a sea of “Bernie” signs and chants of “We are the 99%” and “We will win”, Jane
Sanders, looked out over the massive crowd of 25,000 that overflowed
Queensbridge Park, beneath the Queensborough Bridge, onto the street, and said,
“Here are people from every background in the melting pot called New York. Most
of our ancestors came to America for a better life- mine from Ireland to escape
famine, poverty; Bernie’s from Poland escaping anti-Semitism, poverty.
“All believed they could have a better life. But in the last 40 years that
promise has eroded. Bernie plans to change that.” And, noting that this is his
first rally since his heart attack, she said to massive cheers, “Bernie is
back. He’s healthy and more than ready to continue his lifelong fight for
working people of America.”
Michael Moore: “This is not just about defeating Trump, but the
rotten system that gave us Trump’
said documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, is where “Everyone gets a seat at the
table, a slice of the pie and not fight for last crumbs. We don’t just need a
democratic politics, we need a democratic economy.”
Moore said, “The powers that be are very unhappy you’re here, that Bernie is
back. The pundits, the media [boo] are throwing everything out there to get
people to think differently:
“That Bernie is too old. Here’s what’s too old: the Electoral College, the
$7 minimum wage, women not being paid the same as men, thousands and thousands
of dollars of student debt, $10,000 deductible for health care, Super
Delegates, the fossil fuel industry – that’s what’s too old.
“It’s a gift we have 78-year-old American running for president. The
experience he has, what he has seen. He knows what a pay raise is, a pension –
look it up. What it looks like to defend against fascism and white supremacy,
to have the library open every day, what regulations are (Boeing). I’m glad
“Health? We should be talking about the health of planet that’s dying [crowd
chants “Green New Deal”]; the health of kids in Flint Michigan, of 40 million
living in poverty, of young black males shot in back by police [chant Black
Lives Matter, Black Lives Count]. The only heart attack we should talk about is
the one Wall Street will have when Bernie wins.
“Next, that Bernie can’t win. He will win he has won 8 times to the House, 2
times to the Senate, 22 states in 2016 – almost half [chant “We will win.]. In
2016 [Democratic primary], Bernie won Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota. Of the 11
states that border Canada, Bernie won 10 (not NY) [boo] – we can fix that. Of
the 5 states that border the Pacific, he won 4; of 6 in New England, won 4;
Bernie won West Virginia – all 55 counties. According to a poll, he is #1 in
Nevada, a dead heat in Iowa, #1 in New Hampshire. He has raised more money from
more donors with the smallest amount.
“Why say Bernie can’t win? Because they are lying to the American people.
Bernie will win. [Chant, “We will win”]
“They say he can’t win because he is a [Democratic] socialist [yay!]. That’s
not going to fly. The American people have loved socialism for the last 70
years. Social Security, free public school, Medicare, Medicaid, fire department
– all are socialist.
“What they don’t want to do is tell the truth, what would happen if they
structured economic policies with democracy instead of capitalism. And this
isn’t capitalism of your great grandpa, this is a form of greed, selfishness so
that just few at the top succeed, the rest struggle paycheck to paycheck.
“Afraid taxes on rich will go up under Sanders? It was depressing during the
debate to watch Democrats go after Medicare for All. What would Franklin
“They say we can’t afford it? How does Canada afford it? Every other
industrialized country has figured it out, why can’t we? They don’t want us to
figure it out.
“They say taxes will go up? That is part of the big lie – your taxes already
are up. We don’t call it a tax – in Canada, France, Finland they get free
health care, free or nearly free day care and college, but pay more in tax for
these things. The average American family pays $12,000 a year for child care,
$4000 in student loans, $6000 for deductibles, co-pays and premiums for health
care – too damn much – the average is $20,000/year but we don’t call it a tax.
“We are here in Queensbridge Park, Manhattan Island just across the river is
headquarters of corporate America [boo], corporate media [boo], Wall Street
. So much misery has been visited on the American people from a half mile
away. It must stop.
“They must hear us at Goldman Sachs, Fox News, Trump Tower – the scene of
“This [election] is not just about defeating Trump, but the rotten system
that gave us Trump…. beating Trump isn’t enough. We must crush Trump at
the polls, then fix the rotten corrupt economic system that gave us Trump.”
