Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016 | 4:24 p.m.
Bernie Sanders pitched his presidential candidacy to over 1,000 potential voters in two Las Vegas stops Sunday, offering strong statements on income equality, his presidential opponents, police brutality, education and health care.
In a 10-minute morning speech at Victory Missionary Baptist Church in the west valley, Sanders said he opposes an economic system that favors the highest of income-earning Americans. He said although the United States is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, most U.S. citizens can't prosper in the country's wealth because most of the wealth is going to a small group of people.
"America is not about the top one-tenth of 1 percent having more than the bottom 90 percent," he said. "America is not about the top 20 owning more wealth than the bottom 150 million."
He echoed that message Sunday afternoon during a 50-minute speech in front of a roaring crowd of nearly 800 at Bonanza High School, proposing a raise in income taxes on the highest-earning Americans and raising the federal minimum wage to $15.
"Real change takes place from the bottom on up, not the top on down," Sanders said as spectators shouted and cheered in agreement. "This country will not survive morally and economically when so few have so much and so many have so little."
The U.S. senator from Vermont also condemned police brutality across the country, saying blacks and Hispanics are arrested at an unfairly high rate. Sanders advocated for local police forces that work closer with their respective communities.
"We need to make our police officers look like the communities they serve," he said.
Sanders singled out both Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and Republican front-runner Donald Trump at Bonanza, calling Clinton "the indisputable anointed candidate of the establishment" and saying Trump "hated" certain minority groups, such as Hispanics and Muslims.
Sanders praised Nevada for enduring the 2008 recession, a downturn he blamed on the "greed and illegal behavior of Wall Street."
But he also criticized the Silver State's Public Utilities Commission for voting against solar energy expansion in December.
"It is beyond my comprehension what your Public Utility Commission did in Nevada. We should be expanding solar," he said. "If we invest properly in solar, we can lead the world in combating climate change."
The rising Democratic candidate concluded his Bonanza High School speech by touching on public education and health care, saying both need to be made more affordable to middle and lower-class American families.
A college degree in 2016 is worth about the same as a high school degree 50 years ago, Sanders said, and should be made available free of charge in the public sector.
For college graduates with student loan debts, Sanders proposed a federal initiative to allow for refinancing to the "lowest possible interest rate."
"My critics say it will be expensive," Sanders said. "Well, the war in Iraq was pretty damn expensive, and giving billionaires tax breaks is expensive."
And while Sanders praised the progress of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, he focused on 27 million Americans that are still without health care insurance. He praised the universal health care systems of Canada, France and Great Britain as examples of models the United States could learn from.
"I do believe health care is a right," Sanders said, "not a privilege."