When he arrived in Atlantic City for a rally on Monday, it would have been hard for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to ignore the fact that he was standing in a town characterized by wealth and poverty, dramatic profits and losses.
“The greed and the recklessness that we have seen from people like Donald Trump and Carl Icahn,” Sanders began, prompting boos from the crowd of hundreds. “Oh, you know Donald Trump?” he said sarcastically. “You don’t think he is a brilliant, successful businessman who can bring the kind of prosperity to America that he has brought here to Atlantic City?”
Atlantic City, which saw four of its 12 casinos shut down recently and has had its tax revenues dry up, is on the verge of bankruptcy and under threat of a state takeover from Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Trenton lawmakers.
Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee for president, previously owned several casinos in Atlantic City.
“Don’t tell me it makes any sense for Wall Street billionaires to be profiting while the working people of Atlantic City are suffering,” said Sanders. “That’s wrong.”
Trump was targeted by other speakers, such as Atlantic City Councilman Mo Delgado who noted that the rally in Boardwalk Hall sat just feet from the now-shuttered Trump Plaza.
“He likes to talk about how he rebuilt Atlantic City. Right next door: Trump Plaza,” said Delgado. “The big question I keep saying is: How’s it working for you?”
The other name Sanders mentioned, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, owns two Atlantic City casinos and recently cut workers’ health and pension benefits at one of them, which angered many longtime employees of the city’s gambling industry.
“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” said Bob McDevitt, president of the casino workers union Unite Here Local 54. “I’m tired of hearing that health care is something no one has a right to but something someone has to have the money to pay for.”
In his speech, Sanders repeated his calls for national health care, a $15 federal minimum wage, and free tuition at public colleges and universities.
Supporter Annie Humphrey, who traveled from Forked River to hear Sanders speak, connected with his message of economic fairness and equality.
“I’m here because I want to live in a society that takes care of its own people. I’m not interested in helping the corporations but helping the actual people who make up that society,” said Humphrey. “I’m really into Scandinavia — I wish we had that kind of democratic socialism here.”
Sanders will face Hillary Clinton, who is winning in both national delegates and state polls, in the New Jersey Democratic primary election on June 7.