San Juan Mayor Cruz: “Move forward on the path of progressive agenda.
We are equal. We will win. We must win.”
Calling herself a “climate change survivor,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz
Soto, attacked Trump for “killing us with inefficiency” that contributed to
3,000 Puerto Ricans dying after being smacked by back-to-back hurricanes.
“Why we have to win” she says is for Medicare-for-All, so no one has to
choose between groceries and insulin; to be able to afford college and life
after college, to “stand against those who earn $100 million and pay workers
starving wages; who take away women’s right to choose; the crime of separating
families at southern border; climate change.
“I am a climate change survivor. Climate change is real – 3000 Puerto Ricans
were killed because Trump Is a racist, xenophobic, paper throwing demagogue.” [Chant, “Lock him up.
Vote him out.”]
“The time is now to be fearless, relentless. I stand with Sanders – I respect
every other candidate but there is one name only who can get the job done. Be
united in one progressive voice, cross generations. Move forward on the path of
progressive agenda. We are equal. We will win. We must win.”
Nina Turner: “We must knock out Billionaire class that doesn’t
believe working people deserve a good life.”
co chair Nina Turner quoted Congresswoman Barbara Jordan who said American
people want an America as good as its promise. “That means an America where
people don’t die because have to ration insulin; hospitals are not closing;
where there is clean water, air, food; a justice system that doesn’t gun down
black folks in their houses.
“We need to clean up the criminal injustice system, Truth & Reconciliation
about the ravages of racism, a health care system not commodified. We need to
take care of Mother Earth.”
Alluding to the Democratic candidates, she said, “There are many copies but
only one original. We finally have somebody in our lifetime, his own special
interest is people of nation.
“We must knock out Billionaire class that doesn’t believe working people
deserve a good life.”
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “We need a United States
truly, authentically operated, owned by working people.”
“We must bring revolution of working class to the ballot box of America,”
declared Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She prompted chants of “Green
New Deal,” saying, “Queensbridge Park is ground zero in the fight for public
housing and environmental justice.
“Last February I was working as a waitress in Manhattan, shoulder to
shoulder with undocumented workers who were putting in12 hour days with no
healthcare, not a living wage. We didn’t think we deserved it. That is the
script we tell working people: your inherent worth, value as human depends on
income another underpays. Turn around that basic language… We must change the
system that puts corporate profit ahead of all human and planetary costs.”
After her parents put all they had to buy a house, she said she learned from
an early age that “kids’ destiny determined by zipcode. Income inequality is a
fact of life of children.” Her father died of cancer when she was 18 and she
learned, “We all are one accident away from everything falling apart.
Sanders, she said, has fought for Planned Parenthood, for public education,
for CHIP, for single-payer health care, for gender rights, to end
“life-crushing” student debt.
“He didn’t do it because it was popular. He fought when it came at the
highest political cost in America.
“In 2016, he changed politics in America. We now have one of the best
Democratic fields – much because of Sanders.
“I’m in Congress today but one year ago I was a sexually harassed waitress.
This freshman class in overwhelming numbers rejected corporate money – thanks
to Bernie – endorsed Medicare for All, sees the climate crisis as an
“[In Congress] it is no joke to stand up against corporate power and
establishment interests. Arms are twisted, political pressure psychological and
otherwise applied to make you abandon the working class.
“I have come to appreciate the nonstop advocacy of Sanders. It’s not just
what he fights for but how: mass mobilization of the working class at the
ballot box, a movement (against) racism, classism of Hyde Amendment,
imperialist and colonial histories that lead to endless war and immigration
“NYCHA is underfunded by $30 billion –that is not an accident, but an
outcome of system that devalues poor, Logic that got us into this won’t get us
“We need a United States truly, authentically operated, owned by working
“Bernie showed you can run a grass roots campaign and win in America when
others thought it impossible.”
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
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.
2019, that number is just 17%. Five out of every six Americans do not trust
their government to do the right thing.
have so many people lost faith in government?
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.
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.
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.
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
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,
We’ve got to call that out for what it is: corruption, plain and
no mistake about it: The Trump Administration is the most corrupt
administration of our lifetimes.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
I’m just getting started.
Restoring Public Integrity
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Next, it’s time to close and padlock the revolving door between
government and industry.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
corporations and powerful interests haven’t limited their influence-peddling to
Congress and the White House. They’ve also turned their attention to the
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
End Corporate Capture of our Federal Agencies
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Washington, corrupt actors should face penalties when they break the law — not
return to business as usual.
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
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
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.
Deter Corruption Through Broad New Government Transparency
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.
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.
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
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
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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. Abouthalf 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
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 proposedcutting 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. Andtoday 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
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
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 relatives. Two-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
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
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
Targeted Social Security Improvements to Deliver Fairer
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.
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
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
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
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 shortage, rising 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
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.
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.
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.”
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
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
It should mean policies that recognize the
humanity of trans people and other LGBTQ+ Americans and keep them safe from
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
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 underlyingdrivers of violence
and crime — tackling it at its roots, before it ever has a chance to grow.
Break the school-to-prison pipeline. Schools 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
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 insecurity. Children 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 programs. To improve safety in our
communities, we also need to invest in programs that prevent violence and
divert criminal behavior. Models in cities like Boston, Oakland 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 Crises. The 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 disorder. People 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
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 Drugs. For 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 homelessness. Housing 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 color, LGBTQ+ 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 poverty. A 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
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
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
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-connected. Equal 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
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 Reform. The 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.
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 officersafety. 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.
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 politicalspectrum. 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.
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 measurableimpact 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
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 Reform. Our 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
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.
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 minimums. The 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
End the death penalty. Studies 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
injustices. The 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 prison. Today 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.
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
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.
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.
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 sanctions. Millions 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
Reduce needlessly restrictive parole requirements. Technical 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 reentry. I’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 option. Many 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
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
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.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders released his plan to reform the entire criminal justice system. This is from the Sanders campaign:
Blueprint aims to reform every aspect of America’s dysfunctional criminal justice system, ridding it of institutional racism and corporate profiteering
COLUMBIA, SC – Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running to be the Democratic candidate for president, released a comprehensive plan to reform the entire American criminal justice system in a speech he delivered August 18 in the Greenview neighborhood of Columbia, South Carolina. The plan is designed to root out the institutional racism and corporate profiteering that is plaguing the existing system.
“If we stand together, we can eliminate private
prisons and detention centers. No more profiteering from locking people
up. If we stand together we can end the disastrous “war on drugs.” If we stand
together we can end cash bail. No more keeping people in jail because
they’re too poor. If we stand together we can enact real police department
reform and prosecute police brutality. If we stand together, there is nothing,
nothing, nothing that we cannot accomplish.”
Sanders has fought mass incarceration during his decades in Congress, and
for president in 2016 on a pledge to end for-profit prisons —
a pledge that other Democrats have subsequently decided to support 4 years
later. Sanders’ new plan reiterates his original call to ban for-profit
prisons, and builds on his leadership on criminal justice with new proposals
for a top-to-bottom reform of America’s law enforcement, judicial and
incarceration systems. They include:
greed in our criminal justice system, top to bottom
Ending for-profit greed in our criminal justice system, top to
bottom, including banning cash bail and banning civil asset forfeiture, which
allows police departments to seize property from people who have not been
accused or convicted of a crime.
Ensure the criminal justice system is not the “best justice
money can buy” by vastly increasing funding for public defenders and creating a
federal formula to ensure populations have a minimum number of public defenders
to meet their needs, and working with states to set a minimum starting salary
for public defenders.
Mass Incarceration and Excessive Sentencing and Inhumane Incarceration and
Transform the Way We Police Communities
Reversing mass incarceration and setting a
goal of cutting the incarcerated population in half.
Transforming the way we police our
communities, creating an unarmed civilian corp of first responders to handle
mental health emergencies, homelessness, and other low-level issues that should
not require contact with the police and criminal justice system.
Creating national standards for use of police
force that emphasize de-escalation rather than violence, and holding police
misconduct to strict federal standards, including limiting qualified immunity
for police officers, creating a federal deadly use of force database, and a
registry of disreputable officers.
Ending the War on Drugs, including legalizing
marijuana and expunging past convictions for marijuana-related offenses and finally
ending the sentencing disparities for crack cocaine and powder cocaine
Abolishing the death penalty and solitary
Enacting a Prisoner Bill of Rights for
incarcerated individuals, including living wages, access to families, access to
educational and vocational training, and the right to vote.
Criminalization of Communities, End Cycles of Violence and Provide Support to
Survivors of Crime
Reversing the criminalization of disability, addiction, and homelessness.
Treat children in the criminal justice system
as children. This means raising the age to charge children in adult court to
18, ending long mandatory minimum sentences and life without parole sentences
for youth, decriminalizing truancy, and investing in youth diversion programs
and alternatives to the court and prison system.
End cycles of violence and interrupt them
before they begin. This means focusing law enforcement resources on solving
homicides and other serious crimes, funding Cure Violence programs and similar
proven violence interruption models, and ending the national rape kit
Support the victims and survivors of crimes by
providing sustained resources to survivors and their families, including mental
health care, trauma recovery services, relocation services, and assistance with
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details a plan to transform America’s approach to trade: “Trade can be a powerful tool to help working families but our failed pro-corporate agenda has used trade to harm American workers and the environment. My plan represents a new approach to trade — one that uses America’s leverage to boost American workers and raise the standard of living across the globe. The President has a lot of authority to remake trade policy herself. When I’m elected, I intend to use it.” Here are the details, as provided by the Warren campaign:
Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running to be the 2020 Democratic candidate for president, released her plan to break decades of Washington consensus and transform every aspect of America’s current approach to trade.
America enters trade negotiations with enormous leverage because it is the world’s most attractive market. A Warren Administration won’t hand that leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes. Elizabeth will use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards worldwide. Under Elizabeth’s plan, America will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families.
Last month, I released my economic patriotism agenda
— my commitment to fundamentally changing the government’s approach to the
economy so that we put the interests of American workers and families ahead of
the interests of multinational corporations. I’ve already released my ideas for
applying economic patriotism to manufacturing and
to Wall Street. This is my
plan for using economic patriotism to overhaul our approach to trade.
For decades, big multinational corporations have bought and
lobbied their way into dictating America’s trade policy. Those big corporations
have gotten rich but everyone else has paid the price. We’ve lost millionsofjobs to
outsourcing, depressedwages for American
workers, accelerated climate
change, and squeezed America’s
family farmers. We’ve let China get away with the suppression of pay and labor rights, poor environmental
protections, and years of currency manipulation.
All to add some zeroes to the bottom lines of big corporations with no loyalty
or allegiance to America.
We need to completely transform our approach to trade.
America enters into trade negotiations with enormous leverage because America
is the world’s most attractive market. As President, I won’t hand
America’s leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes —
I’ll use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm
income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards
worldwide.We will engage in international trade — but on our terms
and only when it benefits American families.
A New Approach to Trade
My plan is a new approach to trade — one that is different
from both the Washington insider consensus that brought us decades of bad trade
deals and from Donald Trump’s haphazard and ultimately corporate-friendly
Unlike the insiders, I don’t think “free trade” deals that
benefit big multinational corporations and international capital at the expense
of American workers are good simply because they open up markets. Trade is good
when it helps American workers and families — when it doesn’t, we need to
change our approach. And unlike Trump, while I think tariffs are an important
tool, they are not by themselves a long-term solution to our failed trade
agenda and must be part of a broader strategy that this Administration clearly
To ensure that American families benefit from international
trade in the decades to come, I want to invest in American workers and
to use our leverage to force other countries to raise the bar on everything
from labor and environmental standards to anti-corruption rules to access to
medicine to tax enforcement. If we raise the world’s standards to our level and
American workers have the chance to compete fairly, they will thrive — and
millions of people around the world will be better off too.
Achieving this vision isn’t about tough talk or tweets. We
must do the hard work of transforming every aspect of our current approach to
trade: from our negotiating process to the negotiating objectives we pursue to
the way we enforce agreements. That’s what I intend to do.
A Trade Negotiation Process that Reflects America’s
Our current approach to negotiating trade agreements works
great for the wealthy and the well-connected. The negotiating text is
kept confidential from
all but a small set of advisory groups comprised mostly of corporate
executives and industry trade group representatives. Once those corporate
interests are finished whispering in the ears of our negotiators, the completed
text is released. Then, under the expedited “Fast Track” procedure
Congress typically uses to approve trade agreements, our elected
representatives must vote up or down on the agreement with no ability to
propose and secure any changes to it. Meanwhile, the negotiators who
constructed it often breeze through the revolving door to
take jobs with the corporations whose interests underlie the deal.
This is undemocratic and obviously corrupt. In a Warren
Administration, we will negotiate and approve trade agreements through a
transparent process that offers the public a genuine chance to shape it:
Trade negotiators will publicly disclose negotiating
drafts and provide the public with an opportunity to comment. When
federal agencies write new rules, they typically must publish a proposed
version of the rule and permit the public to submit comments on it. I will
adopt a similar approach for our trade deals. Prior to negotiations, our
negotiators will publish a draft of their proposals in the Federal Register,
let the public offer comments on the draft, and take those comments into
consideration during negotiations. And then as talks proceed, they will publish
drafts of the negotiating texts so the public can monitor the negotiations.
Trade advisory committees will prioritize the views of workers and consumers. I will ensure that there are more representatives from labor, environmental, and consumer groups than from corporations and trade groups on every existing advisory committee. And I’ll expand the current list of advisory committees to create one for consumers, one for rural areas, and one for each region of the country, so that critical voices are at the table during negotiations.
The US International Trade Commission will provide a regional analysis of the economic effects of a trade agreement. Trade agreements can hollow out communities and transform regional economies. Yet the report the ITC provides before Congress considers a trade agreement only includes a nationwide analysis of a trade deal’s economic impact. I will push for the agency to provide a region-by-region analysis so the public and Members of Congress can understand how an agreement is likely to affect the places they live and represent.
The congressional approval process will offer more
opportunities for the public and elected representatives to shape trade
agreements. I will seek expedited congressional approval of trade
agreements only when every regional advisory committee and the labor, consumer,
and rural advisory committees unanimously certify that the agreement serves
their interests. I will also expand the list of congressional committees that
must review any agreement before it is eligible for expedited consideration.
Together, these changes will ensure that our negotiations
reflect the views of American families, not corporate interests.
Using Our Leverage to Demand More for American Families
and to Raise the Global Standard of Living
While a better process will produce better agreements, we
also must fundamentally shift the goals of our trade agenda so they are aligned
with the interests of America’s families.
With certain important exceptions, we live in a low-tariff
world. Modern trade agreements are less about the
mutual reduction of tariffs and more about establishing regulatory standards
for everything from worker rights to pollution to patent protections.
My approach to trade reflects that reality. For too long, we
have entered into trade deals with countries with abysmal records on labor, environmental, and human rights issues.
In exchange for concrete access to the American market, we get vague
commitments to do better, which we then hardly enforce. The
result is that millions of people in our trading-partner countries don’t gain
the benefits of higher standards — and companies can easily pad their profits
by shifting American jobs to countries where they can pay workers next to
nothing and pollute the air and water freely.
That will end under my Administration. I am establishing a set of standards countries must meet as a precondition for any trade agreement with America. And I will renegotiate any agreements we have to ensure that our existing trade partners meet those standards as well.
My preconditions are that a country must:
Recognize and enforce the core labor rights of the International Labour Organization, like collective bargaining and the elimination of child labor.
Uphold internationally recognized human rights, as reported in the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights, including the rights of indigenous people, migrant workers, and other vulnerable groups.
Recognize and enforce religious freedom as reported in the State Department’s Country Reports.
Comply with minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Be a party to the Paris Climate agreement and have a national plan that has been independently verified to put the country on track to reduce its emissions consistent with the long-term emissions goals in that agreement.
Eliminate all domestic fossil fuel subsidies.
Ratify the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
Not appear on the Department of Treasury monitoring list of
countries that merit attention for their currency practices.
A country should only be considered an acceptable partner if
it meets these basic standards. Shamefully, America itself does not meet many
of these labor and environmental standards today. I am committed to fixing that
as President. And to help bring other countries up to these standards, I’ll
revitalize our commitment to providing technical assistance to help countries
I will also go beyond these minimum standards in key areas
to promote the interests of American workers and families.
Labor. I will ensure trade agreements protect
Buy American and other programs designed to develop local industry, contain
strong rule-of-origin standards to promote domestic manufacturing, protect
worker pensions, promote equal pay for equal work for women, and prohibit
violence against workers. Unlike previous trade deals agreements that
have put labor standards in side agreements that
are difficult to enforce, I will make labor standards central to any agreement.
Climate Change and the Environment. Climate
change is real, it’s man-made, and we’re running out of time to address it.
America should be leading this fight, but we have turned our backs on our
responsibilities — with communities of color in the U.S. and developing countries bearing
a disproportionate amount of the harm.
Beyond requiring implementation of the Paris Climate accord
and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies as preconditions for any trade
agreement, I have already proposed a Green Marshall Plan to
dedicate $100 billion to helping other countries purchase and deploy
American-made clean energy technology.
But we must do more. I will push to secure a
multilateral agreement to protect domestic green policies like subsidies for
green products and preferential treatment for environmentally sustainable
energy production from WTO challenges. And because big corporations
will move their production to the countries with the weakest greenhouse gas
emissions standards — undermining global efforts to address climate change and
penalizing countries that are doing their part — I will impose a border carbon adjustment so
imported goods that these firms make using carbon-intensive processes are
charged a fee to equalize the costs borne by companies playing by the rules.
Prescription Drugs. Last year, Americans spent more
than $500 billion on
prescription drugs. That’s a 50% increase since 2010. Nearly 3 in 10Americans
report not taking their medicine as directed because of costs. And yet, one of
the core elements of America’s current trade agenda is guaranteeing
pharmaceutical firms monopoly protections so they can avoid competition from
generic drugs — driving up costs and reducing access to
necessary medicine abroad, and undermining our
efforts to reduce drug prices here at home. That’s exactly what
the Trump Administration has done as part of their failed effort to renegotiate
While medical innovation is important, there is no link between
extremely long exclusivity periods and pharmaceutical innovation. These are
giveaways to drug companies, plain and simple, which allow them to maintain
ludicrously high drug prices.
As President, I will fight to bring down the costs of
prescription drugs here and around the world. I will never use
America’s leverage to push another country to extend exclusivity periods for
prescription drugs. I will support efforts to impose price controls on
pharmaceuticals. And I will actively seek out opportunities to reduce
exclusivity periods in our existing trade deals in exchange for securing other
changes that will help America’s working families.
Agriculture. For decades, trade deals have squeezed family
farmers, with Black farmers losing their land particularly quickly.
Between the trade fights incited by Trump’s haphazard tariffs and a series
of natural disasters,
America’s farmers are now facing the worst crisis in almost 40
years. They are also facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty and
instability. Trump’s tariffs have reduced crop prices, threatened farmers
already operating on razor-thin margins, and opened up new non-American markets
against which our farmers are now forced to compete. Like trade deals of the
past, Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 is written to help giant multinational agribusinesses
at the expense of family farms, and it
will do nothing to solve the newly created market insecurity Trump’s tariffs
As President, I will fight for trade agreements that reward
American farmers for their hard work by negotiating for fair prices for goods,
breaking up the monopolies in grain
trading and meat packing, and protecting domestic markets to create stability
for America’s family farms. And I will impose Country-of-Origin Labeling rules
to protect American producers and provide transparency to consumers.
Consumer protection. We must ensure that the food we
eat is high-quality and safe. But our trade agreements have limited safety
standards and the inspection of imported foods,
while simultaneously enabling a new flood of food imports that overwhelm food
safety inspectors. In my Administration, our trade pacts will require
imported food to meet domestic food safety standards, including enhanced border
As with imported food, our current trade deals require us to
allow imports of other products and services that do not meet domestic safety
and environmental standards. My trade agreements will ensure that imported
products and services must meet the same standards as domestic products and
Antitrust. We are in an era of massive
consolidation across many sectors of the economy. One of the reasons why is
that we have a narrow, permissive approach to mergers that looks only at
economic efficiency and consumer welfare instead of assessing the impact that a
merger will have on competition itself.
In recent years, we have added this problematic
standard into trade agreements and
proposed it as the defining objective for competition policy in new and renegotiated agreements.
Under my administration, we will not propose this standard in any new
agreement, and we will work to renegotiate agreements to remove it.
Delivering for American Families with Stronger
Our approach to enforcing trade agreements drives down
standards worldwide and undermines American families. We offer big corporations
fast and powerful methods to enforce the provisions that benefit them but make
it nearly impossible for Americans to enforce labor and environmental
protections. Foreign governments only fear a challenge to strong rules that
might hurt corporate bottom lines, not to weak rules that might not adequately
protect workers, the environment, or public health.
I will entirely reorient our approach to enforcement so we drive standards up, not down. I’ll start by ending “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS, the favorable enforcement approach we offer corporations. Under ISDS, a company that believes that a new law violates some aspect of a trade agreement can skip the courts and challenge the law before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company wins, the panel can order that country’s taxpayers to pay out billions in damages — with no review by an actual court. What’s worse, the arbitration panels handing out these binding rulings are often made up of corporate lawyers whose day jobs are representing the very same companies that seek judgments before them.
Companies have used ISDS to undermine laws intended to benefit the public interest. A French company challenged Egypt when it increased the minimum wage. A Swedish company challenged Germany when it decided to cut back on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. These cases have real effects across the globe: an ISDS panel’s decision to hear a challenge that Philip Morris brought against Uruguay’s anti-smoking campaign prompted several other countries to abandon similar public health efforts.
As President, I will not include ISDS in any new
agreement and will renegotiate existing agreements to remove ISDS from them.
And I’ll strengthen our approach to enforcing labor and environmental
standards. Unlike a corporation under ISDS, a labor union seeking to enforce
labor standards can’t bring a claim on its own — it must convince the federal
government to bring a claim on its behalf. Even in the face of overwhelming
evidence, our government can refuse to act for diplomatic or other unrelated
As a result, the federal government has only pursued one such claim in
the last 25 years. In that one case, the American government, AFL-CIO, and
Guatemalan unions spent nine years trying
to challenge the Guatemalan government for violating the labor chapter of one
of our trade deals because Guatemalan workers were being murdered for trying to
join a union. In the end, we lost because the
trade agreement required a showing that the violations had affected trade.
I will replace this broken process by creating independent
commissions — made up of experts in the area — to monitor potential violations,
respond to complaints, and investigate claims. The commissions must review and
investigate claims promptly so that claims don’t languish for years. If
one of these commissions recommends that the United States bring a claim
against another country, the United States will be required to do so, without
I will also fix the problem that arose in the Guatemala case
by pushing to remove language from our deals that require us to show that a
violation of rights was “sustained or recurring” and “affecting trade or
investment.” A violation is a violation, and I won’t let another case like
Guatemala happen ever again.
I will strengthen our enforcement approach in other ways as
Under WTO rules, a country designated as a “non-market economy” can face more serious trade penalties. I will push for a new “non-sustainable economy” designation that would allow us to impose tougher penalties on countries with systematically poor labor and environmental practices. We cannot allow countries that treat their workers and the environment poorly to undercut American producers that do things the right way.
I already have a plan to move the lead American trade negotiator — the Office of the United States Trade Representative — within my new Department of Economic Development. That will ensure that America’s trade policy supports our broader economic agenda of defending and creating good American jobs. I will also create a new labor and environment enforcement division at the USTR to more effectively enforce obligations, and embed a labor attache at U.S. embassies to monitor compliance with our labor standards.
Unlike the current approach that lets our government ignore unfair trade practices, my administration will create automatic triggers to initiate investigations into unfair trade practices. If those investigations produce compelling evidence of a violation, the Department will impose trade remedies immediately until the offenders show they are no longer engaging in an unfair trade practice. These automatic triggers will also apply to violations of labor and environmental standards.
Finally, when we impose duties to support particular
domestic industries, I want to ensure that the money we collect actually goes
to American workers, instead of being sucked up by
executives and shareholders. I will fight to change our trade laws so
that we review duties every six months and lift the duties if companies can’t
demonstrate the benefits of the duties are going to their workers.