The vigorous contest of
Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent
policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details her
plan to tax excessive lobbying as part of her anti-corruption proposal. This is
from the Warren campaign:
Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren recently unveiled her plan for a new tax on excessive lobbying. It applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over $500,000 per year lobbying our government. The revenue from this tax will be used to help our government fight back against the influence of lobbyists.
Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue.
Here is more about her plan to tax
When Americans think about corporate lobbyists, they usually think about the
people in fancy suits who line the halls of Congress armed with donations,
talking points, and whatever else they need to win favorable treatment for their
big corporate clients.
They’re right. In fact, corporate interests spend more on lobbying than
we spend to fund both houses of Congress — spending more than $2.8 billion on
lobbying last year alone. That’s why I have a plan to strengthen congressional
independence from lobbyists and give Congress the resources it
needs to defend against these influence campaigns.
But corporate lobbyists don’t just swarm Congress. They also target our federal
departments like the Environmental Protection Agency and
the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau. These agencies exist to oversee giant corporations and
implement the laws coming out of Congress – but lobbyists often do their best
to grind public interest work at these agencies to a halt.
When the Department of Labor tried to protect workers from
predatory financial advisors who got rich by siphoning off large and
unnecessary fees from workers’ life savings, Wall Street lobbyists descended on
Washington to try to kill the effort – twice. When they failed
the second time, they sued to stop it in
When the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tried to crack down on
payday lenders exploiting vulnerable communities, lobbyists convinced the Trump
administration to cripple the rule –
while the payday lenders who hired them spent about $1 million at
a Trump resort.
Regulatory agencies are only empowered to implement public interest rules under
authority granted by legislation already passed by Congress. So how is it that
lobbyists are able to kill, weaken, or delay so many important efforts to
implement the law?
Often they accomplish this goal by launching an all out assault on the process
of writing new rules – informally meeting with
federal agencies to push for favorable treatment, burying those agencies
in detailed industry comments during
the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, and pressuring members of Congress to
join their efforts to lobby against the rule. If the rule moves forward anyway,
they’ll argue to an obscure
federal agency tasked with weighing the costs and benefits of agency rules that
the rules are too costly, and if the regulation somehow survives this
onslaught, they’ll hire fancy lawyers to
challenge it in court.
I have released the most sweeping set of anti-corruption reforms since
Watergate. Under my plan, we will end lobbying as we know it.
We will make sure everyone who is paid to influence government is required to
register as a lobbyist, and we’ll impose strict disclosure requirements so that
lobbyists have to publicly report which agency rules they are seeking to
influence and what information they provide to those agencies. We’ll also shut
the revolving door between government and K Street to prevent another Trump
administration where ex-lobbyists lead the Department
of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, the
Department of Interior, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
My plan also calls for something unique – a new tax on excessive lobbying
that applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over
$500,000 per year lobbying our government. This tax will reduce the incentive
for excessive lobbying, and raise money that we can use to fight back against
this kind of onslaught when it occurs.
Under my lobbying tax proposal, companies that spend between $500,000 and $1
million per year on lobbying, calculated on a quarterly basis, will pay a 35%
tax on those expenditures. For every dollar above $1 million spent on lobbying,
the rate will increase to 60% – and for every dollar above $5 million, it will
increase to 75%.
Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided
by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the
last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay
up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue. And 51 of them –
including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Koch Industries, Pfizer, Boeing,
Microsoft, Walmart, and Exxon – would have been subject to the 75% rate for
lobbying spending above $5 million in every one of those years.
Nobody will be surprised that the top five industries that would have paid the
highest lobbying taxes are the same industries that have spent the last decade
fighting tooth and nail against popular policies: Big Pharma, health insurance
companies, oil and gas companies, Wall Street firms, and electric
Among individual companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would have owed the
most of any company or trade group in lobbying taxes: an estimated $770 million
on $1 billion in lobbying spending – over $400 million more than the
next-highest-paying organization, the National Association of Realtors, which
would have paid $307 million on $425 million in lobbying spending. Blue Cross
Blue Shield, PhRMA, and the American Hospital Association would have all paid
between $149 and $163 million in taxes on between $213 and $233 million in
lobbying spending. And General Electric, Boeing, AT&T, Business Roundtable,
and Comcast round out the top ten, paying between $105 million and $129 million
Every dollar raised by the lobbying tax will be placed into a new Lobbying
Defense Trust Fund dedicated to directing a surge of resources to Congress and
federal agencies to fight back against the effort to bury public interest
actions by the government.
