candidates to attend the event. The Ann Arbor businessman greeted attendees at the door and passed out stickers.

The tax legislation is expected save most Americans money in the early years, but if the cuts for individuals are allowed to expire, those making less than $75,000 would see tax increases in 2027, according to congressional estimates. It is also projected to add $1.46 trillion to the nation’s debt over a decade.

While Trump pledged to not to cut popular programs like Medicare and Social Security, his federal budget proposed this month reportedly would cut Medicare spending by $236 billion over the next 10 years.

“At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, our job is not to give tax breaks to profitable multinational corporations and to the wealthiest people of this country,” Sanders said.

A large number of young people attended the rally, which was held just 3 miles from Michigan State University. High school student Jaymin Moore, 17, drove with his mom from Farmington Hills to see what Sanders had to say.

“I don’t really say I’m a big fan of any politician,” said Moore, who was not old enough to vote in 2016 but said he thought Sanders was “probably the best” candidate in the field. “I think you should support the ideals and not just the person.”


The Associated Press contributed to this report.