With Barack Obama stepping out the White House at the end of this year, the race for the next President is heating up in the United States. On the Democratic side, it is down to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with the latter campaigning on his economic policies. He took his message to Atlantic City with the New Jersey primary on the horizon, but whether or not people listened to him remains to be seen.
Sanders directed criticism at Atlantic City by stating how it epitomizes the greed that has destroyed the American economic system. This message comes at a tough time for the gambling haven, known as one of the hubs of the casino and gambling industry. Casinos and resorts are closing down but employees are fighting for fair wages. Sanders suggests that it’s the rich casinos that are trying to squeeze the workers while the casinos – many of which appear to be on their last legs financially – say that they simply don’t have the funds to pay more to their employees.
It was also not lost on Sanders that Atlantic City is the home of Trump Plaza, which was owned by Republican candidate Donald Trump, who recently sold it to Carl Icahn. Trump also owned four casinos in Atlantic City, but his company went into bankruptcy, which Sanders effectively mentioned to his supporters. There are all sorts of local and federal politics intertwined in Sanders’ visit to Atlantic City, including the fact that Icahn went to court to take away pensions and health benefits for the employees. Not only did that irk the local workers, it is significant on a national scale as there have been rumblings that Trump might want Icahn to be the next treasury secretary. Sanders is doing as much damage as he can in New Jersey, which just so happens to be the home state of Governor Chris Christie. As you might recall, he is aiming to have a significant role among Trump’s entourage – possibly even vice president.
Sanders’ main message is – as per usual – to the working class. In this case, he’s trying to earn the votes of the employees. Their support for him is not surprising considering he is pro union and pro worker wages. The question is whether or not Sanders is suggesting yet another thing for which the rich simply can’t pay.
Yes, the message that corporations and the wealthy are ruining the country sounds good at a rally as it puts the onus on men like Trump, Icahn and the casinos. But do they actually have the money? With foot traffic significantly down, revenues in decline, and the city on financial life support, is now the time to talk about employee wages? One thing Sanders didn’t mention in his speech was that the city of Atlantic City itself might be considering bankruptcy. If there are no casinos, there are no casino workers, so maybe now isn’t the time to be pushing wage hikes.
But this is the campaign trail where everyone is trying to gather votes and Sanders is doing the same. He is pulling out all the stops these days as he is well behind Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination, and he doesn’t have much time to make up the votes. He himself failed to lay out a plan to help Atlantic City, but he offered plenty of criticism. We’ll see if he swayed enough votes to make a dent in his race for the Democratic nomination.