Sens. Sanders and Paul clash over poverty and health

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday strongly rejected the assertion by Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) that poverty amounts to a “death sentence” in the United States.

That correlation was the subject of a hearing led by Sanders, chairman of the Senate Health subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging. Sanders cited research showing that poor people lack access to health insurance and thus to quality healthcare, leading to illnesses that can be fatal.

“Poverty in America is in fact a death sentence, and tens and tens of thousands of our people are experiencing that reality,” Sanders said.

Paul, the subcommittee’s ranking member, rejected that view. He said correlating poverty with death in the United States is embracing “socialism” and that such a connection can only be found in the Third World.

“If poverty is a death sentence, it’s big government that has acted as judge and jury,” Paul said.

He said poor children today are healthier than middle-class adults a generation ago, and that poorer health among low-income families is due largely to such lifestyle choices as smoking. Obesity rates are also significantly higher in low-income populations.

“The rich are getting richer, but the poor are getting richer even faster,” Paul said.