Medicare for All is
ironically, considering that Americans and especially Democrats have indicated
that access to affordable healthcare is their number one priority, is the issue
that could sink the 2020 presidential candidacy of progressives Bernie Sanders and
Elizabeth Warren. Now Sanders is heralding a new study by epidemiologists in
the medical journal The Lancet which found that Medicare for All would save
Americans $450 billion and prevent 68,000 premature deaths a year. Here is
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday applauded a new study published
today by a team of epidemiologists in the peer-reviewed medical journal The
Lancet, which found that Medicare for All will save Americans $450 billion
and prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths each and every year.
“This study confirms that Medicare for All will save the American people
$450 billion on health care costs and will prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths –
each and every year,” Sanders said. “In other words, guaranteeing health care
as a human right by creating a Medicare for All system will cost substantially
less than our current dysfunctional health care system. It will save working
class families thousands of dollars and it will prevent tens of thousands of
Americans from dying each year. While the CEOs in the pharmaceutical and health
insurance industry may not like it, we will end their greed and enact Medicare
for All when I am president.”
According to the study, by replacing premiums, deductibles, co-payments
and out-of-pocket costs with a progressive tax system, Medicare for All will
save the average family thousands of dollars each year and will provide
lower-income households the greatest relief.
Struggling hospitals serving low-income communities would be
particularly helped by Medicare for All by eliminating uncompensated care,
increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates to Medicare levels, and reducing
administrative overhead, according to the study.
The study also debunks several attacks on Medicare for All from the
private health care industry that made well over $100 billion in profits last
year. Doctors and hospitals would see large savings in cost and time from
streamlining our bloated and inefficient administrative and billing system,
allowing doctors to spend more time with patients, the study found.
The study is the latest in a series of studies conducted over the past
three decades that have found that guaranteeing universal health care through a
single-payer health care system would not only dramatically improve the health
and well-being of the American people, it would cost less than our current
dysfunctional health care system that puts profits over people.
Last month, another medical journal found
that 19 out of 22 studies done over the past 30 years concluded that moving to
a Medicare for All, single-payer health care system would cost less than our current
health care system in the first year, and all of the studies showed that it
would cost less within a decade of implementation.
The widely anticipated vote to “acquit” Trump, impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, was never in doubt, though activists had hoped nationwide protests would shame Republicans into at least allowing witnesses and evidence into their show “trial”. But the activists are still determined for Trump to be held accountable – along with the Republicans in House and Senate who have been complicit enablers in higher and higher crimes and misdemeanors, breaching the public trust.
Mere hours after the Republicans voted to acquit – with the
singular exception of Senator Mitt Romney who acknowledged Trump’s abuse of
power – hundreds took to the streets, vowing to continue the protest, turn
Trump out of office and “flip the Senate”. “We will remember in November,” they
chanted as they marched from Columbus Circle, just across one of Trump’s
Manhattan buildings, down 57th Street o Fifth Avenue, and passed the
Trump Tower, to 42nd Street Public Library.
About 2,500 people in all participated in the protest, met
by fewer than a dozen pro-Trumpers.
They are calling for continued investigations and for
Congressional oversight so that Trump isn’t able to skate away, as in the 2016
campaign, hiding his tax returns which most likely would have shown financial
ties to Putin and Russian oligarchs (who made outsized donations to his
inaugural and bought condos at inflated rates), and made secret payments to
hush up a porn star, causing Trump to be labeled “Individual 1” in the
prosecution of his “fixer” Michael Cohen, now imprisoned, and the 10 counts of
obstruction of justice which the Mueller Probe found, saying they would have
indicted but for a Department of Justice “policy” against indicting a sitting
In reaction, Trump, who used the State of the Union like a
political rally – even offering to
broadcast the names of donors “live” – followed up with continued smears
against any and all who have opposed him, even threatening to unleash the
Department of Justice to do the very thing – political witch hunt – that he
says he was the victim of. Except that there has never been any evidence or any
testimony offered that contradicts the crimes he is accused of, only the abuse
of his political power to extort complicity.
Indeed, it is now revealed that the Treasury Department,
which has stonewalled lawful requests from Congress for Trump’s tax returns (it
is actually a law), based on some sort of invasion of privacy of a US citizen,
and has sequestered the mandated audit of Trump’s returns while in office, has
been probing Hunter Biden to supply Senate Republicans with dirt.
The question is how long Republicans can ignore substantial majorities of people who want climate action, gun safety, immigration reform, voting rights and preservation of the Rule of Law and the fundamental premise that no one, not even a president, is above it.
There were more than 300 marches and protests around the country in towns large and small – marches in places from New York City and Petoskey, Michigan to Wasilla, Alaska; rallies in 46 states and Washington, D.C. and a “flash mob to say thank you to Sen. Romney” at his office in Salt Lake City.
Here are highlights from the rally, march and protest in New York City, one of dozens held around the nation on Wednesday, February 5, 2020:
Several of the Democratic candidates for president have demonstrated how they contrast with the current occupant of the Oval Office in terms of how they would lead the country through disasters. Senator Amy Klobuchar released her plan for Global Pandemic Prevention, Detection and Response Policy. This is from Senator Klobuchar’s campaign:
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The recent outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus is a stark reminder of the persistent threats posed by infectious diseases. Senator Klobuchar believes the United States must continue to lead the global fight to prevent, detect and respond to pandemics. In the Senate, she has championed efforts to address outbreaks at home and abroad. She successfully secured critical funding to combat Ebola in West Africa, helping strengthen health care infrastructure. And as Chair of the Senate Steering and Outreach Committee, she spearheaded efforts to rapidly address the spread of the Zika virus and support local prevention measures and research. As President, she will prioritize taking on global pandemics and protecting U.S. national security. She will:
Renew U.S. leadership and recommit to the Global
Health Security Agenda, an initiative launched under the Obama administration
to respond to the threat that infectious diseases pose to the global community.
Work with our allies and through multilateral organizations
like the World Health Organization to improve local health infrastructure in
at-risk countries and regions.
Fully fund U.S. departments, agencies, and programs
that are on the front lines in preventing and responding to outbreaks, both at
home and overseas, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, State
Department, United States Agency for International Development, Biomedical
Advanced Research and Development Authority, and the President’s Emergency Plan
for AIDS Relief.
Strengthen early-warning systems to detect and
respond to outbreaks on the ground before they spread into full-fledged
Develop the global rapid-response system for
deploying international medical teams to respond to outbreaks at the
Increase stockpiles of existing vaccines and
treatments and streamline delivery systems for rapid deployment during
Invest in capabilities for accelerating the
production of new vaccines and treatments when new pathogens emerge.
Leverage public-private partnerships that can unlock
new investments and innovations.
chants of “No More Cover-Ups. We Want Witnesses” and “What do we want?
Witnesses. If we don’t get it, Shut It Down,” protesters took to the streets in
New York City as well as Washington DC and 30 other cities to demand Senators
uphold their oath for an impartial examination of the truth before a vote to
convict or acquit Donald Trump of his office as President of the United States.
New York, a couple of hundred protesters organized by the NYC Coalition to
Impeach and Remove gathered in Times Square, and then marched down to Herald
Square. Here are highlights:
The Democratic candidates for president offer stark contrasts to the present occupant of the Oval Office. With a potential coronavirus pandemic creating global anxiety, Senator Elizabeth Warren has just released a detailed plan how she would prevent, contain and treat infectious disease outbreaks at home and abroad.
Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to prevent, contain and treat infectious disease outbreaks at home and abroad. Diseases like Ebola virus, Zika virus and most recently, coronavirus demonstrate the real threat that outbreaks pose to our health and security. The United States can be a leader in combating these problems. But to do so, we must invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike. And we must invest and partner with other countries to help build strong public health systems abroad.
By properly preparing, we will save lives, strengthen our relationships with allies, protect our interests, and help build resilience to outbreaks and pandemics around the world.
Warren’s Plan to prevent, contain, and treat infectious disease outbreaks will:
Restore White House leadership on health security by designating a senior official to focus solely on this issue and fully funding domestic public health and preparedness at key HHS agencies, in contrast to President Trump’s decision to eliminate this White House role and massive proposed budget cuts to public health;
Restore American leadership in the international community, reversing President Trump’s assault on the State Department and USAID;
Invest in global health security and rejoin global efforts on climate change by changing how diseases emerge and spread, reverse President Trump’s proposed global health cuts and retreat from international climate efforts.
Ensure evidence-based decisions and equity in response to outbreaks, relying on science to contain them and ensuring that all communities get the help they need to stay healthy.
Preventing, Containing, and Treating Infectious Disease Outbreaks at Home and Abroad
In 2014, the world watched as Ebola spread throughout six countries in West Africa and eventually jumped oceans to reach the United States, Spain, Italy, and the U.K. As the outbreak spread, over 50 countries stepped up to help respond. The experience revealed a new global reality: to effectively beat infectious diseases, we need all hands on deck.
In 2015 the state of Indiana experienced an outbreak of HIV stemming from the ongoing opioid epidemic. In a county with a population of less than 25,000, over 200 people contracted the virus. Simultaneously, Zika virus was spreading throughout the U.S. and causing birth defects in children born to some infected pregnant women.
Instead of building capacity to combat these problems, Donald Trump has deprioritized global health security and risked putting us on heels in a crisis.
Trump has repeatedly tried to nickel and dime federal programs essential to health security, proposing billions of dollars in cuts so drastic that even leading a House Republican thought they would leave Americans vulnerable. Trump eliminated the key position that coordinates global health security across the many federal agencies that work to keep us safe. And his response to natural disasters that could lead to serious outbreaks, like hurricanes in Puerto Rico, has been basically non-existent.
Like so much else, Trump’s approach to keeping us safe from disease outbreaks is a mess. But when he’s gone, we can fix it.
