Bernie Sanders blasts inequality, racism in Brooklyn College commencement

Sen. Bernie Sanders gives a commencement address at Brooklyn College on May 30th, 2017

CBS News

In a Brooklyn College commencement address on Tuesday that was reminiscent of his fiery speeches on the campaign trail last year, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, criticized wealth inequality, political corruption, racism and the criminal justice system.

"In the last 17 years, while the middle class continues to decline, we have seen a ten-fold increase in the number of billionaires," Sanders, a Brooklyn native, said. "Today in America, CEOs are earning almost 300 times what the average worker makes. And in terms of income, while you and your parents are working in some cases 2 or 3 jobs, 52 percent of all new income generated today goes to the top 1 percent."

It was a critique heard often when Sanders ran for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, although Sanders made no mention of President Trump in the commencement speech.

Sanders, who identifies as a democratic socialist but caucuses with the Democratic Party, also took aim at America's massive prison population, which by some measurements is the largest in the world.

"Because of poverty and racism, today in a broken criminal justice system, we have more people in jail than any other country on earth," Sanders said. "And those people are disproportionately black, Latino, and Native American."

Sanders also recalled his own experiences growing up in Brooklyn as the son of immigrants.

"From those experiences growing up without a lot of money, I have never forgotten that there are millions of people through this country who struggle to put food on the table, pay the electric bill, try to save for the kids' education, or their retirements…people, who against great odds, are fighting to live in dignity," Sanders said.

Sanders, who is now perhaps the single most popular politician in the country, spent years as a backbencher in the House of Representatives before his election to the Senate in 2006. He won a number of primaries before throwing his support behind eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton