Tag Archives: Democrats 2020

Warren Releases Plan to Fix Bankruptcy, Repeal Harmful Provisions of 2005 Bill She Fought Against

Just before taking the stage at Kings Theater in Brooklyn, NY, in her campaign for president, Senator Elizabeth Warren detailed how her administration will fix the bankruptcy system to protect working families and give people a second chance © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Just before taking the stage at Kings Theater in Brooklyn, NY, with Julian Castro, in her campaign for president, Senator Elizabeth Warren detailed how her administration will fix the bankruptcy system to protect working families and give people a second chance. It is part of her plan to restructure the systemic impediments to financial and economic opportunity for ordinary Americans. The plan to reform bankruptcy laws is a particular jab at Vice President Joe Biden, who as Senator representing the State of Delaware, helped push the George W Bush re-write of the bankruptcy laws that shielded financial institutions but put consumers on the hook. This is from the Warren campaign:


As one of the nation’s leading experts on the financial pressures facing middle class families, Elizabeth conducted groundbreaking research on why families go broke. Elizabeth spent ten years battling the banking industry over the bad 2005 bankruptcy bill — which spent $100 million on lobbying efforts. The bill became law with  overwhelming support from Republicans and support from some Democrats in Congress.

The credit card companies raked in giant profits after the bill passed — and families in need paid the price. After the bill passed, bankruptcy filings went down permanently by 50%, and the number of insolvent people went up permanently by 25%. By making it harder for people to discharge their debts and keep current on their house payments, the 2005 bill made the 2008 financial crisis significantly worse: experts found that the bill “caused about 800,000 additional mortgage defaults and 250,000 additional foreclosures.” And despite the claims from the industry and their allies in Congress that the 2005 bill would reduce credit card costs across the board for consumers, the cost of credit card debt went up too.  

Elizabeth has a plan to repeal the harmful provisions in the 2005 bankruptcy bill and overhaul consumer bankruptcy rules to level the playing field for consumers.
 
Elizabeth’s plan will:

Make it easier for people being crushed by debt to obtain relief through bankruptcy.

Expand people’s rights to take care of themselves and their children while they are in the bankruptcy process.

End the absurd rules that make it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy.

Let more people protect their homes and cars in bankruptcy so they can start from a firm foundation when they start to pick up the pieces and rebuild their financial lives.

Help address shameful racial and gender disparities that plague our bankruptcy system.

Close loopholes that allow the wealthy and corporate creditors to abuse the bankruptcy system at the expense of everyone else.

Read more here and below:

I spent most of my career studying one simple question: why do American families go broke?

When I started my career as a young law professor, I thought — like a lot of people at the time — that most families went broke because they were irresponsible or wasteful. They lived beyond their means. And when their irresponsibility finally caught up with them, they took advantage of our bankruptcy system to get out from under their debts.But when I started to teach bankruptcy, I found that no one — not even the supposed “experts” — had actually dug into the data to figure out what drove families into bankruptcy.

So I found two incredible partners and set out to gather the data about why families go broke. That was back when you had to collect information by hand, and courts charged a lot to make copies for you. To save money, I flew around to courthouses all over the country with my own photocopier — nicknamed R2D2 — strapped into the airplane seat next to me, copying thousands of bankruptcy filings to begin understanding why American families turned to bankruptcy.

I’ll never forget sitting in a wood-paneled courtroom in San Antonio on one of my first trips, watching the families filing for bankruptcy move in and out of the courtroom to appear in front of the judge. They looked just like the family I grew up in — hanging on to the ragged edge of the middle class. Now they were standing in front of a judge, ready to give up nearly everything they owned just to get some relief from the bill collectors.Our research ended up showing that most of these families weren’t reckless or irresponsible — they were just getting squeezed by an economy that forced them to take on more debt and more risk to cling to their place in America’s middle class.

And that meant one bad break could send them tumbling over the edge. The data showed that nearly 90% of these families were declaring bankruptcy for one of three reasons: a job loss, a medical problem, or a family breakup.

In the early 1990s, Congress launched a blue-ribbon commission to review the bankruptcy laws and suggest improvements. I was asked to help. Initially, I said no. Then I thought about the stories I had come across in our research. I thought about the family that finally got a shot at their lifelong dream to launch a new restaurant — and it went belly-up. The young and very tired woman who described how she finally managed to leave her abusive ex-husband, but now was alone with her small children and a pile of bills. The elderly couple who had cashed out everything they owned and then went into debt to bail out their son who was fighting addiction and put him through rehab again and again. And then I called back and said yes.

That’s what started my ten-year fight against the banking industry’s effort to change our bankruptcy laws to squeeze everything they could out of working families. Just as the commission’s report was due, the banking industry wrote its own version of a bankruptcy bill and got its allies in Congress to introduce it. In the industry’s version of the world, Congress could support either “honest people who pay their bills” or “people who skip out on their debts.” There wasn’t any room to talk about rising health care costs or lost jobs that pushed working families to the brink. I knew that those hundreds of changes in the industry-backed bill would make it harder for struggling families to get relief.

And I knew I needed help. I was lucky to pick up some terrific allies in the Senate. Senator Ted Kennedy, who led the fight for years. Senators Paul Wellstone, Russ Feingold, and Dick Durbin all enthusiastically jumped in. For the next three years, we fought off the industry as best we could. Ultimately, however, the Senate and House passed the industry-backed bill by wide margins. But President Clinton, in the last days of his presidency, upended the industry plan and vetoed its bill.

The financial industry lost that round — but it didn’t quit. Eventually, it rallied its allies in Congress again and managed to push through another version of its bill in 2005 with overwhelming Republican support and some Democratic support.

The banking industry spent more than $100 million to turn that bill into a law because they knew it would be worth much more than that to their bottom lines. And they were right — by squeezing families harder, they managed to rake in giant profits.

But it was terrible for families in need. After the bill passed, bankruptcy filings went down permanently by 50%, and the number of insolvent people went up permanently by 25%. By making it harder for people to discharge their debts and keep current on their house payments, the 2005 bill made the 2008 financial crisis significantly worse: experts found that the bill “caused about 800,000 additional mortgage defaults and 250,000 additional foreclosures.” And despite the claims from the industry and their allies in Congress that the 2005 bill would reduce credit card costs across the board for consumers, the cost of credit card debt went up too.

I lost that fight in 2005, and working families paid the price. But I didn’t stop fighting to hold the financial industry accountable and to help American families. I started laying the groundwork for new protections for credit card users and in 2007 proposed the idea of a new federal agency to protect American families from tricks in mortgages, student loans, and other financial products. The rules helping credit card users ended up in the Credit CARD Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2009. And in 2010, President Obama signed that new consumer agency — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — into law too. That agency has now returned $12 billion to people who were cheated by big banks and other financial firms.

But there are still serious problems with our bankruptcy laws today, thanks in large part to that bad 2005 bill. That’s why I’m announcing my plan to repeal the harmful provisions in the 2005 bankruptcy bill and overhaul consumer bankruptcy rules in this country to give Americans a better chance of getting back on their feet. 

Making it Easier to Obtain Relief Through Bankruptcy

Thanks in part to the 2005 bankruptcy bill, our current system makes it far too hard for people in need to start the bankruptcy process so they can get back on their feet. My plan streamlines the process, reduces costs, and gives people more flexibility in bankruptcy to find solutions that match their financial problems.

Streamlining the bankruptcy filing process. Currently, there are two main types of bankruptcy proceedings for individuals — the traditional Chapter 7 proceeding and the longer and less generous Chapter 13 proceeding. In Chapter 7, bankruptcy filers pay off their debts by surrendering all of their property other than that protected by “exemption” laws, but keep their future income. In Chapter 13, filers keep their property, but undertake a multi-year repayment plan. 

The core of the 2005 bankruptcy bill was an onerous and complicated means test that forces many people with income above their state’s median income to file for Chapter 13 and make payments from their wages for an extended period. That is a big additional burden. In Chapter 13, debtors remain in bankruptcy longer and must pay more to creditors. Many are unable to complete their repayment plans and do not obtain a discharge of their unpaid debts at all. 

My plan does away with means testing and the two chapters for consumer debtors. Instead, it offers a single system available to all consumers. Here’s how it would work.

When people file for bankruptcy, they would disclose all of their debts, assets, and income, just as they do now. And just as under the current system, creditors must stop all collection actions against the debtor outside of bankruptcy court.

Filers would then choose from a menu of options for addressing their debts. The menu of options available would include a Chapter 7-type option of surrendering all non-exempt property in exchange for having their unpaid debts “discharged,” as well as options that allow people to deal with specific financial problems without involving all of their obligations. For example, someone might use bankruptcy to cure a home mortgage delinquency while continuing to pay other debts outside of bankruptcy. Or if someone has long-term debt she needs to restructure, non-exempt property such as a car that she needs to get to work, a family home she wants to protect, or if the debtor simply wants to try to pay her creditors, the debtor can also choose to file a payment plan and request that the court limit the stay of collection actions to the extent necessary to execute that plan. 

As with the current system, certain types of debts would be non-dischargeable. Additionally, creditors could seek to dismiss a case or object to an individual’s discharge on grounds of abuse, and they would have an easier time proving abuse for higher-income debtors. These provisions would protect against misuse of the bankruptcy system. 

