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Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Releases Plan to End Corruption in Washington

“The Best President Money Can’t Buy” Senator Elizabeth Warren lays out her plan to end corruption in government, in a speech to 20,000 in Washington Square Park, NYC, near where the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire took 146 lives in 1911 and triggered a grassroots movement that secured labor reform. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Ahead of her speech in Washington Square Park near the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, in which she delineated how corruption in Washington has allowed the rich and powerful to tilt the rules and grow richer and more powerful, Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to end Washington corruption. 

Warren has already advanced comprehensive anti-corruption legislation in Congress, but she is going further with a set of far-reaching and aggressive proposals. “Her plan will end lobbying as we know it, end self-dealing in the White House, end corporate capture of the federal government’s rule-making process, hold our federal judiciary and the Supreme Court to the highest ethical standards, and more.”

Warren declared, “No matter what brings you into this fight — whether it’s child care, student loans, health care, immigration, or criminal justice, one thing is crystal clear: corruption is making it worse — and it’s at the root of the major problems we face as a democracy.

“Reforming the money game in Washington isn’t enough. We also need to comprehensively clean up our campaign finance system. That’s why I’ve also called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. It’s why we need to get rid of the Super PACs and secret spending by billionaires and giant corporations that try to buy our democracy. It’s why we need to break the grip that big donors have by creating a system of exclusive public funding of our elections. But even if we solve our campaign finance problems, comprehensive anti-corruption reforms targeted at Washington itself are necessary to finally end the stranglehold that the wealthy and the well-connected have over our government’s decision-making processes.

“I believe that we can root out corruption in Washington. I believe we must make big, structural changes that will once again restore our trust in government by showing that it can work for all of us. And when I’m President, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”

This is from the Elizabeth Warren campaign:



In 1958, the National Election Survey first asked Americans a simple question: Do you trust the government to do the right thing most of the time? That year, 73% of Americans said yes.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In 2019, that number is just 17%. Five out of every six Americans do not trust their government to do the right thing.

Why have so many people lost faith in government?

It’s true that right-wing politicians have spent a generation attacking the very idea of government. But it’s also true that these days, our government doesn’t work for most people. Sure, it works great for the wealthy and the well-connected — but for everybody else, it doesn’t.

It doesn’t work because big insurance companies and hospital conglomerates put profits ahead of the health and well-being of the American people, and dump piles of money into political campaigns and lobbying efforts to block any move toward Medicare for All.

It doesn’t work because big oil companies that have concealed climate studies — and funded bought-and-paid-for climate denial research — bury regulators in an avalanche of shady, bad-faith pseudoscience and then spend freely on influence peddling in Congress to make sure nothing like a Green New Deal ever sees the light of day.

It doesn’t work because giant pharmaceutical companies want to squeeze every last penny out of the people who depend on their prescriptions, while their army of lobbyists suffocates reform any time there’s a discussion in Congress on drug pricing.

Universal child care. Criminal justice reform. Affordable housing. Gun reform. Look closely, and you’ll see — on issue after issue, widely popular policies are stymied because giant corporations and billionaires who don’t want to pay taxes or follow any rules use their money and influence to stand in the way of big, structural change.

We’ve got to call that out for what it is: corruption, plain and simple.

Make no mistake about it: The Trump Administration is the most corrupt administration of our lifetimes.

Foreign nations, like Saudi Arabia, funnel money into Trump’s pockets by spending freely at his hotels.

Trump’s tax bill is a $1.5 trillion giveaway that primarily helps large corporations and wealthy Americans. Half of the total registered lobbyists in Washington worked on issues involving the word “tax” the year the bill was written — that’s eleven lobbyists for every member of Congress. And when the members of Congress who championed it lost their elections, they got juicy gigs in the lobbying industry themselves.

Trump’s Supreme Court Justices were hand-picked by right-wing extremist groups that spent millions on television ads — first to hold open a Supreme Court seat in the Obama Administration, and then to pressure the Senate to rubber stamp their candidates of choice, even when it meant ignoring serious sexual assault charges to ram through the confirmation.

Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency was a climate denier with ties to Big Oil — and when he was forced to resign after a slew of ethics violations, Trump replaced him with a former coal lobbyist.

Our nation’s ambassadors are a who’s who of Trump’s biggest donors and Mar-a-Lago members.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, introduces Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has secured the labor-aligned progressive group’s endorsement for President © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But these problems did not start with Donald Trump. They are much bigger than him — and solving them will require big, structural change to fundamentally transform our government.

That’s why I’ve released plans to fight Washington corruption. A plan to make sure that no president is above the law. A plan to tackle defense contractor coziness at the Pentagon. A plan to ban private prisons and expand oversight, transparency, and enforcement for all contractors hired by the federal government. In Congress, I’ve previously advanced wide-ranging anti-corruption legislation.

But we must go further.

Today, I’m announcing a comprehensive set of far-reaching and aggressive proposals to root out corruption in Washington. It’s the most sweeping set of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate. The goal of these measures is straightforward: to take power away from the wealthy and the well-connected in Washington and put it back where it belongs — in the hands of the people.

My plan lays out nearly a hundred ways that we can change our government to fix this problem — from improving public integrity rules for federal officials in every branch of government to ending lobbying as we know it, fixing the criminal laws to hold corrupt politicians to account, and ensuring our federal agencies and courts are free from corrupting influences.

And I’m just getting started.

Restoring Public Integrity

If you choose to be a public servant, you should serve the public — not your own financial interests or the financial interests of the rich and powerful. But we face a crisis of confidence in the ethics and public integrity of federal officials in America. The revolving door in and out of the Trump Administration is spinning out of control, and wave after wave of people in Trump’s orbit are trying to profit personally from his presidency — including him.

But even before Trump entered the White House, our nation’s public integrity rules were far too lax. Too many public officials can easily leverage public service for personal gain. And the ability to walk around government with obvious and direct personal financial conflicts reduces public faith in honest officials. To fix this, we need a total rewrite of our ethics laws.

We must begin by rooting out financial conflicts of interest in Washington.

Donald Trump is a walking conflict of interest. Actually, more like 2,310 conflicts of interest — and counting. His refusal to divest from his businesses has opened the door for giant corporations, foreign lobbyists, and our own government officials to curry favor with his administration and pad his own bottom line.

According to a study by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Donald Trump has visited one of his own properties for nearly a third of the total days that he has been president. Trump’s Washington hotel even sent the federal government a bill for $200,000 because Secret Service agents were forced to stay there as well.

Foreign countries have also taken the hint. Representatives from 65 foreign governments have visited Trump properties since he took office, and embassies have begun booking Trump’s hotels for their events. Trump has egged them on, shamelessly floating another one of his properties as the venue for a future international summit.

Big corporations and billionaires have also tried to curry favor with Donald Trump by patronizing his properties. T-Mobile sent its top executives to the Trump Hotel in DC right after the company announced a merger requiring the Trump administration’s approval. Payday lenders held their annual meetings at Trump’s golf club in Miami, while the Trump administration has consistently gutted restrictions and regulations on exploitative payday lenders. And several wealthy donors who pay the $200,000 Mar-a-Lago membership fee — which doubled when Trump became President — have exerted “sweeping influence” at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Even Trump’s own appointees and political allies have tried to suck up to Trump by exploiting his conflicts of interest. More than 100 Republican Members of Congress have become patrons of Trump’s businesses since he became President. Most recently, Trump’s Attorney General William Barr spent $30,000 at Trump’s Washington Hotel, implausibly claiming that it was the only place he could find for his holiday party in Washington — and on an official trip to Ireland, Vice President Mike Pence stayed at a Trump property reportedly at Trump’s instruction, even though it was three hours away from his scheduled meetings in Dublin.

Trump is by far the most egregious example — and we need new rules to hold leaders accountable for this kind of conduct. But we cannot condemn this conduct without also acknowledging that opportunities for the appearance of self-dealing are far too easy across the federal government. Restoring public confidence isn’t just about replacing Trump and his cronies. We need new bright lines and clear rules to eliminate the possibility of public officials serving private interests.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here’s where I would start:

End self-dealing in the White House by applying conflict of interest laws to the President and Vice President. Under my plan,Presidents and Vice Presidents would be required to place their businesses into a blind trust to be sold off. No more payoffs. No more bribes from foreign governments. No more self-dealing.

Disclose tax returns of federal candidates and officeholders to the public automatically. Tax return disclosure for federally elected officials shouldn’t be optional — it should be the law. And it shouldn’t just apply to Presidents — it should apply to everyone running for or serving in federal elected office. Presidential candidates, in particular, should follow the standard set by Barack Obama for releasing at least eight years of returns. (I’ve released eleven.) And the IRS should simply put out the required tax returns for qualified candidates themselves — so nothing like Donald Trump’s refusal to disclose his taxes can ever happen again.

Force senior government officials to divest from privately-owned assets that could present conflicts of interest. White House advisers like Jared Kushner have been allowed to use their government positions to further enrich themselves and their families, while Cabinet Officials like Betsy DeVos have hundreds of millions held in privately-owned accounts that make it nearly impossible to determine who could exercise influence over DeVos and her family. The fact that such conduct could pass any kind of ethics screen makes it clear that we need new rules. My plan puts an end to this practice by requiring senior officials, including those who are unpaid like Kushner, to divest from their businesses and other conflicted assets.

Completely ban the practice of government officials trading individual stocks while in office. Under current law, members of Congress can trade stocks and then use their powerful positions to increase the value of those stocks and pad their own pockets. Tom Price, Trump’s former Secretary of Health and Human Services, purchased pharmaceutical stocks while in the House of Representatives — then fought hard to get a return on his investment by pushing policies that would benefit giant pharmaceutical companies. And another member of Congress, Chris Collins, was charged for trading the same stocks based on insider information. But prosecutions like this are rare. And even where investments don’t influence decisions, the existence of these direct conflicts undermine public confidence in government.

The solution is simple — ban members of Congress and senior government officials from owning or trading individual stocks. Instead, they can invest in conflict-free mutual funds or funds managed by the federal Thrift Savings Program. Law firms follow these kinds of rules to prevent the appearance of financial conflicts with the interests of their clients — there’s no reason important public servants and elected officials shouldn’t, too.

Shut down a raft of additional shady practices that provide opportunities for government officials to serve their own financial interests. My plan bans members of Congress and senior congressional staff from serving on corporate boards — whether or not they’re paid to do so. It also strengthens ethics requirements for presidential transition teams to ensure that those who are shaping our government disclose any conflicts of interest and comply with the highest ethical standards. And to ensure that there are no questions about whether members of Congress are acting based on financial conflicts, like lobbyist-turned-Senator-turned-lobbyist Jon Kyl, my plan requires every member of Congress, including appointed ones, to disclose their financial conflicts before they take office.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, speaking from a podium built of wood from the Frances Perkins homestead in Newcastle, Maine, obtained from her grandson, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, evokes FDR’s Labor Secretary in laying out a plan to end the link between corporate greed and political corruption to get a fair deal for workers and families © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Finally, we must immediately end the possibility of trading on access to insider political information. Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars flow into so-called “political intelligence” firms that hire operatives to prowl the halls of Congress for insider information and sell that information to Wall Street traders trying to make a buck. My plan combats this practice by implementing strict disclosure requirements and regulations on so-called “political intelligence consulting,” including criminal penalties for former public officials who use insider political information to make investments or advise others who are doing so.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Next, it’s time to close and padlock the revolving door between government and industry.

Donald Trump has not just enriched himself and his advisers; he has turned his White House into a case study in the dangers of the revolving door between industry and government.

Trump railed against Goldman Sachs on the campaign trail in 2016. But as soon as he was elected, he tapped more than half a dozen of the firm’s employees to fill senior positions in his administration — enough to open a new Goldman Sachs branch office.

One of these people was Gary Cohn, the former President of Goldman Sachs, who became Trump’s top economic adviser. On his way out of Goldman, the firm gave him a whopping $285 million — $123 million in the form of cash and stocks that he could only collect if he left the firm to work in government.

I call that a “pre-bribe.” And it paid off, too. While cashing that $285 million check, Gary Cohn helped rewrite our nation’s tax laws, rammed the changes through Congress, and gave Goldman Sachs their money back — and a few billion dollars in change.

There are countless examples like this in the Trump Administration, but it’s a widespread problem in official Washington — and it goes far beyond obvious and egregious quid-pro-quo bribery. When someone serves in government with plans to immediately turn around and work in the industry they’ve been overseeing, that individual faces obvious incentives to advance the interests of their future employer. And when someone moves immediately from a regulated company to a job regulating that company, the public is right to worry about the risk that such individuals will prioritize the interests of their old bosses.

Government must be able to benefit from tapping private sector expertise, and public servants who leave government should be able to find post-government employment. Similarly, volunteer and part-time government positions, which make sense in certain situations, necessarily assume some level of outside work. But there is a difference between expertise and graft.

It isn’t simply a matter of replacing Trump with an honest President. We’ve seen the issue of industry lobbyists and top execs spinning freely through the revolving door to and from important government positions in both Democratic and Republican administrations. Fixing the underlying problem requires us to tighten up the rules to ensure that when government officials are making decisions, they are considering only the public interest — and not their own personal interests or the interests of their friends and future employers.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here are some obvious steps to help address this problem:

Ban “golden parachutes” that provide corporate bonuses to executives for serving in the federal government. We can’t let big companies get away with installing their top executives in senior government positions and paying them pre-bribes on their way out the door. Under my plan, this would be illegal.

Restrict the ability of lobbyists to enter government jobs. Under my proposal, current lobbyists won’t be able to take government jobs for 2 years after lobbying, with limited exceptions for when the hiring is in the national interest. Corporate lobbyists will have to wait at least 6 years — no exceptions, and no waivers. These extensive cooling off periods will help ensure that if anyone with this background is hired into a government role, they are being selected because of their expertise, and not their connections.

Make it illegal for elected officials and top government appointees to become lobbyists — ever. My plan bans Presidents, Vice Presidents, Members of Congress, federal judges, and Cabinet Secretaries from ever becoming lobbyists — not for one or two years, but for life. All other federal employees will also be barred from lobbying their former office, agency, or House of Congress after they leave government service for at least 2 years — or 6 years for corporate lobbyists.

Restrict the ability of companies to buy up former federal officials to rig the game for themselves. Under my plan, companies would be banned from immediately hiring former senior government officials whose agency or office the company has lobbied in the past two years. And because the biggest and most market-dominant corporations in America also exercise outsized political power, my plan blocks them from using personnel hires to rig the game by banning giant companies, banks, and monopolies from hiring former senior government officials for at least four years.

Next, we’ll hold our federal judiciary to the highest ethical standards.

Giant corporations and powerful interests haven’t limited their influence-peddling to Congress and the White House. They’ve also turned their attention to the courts.

There is “no formal mechanism for review of conflicts” for Supreme Court justices. But covering your eyes doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. The Federalist Society — an extremist, corporate-funded right-wing group that hand-picked Trump’s list of Supreme Court nominees — picked up Justice Clarence Thomas’s bills to attend a fancy retreat hosted by the Koch brothers. And for years, Justice Thomas failed to file public disclosures indicating that his wife worked as the White House liaison for the Heritage Foundation, a group whose co-founder personally began the conservative push to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It’s not just Supreme Court Justices, either. Federal judges can do just about anything without disclosing it, and in the rare instance where their ethical violations are discovered and they face investigation, they can escape further scrutiny altogether by resigning without penalty.

Our federal court system only works if the American people have faith that it is neutrally dispensing fair-minded justice without bias or personal interests interfering in judicial decisions. If we want the American people to believe this, we need some serious judicial ethics reforms.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here’s where I’d start:

Ensure Supreme Court Justices are held to the same standard as the rest of the federal judiciary. Today, every federal judge is bound by a Code of Conduct — except Supreme Court justices. It’s a recipe for corruption. We can fix it by applying the Code of Conduct for United States Judges to Supreme Court justices.