We can invest at home to ensure our public health agencies, hospitals, and health care providers are ready to jump into action when outbreaks strike. And we can help build strong public health systems abroad. By taking these steps, we will save lives, strengthen our relationships with allies, protect our interests, and help build resilience to outbreaks and pandemics.
That’s why I have a plan to prevent, contain, and treat infectious diseases — one that will help keep America safe and healthy. And as President, I will work across all levels of government here at home and with our many partners abroad to turn that plan into action.
Preventing Transmission and Preparing for Outbreaks The best way to beat a pandemic is to prevent it from starting in the first place. As President, I will work to build the foundations that help us catch infectious diseases before they spread.
Build strong public health systems at home and abroad. Combating infectious diseases requires building health infrastructure that enables us to handle epidemics whenever and wherever they strike. Diseases do not recognize borders — we need a global approach to a global problem. To build strong systems we must:
Fund agencies that prevent and manage outbreaks. President Trump has repeatedly proposed billions in cuts to the agencies responsible for fighting and preventing pandemics, a devastating blow that would put lives at risk. Some of the deepest proposed cuts were to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which runs essential pandemic prevention and response programs. As President, I will fully fund this work, ensuring that key agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have the support they need to do their jobs.
Prepare health departments, health care providers and
hospitals, and other facilities and frontline staff. We must increase
funding for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative
agreement that supports the critical work of health departments across the
country to prepare for outbreaks, natural disasters, and more. Similarly, we
must continue to support the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), which ensures
we equip facilities and train staff on the front lines.
Fully fund the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). Designed to build capacity in nearly 50 countries, the GHSA funds work in partnership with other countries to strengthen their public health infrastructure and combat outbreaks before they start. And in a few short years, it is clear that investment has paid off. Under President Trump some of this work has ramped down, but we know that the ability to stop an outbreak requires consistent investment and support. As President, I’ll provide it.
Reduce transmission of infectious diseases at home. By
reducing the transmission of communicable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C, we
keep families healthy and safe and strengthen our health system’s ability to
respond to global pandemics. That’s why I have a plan to invest $100 billion to
end the opioid epidemic, and why I’ve committed to end the domestic HIV epidemic by
2025 and ensure that patients can afford drugs like PrEP and
Hepatitis C treatments by acting on Day One of my presidency to
lower drug prices.
Move to Medicare for All. When people can’t
access basic health care, infectious diseases are more likely to spread and
cause severe, lasting health effects — as we saw in the recent Indiana HIV outbreak.
This is especially true in underserved communities, who can experience
the effects of outbreaks more
severely. Under Medicare for All, everyone will have high quality health care
they can afford, removing financial barriers for patients who may be contagious
and need to seek care. We all benefit when we stop the spread of infectious
Fully fund critical existing global health work. U.S. investments in global health, including programs that combat HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria help build capacity in countries around the world that enables them to better handle epidemics when they strike. As President, I will push to expand funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which funds vital services for individuals living with HIV or AIDS overseas and is a pillar of U.S. global health programs. I’ll also repeal the Trump administration’s heartless Global Gag Rule, which makes organizations that conduct or refer patients for abortion ineligible for global health funds — harming patients and reducing the capacity of other nations’ health systems.
Fight climate change. A changing climate means infectious diseases will spread to new places, and it’s already happening. In 2016, the Zika virus threatened more of the U.S. because changing climates mean the mosquitos that carry it now thrive further and further north. And Lyme disease is expected to increase by 20% in the next decade due to climate change. West Nile is projected to more than double by 2050 due to warming, costing upwards of $1 billion annually. Our health depends on fighting climate change. And I have a lot of plans for that.
Recommit to the Paris Agreement and invest in the Green
Climate Fund. On Day One of my administration, I’ll commit the United
States to rejoin the Paris Agreement, including meeting Obama era commitments
to the Green Climate Fund — a critical funding stream to prevent the spread of
climate fueled pandemics — and backfilling the contribution that the Trump
administration neglected to deliver.
Recognize interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. When it comes to pandemics, we must think about how animal, human, and environmental factors interact. Last year the Trump administration shut down the Predict program to test animals for dangerous pathogens that could cross over to humans. As President, I would restore this essential work. And I will support new scientific research to help understand and predict the impact of warmer temperatures on disease emergence and transmission.
Invest in CDC’s Climate and Health Program. This essential program invests in adaptation for the effects of climate change on our nation’s health, but it’s budget only allows for programs that cover roughly half our population. Rather than follow President Trump’s attempts to kill this program, I will expand it to cover every American so no community is left behind.
Prioritize effective federal management. As President, I’ll take key steps to ensure that the agencies who handle outbreaks have clear leadership, responsibility, and support.
Restore White House leadership position for health
security. President Obama created this position in response to the
Ebola epidemic. In 2018, the Trump administration eliminated it –
and I demanded answers. As
President, I will bring it back, with a formal senior lead in my White House
who focuses solely on global health security and oversees this work across the
entire federal government.
Rebuild the State Department and USAID. American security and health depend on robust diplomacy and development assistance, but the Trump administration has declared war on the State Department and USAID. We must reverse the trend of declining American diplomacy and development aid by creating a 21st century foreign service and corps of development specialists. My plan to rebuild the State Department ensures that we have the diplomats we need leading our engagement with the world to help effectively manage outbreaks.
Build on CDC’s legacy as the world and domestic leader in
public health. The Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) holds our nation’s largest supply of
medical countermeasures and medical supplies. Historically, CDC has managed the
SNS because it has the public health expertise to stock the right medical
countermeasures and ensure they get to communities who need them during an
emergency. In 2018, the Trump administration removed the
SNS from CDC management in an ill-advised attempt to
streamline response activities that could make it easier for drug companies to
lobby for their products to be included. As President, I will move it back to
optimize public health while ensuring coordination with other agencies.
Strengthen the Public Health Emergency Medical
Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE). PHEMCE coordinates the federal
government’s efforts to prepare for potential chemical, biological,
radiological and nuclear threats, as well as from emerging infectious diseases.
We must ensure the PHEMCE fully utilizes expertise from across agencies and
reinvigorate its ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies.
Develop vaccines for infectious diseases. The United States should join it’s peer countries and invest in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a public/private global alliance focused on vaccine development, and actively participate in global coalitions working toward vaccine development. I have pushed CDC to prepare for pandemic influenza, which must include the development of a universal flu vaccine — a necessity if we want to effectively fight the next strain of pandemic influenza.
Containing Outbreaks and Ensuring Equity Effectively containing infectious diseases requires effective coordination, flexible resources, clear data and communication, and the ability to move fast while not leaving anyone behind.
Ensure surge funding to handle the outbreak. Responding to pandemics costs money. And when it’s needed, it’s needed yesterday. In 2014, Congress did not provide funding to combat Ebola when it was out of control in West Africa, and waited until nearly 3 months after the first case occurred in the U.S. to appropriate additional funding. But epidemics don’t wait for Congress. To have a shot at getting ahead of the next big outbreak, we must appropriate and replenish funding for the Public Health Emergency Fund at HHS. This fund enables HHS to quickly respond to public health crises without waiting for supplemental appropriations from Congress.
Establish the Global Health Security Corps. Sometimes outbreaks occur in places experiencing intense conflict. And when health experts cannot enter those regions, outbreaks can grow exponentially. A bipartisan commission recently proposed creating a global health team that can handle these challenges — doctors, scientists, and aid workers with extensive security training who can go into conflict zones to do contact tracing, build trust in communities experiencing conflict, and work effectively with foreign governments at the local, regional, and national level. As president, I’ll launch this Global Health Security Corps to ensure that we can get the right expertise to the center of an outbreak before it becomes an epidemic.
Mitigate impact on underserved populations. Underserved and disadvantaged populations are hit harder by outbreaks. Adding insult to injury, vulnerable populations are often scapegoated for spreading disease. Outbreak responses must ensure that everyone can get the help they need. This requires constant effort on the front lines – but system-level solutions can help, too.
Practice ethical and evidence-based infection
control. My administration will work with state and local governments
to ensure that disease surveillance and response is based on facts and science,
not fear. We will also reject ill-informed, unscientific, and often
counterproductive travel bans in favor of science-based efforts at isolation
and quarantine. These efforts will be undertaken only when necessary, and we
will provide strict protection of civil liberties for those involved, including
the rejection of any unlawful detentions.
Leverage federal health care programs to respond to disasters.Studies have shown the clear connection between extreme weather events and outbreaks. After Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, for example, fatalities from bacterial Leptospirosis spiked, eventually leading to 26 deaths. In addition, despite the extensive damage to the islands infrastructure, the Trump administration waited months before delivering aid or assistance. I have committed to leveragefederal programs to quickly tailor health care responses to specific environmental disasters or outbreaks in affected communities when they occur.
Build equity protections into preparedness grant funding and government seeded innovations. I will instruct my administration to incorporate equity requirements into health preparedness and response programs to ensure all communities get the resources they need to stay healthy. I have also committed to improve environmental equity mapping via “a rigorous interagency effort to identify cumulative environmental health disparities and climate vulnerabilities and cross-reference that data with other indicators of socioeconomic health.” When the government helps fund development and clinical trials of medical countermeasures, we should be sure to negotiate a fair market price so that everyone can afford it.
Provideaggressive dissemination of reliable information. Communication is an essential element of effectively beating an outbreak. My administration will work with the private sector to promote the distribution of important factual information, to counter misinformation, and to ensure that critical facts are appropriately translated so communities can take the steps needed to stay healthy. The Trump administration banned CDC from using “evidence-based” or “policy-based,” as well as other terms, in official documents–unacceptable for an agency whose mission must be informed by science. In a Warren administration, science will once again be in charge at the CDC.
