Category Archives: Election 2020

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Klobuchar Releases Plan to Combat Hate, Domestic Terrorism

On August 8, immediately after the back-to-back massacres in El Paso and Dayton, US Senator Amy Klobuchar, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, released her plan to keep communities safe from the rising tide of domestic terrorism and hate crimes © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. On August 8, immediately after the back-to-back massacres in El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy, US Senator Amy Klobuchar released her plan to keep communities safe from the rising tide of domestic terrorism and hate crimes. This is from the Klobuchar campaign: 

“The events of the last week have served as a disturbing reminder that hate crimes and domestic terrorism are on the rise in our country,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. “As President, I will end the hateful rhetoric that has become all too routine during the Trump Administration and make combating domestic terrorism and hate-motivated violence a priority. We will strengthen enforcement against those who commit acts of hate – including white nationalist hate crimes – and work with law enforcement and communities around the country to increase protections and not only combat these threats, but to address the root causes of domestic terrorism.” 

Senator Klobuchar has been taking on hate crimes and combating hate since she was the Hennepin County Attorney. She has seen firsthand the terrible trauma that hate crimes can inflict – not just on individual victims, but on whole communities. And because of her work on this issue as County Attorney, she was invited to the White House when President Bill Clinton proposed the Matthew Shepard federal hate crimes bill.

As County Attorney, she vigorously prosecuted hate crimes. Her office prosecuted defendants responsible for crimes against a 14-year-old boy who was shot while riding his bike on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a Minneapolis suburb because of the color of his skin, a Minneapolis middle school that was terrorized with burning crosses placed on its grounds, a Korean church in Minneapolis that was desecrated with spray-painted hate messages targeted against blacks, women and gays, and a Hispanic man who was assaulted and severely injured simply because he was speaking Spanish.

In the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has been a leader when it comes to combating hate. She supported the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and she has pushed to provide additional grant funding to safeguard all faith-based community centers and to protect religious institutions in the face of rising threats of violence. She has been a champion when it comes to securing federal resources to help heal distressed communities after hate crimes. She has also urged the Trump Administration to strengthen measures to combat the threat of white supremacist violence.

As President, Senator Klobuchar will take the following actions to combat hate and domestic terrorism: 

Domestic Terrorism

Prioritize combating domestic terrorism and empower law enforcement to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of hate-motivated violence, including against minorities, people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.

Direct the Department of Homeland Security to resume its work tracking right wing extremism, including white nationalism. 

Require federal law enforcement agencies to regularly assess the threat of domestic terrorism and increase training and resources for state and local law enforcement to address it.

Law Enforcement

In addition to the gun safety proposals the Senator has previously outlined, prevent people convicted of violent misdemeanor hate crimes from purchasing or possessing firearms.

Strengthen enforcement of hate crimes, including white nationalist hate crimes.  

Make lynching a federal hate crime. 

Work with Communities

Require the Justice Department and the Department of Commerce to assess how current forms of communication are being used to spread hate and recommend ways to combat threats. 

Better coordinate efforts to focus on combating domestic terrorism not only through law enforcement but also by addressing the root causes of domestic terrorism.

Increase protections for places of worship and schools.

Restore the Voting Rights Act protections for voters immediately in states with a recent history of discrimination. 

Fully staff and fund the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, which provides communities facing racial and other conflict with services.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren’s Plan to Transform America’s Approach to Trade

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running to be the 2020 Democratic candidate for president, released her plan to break decades of Washington consensus and transform every aspect of America’s current approach to trade.  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details a plan to transform America’s approach to trade: “Trade can be a powerful tool to help working families but our failed pro-corporate agenda has used trade to harm American workers and the environment. My plan represents a new approach to trade — one that uses America’s leverage to boost American workers and raise the standard of living across the globe. The President has a lot of authority to remake trade policy herself. When I’m elected, I intend to use it.” Here are the details, as provided by the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running to be the 2020 Democratic candidate for president, released her plan to break decades of Washington consensus and transform every aspect of America’s current approach to trade. 

America enters trade negotiations with enormous leverage because it is the world’s most attractive market. A Warren Administration won’t hand that leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes. Elizabeth will use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards worldwide. Under Elizabeth’s plan, America will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families. 

The plan is the third pillar of Elizabeth’s 
economic patriotism agenda. Read more about her plan here and below:
 

Last month, I released my economic patriotism agenda — my commitment to fundamentally changing the government’s approach to the economy so that we put the interests of American workers and families ahead of the interests of multinational corporations. I’ve already released my ideas for applying economic patriotism to manufacturing and to Wall Street. This is my plan for using economic patriotism to overhaul our approach to trade.

For decades, big multinational corporations have bought and lobbied their way into dictating America’s trade policy. Those big corporations have gotten rich but everyone else has paid the price. We’ve lost millions of jobs to outsourcing, depressed wages for American workers, accelerated climate change, and squeezed America’s family farmers. We’ve let China get away with the suppression of pay and labor rights, poor environmental protections, and years of currency manipulation. All to add some zeroes to the bottom lines of big corporations with no loyalty or allegiance to America.

We need to completely transform our approach to trade. America enters into trade negotiations with enormous leverage because America is the world’s most attractive market. As President, I won’t hand America’s leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes — I’ll use it to create and defend good American jobs, raise wages and farm income, combat climate change, lower drug prices, and raise living standards worldwide. We will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families.

A New Approach to Trade

My plan is a new approach to trade — one that is different from both the Washington insider consensus that brought us decades of bad trade deals and from Donald Trump’s haphazard and ultimately corporate-friendly approach.

Unlike the insiders, I don’t think “free trade” deals that benefit big multinational corporations and international capital at the expense of American workers are good simply because they open up markets. Trade is good when it helps American workers and families — when it doesn’t, we need to change our approach. And unlike Trump, while I think tariffs are an important tool, they are not by themselves a long-term solution to our failed trade agenda and must be part of a broader strategy that this Administration clearly lacks.

To ensure that American families benefit from international trade in the decades to come, I want to invest in American workers and to use our leverage to force other countries to raise the bar on everything from labor and environmental standards to anti-corruption rules to access to medicine to tax enforcement. If we raise the world’s standards to our level and American workers have the chance to compete fairly, they will thrive — and millions of people around the world will be better off too.

Achieving this vision isn’t about tough talk or tweets. We must do the hard work of transforming every aspect of our current approach to trade: from our negotiating process to the negotiating objectives we pursue to the way we enforce agreements. That’s what I intend to do.

A Trade Negotiation Process that Reflects America’s Interests

Our current approach to negotiating trade agreements works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. The negotiating text is kept confidential from all but a small set of advisory groups comprised mostly of corporate executives and industry trade group representatives. Once those corporate interests are finished whispering in the ears of our negotiators, the completed text is released. Then, under the expedited “Fast Track” procedure Congress typically uses to approve trade agreements, our elected representatives must vote up or down on the agreement with no ability to propose and secure any changes to it. Meanwhile, the negotiators who constructed it often breeze through the revolving door to take jobs with the corporations whose interests underlie the deal.

This is undemocratic and obviously corrupt. In a Warren Administration, we will negotiate and approve trade agreements through a transparent process that offers the public a genuine chance to shape it:

Trade negotiators will publicly disclose negotiating drafts and provide the public with an opportunity to comment. When federal agencies write new rules, they typically must publish a proposed version of the rule and permit the public to submit comments on it. I will adopt a similar approach for our trade deals. Prior to negotiations, our negotiators will publish a draft of their proposals in the Federal Register, let the public offer comments on the draft, and take those comments into consideration during negotiations. And then as talks proceed, they will publish drafts of the negotiating texts so the public can monitor the negotiations.
 

Trade advisory committees will prioritize the views of workers and consumers. I will ensure that there are more representatives from labor, environmental, and consumer groups than from corporations and trade groups on every existing advisory committee. And I’ll expand the current list of advisory committees to create one for consumers, one for rural areas, and one for each region of the country, so that critical voices are at the table during negotiations.  

The US International Trade Commission will provide a regional analysis of the economic effects of a trade agreement. Trade agreements can hollow out communities and transform regional economies. Yet the report the ITC provides before Congress considers a trade agreement only includes a nationwide analysis of a trade deal’s economic impact. I will push for the agency to provide a region-by-region analysis so the public and Members of Congress can understand how an agreement is likely to affect the places they live and represent.  

The congressional approval process will offer more opportunities for the public and elected representatives to shape trade agreements. I will seek expedited congressional approval of trade agreements only when every regional advisory committee and the labor, consumer, and rural advisory committees unanimously certify that the agreement serves their interests. I will also expand the list of congressional committees that must review any agreement before it is eligible for expedited consideration.

Together, these changes will ensure that our negotiations reflect the views of American families, not corporate interests.

Using Our Leverage to Demand More for American Families and to Raise the Global Standard of Living

While a better process will produce better agreements, we also must fundamentally shift the goals of our trade agenda so they are aligned with the interests of America’s families.

With certain important exceptions, we live in a low-tariff world. Modern trade agreements are less about the mutual reduction of tariffs and more about establishing regulatory standards for everything from worker rights to pollution to patent protections.

My approach to trade reflects that reality. For too long, we have entered into trade deals with countries with abysmal records on laborenvironmental, and human rights issues. In exchange for concrete access to the American market, we get vague commitments to do better, which we then hardly enforce. The result is that millions of people in our trading-partner countries don’t gain the benefits of higher standards — and companies can easily pad their profits by shifting American jobs to countries where they can pay workers next to nothing and pollute the air and water freely.

That will end under my Administration. I am establishing a set of standards countries must meet as a precondition for any trade agreement with America. And I will renegotiate any agreements we have to ensure that our existing trade partners meet those standards as well.

My preconditions are that a country must:

Recognize and enforce the core labor rights of the International Labour Organization, like collective bargaining and the elimination of child labor.  

Uphold internationally recognized human rights, as reported in the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights, including the rights of indigenous people, migrant workers, and other vulnerable groups.  

Recognize and enforce religious freedom as reported in the State Department’s Country Reports.  

Comply with minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  

Be a party to the Paris Climate agreement and have a national plan that has been independently verified to put the country on track to reduce its emissions consistent with the long-term emissions goals in that agreement.  

Eliminate all domestic fossil fuel subsidies.  

Ratify the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.  

Comply with any tax treaty they have with the United States and participate in the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project to combat tax evasion and avoidance.  

Not appear on the Department of Treasury monitoring list of countries that merit attention for their currency practices.

A country should only be considered an acceptable partner if it meets these basic standards. Shamefully, America itself does not meet many of these labor and environmental standards today. I am committed to fixing that as President. And to help bring other countries up to these standards, I’ll revitalize our commitment to providing technical assistance to help countries improve.

I will also go beyond these minimum standards in key areas to promote the interests of American workers and families.

LaborI will ensure trade agreements protect Buy American and other programs designed to develop local industry, contain strong rule-of-origin standards to promote domestic manufacturing, protect worker pensions, promote equal pay for equal work for women, and prohibit violence against workers. Unlike previous trade deals agreements that have put labor standards in side agreements that are difficult to enforce, I will make labor standards central to any agreement.

Climate Change and the Environment. Climate change is real, it’s man-made, and we’re running out of time to address it. America should be leading this fight, but we have turned our backs on our responsibilities — with communities of color in the U.S. and developing countries bearing a disproportionate amount of the harm.

Trump is moving us in the wrong direction — withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, renegotiating NAFTA without even a mention of climate change, and handing special carve outs to oil and gas companies.

Beyond requiring implementation of the Paris Climate accord and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies as preconditions for any trade agreement, I have already proposed a Green Marshall Plan to dedicate $100 billion to helping other countries purchase and deploy American-made clean energy technology.

But we must do more. I will push to secure a multilateral agreement to protect domestic green policies like subsidies for green products and preferential treatment for environmentally sustainable energy production from WTO challenges. And because big corporations will move their production to the countries with the weakest greenhouse gas emissions standards — undermining global efforts to address climate change and penalizing countries that are doing their part — I will impose a border carbon adjustment so imported goods that these firms make using carbon-intensive processes are charged a fee to equalize the costs borne by companies playing by the rules.

Prescription Drugs. Last year, Americans spent more than $500 billion on prescription drugs. That’s a 50% increase since 2010. Nearly 3 in 10Americans report not taking their medicine as directed because of costs. And yet, one of the core elements of America’s current trade agenda is guaranteeing pharmaceutical firms monopoly protections so they can avoid competition from generic drugs — driving up costs and reducing access to necessary medicine abroad, and undermining our efforts to reduce drug prices here at home. That’s exactly what the Trump Administration has done as part of their failed effort to renegotiate NAFTA.

While medical innovation is important, there is no link between extremely long exclusivity periods and pharmaceutical innovation. These are giveaways to drug companies, plain and simple, which allow them to maintain ludicrously high drug prices.

As President, I will fight to bring down the costs of prescription drugs here and around the world. I will never use America’s leverage to push another country to extend exclusivity periods for prescription drugs. I will support efforts to impose price controls on pharmaceuticals. And I will actively seek out opportunities to reduce exclusivity periods in our existing trade deals in exchange for securing other changes that will help America’s working families.

Agriculture. For decades, trade deals have squeezed family farmers, with Black farmers losing their land particularly quickly. Between the trade fights incited by Trump’s haphazard tariffs and a series of natural disasters, America’s farmers are now facing the worst crisis in almost 40 years. They are also facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty and instability. Trump’s tariffs have reduced crop prices, threatened farmers already operating on razor-thin margins, and opened up new non-American markets against which our farmers are now forced to compete. Like trade deals of the past, Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 is written to help giant multinational agribusinesses at the expense of family farms, and it will do nothing to solve the newly created market insecurity Trump’s tariffs have caused.

As President, I will fight for trade agreements that reward American farmers for their hard work by negotiating for fair prices for goods, breaking up the monopolies in grain trading and meat packing, and protecting domestic markets to create stability for America’s family farms. And I will impose Country-of-Origin Labeling rules to protect American producers and provide transparency to consumers.

Consumer protection. We must ensure that the food we eat is high-quality and safe. But our trade agreements have limited safety standards and the inspection of imported foods, while simultaneously enabling a new flood of food imports that overwhelm food safety inspectors. In my Administration, our trade pacts will require imported food to meet domestic food safety standards, including enhanced border inspection requirements.

As with imported food, our current trade deals require us to allow imports of other products and services that do not meet domestic safety and environmental standards. My trade agreements will ensure that imported products and services must meet the same standards as domestic products and services.

Antitrust. We are in an era of massive consolidation across many sectors of the economy. One of the reasons why is that we have a narrow, permissive approach to mergers that looks only at economic efficiency and consumer welfare instead of assessing the impact that a merger will have on competition itself.

In recent years, we have added this problematic standard into trade agreements and proposed it as the defining objective for competition policy in new and renegotiated agreements. Under my administration, we will not propose this standard in any new agreement, and we will work to renegotiate agreements to remove it.

Delivering for American Families with Stronger Enforcement

Our approach to enforcing trade agreements drives down standards worldwide and undermines American families. We offer big corporations fast and powerful methods to enforce the provisions that benefit them but make it nearly impossible for Americans to enforce labor and environmental protections. Foreign governments only fear a challenge to strong rules that might hurt corporate bottom lines, not to weak rules that might not adequately protect workers, the environment, or public health.

I will entirely reorient our approach to enforcement so we drive standards up, not down. I’ll start by ending “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS, the favorable enforcement approach we offer corporations. Under ISDS, a company that believes that a new law violates some aspect of a trade agreement can skip the courts and challenge the law before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company wins, the panel can order that country’s taxpayers to pay out billions in damages — with no review by an actual court. What’s worse, the arbitration panels handing out these binding rulings are often made up of corporate lawyers whose day jobs are representing the very same companies that seek judgments before them.

Companies have used ISDS to undermine laws intended to benefit the public interest. A French company challenged Egypt when it increased the minimum wage. A Swedish company challenged Germany when it decided to cut back on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. These cases have real effects across the globe: an ISDS panel’s decision to hear a challenge that Philip Morris brought against Uruguay’s anti-smoking campaign prompted several other countries to abandon similar public health efforts.

As President, I will not include ISDS in any new agreement and will renegotiate existing agreements to remove ISDS from them.

And I’ll strengthen our approach to enforcing labor and environmental standards. Unlike a corporation under ISDS, a labor union seeking to enforce labor standards can’t bring a claim on its own — it must convince the federal government to bring a claim on its behalf. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, our government can refuse to act for diplomatic or other unrelated reasons.

As a result, the federal government has only pursued one such claim in the last 25 years. In that one case, the American government, AFL-CIO, and Guatemalan unions spent nine years trying to challenge the Guatemalan government for violating the labor chapter of one of our trade deals because Guatemalan workers were being murdered for trying to join a union. In the end, we lost because the trade agreement required a showing that the violations had affected trade.

I will replace this broken process by creating independent commissions — made up of experts in the area — to monitor potential violations, respond to complaints, and investigate claims. The commissions must review and investigate claims promptly so that claims don’t languish for years. If one of these commissions recommends that the United States bring a claim against another country, the United States will be required to do so, without exception.

I will also fix the problem that arose in the Guatemala case by pushing to remove language from our deals that require us to show that a violation of rights was “sustained or recurring” and “affecting trade or investment.” A violation is a violation, and I won’t let another case like Guatemala happen ever again.

I will strengthen our enforcement approach in other ways as well:

Under WTO rules, a country designated as a “non-market economy” can face more serious trade penalties. I will push for a new “non-sustainable economy” designation that would allow us to impose tougher penalties on countries with systematically poor labor and environmental practices. We cannot allow countries that treat their workers and the environment poorly to undercut American producers that do things the right way.  

I already have a plan to move the lead American trade negotiator — the Office of the United States Trade Representative — within my new Department of Economic Development. That will ensure that America’s trade policy supports our broader economic agenda of defending and creating good American jobs. I will also create a new labor and environment enforcement division at the USTR to more effectively enforce obligations, and embed a labor attache at U.S. embassies to monitor compliance with our labor standards.  

Unlike the current approach that lets our government ignore unfair trade practices, my administration will create automatic triggers to initiate investigations into unfair trade practices. If those investigations produce compelling evidence of a violation, the Department will impose trade remedies immediately until the offenders show they are no longer engaging in an unfair trade practice. These automatic triggers will also apply to violations of labor and environmental standards.  

Finally, when we impose duties to support particular domestic industries, I want to ensure that the money we collect actually goes to American workers, instead of being sucked up by executives and shareholders. I will fight to change our trade laws so that we review duties every six months and lift the duties if companies can’t demonstrate the benefits of the duties are going to their workers.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Releases Plan to Invest in Rural America, Build New Farm Economy

Senator Elizabeth Warren details a plan for Rural America that “will help create a new farm economy where family farmers have financial security and the freedom to do what they do best.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details a plan for Rural America that “will help create a new farm economy where family farmers have financial security and the freedom to do what they do best. Farmers of all backgrounds will finally have the economic freedom to pursue diverse, sustainable farming — and get paid up front for doing so. Americans will have a steady and affordable supply of food. Kids in rural communities will have healthy lunches grown in their backyards and packaged at local food hubs run by small town entrepreneurs. Taxpayers won’t pay twice — once at the grocery store and once through their taxes — for overproduced commodities. We will replenish our soil and our water to chart a path towards a climate solution and achieve the goals of the Green New Deal.”Here are the details, as provided by the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Elizabeth Warren released her plan to invest in rural America and build a new farm economy. Her plan includes creating a public option for broadband and ending government giveaways for private internet service providers, investing in rural health care, and taking strong anti-trust action against hospital mergers that threaten access to basic services. She outlines how her plans for universal child care and high-quality early education, student debt cancellation, building and rehabilitating affordable housing, and tackling the opioid crisis will restore opportunity in rural America. 

Warren also lays out how she will replace the government’s failed approach to the farm economy and address our climate crisis head-on by paying farmers for sustainable farming practices that can help us fight climate change. 

Warren released her plan before kicking of a 4-day tour across Iowa. Read more about her plan to invest in rural America here. Read more about her plan to build a new farm economy here.   

My Plan to Invest in Rural America

A strong America requires a strong rural America. Rural communities are home to 60 million people, hundreds of tribal nations, and a growing number of new immigrants who account for 37% of rural population growth. These communities feed our nation. And they are leading the country in sustainable energy, generating 99% of America’s wind energy and pioneering efforts to harness solar energy. 

But both corporate America and leaders in Washington have turned their backs on the people living in our rural communities and prioritized the interests of giant companies and Wall Street instead. Burdened by student debt, young people are leaving rural communities to find jobs elsewhere. Big broadband companies exclude entire communities – especially tribal communities and rural communities of color – from access to high-speed Internet. Rural communities are losing access to quality health care. Climate change – from more severe floods to extreme heat – is changing the rural way of life. And farmers are forced to compete with giant agribusinesses on an uneven playing field.

Our failure to invest in rural areas is holding back millions of families, weakening our economy, and undermining our efforts to combat climate change. It’s time to fix this. 

Protecting Access to Health Care in Rural Communities

Health care is a human right. But people can’t fully exercise that right in communities lacking access to basic services like primary, emergency, and maternity care. That is what’s happening across rural America, where the prevalence of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes is  higher, as is the risk of dying from the leading causes of death in the country compared to urban areas. Barriers to coverage, disappearing health facilities, and a shortage of health professionals are denying rural communities the high-quality health care they deserve. 

Insurance coverage continues to remain out of reach for many people living in rural communities – and even for those with coverage, rural America is quickly becoming a medical desert. In less than a decade, 112 rural hospitals have closed, with hundreds more teetering on the edge. Those that do remain open operate on razor-thin margins from uncompensated care, lower patient volume, and insufficient reimbursement.

That’s why I support Medicare for All, so that every person will have access to affordable care no matter where they live. That means access to primary care and lower health care costs for patients – and less uncompensated care for hospitals, helping hospitals stay afloat. We also need to increase reimbursement rates for rural hospitals and alleviate unnecessary restrictions that make it difficult for them to serve their communities. Medicare already has special designations available to rural hospitals, but they must be updated to match the reality of rural areas. I will create a new designation that reimburses rural hospitals at a higher rate, relieves distance requirements, and offers flexibility of services by assessing the needs of their communities.

But we can’t stop there. Higher rates of consolidation for both for-profit and non-profit hospitals are making it harder to access care. And yet, many hospitals can evade federal antitrust enforcement either because the value of the merger is too small to trigger mandatory review or because the Federal Trade Commission’s purview over non-profit hospitals is constrained. Vertical integration is also increasing as more hospitals acquire physician practices, and some states have deliberately sheltered hospitals from federal antitrust action. I will boost the federal government’s oversight of mergers and anti-competitive behavior to make sure that health care companies play by the rules and put the needs of patients first. 

As President, I will direct the FTC to block all future mergers between hospitals unless the merging companies can show that the newly-merged entity will maintain or improve access to care. If a proposed merger helps maintain or improve access to health care, that’s fine. But when it is a first step to closing hospitals or slashing basic services, then a Warren administration will block it.

I’ll also put forward a set of reforms to strengthen FTC oversight over health care organizations, including establishing new federal regulations and guidance to require that all mergers involving health care centers be reported to the FTC. I’ll authorize the FTC to conduct reviews of non-profit hospitals for anti-competitive behavior, update Department of Justice guidance on vertical mergers, and crack down on vertically integrated health care companies that are raising costs without improving the quality of care. And I’ll work with states to repeal Certificate of Public Advantage, or COPA, statutes that shield health care organizations from federal antitrust review and can leadto the creation of large monopolies with little to no oversight.

We also have a responsibility to make sure that places that have experienced a loss in services or are otherwise medically underserved can better meet the needs of their communities. That’s why I will increase funding for Community Health Centers by 15 percent per year over the next five years. I will also establish a $25 billion dollar capital fund to support a menu of options for improving access to care in health professional shortage areas, including: constructing a new facility like a Community Health Center, Rural Health Clinic, School-Based Health Center, or birthing center; expanding capacity or services at an existing clinic; establishing pharmacy services or a telemedicine program; supporting a diabetes self-management education program; improving transportation to the nearest hospital; or piloting models like mobile clinics and community paramedicine programs. 

Rural communities have been particularly impacted by the opioid epidemic, with the rate of opioid overdose deaths having been higher there than in urban areas in recent years. I’m pushing for $100 billion over 10 years to end the opioid crisis, including $2.7 billion for the hardest-hit counties and cities and $800 million in direct funding for tribal governments and organizations. Funding can be used for prevention and early intervention services at federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics and to train health professionals on treating substance use disorders in rural and other medically underserved areas. 

To ensure access to quality health services, we must also close the health care workforce gaps across rural America. Nearly 60% of Health Professional Shortage Areas – those lacking sufficient primary care physicians, physician assistantsnurses, dentists, pharmacists, EMTs, and home health aides – are in rural regions. More than 3,600 additional doctors are needed to close the rural physician workforce deficit today, but Congressionally-imposed caps on medical residencies and unstable funding of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) have made this gap nearly impossible to close. What’s more, this shortage is rapidly increasing as rural physicians near retirement and fewerincoming medical students plan to practice in rural areas. 

As President, I will make sure we expand our health care workforce by investing more resources in building the pipeline of medical professionals in rural areas. This starts by dramatically scaling up apprenticeship programs as proposed in my Economic Patriotism plan to support partnerships between unions, high schools, community colleges, and a wide array of health care professionals to build a health care workforce that is rooted in the community. I’ll lift the cap on residency placements by 15,000 – and because residents are more likely to practice where they train, I’ll target half of new placements in medically-underserved areas such as rural residency programs, residency programs with Rural Training Track programs, and the Indian Health Service (IHS), while working with rural programs to ensure that they can take full advantage of these increases. I’ll also significantly expand the NHSC loan repayment program to $15 billion and the IHS loan repayment program to $1 billion over the next 10 years to cover full loan repayment for 5 years of service and to increase the number of health professionals serving rural and Native American communities.

Building Economic Security in Rural America

My plan doesn’t stop at health care. Every American is entitled to some basic financial security, no matter where they live. But people living in rural communities face challenges that can threaten that security. My plans are designed to address these challenges and allow people in rural communities to thrive economically. 

Take child care. Today, a majority of rural communities lack sufficient access to child care. On average, rural families spend more of their incomes on child care than families in urban areas. My plan for Universal Child Care will provide access to high-quality child care in every community that is free for millions and affordable for everyone. The federal government will also work closely with local providers and tribal governments to make sure there are high-quality child care options available in every community – including home-based child care services, which rural families are more likely to use.

Rural communities also face unique housing challenges. More than 150 rural counties have a severe-need for affordable rental housing and 38% of rural counties have moderately-severe rental housing needs. Home values in rural areas have also been slower to recover from the financial crisis. My housing plan invests $523 million to create 380,000 affordable rental homes in rural communities and provides an additional $2 billion to help homeowners with underwater mortgages still struggling to recover from the financial crisis. It also invests $2.5 billion to build or rehabilitate 200,000 homes on tribal lands, where overcrowding, homelessness, and substandard housing have reached crisis levels.

And the student debt crisis hits rural areas particularly hard. In part because of huge student debt burdens, young adults are leaving rural communities for jobs in cities. Just 52% of rural student loan borrowers remain in a rural area, compared to 66% of those who did not take out loans – and those with more debt are more likely to leave. My plan to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt will mean that recent graduates won’t need to flock to urban centers to find jobs that will help them pay down these loans. And my plan to provide universal free technical, two-year, and four-year public college will make sure that no student is ever put in this situation again. We need to make it possible for students to see rural communities as places of opportunity where they can live, work, and build a future for themselves. 

A Public Option for Broadband

One of the best tools for unlocking economic opportunity and advances in health care, like telemedicine, is access to reliable, high-speed Internet. In the twenty-first century, every home should have access to this technology – but we’re not even close to that today. According to the FCC, in 2017 26.4% of people living in rural areas and 32.1% of people living on tribal lands did not have access to minimum speed broadband (25 Mbps/ 3 Mbps), compared to 1.7% in urban areas. And given the notorious loopholes in FCC reporting requirements, these figures underestimate the gap. 

At the same time, while urban areas may be more likely to have access to fiber broadband, many residents can’t afford to connect to it. Nearly 27% of households in Detroit and Cleveland had no Internet access in 2017, and households with incomes below $35,000 comprise 60% of households without broadband access, despite making up just 31% of the national population. 

We’ve faced this kind of problem before. Prior to the late 1930s, private electric companies passed over rural communities they felt offered minimal profit opportunities, leaving the families living there literally in the dark. Just like the electric companies eighty years ago, today’s biggest internet service providers (ISPs) have left large parts of the country unserved or dramatically underserved. 

Not only that, they have deliberately restricted competition, kept prices high, and used their armies of lobbyists to convince state legislatures to ban municipalities from building their own public networks. Meanwhile, the federal government has shoveled billions of taxpayer dollars to private ISPs in an effort to expand broadband to remote areas, but those providers have done the bare minimum with these resources – offering internet speeds well below the FCC minimum. 

This ends when I’m President. I will make sure every home in America has a fiber broadband connection at a price families can afford. That means publicly-owned and operated networks – and no giant ISPs running away with taxpayer dollars. My plan will:
 

Make it clear in federal statute that municipalities have the right to build their own broadband networks. Many small towns and rural areas have turned to municipal networks to provide broadband access in places that the private market has failed to serve – but today, as many as 26 states have passed laws hindering or banning municipalities from building their own broadband infrastructure to protect the interests of giant telecom companies. We will preempt these laws and return this power to local governments.
 

Create an Office of Broadband Access in my Department of Economic Development that will manage a new $85 billion federal grant program to massively expand broadband access across the country. Under my plan, only electricity and telephone cooperatives, non-profit organizations, tribes, cities, counties, and other state subdivisions will be eligible for grants from this fund – and all grants will be used to build the fiber infrastructure necessary to bring high-speed broadband to unserved areas, underserved areas, or areas with minimal competition.

The federal government will pay 90 cents on the dollar for construction under these grants. In exchange, applicants will be required to offer high-speed public broadband directly to every home in their application area. Applicants will have to offer at least one plan with 100 Mbps/ 100 Mbps speeds and one discount internet plan for low-income customers with a prepaid feature or a low monthly rate.

Of these funds, $5 billion will be set aside specifically for 100% federal grants to tribal nations to expand broadband access on Native American lands. In addition to necessary “last mile” infrastructure, tribes will be able to apply for funds to build the missing 8,000 miles of middle mile fiber on tribal lands.   

Appoint FCC Commissioners who will restore net neutrality. I will appoint FCC Commissioners who will restore net neutrality, regulatinginternet service providers as “common carriers” and maintaining open access to the Internet.And I will require all telecommunications services to contribute fairly into the Universal Service Fund to shore up essential universal service programs that provide subsidies to low-income individuals, schools, and libraries to increase broadband adoption, including signing into law and building on the Tribal Connect Act, so that we can work toward every tribal library having broadband access.  

Bolster the FCC’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy. This office holds trainings, technical assistance, and consultations for Indian Country. Providing it with dedicated, increased funding to expand its capacity will help close the digital divide.  

Improve the accuracy of broadband maps. Weak FCC oversight has allowed ISPs to greatly exaggerate how many households they serve and has given ISPs added fuel to downplay their failures and protect themselves from regulation. To provide universal broadband access and crack down on anti-competitive behaviors, the government has to know how extensive the problems are. I will appoint FCC Commissioners who will require ISPs to report service and speeds down to the household level, as well as aggregate pricing data, and work with community stakeholders – including tribal nations – to make sure we get this process right. Then, we will make these data available to the public and conduct regular audits to ensure accurate reporting.   

Prohibit the range of sneaky maneuvers giant private providers use to unfairly squeeze out competition, hold governments hostage, and drive up prices. It’s time to crack down on all the anti-competitive behaviors that giant ISPs have used to steamroll the competition. We will return control of utility poles and conduits to cities, prohibit landlords from making side deals with private ISPs to limit choices in their properties, and ban companies from limiting access to wires inside buildings. We will make sure that all new buildings are fiber-ready so that any network can deliver service there, and we will also enact “Dig Once” policies to require that conduit is laid anytime the ground is opened for a public infrastructure project.   

Ensure every person has the skills to fully participate in our online economy. Even when there’s access to broadband internet – and even when it’s available at an affordable price – people may still not take advantage of it because they don’t know how to use it. That’s why I will work to pass the Digital Equity Act, which invests $2.5 billion over ten years to help states develop digital equity plans and launch digital inclusion projects. 

Creating and Defending Jobs in Rural America

Expanding broadband is just the first step to boosting economic opportunity in rural communities. We need to do more to bring high-quality jobs back to rural areas and small towns and negotiate trade agreements that keep jobs in the U.S. – and don’t ship them overseas. That’s why I’ve committed to creating a National Jobs Strategy focused specifically on regional economies and trends that disproportionately affect rural areas and small cities. And why I will spend $2 trillion in green research, manufacturing, and exporting to create more than a million new jobs, reversing the manufacturing losses that many rural communities have experienced over the last two decades. 

I’ve also called for a $400 billion commitment in clean energy research and development 
– funding that will go to land grant universities, rural areas, and areas that have seen the worst job losses in recent years. I’ll dramatically scale up worker training programs, spending $20 billion on apprenticeships and instituting new sectoral training programs to boost job opportunities for people across Rural America.

Immigration is also revitalizing local economies and reversing population decline in a number of rural communities. I’ve called for expanding legal immigration – done the right way and consistent with our principles – to grow our economy, reunite families, and meet our labor market demands. My immigration plan will raise wages for everyone and make sure that businesses won’t be able to get away with dirty tricks that undercut pay.

And I will build a new approach to our trade policy to make sure that the new, high-quality jobs we create stay right here in America.
 As part of my new plan, I’ll fundamentally change our negotiation process so that rural communities are explicitly represented at the table, and use our leverage to demand more for workers and farmers by raising standards worldwide.

Bolstering Small and Local Business

Small businesses are critical to the economic vitality of rural communities, but people in rural communities face challenges accessing capital and financial services to start, grow, and operate their businesses. The number of rural counties without a locally owned community bank has doubled since 1994, and 86 new rural banking deserts have appeared since 2008, leaving these communities with no banking services within 10 miles. That’s why I’ve proposed allowing the U.S. Postal Service to partner with local community banks and credit unions to provide access to low-cost, basic banking services online and at post offices. 

What’s more, 25% of new rural banking deserts have been in communities of color. Credit and small loans are critical to starting and growing a small business, but longer distances between a borrower and their bank are associated with more credit denials and higher interest rates on loans. That’s why I will establish a $7 billion fund to close the gap in startup capital for entrepreneurs of color, which will support 100,000 new minority-owned businesses, provide over a million new jobs, and further boost economic development in rural areas. 

Private equity firms have further harmed local businesses, buying up everything from mobile home parks to hospitals to nursing homes to local newspapers, loading them up with debt, sucking them dry, and leaving workers to pick up the pieces. I’ll rein in Wall Street to hold private equity firms accountable and keep them from destroying businesses that bring economic opportunity – and jobs – to small towns and rural communities across the country. It’s time to prioritize the long-term interests of American workers, not the short-term interests of big financial institutions.

Building a New Farm Economy

Rural America is also the home of our nation’s agriculture sector, but today, farmers are getting squeezed by giant agribusinesses that are gobbling up more land and driving down prices. In 1935, there were 6.8 million farms in the United States – but in 2017, there were just above 2 million. What’s more, as the number of farms has decreased, the size of each remaining farm has dramatically grown – from an average of 155 acres per farm in 1935 to an average of 444 acres per farm today. Meanwhile, the farmer’s share of the food dollar has plummeted to just 14.6 cents in 2017 – the lowest number since the USDA began reporting this figure in 1993.

That’s why I’ve pledged to address consolidation in the agriculture sector by reviewing – and reversing – anti-competitive mergers and breaking up big agribusinesses that have become vertically integrated. I’ll also support a national right to repair law for farmers, reform country-of-origin labeling, and restrict foreign ownership of American agriculture companies and farmland. 

And I’ll take it one step further – charting a new farm economy that replaces our government’s failed approach with one that guarantees farmers a fair price and protects our environment. 

The cost of each and every one of these investments is fully offset by my plans to make the ultra-wealthy and large corporations pay more in taxes. Those plans include my annual two-cent wealth tax on fortunes over $50 million and my plan to ensure that very large and profitable American corporations can’t get away with paying zero taxes. And the new investments I’m announcing today for universal broadband access and health care options in rural areas can be offset by changing the tax laws that encourage companies to merge and reduce competition. 

I want Washington to work for communities all over this country. From expanding access to broadband to boosting investment in quality jobs, together we can make big, structural change to create new opportunities all across rural America


A New Farm Economy


Consolidation in the agriculture sector is leaving America’s family farmers with lower prices and fewer choices. Giant corporations use their market share to squeeze farmers from both sides. Farmers are pressured into taking on huge debts to pay the high prices that a small number of large suppliers charge them for inputs like seeds and fertilizer. Then, farmers are at the whim of a market that is controlled by meatpackers and grain traders that can pay them low prices for the commodities they produce — prices that often don’t cover all the money farmers had to spend in the first place. 

All of this causes tremendous overproduction of commodities. In the face of lower and lower prices in the market, farmers are left to produce more to try and break even. But this just causes prices to go down even further, benefiting the huge corporations looking to buy goods on the cheap and leaving farmers dependent on the government to backfill their costs. 

As a consequence, the agriculture sector has become one of the largestpolluters in our economy. As farmers are pressured to plant fence row to fence row and use more fertilizer in search of a higher yield, rural communities lose their soil and water and the environment suffers

Much of this situation is the direct result of government policy. Our current system of subsidies is supposed to make up the difference between the low prices farmers get on the market and what they have to pay to grow food. But instead it lets big corporations at the top of the supply chain get away with paying artificially low costs while farmers struggle and taxpayers make up the difference. It encourages overproduction by guaranteeing revenue regardlessof prices or environmental conditions. And it feeds climate change. 

Farmers are stewards of the land, and they know this system of overproduction is unsustainable — but without a change in incentives, they have no other choice. 

To fix this problem, we need big, structural change. That’s why I’m calling for a complete overhaul of our failed approach to the farm economy. Instead of subsidizing industrial agriculture and starving farmers and rural communities, my new approach will guarantee farmers a fair price, reduce overproduction, and pay farmers for environmental conservation.  

By making this shift, we can raise farm incomes and reduce taxpayer expenditures. We can break the stranglehold that giant agribusinesses have over our farm economy, and expand economic opportunities for small- and medium-sized farmers, family farmers, women farmers, and farmers of color. We can also provide consumers with affordable, high-quality, and often local food, while protecting our land and water and combating the existential threat of climate change.

Replacing our government’s failed approach to the farm economy

Our agriculture markets are badly broken. American farmers spend their days toiling over their crops, but at sale time, more than half report negative income from their farming activity. In 2018, the median income farmers made from farming activity before federal subsidies was negative $1,316. Why? Because the market is paying farmers far less than what it costs them to produce their goods.

And it gets worse. Farm subsidies that are necessary to keep farms afloat in this market function as an incentive to overproduce by guaranteeing payments only for certain commodities and encouraging farming on marginal land. This squeezes small farmers, undermines sustainable farming for the long-term, and damages our environment. 

It hasn’t always been this way. During the New Deal, FDR’s administration recognized the critical role farmers would play in getting our country out of the Great Depression. His administration set up a system that guaranteed farmers fair prices, tackled overproduction, and reversed environmental degradation. And it worked: for decades, this system gave farmers the security they needed to thrive, kept consumer prices stable, and helped restore our country’s farmland.

But starting in the 1970s, giant agribusinesses convinced the Nixon Administration to change the system. Corporations called it “deregulating” the farm economy, but of course, this didn’t actually mean reducing government intervention. It just meant shifting that intervention from advancing the interests of farmers, consumers, and the environment to protecting the bottom line of giant agriculture corporations.

Now, the Department of Agriculture budgets over $10 billion each year on post-sale subsidies that are supposed to make up for the low prices that big corporations and livestock giants pay farmers on the market. Meanwhile, Big Ag pockets the profit: one study shows industrial livestock giants, for example, have saved $35 billion over twenty years from buying feed below the cost of production. 

We need a new approach that uses taxpayer money more wisely, provides stable access to food,  and accounts for the complexities of the agriculture markets. Just like workers need a living wage, farmers need a fair price — one that covers the costs they have to pay to produce their goods. We need to replace our failed system with a tried-and-true method that guarantees farmers that fair price and ends overproduction. Building on the successful model of the New Deal, my plan calls for a new supply management program — which studies show would be billions cheaper for taxpayers than our current subsidy program, yet provide farm incomes that are higher.  

Here’s how it will work. First, we guarantee farmers a price at their cost of production. To do that, the government would offer farmers a non-recourse loan that covers most of their costs of production — essentially, an offer to buy their products at cost if a farmer can’t get a better price from a private purchaser on the market before the end of the loan period. Farmers can either repay the loan by selling their products or they can forfeit the products they used as collateral for the loan at the end of the loan period. 

If the farmer does not sell those products to a private buyer during that time period, then the government will store the products in reserves. As supply comes off the market as a result, prices will rise. And if prices rise beyond a certain point, the government can release the supply from the reserves back onto the market, stabilizing prices once again. This mechanism guarantees farmers a fair price at a far lower cost than the current subsidy system. 

In addition, to address overproduction, farmers will have the option of bidding acres of land currently used to produce commodities into conservation programs. USDA will offer attractive prices based on the environmental benefit that repurposing the land towards conservation programs would provide. This will provide farmers with the choice — and revenue — to diversify their farms, rather than face mounting pressure to produce more and more of the same. . 

This approach has advantages beyond guaranteeing farmers a fair price for their goods. It gives us the tools to stabilize farm income where farmers aren’t getting prices at the cost of production, like commodity crops and dairy. It enhances our food security by giving the government access to reserves if needed — a particularly important consideration as climate change continues to disrupt food production. It addresses our overproduction problem and helps reduce environmental damage. And it keeps consumer prices relatively stable

It would also save taxpayers billions. Because a supply management program only pays for the amount of commodities that it takes off of the market, it would substantially reduce costs for taxpayers who, in the current subsidy approach, can end up paying for every single bushel and bale that farmers grow.

Paying farmers to fight climate change 

To transition to a sustainable farm economy, we also need to diversify our agriculture sector. As President, I will lead a full-out effort to decarbonize the agricultural sector by investing in our farmers and giving them the tools, research, and training they need to transform the sector — so that we can achieve the objectives of the Green New Deal to reach net-zero emissions by 2030. 

This begins with paying farmers for embracing techniques that promote a sustainable future for all of us. Farmers are already adopting climate-friendly practices — including proven and profitable techniques like cover crops. But today, there are far more farmers who want to join land conservation programs than there are funds available to support them. That’s because we have continually underfunded a tried-and-true program — the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) — that provides funding for farmers eager to transition to sustainable practices, and that delivers substantial returns to taxpayers.  

My plan will make it economically feasible for farmers to be part of the climate change solution by increasing CSP’s payments for sustainable farming practices from around $1 billion today to $15 billion annually – and expanding the types of practices eligible for compensation – so that every farmer who wants to use their land to fight climate change can do so. This will put our future investment in conservation above the level we currently fund commodity programs. And I will support staff at USDA to empower them in the fight against climate change, from scientists in Washington all the way down to the county-level offices tailoring solutions to challenges in their local communities.

Research and innovation are also essential in supporting a transition to sustainable farming. I will dedicate resources from the $400 billion R&D commitment in my Green Manufacturing Plan towards innovations for decarbonizing the agriculture sector, including a farmer-led Innovation Fund that farmers can apply to use towards pioneering new methods of sustainable farming, like agroforestry

Our land grant universities also have a critical role to play – but first, we need to reclaim our land grant universities from Big Ag and restore them to their core purpose of supporting our family farmers. My Administration will reinvest inour land grant universities and focus their agricultural efforts in part on evaluating farmers’ ideas to decarbonize the agricultural sector and training a new generation of farmers. 

Take on Big Ag to level the playing field for family farmers

We also must take on Big Ag head on if we want to create a new farm economy. When Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture told farmers to “get big or get out,” he paved the way for the giant agribusinesses that have eroded America’s rural communities and turned the agricultural sector into one of the largestpolluters, all while making huge profits.

That ends now. I will use every tool at my disposal to level the playing field for family farmers and hold agribusinesses accountable for the damage they’ve wrought on our farmland. 

Break up Big Agribusinesses. Under my plan to level the playing field for America’s farmers I’ll use every tool I have to break up big agribusinesses, including by reviewing  — and reversing — anti-competitive mergers. 
 

Strengthen rules and enforcement under the Packers and Stockyards Act.In 1921, Congress passed the Packers & Stockyards Act (P&S Act) to protect independent farmers. But Trump has eliminated Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) — the office responsible for upholding the P&S Act —  as an independent office. My administration will restore GIPSA and make it easier for farmers to bring suits against unfair practices — including by clarifying that they do not have to prove harm across the entire sector to bring a claim. 
 

Make sure programs benefit independent family farmers, not the rich and powerful. Agribusinesses exploit loopholes to put taxpayer dollars that should be going towards family farmers into their own pockets instead. The Trump administration has handed over billions more into the pockets of the wealthiest through trade war bailouts. On average, the top 1% of recipients received over $180,000, and the bottom 80% percent received less than $5,000.  — all without Congressional authorization. I will prevent huge factory farms from accessing funds intended to benefit family farmers, like those for payment limitations and for programs like EQIP, and ban companies that violate labor and environmental standards from accessing funds, too. 
 

Hold Big Ag accountable for environmental abuses. Agribusinesses are the likely culprits for polluting hundreds of thousands of miles of rivers and streams and causing dead zones in our waters, including in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. I will make agribusinesses pay the full costs of the environmental damage they wreak by closing the loopholes that CAFOs use to get away with polluting and beefing up enforcement of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts against them, including by working with state and local officials.  

Build out local and regional food systems that support rural farmers and their communities

Because giant agribusinesses control entire supply chains, many small farmers today must send their products to huge packaging and distribution centers that are hundreds of miles away from their farms and from the end consumer. This deprives rural communities from access to produce, contributing to food desertsand obesity.

I will provide farmers and rural communities with the resources they need to build thriving local and regional food systems so that every community has access to healthy food — and the billions in economic opportunities that come with it.

I will use the full power of federal and state procurement to ensure access to local, sustainable produce in all communities. My administration will expand the “Farm-to-School” program a hundredfold and turn it into a billion-dollar “Farm to People” program in which all federally-supported public institutions — including military bases and hospitals — will partner with local, independent farmers to provide fresh, local food.

To meet this additional demand, farmers will need access to local and regional supply chain infrastructure. USDA’s Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) currently invests $50M a year in local infrastructure-building projects — which experts estimate falls far short of meeting the substantial demand. I will increase LAMP’s funding ten-fold, investing $500M a year over the next decade to fund food hubs, distribution centers, and points-of-sale that our rural and small town communities can use.

Create opportunities for diverse and beginning farmers 

Farmers of color have experienced a long history of discrimination, some of it at the hands of the federal government. From 1910 to 1997, black farmers were stripped of 90% of black-owned farmland. They received a mere fraction of the value of the land they lost —  a staggering loss of wealth that is a major contributor to the racial wealth gap. My plan will end the policies that have perpetuated this discrimination and help rural families of color build wealth and sustainable livelihoods.

Addressing the systematic dispossession of land in communities of color, including Black farmers and Native American communities. Over the past century, Black farmers were stripped of 90% of black-owned farmland and received a mere fraction of the value of the land they lost – largely because they held the land as “heirs’ property,” an unstable and much-exploited form of ownership.  I will establish programs to assist heirs’ property owners and make sure they retain access to their land, including building on successes in the 2018 Farm Bill to allow heirs’ property owners to present additional types of documentation to not only access USDA programs, but also other federal programs in FEMA and HUD. I will also fully fund the relending programenacted in the 2018 Farm Bill to expand support services for farmers of color, including legal and technical assistance to help farmers hold on to their land – and prioritize lending organizations operating in states that have enacted model legislation that protects heirs’ property ownership.

Native American communities have also experienced challenges related to fractionated land ownership. This problem was caused by a destructive federal policy from the late 1800s that  allotted tribal lands held in common to individual tribal members and sold additional tribal lands to non-Native settlers and commercial interests. This policy eventually led to roughly two-thirds of all reservation lands being taken from tribes without compensation. Several generations later, individual tribal allotments are now co-owned by many people — sometimes hundreds or thousands — making it difficult to use the land or coordinate activities on it.

Government policy created this problem, and government must help fix it. That’s why I will expand funding for the Indian Tribal Land Acquisition Loan Program and the Highly Fractionated Indian Land Loan Program, USDA programs that help tribal governments acquire land and preserve it for future generations. And I will also push Congress to provide another infusion into the Trust Land Consolidation Fund..

Expand access to credit and land for new and diverse farmers. Women and farmers of color have been disproportionately excluded from accessing the credit and land they need to farm. The Farm Credit System was founded a century ago as a government-sponsored enterprise to provide credit for farmers — but it has strayed from its central mission and instead is pocketing big profits. I will require FCS to allocate 10% of its $5 billion in annual profits towards supporting new and diverse farmers through regional lending mechanisms. I will make sure that farmers can access land, too, by stopping foreign interests from buying up American farmland and expanding the use of programs like the transition incentives program. Native American Community Development Financial Institutions also provide crucial access to credit in underbanked areas and for underbanked businesses, especially farmers. We should provide significant financial support to Native CDFIs.

Invest in protecting the civil rights of farmers of color. I will fully fund and staffUSDA’s Office of Civil Rights and administrative law courts — so that they have the resources necessary to resolve discrimination complaints at a reasonable pace. I will direct regular audits of USDA to ensure that it is not discriminating against farmers of color in issuing loans or subsidy grants. And I will increase the agency’s transparency by creating an online civil rights database that would regularly report on the complaint process.  

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My plan will help create a new farm economy where family farmers have financial security and the freedom to do what they do best. Farmers of all backgrounds will finally have the economic freedom to pursue diverse, sustainable farming — and get paid up front for doing so. Americans will have a steady and affordable supply of food. Kids in rural communities will have healthy lunches grown in their backyards and packaged at local food hubs run by small town entrepreneurs. Taxpayers won’t pay twice — once at the grocery store and once through their taxes — for overproduced commodities. We will replenish our soil and our water to chart a path towards a climate solution and achieve the goals of the Green New Deal.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden’s Plan for Rural America

Vice President Joe Biden, running for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, presented his plan for Rural America © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Vice President Joe Biden has presented his plan for Rural America. This summary is provided by the Biden campaign:

Rural America is home to roughly 20% of Americans, but we are all connected to rural communities in many ways. Rural Americans fuel us and feed us. Rural lands provide us with places to spend time outdoors with friends and family and relax.

A healthy, vibrant rural America is essential to the success of our country. Yet in small town after small town, parents watch their kids and grandkids leave rural communities because there just is not enough opportunity for them at home. For too many rural Americans, a pathway to the middle class is out of reach if they stay in their rural communities.
 
The moral obligation of our time is rebuilding the middle class, so that this time everyone comes along regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or zip code.  It should not be dependent on whether they live in a city center, a small town, or a remote area. Everyone means everyone.
 
As president, Biden will build a pathway to the middle class for rural Americans, in rural America. He will pursue a rural economic development strategy that partners with rural communities to invest in their unique assets, with the goal of giving young people more options to live, work, and raise the next generation in rural America. It’s not just good for those in rural America, it’s good for everyone across our country.

I. FUNDAMENTALLY REVITALIZE RURAL ECONOMIES

Rural America is asset-rich. It feeds and fuels the rest of the country, gives us places to enjoy the outdoors and spend time with friends and family, and is home to creative, hard-working Americans. Yet rural America’s economy is traditionally based on extraction, taking the resources out of rural communities and never returning the profits.
 
The Biden strategy for rural economic development will be to partner with rural communities, invest in their unique assets, and make sure the wealth created in rural America stays in rural America.
 
Under this strategy, Biden will:

Strengthen our agricultural sector by:

Pursuing a trade policy that works for American farmers. More than 20% of all crops grown and products raised in the United States are exported, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs and helping to stabilize farm income. But America’s farmers and rural communities have paid a heavy price for President Trump’s tariffs. While Trump is pursuing a damaging and erratic trade war without any real strategy, President Biden will stand up to China by working with our allies to negotiate from the strongest possible position. And, he’ll make sure our trade policy works for American farmers.

Supporting beginning farmers. America tries to make it easy to start a business, but unless you inherit the land, it’s much more difficult to start a farm. The Biden Administration will expand the Obama-Biden Administration’s microloan program for new and beginning farmers, doubling the maximum loan amount to $100,000. And, it will increase funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farm ownership and operating loans that typically serve beginning farmers who grew up on a family farm but need low-cost capital to add to their family’s operation to support another household.

Fostering the development of regional food systems. The Biden Administration will partner with small and mid-sized farmers to help them collectively create supply chains to deliver fresh produce and other products to schools, hospitals, and other major state and federal institutions, including the Defense Department. This will allow these farmers to negotiate their own prices. And, it will help farmers identify markets for specialty crops and secondary products, like ice cream produced by dairy farmers to bring in additional revenue.

Re-investing in land grant universities’ agricultural research so the public, not private companies, owns patents to agricultural advances. The Biden Administration will reinvest in agricultural research by bolstering funding for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Our farmers need new technologies to compete in world markets while protecting our soil and water. These new technologies – and the next new seeds – should be developed and owned by the American people, not private companies who can use patents to expand profits.

Partnering with farmers to make American agriculture first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, giving farmers new sources of income in the process. Many farmers are some of the best stewards of our land, air, and water. The government needs to partner with them to accelerate progress toward net-zero emissions. As president, Biden will ensure our agricultural sector is the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions, and that our farmers earn income as we meet this milestone. Toward this end, the Biden Administration will dramatically expand and fortify the pioneering Conservation Stewardship Program, created by former Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin, to support farm income through payments based on farmers’ practices to protect the environment, including carbon sequestration. In addition to seeking full federal funding for the program, the Biden Administration will ensure the program can participate in carbon markets. Corporations, individuals, and foundations interested in promoting greenhouse gas reductions could offset their emissions by contributing to Conservation Stewardship Program payments to farmers for those sequestering carbon — for example, through cover crops. This will not only help combat climate change, which Vice President Biden has called an existential threat, but also create additional revenue sources for farmers at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet. And, this approach will create a whole series of new businesses that survey, measure, certify, and quantify conservation results. In addition, the Biden Plan will make a significant investment in research to refine practices to build soil carbon while maximizing farm and ranch productivity. Soil is the next frontier for storing carbon.

Strengthening antitrust enforcement. From the inputs they depend on – such as seeds – to the markets where they sell their products, American farmers and ranchers are being hurt by increasing market concentration. The Biden Administration will protect small and medium-sized farmers and producers by strengthening enforcement of the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts and the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Expand bio-based manufacturing to bring cutting-edge manufacturing jobs back to rural America. The Biden Administration will create a low-carbon manufacturing sector in every state in the country, but not just in cities. As president, Biden will grow the bioeconomy and bio-based manufacturing to bring cutting-edge manufacturing jobs back to rural America. This means taking every aspect of agricultural production – from corn stock to manure – to create chemicals, materials, fabrics, and fibers in a process that is good for the environment and creates new sources of revenue for farmers. Key to this strategy will be connecting research universities, community colleges, incubators and accelerators, manufacturing institutes, employers, unions, and state and local governments – alone or as part of a regional pact. The federal government will provide them with significant funding for deployment of a place-based plan to help their state or region build a competitive and low-carbon future in manufacturing that reflects climate impacts in their local communities.

Promote ethanol and the next generation of biofuels. Joe Biden believes renewable fuels are vital to the future of rural America – and the climate. The Biden Plan will invest $400 billion in clean energy research, innovation, and deployment – more than twice what America spent to put a man on the moon. And, as part of this effort, developing the next generation of biofuels will be a top priority. The Biden Plan will invest in research to develop cellulosic biofuels in a manner that protects our soil and water and addresses the challenge of climate change, while turning grass, crop residues, and other biomass into fuel. Doubling down on these liquid fuels of the future will not only make value-added agriculture a key part of the solution to climate change – reducing emissions in planes, ships, and other forms of transportation – but will also create quality jobs across rural America. From day one, President Biden will use every tool at his disposal, including the federal fleet and the federal government’s purchasing power, to promote and advance renewable energy, ethanol, and other biofuels.

Invest in wind and solar energy. President Obama put Vice President Biden in charge of the Recovery Act, which invested more than $90 billion in clean energy technology. Those investments contributed to a doubling of the share of domestically produced wind turbine components and produced a dramatic decrease in solar costs, making wind and solar power cost-competitive. Biden will build on the Recovery Act by setting an ambitious but essential goal for America to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050. His clean energy plan will accelerate the already dramatic growth of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources.

Invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure, and triple funding to expand broadband access in rural areas. High-speed broadband is essential in the 21st Century economy. Yet far too many rural communities still don’t have access to it. Rural Americans are over 10 times more likely than urban residents to lack quality broadband access. At a time when so many jobs and businesses could be located anywhere, high-speed internet access should be a great economic equalizer for rural America, not another economic disadvantage. Investing $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure has the potential to create more than a quarter million new jobs. The Biden Plan will triple Community Connect broadband grants and partner with municipal utilities to bring cutting-edge broadband connections to communities across rural America.

Invest in green infrastructure nationwide. As president, Biden will make smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can meet America’s economic needs and withstand the impacts of climate change. The Biden Administration will use this infrastructure funding to ensure that rural communities across the country have access to clean, safe drinking water. It will modernize the lock and dam system vital to getting rural products to markets, leveraging the federal resources to the maximum extent possible with the private sector. And, it will build the roads to give farms and small town businesses access to markets and an efficient means to participate in the world economy. 

Expand access to credit for new and small businesses. Entrepreneurs in small towns and rural areas should have access to the capital they need to realize their dreams. The Biden Administration will dramatically expand funding for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program to help rural entrepreneurs. Biden will expand the number of Rural Business Investment Companies to help rural companies obtain capital.

II. PARTNER WITH RURAL COMMUNITIES TO HELP THEM FULLY ACCESS FEDERAL RESOURCES

A contributing factor to place-based inequality across the U.S. is the simple fact that some communities are more successful at accessing federal dollars and technical assistance than others. The federal government’s programs are too often too challenging to navigate for cities and towns that do not have the ability to hire highly qualified professionals to engage with the system.
 
The Biden Administration wants to fundamentally change how the federal government interacts with rural communities that so often do not have access to federal programs. The Biden Administration will partner with these communities to help them fully access federal resources to create jobs, build wealth, and give rural Americans who live in poverty the chance to join the middle class.
 
The Biden Administration will do this in two ways:

Create a White House “StrikeForce” to partner with rural communities to help them access federal funds. The Biden Administration will create a White House StrikeForce consisting of agency leaders who will partner with community-building organizations in persistent poverty rural communities and help them unlock federal resources. This approach is modeled on the StrikeForce Secretary Tom Vilsack successfully established in the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Obama-Biden Administration.

Prioritize persistent poverty rural communities. Approximately 85% of roughly 350 persistent poverty counties in the United States fall outside of a metropolitan area. To tackle persistent poverty in all communities, but especially rural America, Vice President Biden supports applying Congressman James Clyburn’s 10-20-30 formula, which will allocate 10 percent of funding to areas “where 20 percent or more of the population has been living below the poverty line for the last 30 years,” to all federal programs.

III. PROTECT AND BUILD ON THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE IN RURAL COMMUNITIES

The Affordable Care Act was a big deal in rural America, and it should be protected and built upon. As president, Biden will protect and build on Obamacare – not get rid of it and start over with something new. He will not support any policy that means getting rid of Obamacare, whether proposed by a Democrat or Republican.
 
Vice President Biden believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have health insurance and access to affordable, quality health care. He believes that it’s a right, not a privilege. It should not be dependent on whether they live in a city center, a small town, or a remote community.
 
Rural America faces unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to access to quality health care. In many rural communities, the local hospital is one of the largest – if not the largest  – employers. Keeping our rural hospitals open is critical not only for saving lives, but also for supporting local economies in rural America. Yet, since 2010, more than 100 rural hospitals across the United States have closed. Combined, these closures represent the loss of over 10,000 jobs. And, they could mean life or death for patients in rural communities. Already, someone injured in a rural area has to travel, on average, nearly twice as far to get to the closest hospital as someone injured in an urban area. These critical moments lost in travel time are one reason an estimated 60% of all trauma fatalities occur in rural communities.
 
This problem is at risk of getting even worse. Roughly 1 out of 3 rural hospitals are at risk of shutting down. And that’s only part of the story. Rural clinics and rural nursing homes are closing as well.
 
You can read Vice President Biden’s full health care plan here. To specifically help rural Americans, his plan will also:

Keep our rural hospitals open by:

Defending the Affordable Care Act. The first step to save our rural hospitals is to defend the Affordable Care Act. In fact, one proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have caused $1.7 billion in cuts to rural hospitals, 181 additional rural hospitals “forced into the red,” and nearly 38,000 lost jobs.  President Biden isn’t going to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, he’s going to build on it.

Finishing the job of expanding coverage to low-income adults. Research found that, in states that took up the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, the expansion was a critical tool in keeping rural hospitals open. Yet, 14 states have still not expanded Medicaid eligibility, and an estimated 4.9 million individuals would be eligible for coverage but for their state’s inaction. Vice President Biden’s plan will enroll all of these individuals in a new public option, without a premium and with benefits like those offered in Medicaid. This isn’t just the right thing to do, it will help rural hospitals remain solvent. And, under the Biden Plan, which preserves individuals ability to choose private insurance, these hospitals won’t be threatened by having to get by on low Medicare reimbursement rates for all.

Giving rural hospitals the flexibility they need to keep their doors open and care for their patients. The Biden Administration will provide rural health care providers with funding and flexibility necessary to identify, test, and deploy innovative approaches to keeping their doors open and providing care for the unique needs of rural communities. The Affordable Care Act supports this type of innovation, for example through demonstration projects like the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model, which is giving rural hospitals in the state more flexibility to decide how best to spend dollars to improve the health of the population they serve. The Biden Plan will expand funding for these types of demonstration projects, and then accelerate efforts to replicate proven models to other rural hospitals across the country. And, the Biden Plan will identify and eliminate federal rules making it harder for rural hospitals to serve their communities. For example, many rural hospitals serving small populations do not have enough patients to maintain inpatient care, but those communities still need a 24/7 emergency department. One approach to ensure they can keep their doors open is to create a new designation, the Community Outpatient Hospital, as proposed in the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act. The Biden Administration will make sure the federal government is helping rural hospitals meet community needs, not serving as a roadblock.

Adequately funding our rural hospitals. To help hospitals keep their doors open, President Biden supports the elimination of payment cuts and additional payments for rural hospitals as detailed in the bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act.

Expand primary care and innovative health care delivery models in rural communities by:

Doubling funding for community health centers. Community health centers  provide primary, prenatal, and other important care to underserved populations. The Biden Plan will double the federal investment in these centers, expanding access to high quality health care for the populations that need it most. More than half of community health centers are in rural areas.

Equipping rural community health centers to be hubs for healthy communities. As president, Biden will establish a grant program to help community health centers hire social workers or other professionals to coordinate resources necessary for community health, such as transportation to get patients to health centers and connections to housing and nutrition services.

Expanding the pipeline of rural health care providers. The Biden Administration will use a comprehensive approach to increase the number of rural individuals going to medical school or other training programs and returning or staying in rural communities to provide care, with a focus on primary care physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and other in-demand providers. This initiative will include additional funding for residency programs in rural areas, expanding theNational Health Service Corps, and developing high school-community-college-health-center partnerships to inspire rural youth to pursue jobs in health care and pursue the advanced credits or industry credentials that will put them on the path to success in the field.

Building new health clinics and deploying telehealth in rural America. The Obama-Biden Administration successfully used the USDA Community Facility Direct Loan & Grant Program to build rural hospitals and mental health clinics across rural America and equip them with the best technology. As president, Biden will expand this grant funding, with a focus on accelerating the deployment of telehealth for mental health and specialty care. Telehealth – the use of videoconferencing and other technology to provide remote care – can be a vital resource for rural communities with limited access to providers.

——  

Previously Released Biden Plans & Rural America  

To Protect & Build on the Affordable Care Act, including a public option, which will give rural Americans a new health insurance choice, and other policies to lower health care costs.
 
For Educators, Students, and Our Future, which will triple funding for Title I schools, including those in rural communities, and expand high school-community college-business partnerships to prepare students for good jobs.
 
For a Clean Energy Revolution and Climate Justice, which commits our country to fulfilling our obligation to all workers impacted by the energy transition, like coal miners and power plant workers and their communities.
 
In the months ahead, Biden will release a higher education proposal which will include a policy to support small, low-endowment private colleges that are often anchor institutions in rural communities.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Klobuchar’s Plan to Strengthen Agricultural, Rural Communities

Senator Amy Klobuchar’s “Plan from the Heartland” seeks to strengthen agricultural and rural communities. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s “Plan from the Heartland” seeks to strengthen agricultural and rural communities. This is a summary from the Klobuchar campaign:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Senator Amy Klobuchar is proposing a plan for America’s Heartland that will strengthen our agricultural and rural communities, bridge the rural-urban divide, and make sure that kids who grow up in rural America can stay in rural America. Senator Klobuchar knows that America’s prosperity depends on the success of our farmers and as a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, she’s been a champion for farmers and rural communities in the Senate. Her plan builds on her record of getting things done for rural America and as President, she will:  

1. HEARTLAND ECONOMICS

Support our farmers. Our farmers are facing significant uncertainty as a result of recent floods and other natural disasters, unprecedented market consolidation, low commodity prices, and uncertainty surrounding market access in some of our biggest export markets. As President, Senator Klobuchar would invest in growth opportunities like renewables to raise farm incomes and create good paying jobs, and maintain and expand critical safety nets.  

  • Expand commodity support, disaster programs, and federal crop insurance for our small and family-owned farms. As a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, Senator Klobuchar worked to write and pass three farm bills with strong farm safety nets for our farmers. As President, Senator Klobuchar would push to index farm safety net support levels to reflect changes in our country’s cost of production, low commodity prices, and loss of global market access. She would also work to improve and fully fund permanent disaster programs and improve support levels, loan rates and program delivery. Senator Klobuchar also supports improving and expanding commodity support and federal crop insurance programs and increasing the average premium subsidy for crop insurance. And as dairy farms continue to close, Senator Klobuchar would convene a commission to immediately address the dairy crisis. 
  • Strengthen the Animal Disease Vaccine Bank and prioritize crop and livestock health. Strengthening our agricultural disease prevention, surveillance, and response capabilities is critical to our farmers and livestock producers, as new emerging diseases like African Swine Fever could cause billions in damages should they reach the U.S. Senator Klobuchar understands that we need to be doing everything we can to prevent catastrophic disease outbreaks before they start, and if we do have an outbreak, we need to be prepared. She authored and passed provisions to create a disaster response program and a foot and mouth disease (FMD) vaccine bank to protect farmers against the next disease outbreak. As President, she will fully fund disease eradication programs, support new research, and push for additional emergency support for farmers, producers and ranchers impacted by agricultural diseases. 
  • Ensure safety net programs are targeted to help family-owned and small farms and beginning farmers and make sure farmers know about all the available support programs. Senator Klobuchar has repeatedly led efforts to reform the farm support payment system, including an income cap on eligibility for commodity payments. As President, she will work to ensure payments are directed toward those who need them most, including small and family-owned farms. She would enforce the prohibition against artificial subdivision of farms to avoid limits and work to protect family farms from cuts scheduled under the terms of any budget act. Senator Klobuchar will support regional food systems and also create and expand programs that educate farmers on available programs and opportunities including by supporting existing outreach and extension programs through our land grant universities.        

Promote exports and drive job growth. With 95 percent of the world’s customers living outside our borders, opening up new markets and lowering trade barriers is critical to our agricultural and rural economy. Our farmers produce food, fuel, feed, and fiber, and they need export markets where they can sell their products. Senator Klobuchar will direct her administration to create a national rural export strategy to coordinate efforts across agencies and review all international tariffs in place as of 2021 and she will build on her work in the Senate to continue to increase access for U.S. agriculture producers. In her first 100 days as President, she will restart the President’s Export Council, which brings together business, labor, and agricultural leaders with Members of Congress and key Administration officials to help promote a comprehensive export and trade strategy. 

Invest in rural infrastructure and transportation. Rural areas are a major focus of Senator Klobuchar’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, and she will require a new Infrastructure Financing Authority to make investments in rural areas. As President, Senator Klobuchar will invest in the repair and improvement of rural bridges that are not part of the federal-aid highway network and invest in the Harbor Maintenance Trust fund to improve inland waterways and ports, including funding for the Navigation and Ecosystem Restoration Program to modernize and expand outdated locks and restore ecosystems along the Mississippi. She will direct additional resources to help close the backlog in USDA’s Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. To keep rural and general aviation airports strong, she will continue support for the Essential Air Service and Airport Improvement Program.

  • Bring high-speed broadband to every household and business in America. Broadband creates jobs, opens new economic opportunities, and allows America to compete and succeed in an increasingly digital world, but roughly one in four rural Americans say access to high-speed internet is a major problem. In an effort to close the rural-urban divide, Senator Klobuchar has previously announced a commitment to connect every household in America to the internet by 2022. She will focus on creating accurate broadband maps to identify areas that lack adequate access, bringing high-speed internet infrastructure to areas most in need, including by expanding Rural Utility Service grants, and providing greater incentives for existing providers to upgrade their networks to cover unserved and underserved areas. She will also work to quickly implement the recommendations of the Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force to help farmers fully realize the potential of broadband in their operations. 
  • Revitalizing freight and passenger rail. Railroads provide a vital link between rural communities and a cost-effective way for producers to bring their goods to market. As President, Senator Klobuchar will encourage investment in short-line and freight rail networks. She will also address safety concerns including two-man crews, better braking systems, and ensuring communities are prepared to respond to derailments involving hazardous cargo. She will also build on her work pushing for greater competition in freight markets by providing fair treatment for captive shippers, appointing well qualified members to the Surface Transportation Board, and reviewing and addressing consolidation in the freight rail industry. She is also committed to expanding Amtrak service in rural America.  

Expand opportunities for rural small businesses, entrepreneurs and beginning farmers. Rural America is home to many innovators and entrepreneurs, but we need to do more to help give them the tools they need to succeed and expand job opportunities in rural areas. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen USDA programs that support entrepreneurs like the Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, Intermediary Relending Program, and Agricultural Innovation Centers. She will promote regional cooperation to facilitate economies of scale among businesses, development organizations, government programs, and community area anchor institutions. She will also fully implement and support the Farm Bill provision restoring the USDA’s Under Secretary of Rural Development so that rural development remains a top priority for the department. 

  • Expand access to capital and loans for small and family-owned farms. Senator Klobuchar has worked successfully in the Senate to increase the caps on Farm Service Agency loans to ensure farmers and ranchers have access to the land and capital they need. As President, she will push to further increase the maximum loan amount that an individual farmer or rancher can receive under the direct farm ownership and operating loans, where some loans are reserved for beginning farmers. At the same time, Senator Klobuchar will work to increase the size of Farm Service Agency’s loan portfolio to ensure more farmers are able to access this critical lending source. She would also make sure that equipment updates — that allow farmers to take advantage of technology and innovation — are readily available and that loans and credit are targeted to small and family-owned farms. 
  • Strengthen rural small business lending. Small businesses in rural areas face additional obstacles in accessing credit because many traditional lenders do not have the infrastructure and experience to effectively serve rural America. As President, Senator Klobuchar will expand and strengthen USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program and the Rural Business Investment Program, which supports start-up of venture capital firms, and she will continue support for the Farm Credit System. She will continue to support sensible regulation of community banks and credit unions, which are important sources of credit for rural businesses. She will push to reauthorize the New Market Tax Credit and make sure it effectively serves rural America. She will also improve controls to ensure government programs designed for small businesses actually serve small businesses.
  • Support agricultural research. The Trump Administration has repeatedly proposed budgets for USDA that cut billions for rural development, conservation, and research. These include the forced closure of agricultural research laboratories and stations. In her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will re-open these laboratories and give these important programs the support they deserve. She will also publish all government-funded studies on climate change conducted by in-house scientists and in collaboration with land-grant universities. And she will halt the arbitrary relocation of USDA scientific agencies which has resulted in staff attrition and decreased capacity.
  • Support our new and beginning farmers. Senator Klobuchar believes if we want to continue to maintain our country’s agricultural strength and keep our rural communities vibrant, we need to do more to support our new and beginning farmers and ranchers. As a Senator she has authored several provisions that would expand loans and land transitions to beginning farmers. As President, she would push for a new tax credit for farmers who sell land or equipment to beginning farmers and expand assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers so that they have better access to land, capital, and risk management tools. Senator Klobuchar has also been a champion in the Senate for permanent mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, and as President she would continue to promote efforts with non-profit and university partners to provide farm business education and on-site trainings for beginning farmers. 

Promote rural workforce development to connect people to jobs and address workforce shortages. Senator Klobuchar will address rural workforce shortages and close the skills gap by promoting apprenticeships so students and workers can get on-the-job training. She will direct her Secretary of Labor to analyze the use of apprenticeships and expand apprenticeship opportunities and benefits in rural areas. Senator Klobuchar is also committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform in the first year of her presidency. Immigrants accounted for more than a third of rural population growth from 2000 to 2018 and comprehensive immigration should include providing a pathway to citizenship and updated policies that will help rural communities get the workers they need when they need them. 

  • Expand student loan forgiveness to help our farmers. Senator Klobuchar has proposed a loan forgiveness program — modeled after the public service loan forgiveness program — that would forgive federal student loan debt for in-demand occupations that will include farmers and people who choose careers in agriculture. 

Agricultural Competition and Concentration. The concentration across agricultural markets and steep decline in family farms have resulted in an increasingly anti-competitive industry. Senator Klobuchar is committed to reducing barriers for family farmers and promoting fair, transparent practices that increase competition. 

  • Taking on consolidation. Senator Klobuchar will look at large acquisitions and mergers in the agriculture industry that have already happened and assess whether the integration of services insulate agricultural corporations from competition. She will also make sure that our antitrust agencies have the resources they need to aggressively enforce our antitrust laws. And she will give antitrust agencies and courts the legal tools necessary to promote competition by updating legal standards, shifting the burden of proof for mega-mergers to the merging parties to show that their transactions do not reduce competition, clarifying that existing antitrust laws should take into account more than price and should consider vertical integration, harms to innovation, and monopsony, where a buyer has the power to reduce wages or the prices it pays for agricultural products. As President, Senator Klobuchar would also require the USDA to collect and publish concentration information in agricultural markets and allow the USDA to participate in the review of proposed mergers in the agricultural sector. As President, her Administration would thoroughly review our agriculture laws and assess their application in an environment with increased market concentration.
  • Support strong enforcement by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The CFTC budget has stagnated in recent years making it difficult for the commission to do its job. Senator Klobuchar will provide the CFTC with the resources to make sure our commodity markets work, encourage the commission to put the needs of farmers first in all of its decisions, and move aggressively to stop price manipulation in energy and other markets.
  • Restore staffing levels at the Department of Agriculture. Under the first two years of the Trump Administration, between December 2016 and March 2018, USDA had more staff departures than any other federal agency. This has severely impacted USDA’s ability to carry out its mission on behalf of rural communities and farmers. During her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will restore staffing levels to the appropriate levels. She will also stop politically-motivated relocations that result in the loss of critical agency expertise.

2. LIVING IN RURAL AMERICA

Expanding rural health care and saving our rural hospitals. As President, Senator Klobuchar would revise our Medicare rules to help rural hospitals stay open, provide expanded support to our critical access hospital and community health centers, over half of which are located in rural areas, and dramatically expand telehealth services. To address rural workforce shortages, she will build on the Conrad 30 program that allows international doctors trained in the United States to extend their stay in the country if they agree to practice in underserved communities. To further bolster the health care workforce Senator Klobuchar will expand student loan forgiveness programs for health care and long term care workers practicing in underserved areas. She will also reform Medicare telehealth rules that unfairly limit coverage and reimbursement. 

  • Preserve and strengthen rural hospitals. Over 100 rural hospitals have closed since 2010 and more than more than a third of rural hospitals, providing care to almost 12 million Americans, are at risk of closing. As President, Senator Klobuchar will help hospitals in rural areas stay open by creating a new Rural Emergency Hospital classification under Medicare to give hospitals more support if they maintain an emergency room and provide outpatient services.  
  • Provide sustainable reimbursements for rural health care providers. Today, inadequate reimbursement from federal health programs that do not take into account the additional costs of rural health providers puts significant pressure on the rural health care system.  Senator Klobuchar will adjust Medicare’s geographic practice cost index to reflect the actual costs of providing health care in rural areas. She will also provide ongoing financial relief by ending the two percent Medicare automatic reimbursement cut for rural hospitals. 
  • Tackle rural mental health and addiction. Mental health and addiction services are often lacking in rural areas where accessibility, availability, affordability and acceptability may be limited. For example, 65 percent of non-metropolitan counties do not have a psychiatrist and almost half of non-metropolitan counties do not have a psychologist. As President, Senator Klobuchar will strengthen mental health and addiction programs in rural America by investing in and expanding the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network, tackling the opioid epidemic and increasing access to mental health and substance use care, including support for clinics and community-based services, as well as technical support and telehealth services. She will address the challenge of farmer suicide, while also focusing on recruitment, retention, training and workplace protections for the mental health and substance use health care workforce in rural areas and our hardest hit communities.

Support rural education and public schools. On average, rural districts receive just under 20 percent of state education funding and have smaller student populations, so they’re often disadvantaged by funding formulas. And higher transportation costs for students who live in rural areas can often mean even less money for instruction. As part of her previously announced “Progress Partnerships” Senator Klobuchar will help improve rural schools by encouraging states to create funding formula commissions to improve equity and establish equitable school infrastructure funding mechanism. 

  • Empower community colleges to be community hubs for economic development and workforce training. In many rural areas, local community colleges provide key economic development and workforce training resources for the community. Senator Klobuchar will work to better integrate federal business and workforce development programs with local community colleges building on the Small Business Administration’s successful Small Business Development Centers. 
  • Invest in land-grant universities agricultural research. Recognizing the long standing contributions of our land-grant universities to innovation and development in agriculture, as well as their central role in their communities, Senator Klobuchar will also expand resources available to these schools for capital projects, research and extension programs. 

Address child care and energy costs and expand access to affordable housing. Many Americans want to live and work in rural communities but cannot find an affordable place to live. More than 50 million Americans live in rural areas with a severe need for more affordable rental housing. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen rural rental assistance programs, increase investments in the rural housing supply. We also need to cut red tape and improve communication among local, state, and federal officials so renters, communities, and developers have access to information about the programs available in rural America. Senator Klobuchar will also strengthen protections for mobile home owners. 

  • Directly address the challenge of rural child care: Rural communities experience unique challenges when it comes to child care, as nearly two-thirds of rural families live in a child care desert, or an area where there are at least three young children for every licensed child care slot — or no licensed child care providers at all.  As President, Senator Klobuchar would expand assistance for child care, with a focus on rural areas by increasing funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and increasing the subsidy rate so that rural child care providers can more easily meet their operating expenses and increase the quality of their programs. She would also work to pass a landmark childcare proposal limiting child care payments to 7 percent of a family’s income and making targeted investments to build the supply of licensed child care in rural child care deserts. 
  • Make energy costs affordable. Recognizing that rural households pay a significantly higher share of their income on energy costs than the national rate, Senator Klobuchar will also will preserve and expand resources for LIHEAP and the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps households in need reduce energy spending. Senator Klobuchar is a strong supporter of the Rural Energy for America program and Rural Energy Savings program so that farmers and rural communities can access renewable energy solutions that lower their costs.  

3. PROTECTING OUR FUTURE

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

  • Protect native sod and improve soil health. Senator Klobuchar pushed for provision in the 2018 Farm Bill that closed a loophole allowing some non-insured crops to be planted four consecutive years without a reduction in crop insurance assistance for succeeding insured crops. As President, she will expand nationwide the sodsaver’s prohibition to substitute crop insurance yields on native sod that is converted to cropland. She will also expand the Soil Health and Income Protection Pilot Program to help provide farmers an alternative to cropping less productive cropland.
  • Invest in conservation innovation. Senator Klobuchar will target research into soil carbon sequestration, which could improve soil health as well as reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere. She will also expand Conservation Innovation Grants to test emerging conservation approaches, including practices that increase carbon sequestration levels. And building on provisions she included in the 2018 farm bill, Senator Klobuchar will further improve agriculture data research of conservation practices to help farmers reduce risk and increase profitability.

Investing in and providing incentives for homegrown energy. Senator Klobuchar believes that homegrown biofuels are key to our rural economies, our nation’s energy security, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the Senate, she has been a leader when it comes to standing up to the Administration’s misuse of small refinery renewable fuel standard (RFS) waivers. She has also worked successfully in the Senate to provide financing and grant support to biobased manufacturers. She authored an amendment that was included in the Farm Bill that provides mandatory funding to support biobased marketing, manufacturing.

  • Strengthen the RFS. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work with the EPA to continue and strengthen the RFS. Continuing to increase the required blend levels will add value to farm products, reduce the use of fossil fuels, and contribute to better air quality.
  • End the overuse of secret RFS small refinery waivers. In the first 100 days of her presidency, Senator Klobuchar has pledged to end the misguided overuse of secret RFS small refinery waivers that have been granted to big oil companies at the expense of farmers. As President, she will take action to increase transparency in the waiver application process and to make sure that the market for Renewable Identification Numbers accurately accounts for the overuse of small refinery waivers. 
  • Promote the use of blender pumps. In addition, Senator Klobuchar will promote and invest in blender pump infrastructure by restarting and building upon USDA’s Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership, providing consumers more refueling choice and supporting the transition away from fossil fuels. 
  • Pass a statute to ensure year-round E15 sales. After successfully pushing for the administration to allow for the year-round sale of E15, Senator Klobuchar will also advance legislation that would allow for year-round E15 sales to remove regulatory uncertainty and help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. 
  • Extend biodiesel and second generation biofuels tax credits. Senator Klobuchar has long championed tax credits for renewable energy and as President she will push to extend biodiesel and second generation biofuels tax credits. 

Invest in wind and solar and support rural energy development. Clean energy, including wind and solar, is a major driver of job growth in rural areas. In fact, 99 percent of operating wind capacity is located in rural areas. A part of Senator Klobuchar’s plan to tackle climate change, she will prioritize rural energy development, including expanding storage capacity and strengthening our energy grid is critical for continuing to scale up renewable energy. Senator Klobuchar will invest in interregional transmission lines and grid improvements to support the development of renewable energy and establish a Clean Energy bond program to expand clean energy tax incentives. And as President, Senator Klobuchar will launch a grant program to help rural cooperatives develop energy storage and microgrid projects for renewable energy for generation, transmission and storage. She will also support increased investment in small, distributed wind, solar and biogas projects.

Expand energy efficiency programs. Energy costs can be a significant burden on farms, small businesses and households in rural communities. Senator Klobuchar has long worked to see that the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has the resources needed to provide grants to farms and rural businesses to install energy efficient technologies, and she will continue to push for additional resources.

Safeguard federal lands. Federal lands are integral to many rural economies. Senator Klobuchar is committed to preserving these lands for future generations including by restoring environmental protections repealed by the Trump Administration. She will also make sure that rural counties that host tax-exempt federal lands will receive their payments in-lieu of taxes in a predictable and uninterrupted manner.

4. LEAVING NO ONE BEHIND

Reducing child poverty in rural areas. According to the Department of Agriculture, poverty rates in rural America are still higher than in urban areas, and one in five rural households with children face food insecurity. As part of her plan to cut childhood poverty in half within ten years, Senator Klobuchar will expand the earned income tax credit, the child care tax credit, and SNAP benefits and make housing choice vouchers available to every qualifying household with a child. 

  • Meeting the nutrition needs of our most vulnerable citizens. As a member of the Agriculture Committee, Senator Klobuchar has always pushed for a strong nutrition title in the Farm Bill. As President, she will make sure that nutrition programs are there for families when they need them, while also strengthening employment and training programs that help get people back into the workforce. She will oppose efforts to institute draconian and ineffective work requirements and reverse the harmful rulemakings that the Trump Administration has proposed that would force millions of families, elderly, and veterans out of nutrition programs.
  • Overcoming persistent poverty. Senator Klobuchar supports Congressman Jim Clyburn’s 10-20-30 proposal, which would require that a minimum of 10% of federal funds of a particular program go to persistent poverty communities, where the poverty level has been 20% or higher over the past 30 years. 

Rural Veterans. Roughly one in four U.S. veterans live in rural areas, and many face challenges accessing health care and affordable housing. Building on her strong track record of supporting veterans, including our veterans in rural areas, Senator Klobuchar will focus on ensuring our veterans receive the support they deserve. As President, she will work to attract medical professionals to VA health care facilities in rural areas, invest in VA telehealth services and expand transportation options for our veterans. In addition, she will expand programs to connect veterans in rural areas to affordable housing and invest in programs that tackle veterans homelessness.

Helping farmers in bankruptcy. In many regions, farm bankruptcy rates are reaching their highest point in a decade due to persistently low commodity prices, economic uncertainty and tight farm lending regulations. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to allow more family farmers to seek relief under Chapter 12 bankruptcy, which would allow family farmers to reorganize and keep the farm after falling on hard times. This builds off of Senator Klobuchar’s bipartisan legislation that recently passed the Senate and House. She will also promote support programs and education for farmers so they are familiar with sound farm management principles in an effort to reduce foreclosure rates.

Fight discrimination and empower communities of color. People of color make up one in five Americans living in rural areas, but too often systemic racism limits their contributions to rural economies. Senator Klobuchar will instruct all federal agencies to aggressively enforce anti-discrimination rules when it comes to housing, education, employment and wages. She will strengthen USDA’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, increase diversity in senior leadership positions at USDA, and develop better metrics to accurately reflect the impact of USDA programs of people of color. She will also increase rural outreach by the Minority Business Development Administration to help minority businesses overcome social and economic disadvantages. 

Partner with Native American tribes. Senator Klobuchar is committed to partnering with Native American tribes in rural areas. As President, she will end the Trump Administration’s attacks on tribal sovereignty and increase meaningful tribal consultation. She will fully support the Indian Health Service and build on her work to provide resources for tribal schools. She will work to expand broadband deployment on tribal lands including working to restore the Tribal Lifeline program, which the Trump Administration has tried to eliminate. She will also direct the USDA to increase support for tribal agricultural needs. 

Supporting rural seniors. Older Americans who live in rural areas can be isolated, with fewer transportation options and limited access to other important services like transportation, health care, and affordable housing. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make sure her USDA and other federal agencies are investing in housing, health care, transportation and nutrition programs for our country’s rural seniors. She will support generous tax-credits and programs that allow seniors to remain and age in their homes as long as possible, with a focus on promoting affordable housing and long-term care options. 

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Klobuchar Plan for Affordable Housing, Revitalizing Neglected Neighborhoods

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is proposing a plan to bridge the rural-urban divide, expand affordable housing opportunities and revitalize neglected neighborhoods © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s plan to address the need for affordable housing seeks to bridge the rural-urban divide, expand housing opportunities and revitalize neglected neighborhoods. This is a summary from the Klobuchar campaign:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Senator Klobuchar is proposing a plan to bridge the rural-urban divide, expand affordable housing opportunities and revitalize neglected neighborhoods.

Stable and affordable housing is out of reach for too many American families. Both rural and urban areas struggle with a shortage of affordable rental housing, homelessness and neglected neighborhoods. Racial disparities and discrimination persist in housing and many families face significant obstacles to buying a home. As President, Senator Klobuchar will tackle these challenges to make a safe and affordable home a reality for more Americans.

Highlights of Senator Klobuchar’s Plan:

Expanding Access to Justice and Fighting Discrimination

  • Provide access to counsel. ​Senator Klobuchar will create a new federal grant program with the goal of eliminating the unmet need when it comes to​ ​providing access to counsel in civil cases involving basic human needs, which means providing counsel for people who are dealing with evictions, being denied access to health care and having wages unfairly taken.
  • Prohibit landlords from unfairly discriminating against renters. ​Senator Klobuchar will ban all landlords from discriminating against people based on their income, including housing vouchers or disability benefits. She will also protect renters by preventing the blacklisting of people who have been to court over eviction or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or veterans status.
  • Combat segregation in housing.​ Senator Klobuchar will suspend the Trump Administration’s proposals to weaken fair housing rules. As previously announced, in her first 100 days as President Senator Klobuchar will suspend the Trump Administration’s attempts to weaken efforts to combat segregation in housing by modifying the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule.
  • Reinstate the Office of Fair Lending and Opportunity’s enforcement and oversight powers.​ ​The Trump Administration has significantly weakened the Office of Fair Lending and Opportunity,​ ​stripping the office of its ability to ensure fair and equitable access to credit. As President, Senator Klobuchar will restore all enforcement and oversight powers to the Office of Fair Lending and Opportunity to monitor fair lending practices and coordinate with the Department of Justice to prevent lending discrimination before it happens.

Addressing the Rural Housing Crisis

  • Increase affordable rental housing in rural communities. ​54 million​ Americans live in rural areas with a severe need for more affordable rental housing. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen rural rental assistance programs and significantly increase investments in the rural housing supply, which includes expanding affordable housing programs serving Native Americans.
  • Improve access to information about rural housing programs. ​To take advantage of federal support for new rural housing, developers must first know about the programs available to them. Senator Klobuchar will improve training for state, local and federal agencies so communities and developers can better access housing opportunities. Senator Klobuchar will also improve and expand programs that provide technical assistance to rural nonprofits to connect rural communities with resources to develop housing.
  • Encourage innovative strategies to attract private investment. ​Senator Klobuchar will use the loan purchasing power of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ask lenders to create new ways to meet the mortgage credit needs for rural markets based on evidence from their existing portfolio data. Senator Klobuchar will also provide incentives for community financial development institutions to provide access to credit in rural communities using the expertise of local financial institutions. 

Increasing Access to Affordable Housing

  • Invest in Housing Choice Vouchers.​ The Housing Choice Voucher program helps provide the stable homes families need to succeed, but demand far exceeds the number of vouchers available. Senator Klobuchar will make a major investment to make vouchers available to all qualifying households with children.
  • Promote effective zoning rules. ​Outdated zoning rules can make it harder to build affordable housing in many areas. Some cities are beginning to update their zoning policies through initiatives like Minneapolis 2040 to increase affordable housing opportunities. Senator Klobuchar will prioritize areas that have updated their zoning rules when awarding federal housing and infrastructure grants.
  • Give renters access to emergency funds for rent. ​The path toward eviction can start with an unexpected emergency expense. As she has previously announced, Senator Klobuchar will work to create innovative, portable personal savings accounts called UP Accounts that can be used for retirement and emergencies — including non-routine expenses like rent payments in situations like a lapse in earnings, a car accident, or family leave. [This proposal is modeled after the ​Saving for the Future Act​, which was introduced by Senators Coons and Klobuchar.] Under her plan, employers will set aside at least 50 cents per hour worked, helping a worker build more than $600,000 in wealth over the course of a career.
  • Support housing for people with disabilities.​ Senator Klobuchar will strengthen housing programs that assist people with disabilities. She will also invest in the successful Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program.
  • Promote climate change mitigation and resilience.​ Residential buildings are a significant source of carbon emissions. Senator Klobuchar will ensure that all federal housing programs implement strong standards to reduce carbon emissions and she will invest in retrofitting so existing housing is more energy efficient. 

Providing Access to Opportunity

  • Encourage mobility for renters. ​An ​effective​ way to break the cycle of poverty is to move to a neighborhood that provides greater opportunity.​ ​Senator Klobuchar will expand the pilot for mobility housing vouchers that allows families to use their vouchers in higher opportunity neighborhoods. She will expand incentives to encourage relocation and work with regional and federal housing agencies to reduce obstacles that can make these relocations difficult.
  • Increase the supply of affordable housing in high opportunity neighborhoods. ​The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is a critical tool for developing affordable rental housing.​ ​Senator Klobuchar will push to expand the current allocations to support the construction of additional units. She will also work to encourage construction in high opportunity neighborhoods.
  • Reduce homelessness. ​Over half a million Americans experience homelessness every night. Senator Klobuchar will make a major investment in homeless assistance grants that provide emergency and long-term housing and build on her work in the Senate increasing access to case management services like counseling and job training. This also means addressing the unique challenges of specific homeless populations including those living in rural areas, domestic violence victims, and the formerly incarcerated.
  • Help seniors age in place.​ By 2040, one in five Americans will be over 65, but the current supply of rental housing is not equipped for this Silver Surge. In the first 100 days of her Administration, Senator Klobuchar will reverse the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to federal housing subsidies that could triple rent for some households and would be particularly harmful for seniors. In addition, she will update regulations for reverse mortgages to make sure seniors have access to safe products that make it easier to stay in their homes, as well as expand support for affordable senior housing. She will direct affordable housing programs to allow retrofitting of rental housing and encourage a share of new rental housing to be built in a senior friendly way.

Increasing Access to Homeownership

  • Revitalize and build value in neglected neighborhoods.​ In some neighborhoods, neglected properties make investments to improve living conditions or build property value economically infeasible. Neighboring blighted and abandoned properties further reduce the possibility of investment, leading to downward spiral. Senator Klobuchar will advocate for a new federal tax credit, similar to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, to encourage investment in family-owned homes in distressed neighborhoods.
  • Promote homeownership through down payment assistance and credit development. Saving for a downpayment and building a credit history are two of the largest obstacles new homebuyers face. Senator Klobuchar will build on programs that allow certain types of rental housing assistance to be used for home ownership expenses. She will also work to pass legislation that expands access to capital for down payments and makes it easier to build a credit history by allowing credit bureaus to use on-time payment data from cell phone bills, utilities, and rent in calculating credit scores.
  • Protect the Community Reinvestment Act. ​During the first 100 days of her presidency, Senator Klobuchar will direct financial regulators to strengthen C​ommunity Reinvestment Act​ protections, develop policies to encourage financial institutions to make loans and investment in local communities, especially communities in need, and conduct greater outreach to assess the true credit needs of certain areas.
  • Improve education for homebuyers. Buying a home can be confusing, especially for first-time homebuyers. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen federal homebuyer education programs including targeted programs for communities with low levels of homeownership.

To pay for these policies, Senator Klobuchar will raise the capital gains rate to the income tax rate for households making over $400,000, and as announced in her infrastructure plan, which included plans for housing, raising the corporate tax rate to 25%.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Klobuchar Policy Plan for Seniors Tackles Alzheimers, Healthcare, Drug Costs, Retirement Security

Senator Amy Klobuchar’s plan for Seniors tackles Alzheimer’s, enhances health care and retirement security and reduces prescription drug costs. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s plan for Seniors tackles Alzheimer’s, enhances health care and retirement security and reduces prescription drug costs. This is a summary from the Klobuchar campaign:


MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Senator Amy Klobuchar released her policy priorities for seniors. Building on her leadership in the Senate when it comes to lowering the cost of prescription drugs and addressing the challenges our seniors face, Senator Klobuchar is proposing a bold plan to tackle Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, enhance health care and retirement security, reduce skyrocketing prescription drug costs and combat senior fraud and abuse. As President, Senator Klobuchar will continue to stand up for our seniors and the 10,000 Americans who turn 65 each day.

“Everywhere I go, I meet seniors who tell me about their struggles to afford everyday costs like prescription drugs or health care,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar. “I meet family members who face challenges caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and urgent action is needed to take on these problems. I believe we owe it to our seniors to make sure they have the care and support they need as they get older, and as President I will prioritize tackling Alzheimer’s, strengthening health care and retirement security, and reducing prescription drug costs.”

Highlights of Senator Klobuchar’s Plan:

Tackling Alzheimer’s and Other Chronic Conditions

Support caregivers for those living with Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions. Senator Klobuchar has been a leader when it comes to supporting people affected by Alzheimer’s and their families. As President, she will support expanding resources for health care providers to expand training and support services for families and caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia as well as other chronic conditions, improving caregiver well-being and health, as well as allowing patients to stay in their homes longer.

Make it easier for people with Alzheimer’s and their families to get the medical care they need. Medicare is an essential resource for people affected by Alzheimer’s, but many patients and their families are unaware of the resources and coverage available when it comes to Alzheimer’s. Senator Klobuchar will take action to expand Medicare covered services for Alzheimer’s and she will expand efforts to make patients and their families aware of the care-planning and services that are covered. She will also support an ongoing investment in public health infrastructure for Alzheimer’s that reduces risk, improves early detection and diagnosis, and focuses on tribal, rural, minority, and other underserved populations.  

Strengthen the National Institutes of Health and invest in research for chronic conditions. While the current administration has proposed draconian cuts to lifesaving research, Senator Klobuchar will bolster research at the National Institutes of Health and increase investments in research into cancer, including breast cancer, which the Senator has long supported, and other chronic conditions. And Senator Klobuchar will also invest in research into health disparities. Significant and persistent disparities exist in health outcomes for minority populations in the United States. When it comes to healthy aging, research has shown divides based on race, wealth, and education. Senator Klobuchar will invest in research across the federal government into the causes of these disparities and how they can be reduced. 

  • Invest in Alzheimer’s research. Senator Klobuchar will commit to preventing, treating and facilitating a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, with the goal of putting us on a path toward developing a cure and treatment by 2025. To support researchers, she will make sure that funding is reliable and consistent. Since African Americans and the Latino community will represent nearly 40 percent of the 8.4 million American families affected by Alzheimer’s disease by 2030, Senator Klobuchar will increase federal research into disparities in the incidents and outcomes of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Improve mental health care for seniors. Senator Klobuchar is committed to making mental health a priority, including for our seniors. As part of her recently released mental health plan, she will expand access to mental health treatment for seniors and expand depression treatment and suicide prevention efforts that focus on seniors.

Implement and extend Kevin and Avonte’s law and expand dementia training. Senator Klobuchar introduced bipartisan legislation signed into law last year that helps families locate missing people with forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, or developmental disabilities, such as autism. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make sure the program is fully implemented and she will also establish federal partnerships with state and local governments to provide dementia training for public sector workers who interact with seniors.

Ensure a Secure Retirement

Protect Social Security and make sure it is fair. Social Security has served as a stable and secure retirement guarantee for generations of Americans. Senator Klobuchar believes that this program must remain solvent for generations to come and she will fight against risky schemes to privatize it. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to lift the Social Security payroll cap. Currently the payroll tax only applies to wages up to $133,000. Senator Klobuchar supports subjecting income above $250,000 to the payroll tax and extending the solvency of Social Security.  And Senator Klobuchar will make sure people are treated fairly by the current Social Security system. As President, she will work to strengthen and improve Social Security benefits for widows and people who took significant time out of the paid workforce to care for their children, aging parents, or sick family members.

Expand retirement savings. Senator Klobuchar believes all Americans deserve a secure retirement. As she has previously announced, Senator Klobuchar will work to create innovative, portable personal savings accounts called Up Accounts that can be used for retirement and emergencies by establishing a minimum employer contribution to a savings plan. [ This proposal is modeled after the Saving for the Future Act, which was introduced by Senators Coons and Klobuchar.] Under her plan, employers will set aside at least 50 cents per hour worked, helping a worker build more than $600,000 in wealth over the course of a career. And Senator Klobuchar will work to reduce disparities when it comes to retirement savings. According to a recent study, the median wealth for white families was more than $134,000, but for African American families it was just $11,000.

Defend pensions. Senator Klobuchar has been a leader in the Senate when it comes to keeping our pension promises. As President, she will support legislation to ensure retirees can keep the pensions they have earned and, in her first 100 days, she will recommend that Treasury heighten the scrutiny of any applications to reduce retiree benefits under the Kline-Miller Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014.

Improve Health Care for Seniors and Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Unleash the power of 43 million seniors in Medicare Part D to negotiate better drug prices. Seniors should have access to their medicines at the lowest possible prices. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to allow the government to directly negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare Part D, building on legislation she has led in the Senate.

Take immediate and aggressive action to lower prescription drug prices, including allowing personal importation from countries like Canada and crack down on “Pay-for-Delay” agreements. Senator Klobuchar has been a leading advocate for reducing the price of prescription drugs for seniors, including by helping close the Medicare Part D donut hole and introducing legislation to increase competition and require Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. As President, during her first 100 days she will allow for the personal importation of prescription drugs from safe countries like Canada and crack down on “Pay-for-Delay” agreements that increase the cost of prescription drugs.

Strengthen Medicare and provide incentives for getting the best quality health care at the best price. Senator Klobuchar opposes cuts and risky schemes to privatize Medicare and will take action to strengthen Medicare and find solutions so it remains solvent. She will improve Medicare for current beneficiaries by reforming payment policies through measures like site neutral payments and providing incentives for getting the best quality health care at the best price, including bundled payments and telehealth.

Expand coverage for dental, vision and hearing under Medicare. Dental, vision, and hearing care should be covered as part of Medicare. Senator Klobuchar will support new Medicare coverage for these services that makes them affordable for all seniors.

Expand telehealth and rural health services and maintain rural hospitals. In the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has championed policies that ensure seniors who want to stay in their homes and communities can do so. As President, she will promote remote monitoring technology and telehealth services in Medicare and other programs that improve the quality of life and expand access to quality home care and emergency hospital services in rural areas. As President, she would work to create a new Rural Emergency Hospital classification under Medicare to help rural hospitals stay open and provide expanded support to our critical access hospitals.

Invest in Long-Term Care

Create a refundable tax credit to offset long-term care costs. Senator Klobuchar will work with Congress to establish a new refundable tax credit to help offset the costs of long-term care. The credit will be available for qualifying long-term care costs including both nursing facility care and home- and community-based services, and additional expenses like assistive technologies, respite care, and necessary home modifications. The credit will be targeted towards those who are most in need of support. Senator Klobuchar will also stand up to efforts to cap Medicaid spending, which would put services like mental health care, transportation costs, and long-term care at risk for millions of Americans.

Reduce the costs of long-term care insurance and increase access. Senator Klobuchar believes seniors and their adult children must have the resources they need to prepare for long-term care, including education about the types of services available. To reduce the costs of long-term care, Senator Klobuchar will propose a new targeted tax credit equal to 20 percent of the premium costs of qualified long-term care insurance. Senator Klobuchar will also establish incentives and make it easier for employers to offer their employees long-term care insurance on an opt-out basis. In addition, she will explore updating federal policies to combine long-term care policies with life insurance.

Provide financial relief to caregivers and ensure paid family leave for all Americans, including those who care for elderly or disabled relatives. Senator Klobuchar is proposing a tax credit of up to $6,000 a year to provide financial relief to those caring for an aging relative or a relative with a disability to help offset expenses, including the cost of medical care, counseling and training, lodging away from home, adult day care, assistive technologies, and necessary home modifications. As President, Senator Klobuchar will also support legislation to provide paid family leave to all Americans so no one has to sacrifice a paycheck to care for someone they love, including an elderly parent.

Support a world class long-term care workforce, increase long-term care options, and tackle disparities in long-term care. Senator Klobuchar believes we must invest in and address shortages in our long-term care workforce. She is committed to increasing wages, improving job conditions and promoting other recruitment and retention policies, especially in rural communities facing workforce challenges. She will also support training for long-term care workers and new loan forgiveness programs for in-demand occupations that includes our long-term care workers. In addition, she will expand long-term care facilities and beds as well as home care and telehealth services. Research also suggests that there are significant racial and ethnic disparities in the quality of long-term care as well as disparities in coverage for long-term care. Senator Klobuchar is committed to tackling disparities in care through expanding access to long-term care with a focus on reducing inequities as well as addressing the costs of long-term care services for people in the greatest need of assistance.

Reduce Costs and Prevent Fraud

Fight senior fraud and elder abuse. As a prosecutor, Senator Klobuchar created a senior protection unit at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. And she has always believed that we need strong safeguards to prevent and address fraud, abuse and exploitation of our seniors, and has led and passed multiple bills in the Senate that would strengthen these safeguards. Within her first 100 days as President, she will establish a new senior fraud prevention office to educate consumers, expedite the handling of complaints, and coordinate prevention efforts across the federal government. Senator Klobuchar will stregthen enforcement of age discrimination laws, and she will also take action to tackle elder abuse, strengthen oversight and accountability for court-appointed guardians, support training for employees at long-term care facilities, and increase tracking of incidents and investigations to help prevent and better respond to elder abuse.

Improve access to affordable housing, transit, and nutrition for seniors and expand workforce opportunities. In the first 100 days of her Administration, Senator Klobuchar will reverse the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to federal housing subsidies that could triple rent for some households and would be particularly harmful for seniors. In addition, she will update regulations for reverse mortgages to make sure seniors have access to safe products that make it easier to stay in their homes, as well as expand support for affordable senior housing. Senator Klobuchar is also committed to expanding transportation programs and services for older adults, particularly in rural and underserved populations. She also supports expanding resources for Meals on Wheels, helping the food bank system serve seniors in need, and launching a national effort to increase enrollment among seniors in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Senator Klobuchar will also work to expand workforce and training opportunities for older Americans who are looking to remain in and return to the workforce.

Help seniors afford their energy costs: Senator Klobuchar strongly opposes efforts by the Trump Administration to eliminate funding for programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps seniors afford heating and cooling. As President, Senator Klobuchar’s budget will preserve and expand resources for LIHEAP and the Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps households in need reduce energy spending, and she will support new efforts to help seniors with their energy costs.

To pay for these policies, Senator Klobuchar will close the trust fund loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying taxes on inherited wealth.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: The Biden Plan for Older Americans

Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning to be the 2020 Democratic nominee for president, released his plan for seniors to have secure retirement © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. This is from the Biden 2020 campaign:

THE BIDEN PLAN FOR OLDER AMERICANS

The moral obligation of our time is rebuilding the middle class. The middle class isn’t a number, it’s a value set. And, a key component of that value set is having a steady, secure income as you age so your kids won’t have to take care of you in retirement. This means not only protecting and strengthening Social Security, but also helping more middle-class families grow their savings. 

A dignified retirement also means having access to affordable health care and support. Too many Americans – and too many older Americans – cannot afford their prescriptions or their long-term care. Their families are faced with saving for their own retirement or taking care of their aging parents. It’s not right. 
 
Working- and middle-class Americans built this country. And, they deserve to retire with dignity – able to pay for their prescriptions and with access to quality, affordable long-term care. 

I. STAND UP TO THE ABUSE OF POWER BY PRESCRIPTION DRUG CORPORATIONS

Too many Americans cannot afford their prescription drugs, and prescription drug corporations are profiteering off of the pocketbooks of sick individuals. The Biden Plan will put a stop to runaway drug prices and the profiteering of the drug industry by:

  • Repealing the outrageous exception allowing drug corporations to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices. Because Medicare covers so many Americans, it has significant leverage to negotiate lower prices for its beneficiaries. And it does so for hospitals and other providers participating in the program but not drug manufacturers. Drug manufacturers not facing any competition, therefore, can charge whatever price they choose to set. There’s no justification for this except the power of prescription drug lobbying. The Biden Plan will repeal the existing law explicitly barring Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug corporations.
  • Limiting launch prices for drugs that face no competition and are being abusively priced by manufacturers. Through his work on the Cancer Moonshot, Biden understands that the future of pharmacological interventions is not traditional chemical drugs, but specialized biotech drugs that will have little to no competition to keep prices in check. Without competition, we need a new approach for keeping the prices of these drugs down. For these cases where new specialty drugs without competition are being launched, under the Biden Plan the Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish an independent review board to assess their value. The board will recommend a reasonable price, based on the average price in other countries (a process called external reference pricing) or, if the drug is entering the U.S. market first, based on an evaluation by the independent board members. This reasonable price will be the rate Medicare and the public option will pay. In addition, the Biden Plan will allow private plans participating in the individual marketplace to access a similar rate.
  • Limiting price increases for all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs to inflation. As a condition of participation in the Medicare program and public option, all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs will be prohibited from increasing their prices more than the general inflation rate. The Biden plan will also impose a tax penalty on drug manufacturers that increase the costs of their brand, biotech or abusively priced generic over the general inflation rate.
  • Allowing consumers to buy prescription drugs from other countries. To create more competition for U.S. drug corporations, the Biden Plan will allow consumers to import prescription drugs from other countries, as long as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has certified that those drugs are safe.
  • Terminating pharmaceutical corporations’ tax break for advertisement spending.Drug corporations spent an estimated $6 billion in 2016 alone on prescription drug advertisements to increase their sales, a more than four-fold increase from just $1.3 billion in 1997. The American Medical Association has even expressed “concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices.” Currently, drug corporations may count spending on these ads as a deduction to reduce the amount of taxes they owe. But taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these ads. As president, Biden will end this tax deduction for all prescription drug ads, as proposed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
  • Improving the supply of quality generics. Generics help reduce health care spending, but brand drug corporations have succeeded in preserving a number of strategies to help them delay the entrance of a generic into the market even after the patent has expired. The Biden Plan supports numerous proposals to accelerate the development of safe generics, such as Senator Patrick Leahy’s proposal to make sure generic manufacturers have access to a sample.

II. PROTECT AND STRENGTHEN MEDICARE AS WE KNOW IT AND ENSURE QUALITY, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL OLDER AMERICANS 

On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, with Vice President Biden standing by his side, and made history. It was a victory 100 years in the making. It was the conclusion of a tough fight that required taking on Republicans, special interests, and the status quo to do what’s right. But the Obama-Biden Administration got it done.
 
Today, the Affordable Care Act is still a big deal – especially for older Americans. Because of Obamacare, over 100 million people no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums just because they have a pre-existing condition – whether cancer or diabetes or heart disease or a mental health challenge. Insurance companies can no longer set annual or lifetime limits on coverage. The law limited the extent to which insurance companies may charge you higher premiums just because of your age. And, the Affordable Care Act strengthened Medicare by extending the life of the Medicare Trust Fund; giving Medicare beneficiaries access to free recommended preventive services, such as an annual wellness visit; and closing the prescription drug coverage gap, often referred to as the “donut hole.”
 
But, every day over the past nine years, the Affordable Care Act has been under relentless attack.

Immediately after its passage, Congressional Republicans began trying again and again to repeal it. Following the lead of President Trump, Republicans in Congress have only doubled down on this approach since January 2017. And, since repeal through Congress has not been working, President Trump has been unilaterally doing everything he can to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Now, the Trump Administration is trying to get the entire law – including protections for people with pre-existing conditions – struck down in court.
 
As president, Biden will protect the Affordable Care Act from these continued attacks. He opposes every effort to get rid of this historic law – including efforts by Republicans, and efforts by Democrats. Instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of private insurance, he has a plan to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choicereducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate. You can read Biden’s full health care plan [here]. In addition, to improve older Americans’ access to affordable, quality health care, Biden will:

  • Protect Medicare as we know it. Today, Medicare provides health insurance coverage to over 60 million older Americans and people with disabilities.  As president, Biden will continue to defend our nation’s commitment to older Americans and people with disabilities through Medicare, and he will keep Medicare as a separate and distinct program, and ensure there is no disruption to the current Medicare system.
  • Protect Medicaid and ensure its beneficiaries can access home and community-based long-term care when they want it. Medicaid pays for more long-term care than any other insurer in the country. In fact, roughly 6 in 10 individuals residing in nursing homes are enrolled in Medicaid, including many older Americans. Yet, the Trump Administration is reportedly considering a plan to cut Medicaid funding by turning it into a block grant. And Republican leadership in states like Iowa, where Medicaid has been privatized with devastating results for some of its most vulnerable residents, are not fulfilling their obligations under the program. The Biden Plan will protect Medicaid funding and make sure the program gives those on Medicaid who need long-term care the flexibility to choose home- and community-based care. In addition, the Biden Administration won’t let states skirt their duties under Medicaid and will take enforcement action against any state that allows profiteering to get in the way of Medicaid beneficiaries’ health.
  • Provide tax relief to help solve the long-term care challenge. The Biden Plan will also help Americans pay for long-term care by providing relief for Americans needing long-term care by creating a $5,000 tax credit for informal caregivers, modeled off of legislation supported by AARP. These informal caregivers – whether family members or other loved ones – have for too long been doing tireless work without any financial support. In addition, Biden will increase the generosity of tax benefitsfor older Americans who choose to buy long-term care insurance and pay for it using their savings for retirement.
  • Care for our caregivers. The physical, emotional, and financial challenges of caring for a loved one is enormous. As president, Biden will work to enact at the federal level the AARP-endorsed Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which has already been passed in 39 states. This legislation will help our caregivers by ensuring hospitals equip them with instructions and information when their loved ones are discharged. Biden also supports additional proposals to support caregivers, such as funding to give them access to respite care.

III. PRESERVE AND STRENGTHEN SOCIAL SECURITY

Social Security is the bedrock of American retirement. Roughly 90% of retirement-age Americans receive Social Security benefits, and one-in-four rely on Social Security for all, or almost all, of their income. The program has not only ensured that middle-class workers can enjoy the sound and secure retirement they worked so hard for, it also lifted over 17 million older Americans out of poverty in 2017 alone.
 
The Biden Plan will protect Social Security for the millions of Americans who depend on the program. With Social Security’s Trust Fund already in deficit and expected to be exhausted in 2035, we urgently need action to make the program solvent and prevent cuts to American retirees.
 
But the Biden Plan doesn’t stop there. As president, Joe Biden will strengthen benefits for the most vulnerable older Americans – including widows and widowers, lifelong workers with low monthly benefits, and old-age beneficiaries who may have exhausted their other savings. Specifically, the Biden Plan will:

  • Put Social Security on a path to long-run solvency. The impending exhaustion of the Social Security Trust fund imperils American retirement as we know it. Waiting to act only jeopardizes the program further, and will make an eventual solution that much more difficult. The Biden Plan will put the program on a path to long-term solvency by asking Americans with especially high wages to pay the same taxes on those earnings that middle-class families pay.
  • Preserve the nature of Social Security. Social Security is one of our nation’s great public policy successes, in large part due to the fact that participation in the program is shared across almost all workers. Efforts to privatize the program – such as an approach suggested under the Bush Administration – will undermine the program’s solvency, while putting at risk individuals’ income in retirement. Similarly, proposals to make the program “means-tested” – so that only low-income retirees workers receive benefits – jeopardizes the program’s universal nature and key role as the bedrock of American retirement. Ultimately, the success of Social Security is largely due to the fact that almost all Americans can rely on the program to make their retirement more secure.
  • Provide a higher benefit for the oldest Americans. At advanced ages, Americans become more vulnerable to exhausting their savings, sometimes falling into poverty and living a life of hardship. The Biden Plan will provide the oldest beneficiaries – those who have been receiving retirement benefits for at least 20 years – with a higher monthly check to help protect retirees from the pain of dwindling retirement savings.
  • Implement a true minimum benefit for lifelong workers. No one who has worked for decades and paid into Social Security should have to spend their retirement in poverty. The Biden Plan will revolutionize the Social Security’s minimum benefit, which has deteriorated over time to the point of being entirely ineffective. Under the Biden Plan, workers who spent 30 years working will get a benefit of at least 125% of the poverty level.
  • Protect widows and widowers from steep cuts in benefits. For many couples, the death of a spouse means that Social Security benefits will be cut in half – putting pressure on the surviving spouse who still needs to make the mortgage payment and handle other bills. The Biden Plan will allow surviving spouse to keep a higher share of the benefits. This will make an appreciable difference in the finances of older Americans, especially women (who live longer on average than men), raising the monthly payment by about 20% for affected beneficiaries.
  • Eliminate penalties for teachers and other public-sector workers. Current rules penalize teachers and other public sector workers who either switch jobs or who have earned retirement benefits from various sources. The Biden Plan would eliminate these penalties by ensuring that teachers not eligible for Social Security will begin receiving benefits sooner – rather than the current ten-year period for many teachers. The Biden Plan will also get rid of the benefit cuts for workers and surviving beneficiaries who happen to be covered by both Social Security and another pension. These workers deserve the benefits they earned.

IV. EQUALIZE SAVING INCENTIVES FOR MIDDLE-CLASS WORKERS

In the modern retirement landscape, a sound retirement begins with years of diligent saving. While other aspects of the Biden Plan will help raise wages for workers and reduce costs for spending like child care and health insurance, the Biden Plan will also ensure that middle-class families get a leg up as they grow their nest egg.
 
Under current law, the tax code affords workers over $200 billion each year for various retirement benefits – including saving in 401(k)-type plans or IRAs. While these benefits help workers reach their retirement goals, many are poorly designed to help low- and middle-income savers – about two-thirds of the benefit goes to the wealthiest 20% of families. The Biden Plan will make these savings more equal so that middle class families can enter retirement with enough savings to support a healthy and secure retirement. President Biden will do so by:

  • Equalizing the tax benefits of defined contribution plans. The current tax benefits for retirement savings are based on the concept of deferral, whereby savers get to exclude their retirement contributions from tax, see their savings grow tax free, and then pay taxes when they withdraw money from their account. This system provides upper-income families with a much stronger tax break for saving and a limited benefit for middle-class and other workers with lower earnings. The Biden Plan will equalize benefits across the income scale, so that low- and middle-income workers will also get a tax break when they put money away for retirement. 
  • Removing penalties for caregivers who want to save for retirement. Under current law, people who work as caregivers without receiving wages are ineligible to get tax breaks for retirement saving. The Biden Plan will allow caregivers to make “catch-up” contributions to retirement accounts, even if they’re not earning income in the formal labor market, as has been proposed in bipartisan legislation by Representatives Jackie Walorski and Harley Rouda.
  • Giving small businesses a tax break for starting a retirement plan and giving workers the chance to save at work. As proposed by the Obama-Biden Administration, the Biden Plan will call for widespread adoption of workplace savings plans and offer tax credits to small businesses to offset much of the costs. Under Biden’s plan, almost all workers without a pension or 401(k)-type plan will have access to an “automatic 401(k),” which provides the opportunity to easily save for retirement at work – putting millions of middle-class families in the path to a secure retirement.

V. PROVIDE HELP FOR OLDER WORKERS WHO WANT TO KEEP WORKING

With longer lifespans and the changing nature of work, many Americans are choosing to stay in the workforce longer. Despite their valuable contributions, these workers often face illegal discrimination or steep tax penalties when they try to continue to earn a living. Joe Biden believes that all workers deserve an opportunity to earn a living and will fight to change the laws to allow all people – regardless of their age – to get the pay they deserve. The Biden Plan will:

  • Protect older Americans against harmful age discrimination. As president, Biden will back bipartisan legislation protecting older workers from being discriminated against in the workforce. According to an AARP survey, this practice is widespread – with more than 60% of older workers reporting discrimination because of their age. The Biden Plan will put in place workplace safeguards making it easier for older workers to prove that they were treated unfairly at work.
  • Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to older workers. The EITC is one of the most effective strategies for helping low-wage workers achieve a living wage. Unfortunately, the EITC is not available to workers once they turn 65, putting them at a distinct disadvantage relative to their younger peers. As president, Joe Biden will allow low-wage older workers to claim the tax credit they deserve.

Mueller Hearings: House Intel Chair Adam Schiff Decries Trump Campaign Cooperation with Russian Interference In Elections-A Story of Disloyalty, Greed, Lies

House Intelligence Committee Chairman gavels in hearings with Special Counsel Robert Mueller to address the findings of the Mueller Report © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

House Intelligence committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), in his opening and closing statements for the historic hearings on July 24, 2019, set out the significance of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Election, and the ramifications of the government’s failure to prevent such interference in future elections.

“When asked, ‘If the Russians intervene again, will you take their help, Mr. President?” ‘Why not?’ was the essence of his answer. ‘Everyone does it.’

“No, Mr. President, they don’t. Not in the America envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not for those who believe in the idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day to preserve, the idea animating our great national experiment, so unique then, so precious still, that our government is chosen by our people, through our franchise, and not by some hostile foreign power.

“This is what is at stake, our next election, and the one after that for generations to come. Our democracy.”

Here is the text of his opening and closing statements: – – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Your report, for those who have taken the time to study it, is methodical and it is devastating, for it tells the story of a foreign adversary’s sweeping and systemic intervention in a close U.S. presidential election.

That should be enough to deserve the attention of every American, as you well point out. But your report tells another story as well. The story of the 2016 election is also a story about disloyalty to country, about greed, and about lies.

Your investigation determined that the Trump campaign, including Donald Trump himself, knew that a foreign power was intervening in our election and welcomed it, built Russian meddling into their strategy and used it.

Disloyalty to country. Those are strong words, but how else are we to describe a presidential campaign which did not inform the authorities of a foreign offer of dirt on their opponent, which did not publicly shun it or turn it away, but which instead invited it, encouraged it and made full use of it?

That disloyalty may not have been criminal. Constrained by uncooperative witnesses, the destruction of documents and the use of encrypted communications, your team was not able to establish each of the elements of the crime of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt, so not a provable crime in any event.

But I think maybe something worse: The crime is the violation of law written by Congress. But disloyalty to country violates the very oath of citizenship, our devotion to a core principle on which our nation was founded that we, the people and not some foreign power that wishes us ill, we decide who governs us.

This is also a story about money, and about greed and corruption. About the leadership of a campaign willing to compromise the nation’s interest not only to win, but to make money at the same time.

About a campaign chairman indebted to pro-Russian interests who tried to use his position to clear his debts and make millions. About a national security advisor using his position to make money from still other foreign interests.

And about a candidate trying to make more money than all of them put together through real estate project that to him was worth a fortune, hundreds of millions of dollars and the realization of a life-long ambition, a Trump Tower in the heart of Moscow. A candidate who, in fact, viewed his whole campaign as the greatest infomercial in history.

Donald Trump and his senior staff were not alone in their desire to use the election to make money. For Russia, too, there was a powerful financial motive. Putin wanted relief from U.S. economic sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and over human rights violations.

The secret Trump Tower meeting between the Russians and senior campaign officials was about sanctions. The secret conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador were about sanctions. Trump and his team wanted more money for themselves, and the Russians wanted more money for themselves and for their oligarchs.

But the story doesn’t end here either, for your report also tells a story about lies. Lots of lies. Lies about a gleaming tower in Moscow and lies about talks with the Kremlin. Lies about the firing of FBI Director James Comey and lies about efforts to fire you, Director Mueller, and lies to cover it up. Lies about secret negotiations with the Russians over sanctions and lies about WikiLeaks. Lies about polling data and lies about hush money payments. Lies about meetings in the Seychelles to set up secret back channels and lies about a secret meeting in New York Trump Tower. Lies to the FBI, lies to your staff, and lies to this committee. Lies to obstruct an investigation into the most serious attack on our democracy by a foreign power in our history.

That is where your report ends, Director Mueller, with a scheme to cover up, obstruct and deceive every bit as systematic and pervasive as the Russian disinformation campaign itself, but far more pernicious since this rot came from within.

Even now after 448 pages and two volumes, the deception continues. The president and his accolades say your report found no collusion, though your report explicitly declined to address that question, since collusion can involve both criminal and noncriminal conduct.

Your report laid out multiple offers of Russian help to the Trump campaign, the campaign’s acceptance of that help, and overt acts in furtherance of Russian help. To most Americans that is the very definition of collusion, whether it is a crime or not.

They say your report found no evidence of obstruction, though you outlined numerous actions by the president intended to obstruct the investigation.

They say the president has been fully exonerated, though you specifically declare you could not exonerate him.

In fact, they say your whole investigation was nothing more than a witch hunt, that the Russians didn’t interfere in our election, that it’s all a terrible hoax. The real crime, they say, is not that the Russians intervened to help Donald Trump, but that the FBI investigated it when they did.

But worst of all, worse than all the lies and the greed, is the disloyalty to country, for that, too, continues.

When asked, “If the Russians intervene again, will you take their help, Mr. President?” “Why not?” was the essence of his answer. “Everyone does it.”

No, Mr. President, they don’t. Not in the America envisioned by Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton. Not for those who believe in the idea that Lincoln labored until his dying day to preserve, the idea animating our great national experiment, so unique then, so precious still, that our government is chosen by our people, through our franchise, and not by some hostile foreign power.

This is what is at stake, our next election, and the one after that for generations to come. Our democracy.

This is why your work matters, Director Mueller. This is why our investigation matters, to bring these dangers to light.

Closing Statement:

Director Mueller, let me close by returning to where I began. Thank you for your service and thank you for leading this investigation. The facts you set out in your report and have elucidated here today tell a disturbing tale of a massive Russian intervention in our election, of a campaign so eager to win, so driven by greed, that it was willing to accept the help of a hostile foreign power, and a presidential election decided by a handful of votes in a few key states.

Your work tells of a campaign so determined to conceal their corrupt use of foreign help that they risked going to jail by lying to you, to the FBI and to Congress about it and, indeed, some have gone to jail over such lies. And your work speaks of a president who committed countless acts of obstruction of justice that in my opinion and that of many other prosecutors, had it been anyone else in the country, they would have been indicted.

Notwithstanding, the many things you have addressed today and in your report, there were some questions you could not answer given the constraints you’re operating under. You would not tell us whether you would have indicted the president but for the OLC only that you could not, and so the Justice Department will have to make that decision when the president leaves office, both as to the crime of obstruction of justice and as to the campaign finance fraud scheme that individual one directed and coordinated and for which Michael Cohen went to jail.

You would not tell us whether the president should be impeached, nor did we ask you since it is our responsibility to determine the proper remedy for the conduct outlined in your report. Whether we decide to impeach the president in the House or we do not, we must take any action necessary to protect the country while he is in office.

You would not tell us the results or whether other bodies looked into Russian compromise in the form of money laundering, so we must do so. You would not tell us whether the counterintelligence investigation revealed whether people still serving within the administration pose a risk of compromise and should never have been given a security clearance, so we must find out.

We did not bother to ask whether financial inducements from any gulf nations were influencing this U.S. policy, since it is outside the four corners of your report, and so we must find out.

One thing is clear from your report, your testimony from Director Wray’s statements yesterday, the Russians massively intervened in 2016, and they are prepared to do so again in voting that is set to begin a mere eight months from now.

The president seems to welcome the help again. And so, we must make all efforts to harden our election’s infrastructure to ensure there is a paper trail for all voting, to deter the Russians from meddling, to discover it when they do, to disrupt it, and to make them pay.

Protecting the sanctity of our elections begins, however, with the recognition that accepting foreign help is disloyal to our country, unethical, and wrong. We cannot control what the Russians do, not completely, but we can decide what we do and that the centuries old experiment we call American democracy is worth cherishing.

Bernie Sanders Defends Medicare-for-All, Attacks Insurance Companies, Big Pharma for Dysfunctional, High-Cost Healthcare

Bernie Sanders, seen at a Brooklyn rally, is defending his signature plan, Medicare-for-All, and blaming the greed of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries as the reason for dysfunctional, high cost health care system that causes 30,000 premature deaths a year and bankrupts 530,000 Americans a year. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, running to be the Democratic nominee for president, on July 17 delivered a major address on Medicare for All, coinciding with the 54th anniversary of Medicare being signed into law. In his remarks, Sanders outlined his plan to make health care a human right for all Americans. Here is highlighted transcript of remarks as they were prepared for delivery: – Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Thank you all very much for being here to discuss one of the major crises facing our country.  Let me also thank the dozens of organizations throughout America who support Medicare for All and the tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and other health professionals who support my legislation.  Let me thank the 14 Senate co-sponsors that we have on this legislation and the 118 Members of the House who support similar legislation.  And mostly, let me thank the American people who by the millions understand, as I do, that health care is a human right, not a privilege.

Together, we will end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all of its citizens.  

It is not acceptable to me, nor to the American people, that some 87 million people today are either uninsured or underinsured.

It is not acceptable to me that we end up spending almost twice as much as any other major country on health care, while our life expectancy continues to decline and our healthcare outcomes lag behind many other countries.

Frankly, I am sick and tired of talking to doctors who tell me about the patients who died because they were uninsured or underinsured, and walked into the doctor’s office when it was too late.  And we are talking about over 30,000 Americans who die every year because they are uninsured or under-insured.  What a tragedy. 

I am sick and tired of seeing working class families and small businesses pay far more for healthcare than they can afford, and 530,000 Americans declare bankruptcy each year because they cannot pay off the outrageous cost of a medical emergency or a hospital stay.  Families should not be driven into financial ruin because someone in the family became seriously ill.  How insane is that?

I am sick and tired of hearing from Americans who lost loved ones because they could not afford the unbelievably high cost of prescription drugs, or hearing from constituents who are forced to cut their pills in half due to the cost. 

In fact, later this month, I will be travelling from Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Ontario with a busload of Americans who have diabetes in order to purchase insulin in Canada at one-tenth of the price that they pay in America.

I am sick and tired of talking with people who are struggling with mental illness but cannot afford the mental health counseling they desperately need. 

I am tired of talking to people who have teeth that are rotting in their mouths, but cannot afford the high cost of dental care

Let me be very honest and tell you that, in my view, the current debate over Medicare for All really has nothing to do with healthcare.  It has everything to do with greed and the desire of the healthcare industry to maintain a system which fails the average American, but which makes the industry tens and tens of billions of dollars every year in profit. 

It is about whether we maintain a dysfunctional system which allows the big drug and health insurance companies to make over $100 billion in profits last year, while the top CEOs in that industry made $2.6 billion in total compensation – all the while 1 out of 5 Americans cannot afford the prescription drugs their doctors prescribe.

It’s about whether we maintain a system in which the CEO of the Aetna insurance company, Mr. Mark Bertolini, received a golden parachute worth nearly $500 million after his company merged with CVS Health, while elderly people lack the resources to purchase a hearing aid.

It’s about whether we maintain a system that allows the former CEO from Gilead (John Martin) to become a billionaire by charging $1,000 a pill for a hepatitis c drug called Sovaldi that costs a dollar to manufacture.

Let us make no mistake about it.  The struggle that we are now undertaking, to guarantee health care to all Americans as a right and to substantially lower the cost of prescription drugs, will be opposed by some of the most powerful forces in America – entities that have unlimited amounts of money.  We’re talking about the insurance companies, the drug companies, private hospitals, medical equipment suppliers, Wall Street and other powerful entities.  

Let me make a prediction. In order to defeat the Medicare for All movement, powerful special interests will be spending millions on 30 second television ads, full page magazine ads, and corporate-sponsored “studies” to frighten the American people about Medicare for All – which is exactly what happened before the passage of Medicare in the 1960s. They failed then and they’re going to fail now.

And let me give you an example of the kind of money and power we are talking about. 

Over the last 20 years, the insurance industry and pharmaceutical companies have spent more than $330 million in campaign contributions and over $4 billion in lobbying to get Congress to do its bidding. 

The pharmaceutical industry alone has hired some 1,200 lobbyists – including the former leadership of both political parties.

I find it quite interesting that Billy Tauzin, the Republican Congressman who wrote the bill to prevent Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices and then went on to become the President and CEO of Pharma, received over $11.6 million in compensation in 2010.

That’s how business is done in Washington.  Well, I have a different vision of what a rational healthcare system is all about.  Instead of massive profits for the drug companies, the insurance companies and Wall Street, we must provide a healthcare system that provides quality healthcare to all in a cost effective way.

And that is exactly what Medicare for All does.

Under this legislation, every family in America would receive comprehensive coverage, and middle-class families would save thousands of dollars a year by eliminating their private insurance costs as we move to a publicly funded program.

The transition to the Medicare for All program would take place over four years. In the first year, benefits to older people would be expanded to include dental care, vision coverage and hearing aids, and the eligibility age for Medicare would be lowered to 55. All children under the age of 18 would also be covered. In the second year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 45 and in the third year to 35. By the fourth year, every man, woman and child in the country would be covered by Medicare for All.

Medicare for All will reduce – let me repeat, reduce — overall health care spending while lowering the number of uninsured and underinsured people in this country to zero.   

We accomplish this because Medicare for All creates a system of health care insurance that isn’t designed to generate profits for insurance and drug companies — it will be a system focused on delivering actual health care. It will save lives, save money, and end the frustration of endless paperwork, denials, and desperate fights with an insurance company to cover medically-necessary medications and procedures.

Medicare for All will fully eliminate health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-payments. Make no mistake about it: These are nothing less than taxes on the middle class. 

And when we do that, the average middle class family will save an estimated $3,000 each and every year.

Further, unlike the current dysfunctional system, Medicare for All allows people the freedom to choose any doctor, clinic, and hospital without worrying about whether their provider is in-network or not.  People will be able to make the health care choices that are best for themselves and their families without some insurance bureaucrat telling them which providers they can see or not see. Medicare for All is at the end of the day empowering patients and health care providers. 

In addition, a Medicare for All system will allow us to address the serious problem of medically underserved areas. 

Just to demonstrate how absurd our health care system is, I was in Philadelphia two days ago rallying with the people of that city to try to stop the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital, an important, safety net hospital in that community.  Why do the owners want to close this hospital? Because they can make more money redeveloping that property into condominiums and hotels.

Let me address some of the half-truths, misinformation, and, in some cases, outright lies that people may be hearing about Medicare for All.  

Medicare for All critics tell us that Americans just love their private health insurance companies. We heard this most recently from UnitedHealth CEO David Wichmann, who by the way, made $83 million in 2017 and who said Medicare for All would “destabilize the nation’s health system.” 

But let’s remember: the current system is already disrupting and destabilizing millions of people’s lives. In the current system, 50 million Americans every year lose their existing health insurance when their employer changes insurer, when they change jobs, or when they cannot afford their current plan. For many of them, they will no longer be able to see the doctor they have relied on for years.  For others, important treatments for long-term conditions or disabilities will be changed or stopped altogether.  

Here is the simple truth. The American people do not like their private health insurance companies. In fact private health insurance companies are quite unpopular.  What the American people do like are their doctors, nurses and other health care providers. 

While our opponents claim that Medicare for All is too expensive, the reality is that it is much more cost effective than our current system.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that, if we do not change the system, this country will be spending $50 trillion over the next ten years –19.4 percent of our nation’s GDP.  This is unsustainable and will be incredibly harmful to the people of our country, to the business community, and to the entire economy.

And the reason why we spend so much is obvious.  It is not just the huge profits in the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical industry, but it is the incredible and wasteful bureaucratic maze developed by thousands of different healthcare plans.  Today, hospitals and doctors must deal with patients who have different deductibles, different co-payments, different networks of coverage, and different coverage for pharmaceuticals, or no insurance at all.  All of this is not only driving doctors and nurses and hospital administrators to distraction, but it is wasting up to $500 billion a year on unnecessary administrative costs.

Unlike our current system, there is broad consensus – from conservative to progressive economists – that Medicare for All would result in substantial savings to the American people.  Two of the most recent studies on this issue have estimated that Medicare for All would save the American people between $2 trillion and $5 trillion over a 10-year period.

Let us be clear, the fight against Medicare for All today is not a new development.  Powerful special interests have always opposed healthcare programs that work for the people and not for corporate interests.

Let us not forget that when President Harry Truman first proposed a program guaranteeing health care to seniors that idea was billed as radical, “un-American,” and an attack on basic freedom. And because of that assault, the idea stalled in Congress for years — until voters made their voices heard.

In 1960, America elected John F. Kennedy after he campaigned in support of Truman’s idea. That election prompted serious work on universal health care bill, and Kennedy at the time noted that “what we are now talking about doing, most of the countries of Europe did years ago.”

Finally, following the 1964 Democratic election landslide, the new Congress was able to pass what is now known as Medicare despite intense opposition from the health insurance industry and the pharmaceutical companies.

More than a half-century after that achievement, the time is now to go forward.  The time is now to expand Medicare to every man, woman and child in this country. 

Let us be very clear.  When it comes to health care, the insurance and drug industries have been able to control the political process.  

If we are going to break the stranglehold of corporate interests over the health care needs of the American people, we have got to confront a Washington culture that is corrupt, that puts profits before people.

That is why I am calling on every Democratic candidate in this election to join me in rejecting money from the insurance and drug industries. That means not accepting donations over $200 from health insurance or pharmaceutical company PACs, lobbyists or executives. Candidates who are not willing to take that pledge should explain to the American people why those corporate interests believe their campaigns are a good investment.

Of course, President Trump should do the same but I am not going to even waste my breath suggesting that he will.  His efforts to throw 32 million people off their health insurance to have it replaced with junk insurance shows exactly what side he is on.

Finally, let me say, eliminating health insurance and drug company money from the Democratic primary won’t solve all the problems, but it is an important step forward. Now is the time to tell the health care industry that your profits are not more important than the lives of the American people.

See also: Biden Plan for Universal Healthcare: Protect, Build on Obamacare