Strengthen ethics requirements for federal judges. Corporations and advocacy organizations routinely provide federal judges with all-expenses-paid trips to extravagant seminars. My plan tightens existing rules that prohibit judges from accepting gifts and establishes a new fund to cover reasonable expenses for participating in judicial seminars. No more big speaking fees and no more fancy trips to hunting lodges and golf courses. My plan also bans federal judges from owning individual stocks.

Require judges to disclose key information so the American people can verify that their conduct is above ethical reproach. My plan requires the Judicial Conference of the United States — the institution in charge of administering our federal courts — to publicly post judges’ financial reports, recusal decisions, and speeches to bring these activities out of the shadows. This will build public confidence that cases are being heard by fair and independent judges.

Close the loophole that allows federal judges to escape investigations for misconduct by stepping down from their post. When Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski was confronted with a judicial ethics investigation for sexual misconduct towards young female law clerks, he resigned — and the investigation immediately ended. Similarly, sexual assault and perjury complaints against Brett Kavanaugh were dismissed when he was confirmed to the Supreme Court, and Donald Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump-Barry resigned from the bench, ending an investigation into the Trump family’s decades-long tax schemes, including potential fraud. Under my plan, investigations will remain open until their findings are made public and any penalties for misconduct are issued.

Ending Lobbying As We Know It

The fundamental promise of our democracy is that every voice matters. But when lobbyists and big corporations can buy influence from politicians, that promise is broken. The first thing to do to fix it is to end lobbying as we know it.

The Constitution guarantees the American people the right to petition their government with grievances. Lobbying isn’t new — it’s been around for centuries. What’s new is the weaponization of lobbying to coerce our government into doing whatever corporate interests want. While companies have an important role to play in our democratic conversation, the voices of corporations and powerful interests shouldn’t be the only voices in the room. But that’s exactly what’s happened.

Prior to the 1970s, there was little corporate spending on lobbying. Last year, over eleven thousand registered lobbyists roamed the halls of government, mostly representing their powerful clients — to the tune of over $3 billion. It’s no wonder everyone else has such a hard time breaking through the noise.

This boom in the influence-peddling game has happened around the same time that right-wing ideologues have slashed independent government resources and in-house expertise, which are essential for officials to maintain their independence from the “expertise” of self-interested corporate lobbyists. Meanwhile, most corporate lobbying work remains hopelessly opaque — nominally governed by a patchwork of weak definitions, few meaningful restrictions, and inadequate reporting and disclosure requirements. And the free rein granted to corporate lobbyists to also fundraise for political campaigns crosses the line from influence peddling to legalized bribery.

We can break the grip that lobbyists for giant corporations have on our government. Together, we can end lobbying as we know it. Here’s where to start:

Expand the definition of lobbyists to include everyone who is paid to influence lawmakers. Because of our weak laws, only individuals who meet directly with politicians or spend more than 20% of their time lobbying are required to register as lobbyists. That means law firms, consultancies, and even self-described lobbying firms that hire individuals for the express purpose of influencing government may be able to avoid these registration requirements — allowing powerful interests to influence policy without any public accountability. This practice, endemic on both sides of the aisle, must end.

My plan brings this activity out of the shadows by strengthening the definition of a lobbyist to include all individualspaid to influence government. It also creates a new designation for corporate lobbyists to identify individuals paid to influence government on behalf of for-profit entities and their front-groups — and subjects these corporate hired guns to additional restrictions.

Ban lobbying for foreign entities — period. President Trump’s campaign chair currently sits in prison, convicted in part of failing to properly register his shady foreign lobbying activity on behalf of Ukraine. But what is the justification for allowing foreign governments to use Americans as hired guns who sit in the shadows, quietly attempting to influence our domestic political system? That’s not how diplomacy should work. Other nations have ambassadors and diplomatic staff in the United States. If those governments want to interact with our political process they can do so through normal, above-board diplomatic channels. My plan categorically bans the practice of private lobbying for foreign governments, foreign individuals, and foreign companies. No more K Street influence-peddlers looking out for the interests of China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia.

Impose strict rules on all lobbyists, including preventing them from donating to or fundraising for political candidates. Paid lobbyists are hired for one objective: to advance the interests of their clients. Allowing individuals who are paid to influence government officials on policy to also give gifts or funnel money to the political campaigns of those same officials sounds like legalized bribery. My plan not only bans lobbyists from making political contributions, it also bans them from bundling donations or hosting fundraisers for political candidates. And it outlaws lobbying contingency fees, where lobbyists are only paid if they successfully influence politicians to achieve a policy outcome that serves their client’s narrow interests.

Dramatically expand the kinds of information lobbyists are required to disclose. Our current laws require only minimal disclosure from lobbyists of their activities. This prevents the American people from fully understanding who is trying to influence government — and why. My plan requires all lobbyists to report publicly all meetings with Congressional offices or public officials, the documents they provide to those individuals, and all government actions they attempt to influence. It also demands that all charitable non-profit organizations, social welfare organizations, and trade associations disclose any donors whose money was used to develop products to influence Congressional testimony, agency rulemaking, or for lobbying purposes.

Impose a tax on excessive lobbying — and use this revenue to give Congress and agencies the tools to fight back against the corporate influence machine. In 2018, lobbyists spent a whopping $3.4 billion trying to influence public policy on behalf of their clients, including $95 million from the pro-corporate Chamber of Commerce, $73 million from the National Association of Realtors, and $28 million from the Big Pharma lobbying group. The right to petition our government does not allow industries to exercise unlimited financial influence over policymakers. That’s why I will impose a tax on any entity that spends over $500,000 per year on lobbying. The tax will reduce the financial incentive for excessive lobbying, and its revenue will be used to counter the effects of excessive lobbying by providing additional financial resources for agencies to research and review regulatory actions that are the targets of excessive lobbying activity, as well as additional funding for the National Public Advocate, an office established to help the public engage with the rulemaking process, and for Congressional support agencies.

Strengthen Congressional independence from lobbyists. Congressional offices and agencies are severely underfunded, creating unnecessary pressure to rely on lobbyists for expertise. My plan transitions Congressional staff to competitive salaries and reinstates the nonpartisan Congressional Office of Technology Assessment to help members of Congress understand new areas of science and technology — because members of Congress should be able to access expertise and information without being dependent on lobbyists.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

End Corporate Capture of our Federal Agencies

Major federal agencies — agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Energy — were created by Congress to enforce and implement laws that protect the broad interests of the public against the unrestrained exercise of corporate power. But because of the revolving door, the avalanche of lobbyists, and the weakness of our agency tools to fight back, agencies often find their agendas hijacked by the very industries they are supposed to regulate. We can and should make additional changes to strengthen agencies’ independence and their ability to act decisively in the public interest.

Here are some of the steps my plan takes to address this:

Stop powerful actors from peddling fake research — often funded by undisclosed donors — and hold corporations accountable for lying to regulators. I’ll crack down on corporations who manipulate agencies by submitting sham research — like the climate denial studies bought and paid for by oil and gas magnates like the Koch Brothers — by requiring individuals who submit a public comment on a proposed rule to disclose editorial conflicts-of-interest related to any non-peer-reviewed research they cite. Studies that are determined to have conflicts of interest will be withheld from the rulemaking process unless the individual offering that research certifies that they have undergone rigorous, independent peer review. Otherwise, we’ll treat them like the bad faith junk science that they are, excluding them from the rulemaking process and preventing any court from considering them too. And if a company misleads an agency with “analysis” it knows to be false, they’ll be prosecuted just like anyone else who lies under oath to Congress or in a court of law.

End the practice of inviting corporate bigwigs to negotiate rules their companies would have to follow and put a stop to the stall tactics they use to kill public interest rules. My plan restricts the parties eligible to participate in the negotiated rulemaking process so that industry no longer has an open door to dominate the process. It also closes the loopholes that have allowed industry and agencies to delay the implementation of rules it disfavors, including by ending so-called informal review, reducing the review period to 45 days, and clarifying that only Appeals Courts — not individual Federal District judges — can temporarily block the implementation of rules. And my plan requires agencies to publicly justify the withdrawal of any public interest rules.

Give the public the tools to fight back against corporations who seek to co-opt this process for their benefit. My plan establishes an Office of the Public Advocate to help the public engage with important legal changes made by federal agencies during the rulemaking process. I’ll also allow private individuals to bring lawsuits against federal agencies for unnecessarily delaying or failing to enforce agency rules — and against corporations who have violated them.

Ensuring Access to Justice for All

Equal justice is supposed to be the promise of the American legal system. But it’s not delivering on that promise. Instead, we have one system for the wealthy and the well-connected, and a different one for everyone else. It’s hard enough to hold a powerful company accountable through our legal system, but recent developments in the law have made it even harder for individuals to even bring those cases in the first place. We need to reform our legal rules to make sure every person who has been harmed can have their day in court.

Here’s how I’ll start:

Ban forced arbitration clauses. Many companies force their employees and consumers to sign “forced arbitration” clauses as part of their contracts for employment or for services. These clauses mean that if something goes wrong, individuals agree to never file a lawsuit in federal court against the company — and instead are diverted into a private dispute system. These provisions are often tucked in the fine print of contracts that workers or consumers sign, and many people don’t even know that they have signed one until they have been harmed and need our courts to help them get justice. These provisions shouldn’t be enforceable, but the conservative majority in the Supreme Court decided that because there was no law explicitly against them, they could be freely enforced. So let’s pass that law. My plan categorically bans forced arbitration clauses from blocking lawsuits related to employment, consumer protection, antitrust, and civil rights.

Ban mandatory class action waivers. When workers or consumers are wronged by a company, they should be able to band together and seek justice. Taking on a big corporation’s army of lawyers takes enormous sums of money and legal expertise. But class action waivers tucked into consumer and employment contracts prevent individuals from suing together. That makes it virtually impossible to pursue a lawsuit, and gives companies unlimited license to rip you off without any consequences. These anti-worker and anti-consumer provisions shouldn’t be enforceable, but because of a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Gorsuch, they’re alive and well. That’s why my plan would restore the fundamental right of workers and consumers to join together when they are wronged by banning these provisions in employment, consumer protection, antitrust, and civil rights cases.

Restore fair pleading standards. When you file a lawsuit, one of the first steps of the legal process is called “discovery.” That’s when you’re supposed to ask questions and gather facts about your case, but a pair of recent Supreme Court decisions upended decades of pleading standards, making it difficult to file a case without already having many of these facts. These widely criticized cases deprive plaintiffs of their day in court, and allow powerful defendants to successfully dismiss cases before they even begin. My plan would undo this damage by restoring fair pleading standards so that every person who has been harmed gets their day in court.

Holding Bad Actors Accountable

The reforms I’ve outlined will go a long way toward cleaning up Washington. But we also need strong enforcement mechanisms and broad transparency requirements to make sure we can hold bad actors accountable.

Let’s start with real penalties for violating the rules.

When Secretary Ben Carson was warned about his son participating in fancy government events, he brushed it off. And when an independent federal ethics watchdog determined that Kellyanne Conway should be fired for repeatedly violating federal law, the administration barely cared.

In Washington, corrupt actors should face penalties when they break the law — not return to business as usual.

Here’s how my plan would fix this:

Establish a new U.S. Office of Public Integrity and strengthen ethics enforcement. The new office will investigate ethics complaints from the public, impose civil and administrative penalties on violators, and refer egregious violations to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

Expand and strengthen the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. My plan ensures this office has the proper authorities and resources to conduct investigations, refer civil and criminal violations to the appropriate authorities, and recommend disciplinary action to the House and Senate Ethics Committees.

Expand the definition of “official act” in bribery statutes to criminalize the sale of government access. When a politician accepts gifts in exchange for government favors, that’s bribery — but thanks to a wrong-headed Supreme Court decision in United States v. McDonnell, our laws don’t fully recognize it. My plan plugs that tractor-sized loophole and ensures that corrupt politicians who accept bribes can be prosecuted. It also clarifies that a stream of benefits — rather than a single act — qualifies as an unlawful benefit paid in exchange for a bribe.

Clarify the definition of “in-kind contributions” to ensure that no future candidate can receive political assistance from foreign countries or solicit large hush money payments without facing legal consequences. Politicians and advisors like Donald Trump Jr. have reportedly tried to receive help from foreign countries, even though it is illegal for foreign individuals to provide in-kind contributions to campaigns. And Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen to spend $130,000 to cover up an affair so it would not come to light before the 2016 election, despite laws preventing him from soliciting large in-kind contributions. Although a federal judge accepted Cohen’s guilty plea, Trump’s lawyers and defenders continued to insist that what Cohen did — and what Trump solicited — was not a crime. My plan settles this debate and clarifies that the rules governing in-kind contributions also apply to intangible benefits, such as dirt on political opponents, and in-kind financial contributions, like the payment of hush money, when those contributions are made at least in part — even if not exclusively — for campaign purposes.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Deter Corruption Through Broad New Government Transparency Standards

If government is supposed to work for the people, then the people should be given enough information to judge how well their government is working for them. Too many government records are kept behind lock and key, making it impossible for the public to hold their government accountable. Significant legal actions that have implications for public health and safety can be kept secret. And the actions of federal contractors — the companies often tasked with the implementation of government policies and programs, like Trump’s family separation policy — are almost completely concealed from public view, thanks to an assortment of exemptions and loopholes.

Here’s how my plan would shine a light on government activity:

Prohibit courts from sealing records involving major public health and safety issues. When people were killed by ignition defects in Chevrolet vehicles, General Motors settled the cases on the condition that all documents related to the defects would be sealed from public view. It wasn’t an isolated incident. Big corporations routinely use secret settlements to keep defective products on the market so they can continue to rake in profits. That must stop. My plan bans courts from sealing records in cases involving public health and safety, with rare exceptions, so that corporations cannot conceal these dangerous conditions from the American people.

Impose strict transparency standards for federal courts and remove barriers to accessing electronic judicial records. My plan requires federal appellate courts to livestream audio of their proceedings, share case assignment data in bulk, and make all electronic case records — which currently must be purchased from the government — more easily accessible and free of charge.

Strengthen federal open records laws to close loopholes and exemptions that hide corporate influence, and increase transparency in Congress, federal agencies, and nonprofits that aim to influence policy. The American people have a right to know whether their elected leaders are acting in the public’s best interest — and who is trying to influence them. Under my plan, Congressional committees, government agencies, and federal contractors would be required to publicly release key information so that the American people — and the American press — can hold the federal government accountable.

Read more about her plan here

Warren Tells Crowd of 20,000 in Washington Square Park ‘We can root out corruption in Washington’

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running for president in 2020, outlines her plan to address corruption before a crowd of 20,000 gathered in Washington Square Park, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running to be the Democratic candidate for president, began and ended her speech before some 20,000 gathered at Washington Square Park in New York City relating the history of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 which took place mere blocks from the Arch that took the lives of 146 Jewish and Italian immigrant women and girls – still one of the largest industrial accidents in US history. She spoke of Francis Perkins, who ran from a townhouse just behind where Warren stood. Perkins was already an activist for workers’ rights and won fire safety regulations, “but didn’t stop there,” and other worker protections.

Even before women got the right to vote, Perkins became a political adviser on workers rights and became the first woman Cabinet secretary, Secretary of Labor, under FDR.

Perkins, Warren said, worked from within, while thousands of women in the trade union movement, worked from outside – 500,000 marched in a funeral procession up Fifth Avenue for the 146.

Speaking from a podium built of wood from the Frances Perkins homestead in Newcastle, Maine, obtained from her grandson, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, Warren used the story to prove her point of what can happen through grassroots action, that big bold things – such as what she is proposing to make fundamental, systemic change. “Don’t be afraid…” she declared – a not-so-subtle shout out to the Democrats who, desperate to see Trump voted out of office, are looking for a candidate they believe has the best chance of winning the general election, which for many means someone who won’t rock the boat too much, rather than someone whose ideas and proposals excite, engage and promote real structural change.