Uphold principles of open science and transparency. Sharing information about what is happening during an outbreak facilitates problem-solving. We must encourage sharing of specimens and data between researchers and public health officials, urge transparency from foreign governments, and increase support for data sharing platforms. During a public health emergency, publishers should not use paywalls to hide important data or force authors to keep data embargoed until publication. My administration will conduct a full-scale reassessment of the public health informatics supported by the federal government and modernize these systems, building on recent congressional investment. And I have already committed to improve interoperability of electronic health records, which will help providers all across this country see their patients’ medical histories and ensure that more patient data can be securely shared with critical public health databases, while ensuring that patient privacy is maintained.
Effectively partner with foreign governments and multilateral organizations. The U.S. cannot beat outbreaks alone. We must use all our tools, including diplomacy and international collaboration, to work through tough issues and partner with other countries. I’ll lead the world in promoting effective multilateral action, including through Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. And I’ll bolster our work with the World Health Organization (WHO) to continue reforms started after the 2014 Ebola outbreaks and improve the world’s ability to respond collectively to these crises.
Treating Emerging Infectious Diseases It’s essential that we continue pushing for medical advances — both to treat those who contract diseases and vaccinate against those we can prevent.
Invest in basic science. I have committed to invest $100 billion in the NIH — and $60 billion of that will fund basic science research. And when drug companies break the law, I’ll create a “swear jar” where companies will pay a portion of their profits from publicly-funded research back to the NIH. This funding will expand the research we need to develop vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases we know and novel diseases that have not yet emerged.
Invest and incentivize development of new medical countermeasures. To ensure we are able to effectively surge development during a pandemic, we must build and maintain strong infrastructure for medical countermeasure development. As President, I will ensure that small biotechnology innovators get ongoing support from Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and we will leverage the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) expertise in manufacturing and clinical trials to help larger drug manufacturers bring these countermeasures to market at scale.
Bring new treatments to patients. The $40 billion I’ve committed to invest in the NIH will fund the creation of the National Institute for Drug Development — a new institute that will work to bring that basic research of the rest of the NIH into reality for patients. And under Medicare for All, we will be able to better incentivize the private sector development of drugs for which the market is currently broken, like vaccines and antibiotics. Vaccines prevent outbreaks from starting, while antibiotics provide critical protection against infections, and we are in desperate need of new antibiotics to combat resistant infections.
Enable surge support during outbreaks, especially for
diagnostics. BARDA and FDA must be ready to surge at times of
outbreak, when the need to quickly diagnose new cases is essential to
containing an outbreak and properly treating patients. My Administration will
work to provide this support and, when appropriate, use Emergency Use
Authorizations to get new diagnostics into the hands of health care providers
as soon as possible.
Prioritize therapies that work for all populations, especially kids. Therapies are often approved after being tested on populations that are not representative of the patient population. As a result, many therapies in the Strategic National Stockpile are not approved for kids, and some therapies do not work as effectively for racial minorities or women. As President, I will direct the FDA and BARDA to work with drug companies to develop pediatric medical countermeasures and increase the enrollment of underrepresented populations in clinical trials, ensuring that the treatments we develop work well for all of us.
Ensure treatments can reach patients quickly. Time is critical when you’re combating infectious diseases. We must make sure that our system is ready to “turn on” at a moment’s notice. That means we must constantly evaluate our medical countermeasure stockpiles and prepare annual updated biological threat assessments. And during an outbreak, we must quickly distribute medical countermeasures, with proper protections for equitable distribution across communities.
Ensure safety of high security labs. My administration will not allow labs to generate novel viruses with epidemic or pandemic potential, or to perform field testing of such viruses and will closely monitor dual-use research on biological threats and update policies as needed. This knowledge is incredibly important to protect our health, but could be harmful if used as a weapon. And we must be vigilant about lab safety standards and avoid accidentally mailing anthrax or forgetting about smallpox specimens for 50 years.
Diseases like coronavirus remind us why we need robust international institutions, strong investments in public health, and a government that is prepared to jump into action at a moment’s notice. When we prepare and effectively collaborate to address common threats that don’t stop at borders, the international community can stop these diseases in their tracks.
Vice President Joe Biden issued his own criticism of the Trump’s administration’s handling of a potential pandemic, in an op-ed in USA Today: Joe Biden: Trump is worst possible leader to deal with coronavirus outbreak citing the need for the President of the United States to cooperate with international partners to address this pandemic and prevent future ones. Biden writes that this is a moment that requires leadership — leadership that Trump is incapable of delivering — and lays out how his policies will be informed by science and reassert U.S. leadership on global health security.
The Women’s Marches that took place across the country – some 250 of them including Washington DC and New York City – are the opening salvo to the 2020 Election. Make no mistake, this was about voting, realizing that all the issues that they care about hinge on the coming election and not on changing the minds of lawmakers who currently control the levers of power: reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to self-determination; access to the ballot and access to health care; climate action and environmental justice; gun safety and domestic violence; gender equity, sexism and misogyny; discrimination and sexual harassment; immigration reform and human rights. They are all on the ballot this November.
And the Supreme Court and all the courts now
dominated by radical right-wing judges that seek to roll back women’s rights,
civil rights, voting rights, health-care-is-a-human-right. “Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, hold on,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer declared as the
march set off down Columbus Avenue, passed the Trump International Hotel, where
the most animated expressions of outrage against Trump and his administration
A singular, unifying message emerged: Dump Trump and
his henchmen and his enablers.
And a theme for the New York City march organized by Women’s March Alliance (womensmarchalliance.org): Rise & Roar.
Though it is unlikely that women will re-create the 750,000 who marched on Washington with millions more around the world who turned out in 2017 in the largest single day of protest in history, vastly outnumbering those who came out the day before on the National Mall to watch Trump swear to uphold the Constitution and protect the nation against enemies foreign and domestic, it is crucial that people turn out for the women’s marches in Washington, DC (Meet at Freedom Plaza, 1455 Pennsylvania Ave. at 10 am, womensmarch.com), New York City (at Central Park West & 72nd Street, 11 am, womensmarchalliance.org) and many other cities in 2020, taking place on Saturday, January 18.
The disappointing reality after that
first spectacular Women’s March is how little it accomplished. Lawmakers could
care less, based on the policies they enacted, including moving so close to
repealing Obamacare except for Senator McCain’s last-second vote, and tax
policy that discriminated against women’s health, and shifted $1 trillion in
resources from infrastructure and services for everyday Americans to the
richest 1% and corporations. They could care less for the hundreds of
thousands who pleaded for sensible gun laws, or for climate action and
There isn’t even the same buzz as in
the 2018 march in Washington and around the country (200,000 attended in New York City,
alone) , so much more significant because the protest was less about
“converting” lawmakers than mobilizing voter registration, inspiring
women to run for elected office, and driving turnout in the November mid-terms.
And they did in historic numbers, putting Democrats back in control of
the House which put the brakes to the extent possible on the worst impulses of
Trump and the Republicans. “I can do whatever I want as president,” Trump
declared at a Turning Point event with young Republicans. (After the House
Republican majority’s first success in repealing Obamacare in 2017, Trump said,
‘I’m president. Can you believe it?”)
In 2019, tens of thousands
marched in New York City, calling for action on a Woman’s Agenda
that encompasses everything from pay parity, paid parental leave, affordable
child care and pre-K to immigration reform, gun violence prevention, climate
action, criminal justice reform – in other words, the gamut of social,
political, environmental and economic justice. And yes, reproductive freedom.
During 2019, which opened with Trump
declaring a “national emergency” to justify shutting down the federal
government in order to extort billions to build his wall, migrants continued to
be separated and die in custody, thousands were sent to horrific and dangerous
conditions in Mexico; gun violence reached new heights; climate disasters have
exploded around the globe; and reproductive freedom has been further
600,000 women lost birth control
coverage last year because of the Trump Administration’s attacks on your
healthcare; funding for women’s health clinics has been eliminated and
artificial barriers to their operation have forced many to close. The Hyde
Amendment which bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, serves as a
de facto ban for a quarter of low-income women.
Even more is at stake in 2020, when
Trump and Trumpism is on the ballot. Over this first term, he has been
increasingly emboldened and unbridled, to the point where he believes he can
unleash a war while schmoozing on the golf course.
So far, the organizers of this
Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, took out a permit for 10,000.
The women’s movement, inexplicably
and yet probably not, has gotten wound up, bogged down and even subverted with
other issues – racism, anti-Semitism. Leaders are bending over backwards to
show how progressive, how inclusive they are, and moving away from the key
issues that women are fighting for.
Women’s issues wind up being about
all these other issues because all of them affect women’s ability to have equal
opportunity, earn what they deserve in order to provide for their families: war
and peace, climate change, living wage, public education, health care,
affordable pharmaceuticals, clean air and water, voting rights, gun safety,
DACA and immigration reform.
But at the heart of all of them is
women’s reproductive rights, under threat as never before by a radical
right-wingers in Congress and on the courts determined to disregard law and
precedent and overturn Roe v Wade (along with Obamacare) with a Supreme Court
that has been shifted radically right because of the illegitimate appointments
secured by Trump and Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (along with hundreds of
judges throughout the federal court system that are long-lasting bombs to
womens rights and civil rights.
The Roe v Wade decision in 1973
ruled that the Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to
have an abortion without excessive government restriction – in other words, it
was built upon some extrapolation of privacy and property rights, rather than
Overturning Roe v Wade would mean
that women, unlike men, are not entitled to the same right to
self-determination, to make their own judgments and choices for their health,
their body, their family or their lives. And like all those other cases that
Ginsburg argued as the leading gender rights lawyer for the ACLU before
becoming Supreme Court Justice, it would re-establish the systemic barriers to
women (not men) to fulfill all their aspirations and abilities. It is as
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for president, said, when women
are forced out of the career track, they never get back to where they were if
they return at all. This I s the result of unaffordable, inaccessible quality
child care and the lack of universal pre-K.
It would essentially make women a subject
of the state, forced to give up professional aspirations to care for a child,
or spend inordinate amounts of money and resources on child care, put women
into poverty because all of these social services are also being tied to work
while doing nothing to make childcare affordable, taking away food stamps and
school lunch. It’s not one thing, it’s many different elements.
As Justice Ginsburg said, “The
decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her
well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the
government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a
fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”
And the Supreme Court decision would
not necessarily mean that the state you live in would determine if you might
have access to abortion, which would set up a different category of unequal
protection – their ruling could make abortion illegal nationwide by
establishing “personhood” rights of a fetus, in which case the fetus would have
more rights than its mother.
Women are marching for affordable
child care, quality public education, affordable and accessible health care
without higher cost for women or for pre-existing conditions (which before
Obamacare rendered women of child-bearing age), or lifetime caps on coverage at
a time when middle class families are spending 20% of income ($12,000/year) on
health insurance, 35 million can’t afford life saving drugs they are
prescribed, 30,000 die prematurely because of lack of access to health care,
and 500,000 go bankrupt because of medical bills.
Women are marching for environmental
justice at a time when the Trump Administration is making it easy for polluters
to destroy the air and water producing creating public health issues such as
asthma affecting a child’s ability to succeed in school, and worker
productivity. It means climate justice at a time when the Trump Administration
is actually prosecuting those who would try to reduce carbon emissions (they
are trying to prosecute the four auto manufacturers who said they would comply
with California’s emissions standards for anti-trust violations), while
families are losing their homes, their workplaces and communities have to spend
fortune to rebuild after climate disasters.
Women are marching for gun safety so
that parents and children don’t have the constant anxiety and school districts
and communities don’t have to spend a fortune on security rather than programs
that benefit people.
This year’s march may be the most
important one, just as the 2020 election is the most important one of our
lifetimes (and yes, 2016, as we now know, was the most important election up
until this one).
The march is an affirmation, brings
like-minded people together, validates our case, and yes, motivates and
provides a platform for people to run for office, as in 2018, and win their
The march is not about “them” it is
That is why it is so very important
to have a strong turnout for this year’s marches, the fourth year in a row,
especially in 2020, the centennial of women winning the right to vote,
especially in this election year when the nation faces an existential threat
from its own government. Women must turn out, and continue the momentum
of 2018 into the 2020 election.
Virginia could be the 38th
state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which would make the ERA the 28th
amendment to the Constitution, though the opponents argue that the votes by the
other 37 states have expired, and we’ll have to go through this entire 60-year
process all over again. (Trump’s
The opponents argue there is no
reason for an amendment that certifies the equal rights of all people. But
based on the policies, laws and lawsuits at the federal and state level, an ERA
is more necessary than ever, because as we have seen from the Supreme Court,
precedents like Roe v Wade and one-person, one-vote, or equal protection for
all are fungible.
This is a crucial year for women to
turn out, not allow the momentum of 2018 to be lost, but rev up for the 2020 election.
So whip out those pink pussy hats
and march for women’s rights on Saturday, January 18. March as if your ability
to determine your own future is at stake.
you watch Elizabeth Warren at her rallies, you don’t get the feeling she is
doing this for her own ego, for her own advantage. Her own situation is so far
passed the stress she had as a young person, when her father, a janitor, got
sick and her mother had to go out and support the family on a minimum wage job
at Sears, or when she attended the only community college she could afford, She’s
well passed being a special education public school teacher, and even the
prestigious job of a Harvard law professor and could easily sail through being
a US Senator without the superhuman tension of being the Leader of the Free
World. She would not personally benefit from any of the proposals she is
fighting for, except that they would make the country stronger, healthier,
happier, more prosperous, and restore its moral compass so badly misdirected by
a president who regards the Constitution as having as much force as a
suggestion, who separates families, puts children in cages, launches illegal
assassination, pardons war criminals, and advances economic policies that
exacerbate the inequality between rich and poor.
one young woman said walking into the Kings Theater in Brooklyn where Warren
was going to campaign with Julian Castro for the first time, “You feel hope.
You feel she is speaking to you.”
smarts come through, even as she makes jokes and makes fun of herself (“When
you have to number your husbands, not a good thing.” “Are you sensing a pattern
here?” she says as she relates how her quest to get a college education or hold
a job was interrupted by pregnancy and raising a baby. And you must hear her
story about the toaster to appreciate how she got the idea for the Consumer
Financial Protection Board, which boils down to the idea that government
regulation is needed to protect consumers and like with product safety,
financial security should also have consumer protection, and level the playing
field for enterprises that seek to implement socially responsible,
environmentally sustainable practices.)
Not surprisingly, among the reams of specific plans she has come out with, from universal health care to public education to environmental justice, to immigration reform, Warren, who notes that she spent 45 minutes as a lawyer after getting her degree, but as a Harvard law professor, taught everything to do with finance, has come out with specific plan to re-write the bankruptcy law.
At her rally at the grand historic Kings Theater in Brooklyn, in front of an audience of over 3,000 (another 1500 outside who couldn’t be admitted), Senator Warren went through her biography, her resume, and managed to digest down to three key points the sum-total of a bold progressive remaking of America – attack corruption; structural change in the economy; protect democracy – that comes down to “making government work for everyone,” and, as Julian Castro said, putting the American Dream back within reach of ordinary people.
Castro, the former HUD Secretary under Obama who had just abandoned his own
presidential bid and immediately endorsed Warren, made this plain, describing
her as someone who has overcome adversity, understands what ordinary people
need and more significantly, understands the structural forces that contribute
to inequality and the undoing of democracy:
a fighter because she has also struggled and lived that American dream.
Elizabeth Warren grew up the daughter of a janitor. She grew up to become a
public school teacher. And a law professor. And a United States Senator. And
a champion for consumers everywhere in this country.
knows what sacrifice is like after her father had a heart attack, her mom had
to take a minimum wage job at Sears to make ends meet. She understands because
she’s listened to people for many years, throughout this country. She’s heard
their calls for change. She’s heard about their dreams and their aspirations
for themselves and for their families and communities and for our country.
She’s a fighter because she knows that too often times today the deck is
stacked against people who just want a shot at reaching their dreams. She knows
that too often today in Washington, the power goes to special interests who can
afford big lobbyists and lawyers to write in special provisions and
legislation. She knows that we need to get big money out of politics.
“She knows that we need to give the people the powerful — the power and not the powerful the biggest voice. And let me tell you something, I don’t have to guess what kind of President she’s going to be, because I’ve seen firsthand what kind of the senator she is…
was there to know what we were gonna do to invest in communities that were
hurting. She is a fighter for people who need a voice.
“She’s a fighter for everyday Americans that simply want a shot. So I know that that’s the kind of president that she’s gonna be.”
In the video Castro made announcing his endorsement of Warren,
he said, In the video
announcing his endorsement, Secretary Castro said: “There’s one candidate I see
who’s unafraid to fight like hell to make sure America’s promise will be there
for everyone. Who will make sure that no matter where you live in America or
where your family came from in the world, you have a path to opportunity too.
That’s why I’m proud to endorse Elizabeth Warren for president.”
Warren came to the stage, embraced
Castro, and immediately opened with her concern about Trump orchestrating a war
in Iran, and reaching out to the “brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico who need
help” after devastating series of earthquakes, and should get the federal help
the island was denied after Hurricane Maria.
She renewed her charge that
government works great for Big Pharma but not for people needing to fill
prescriptions; for giant oil companies, but not for the rest of us who realize
the existential risk that climate change poses. (Just this week, the Trump
Administration is seeking to eliminate environmental restrictions on building
pipelines or drilling).
“If there is a decision to be made,
it’s made by Big Money,” she declared. “The middle class is being hollowed out.”
“To fix this, we can’t just nibble
at the edges. We need big structural change. And I have a plan for that.”
Indeed, she has already released a
score of detailed plans, including how she would battle corruption in
government. “I have the biggest anti-corruption plan since Watergate; I will
end lobbying as we know it. Make the Supreme Court play by the basic rules of
ethics. Make everyone who runs for federal office put their tax returns on
line. Attack the corruption head on. Disrupt the inflow of money into politics.
It is time for a president to enforce the anti-trust laws.”
She also is advocating for “an
ultra-millionaire” wealth tax, prompting chants of “Two Cents. Two Cents” – the
amount of tax she would impose after the first $50 million of net worth (6% on
amounts over $1 billion) – that is the top one tenth of one percent of the
country who would fall into this category. That money, she insists, would pay
for scores of programs needed to restore equal opportunity, from universal
child care, to universal pre-K, to erasing student debt (big cheers).
So the first part of her vision is
to attack corruption that disrupts the stranglehold on government that money in
politics plays, so we can fight back against score of big issues that have
languished: climate change, gun safety
The second element is structural change in the economy – and on this, she has proposed a score of changes including tax reform, a living wage, changing the rules for mortgages and rentals and bankruptcy, investing in a Green New Deal and affordable housing.
The third element is protecting
“I will seek a Constitutional
amendment to protect the right to vote and to get every vote counted; a law
banning political gerrymandering (applause); to roll back every racist voter
suppression law (big cheers), to overturn Citizen United (cheers of “Warren,
And that’s what brought her to
“I think about toasters,” she turns
and with a sly smile, says, “You are surprised?”
“When I was a young mother,
toasters could burn down houses – they didn’t turn off. Ask me how I know,”
(she again has that sly smile). Then along comes the Consumer Product Safety
Board. Manufacturers were forced to put in safety switches.
“In the early 2000s, mortgages were so complex, dangerous that there was a one in five chance of a family losing their home through foreclosure. The federal government was not on the side of the people’s, but was deep in the pocket of banks, preying on the young, farmers, seniors, They crashed the economy.
“So I had the idea for an agency
like the toaster agency, so that you can’t cheat people.
“People said, ‘You can’t make a
difference. Don’t even try. You can’t get it done.
“Big structural change is hard, but
the right thing to do,” she said applying the lesson of having created the
Consumer Financial Protection Board (chants of “CFPB”, “CFPB”) to take on Wall
Street, which Obama signed into being in 2010. Since then, she said, more than
$12 billion in ill-gotten gains from financial companies has been returned to
“We can make government work for
people,” she said.
But, she said with an air of
warning to those who would back a moderate candidate believing a moderate would
have the best chance at defeating Trump in 2020, “We need big ideas to inspire
people, to vote, to bring their friends out to vote, to tell the world who and
what Democrats will fight for. To take back the Senate and put Mitch McConnell
out of a job,” she declared, bringing the audience of 3000 to its feet with its
“We need big ideas and be willing
to fight. But if we give up big ideas, if we only offer business as usual,
Democrats will lose.
“I’m not running to appease big donors – I passed that stop sign a long time ago. This campaign is from the heart. 2020 is our moment. We will fight for a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and a 2 cent wealth tax.”
Before coming to Brooklyn, Warren had held 199 town halls across the country and traveled to 29 states and Puerto Rico. She had taken over 100,000 selfies since the beginning of the campaign (20,000 of them in Washington Square Park, posing until midnight). She took her 100,000th selfie in Manchester, Iowa the Saturday before coming to Brooklyn. She had visited the boroughs of New York City and Queens and now Brooklyn. By the end of the Brooklyn event, with enthusiastic supporters lined up throughout the Kings Theater and down the street, Warren would have added some 3,000 more selfies to her total.
Outside the theater, a score of volunteers on every street corner were collecting signatures to meet the required 40,000 by January 21 deadline to be on New York’s ballot. The New York primary is April 28.
Just before taking the stage at Kings Theater in Brooklyn, NY, with Julian Castro, in her campaign for president, Senator Elizabeth Warren detailed how her administration will fix the bankruptcy system to protect working families and give people a second chance. It is part of her plan to restructure the systemic impediments to financial and economic opportunity for ordinary Americans.The plan to reform bankruptcy laws is a particular jab at Vice President Joe Biden, who as Senator representing the State of Delaware, helped push the George W Bush re-write of the bankruptcy laws that shielded financial institutions but put consumers on the hook. This is from the Warren campaign:
As one of the nation’s leading experts on the financial pressures facing middle class families, Elizabeth conducted groundbreaking research on why families go broke. Elizabeth spent ten years battling the banking industry over the bad 2005 bankruptcy bill — which spent $100 million on lobbying efforts. The bill became law with overwhelming support from Republicans and support from some Democrats in Congress.
I spent most of my career
studying one simple question: why do American families go broke?
When I started my career as a young law
professor, I thought — like a lot of people at the time — that most families
went broke because they were irresponsible or wasteful. They lived beyond their
means. And when their irresponsibility finally caught up with them, they took
advantage of our bankruptcy system to get out from under their debts.But when I
started to teach bankruptcy, I found that no one — not even the supposed
“experts” — had actually dug into the data to figure out what drove families
So I found two incredible partners and set out
to gather the data about why families go broke. That was back when you had to
collect information by hand, and courts charged a lot to make copies for you.
To save money, I flew around to courthouses all over the country with my own
photocopier — nicknamed R2D2 — strapped into the airplane seat next to me,
copying thousands of bankruptcy filings to begin understanding why American
families turned to bankruptcy.
I’ll never forget sitting in a wood-paneled
courtroom in San Antonio on one of my first trips, watching the families filing
for bankruptcy move in and out of the courtroom to appear in front of the
judge. They looked just like the family I grew up in — hanging on to the
ragged edge of the middle class. Now they were standing in front of a judge,
ready to give up nearly everything they owned just to get some relief from the
bill collectors.Our research ended up showing that most of these families
weren’t reckless or irresponsible — they were just getting squeezed by an
economy that forced them to take on more debt and more risk to cling to their
place in America’s middle class.
And that meant one bad break could send them
tumbling over the edge. The data showed that nearly 90% of these families were
declaring bankruptcy for one of three reasons: a job loss, a medical problem,
or a family breakup.
In the early 1990s, Congress launched a
blue-ribbon commission to review the bankruptcy laws and suggest improvements.
I was asked to help. Initially, I said no. Then I thought about the stories I
had come across in our research. I thought about the family that finally got a
shot at their lifelong dream to launch a new restaurant — and it went
belly-up. The young and very tired woman who described how she finally managed
to leave her abusive ex-husband, but now was alone with her small children and
a pile of bills. The elderly couple who had cashed out everything they owned
and then went into debt to bail out their son who was fighting addiction and
put him through rehab again and again. And then I called back and said yes.
That’s what started my ten-year fight against
the banking industry’s effort to change our bankruptcy laws to squeeze
everything they could out of working families. Just as the commission’s report
was due, the banking industry wrote its own version of a bankruptcy bill and
got its allies in Congress to introduce it. In the industry’s version of the
world, Congress could support either “honest people who pay their bills” or
“people who skip out on their debts.” There wasn’t any room to talk about
rising health care costs or lost jobs that pushed working families to the
brink. I knew that those hundreds of changes in the industry-backed bill would
make it harder for struggling families to get relief.
And I knew I needed help. I was lucky to pick up
some terrific allies in the Senate. Senator Ted Kennedy, who led the fight for
years. Senators Paul Wellstone, Russ Feingold, and Dick Durbin all
enthusiastically jumped in. For the next three years, we fought off the
industry as best we could. Ultimately, however, the Senate and House passed the
industry-backed bill by wide margins. But President Clinton, in the last days
of his presidency, upended the industry plan and vetoed its bill.
The financial industry lost that round — but it
didn’t quit. Eventually, it rallied its allies in Congress again and managed to
push through another version of its bill in 2005 with overwhelming Republican
support and some Democratic support.
I lost that fight in 2005, and working families
paid the price. But I didn’t stop fighting to hold the financial industry
accountable and to help American families. I started laying the groundwork for
new protections for credit card users and in 2007 proposed the idea of a new
federal agency to protect
American families from tricks in mortgages, student loans, and other financial
products. The rules helping credit card users ended up in the Credit CARD Act,
which President Obama signed into law in 2009. And in 2010, President Obama
signed that new consumer agency — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau —
into law too. That agency has now returned
$12 billion to people who were cheated by
big banks and other financial firms.
But there are still serious problems with our bankruptcy
laws today, thanks in large part to that bad 2005 bill. That’s why I’m
announcing my plan to repeal the harmful provisions in the 2005 bankruptcy bill
and overhaul consumer bankruptcy rules in this country to give Americans a
better chance of getting back on their feet.
Making it Easier to Obtain Relief Through Bankruptcy
Thanks in part to the 2005 bankruptcy bill, our current
system makes it far too hard for people in need to start the bankruptcy process
so they can get back on their feet. My plan streamlines the process, reduces
costs, and gives people more flexibility in bankruptcy to find solutions that
match their financial problems.
Streamlining the bankruptcy filing process. Currently, there
are two main types of bankruptcy proceedings for individuals — the traditional
Chapter 7 proceeding and the longer and less generous Chapter 13 proceeding. In
Chapter 7, bankruptcy filers pay off their debts by surrendering all of their
property other than that protected by
“exemption” laws, but keep their future income. In Chapter 13,
filers keep their property, but undertake a multi-year repayment plan.
The core of the 2005 bankruptcy bill was an onerous and
complicated means test that forces many people with income above their state’s
median income to file for Chapter 13 and make payments from their wages for an
extended period. That is a big additional burden. In Chapter 13, debtors remain
in bankruptcy longer and must pay more to creditors. Many are unable to
complete their repayment plans and do not obtain a discharge of
their unpaid debts at all.
My plan does away with means testing and the two chapters
for consumer debtors. Instead, it offers a single system available to all
consumers. Here’s how it would work.
When people file for bankruptcy, they would disclose all of
their debts, assets, and income, just as they do now. And just as under the
current system, creditors must stop all collection actions against the debtor
outside of bankruptcy court.
Filers would then choose from a menu of options for
addressing their debts. The menu of options available would include a Chapter
7-type option of surrendering all non-exempt property in exchange for having
their unpaid debts “discharged,” as well as options that allow people to deal
with specific financial problems without involving all of their obligations.
For example, someone might use bankruptcy to cure a home mortgage delinquency
while continuing to pay other debts outside of bankruptcy. Or if someone has
long-term debt she needs to restructure, non-exempt property such as a car that
she needs to get to work, a family home she wants to protect, or if the debtor
simply wants to try to pay her creditors, the debtor can also choose to file a
payment plan and request that the court limit the stay of collection actions to
the extent necessary to execute that plan.
As with the current system, certain types of debts would be
non-dischargeable. Additionally, creditors could seek to dismiss a case or
object to an individual’s discharge on grounds of abuse, and they would have an
easier time proving abuse for higher-income debtors. These provisions would
protect against misuse of the bankruptcy system.
My plan would make the bankruptcy system simple, cheap,
fast, and flexible. It would eliminate the burdensome paperwork that drives up
costs for filers and deters them from seeking bankruptcy protection in the
first place. The 2005 bill imposed the same onerous paperwork requirements on a
middle-class American filing bankruptcy that it did on a wealthy real-estate
developer. Both must file the same documentation — including months of pay
stubs and old tax returns — much of which is useless to creditors looking to
get debts repaid.
These requirements are costly and ineffective. The
nonpartisan Government Accountability
Office estimates that these requirements increased what a
Chapter 7 filer had to pay for a lawyer by over 50%. My plan scraps this
unnecessary paperwork and simply requires that bankruptcy filers disclose their
assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. If necessary, the court can always
direct people to provide more information.
Congress also added to the cost of bankruptcy relief in the
2005 bill by putting onerous requirements on consumer bankruptcy attorneys.
Congress required attorneys to certify the accuracy of debtor’s financial
disclosures, to certify the debtor’s ability to make certain payments, to
advertise their services in certain ways, and to provide certain financial
advice to clients. These rules, opposed by the American Bar Association,
increase costs to lawyers that get passed on to consumers, while failing to
adequately protect consumers against unscrupulous lawyers. My plan gets rid of
these requirements and authorizes local bankruptcy courts to develop
disciplinary panels to strengthen enforcement of the existing rules that
discipline ineffective or dishonest lawyers.
Reducing the costs of filing for bankruptcy. A Chapter 7
bankruptcy case today costs the person filing for bankruptcy $1,200 in attorneys’ fees on
average. Academic studies document how
families and individuals, ironically, have to save up for bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy filings spike every spring as tax refunds go to pay a bankruptcy
lawyer, and on days when people often receive paychecks.
Worse, many bankruptcy filers are
shuffled into a more onerous Chapter 13 bankruptcy because it
is the only way they can afford to pay their bankruptcy lawyer. These people
often do not need the more complicated and more expensive Chapter 13 procedure,
which at $3,200 on average costs
more than twice a Chapter 7 filing. Chapter 7, however, requires the filer to
have the cash to pay the lawyer up front, and most people filing bankruptcy are
by definition short on cash, while Chapter 13 allows the person filing to pay
the lawyer over time. Forcing people into Chapter 13 because they cannot afford
to pay their lawyer up front is a ridiculous way to run a consumer debt relief
My plan makes it easier for people to pay for the bankruptcy
relief they need. It automatically waives filing fees for anyone below the
federal poverty level and slowly phases in the fees above that line. And it
allows the bankruptcy filer to pay off reasonable lawyers’ fees at any time
during or after the bankruptcy, not just up front.
These proposals will make it cheaper and quicker for people
to obtain debt relief. And speed is important. Research has shown that the “sweatbox” period when
consumers wrestle with the decision to file for bankruptcy is particularly
damaging to families and their financial health. The 2005 law benefited credit card
companies by extending the sweatbox period. Bankruptcy is not the
right solution for every family facing financial difficulties, but for those
who need bankruptcy relief, it should be available without unnecessary
obstacles or costs. My plan will shrink the sweatbox and make sure that
consumers who need bankruptcy are able to promptly obtain help.
Expanding People’s Rights to Take Care of Themselves and
Their Families During the Bankruptcy Process
Bankruptcy law places certain spending limitations on people
while they are in the bankruptcy process. My plan pares back some of the
limitations that place a particular burden on people — particularly parents
with children — and limit their ability to recover after the bankruptcy
For example, during the debate on the 2005 bankruptcy bill,
Democrats proposed modifying the bill so that renters in bankruptcy could
continue paying their rent if it allowed them to avoid eviction. While that
change was voted down in Congress, my plan adopts it as a fair way to let
people avoid the incredible disruption of an eviction during the bankruptcy
Similarly, my plan allows people in the bankruptcy process
who select a repayment plan option to set aside more money to cover the basics
for themselves and their children. In 2005, Congress rejected an
amendment to the bankruptcy bill that would have allowed
parents to spend a reasonable amount of money on toys and books and basic
recreation activities for their kids during the bankruptcy process. That’s just
wrong — and my plan will provide those protections.
In that same vote, Congress rejected a change that
would have allowed union members to continue paying their union dues during the
bankruptcy process — a critical protection so that people can maintain their
employment and get back on their feet after the bankruptcy process is over. My
plan adopts that protection too for those people who choose a repayment
Ending the Prohibition on Discharging Student Loan Debt
We have a student loan debt crisis in America. And one
reason is that our bankruptcy system makes it nearly impossible to get rid of
that debt, even when you have nothing left.
Over the past forty years, Congress and the courts have made
it progressively more difficult to gain relief from student loan debt in
bankruptcy. Congress initially passed a law saying
that publicly backed student loans could be discharged only with a showing of
“undue hardship” by the borrower. The courts eventually interpreted
that language to impose a very high standard for discharge — a
standard that generally doesn’t apply to other forms of consumer debt. Then, as
part of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, Congress explicitly protected
private student loans with the same undue hardship standard.
As President, I’ll attack the student debt crisis head on.
My student loan debt
cancellation plan cancels up to $50,000 in debt for 95% of
people who have it, relieving a massive burden on families and boosting our economy.
But for people who may still have debt, my bankruptcy reform plan ends the
absurd special treatment of student loans in bankruptcy and makes them
dischargeable just like other consumer debts.
Letting People Protect Their Homes and Cars in Bankruptcy
My plan also makes it easier for people to protect their
homes and cars in bankruptcy so they can start from a better foundation as they
try to rebuild their financial lives.
My plans also permits people to modify their mortgages in
bankruptcy — something that is generally prohibited by law. The restriction on
mortgage modifications in bankruptcy — even though other types of debts can be
renegotiated in bankruptcy — can hurt both bankruptcy filers and mortgage
lenders. Studies have found that the existing restriction on
modifications has not led to a lasting reduction in mortgage
rates. My plan ends this harmful limitation.
My plan further encourages win-win mortgage modifications
by creating a streamlined, standardized mortgage modification option in
The 2008 financial crisis resulted in an unprecedented wave
of mortgage foreclosures, with nearly 8 million foreclosures completed
in the decade starting in 2007. While not all of these foreclosures could have
been prevented, there were many foreclosures that made no sense. In these
cases, the lender and borrower should have been able to agree to a win-win
modification. Yet these common sense deals weren’t happening.
Bankruptcy does not currently provide a solution for this
problem. My plan does. As part of the menu of options available to a bankruptcy
filer, it offers a special streamlined pre-packaged mortgage bankruptcy
procedure that will allow struggling homeowners to get a statutorily defined
mortgage modification. Under this procedure, if a foreclosure has started, and
the homeowner certifies that she has attempted to negotiate a modification in
good faith, she could seek an automatic modification of the mortgage debt to
the market value of the property, with interest rates reduced to achieve a
sustainable debt-to-income ratio.
The homeowner benefits by receiving a sustainable mortgage.
The lender benefits from a modification that produces significantly better
recovery than foreclosure. The neighborhood also benefits by avoiding a nearby
foreclosure. This commonsense proposal should not only be win-win, but the
possibility of a mortgage modification in bankruptcy should encourage more
negotiated modifications outside of bankruptcy.
Finally, my plan will help address so-called “zombie”
mortgages. Mortgage lenders sometimes start, but do not complete, foreclosures
to avoid assuming liability for property taxes and code violations on the
mortgaged property. When the homeowner has vacated the property, the result is
a “zombie” title situation, in which the homeowner remains liable for taxes and
code violations but does not have use of the property. My plan uses bankruptcy
law to “slay” these zombie mortgages by enabling a homeowner who is no longer
in residence to force the lender to complete the foreclosure or otherwise take
title to the property and pay its ongoing costs. This will enable families to
move on with their lives and get a fresh start without the overhang of
liability for a former property they no longer live in. It will also help
communities by reducing the number of abandoned and derelict properties.
My plan goes beyond protecting homes to offering more fair
protection for people’s cars too. For over one-third of bankruptcy
filers, cars represent their most important asset. For these
struggling Americans, the family car is the principal resource that
bankruptcy’s safety net is protecting. And access to a car is often a
requirement for commuting to a job, getting children to child
care, and starting to rebuild finances.
As part of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, Congress made it more
difficult for Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers to keep their cars.
Under prior law, a debtor could keep their car by paying the lender the fair
market value of the car over a reasonable time. But the 2005 bill changed the
law so that families who want to keep their cars often repay more than the fair
market value of the car; they must pay the full amount of their original car
loan, regardless of the true worth of the vehicle.
Families should not have to pay more than the car is
actually worth to keep it. That’s why my plan repeals the 2005 bankruptcy bill
requirement, makes it easier for bankruptcy filers to keep their cars, and
ensures that their fresh start includes the ability to get to work, to school,
and to the doctor.
Addressing Racial and Gender Disparities in the
Bankruptcy doesn’t affect all
people equally — it mirrors the systemic inequalities in our economy. Women and people of color are more likely to file for bankruptcy, which is
in part a reflection of wealth and income disparities. The situation is especially dire
for middle-class families: my
research found that Black middle class families are three times more likely to
file for bankruptcy, and Latinx families are twice as likely, than white
families. The persistent wealth gap in America means that families of color
have far less wealth than white families on average — and at the same time, families of color are far
more likely to be abused by
predatory lending practices. The outcomes in our current bankruptcy system
aren’t equal, either. Black Americans appear to be much more likely to file for
bankruptcy under Chapter 13, a
costlier and more burdensome form of bankruptcy that requires people to make
several years of payments before getting their debts wiped out — and leaves many in an even worse
position as they struggle to
make these payments. The data suggests Black filers are more likely to have
their cases dismissed, too: people who live in majority Black zip codes are more than
twice as likely to have their cases thrown out as those living in majority white areas.I raised
the alarm on the disparate effects of bankruptcy during the years-long debate
over bankruptcy reform. I called out racial disparities in the economic security of middle-class
families filing for bankruptcy. I published articles showing that bankruptcy reform is a
women’s issue, and that women — in
fact, more women than would graduate from four-year colleges or file for
divorce — would be most affected by the changes Congress was considering.The
changes I’ve outlined above — like the new single entry point system that
eliminates the steering of Black bankruptcy filers into Chapter 13, the new
homestead exemption, and the elimination of the means test — will help address
some of these shameful racial and gender inequities in the bankruptcy system.
