Sanders Institute gathering a pep rally for liberal ideas

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders gives the keynote address at The Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington, Vt., Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018. Reasserting himself as a leading voice in Democratic politics, Sanders on Thursday called on the political party to work harder to convince people of all races, regions and income levels that liberal policies will help them. (April McCullum/The Burlington Free Press via AP)

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders were in Burlington on Friday as part of a three-day pep rally for many of the policy issues, such as universal health care, protecting the environment and economic and criminal justice reform, that defined the Vermont independent during his 2016 run for the presidency.

In the first sessions of the day, people heard presentations on how activists could work together to push for Medicare for All, a system that would guarantee health care for everyone in the country, including a study on how it to pay the cost.

“Only all that we love is on the line,” said Nina Turner, a fellow of the Sanders Institute, who expressed the fervor for universal health care felt by many at the meeting when she helped kicked off the first session.

The meeting was held on the shores of Lake Champlain, an area that a half a century ago was grimy and industrial, but has — in part because of Sanders’ work as mayor of Burlington in the 1980s — been converted into a public park in a vibrant small city with stunning views of New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

The event is being hosted by The Sanders Institute, a think-tank formed last year separate from the senator’s political operations that grew out of the ideas generated during his 2016 presidential campaign.

The institute and the meeting have attracted a number of high-profile supporters. Hollywood actors Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon, John Cusack and Cynthia Nixon joined intellectuals Cornel West and Simon Sinek. Elected officials such as Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio are also expected at the meeting, which wraps up Saturday.

The health care study released Friday morning that looked at Sanders’ 2017 Medicare for All Act. It estimated such a system would save an estimated 9.6 percent over current U.S. health care consumption expenditures, said University of Massachusetts economist Robert Pollin, one of the authors of the study.

It estimates people would use an estimated 12 percent under a Medicare for All system. The savings would come from reducing administrative and pharmaceutical costs and establishing uniform Medicare rates for hospitals. Businesses would save about 8 percent of what they currently pay for employee health insurance.

The system would need to raise just over $1 trillion in new government income to pay for it. Additional government revenue would come from a 3.75 percent sales tax on non-essential items and other taxes on the wealthiest people in the United States.

“The biggest winners are going to be middle-class households,” Pollin said.

People at the meeting did not address the prospects of the plan passing in Congress.

The meeting comes as the 77-year-old Sanders is considering his political future. Sanders, who lost the 2016 Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, is expected to decide soon whether to launch a second bid for the White House.

During a speech Thursday night, Sanders told supporters they had to work harder to convince people of all races, regions and income levels that liberal policies will help them. He also said that there has been a shift in the Democratic establishment which has increasingly embraced his calls for liberal policies such as universal health care and a $15 minimum wage.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.