There were cheers throughout her speech delivered by a crowd that the campaign estimated at 20,000 (Warren’s biggest to date) but especially as she said, “Medicare for All,” and then, at the phrase, “wealth tax,” chants of 2c, 2c, 2c rose up.

Warren, who had just been endorsed by the National Working Families Party,  said that the 2c on every dollar after the first $50 million in wealth, would correct historic, systemic, and “government sanctioned” racism and sexism that produced gaps in income and also political power – redlining in housing, the pay gap between women and men, particularly women of color, criminal justice reform, eliminating private prisons that incentive locking people up, eliminating student debt, providing universal pre-K. Without using the word “reparations” – she offered a more constructive, implementable series of programs that would accomplish the same goal of equalizing the opportunity to succeed.

“The time to hold back is over. We need structural change.”

Warren added, “I know what you are thinking – it is too much, too big, too hard.” Then, scanning the crowd, she joked, “OK, nobody here. I know this change is possible because others have made big structural change before.”

And she went back to Perkins and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory – how factory owners, made filthy rich because of the horrendous working conditions and wages were able to amass the wealth to buy politicians, how greed by owners and corruption by politicians effectively negated democracy.

“30 years old, Francis Perkins already was a human rights activist…how, seeing the fire at the factory, she ran and watched as young women leaped to their death rather than be consumed by the flames.  500,000 at that march. It wasn’t the first march, but it was different.”

“While they picketed from the outside, Francis pushed from the inside. Those women died because of the greed of business owners and the corruption of politicians. Perkins was the lead investigator, years before women could vote, let alone have a role in government. But Frances had a” plan – she fought for fire safety, but she didn’t stop there.




Senator Elizabeth Warren, running for president in 2020, outlines her plan to address corruption before a crowd of 20,000 gathered in Washington Square Park, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“With Francis working from the inside and the women workers applying pressure from the outside, they rewrote state labor laws top to bottom to protect workers. She became the leading expert on working conditions.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt named her his Labor Secretary through the New Deal.

“That what one woman can do.” She added, “It’s what’s possible when we fight together.”

Warren declared, “No matter what brings you into this fight — whether it’s child care, student loans, health care, immigration, or criminal justice, one thing is crystal clear: corruption is making it worse — and it’s at the root of the major problems we face as a democracy.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running for president in 2020, outlines her plan to address corruption before a crowd of 20,000 gathered in Washington Square Park, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Reforming the money game in Washington isn’t enough. We also need to comprehensively clean up our campaign finance system. That’s why I’ve also called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. It’s why we need to get rid of the Super PACs and secret spending by billionaires and giant corporations that try to buy our democracy. It’s why we need to br”eak the grip that big donors have by creating a system of exclusive public funding of our elections. But even if we solve our campaign finance problems, comprehensive anti-corruption reforms targeted at Washington itself are necessary to finally end the stranglehold that the wealthy and the well-connected have over our government’s decision-making processes.

“I believe that we can root out corruption in Washington. I believe we must make big, structural changes that will once again restore our trust in government by showing that it can work for all of us. And when I’m President, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”

Warren, famous now for posing for selfies with people who come out to see her, wound up staying until midnight before the line, thousands long, was through. “I stayed four hours, but so did the last guy on line,” she later said. It is an indication of the enthusiasm for her and her endurance as a candidate at a time when a big issue among Democrats is who can get out the vote.

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Klobuchar: ‘The Time is Now for Action on Gun Safety’

Gun shop, Rapid City, South Dakota. Democratic candidates for 2020 including Senator Amy Klobuchar have outlined detailed plans to reduce the epidemic of gun violence. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

All the Democratic candidates for 2020 have strong stands on gun safety regulations they would implement to reduce the sick, tragic epidemic of gun violence.

Beto O’Rourke had his break-out moment at the third Democratic Debate, in Houston no less, forcefully declaring, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore. If the high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield … when we see that being used against children.”

And Senator Elizabeth Warren offered a plan that she said would reduce gun deaths by 80 percent. (See:  Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Releases Plan to Protect Our Communities from Gun Violence)

Senator Amy Klobuchar was joined at the Democratic Debate in Houston by gun safety activists from across the country and following the debate, issued her detailed plan for enacting gun safety measures. This is from the Klobuchar campaign:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Gun violence in America has cut short far too many lives, torn families apart and plagued communities across the country. This year there has been an average of about one mass shooting a week in which three or more people have died, including the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that killed 31 people in less than 24 hours. At the same time, everyday gun violence in this country continues to take the lives of the equivalent of a classroom of school children every week.

The gun homicide rate in the United States is 25 times higher than other developed countries and gun safety laws are long overdue. Senator Klobuchar has been standing up to the NRA and fighting for stronger gun safety measures since she was the Hennepin County Attorney, working with local law enforcement to push to ban military-style assault weapons. In the Senate, she has supported legislation to ban assault weapons and bump stocks and improve background checks. 

As a member of the Judiciary Committee, she authored legislation that would prevent convicted stalkers from purchasing firearms and close the “boyfriend loophole” by expanding the definition of a domestic abuser to include dating partners. That Klobuchar legislation has now passed the House of Representatives and has been blocked by Republicans in the Senate. 

Because of her leadership on gun violence prevention, Senator Klobuchar advocated for gun safety legislation at a meeting with President Trump at the White House after Parkland. Seated across from Senator Klobuchar at the meeting, President Trump publicly declared that he supported doing something on background checks nine times. The next day he then met with the NRA and folded. The legislation never was pushed by the White House.

At tonight’s debate, Senator Klobuchar is joined by gun safety activists Roberta McKelvin, Perry and Sharia Bradley, and Mattie Scott as well as the former mayor of Cedar Rapids, IA, Kay Halloran, who is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition.

As President, Senator Klobuchar will not fold. She will stand up for a safer world by:

  • Instituting universal background checks by closing the gun show loophole.
  • Banning bump stocks that can increase a semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire to 700 rounds per minute.
  • Banning high capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
  • Quickly raising the age to buy military-style assault weapons from 18 to 21 and fighting to ban the sale of assault weapons.
  • Providing grants to states to implement extreme risk provisions to empower families and law enforcement to keep guns away from people who show signs of threatening behavior.
  • Closing the “Charleston loophole” by giving law enforcement additional time to complete background checks.
  • Closing the “boyfriend loophole” by preventing people who have abused dating partners from buying or owning firearms.
  • Establishing a waiting period for sales of handguns and assault rifles, which law enforcement can waive in the case of an emergency.
  • Prohibiting the online publication of code for 3D printing firearms.
  • Holding manufacturers and distributors of gun kits to the same standards as those of completed firearms.
  • Providing funding for the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention to conduct research on firearm safety and gun violence prevention.  

In addition, Senator Klobuchar has laid out a plan for her first 100 days that includes executive action she can take immediately to address gun violence:

  • Immediately close the “boyfriend loophole.”
  • Consider gun violence as a public health issue in CDC studies.
  • Crack down on gun manufacturers and dealers that break the law.
  • Prevent people with severe mental illness from acquiring guns.
  • Prevent federal funding from being used to arm teachers.
  • Introduce gun violence legislation. 

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Amy Klobuchar Advances Plan for Universal Coverage, Lower Health Care Costs

Senator Amy Klobuchar,left, on stage in Houston for the third Democratic Debate, hosted by ABC News.

Senator Amy Klobuchar had her best moments in the third Democratic Debate, Sept. 12, in addressing health care and drawing the distinction between Senator Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All solution in the quest, shared by all the Democratic candidates, of universal health care at an affordable cost, health care as a right, not a privilege.

This is from the Klobuchar campaign:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Senator Amy Klobuchar has been a leader in the Senate to lower the cost of prescription drugs, expand access to affordable health care and protect reproductive rights. She was the first candidate in this race to release a comprehensive plan to combat addiction and prioritize mental health — two issues she’s championed her entire career. 

Senator Klobuchar supports: 

Universal health care for all Americans, and she believes the quickest way to get there is through a public option that expands Medicare or Medicaid.

Changes to the Affordable Care Act to help bring down costs to consumers including providing cost-sharing reductions, making it easier for states to put reinsurance in place, and continuing to implement delivery system reform.

Lifting the ban on Medicare negotiations for prescription drugs, allowing personal importation of safe drugs from countries like Canada, and stopping pharmaceutical companies from blocking less-expensive generics.

Taking on mental health and addiction by launching new prevention and early intervention initiatives, expanding access to treatment, and giving Americans a path to sustainable recovery because she believes everyone has the right — and the opportunity — to receive effective, professional treatment and help.

Stopping the concerted attack to undermine and eliminate a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. She believes recent bans in states are dangerous, they are unconstitutional, and they are out of step with the majority of Americans. Amy will continue working to protect the health and lives of women across the country.

In her first 100 days as president, Senator Klobuchar will take the following actions:

Immediately suspend the Trump Administration’s efforts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. 

Immediately allow for the safe importation of prescription drugs from countries like Canada. 

Expand VA health benefits for women veterans and their babies. 

Prioritize mental health and addiction. 

End “pay for delay” agreements that increase the cost of prescription drugs. 

Propose legislation to get us to universal health care.

Develop best models of care to address disparities in maternal and infant mortality and address the shortage of maternity care health professional in underserved rural and urban areas. 

Stop Trump sabotage of the ACA by ending workarounds that allow states to raise premiums for sicker people and shift ACA premium subsidies away from lower-income enrollees. 

End the sale of junk insurance policies that eliminate existing protections for consumers. 

End anticompetitive practices that increase the price of prescription drugs.  

Encourage reinsurance programs. 

Expand Medicaid reimbursement for people receiving mental health or substance use treatment. 

Ensure funding for Planned Parenthood, end the gag rule, and restore the Title X program

Expand investments in veterans telehealth services. 

Invest in the Veterans Health Administration. 

Reassess the granting of Medicaid waivers, including states that have privatized Medicaid. 

Direct the Department of Defense and VA to track servicemembers and veterans exposed to toxic chemicals.

Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to consider VHA facilities when designating Health Professional Shortage Areas. 

Strengthen the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Invest in Alzheimer’s research. 

Prioritize health care delivery system reform to reduce health care costs.

Expand the open enrollment period for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act so more people can get insurance coverage.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Warren Releases Bold, Progressive Plan to Expand Social Security

Senator Elizabeth Warren, vying to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2020, has released a bold, progressive plan to expand Social Security © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Whenever Republicans talk about the need to reform “entitlements,” they always refer to the “sacrifice” demanded of the people most dependent upon Social Security benefits and most vulnerable (with the least political power) in society. They never ask the most obscenely rich, most comfortable, most powerful to make any sacrifice – after all, they are the “job creators” and we don’t want to interfere with the number of yachts and vacation homes they can purchase.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, has just released her plan to expand Social Security – not cut it.

“Millions of Americans are depending on Social Security to provide a decent retirement. My plan raises Social Security benefits across-the-board by $2,400 a year and extends the full solvency of the program for nearly another two decades, all by asking the top 2% to contribute their fair share to the program,” Warren states. “It’s time Washington stopped trying to slash Social Security benefits for people who’ve earned them. It’s time to expand Social Security.”

This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Today, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to provide the biggest and most progressive increase in Social Security benefits in nearly 50 years. Her plan will mean an immediate Social Security benefit increase of $200 a month — $2,400 a year — for every current and future Social Security beneficiary in America. That will immediately help nearly 64 million current Social Security beneficiaries, including 10 million Americans with disabilities and their families. 

The plan also updates outdated rules to further increase benefits for lower-income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers, and people of color. The plan finances these benefit increases and extends the solvency of Social Security by nearly two decades by asking the top 2% of earners to contribute their fair share to the program. 

According to an independent analysis, Elizabeth’s plan will immediately lift an estimated 4.9 million seniors out of poverty — cutting the senior poverty rate by 68%. It will also produce a “much more progressive Social Security system” by delivering much larger benefit increases to lower and middle-income seniors on a percentage basis, increase economic growth in the long term, and reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years. 

Read more about her plan here and below: 

I’ve dedicated most of my career to studying what’s happening to working families in America. One thing is clear: it’s getting harder to save enough for a decent retirement.

A generation of stagnant wages and rising costs for basics like housing, health care, education, and child care have squeezed family budgets. Millions of families have had to sacrifice saving for retirement just to make ends meet. At the same time, fewer people have access to the kind of pensions that used to help fund a comfortable retirement.

As a result, Social Security has become the main source of retirement income for most seniors. About half of married seniors and 70% of unmarried seniors rely on Social Security for at least half of their income. More than 20% of married seniors and 45% of unmarried seniors rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. And the numbers are even more stark for seniors of color: as of 2014, 26% of Asian and Pacific Islander beneficiaries, 33% of Black beneficiaries, and 40% of Latinx beneficiaries relied on Social Security benefits as their only source of retirement income.

Yet typical Social Security benefits today are quite small. Social Security is an earned benefit — you contribute a portion of your wages to the program over your working career and then you and your family get benefits out of the program when you retire or leave the workforce because of a disability — so decades of stagnant wages have led to smaller benefits in retirement too. In 2019, the average Social Security beneficiary received $1,354 a month, or $16,248 a year. For someone who worked their entire adult life at an average wage and retired this year at the age of 66, Social Security will replace just 41% of what they used to make. That’s well short of the 70% many financial advisers recommend for a decent retirement — one that allows you to keep living in your home, go to a doctor when you’re sick, and get the prescription drugs you need.

And here’s the even scarier part: unless we act now, future retirees are going to be in even worse shape than the current ones.

Despite the data staring us in the face, Congress hasn’t increased Social Security benefits in nearly fifty years. When Washington politicians discuss the program, it’s mostly to debate about whether to cut benefits by a lot or a little bit. After signing a $1.5 trillion tax giveaway that primarily helped the rich and big corporations, Donald Trump twice proposed cutting billions from Social Security.

We need to get our priorities straight. We should be increasing Social Security benefits and asking the richest Americans to contribute their fair share to the program. For years, I’ve helped lead the fight in Congress to expand Social Security. And today I’m announcing a plan to provide the biggest and most progressive increase in Social Security benefits in nearly half a century. My plan:

Increases Social Security benefits immediately by $200 a month — $2,400 a year — for every current and future Social Security beneficiary in America.

Updates outdated rules to further increase benefits for lower-income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers, and people of color.

Finances these changes and extends the solvency of Social Security by nearly two decades by asking the top 2% of families to contribute their fair share to the program.

An independent analysis of my plan from Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, finds that my plan will accomplish all of this and:

Immediately lift an estimated 4.9 million seniors out of poverty, cutting the senior poverty rate by 68%.

Produce a “much more progressive Social Security system” by raising contribution requirements only on very high earners and increasing average benefits by nearly 25% for those in the bottom half of the income distribution, as compared to less than 5% for people in the top 10% of the distribution.

Increase economic growth in the long term and reduces the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next ten years.

Every single current Social Security beneficiary — about 64 million Americans — will immediately receive at least $200 more per month under my plan. That’s at least $2,400 more per year to put toward home repairs, or visits to see the grandkids, or paying down the debt you still might owe. And every future beneficiary of Social Security will see at least a $200-a-month increase too, whether you’re 60 years old and nearing retirement or 20 years old and just entering the workforce. If you want to see how my plan will affect you, check out my new calculator here.

Our Current Retirement Crunch — And How It Will Get Worse If We Don’t Act

Seniors today are already facing a difficult retirement. Without action, future generations are likely to be even worse off.

While we’ve reduced the percentage of seniors living in poverty over the past few decades, the numbers remain unacceptably high. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, 14% of seniors — more than 7 million people — live in poverty. Another 28% of seniors have incomes under double the poverty line. A record-high 20% of seniors are still in the workforce in their retirement years. Even with that additional source of income, in 2016, the median annual income for men over 65 was just $31,618 — and just $18,380 for women over 65.

It’s hard to get by on that, especially as costs continue to rise. Most seniors participate in Medicare Part B, and standard premiums for that program now eat up close to 10% of the average monthly Social Security benefit. The average senior has just 66% of Social Security benefits remaining after paying all out-of-pocket healthcare expenses — and if we don’t adopt Medicare For All, out-of-pocket medical spending by seniors is projected to rise sharply over time. The number of elderly households still paying off debt has grown by almost 20% since 1992, and hundreds of thousands of seniors have had their monthly benefits garnished to pay down student loan debt.

Meanwhile, the prospect of paying for long-term care looms over most retirees. 26% of seniors wouldn’t be able to fund two years of paid home care even if they liquidated all of their assets. And for people that have faced lifelong discrimination, like LGBTQ seniors who until recently were denied access to spousal pension privileges and spousal benefits, the risk of living in or near poverty in retirement is even higher.

This squeeze forces a lot of seniors to skimp in dangerous and unhealthy ways. A recent survey found that millions of seniors cut pills, delay necessary home and car repairs, and skip meals to save money.

While the picture for current retirees is grim, it’s projected to get even worse for Americans on the cusp of retirement. Among Americans aged 50 to 64, the average amount saved in 401(k) accounts is less than $15,000. On average, Latinx and Black workers are less likely to have 401(k) accounts, and those who do have them have smaller balances and are more likely to have to make withdrawals before retirement. The gradual disappearance of pensions has been particularly harmful to workers of color who are near retirement. And 13% of all people over 60 have no pension or savings at all.

Meanwhile, this near-retirement group are also suffering under the weight of mounting debt levels and other costs. 68% of households headed by someone over 55 are in debt. Nearly one-quarter of people ages 55 to 64 are also providing elder care. According to one study, 62% of older Latinx workers, 53% of older Black workers, and 50% of older Asian workers work physically demanding jobs, leading to higher likelihood of disability, early exit from the job market, and reduced retirement benefits.

Gen-Xers and Millennials are in even greater trouble. For both generations, wages have been virtually stagnant for their entire working lives. 90% of Gen-Xers are in debt, and they’re projected to be able to replace only 50% of their income in retirement on average. Many Gen-Xers are trapped between their own student loans and mortgages, the costs of raising and educating their children, and the costs of caring for their elderly relativesTwo-thirds of working millennials have no retirement savings, and the numbers are even worse for Black and Latinx working millennials. Debt, wage stagnation, and decreasing pension availability mean that, compared to previous generations at the same age, millennials are significantly behind in retirement planning.

There’s also the looming prospect of serious Social Security cuts in 2035. Social Security has an accumulated reserve of almost $3 trillion now, but because of inadequate contributions to the program by the rich, we are projected to draw down that reserve by 2035, prompting automatic 20% across-the-board benefit cuts if nothing is done.

My plan addresses both the solvency of Social Security and the need for greater benefits head on — with bold solutions that match the scale of the problems we face.

Creating Financial Security By Raising Social Security Benefits

The core of my plan is simple. If you get Social Security benefits now, your monthly benefit will be at least $200 more — or at least $2,400 more per year. If you aren’t getting Social Security benefits now but will someday, your monthly benefit check with be at least $200 bigger than it otherwise would have been.

My $200-a-month increase covers every Social Security beneficiary — including the 10 million Americans with disabilities and their families who have paid into the program and now receive benefits from it. Adults with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty as those without a disability. While 9% of people without disabilities nearing retirement live in poverty, 26% of people that age with disabilities live in poverty. Monthly Social Security benefits make up at least 90% of income for nearly half of Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries.

This benefit increase will also provide a big boost to other groups. It will help the 621,000 disabled veterans who are Social Security beneficiaries. It will benefit the 1 million seniors who exclusively receive Social Security Insurance — which helps Americans with little or no income and assets — and the 2.7 million Americans who receive both SSI and Social Security benefits.

On top of this across-the-board benefit increase, I’ll ensure that current and future Social Security beneficiaries get annual cost-of-living adjustments that keep pace with the actual costs they face. The government currently increases Social Security benefits annually to keep pace with the price of goods typical working families buy. But older Americans and people with disabilities tend to purchase more of certain goods — like health care — than working-age Americans, and the costs of those goods are increasing more rapidly. That’s why my plan will switch to calculating annual cost-of-living increases based on an index called CPI-E that better reflects the costs Social Security beneficiaries bear. Based on current projections, that will increase benefits even more over time.

Combined, my immediate $200-a-month benefit increase for every Social Security beneficiary and the switch to CPI-E will produce significantly higher benefits now and decades into the future. My Social Security calculator will let you see how much your benefits could change under my plan.

Targeted Social Security Improvements to Deliver Fairer Benefits

Broadly speaking, Social Security benefits track with your income during your working years. That means pay disparities and wrongheaded notions that value salaried work over time spent raising children or caring for elderly relatives carry forward once you retire. That needs to change. My plan increases Social Security benefits even further by making targeted changes to the program to deliver fairer benefits and better service to women and caregivers, low-income workers, public sector workers, students and job-seekers, and people with disabilities.

Women and Caregivers

In part because of work and pay discrimination and time out of the workforce to provide care for children and elderly relatives, women receive an average monthly Social Security benefit that’s only 78% of the average monthly benefit for men. That’s one reason women over the age of 65 are 80% more likely to live in poverty than men. My plan includes several changes that primarily affect women and help reduce these disparities.

Valuing the work of caregivers. My plan creates a new credit for caregiving for people who qualify for Social Security benefits. This credit raises Social Security benefits for people who take time out of the workforce to care for a family member — and recognizes caregiving for the valuable work it is.

The government calculates Social Security benefits based on average lifetime earnings, with years spent out of the workforce counted as a zero for the purpose of the average. When people spend time out of the workforce to provide care for a relative, their average lifetime earnings are smaller and so are their Social Security benefits.

That particularly harms lower-income women, people of color, and recent immigrants. There are more than 43 million informal family caregivers in the country, and 60% of them are women. A 2011 study found that women over fifty forgo an average of $274,000 in lifetime wages and Social Security benefits when they leave the workforce to take care of an aging parent. Caregivers who also work are more likely to be low-income and incur out-of-pocket costs for providing care. Because access to paid or partially paid family leave is particularly limited for workers of color — and first-generation immigrant workers are less likely to have jobs with flexible schedules or paid sick days — these workers are more likely to have to take unpaid leave to provide care and thus suffer reductions in their Social Security benefits.

My plan will give credit toward the Social Security average lifetime earnings calculation to people who provide 80 hours a month of unpaid care to a child under the age of 6, a dependent with a disability (including a veteran family member), or an elderly relative. For every month of caregiving that meets these requirements, the caregiver will be credited for Social Security purposes with a month of income equal to the monthly average of that year’s median annual wage. People can receive an unlimited amount of caregiving credits and can claim these credits retroactively if they have done this kind of caregiving work in the last five years. By giving caregivers credits equal to the median wage that year, this credit will provide a particular boost in benefits to lower-income workers.

Improving benefits for widowed individuals from dual-earner households and widowed individuals with disabilities. Because women on average outlive men by 2.5 years, they typically spend more of their retirement in widowhood, a particularly vulnerable period financially. My plan provides two targeted increases in benefits for widows.

In households with similar overall incomes, Social Security provides more favorable survivor benefits to the surviving spouses in single-earner households than in dual-earner households. After the death of a spouse, a surviving spouse from a dual-earner household can lose as much as 50% of her household’s retirement income. My plan will reduce this disparity by ensuring that widow(er)s automatically receive the highest of: (1) 75% of combined household benefits, capped at the benefit level a household with two workers with average career earnings would receive; (2) 100% of their deceased spouse’s benefits; or (3) 100% of their own worker benefit.

My plan will also improve benefits for widowed individuals with disabilities. Currently, a widow with disabilities must wait until she is 50 to start claiming Social Security survivor benefits if her spouse dies — and even at 50, she can only claim benefits at a highly reduced rate. Since most widows with disabilities can’t wait until the official retirement age of 66 to claim their full survivor benefits, their average monthly benefit is only $748 a month, or less than $9,000 a year. My plan will repeal the age requirement so widow(er)s with disabilities can receive their full survivor benefits at any age without a reduction.

Lower-Income Workers

My plan ensures that workers who work for a lifetime at low wages do not retire into poverty.

In 1972, Congress enacted a Special Minimum Benefit for Social Security. The benefit was supposed to help people who had earned consistently low wages over many years of work. But it’s become harder to qualify for the benefit, and the benefit amount has shrunk in value so it now helps hardly anyone. Today, only 0.6% of all Social Security beneficiaries receive the Special Minimum Benefit, and projections show that no new beneficiaries will receive it this year.

No one who spends 30 years working and contributing to Social Security should retire in poverty. That’s why my plan restructures the Special Minimum Benefit so that more people are eligible for it and the benefits are a lot higher. Under my plan, any person who has done 30 years of Social Security-covered work will receive an annual benefit of at least 125% of the federal poverty line when they reach retirement age. That means a baseline of $1,301 a month in 2019 — plus the $200-a-month across-the-board increase in my plan, for a total of $1,501 a month. That’s more than $600-a-month more than what that worker would receive under current law.

Public Sector Workers

My plan also ensures that public sector workers like teachers and police officers get the full Social Security benefits they’ve earned.

If you work in the private sector and earn a pension, you’re entitled to your full pension and your full Social Security benefits in retirement. But if you work in state or local government and earn a pension, two provisions called the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset can reduce your Social Security benefits. WEP slashes Social Security benefits for nearly 1.9 million former public-sector workers and their families, while GPO reduces — and in most cases, eliminates — spousal and survivor Social Security benefits for 700,000 people, 83% of whom are women.

My plan repeals these two provisions, immediately increasing benefits for more than two million former public-sector workers and their families, and ensuring that every current state and local government employee will get the full Social Security benefits they’ve earned.

Students and Job Seekers

My plan also updates the Social Security program so that it encourages people to complete college and participate in job training programs or registered apprenticeships.

Restoring and extending benefits for full-time students whose parent has a disability or has died. In the Reagan administration, Congress cut back a provision that allowed children receiving Social Security dependent benefits to continue to receive them until age 22 if they were full-time students. Before the provision was repealed, these beneficiaries came from families with average incomes 29% lower than their college peers, were more likely to have a parent with low educational attainment, and were more likely to be Black. Access to these benefits boosted college attendance and performance by letting low-income students reduce the number of hours they had to work while attending school. When Congress repealed this benefit, college attendance by previously eligible beneficiaries dropped by more than one-third. My plan restores this provision — and it extends eligibility through the age of 24 because only 41% of all students complete college in four years, and Black, Native American, and Latinx students have even lower four-year completion rates. A longer eligibility period will improve the chances the people who receive this benefit complete college before the benefit ends.

Encouraging registered apprenticeships and job training. Currently, workers who participate in registered apprenticeships or job training may receive lower Social Security benefits because they are taking time out of the workforce or agreeing to accept lower-paying positions to gain skills. We’re about to enter a period of immense transformation in the economy, and we should encourage workers to take time to participate in a registered apprenticeship or job training program so they are prepared for in-demand jobs. That’s why I proposed a $20 billion investment in high-quality apprenticeships in my Economic Patriotism and Rural America plans. My plan today complements that investment by letting workers in job training and apprenticeship programs elect to exclude up to three years in those programs from their lifetime earnings calculation for Social Security benefits, thereby producing a higher average lifetime earnings total — and higher benefits.

Improving the Administration of Social Security Benefits

My plan improves Social Security in another important way: it makes it easier for people to actually get the benefits they’ve earned.

Congress is starving the Social Security Administration of money, creating hardship for people who rely on the program for benefits. Congress has slashed SSA’s operating budget by 9% since 2010, even as the number of beneficiaries is growing. Meanwhile, more Baby Boomers are approaching retirement age — a critical period when workers are most likely to claim Social Security Disability benefits. SSA has a staff shortagerising telephone and office wait times, and outdated technology. Sixty-four Social Security field offices have closed since 2011 and 500 mobile offices have closed since 2010. Field office closures are correlated with a 16% drop in disability insurance beneficiaries in the surrounding area because those people — who have paid into the system and earned their benefits — no longer have assistance to file their applications.

Disability insurance applicants can wait as long as 22 months for an eligibility hearing. Thousands of people have died while waiting for administrative law judges to determine if they’re eligible to receive their benefits. To make matters worse, Donald Trump issued an Executive Order that will politicize the process of selecting the judges who adjudicate these cases. And his administration keeps proposing more cuts to the SSA budget.

My plan restores adequate funding to the Social Security Administration so that it can carry out its core mission. That will allow us to hire more staff, keep offices open, reduce call times, update the technology system, and give applicants and beneficiaries the services they need. And I will revoke Trump’s Executive Order on administrative law judges.

Strengthening Social Security By Extending Solvency For Nearly Two More Decades

Currently, the rich contribute a far smaller portion of their income to Social Security than everyone else. That’s wrong, and it’s threatening the solvency of the program. My plan fully funds its new benefit increases and extends the full solvency of Social Security for nearly 20 more years by asking the richest top 2% of families to start contributing more.

Social Security is funded by mandatory insurance contributions authorized by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or “FICA”. The FICA contribution is 12.4% of wages, with employers and employees splitting those contributions equally at 6.2% each. (Self-employed workers contribute the full 12.4%.) If you’re a wage employee, you contribute 6.2% of your very first dollar of wages to Social Security, and 6.2% of every dollar after that — up to an annual cap. This year’s cap is $132,900, and each year, that cap increases based on the growth in national average wages.

Congress designed the cap to go up each year based on average wages to ensure that a fairly steady percentage of total wages in America were subject to the FICA contribution requirement. But growing wage disparities over the past few decades has thrown the system out of whack.

While wages for lower-income and middle-income workers have been fairly stagnant — limiting the growth of the national average wage figure we use to set the annual cap — income at the very top has been skyrocketing. That means more income for the biggest earners has been above the cap and therefore exempt from the FICA contribution requirement. In 1983, 90% of total wage earnings were below the cap. Now it’s just 83%. The top 1% of earners have an estimated effective FICA contribution rate of about 2%, compared to more than 10% for the middle 50% of earners. That amounts to billions of dollars every year that should have gone to Social Security but instead remained in the pockets of the very richest Americans, while the Social Security system slowly starved.

And the very rich have escaped contributing to the system in yet another way: more and more of their income is in the form of unearned investment income, not wages, and they don’t have to contribute any of their investment income to Social Security. Although most Americans earn most of their income from wages, capital income makes up more than half of total income for the top 1% and more than two-thirds for the top 0.1%. All that income escapes the Social Security program.

My plan brings our Social Security system back into balance by asking the top 2% of earners to start contributing a fair share of their wages to the system and by asking the top 2% of families to contribute a portion of their net investment income into the system as well:

First, my plan imposes a 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on individual wages above $250,000 — affecting less than the top 2% of earners — split equally between employees and employers at 7.4% each. While most American workers contribute to Social Security with every dollar they earn, CEOs and other very high earners contribute to Social Security on only a fraction of their pay. My plan changes that and requires very high earners to contribute a fair share of their income. My plan also closes the so-called “Gingrich-Edwards” loophole to ensure that self-employed workers can’t easily reclassify income to avoid making Social Security contributions.

Second, my plan establishes a new 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on net investment income that applies only to the top 2% — individuals making more than $250,000 in annual income or families making more than $400,000 in annual income. My plan creates a new contribution requirement — modeled on the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) from the Affordable Care Act — that asks people and families above these high income thresholds to contribute 14.8% of the lesser of net investment income or total income above these thresholds. My plan also closes loopholes in the NIIT that allow wealthy owners of partnerships and other businesses to avoid it. This contribution requirement will ensure that the very wealthy are paying into Social Security even when they report the bulk of their income as capital returns rather than wages.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Klobuchar Proposes to ‘Act with Urgency’ on Climate Change: Transform Energy, Rebuild Green America, Mobilize the Heartland and ‘Leave No One Behind’

US Senator Amy Klobuchar has released her plan to “act with urgency” on Climate Change: transform the energy sector, rebuild a Green America, mobilize the Heartland and “leave no one behind” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. With this summer posting heat records and yet another Category 5 hurricane wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and Atlantic islands and barreling down on the East Coast, US Senator Amy Klobuchar has released her plan to tackle the Climate Crisis, which is distinguished for a focus on agriculture and the Heartland, in addition to the more common focus on manufacturing, transportation and clean, renewable energy. This is from the Klobuchar campaign:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — The climate crisis isn’t happening in 100 years — it’s happening now. 2018 was the fourth-hottest year on record globally and it was another near-record year for U.S. weather and climate disasters. The dire warnings in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment make clear that immediate action is needed. The National Climate Assessment lays out how increasing global temperatures are harming our country’s food systems and public health by increasing the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, while displacement and destruction caused by climate-related natural disasters threaten our economy and national security.

Senator Klobuchar is a strong voice from the Midwest when it comes to climate change. In the Senate, she leads the fight to combat climate change by serving on the Senate Climate Action Taskforce, has fought for legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, and has led a Senate resolution recognizing that global climate change is occurring and will continue to pose ongoing risks unless we take action. She authored legislation setting a national renewable electricity standard and she successfully extended renewable energy production tax credits. The first bill Senator Klobuchar ever introduced was a carbon counter bill to establish the first national greenhouse gas registry to track emissions by major industries.

Read Senator Klobuchar’s full plan here.


Confronting the Climate Crisis with Urgency 

We can’t wait. That’s why Senator Klobuchar is committed to taking immediate action — without Congress — to transform our energy sector, unlock scientific breakthroughs, hold the fossil fuel industry accountable, and support workers and communities that are on the front lines of the climate crisis. She will:

Use the full power of the presidency to tackle the climate crisis. Starting on day one of her administration, Senator Klobuchar will take aggressive executive action to confront the climate crisis. She will introduce sweeping climate legislation in the first 100 days of her presidency, but she also won’t wait for Congress when it comes to the full range of legal actions a President can take to address climate change. Specifically, in the first 100 days of her administration Senator Klobuchar will:

Get the United States back in the Paris International Climate Agreement on day one. On day one of Senator Klobuchar’s presidency she will get us back into the Paris International Climate Change Agreement, and she will immediately begin working with global leaders to strengthen the agreement so that the United States maintains global leadership to address the climate crisis.

Restore the Clean Power Plan. Senator Klobuchar will bring back the Clean Power Plan, which set emissions standards for states with respect to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. She will negotiate even stronger emissions standards that account for the progress states have already made. 

Bring back the fuel-economy standards. Senator Klobuchar will restore and strengthen our fuel economy standards, which are key to making an immediate impact on the emissions of cars and light trucks. The Trump Administration has weakened the fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks and has challenged the right of California and other states to follow more stringent standards.

Introduce sweeping legislation that will put our country on the path to 100% net zero emissions by 2050. In her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will introduce and work with Congress to pass sweeping legislation that will put our country on a path to achieving 100% net-zero emissions no later than 2050. 

End the Trump Administration’s censoring of climate science. Senator Klobuchar will end Trump Administration efforts to censor climate science through actions like deleting climate-focused websites, removing the phrase “climate change” from reports, and preventing government scientists from attending conferences on climate change.

Set ambitious goals to reduce the carbon footprint of the federal government. During the first 100 days of her administration, Senator Klobuchar will aggressively work to reduce the federal government’s significant carbon footprint. As President, she will set ambitious goals to increase the efficiency of federal buildings, data centers, and vehicles, reduce water consumption, and increase the use of renewable energy. 

Reinstate the National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee to immediately start addressing the climate crisis. The National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee was charged with translating the findings of the National Climate Assessment into concrete goals. During the first 100 days of her administration, Senator Klobuchar will reinstate this committee that President Trump let expire.

Hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. Senator Klobuchar is committed to standing up to the oil companies and holding the fossil fuel industry accountable. She will:

End federal fossil fuel subsidies. For too long, taxpayers have subsidized the massive profits of fossil fuel companies. Senator Klobuchar will end federal tax subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and production. 

Make politicians accountable to voters, not special interests. Again and again, bold action on climate has been blocked by the power of special interests. As President, Senator Klobuchar will put people first by working to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get dark money out of our politics, as well as establish a campaign finance system that increases the power of small donors through a matching system for small donations. She will investigate potential wrongdoings and hold energy companies accountable. 

Expanding Renewable Energy and Transforming the Energy Sector 

There is a scientific consensus that in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change we will need to achieve 100% net-zero emissions no later than 2050, which cannot be done without a wholesale transformation of the energy sector. To expand renewable energy and transform the energy sector to produce clean power, Senator Klobuchar will:  

Invest in infrastructure and provide incentives for state and local governments, nonprofits, and private companies to expand clean energy production. Senator Klobuchar will support a landmark carbon pricing system that does not have a regressive impact on Americans and will help make clean energy production more cost competitive. She will also do more to accelerate the adoption of clean energy, including by subsidizing production and investment by state and local governments, nonprofits and private companies, as well as by upgrading our grid infrastructure and storage capabilities. 

Provide production and investment tax credits. Senator Klobuchar will create a technology neutral tax credit to support production of or investment into clean sources of energy. She will also create a clean energy bond program so that tax-exempt entities can benefit. The credits will be phased out as overall emissions are reduced. 

Upgrade energy grids and storage capacity. Our country’s electric grid needs an upgrade to account for the irregular nature of certain clean energy sources, accommodate distributed energy production, and facilitate smart metering and other innovative technologies. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create a competitive grant program and a new investment tax credit to promote investments in grid improvements and storage. She will also provide rural electric cooperatives access to technical resources and expertise to overcome the barriers to renewable energy storage and grid improvements based on a bipartisan bill she leads in the Senate.

Streamline renewable energy production on federal land. Many federal lands have significant renewable energy potential. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to streamline the permitting process for renewable projects on federal lands while protecting sensitive ecosystems and ensuring a fair distribution of payments. 

Empower municipal utilities and electric cooperatives to lead on clean energy. Senator Klobuchar knows that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to clean energy policy. She will make sure smaller producers, including municipal utilities and electric cooperatives, have a seat at the table when decisions are made about federal energy policy. In the Senate, she authored bipartisan legislation that was signed into law that enables rural electric power cooperatives and their members to continue to use energy-efficient water heaters as part of conservation programs. This law allows cooperatives to optimize both their own energy management and the environmental benefits of water heaters. 

Reduce climate pollution. A carbon price will create an economic incentive to reduce carbon pollution and there is more we can do to limit climate pollution from existing fossil fuel production. 

Restore and expand the Clean Power Plan. In her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will bring back the Clean Power Plan, which set emissions standards for states with respect to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. She will negotiate even stronger emissions standards that account for the progress states have made. 

Strengthen enforcement of the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws. Under the Trump Administration, EPA enforcement efforts have fallen dramatically. As President, Senator Klobuchar will direct the EPA to vigorously enforce the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws and make sure the enforcers have the resources they need.

Reduce methane leakage from oil and gas production. Methane has as much as 84 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide. The Trump Administration has rolled back EPA and BLM rules to prevent methane leakage even though the Senate defeated an attempt to repeal the BLM methane rule on a bipartisan vote and many companies already comply with stricter state rules. As President, Senator Klobuchar will restore and strengthen the EPA and BLM methane rules. 

Support research to improve negative emissions technologies. To supplement other mitigation efforts as we transition to clean energy, Senator Klobuchar will support research to improve negative emissions technologies that could be used to reduce the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere.

Ban new fossil fuel permitting on federal lands and review and restore environmental protections repealed by the Trump Administration. To help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels, Senator Klobuchar will ban new fossil fuel permits on federal lands. Senator Klobuchar will also undertake a comprehensive review and restore environmental protections repealed by the Trump Administration. The Trump Administration has revoked dozens of guidance documents and rules that protect people’s safety, health and the environment when it comes to our power plants, oil refineries, national parks and wildlife refuges, offshore drilling, pipelines, and oil and gas development. Senator Klobuchar will undertake a thorough review of all the repealed guidance and rules, and work to restore our environmental and safety protections.

Increasing Efficiency and Rebuilding a Green America

Confronting the climate crisis also means improving energy efficiency and rebuilding infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stand up to the effects of climate change. As President, Senator Klobuchar will:

Increase efficiency and move toward an electrified transportation sector. Today, transportation accounts for about 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Klobuchar will work to reduce emissions in the transportation sector through increasing fuel economy, supporting electrification, and promoting efficient transportation options. 

Bring back the fuel-economy standards. In her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will restore and strengthen our fuel economy standards, which are key to making an immediate impact on the emissions of cars and light trucks. The Trump Administration has weakened the fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks and has challenged the right of California and other states to follow more stringent standards.

Invest in electric vehicle infrastructure and promote electric vehicle sales. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make a significant investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and bring back the tax credit for electric vehicle purchases. 

Strengthen transit and commuter rail networks and support low- and no-carbon alternatives. As President, Senator Klobuchar will refocus federal transportation grants to prioritize transit projects, first and last mile connections, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements. She will also develop new incentives for transit systems and school districts to replace their existing bus fleets with low- and no-carbon alternatives. 

Revitalize freight and passenger rail. Railroads are an energy- and cost-effective way for producers to bring their goods to market and get people where they need to go. As President, Senator Klobuchar will encourage investment in short-line and freight rail networks. She will also address safety concerns including by mandating two-man crews, improving braking systems, and ensuring communities are prepared to respond to derailments involving hazardous cargo. In addition, she will build on her work pushing for greater competition in freight markets by providing fair treatment for captive shippers, appointing well qualified members to the Surface Transportation Board, and reviewing and addressing consolidation in the freight rail industry. She is also committed to expanding high-speed rail and Amtrak service in rural America.

Innovate in international shipping and aviation. International shipping and aviation account for a growing share of carbon emissions. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support research and strengthen international agreements to reduce emissions from sources like aviation and shipping. 

Support green manufacturing and provide consumers with green options. Manufacturing processes and consumer goods can have a significant climate impact. New technologies can significantly reduce carbon pollution, but we need to make sure manufacturers have the tools to adopt these technologies. 

Assist businesses transitioning to green manufacturing processes. Senator Klobuchar is committed to ensuring businesses have the resources they need to transition to green manufacturing processes. She will increase technical support through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and regional development strategies and encourage partnerships with community colleges and research universities. She will also expand manufacturing tax credits to specifically support upgrades and investments to reduce greenhouse gas pollution for manufacturers of all sizes.

Build a market for new and existing climate-friendly products. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support a market for climate-friendly products by promoting federal procurement policies that account for low-carbon energy sources and climate conscious processes.

Create a “Buy Clean” product labeling system. Many consumers are concerned about how their purchasing decisions affect the climate. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create a “Buy Clean” product labeling system to give consumers clear information about products that are produced to minimize their climate impact. 

Institute an import fee on carbon-intensive goods. We cannot allow foreign competitors to undercut U.S. manufacturers that are producing goods with climate conscious processes. That’s why as President, Senator Klobuchar will work to institute a fee on imports of carbon-intensive goods from foreign countries. 

Invest in green jobs and infrastructure. Senator Klobuchar has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure package that will modernize our aging energy infrastructure so that it is secure and efficient. This massive infrastructure investment will create good-paying union jobs and give workers the skills they need to succeed in the green economy. 

Retrofit buildings to reduce their emissions. Residential and commercial buildings account for a significant share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Klobuchar will launch a major initiative to retrofit existing buildings to reduce their emissions through grants and tax credits that support insulation, weatherization improvements, upgrades to heating and cooling systems, and other energy saving upgrades.

Make new buildings climate friendly. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support the development of the next generation of low-emission buildings through model building energy codes and benchmarking and transparency programs that cut carbon pollution and energy bills for American families and businesses.

Promote effective zoning rules to minimize climate impacts. Some cities are beginning to update their zoning policies through initiatives like Minneapolis 2040. Senator Klobuchar will prioritize areas that have updated their zoning rules when awarding federal housing and infrastructure grants.

Expand the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Senator Klobuchar has been a strong supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which preserves natural resources while supporting outdoor recreation through investments on our public lands. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to permanently fund the LWCF.

Coordinate with broadband and other infrastructure priorities. In the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has been a leading proponent of “dig once” policies and other ways to reduce costs by coordinating infrastructure deployment. As President, she will direct federal agencies to maximize opportunities for coordinating climate, broadband, and other types of infrastructure deployment. 

Build climate resiliency into all federal infrastructure investments. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make federal infrastructure investments resilient to both current and future climate risks and partner with states and communities to develop regionally coordinated, resilient infrastructure strategies.

Promoting Research and Unlocking New Scientific Breakthroughs for Green Technologies 

At the same time as we move forward aggressively with the tools we have today, we need to invest in research that will create new opportunities to tackle the climate crisis. To unlock new scientific breakthroughs and promote research, Senator Klobuchar will:

Invest in federally sponsored research. Basic and applied research can uncover new technologies, make existing products more efficient, and reduce the costs of the tools we need to take on climate change. Senator Klobuchar will increase investment in federally sponsored research.

Expand direct federal research. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make bold investments in direct climate research at the Department of Energy, National Labs, ARPA-E and the Department of Defense.

Partner with universities and non-profits. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support a major expansion of federal grants for climate research to universities and non-profits. 

Unleash the creativity of the private sector. American workers and businesses are a vital source of innovation. Senator Klobuchar believes we must include the private sector in climate research and innovation. 

Strengthen tax incentives for climate research. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen existing tax credits for businesses investing in research to develop new processes, technologies and products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help tackle the climate crisis. 

Encourage collaboration between researchers and the private sector. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make it easier for federal research grant recipients to partner with the private sector and provide set-aside grants for projects with strong commercialization potential. 

Help American companies become global green leaders. As President, Senator Klobuchar will increase support for businesses looking to export green products and technologies through a new initiative across U.S. export promotion agencies. 

Respect science and empower scientists. As President, Senator Klobuchar will stop the constant attacks on scientists and science. She will also direct all federal agencies to reimplement scientific integrity policies, reverse rules limiting what types of science agencies can use, and restart data collection canceled by the Trump Administration. 

Mobilizing the Heartland

Senator Klobuchar is a strong voice from the Midwest when it comes to climate change. She will give rural areas the tools they need to be leaders in clean energy production, support agricultural practices that take on climate change and make sure the heartland benefits from rebuilding a green America. 

Support rural clean energy production. Clean energy, including wind and solar, is a major driver of job growth in rural areas. In fact, 99 percent of operating wind capacity is located in rural areas. As part of Senator Klobuchar’s plan to tackle climate change, she will prioritize rural energy development, including expanding storage capacity and strengthening our energy grid. And as we continue to develop advanced biofuel technologies, she will strengthen the renewable fuel standard.

Invest in wind and solar and support rural energy development. As President, Senator Klobuchar will invest in interregional transmission lines and grid improvements to support the development of renewable energy. She will launch a grant program to help rural cooperatives develop energy storage and microgrid projects for renewable energy generation, transmission and storage. She will also support increased investment in small, distributed wind, solar and biogas projects.  

Provide technical resources for small, rural energy producers and distributors. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push for new economic and environmental opportunities in rural America by investing in rural renewable energy development and by passing and signing into law her bipartisan Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy (EASE) Act to provide rural electric cooperatives access to technical resources and expertise to overcome the barriers to renewable energy storage and grid improvements.