But my plan takes additional steps as well: Local
fines. Under current law, people who file for bankruptcy are generally not able
to discharge local government fines. Although some of these fines may have an
important governmental function, many operate as a regressive form of revenue
targeting lower-income Black communities in particular for truly minor offenses. My plan eliminates the
special privilege for local fines, with an exception for fines related to
death, personal bodily injury, or other egregious behavior that threatened
public safety.Civil Rights Debts. While current law prevents people from
discharging local fines, it permits discharging debts resulting from civil rights violations. That is unacceptable, especially as police brutality
and the shooting of unarmed Black children and adults in particular remain
serious problems in our country. My plan changes the law so it’s clear that
individuals cannot get relief from debts arising from the commission of civil
rights violations such as police brutality.Improved data collection and audits.
When individuals file bankruptcy petitions, they are obliged to make a long
list of disclosures — but not their race, gender, or age. Although extensive data collection efforts by
academics helped bring to light the differential experiences of filers of color, women, and older Americans, we can continue to improve upon our bankruptcy
system if we collect this information systematically. That’s why my plan
invites bankruptcy filers to provide their racial identification, gender, and
age if they choose to.
A simpler single portal into the personal bankruptcy system
and replacing many line-item categories with a lump-sum personal property
exemption, separate from the homestead exemption, will help align those values.
The lump-sum personal property exemption would be provided by household,
adjusted by the number of dependents, rather than by number of bankruptcy
filers in the household, to prevent under-protecting a single parent with
In addition, my plan adds extra protections for alimony,
child support income, the child tax credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit
(EITC), ensuring that people (especially single mothers) will be able to
provide for their families and get back on the path to financial security.
These sources of income and assets traceable to them would be exempt
Closing Loopholes that Benefit the Wealthy and Cracking
Down on Big Corporations
While the current bankruptcy system imposes all sorts of
obstacles for working families, it includes loopholes that benefit wealthy
individuals filing for bankruptcy and failed to hold big companies accountable
when they break the law. My plan closes these loopholes and imposes more
accountability so that our system is more fair.
Loopholes benefiting wealthy individuals. In certain states
like Delaware, wealthy individuals can file for bankruptcy and get debt relief
while shielding their assets by placing them in trusts for their own benefit.
This is known as the “Millionaire’s Loophole.”
As part of the 2005 bankruptcy legislation, Congress pretended to close the
Millionaire’s Loophole, while rejecting legislation that actually
would have shut it down. My plan stitches up the Millionaire’s Loophole once
and for all by ensuring that assets in self-settled trusts and revocable trusts
are not exempt from creditors’ claims in bankruptcy. My plan also closes off
the related “spendthrift clause”
loophole that allows the beneficiaries of “dynasty trusts” to
avoid paying their creditors (while maintaining such protection for bona fide
qualified disability trusts).
I am also committed to giving bankruptcy courts more tools
to address fraud. For example, under current law,
a bankruptcy filer who lied and submitted fraudulent documents regarding one of
his assets is entitled to an exemption even when it was shown that he lied. My
plan closes this enormous loophole so that courts can deny an exemption in an
asset that the filer has concealed or lied about.
My plan also strengthens the so-called “fraudulent transfer”
law. Fraudulent transfer law allows creditors to claw back certain transfers
the bankruptcy filer made with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud
creditors. For example, fraudulent transfer law would apply to a deadbeat
ex-spouse who has transferred money into a trust to avoid paying alimony. The
federal statute of limitations for actual fraudulent transfers is shorter than
that of some states, so my plan extends the federal statute of limitations to
match the longest state statute of limitations. Additionally, to discourage
third parties from receiving these fraudulent transfers, my plan updates
federal criminal law to add penalties for knowingly engaging in, aiding and
abetting, or receiving an actual fraudulent transfer.
Accountability for creditors. My plan also cracks down on
big companies that break the law or otherwise unfairly squeeze families in the
bankruptcy process. For example, some companies will use the bankruptcy process
to collect debts even as they have a track record of violating consumer
financial protection laws. By disallowing debts of creditors that harm debtors
by violating consumer financial laws, my plan strengthens the deterrent effect
of our consumer protection laws and helps ensure better compliance of creditors
and their agents, such as mortgage servicers and debt collectors.
My plan also stops companies from collecting on debts that
are no longer valid. In bankruptcy, many debt collectors attempt to
collect on expired debts, whose statute of limitations has run, by
filing claims to be paid and hoping that no one will notice that they no longer
have the right to collect the debt. This practice is harmful to everyone
involved, including other creditors with legally enforceable claims. The Supreme Court wrongly
ruled that seeking to get paid on expired debts does not
violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, so it’s up to Congress to fix
the law now. That’s what my plan does, by making clear that collection of an
expired debt is a violation of the law.
And my plan allows individuals to file to sue to deter
creditors from seeking to collect on debts that were already discharged in an
earlier bankruptcy. Too often, creditors, particularly companies that buy debts for
pennies on the dollar, attempt to collect debts that have been discharged in an
earlier bankruptcy. For decades this has been illegal, but the practice has
persisted because the courts have limited remedies available to address this
misconduct. As recommended by the American
Bankruptcy Institute’s Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy, my plan
gives bankruptcy filers the right to file a lawsuit and have the court order
compensation for the harms caused by creditors who violate this law. My plan
also gives courts the power to impose effective sanctions when they catch this
abuse on their own.
Finally, consumer loans often contain provisions requiring
the borrower to resolve any disputes outside of court, through arbitration. My
plan ensures that creditors cannot continue their efforts to go after consumers
during the bankruptcy process through mandatory arbitration as part of my larger fight against
unfair forced arbitration clauses. Disputes between bankruptcy filers and
creditors should be resolved openly and transparently as part of the bankruptcy
process in court, not in forced arbitration proceedings behind closed doors.
While most Americans give little consideration to foreign policy credentials of their candidates for president, over the “kitchen table” issues such as health care, education, taxes, foreign policy should loom largely over the 2020 election as Americans are waking up to the fact that while a president is for the most part constrained by the legislative branch (Congress) on what can be accomplished domestically (recall how Republicans obstructed Obama on health care, immigration reform, gun safety, climate action and infrastructure and why Medicare for All, a wealth tax may still be a pipe dream), a president is virtually unrestrained in making foreign policy at a time when the world is smaller and more globally interdependent, such as addressing climate change.
And while the Constitution theoretically gives Congress the power to declare war, presidents have found loopholes in addressing “imminent threats.” Trump has gone so much further in pulling out of treaties (the Iran nuclear deal), trade agreements and mutual assistance pacts like the Paris Climate Accord, while taking actions to weaken NATO alliance. The way he has dealt with North Korea has only made the world less safe and the list goes on: Iraq, Syria and ISIS, Turkey and the Kurds, Yemen, Venezuela, Australia.
Of the Democratic candidates for president, Vice President Joe Biden is hoping that voters will appreciate his vast experience (which Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg try to diminish because of his vote, along with just about every other Senator, to give George Bush power to address what they were told (lied) was an imminent threat of Saddam Hussein’s use of Weapons of Mass Destruction).
Now there are a few Democrats, like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who are introducing legislation to rescind the 2002 AUMF and require the President to get Congress’ authorization for use of military force, make it specific and require reauthorization after a period of time. But that is already in the Constitution and they are faced with a president who has demonstrated over and over he does not respect the bounds or oversight on him by the Constitution, with Congress apparently unwilling to do anything about it.
Vice President returned to New York to speak again on foreign policy and the unfolding situation in Iran, drawing a contrast to how Trump has mishandled the situation. These are his prepared remarks:
Six months ago, here in New York City, I made the case that Donald Trump was “dangerously incompetent and incapable … of world leadership.”
In the past few days, in the wake of the killing of Iranian General Soleimani, Donald Trump has proven it beyond dispute.
The haphazard decision-making process that led up to it, the failure to consult our allies or Congress, and the reckless disregard for the consequences that would surely follow — was dangerously incompetent.
In the wake of such an enormous escalation that has exploded geo-politics in the region and put the United States and Iran on a collision course, what would we expect of an American President – and what have we heard from President Trump?
We have not heard a sober-minded explanation to reassure the American people about his decision and its consequences.
Not level-headed words meant to dial down tensions and take us off the path of conflict.
No press conference or consultation with Congress.
No — all we have heard from this president is tweets. Threats. Tantrums.
And all we have heard from his administration are shifting explanations, evasive answers, and repeated assertions of an imminent threat, without the necessary evidence to support that conclusion.
And since this is a president with a history of lying about everything — who has destroyed his own credibility, and that of the United States on the global stage — neither the American people, nor our allies, are inclined to take his word for it.
If there was an imminent threat that required extraordinary action, then we are owed that explanation — and the facts to back it up.
These are matters of deadly import, so let me be unmistakably clear: Donald Trump does not have the authority to go to war with Iran without Congressional authorization.
Working with Congress is not an optional part of the job. Presidential notification to Congress about the need to exercise war powers cannot be satisfied in 280 characters or less.
And no president should ever take the United States to war without securing the informed consent of the American people.
So — because he refuses to level with the American people about the danger in which he has placed American troops and our diplomatic personnel and civilians, as well as our partners and allies, or to demonstrate even a modicum of presidential gravitas — I will.
That starts with an honest accounting of how we got here.
Make no mistake: this outcome of strategic setbacks, heightened threats, chants of “death to America” once more echoing across the Middle East, Iran and its allies vowing revenge. This was avoidable.
The seeds of these dangers were planted by Donald Trump himself on May 8, 2018 — the day he tore up the Iran nuclear deal, against the advice of his own top national security advisors. The day he turned his back on our closest European allies, and decided it was more important to him to destroy any progress made by the Obama-Biden Administration than build on it to create a better, safer world.
When we had the Iran Deal, we had verifiably cut off every one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. International inspectors repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance, as did our intelligence agencies. One of the greatest threats to stability in the region and global security was off the table.
And when the Iran Deal was in force, we did not have this dangerous cycle of tit-for-tat provocation and response.
There was a united front of allies and partners to address Iran’s other destabilizing actions throughout the region.
The Iran Deal was not only accomplishing the critical mission it was designed for, it created an environment where diplomacy was possible.
But Trump walked away — not Iran.
Trump made the United States the international outlier.
Trump re-imposed significant sanctions designed to exert “maximum pressure” on the regime, with claims that it would deter Iranian aggression and return Iran to the negotiating table to secure a much-promised “better deal.” And on both fronts, as many anticipated at the time, Trump’s promises were empty, baseless, and naïve.
And since then, all that has materialized is an utterly predictable cycle of escalating conflict with Iran.
Of course Iran would seek to demonstrate that the pressure we were exerting was not cost free – that it could take actions to make life more difficult for us, as well.
So Iran began again to enrich uranium beyond the limits allowed under the Iran deal. Iran attacked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone.
Yet the administration had no plan to prevent, mitigate, or appropriately respond to these provocations. Instead, Trump acted erratically and impulsively. He ordered a retaliatory strike, then called it off at the last minute — feeding Iran’s sense of impunity.
Then, the administration imposed more sanctions, shot down an Iranian drone, issued a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker.
Before long, Iran attacked Saudi oil facilities and Iranian-backed militia in Iraq restarted rocket attacks against our bases. Until one of those attacks, against our base in Kirkuk, killed a U.S. citizen and wounded others. It was a tragic loss of life, and an act condemned by all Americans.
In response, Trump bombed five sites in Iraq and Syria tied to the militia group, killing at least 25.
Iraqi protestors, organized by Iranian-backed militia, assaulted our Embassy in Baghdad and breached the outer wall. No injuries were reported, but Trump was embarrassed by the images of a burnt-out reception area.
He ordered a drone strike to kill Soleimani — perhaps the second most important official in Iran — near the Baghdad airport. And rushed thousands more troops to the region to deal with the fallout.
Action and reaction. Provocation and response. All predictable — and, indeed, all predicted.
A president who says he wants to end endless war in the Middle East is bringing us dangerously close to starting a new one.
A president who says he wants out of the region sends more than 18,000 additional troops to deal with a crisis of his own making.
And an administration that claims its actions have made Americans safer in the same breath urges our citizens to leave Iraq and puts Americans throughout the region on notice because of the increased danger.
I have no illusions about Iran. The regime has long sponsored terrorism and threatened our interests. It continues to detain American citizens. They’ve ruthlessly killed hundreds of protesters, and they should be held accountable for their actions.
But there is a smart way to counter them — and a self-defeating way. Trump’s approach is demonstrably the latter.
Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops and thousands of innocent lives throughout the region. He was the mastermind, but he was not the whole of the regime or its capacity to strike back.
So the question is: was the reward of removing a bad actor worth the risk of what comes next?
We don’t have any evidence to suggest that Trump or anyone around him thought seriously about that calculus. It’s been reported that the Pentagon — which has long warned against taking a shot like this — was shocked that Trump would take such a risk.
This is not just a question of whether Iran will retaliate — it almost certainly will — but what it will mean for our troops and our personnel throughout the region. What it will mean for our allies and partners who also have troops in harm’s way that are impacted by this decision. What it will mean for our long-term mission to counter Iran and prevent ISIS from bouncing back, and our ability to pursue our broader strategic aims in the region.
Already, we are seeing the fall out.
Iran has declared it will no longer abide by any of the constraints set up under the nuclear deal — putting it back on track to obtaining material for a nuclear weapon, and pushing the region closer to a nuclear crisis.
Our forces in Iraq and Syria are now focused on protecting themselves and preparing to leave — putting the counter-ISIS mission on hold, and allowing a deadly terrorist organization the room to regroup and reactivate.
The Iraqi parliament has voted to eject all American and coalition forces from the country. And however you may feel about an American military presence in the Middle East, there is a right way and a wrong way to draw down our troop presence. Getting unceremoniously kicked out is unequivocally the wrong way. And if we do end up having to leave, that would be another boon to Iran — tipping the balance of power in the region.
Where, just weeks ago, there were spontaneous protests across Iran against the regime, the killing of Soleimani has taken that pressure off the regime.
Trump’s impulsive decision may well do more to strengthen Iran’s position in the region, than any of Soleimani’s plots could have ever accomplished.
Whether or not we see more loss of life, more threats against American interests and assets — this is already a debacle.
And at what is possibly the most dangerous time in recent American history — at precisely the moment when we should be rallying our allies to stand beside us and hold the line against threats — Donald Trump’s short-sighted “America First” dogmatism has come home to roost.
Our closest allies are calling for restraint and de-escalation — on both sides. Making a moral equivalence between us and Iran.
Russia and China are quietly reveling in the prospect that the United States may once more be bogged down in another major conflict in the Middle East. They would love nothing more than to be able to pursue their own interests, and carve out their own spheres of influence, without the United States challenging them on human rights, on abusive trade practices, or on meddling in other nations’ democracies — because we are too busy fighting Iran.
We are alone. And we alone will have to bear the costs of Donald Trump’s folly.
This is also the moment when we most feel the lack of a functioning national security process or any investment in diplomacy.
After three years of hollowing out the State Department; disrespecting and dismissing our intelligence community; destroying the relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill; throwing out the deliberate policy making process that has served Republican and Democratic administrations for decades; corroding the value of the word of the United States; abusing our allies; embracing dictators; creating, not solving, foreign policy crises on the international stage — we are in a much worse position to meet the demands of this crisis than we were when President Obama and I left office.
President Trump has no strategy here. No endgame. And here’s the hardest truth of all: His constant mistakes and poor decision making have left us with a severely limited slate of options for how to move forward — and most of the options are bad.
But there are some key steps that any responsible commander in chief would take. And, while I don’t expect Donald Trump will listen to me, I hope he listens to those around him who understand the gravity of the threats we now face.
He should take all necessary steps to protect our forces and ensure the security of our diplomats, civilians, and overseas facilities — not just in the Middle East, but anywhere that Iran might strike back.
He should ensure that federal authorities are working with states, local governments, and private institutions to guard against the heightened risk of cyber attacks.
He should stop tweeting so he doesn’t box us in with his threats, such that the only options left to us or Iran are increasingly damaging strikes and counterstrikes.
And he should immediately reach out to our European partners and others to send private signals of deterrence and de-escalation to Iran and find a way to avoid the onrush of war.
The best way to do that, of course, would be for President Trump, to rejoin the Iran Deal and build on it — if Iran also moves back into compliance with its obligations — and re-establish international consensus about how to confront the threats from Iran.
The only way out of this crisis is through diplomacy — clear-eyed, hard-nosed diplomacy grounded in strategy, that’s not about one-off decisions or one-upsmanship. Diplomacy that is designed to de-escalate the crisis, protect our people, and secure our regional interests — including our counter-ISIS campaign.
No one wants war. But it’s going to take hard work to make sure we don’t end up there by accident.
Finally, and this one’s not optional, Mr. President, you have to explain your decisions and your strategy to the American people.
That is your job as President — Not Dear Leader, not Supreme Leader.
Democracy runs on accountability. And nowhere is that more important than in the power to make war and bring peace. You are required to work with Congress. You are required to abide by the War Powers Resolution. You cannot pursue a war with Iran absent Congressional authority. The existing AUMFs — the Congressional Authorizations for the Use of Military Force — do not apply.
The American people do not want, and our Constitution will not abide, a president who rules by fiat and demands obedience.
I served in the executive branch of our government for eight years, but I served in the legislative branch for 36 prior to that, and I understand better than anyone that the system will not hold unless we find ways to work together to advance our national interests — not the political interests of one person or one party.
We need to restore the balance of powers between the branches of government.
We need checks and balances that actually serve to check and balance the worst impulses of our leaders — in any branch.
We need to use our system to bring us together as a nation — not abuse it to rip us apart.
That’s not a naïve or outdated way of thinking. That’s the genius and timelessness of our democratic system, which has, for more than 240 years, allowed us to remake ourselves, reckon with our shortcomings, and move ever forward.
That’s what we owe to those brave men and women who step forward to wear the uniform of these United States; who dedicate their lives to diplomatic service; who choose to join the Peace Corps or to work in development; who represent the best of our country all around the world — and who are, today, doing so at greater risk because of the actions of our president.
Thank you — and in these dangerous times — may God protect our troops.
At a fundraiser before his speech, he told the gathering:
“Did you ever think you’d see the time when we would be engaged in potential conflict and our NATO allies would be applying a moral equivalence between what we do and what the Iranians do? I never thought I see that day I spent my entire professional career dealing with NATO and dealing with foreign policy…Now the president says he did this to make us safer. Make Americans safer. Yet, we’re surging another roughly 18,000 forces in the region. And we find ourselves in position where there’s no evidence that they thought through how to protect our diplomats and our military personnel.”
Mr. Biden used the Iran situation to argue “the next president better be able to on day one, know how to begin to bring things together.”
Later in the day, at another fundraising event, news of an Iranian air strike on a US military base in Iraq started breaking. Without more details about the event, Biden said he would only speak briefly and generally about what happened:
“What’s happening in Iraq and Iran today was predictable – not exactly what’s happening but the chaos that’s ensuing,” he said, faulting Trump for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and the recent order of a missile strike killing a high ranking Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, according to the pool report by Julia Terruso of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Some of the things he’s done and said in the meantime have been close to ludicrous, including threatening to bomb holy sites…And I just pray to God as he goes through what’s happening, as we speak, that he’s listening to his military commanders for the first time because so far that has not been the case.”