Corporate lobbyists are experts at killing widely popular policies behind
Take just one example from the Obama administration. In October 2010, the
Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a
“fiduciary rule” to protect employee retirement accounts from brokers who charge exorbitant fees and
put their own commissions above earning returns for their clients. The idea was
simple: if you’re looking after someone’s money, you should look out for their
It’s an obvious rule – but it would cut into financial industry profits. So the
industry dispatched an army of lobbyists to fight against the
rule, including by burying the agency in public comments. In the first four
months, the DOL received hundreds of comments on
the proposed rule, including comments from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Morgan
Stanley, Bank of America, BlackRock, and other powerful financial interests.
After a public hearing with testimony from groups like Fidelity and J.P Morgan,
the agency received over 100 more comments —
including dozens from members of Congress,
many of which were
heavily slanted toward industry talking points.
Because the law requires agencies to respond to each concern laid out in the
public comments, when corporate interests flood agencies with comments, the
process often becomes so time-consuming and resource-intensive that it can kill or delay final rules altogether
– and that’s exactly what happened. On September 19, 2011, the DOL withdrew the proposed rule,
but said that it planned to try again in the future.
Undeterred, Wall Street pushed forward their lobbying campaign to ensure that
the Department of Labor wouldn’t try again to re-issue the fiduciary rule. In
June 2013, Robert Lewis, a lobbyist for an investment industry trade
group, personally drafted a letter opposing
this common-sense reform – and got 32 members of Congress to sign it. The
letter ominously urged the Department to “learn from its earlier experience”
when the financial industry had killed the first proposal. Soon, members of
Congress from both parties were joining in, telling the Obama
administration to delay re-issuing the rule.
To its great credit, the Obama Department of Labor didn’t give up. On February
23, 2015, the agency finally re-proposed the rule. Wall Street ramped up their
lobbying once more to try to kill it a second time. This time, with firm resolve
and committed allies, DOL and those of us fighting alongside
them beat back thousands of comments,
and retirees won – but it took so long that Donald Trump became President
before the rule fully went into effect.
Lobbyists have followed this same playbook to
block, narrow, or delay countless other common- sense industry regulations.
Swarm regulators and Congress, bury everyone in an avalanche of money, and
strangle government action in the public interest before it even gets off the
That’s why I’m using the revenue from my tax on excessive lobbying to
establish a new Lobbying Defense Trust Fund, which will help our government
fight back against the influence of lobbyists.
we’ll use the Lobbying Defense Trust Fund to strengthen congressional support
my plan to strengthen congressional
independence from lobbyists, I explained how lobbying tax revenue
would help to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment and increase the
budget for other congressional support agencies, like the Congressional Budget
we’ll give more money to federal agencies that are facing significant lobbying
time a company above the $500,000 threshold spends money lobbying against a
rule from a federal agency, the taxes on that spending will go directly to the
agency to help it fight back. In 2010, DOL could have used that money to hire
more staffers to complete the rule more quickly and intake the flood of
industry comments opposing it.
revenue from the lobbying tax will help to establish a new Office of the Public
office will help the American people engage with federal agencies and fight for
the public interest in the rule-making process. If this office had existed in
2010, the Public Advocate would have made sure that DOL heard from workers and
retirees – even while both parties in Congress were spouting industry talking
My new lobbying tax will make hiring armies of lobbyists significantly more
expensive for the largest corporate influencers like Blue Cross Blue Shield,
Boeing, and Comcast. Sure, this may mean that some corporations and industry
groups will choose to reduce their lobbying expenditures, raising less tax
revenue down the road – but in that case, all the better.
And if instead corporations continue to engage in excessive lobbying, my
lobbying tax will raise even more revenue for Congress, agencies, and federal
watchdogs to fight back.
It’s just one more example of the kind of big, structural change we need to put
power back in the hands of the people – and break the grip that lobbyists have
on our government for good.
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 the town
of Paradise, California, which was obliterated in last season’s wildfires, unveiled
his Green New Deal, “the only plan bold
enough to confront the climate crisis and create an economy that works for all.”
Under Sanders’ plan, the United States will reach 100 percent renewable energy
for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization
by 2050. This is from the Sanders campaign:
is a pivotal moment in the history of America — and really, in the history of
humanity. The climate crisis is not only the single greatest challenge facing
our country; it is also our single greatest opportunity to build a more just
and equitable future, but we must act immediately,” said Sen. Sanders. “When we
are in the White House, we will launch the decade of the Green New Deal, a
10-year mobilization to avert climate catastrophe during which climate change,
justice and equity will be factored into virtually every area of policy, from
immigration to trade to foreign policy and beyond.”
Green New Deal boldly embraces the moral imperative of addressing the climate
crisis and builds on an unprecedented grassroots movement powerful enough to
take on the fossil fuel industry and win. As president, Sanders will mobilize
the political will necessary for a wholesale transformation of our society,
with support for frontline communities and massive investments in sustainable
energy, energy efficiency, and a transformation of our transportation system.
Green New Deal will avert climate catastrophe, transform our energy system,
build an economy for all and end the greed of the fossil fuel industry
Ending unemployment by creating 20 million jobs needed to solve the climate crisis.
Ensuring a just transition for communities and workers, including fossil fuel workers.
Ensuring justice for frontline communities, especially under-resourced groups, communities of color, Native Americans, people with disabilities, children and the elderly.
Saving American families money with investments in weatherization, public transportation, modern infrastructure and high-speed broadband.
Committing to reducing emissions throughout the world.
Green New Deal will pay for itself over 15 years by holding the fossil fuel
industry accountable for the damage it has caused. Sanders’ plan will:
Make the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and by eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies.
Generate revenue from the wholesale of energy produced by the regional Power Marketing Authorities. Revenues will be collected from 2023-2035, and after 2035 electricity will be virtually free, aside from operations and maintenance costs.
Scale back military spending on maintaining global oil dependence.
Collect new income tax revenue from the 20 million new jobs created by the plan.
Reduce the need for federal and state safety net spending due to the creation of millions of good-paying, unionized jobs.
Make the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share.
The 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
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 protect communities from gun violence. This is from
the Warren2020 campaign (Read it here).
“The conversation about
gun violence in America is shifting — but not just because we’ve seen a spike
in violence fueled by the NRA and the Trump administration’s dangerous policies
and extremist rhetoric. It’s also because of the tireless work of activists,
organizers, and community leaders who have been fighting for reform at the
state and local level.
“If you need proof that the majority
of Americans support common sense gun reform, look at what’s happening in state
legislatures and city councils across the country. Moms, students, and faith
leaders have been packing hearing rooms and taking back spaces formerly reserved
for NRA lobbyists. Survivors of mass shootings are doing the critical work of
turning our attention to the daily gun violence in cities that doesn’t make
“And it’s working. States that pass
expanded background checks see lower rates of gun-related deaths and gun
trafficking. States that disarm domestic abusers see lower rates of intimate
partner gun violence. States with extreme risk laws have been successful in
reducing gun suicides and have used them to prevent potential mass shootings.
Community-based violence intervention programs are popping up in cities across
“Together, we can build on this
momentum. We can build a grassroots movement to take back the Senate, eliminate
the filibuster, and pass federal gun safety legislation that will save lives.
And from the White House, I’ll make sure that the NRA and their cronies are
held accountable with executive action. If we turn our heartbreak and our anger
into action, I know we can take the power from the NRA and the lawmakers in
their pockets and return it to the people.”
Charlestown, MA – Prior to her appearance at the Everytown presidential forum,
Elizabeth Warren released her plan to confront gun violence in America.
Yesterday, she called on Walmart to stop selling
guns — one of the largest gun retailers in the world.
Elizabeth will set a goal of reducing
gun deaths in this country by 80%, starting with an ambitious set of executive
actions she will take as president. In order to break the hold of the NRA and
the gun lobby, she will pass her sweeping anti-corruption legislation and
eliminate the filibuster to pass gun legislation in her first 100 days. She
supports federal licensing, universal background checks, a military-style
assault weapon ban, higher taxes on guns and ammunition, and closing the
loopholes to make it harder for someone violent to get a gun.
We know that Black and Latinx
Americans have borne the brunt of the gun violence tragedy in our country.
Instead of focusing solely on law enforcement and incarceration, Elizabeth will
invest in interventions designed to stop gun violence before it occurs by
piloting evidence-based community violence intervention programs at scale.
She will call on Congress to repeal
the liability shield that protects the industry – and then go further, by
establishing a federal private right of action to allow survivors of gun
violence to get their day in court. Her plan also includes $100 million
annually for gun safety research, and commits to study the reforms we enact to
see what’s working, and send Congress updated reform proposals on an annual
Faced with a complex and entrenched
public health crisis, made worse by the ongoing inability of a corrupt
government to do anything about it, it’s easy to despair. But we are not
incapable of solving big problems. We’ve done it before.
In 1965, more than five people died in
automobile accidents for every 100 million miles traveled. It was a massive
crisis. As a nation, we decided to do better. Some things were obvious:
seatbelts, safer windshields, and padded dashboards. Other things only became
clear over time: things like airbags and better brake systems. But we made
changes, we did what worked, and we kept at it. Over fifty years, we reduced
per-mile driving deaths by almost 80% and prevented 3.5 million automobile
deaths. And we’re still at it.
In 2017, almost 40,000 people
died from guns in the United States. My goal as President, and our goal as a
society, will be to reduce that number by 80%. We might not know how to get all
the way there yet. But we’ll start by implementing solutions that we believe
will work. We’ll continue by constantly revisiting and updating those solutions
based on new public health research. And we’ll make structural changes to end
the ability of corrupt extremists to block our government from defending the
lives of our people — starting with ending the filibuster.
Here’s what that will look like.
As president, I will immediately take
executive action to rein in an out-of-control gun industry — and to hold both
gun dealers and manufacturers accountable for the violence promoted by their
I will break the NRA’s stranglehold on
Congress by passing sweeping anti-corruption legislation and eliminating the
filibuster so that our nation can no longer be held hostage by a small group of
well-financed extremists who have already made it perfectly clear that they
will never put the safety of the American people first.
I will send Congress comprehensive gun
violence prevention legislation. I will sign it into law within my first 100
days. And we will revisit this comprehensive legislation every single year —
adding new ideas and tweaking existing ones based on new data — to continually
reduce the number of gun deaths in America.
Executive Action to Reduce
Reform advocates are engaged in a
valuable discussion about gun reforms that can be achieved by executive action.
We must pursue these solutions to the fullest extent of the law, including by
redefining anyone “engaged in the business”
of dealing in firearms to include the vast majority of gun sales outside of
family-to-family exchanges. This will extend requirements — not only for
background checks, but all federal gun rules — to cover all of those sales.
Requiring background checks. We will
bring the vast majority of private sales, including at gun shows and online,
under the existing background check umbrella.
Reporting on multiple purchases. We
will extend the existing requirement to report bulk sales to nearly all gun
sales. And I’ll extend existing reporting requirements on the mass purchase of
certain rifles from the southwestern border states to all 50 states.
Raising the minimum age. We will
expand the number of sales covered by existing age restriction provisions that
require the purchaser to be at least 18 years old, keeping guns out of the
hands of more teenagers.
My administration will use
all the authorities at the federal government’s disposal to investigate and
prosecute all those who circumvent or violate existing federal gun laws. This
Prosecuting gun traffickers. Gun
trafficking across state lines allows
guns to move from states with fewer restrictions to those with strict safety
standards, and gun trafficking across our southern border contributes to gang
violence that sends migrants fleeing north. I’ll instruct my Attorney General
to go after the interstate and transnational gun trafficking trade with all the
resources of the federal government.
Revoking licenses for gun dealers who
break the rules. Only 1% of gun dealers are responsible for 57% of guns used in
crimes. My Administration will direct the ATF to prioritize oversight of
dealers with serial compliance violations — and then use its authority to
revoke the license of dealers who repeatedly violate the rules.
Investigating the NRA and its cronies.
The NRA is accused of exploiting loopholes in federal laws governing
non-profit spending to divert member dues into lavish payments for
its board members and senior leadership. I’ll appoint an attorney general
committed to investigating these types of corrupt business practices, and the
banks and third-party vendors — like Wells Fargo — that
enabled the NRA to skirt the rules for so long.
To protect the most
vulnerable, my administration will use ATF’s existing regulatory authority to
the greatest degree possible, including by:
Protecting survivors of domestic
abuse. We will close the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by
defining intimate partner to include anyone with a domestic violence conviction
involving any form of romantic partner.
Reversing the Trump administration’s
efforts to weaken our existing gun rules. We will rescind the Trump-era rules
and policies that weaken our gun safety regime, including rules that lower the standards for
purchasing a gun, and those that make it easier to create untraceable weapons
or modify weapons in ways that circumvent the law. This includes overturning
Trump-era policies enabling
3-D printed guns, regulating 80% receivers as firearms,
and reversing the ATF ruling that allows a shooter to convert a pistol to a
short-barreled rifle using pistol braces.
Restrict the movement of guns across
our borders. We will reverse the Trump administration’s efforts to make
it easier to export U.S.-manufactured
weapons by transferring exports of semi-automatic firearms and ammunition from
the State Department to the Commerce Department, and we will prevent the import
of foreign-manufactured assault weapons into the United States.
The shooting in El Paso
also reminds us that we need to call out white nationalism for what it is:
domestic terrorism. Instead of a president who winks and nods as white
nationalism gets stronger in this country, we need a president who will use all
the tools available to prevent it. It is completely incompatible with our
American values, it is a threat to American safety and security, and a Warren
Justice Department will prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law.
Structural Changes to Pass Gun Safety Legislation
The next president has a moral
obligation to use whatever executive authority she has to address the gun
crisis. But it is obvious that executive action is not enough. Durable reform
requires legislation — but right now legislation is impossible. Why? A virulent
mix of corruption and abuse of power.
Big money talks in Washington. And the
NRA represents a particularly noxious example of Washington corruption at work.
Over the last two decades, the NRA has spent over $200 million on
lobbying Congress, influencing elections, and buying off politicians — and
that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The NRA spends millions poisoning our
political discourse with hateful, conspiracy-fueled propaganda, blocking even
modest reforms supported by 90% of American voters.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook
massacre, the American people rallied for reform. President Obama suggested
several serious legislative changes. The Senate voted down an assault weapons
ban. It rejected a background checks proposal, even though 54 Senators from
both parties voted for it, because of a right-wing-filibuster. These were the
bare minimum steps we needed to take. And six years later, Congress still
hasn’t done a thing.
This pattern repeats itself throughout
our government. When money and influence can override the will of a huge
majority of Americans, that is corruption, pure and simple.
It’s time to fight back. I
have proposed the most sweeping set of anticorruption reforms since
Watergate — a set of big structural changes that includes ending lobbying as we
know it and slamming shut the revolving door. My first priority when I’m
elected President is to enact this package to get our government working for
But anti-corruption legislation alone
won’t be enough to get gun safety legislation done. After decades of inaction,
Democrats have rallied behind a number of important gun reforms. If we continue
to allow bought and paid for extremists in the Senate to thwart the will of the
people, we will never enact any of them.
Enough is enough. Lasting
gun reform requires the elimination of the filibuster.
Legislation to Reduce Gun
When I am president, I will send
Congress comprehensive legislation containing our best ideas about what will
work to reduce gun violence.
It starts by ensuring that safe, responsible ownership is the standard for
everyone who chooses to own a gun. We’ll do that by:
Creating a federal licensing system.
States with strict licensing requirements experience lower rates of gun
trafficking and violence. A license is required to drive a car, and Congress
should establish a similarly straightforward federal licensing system for the
purchase of any type of firearm or ammunition.
Requiring universal background checks.
I’ll expand background checks via executive action — but Congress should act to
permanently mandate universal background checks. And I’ll push Congress to
close the so-called “Charleston loophole”
that allows a sale to proceed after three days even if the background check is
Increasing taxes on gun manufacturers.
Since 1919, the federal
government has imposed an excise tax on manufacturers and importers of guns and
ammunition. Handguns are taxed at 10% and other guns and ammunition are taxed
at 11%. These taxes raise less in revenue than the federal excise tax on
cigarettes, domestic wine, or even airline tickets. It’s time for Congress to
raise those rates — to 30% on guns and 50% on ammunition — both to reduce new
gun and ammunition sales overall and to bring in new federal revenue that we
can use for gun violence prevention and enforcement of existing gun laws.
Establishing a real waiting period.
Waiting periods prevent impulsive gun violence, reducing gun suicides by 7–11% and gun
homicides by 17%. Over the past 5
years, a national handgun waiting period would have stopped at least 4,550 gun
deaths. The federal government should establish a one-week waiting period for
all firearm purchases.
Capping firearms purchases.
About one out of four of
firearms recovered at the scene of a crime were part of a bulk purchase.
Congress should limit the number of guns that can be purchased to one per
month, similar to a Virginia law that
successfully reduced the likelihood of Virginia-bought guns being used in
Creating a new federal anti-trafficking
law. Congress should make clear that trafficking firearms or engaging in “straw
purchases” — when an individual buys a gun on behalf of a prohibited purchaser
— are federal crimes. This would give law enforcement new tools to crack down
on gun trafficking and help keep guns out of the wrong hands.
Raising the minimum age for gun
purchases. I’ll extend existing age requirements to virtually all sales, but
federal law is currently conflicting — for example, a person must be 21 to
purchase a handgun from a federally licensed dealer, but only 18 to purchase a
rifle. Congress should set the federal minimum age at 21 for all gun sales.
We can also do more to
keep military-style assault weapons off our streets. We’ll do that by:
Passing a new federal assault weapons
ban. The 1994 federal assault weapons ban successfully reduced gun deaths
but was allowed to expire ten years later. Congress should again ban the future
production, sale, and importation of military-style assault weapons, and
require individuals already in possession of assault weapons to register them
under the National Firearms Act. Just as we did successfully with machine guns
after the passage of that law, we should establish a buyback program to allow
those who wish to do so to return their weapon for safe disposal, and
individuals who fail to register or return their assault weapon should face
Banning high-capacity ammunition
magazines. High-capacity magazines were used in 57% of mass shootings from 2009
to 2015, allowing the shooters to target large numbers of people without
stopping to reload. Congress should enact a federal ban on large-capacity
magazines for all firearms, setting reasonable limits on the lethality of these
Prohibiting accessories that make
weapons more deadly. Gun manufacturers sell increasingly deadly gun
accessories, including silencers, trigger cranks, and other mechanisms that
increase the rate of fire or make semi-automatic weapons fully automatic.
Congress should ban these dangerous accessories entirely.
We should also do
everything possible to keep guns out of the hands of those at highest risk of
violence. We’ll do that by:
Passing extreme risk protection laws.
Extreme risk protection orders allow families and law enforcement to petition
to temporarily restrict access to firearms for individuals in crisis or at
elevated risk of harming themselves or others. Congress should pass a federal
extreme risk law and create a grant system to incentivize states to enact their
own laws that clearly define extreme risk.
Prohibiting anyone convicted of a hate
crime from owning a gun. Too often, guns are used in acts of mass violence
intended to provoke fear in minority communities; more than 10,000 hate crimes
involve a gun every year. Any individual convicted of a hate crime should be
permanently prohibited from owning a gun, full stop.
Protecting survivors of domestic
abuse. Domestic violence and gun violence are deeply connected — in an average
month, more than 50 women are shot
and killed by an intimate partner. I’ll close the boyfriend loophole, but
Congress should make that permanent, and expand the law to include individuals
with restraining orders or who have been convicted of stalking.
Securing our schools. Parents
shouldn’t have to buy bullet-proof backpacks for
their children — guns have no place on our campuses or in our schools. Congress
should improve the Gun-Free School Zones Act to include college and university
campuses, and apply to individuals licensed by a state or locality to carry a
If we want real,
long-lasting change, we must also hold the gun industry accountable, including
online sites that look the other way when sellers abuse their platforms. We’ll
do that by:
Repealing the Protection of Lawful
Commerce in Arms Act. Nearly every other industry has civil liability as a
check on irresponsible actions, but a 2005 law insulates firearms and dealers
from civil liability when a weapon is used to commit a crime, even in cases
when dealers were shockingly irresponsible. No one should be above the law, and
that includes the gun industry. Congress should repeal this law, immediately.
Holding gun manufacturers strictly
liable for the harm they cause through a federal private right of action. Gun
manufacturers make billions in profit by knowingly selling deadly products.
Then they are let completely off the hook when people take those deadly
products and inflict harm on thousands of victims each year. State tort law
already recognizes that certain types of products and activities are so
abnormally dangerous that the entities responsible for them should be held
strictly liable when people are injured. Congress should codify that same
principle at the federal level for guns by creating a new private right of
action allowing survivors of gun violence to hold the manufacturer of the
weapon that harmed them strictly liable forcompensatory damages to
the victim or their family.
Strengthening ATF. The NRA has long
sought to hobble the ATF, lobbying against staffing and
funding increases for the agency and getting its congressional allies to
impose absurd restrictions on
its work even as the agency struggled to meet its basic responsibilities.
Congress should fully fund ATF’s regulatory and compliance programs and remove
the riders and restrictions that prevent it from doing its job.
Regulating firearms for consumer
safety. Today there are no federal safety standards for
firearms produced in the United States. We can recall unsafe products from
trampolines to children’s pajamas — but not defective guns. Congress should
repeal the provision of law that prevents the Consumer Product Safety
Commission from regulating the safety of firearms and their accessories.
Tightening oversight for gun dealers.
Today there is no requirement for federally-licensed gun shops to take even
simple steps to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands. Congress should
pass basic safety standards for federally-licensed gun dealers, including
employee background checks, locked cabinets, and up-to-date inventories of the
weapons they have in stock.
Holding gun industry CEOs personally
accountable. I’ve proposed a lawthat would impose
criminal liability and jail time for corporate executives when their company is
found guilty of a crime or their negligence causes severe harm to American
families — and that includes gun industry CEOs.
Tragedies like the shootings we
witnessed in El Paso and Dayton capture our attention and dominate the
conversation about gun reform. But they’re just the tip of the iceberg of gun
violence in America. Everyday, we lose one hundred Americans
to gun violence, with hundreds more physically injured and countless more
mentally and emotionally traumatized. And Black and Latinx Americans have borne
the brunt of the gun violence tragedy in our country.
In the past, those statistics have been used to justify increased policing
and strict sentencing laws. Communities already traumatized by gun violence
were doubly victimized by policies that locked up their young people and threw
away the key. We’ve got a chance to show that we’ve learned from the past and
to chart a new path. It starts by acknowledging that gun violence is a public
health crisis, one that cannot be solved solely by the criminal justice system.
We can start to do that by investing
in evidence-based community violence intervention programs. Federal grant
funding today focuses significantly on law enforcement and incarceration,
rather than interventions designed to stop gun violence before it occurs. The
data in urban communities indicate that the majority of violence is perpetrated
by a small number of
offenders, and many cities have found success with programs that identify those
at highest risk of becoming the victim or perpetrator of a violent gun crime,
then employing strategies to interrupt the cycle of violence before it
escalates. Programs that engage the surrounding community, employ mediation to
prevent retaliation, build trust with law enforcement, and provide needed
long-term social services have been proven to de-escalate tensions and dramatically reduce violence.
As president, I’ll establish a grant program to invest in and pilot these types
of evidence-based intervention programs at scale.
Annual Research and Annual
Historically, when Congress works to
address big national issues, we don’t simply pass one law and cross our
fingers. Instead, we continue the research — into new policies and around the
consequences of our existing policies — and then come back on a regular basis
to update the law.
We don’t do this with guns. Not only
have we not passed meaningful legislation in almost a generation, but thanks to the NRA, for
decades Congress prohibited federal funding from being used to promote gun
safety at all, effectively freezing nearly all research on ways to reduce gun
violence. Last year, Congress finally clarified that the CDC could in fact
conduct gun violence research — but provided no funding to do so.
This ends when I’m President. My
budget will include an annual investment of $100 million for DOJ and HHS to
conduct research into the root causes of gun violence and the most effective
ways to prevent it, including by analyzing gun trafficking patterns, and
researching new technologies to improve gun safety. These funds will also be
used to study the reforms we enact — to see what’s working, what new ideas
should be added, and what existing policies should be tweaked. And every year,
I will send Congress an updated set of reforms based on this new information.
That’s how we’ll meet our goal.
The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. On August 8, immediately after the back-to-back massacres in El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy, US Senator Amy Klobuchar released her plan to keep communities safe from the rising tide of domestic terrorism and hate crimes. This is from the Klobuchar campaign:
“The events of the last week have served as a disturbing reminder that hate crimes and domestic terrorism are on the rise in our country,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. “As President, I will end the hateful rhetoric that has become all too routine during the Trump Administration and make combating domestic terrorism and hate-motivated violence a priority. We will strengthen enforcement against those who commit acts of hate – including white nationalist hate crimes – and work with law enforcement and communities around the country to increase protections and not only combat these threats, but to address the root causes of domestic terrorism.”
Senator Klobuchar has been taking on hate crimes and combating hate since she was the Hennepin County Attorney. She has seen firsthand the terrible trauma that hate crimes can inflict – not just on individual victims, but on whole communities. And because of her work on this issue as County Attorney, she was invited to the White House when President Bill Clinton proposed the Matthew Shepard federal hate crimes bill.
As County Attorney, she vigorously prosecuted hate crimes. Her office prosecuted defendants responsible for crimes against a 14-year-old boy who was shot while riding his bike on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a Minneapolis suburb because of the color of his skin, a Minneapolis middle school that was terrorized with burning crosses placed on its grounds, a Korean church in Minneapolis that was desecrated with spray-painted hate messages targeted against blacks, women and gays, and a Hispanic man who was assaulted and severely injured simply because he was speaking Spanish.
In the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has been a leader when it comes to combating hate. She supported the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and she has pushed to provide additional grant funding to safeguard all faith-based community centers and to protect religious institutions in the face of rising threats of violence. She has been a champion when it comes to securing federal resources to help heal distressed communities after hate crimes. She has also urged the Trump Administration to strengthen measures to combat the threat of white supremacist violence.
As President, Senator Klobuchar will take the following actions to combat hate and domestic terrorism:
Prioritize combating domestic terrorism
and empower law enforcement to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of
hate-motivated violence, including against minorities, people of color,
immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.
Direct the Department of Homeland
Security to resume its work tracking right wing extremism, including white
Require federal law enforcement agencies
to regularly assess the threat of domestic terrorism and increase training and
resources for state and local law enforcement to address it.
In addition to the gun safety proposals
the Senator has previously outlined, prevent people convicted of violent
misdemeanor hate crimes from purchasing or possessing firearms.
Strengthen enforcement of hate crimes,
including white nationalist hate crimes.
Make lynching a federal hate
Work with Communities
Require the Justice Department and the
Department of Commerce to assess how current forms of communication are being
used to spread hate and recommend ways to combat threats.
Better coordinate efforts to focus on
combating domestic terrorism not only through law enforcement but also by
addressing the root causes of domestic terrorism.
Increase protections for places of
worship and schools.
Restore the Voting Rights Act protections
for voters immediately in states with a recent history of discrimination.
Fully staff and fund the Justice
Department’s Community Relations Service, which provides communities facing
racial and other conflict with services.
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.