Investing in and providing incentives for homegrown energy. Senator Klobuchar believes that homegrown biofuels are an important part of our rural economies, our nation’s energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the Senate, she has been a leader when it comes to standing up to the Administration’s misuse of small refinery renewable fuel standard (RFS) waivers. She has also worked successfully in the Senate to provide financing and grant support to biobased manufacturers. As President, Senator Klobuchar will strengthen the RFS, end the overuse of secret RFS small refinery waivers, promote the use of blender pumps, pass a statute to ensure year-round E15 sales, and invest in advanced and cellulosic biofuels. 

Help farmers be leaders in responding to the climate crisis. We can position American farmers to be leaders in responding to the climate crisis by increasing land conservation and expanding on new techniques that help store more carbon in topsoil on productive farmland. 

Invest in conservation innovation. Senator Klobuchar will target research into soil carbon sequestration, which could improve soil health as well as reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere. She will also expand Conservation Innovation Grants to test emerging conservation approaches, including practices that increase carbon sequestration levels. And building on provisions she included in the 2018 farm bill, Senator Klobuchar will further improve agriculture data research of conservation practices to help farmers reduce risk and increase profitability. 

Protect native sod and improve soil health. Senator Klobuchar pushed for a provision in the 2018 Farm Bill that closed a loophole allowing some non-insured crops to be planted four consecutive years without a reduction in crop insurance assistance for succeeding insured crops. As President, she will expand nationwide the sodsaver’s prohibition to substitute crop insurance yields on native sod that is converted to cropland. She will also expand the Soil Health and Income Protection Pilot Program to help provide farmers an alternative to cropping less productive cropland. 

Expand conservation practices. Senator Klobuchar has been a champion of supporting farmer conservation efforts and promoting farming practices that reduce soil erosion and improve air and water quality, including by helping pass the 2018 Farm Bill, which included several of her priorities. As President, she will support significant new investments in conservation of working and retired lands. Senator Klobuchar will support the continued expansion of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and increase resources for the Conservation Stewardship Program to help provide farmers the tools they need to protect and enhance natural resources on working agricultural lands. And after successfully increasing the acreage cap of the Conservation Reserve Program, Senator Klobuchar will work to attract more enrollees and ensure payment rates are fair. 

Use green infrastructure investment to strengthen rural communities. There is a significant infrastructure backlog in rural America. From roads and bridges to levees and stormwater systems many rural areas face infrastructure challenges that will be difficult to address without federal investment. Upgrading rural infrastructure to meet our climate goals will also provide an opportunity to address the backlog and overcome infrastructure challenges that are holding back rural America. 

Strengthen rural transportation infrastructure. Rural transportation infrastructure is at risk from the effects of climate change. As President, Senator Klobuchar will invest in the repair and improvement of rural bridges that are not part of the federal-aid highway network and invest in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to improve inland waterways and ports, including funding for the Navigation and Ecosystem Restoration Program to modernize and expand outdated locks and restore ecosystems along the Mississippi. 

Expand energy efficiency programs. Energy costs can be a significant burden on farms, small businesses and households in rural communities. Senator Klobuchar has long worked to see that the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has the resources needed to provide grants to farms and rural businesses to install energy efficient technologies, and she will continue to push for additional resources. In the Senate, she authored bipartisan legislation that was signed into law that empowers the nonprofit community to make energy-efficiency improvements to their buildings and offices. 

Upgrade levees to account for more frequent and severe floods. The floods we saw throughout the Midwest this year show why we cannot wait to upgrade our levees so they can protect communities from more frequent and severe floods. Senator Klobuchar will make upgrading levees a major focus of her infrastructure investment in the heartland.

Update the rural housing stock. Much of the existing rural housing stock is outdated and in poor condition, which contributes to the rural housing crisis. Investments in weatherizing and updating homes and their heating and cooling systems will build value and help renew the rural housing stock. 

Bring high-speed broadband to every household and business in America. Broadband access can reduce commuting and make business and farms more efficient. In an effort to close the rural-urban divide, Senator Klobuchar has previously announced a commitment to connect every household in America to high-speed internet by 2022. She will focus on creating accurate broadband maps to identify areas that lack adequate access, bringing high-speed internet infrastructure to areas most in need, including by expanding Rural Utility Service grants, and providing greater incentives for existing providers to upgrade their networks to cover unserved and underserved areas. She will also work to quickly implement the recommendations of the Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force to help farmers fully realize the potential of broadband in their operations.

Leaving No One Behind 

Vulnerable communities are currently experiencing a disproportionate share of the effects of climate change. Senator Klobuchar is committed to leaving no one behind through investments in climate adaptation and support for frontline communities. She will also focus on fulfilling our responsibility to our communities and workers who have helped power this country.  

Support communities that are most directly experiencing the effects of climate change. Traditionally marginalized communities including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and disabled Americans are experiencing some of the most severe effects of climate change. Senator Klobuchar will prioritize assisting these communities as they adapt to the effects of climate change. 

Make sure vulnerable communities are a key part of all decision making. We cannot continue to make decisions about climate change without directly and meaningfully involving the communities that are most affected. Senator Klobuchar will make sure traditionally marginalized communities are a key part of all decision-making processes. 

Direct resources to the communities with the greatest needs. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create tax incentives and increase federal funding to communities that are most directly experiencing the effects of climate change. She will also prioritize these communities for infrastructure investments and in other federal climate change programs. 

Strengthen environmental justice programs at the EPA. The Trump Administration has worked to dismantle environmental justice programs. Senator Klobuchar will invest in the EPA’s Environmental Justice Grants, Funding and Technical Assistance and Office of Civil Rights.

Invest in affordable housing that promotes climate resilience and mitigation. As President, Senator Klobuchar will ensure that all federal housing programs put strong standards in place to reduce carbon emissions and she will invest in retrofitting so that existing housing is more energy efficient. 

Strengthen LIHEAP and SNAP to protect the most vulnerable Americans. To be sure that the most vulnerable Americans do not bear the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation, Senator Klobuchar will strengthen two important programs for low-income Americans — LIHEAP, which helps with home energy costs, and SNAP, which provides nutrition assistance.

Use disaster funding to build more resilient communities. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to end the Stafford Act prohibition that prevents disaster funding from being used for significant infrastructure improvements. She will also increase funding for FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. 

Fulfill our responsibility to our communities and workers who have helped power this country. As the granddaughter of miner who worked 1,500 feet underground, Senator Klobuchar understands the hard work and sacrifice of those who built and powered our country. She is committed to supporting and creating new opportunities for workers and communities that have depended on the fossil fuel industry. 

Promote community assistance and support workers. Senator Klobuchar will work with the public and private sector to attract new employers and maintain public services, while investing in infrastructure and educational opportunities in areas that experience job loss. As part of any carbon pricing system, she will create a significant manufacturing tax incentive to encourage investment in rural communities or communities that have faced or are about to face job losses. To make it easier for workers to find new jobs, Senator Klobuchar will create a new tax credit for companies that hire workers who had previously depended on the fossil fuel industry for employment. Workers will also be able to take advantage of Senator Klobuchar’s previously announced plan to provide tuition-free one- and two-year community college degrees and technical certifications and expand student loan forgiveness programs to workers in in-demand occupations. 

Reestablish U.S. International Leadership on Climate. When it comes to global leadership on climate change, the United States has abdicated its leadership role under the Trump Administration. As President, Senator Klobuchar will reassert U.S. global leadership to confront the climate crisis. 

Get the United States back in the Paris International Climate Agreement on day one. On day one of Senator Klobuchar’s presidency she will get the United States back into the Paris International Climate Change Agreement, and she will immediately begin working with global leaders to strengthen the agreement so that the United States maintains global leadership to address the climate crisis. 

Build on the Paris International Climate Agreement to achieve global emissions reductions we need. Senator Klobuchar will work with international leaders to build consensus around stronger goals to limit global warming to no more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. She will also recommit to controls on other greenhouse gasses through agreements like the Kigali Amendment. And she will increase U.S. support for the Green Climate Fund. 

Establish meaningful enforcement of international climate goals. The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, but still only accounts for about 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Preventing catastrophic global warming will require meaningful enforcement mechanisms to ensure other countries also meet their emission reduction goals, which means making accountability for climate commitments a central part of our international agenda, taking on China’s efforts to promote dirty energy sources in other countries, and considering climate goals in all types of international assistance. 

Protect our national security. As President Senator Klobuchar will elevate the voices of our military and security experts who have repeatedly warned that climate change will increase the risks of international conflict and humanitarian crises. She will work with our allies to support countries most affected by climate change, including addressing global food and water shortages, supporting climate resilient development, helping countries adapt to the effects of climate change, and preparing for the increased risk of natural disasters. 

To pay for these critical investments, Senator Klobuchar will: 

Work with Congress to put a price on carbon that does not have a regressive impact on Americans. We know that carbon pollution has significant costs, but for too long the public has been forced to bear those costs while those responsible for the pollution have paid nothing. Most economists agree that the most efficient way to promote a transition away from fossil fuels is by putting a price on carbon. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work with Congress to put a carbon pricing system in place that does not have a regressive impact on Americans.

Develop Clean Energy Bonds. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create Clean Energy Bonds that will support investment in clean energy projects. Investors would earn back their full investment as well as interest from energy savings to the government and loan repayments for clean energy projects. Estimates suggest that these clean energy bonds could raise up to $50 billion and leverage $150 billion for clean energy innovation and the creation of over 1 million jobs.

End federal fossil fuel subsidies. For too long, taxpayers have subsidized the massive profits of fossil fuel companies. Senator Klobuchar will end federal tax subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and production. 

Make a series of corporate tax reforms. To pay for a green infrastructure investment worth hundreds of billions of dollars, Senator Klobuchar will make a series of corporate tax reforms including adjusting the corporate tax rate to 25%, closing loopholes that encourage U.S. companies to move jobs and operations overseas, establishing a financial risk fee on our largest banks, and increasing efforts for tax enforcement. 

Increase the capital gains rate. To support and create new opportunities for workers and communities that have depended on the fossil fuel industry, Senator Klobuchar will raise the capital gains rate for Americans who make over $200,000. 

Close the trust fund loophole. To support updating our buildings and providing consumers support through programs like LIHEAP and rebates, Senator Klobuchar will close the trust fund loophole.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Bernie Sanders Releases Workplace Democracy Plan to Boost Unions, Raise Wages

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, unveiled proposals to increase union membership and raise wages for working people © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders,in Des Moines ahead of the Iowa AFL-CIO convention, announced a comprehensive plan to at least double union membership during his first term as president, rebuilt the middle class and substantially raise wages. This is from the Sanders campaign:

“Corporate America and the billionaire class have been waging a 40-year war against the trade union movement in America that has caused devastating harm to the middle class in terms of lower wages, fewer benefits and frozen pensions,” Sanders said. “That war will come to an end when I am president. If we are serious about rebuilding the middle class in America, we have got to rebuild, strengthen and expand the trade union movement in America.”

Sanders’ Workplace Democracy Plan would essentially repeal Iowa’s Chapter 20 law that stripped the rights of public sector workers to collectively bargain for better benefits and safer working conditions by giving all public sector workers the freedom to negotiate.

The sweeping proposal to strengthen unions would end right to work laws, give every union worker in America the right to strike and ban the replacement of striking workers.

As president, Sanders also pledged to sign an executive order preventing large, profitable corporations that engage in union busting, outsource jobs overseas or pay workers less than $15 an hour from receiving federal contracts.

The plan would also make it substantially easier to form a union and stop employers from ruthlessly exploiting workers by misclassifying them as independent contractors or denying them overtime by falsely categorizing them as a “supervisor.”

Other key elements of this proposal include: 

  • Requiring companies that merge to honor existing union contracts.
  • Bringing workers, employers and the government together across industries to negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions through sectoral bargaining.
  • Stop corporations from forcing workers to attend mandatory anti-union meetings as a condition of continued employment. 
  • Protect the pensions of workers. 
  • Establish federal protections against the firing of workers for any reason other than “just cause.”

In addition, the plan makes sure that all union workers would be better off under Medicare for All. If Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union-negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company savings that result from reduced health care contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits.

Read the Workplace Democracy Plan here.

Biden attacks Trump as G7 Opens: ‘Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure’

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, stated Trump’s “incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Donald Trump departed the White House to attend the G7 after a day in which he attacked Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell as a “worse enemy” than China’s Chairman Xi and ordered US companies to leave China, a day in which the Dow plummeted 600 points, a day after he referred to himself as the “Chosen One” as he looked to the heavens and demanded that Russia be invited back into the G8, Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, issued this statement:

“This week, in the lead-up to the G7 in France, President Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure and less respected in the world.  He has insulted our closest partners and denigrated one of our most capable allies, Denmark—a country that has repeatedly fought and sacrificed alongside our troops. He issued yet another attack on NATO, reiterating his belief that NATO is an American-run protection racket where our allies better pay up, or else. And he advocated for Russia’s return to the G7, despite Vladimir Putin’s long and growing record of aggressive behavior and provocations against the United States and our allies in Europe. 

“Trump’s actions and words are not just embarrassing—they are making the American people less safe. Every incident further isolates us on the global stage, reinforcing that his version of “America First” means America alone. For the first time in its history, the G7 will not even issue a joint communique, because President Trump refuses to cooperate with our partners on the pressing issues of our time, including climate change, China’s predatory trade practices, Russian attacks on western democracies, and nuclear proliferation. No country, even one as powerful as ours, can go it alone against 21st century challenges that respect no borders and cannot be contained by walls.

“NATO, the most powerful alliance in history, is the bulwark of America’s national security and the free world’s first line of defense. It’s how we amplify our own strength, maintain our presence around the globe, and magnify our impact – while sharing the burden among willing partners. NATO is an alliance built first and foremost on shared democratic values, which makes it more durable and more reliable than partnerships built on coercion or cash. But it is not indestructible, and Trump has taken a battering ram to our most important strategic alliance.

“More than two-and-a-half years into his presidency, the pattern of Trump’s conduct and character is clear. He never misses a chance to lavish praise on dictators like Putin and Kim Jong Un, and takes every opportunity to bash our closest democratic allies. Instead of leading alongside fellow democracies, he seems to be on the other team. His incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president. We will restore the soul of this nation. And we will once again lead the international community in a way that is consistent with our most cherished values, standing with—not against—the rest of the free world.”

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Sanders Says His Green New Deal Will Avert Climate Catastrophe, Create 20 Million Jobs

Senator Bernie Sanders, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, has unveiled his Green New Deal which he says will avert climate catastrophe and create 20 million jobs © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders, in the town of Paradise, California, which was obliterated in last season’s wildfires, unveiled his Green New Deal,the only plan bold enough to confront the climate crisis and create an economy that works for all.” Under Sanders’ plan, the United States will reach 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050. This is from the Sanders campaign:

“This is a pivotal moment in the history of America — and really, in the history of humanity. The climate crisis is not only the single greatest challenge facing our country; it is also our single greatest opportunity to build a more just and equitable future, but we must act immediately,” said Sen. Sanders. “When we are in the White House, we will launch the decade of the Green New Deal, a 10-year mobilization to avert climate catastrophe during which climate change, justice and equity will be factored into virtually every area of policy, from immigration to trade to foreign policy and beyond.” 

Sanders’ Green New Deal boldly embraces the moral imperative of addressing the climate crisis and builds on an unprecedented grassroots movement powerful enough to take on the fossil fuel industry and win. As president, Sanders will mobilize the political will necessary for a wholesale transformation of our society, with support for frontline communities and massive investments in sustainable energy, energy efficiency, and a transformation of our transportation system.  

The Green New Deal will avert climate catastrophe, transform our energy system, build an economy for all and end the greed of the fossil fuel industry by: 

  • Ending unemployment by creating 20 million jobs needed to solve the climate crisis.
  • Ensuring a just transition for communities and workers, including fossil fuel workers.
  • Ensuring justice for frontline communities, especially under-resourced groups, communities of color, Native Americans, people with disabilities, children and the elderly.
  • Saving American families money with investments in weatherization, public transportation, modern infrastructure and high-speed broadband.
  • Committing to reducing emissions throughout the world.

