Health care, U.S. debt focus of Sanders forum

MIDDLEBURY-Supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) were gathered in force to hear Vermont's lone elected independent speak at Middlebury Union High School's cafeteria April 28.

"Health Care is a Right!" advocates displayed their pre-printed placards and passed out information sheets to guests showing reasons to support Gov. Peter Shumlin's proposed, controversial single-payer health care plan. Members of "Health Care is a Right!" also marched on Montpelier earlier this week.

While waiting for Sanders' arrival, a free pasta and salad dinner, prepared by staffers of the Addison County Parent-Child Center, kept attendees focused between 6:30 and 7 p.m.

Shortly after 7 p.m., Phil Fiermonte, a Sanders aide, announced to guests that the senator was being delayed at New York's JFKAirport due to local thunderstorms.

Fiermonte said the senator would attempt to call in later in the evening and answer questions from the group.

Waiting nearly 90 minutes for the senator, several attendees were seen leaving the cafeteria heading for home. The MUHSgathering had a decidedly anti-Republican, anti-conservative tone with Fiermonte and others taking the speaker's podium to criticize the GOP Ryan Budget plan which would strip $6 trillion in entitlements.

While Fiermonte lamented the nation's widening $14 trillion debt, his solution to correct the crisis was "tax the wealthiest Americans" not paying their "fair share" of federal taxes.

Fiermonte offered no other solutions to reduce the debt or trim spending on social and medical entitlement programs.

On April 20, Sanders wrote in a news release that new national surveys show that Congress is "way out of touch with the American people" on how to reduce deficits. "At a time when not a single Republican in Congress is prepared to ask the wealthiest people in this country to pay a little more to help bring down deficits, an overwhelming

majority of Americans see things differently," he wrote.

However, an April 27 Gallup/USA Today Poll finds 48 percent of seniors (age 65 and over) support the Republican plan over President Obama's plan, while 42 percent back the president.

On April 29, Sanders' office announced that the senator would plan another visit to Middlebury to discuss problems facing the nation.

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