The Green New Deal will pay for itself over 15 years by holding the fossil fuel industry accountable for the damage it has caused. Sanders’ plan will:

  • Make the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and by eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Generate revenue from the wholesale of energy produced by the regional Power Marketing Authorities. Revenues will be collected from 2023-2035, and after 2035 electricity will be virtually free, aside from operations and maintenance costs.
  • Scale back military spending on maintaining global oil dependence.
  • Collect new income tax revenue from the 20 million new jobs created by the plan.
  • Reduce the need for federal and state safety net spending due to the creation of millions of good-paying, unionized jobs.
  • Make the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share. 

The full details of the Green New Deal can be read here

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Plan to Reduce Mass Incarceration, Reform Criminal Justice System

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president, proposes a plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system without infringing on public safety (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system without infringing on public safety. This is from the Warren2020 campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Today, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform our criminal justice system. Elizabeth believes we need to reimagine how we talk and think about public safety, spending our budgets not on putting people in prison but on community services that lift people up. It is a false choice to suggest a trade off between safety and mass incarceration – we can decarcerate and make our communities safer. 

Her plan details how she will reform all aspects of our system: what we choose to criminalize, how law enforcement and prosecutors engage with communities and the accused, how long we keep people behind bars and how we treat them when they’re there, and how we reintegrate them when they return.

“We will reduce incarceration and improve justice in our country by changing what we choose to criminalize, reforming police behavior and improving police-community relations, and reining in a system that preferences prosecution over justice. When people are incarcerated, we will provide opportunities for treatment, education and rehabilitation, and we’ll continue those supports for returning citizens as they reenter our communities. Most importantly, we’ll rethink the way we approach public safety — emphasizing preventative approaches over law enforcement and incarceration. That’s the way we’ll create real law and order and real justice in our country.”

Read more about Warren’s plan here: 

The United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but nearly 20% of the world’s prison population. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with over 2 million people in prison and jail.

Our system is the result of the dozens of choices we’ve made — choices that together stack the deck against the poor and the disadvantaged. Simply put, we have criminalized too many things. We send too many people to jail. We keep them there for too long. We do little to rehabilitate them. We spend billions, propping up an entire industry that profits from mass incarceration. And we do all of this despite little evidence that our harshly punitive system makes our communities safer — and knowing that a majority of people currently in prison will eventually return to our communities and our neighborhoods.

To make matters worse, the evidence is clear that there are structural race problems in this system. Latinx adults are three times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. For the exact same crimes, Black Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested, charged, wrongfully convicted, and given harsher sentences. One in ten Black children has an incarcerated parent.

Four words are etched above the Supreme Court: Equal Justice Under Law. That’s supposed to be the promise of our justice system. But today in America, there’s one system for the rich and powerful, and another one for everybody else. It’s not equal justice when a kid with an ounce of pot can get thrown in jail, while a bank executive who launders money for a drug cartel can get a bonus. It’s long past time for us to reform our system.

Real reform requires examining every step of this system: From what we choose to criminalize, to how law enforcement and prosecutors engage with communities and the accused, to how long we keep people behind bars, how we treat them when they’re there, and how we reintegrate them when they return.

We cannot achieve this by nibbling around the edges — we need to tackle the problem at its roots. That means implementing a set of bold, structural changes at all levels of government.

And it starts by reimagining how we talk and think about public safety. For example:

Public safety should mean providing every opportunity for all our kids to get a good education and stay in school.

It should mean safe, affordable housing that keeps families together and off the streets.

It should mean violence intervention programs that divert young people from criminal activity, before the police become involved.

It should mean policies that recognize the humanity of trans people and other LGBTQ+ Americans and keep them safe from violence.

It should mean accessible mental health services and treatment for addiction.

It is a false choice to suggest a tradeoff between safety and mass incarceration. By spending our budgets not on imprisonment but on community services that lift people up, we’ll decarcerate and make our communities safer. Here’s my plan.

Rethink Our Approach to Public Safety

It’s not enough merely to reform our sentencing guidelines or improve police-community relations. We need to rethink our approach to public safety, transitioning away from a punitive system and investing in evidence-based approaches that address the underlying drivers of violence and crime — tackling it at its roots, before it ever has a chance to grow.

Break the school-to-prison pipelineSchools increasingly rely on police officers to carry out discipline while neglecting services that are critical to the well being of students. At least fourteen million students attend schools with a police officer but without a single counselor, social worker, psychologist, or nurse. It’s no surprise that tens of thousands of students are arrested annually, many for minor infractions. Zero tolerance policies start early — on average 250 preschoolers are suspended or expelled every day — and, even in the youngest years, students of color bear the brunt. In later grades, Black and Brown students are disproportionately arrested in schools, while students with disabilities face an increased risk of disciplinary action.

Every child should have the opportunity to receive the support they need to thrive inside and outside of the classroom. Adverse childhood experiences such as poverty, violence at home, homelessness, family separation, or an incarcerated caretaker are proven to negatively impact child development. I will equip schools with resources to meet their students’ needs by providing access to health care to support the physical, mental, and social development of children, improve their overall school readiness and providing early intervention services. We should decriminalize truancy and instead increase the number of school mental health personnel and provide schools with resources to train teachers and administrators in positive behavioral interventions, trauma-informed alternative discipline practices, and implicit bias to limit suspensions, expulsions, and minor-infraction arrests. We should require that any police department receiving federal funds provide mandatory training in the scientific and psychological roots of discrimination, youth development, and de-escalation tactics to officers assigned to school campuses. I’ll rescind Trump’s executive order that allows school districts to participate in the 1033 program, giving them access to military-grade weapons. And I’ll fully fund the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education so that it can investigate school districts with dramatic disparities in school disciplinary actions.

Reduce homelessness and housing insecurityChildren that experience homelessness are more likely to drop out of school and more likely to become involved with the criminal system. But as housing and rental costs skyrocket and federal housing assistance doesn’t keep pace, housing insecurity is growing, particularly for families of color. A Warren administration will commit federal funding to the goal of ending homelessness in our country. My housing plan will help, by investing $500 billion over 10 years to build, preserve, and rehab affordable housing, creating 3.2 million new housing units and bringing down rental costs by 10%. It would also help families, especially families of color, buy homes and start to build wealth. Substantially improving housing affordability isn’t just good for the economy and for working families — it will also reduce homelessness and crime.

Invest in evidence-based interruption programsTo improve safety in our communities, we also need to invest in programs that prevent violence and divert criminal behavior. Models in cities like BostonOakland and Chicago demonstrate that we can successfully reduce homicide and gun violence rates through creating cross-community partnerships and focused deterrence on the small percentage of people most likely to commit violence. These programs are cost-effective and have multiplier effects: transforming community climate, improving health outcomes, and boosting local economies. My administration will invest in piloting similar programs at scale.

Decriminalize Mental Health CrisesThe solution for someone experiencing a mental health crisis should not be a badge and a gun, but police officers have become America’s de facto first mental health providers. Historically, 7–10% of police encounters involve a person affected by mental illness, and people with untreated severe mental illness are sixteen times more likely to be killed during a police encounter. People with mental illnesses are not incarcerated at higher rates because they are prone to violence. To the contrary, most are arrested for non-violent offenses, many because they lack access to necessary services. But incarcerating people with mental illness is more expensive as providing appropriate community-based treatment — instead of shuttling people into a system not built to meet their needs, we should invest in preventing people from reaching those crisis points in the first place. Medicare for All will provide continuous access to critical mental health care services, decreasing the likelihood that the police will be called as a matter of last resort. I’ll also increase funding for “co-responder” initiatives that connect law enforcement to mental health care providers and experts. And my administration will pilot evidence-based crisis response efforts to provide needed services to individuals struggling with mental illness.

Invest in diversion programs for substance abuse disorderPeople who struggle with addiction should not be incarcerated because of their disease. Mass incarceration has not reduced addiction rates or overdose deaths, because substance abuse disorder is a public health problem — and it’s long past time to treat it that way. We know that diversion programs are both more humane and a better investment than incarceration — for every dollar we invest in treatment programs, we can save $12 in future crime and health care costs. I’ll support evidence-based safe injection sites and needle exchanges, and expand the availability of buprenorphine to prevent overdoses. And my CARE Act would invest $100 billion over ten years to increase access to high quality treatment and support services. It would provide the regions most affected by the opioid crisis with the resources they need, and would allow state, local and tribal governments to use CARE Act funds to provide incarcerated individuals, and individuals in pre-trial detention, with substance use disorder treatment.

Change What We Choose to Criminalize

We face a crisis of overcriminalization. It has filled our prisons and devastated entire neighborhoods. Addressing the crisis starts by rethinking what we choose to criminalize. It is easy for legislators, fearful of being labeled soft on crime, to rubber stamp every new criminal and sentencing proposal, no matter how punitive. It’s equally easy for them to look the other way when the wealthy and well-connected abuse the rest of us. But from the Senate on down, elected lawmakers have an obligation to do better than that. Here’s where we can start.

Repeal the 1994 crime bill. The 1994 crime bill exacerbated incarceration rates in this country, punishing people more severely for even minor infractions, and limiting discretion in charging and sentencing in our judicial system. That punitive “tough on crime” approach was wrong, it was a mistake, and it needs to be repealed. There are some sections of law, like those relating to domestic violence, that should be retained — but the bulk of the law must go.

Address the legacy of the War on DrugsFor four decades, we’ve subscribed to a “War on Drugs” theory of crime, which has criminalized addiction, ripped apart families — and largely failed to curb drug use. This failure has been particularly harmful for communities of color, and we need a new approach. It starts with decriminalizing marijuana and erasing past convictions, and then eliminating the remaining disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing. And rather than incarcerating individuals with substance abuse disorders, we should expand options that divert them into programs that provide real treatment.

Stop criminalizing homelessnessHousing provides safety and stability, but too many experience homelessness. To make matters worse, many cities have criminalized homelessness by banning behavior associated with it, like sleeping in public or living in vehicles. These laws draw people into the justice system instead of giving them access to the services they need. They disproportionately impact communities of colorLGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities, all of whom experience higher rates of homelessness. Rather than treating the homeless like criminals, we should get them with the resources they need to get back on their feet.

Stop criminalizing povertyA simple misdemeanor like a speeding ticket shouldn’t be enough to send someone to spiraling into poverty or worse — but often the fines and fees levied by our legal system bury low-income people who are unable to pay under court-related debt, with no way out. We abolished debtors prisons nearly two hundred years ago, but we’re still criminalizing poverty in this country — low-income individuals are more likely to find themselves entangled in the system and less likely to find their way out. There is no justification for imposing unreasonably high punitive burdens on those who are least able to bear them. As president, I will fight to:

End cash bail. Around 60% of the nearly 750,000 people in jail have not been convicted of a crime — and too often, those jails are overcrowded and inhumane. Our justice system forces its citizens to choose either to submit to the charges brought against them or be penalized for wanting to fight those charges. We should allow people to return to their jobs and families while they wait for trial, reserving preventive detention only for those cases that pose a true flight or safety risk.

Restrict fines and fees levied before adjudication. In many jurisdictions individuals are charged cost-prohibitive pre-trial fees, sending them into debt even if they are ultimately acquitted of a crime. In cases of pre-trial civil forfeiture, an individual often cannot recover property seized prior to conviction. I’ll reverse the Trump administration’s policy expanding pre-trial civil forfeiture at the federal level, and restrict the use of civil forfeiture overall.

Cap the assessment of fines and fees. Jailing someone who can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars in fines on an hourly minimum wage salary is not only cruel — it’s ineffective. Criminal debt collection should be capped at a percentage of income for low-income individuals. States should also eliminate the profit incentive that drives excessive fees and fines by capping the percentage of municipal revenues derived from the justice system, and diverting seized assets into a general fund.

Eliminate fees for necessary services. Private companies and contractors can charge incarcerated people for essential services, like phone calls, bank transfers, and health care. Private companies also profit from charging individuals for their own incarceration and supervision, including through fees for re-entry, supervision, and probation. As I detailed in my plan to end private prisons, I will end this practice and ensure that private companies don’t get rich from exploiting vulnerable people.

Accountability for the wealthy and the well-connectedEqual justice also means an end to the impunity enjoyed by those with money and power. Instead of criminalizing poverty and expanding mass incarceration, I’ve proposed a new criminal negligence standard for executives of corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue when their company is found guilty of a crime or their negligence causes severe harm to American families. Instead of locking up people for nonviolent marijuana crimes, I’ve proposed putting pharmaceutical executives on the hook to report suspicious orders for controlled substances that damage the lives of millions. And I’ve proposed new certification requirements for executives at giant financial institutions so that we can hold them criminally accountable if the banks they oversee commit fraud.

Reform How the Law Is Enforced

While reform begins with deciding what constitutes a crime, the authority to enforce the law includes tremendous discretion. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges make countless decisions every day that shape the reality of how our criminal justice system functions for the millions of Americans it comes into contact with. We must critically examine each aspect of the enforcement process to ensure that it is both just and consistent with public safety.

Law Enforcement ReformThe vast majority of police officers sign up so they can protect their communities. They are part of a profession that works tirelessly and takes risks every day to keep us safe. But we also know that many people of color, including Native Americans, disproportionately experience trauma at the hands of law enforcement, sometimes with life-altering consequences. On average, three people are shot and killed by the police every day, a disproportionate number of them young and Black. Others are arrested and entered into a system that unduly penalizes even minor infractions.

Everyone is less safe when trust erodes between the police and the communities they serve. Yet we’ve continued to allow policing practices that are both ineffective and discriminatory. It’s time to fundamentally change how police work is done in America: funding what works; replacing failed policies with effective, evidence-based practices that do not violate individual rights; and reframing our approach to public safety to prioritize prevention over punishment. Here’s how we do it.

Improve access to treatment and early intervention. For the third straight year, the number of suicides among law enforcement in 2018 outnumbered the line-of-duty deaths. Law enforcement officers experience higher rates of addiction, post-traumatic stress, and other trauma related disorders. I’ll invest in mental and emotional health support to help our officers do their job, including by expanding promising pilots like peer intervention and early warning programs.

Improve data collection and reporting. For nearly a century, we have measured crime in this country. It’s time we measure justice — and act when we don’t measure up. Today there is no comprehensive government database on fatal police shootings, ethics issues, misconduct complaints, or use of force incidents. My Justice Department will establish a rigorous and systematic process to collect this data, provide relevant data collection training to local law enforcement, and make data publicly available wherever possible. We’ll use that data to prioritize federal oversight and to hold police accountable for the portion of the bad policing outcomes for which they are responsible. And we’ll work with interested departments to use their own data to improve their legitimacy in the communities they serve and inform more just and effective policing.

Increase federal oversight capacity. The Obama Justice Department used its authority to investigate police departments with a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing — but resource constraints limited the number of interventions carried out. Meanwhile, the Trump administration hasn’t initiated any investigations at all. I’ll reverse the Sessions guidance limiting the use of consent decree investigations, and triple funding for the Office of Civil Rights to allow for increased investigations of departments with the highest rates of police violence and whenever there is a death in custody. In this way, we can further incentivize police departments with persistent issues to adopt best practices.

Empower State Attorneys General. Even an expanded DOJ will not be able to provide oversight for many thousands of law enforcement agencies in this country. And accountability for unconstitutional policing shouldn’t simply shut down under a hostile President like Trump. To build a more durable system, I’ll incentivize states to empower their attorneys general to conduct their own oversight of police behavior nationwide.

Demand increased civilian oversight. Community engagement can fill the gap and provide oversight where the federal government, even with increased capacity, cannot. Approximately 150 communities have civilian oversight boards, but that covers only a small percentage of law enforcement agencies in America. To expand local oversight and democratic engagement in policing, I will implement a competitive grant program that provides funding to communities that establish an independent civilian oversight mechanism for their police departments, such as a civilian oversight board or Office of Civilian Complaints. These boards should have a role in officer discipline and provide input on hiring police executives as well as hiring and promoting within the departments they oversee.

Establish a federal standard for the use of force. When cities employ more restrictive policies for police use of force, they improve both community trust and officer safety. I will direct my administration to develop and apply evidence-based standards for the use of force for federal law enforcement, incorporating proven approaches and strategies like de-escalation, verbal warning requirements, and the use of non-lethal alternatives. At the federal level, I’ll prohibit permissive pursuit policies that often result in collateral damage, like high-speed chases and shooting at moving vehicles. And I’ll work with local law enforcement agencies to ensure that training and technology deployed at the federal level can be implemented at all levels of government, helping to limit the use of force while maintaining safety for officers and the communities they are sworn to protect.

Increase federal funding for law enforcement training. Improved training can reduce the number of police-involved shootings and improve perceptions of police legitimacy. But if If we want police practices to change, then the way we train our officers must change — both when they are hired and throughout their careers. My administration will provide incentives for cities and states that hire a diverse police force and provide tools and resources to ensure that best practices on law enforcement training are available across America, providing local police with what they need to meet federal training requirements, including training on implicit bias and the scientific and psychological roots of discrimination, cultural competency, and engaging individuals with cognitive or other disabilities. And we should support evidence-based continuing education for officers throughout their careers.

Restrict qualified immunity to hold police officers accountable. When an officer abuses the law, that’s bad for law enforcement, bad for victims, and bad for communities. Without access to justice and accountability for those abuses, we cannot make constitutional due process protections real. But today, police officers who violate someone’s constitutional rights are typically shielded from civil rights lawsuits by qualified immunity — a legal rule invented by the courts that blocks lawsuits against government officials for misconduct unless a court has previously decided that the same conduct in the same context was unconstitutional. Qualified immunity has shielded egregious police misconduct from accountability and drawn criticism from across the political spectrum. Last month, for example, a federal appeals court in Atlanta granted qualified immunity to a police officer who, while aiming at a family’s dog, shot a 10-year-old boy while the child was lying on the ground 18 inches away from the officer. Just two weeks ago, another federal court used qualified immunity to dismiss a lawsuit against a school police officer who handcuffed a sobbing seven-year-old boy for refusing to go to the principal’s office. This makes no sense. I support limiting qualified immunity for law enforcement officials who are found to have violated the Constitution, and allowing victims to sue police departments directly for negligently hiring officers despite prior misconduct.

End racially discriminatory policing. Policies like stop-and-frisk and “broken windows” policing have trampled the constitutional rights of countless Americans — particularly those from Black and Brown communities — without any measurable impact on violent crime. I’ll end stop-and-frisk by directing the Justice Department to withhold federal funding from law enforcement agencies that continue to employ it and other similar practices, and I’ll work with Congress to pass legislation to prohibit profiling at all levels of law enforcement.

Separate law enforcement from immigration enforcement. The data are clear. When local law enforcement is mixed with immigration enforcement, immigrants are less likely to report crimes, and public safety suffers. It’s time to stop directing law enforcement officers to do things that undermine their ability to keep communities safe. My immigration plan will address this by ending the 287(g) and “Secure Communities” programs, putting in guidelines to protect sensitive locations like hospitals and schools, and expanding protections for immigrant survivors of violent crimes that come forward and work with law enforcement.

Demilitarize local law enforcement. Officer safety is critically important. But we don’t build trust between police and communities when we arm local law enforcement as if they are going to war. Militarizing our police contributes to mutual fear and distrust, and there is evidence to suggest it can actually make officers themselves less safe. As President, I will eliminate the transfer of military-grade weapons and lethal equipment to local police via the 1033 program, prohibit local law enforcement from buying military equipment with federal funding, and create a buy-back program for equipment already in use in our communities.

Expand the responsible use of body cameras and protect citizen privacy. Body cameras don’t solve every problem, but used consistently and appropriately they can decrease the use of force and misconduct complaints. The federal government should expand funding for body cameras — especially for smaller jurisdictions that struggle to afford them — in exchange for departments implementing accountability policies that ensure consistent and responsible camera use. I’ll also establish a task force on digital privacy in public safety to establish guardrails and appropriate privacy protections for this and other surveillance technology, including the use of facial recognition technology and algorithms that exacerbate underlying bias. And I’ll make it clear that individuals have every right to record an interaction with the police.

Reduce gun violence. We’ve learned the hard way in Massachusetts that the job of our police is made exponentially harder by the weapons flooding our streets. Common sense gun reform and meaningful safeguards will improve safety for law enforcement and the communities they serve. In 2017, almost 40,000 people died from guns in the United States. I have a plan with the goal of reducing that number by 80%, including by expanding background checks, establishing a federal licensing system, and holding the gun industry accountable for the violence promoted by their products.

Prosecutorial and Judicial ReformOur current criminal system is complex and places enormous power in the hands of the state. The government controls what leads to pursue, what charges are levied, whether a plea is offered, and how long someone spends behind bars. It has massive resources at its disposal, and enjoys few obligations to share information and limited oversight of its actions. All of this makes it challenging to ensure that the accused can go to trial, can get a fair trial, and can receive a just and reasonable sentence if convicted. To make matters worse, race permeates every aspect of the system — people of color are twice as likely to be charged with crimes that carry a mandatory minimum sentence. Reform requires a transparent system that emphasizes justice, that gives people a fighting chance — and truly treats everyone equally, regardless of color. Here’s how we can start.

Strengthen public defenders and expand access to counsel. The Sixth Amendment provides every American accused of a crime with the right to an attorney — but too many defendants cannot afford one, and too often, public defenders are under-resourced, overworked, and overwhelmed. If we expect fair adversarial trials, we need to balance resources on both sides of each case in every jurisdiction. I’ll fund federal public defenders and expand targeted grant funding for public defenders at the state level, to ensure that they have the tools to effectively defend their clients. I’ll also reopen and expand DOJ’s Office for Access to Justice, which worked with state and local governments to expand access to counsel. We should ensure that our public defenders are paid a fair salary for their work, and that their caseloads allow for the comprehensive defense of their clients. Finally, I’ll provide funding for language and cultural competency training, including on gender identity and treatment of individuals with disabilities, so that public defenders are best able to serve their clients.

Rein in prosecutorial abuses. Prosecutors are enormously powerful and often not subject to scrutiny or accountability. I will support a set of reforms that would rein in the most egregious prosecutorial abuses and make the system fairer, including reducing the use of coercive plea bargaining by DOJ prosecutors at the federal level, establishing open-file discovery, and putting in place responsible standards for evidence gathering. I’ll establish a Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct to make additional recommendations for best practices and monitor adoption of those recommendations. And I’ll create an independent prosecutorial integrity unit to hold accountable prosecutors who abuse their power.

Expand access to justice for people wrongfully imprisoned. Defendants who are wrongfully imprisoned have the right to challenge their detention in court through a procedure known as habeas corpus. The Framers believed this right was so important to achieving justice that they guaranteed it specifically in the Constitution. It’s particularly important for minority defendants — Black Americans, for example, make up only 13% of the population but a plurality of wrongful convictions. In 1996, at the height of harsh federal policies that drove mass incarceration, Congress made it absurdly difficult for wrongfully imprisoned individuals to bring these cases in federal court. Since then, conservative Supreme Court Justices have built on those restrictions — making it nearly impossible for defendants to receive habeas relief even when they have actual proof of innocence. We should repeal these overly restrictive habeas rules, make it harder for courts to dismiss these claims on procedural technicalities, and make it easier to apply new rules that emerge from these cases to people who were wrongfully imprisoned before those rules came into effect.

Protect the rights of survivors. Crime victims have the right to safety and justice, the right to be consulted and informed about the status of their case, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect. We should provide support for those who have experienced trauma, including medical care and safe housing. This is particularly true for those who have experienced sexual assault or violence at the hands of an intimate partner. I’ll also fight to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and provide full funding to eliminate the rape kit backlog across the country.

Appointing a diverse judicial bench. The justice system should reflect the country it serves. Judicial appointments are primarily white and male, and large numbers tend to have a prosecutorial background. Diversity of experience matters. That’s why I have pushed for increasing the professional diversity of our federal judiciary to insulate the courts from corporate capture, and why I support gender and racial diversity for judicial nominees. I’ll appoint a diverse slate of judges, including those who have a background defending civil liberties or as public defenders.

Take into account the views of those most impacted by the system.As President, I will establish an advisory board comprised of survivors of violence, along with formerly incarcerated individuals. I’ll consult with this advisory board and listen to the needs of those who have first-hand experience with the system as we find fair and just solutions to the challenges we face.

Reforming Incarceration

The federal prison population has grown 650% since 1980, and costs have ballooned by 685%. This explosion has been driven in large part by rules requiring mandatory minimum sentences and other excessively long sentencing practices. These harsh sentencing practices are not only immoral, there’s little evidence that they are effective. As president I will fight change them.

Reduce mandatory minimumsThe 1994 crime bill’s mandatory minimums and “truth-in-sentencing” provisions that require offenders to serve the vast majority of their sentences have not proven effective. Congress should reduce or eliminate these provisions, giving judges more flexibility in sentencing decisions, with the goal of reducing incarceration to mid-1990s levels. My administration will also reverse the Sessions memo that requires federal prosecutors to seek the most severe possible penalties, and allow federal prosecutors discretion to raise the charge standards for misdemeanors and seek shorter sentences for felony convictions.

Raise the age for criminal liability. We know that cognition and decision-making skills continue to develop beyond the teenage years. For that reason, many states have raised the age of adult criminal liability to at least 17, or granted additional discretion to prosecutors when charging offenders between the ages of 16 and 18. The federal government should do the same — raising the age of adult criminal liability to 18, eliminating life-without-parole sentences for minors, and diverting young adult offenders into rehabilitative programs wherever possible.

End the death penaltyStudies show that capital punishment is often applied in a manner biased against people of color and those with a mental illness. I oppose the death penalty. A Warren administration would reverse Attorney General Barr’s decision to move forward with federal executions, and Congress should abolish the death penalty.

Use the pardon and clemency powers broadly to right systemic injusticesThe president has significant powers to grant clemency and pardons, and historically presidents have used that power broadly. But today’s hierarchical process at DOJ results in relatively few and conservative clemency recommendations. I’ll remove the clemency process from DOJ, instead empowering a clemency board to make recommendations directly to the White House. I’ll direct the board to identify broad classes of potentially-deserving individuals for review, including those who would have benefited from retroactivity under the First Step Act, individuals who are jailed under outdated or discriminatory drug laws, or those serving mandatory minimums that should be abolished.

Improving conditions in prisonToday prisons are often understaffed and overcrowded, making them dangerous for both inmates and corrections officers. Even as we fight to reduce incarceration levels, we should support improved staffing levels and better training for corrections officers, and humane conditions for those behind bars. As president, I will:

Ensure that incarceration meets basic human rights standards. From inadequate health care to dangerous overcrowding, today our prison system is not meeting the government’s basic responsibility to keep the people in its care safe. I’ll embrace a set of standards for the Bureau of Prisons to fix this. That includes accommodating religious practices, providing reasonable accommodations for prisoners with disabilities, and limiting restrictive housing in accordance with evidence-based best practices. We should ensure that trans people are assigned to facilities that align with their gender identity and provide the unique medical and psychiatric care they need, including access to hormone treatments and help with adjusting to their care. And we should eliminate solitary confinement, which provides little carcerative benefit and has been demonstrated to harm prisoners’ mental and physical health, in favor of safe alternatives.

Protect special populations. Vulnerable individuals like pregnant women, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ individuals often require special protections while behind bars. I’ll implement a rigorous auditing program to ensure that prisons are adhering to legal requirements to protect LGBTQ+ individuals and others from sexual violence and assault while incarcerated, and prosecute prison staff who engage in misconduct. I’ll ensure that juveniles are not housed in adult facilities. I’ll also eliminate the use of solitary confinement for protective purposes. Instead, I’ll direct the Bureau of Prisons to establish a set of standards and reforms to protect the most vulnerable in our prison system in a way that does not involve confining a person for more than 20 hours a day.

Invest in programs that facilitate rehabilitation. The evidence is clear: providing education and opportunity behind bars reduces recidivism when people leave prison. But when prison populations went up and budgets went down, rehabilitation services were often the first cuts. In a world where the vast majority of prisoners will eventually leave prison, this makes no sense. I’ll double grant funding for these services in our prisons, expanding programs focused on things like vocational training, anger management, and parenting skills.

Expand mental health and addiction treatment. 14% of prisoners meet the threshold for serious psychological distress, and many more struggle with addiction — but too often, they receive prison time rather than treatment. And instead of increasing access to treatment in prison, the Bureau of Prisons has reduced it. Providing mental health treatment during incarceration reduces recidivism. We must take a comprehensive approach to incarcerated people who face mental health and addiction challenges, including requiring an adequate number of counselors and addiction specialists, individualized treatment, and increased access to medication-assisted treatment.

Eliminate private prisons. I have called to eliminate private prisonsthat make millions off the backs of incarcerated people. We should also end all-foreign or “criminal alien requirement” facilities, which are reported to have higher negative outcomes.

Support Reentry

The period after release from prison can be challenging for returning citizens. During this critical period, they are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be rearrested, more likely to overdose, and more likely to die. Recidivism rates remain high, in part because our prisons have not fulfilled their rehabilitative function, and in part because lack of opportunity after release drives individuals to re-offend. On top of all of this, more than 60,000 inmates in our prisons are there because of technical violations of their parole — for offenses as minor as a speeding ticket. We need evidence-based programs and interventions to break the cycle of incarceration and set formerly incarcerated individuals up for success when they return to their families and their communities. This is particularly true for youth and minors, who are especially vulnerable when returning to an unstable environment. Here are some of the steps I will take.

Pressure states to eliminate collateral sanctionsMillions of Americans are currently on parole or probation. We know that reducing the barriers to full reintegration in society reduces recidivism, but the system is rife with collateral consequences that hamper reentry for formerly incarcerated people who have served their time — from restrictions on occupational licensing to housing to the disenfranchisement of over 3 million returning citizens. We should remove those barriers and allow those who have served their time to find work and fully rejoin their communities.

Reduce needlessly restrictive parole requirementsTechnical parole and probation violations make up a large number of all state prison admissions, sometimes for infractions as minor as a paperwork error. While many rules are made at the state level, the federal government should seek to remove those barriers wherever possible, reduce parole requirements for low-level offenders, and remove the threat of jail time for minor parole violations.

Reduce discrimination during reentryI’ll reverse the guidance that exempts privately run re-entry programs that contract with the Bureau of Prisons from anti-discrimination laws, restoring protections for individuals with disabilities and those that encounter discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Establish a federal expungement optionMany states provide a certificate of recovery for nonviolent offenders who have served their time and maintained a clean record for a certain number of years. This should be replicated at the federal level.

Ensuring Reform at the State and Local Level

The federal government oversees just 12% of the incarcerated population and only a small percentage of law enforcement and the overall criminal legal system. To achieve real criminal justice reform on a national scale, we must move the decisions of states and local governments as well.

My administration will work with state and local governments and incentivize adoption of new federal standards through the grantmaking process. Federal grants make up nearly one third of state budgets, and states and local authorities spend about 6% of their budget on law enforcement functions. My administration would reprioritize state and local grant making toward a restorative approach to justice, and expand grant funding through categorical grants that require funds to be used for criminal justice reform and project grants that require funding to be allocated to specific programs. When necessary, my plan would also use federal enforcement authority. My administration would expand on the Obama-era practice of using Department of Justice consent decrees and other judicial settlements to enforce federal standards and remedy constitutional violations at the state and local level. My plan would also leverage the federal government’s Spending Clause authority and ability to impose civil rights mandates using cross-cutting requirements to ensure that state and local governments comply with federal criminal justice reform standards.