My plan would make the bankruptcy system simple, cheap, fast, and flexible. It would eliminate the burdensome paperwork that drives up costs for filers and deters them from seeking bankruptcy protection in the first place. The 2005 bill imposed the same onerous paperwork requirements on a middle-class American filing bankruptcy that it did on a wealthy real-estate developer. Both must file the same documentation — including months of pay stubs and old tax returns — much of which is useless to creditors looking to get debts repaid.

These requirements are costly and ineffective. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office estimates that these requirements increased what a Chapter 7 filer had to pay for a lawyer by over 50%. My plan scraps this unnecessary paperwork and simply requires that bankruptcy filers disclose their assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. If necessary, the court can always direct people to provide more information.

Further, my plan reverses the provisions in the 2005 bill that required people to seek pre-filing credit counseling. This is a costly and time-consuming requirement, with little, if any, evidence that it’s effective.

Congress also added to the cost of bankruptcy relief in the 2005 bill by putting onerous requirements on consumer bankruptcy attorneys. Congress required attorneys to certify the accuracy of debtor’s financial disclosures, to certify the debtor’s ability to make certain payments, to advertise their services in certain ways, and to provide certain financial advice to clients. These rules, opposed by the American Bar Association, increase costs to lawyers that get passed on to consumers, while failing to adequately protect consumers against unscrupulous lawyers. My plan gets rid of these requirements and authorizes local bankruptcy courts to develop disciplinary panels to strengthen enforcement of the existing rules that discipline ineffective or dishonest lawyers.

Reducing the costs of filing for bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy case today costs the person filing for bankruptcy $1,200 in attorneys’ fees on average. Academic studies document how families and individuals, ironically, have to save up for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy filings spike every spring as tax refunds go to pay a bankruptcy lawyer, and on days when people often receive paychecks.

Worse, many bankruptcy filers are shuffled into a more onerous Chapter 13 bankruptcy because it is the only way they can afford to pay their bankruptcy lawyer. These people often do not need the more complicated and more expensive Chapter 13 procedure, which at $3,200 on average costs more than twice a Chapter 7 filing. Chapter 7, however, requires the filer to have the cash to pay the lawyer up front, and most people filing bankruptcy are by definition short on cash, while Chapter 13 allows the person filing to pay the lawyer over time. Forcing people into Chapter 13 because they cannot afford to pay their lawyer up front is a ridiculous way to run a consumer debt relief system.

My plan makes it easier for people to pay for the bankruptcy relief they need. It automatically waives filing fees for anyone below the federal poverty level and slowly phases in the fees above that line. And it allows the bankruptcy filer to pay off reasonable lawyers’ fees at any time during or after the bankruptcy, not just up front.

These proposals will make it cheaper and quicker for people to obtain debt relief. And speed is important. Research has shown that the “sweatbox” period when consumers wrestle with the decision to file for bankruptcy is particularly damaging to families and their financial health. The 2005 law benefited credit card companies by extending the sweatbox period. Bankruptcy is not the right solution for every family facing financial difficulties, but for those who need bankruptcy relief, it should be available without unnecessary obstacles or costs. My plan will shrink the sweatbox and make sure that consumers who need bankruptcy are able to promptly obtain help.

Expanding People’s Rights to Take Care of Themselves and Their Families During the Bankruptcy Process

Bankruptcy law places certain spending limitations on people while they are in the bankruptcy process. My plan pares back some of the limitations that place a particular burden on people — particularly parents with children — and limit their ability to recover after the bankruptcy process.

For example, during the debate on the 2005 bankruptcy bill, Democrats proposed modifying the bill so that renters in bankruptcy could continue paying their rent if it allowed them to avoid eviction. While that change was voted down in Congress, my plan adopts it as a fair way to let people avoid the incredible disruption of an eviction during the bankruptcy process.

Similarly, my plan allows people in the bankruptcy process who select a repayment plan option to set aside more money to cover the basics for themselves and their children. In 2005, Congress rejected an amendment to the bankruptcy bill that would have allowed parents to spend a reasonable amount of money on toys and books and basic recreation activities for their kids during the bankruptcy process. That’s just wrong — and my plan will provide those protections.

In that same vote, Congress rejected a change that would have allowed union members to continue paying their union dues during the bankruptcy process — a critical protection so that people can maintain their employment and get back on their feet after the bankruptcy process is over. My plan adopts that protection too for those people who choose a repayment plan.  

Ending the Prohibition on Discharging Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy

We have a student loan debt crisis in America. And one reason is that our bankruptcy system makes it nearly impossible to get rid of that debt, even when you have nothing left.

Over the past forty years, Congress and the courts have made it progressively more difficult to gain relief from student loan debt in bankruptcy. Congress initially passed a law saying that publicly backed student loans could be discharged only with a showing of “undue hardship” by the borrower. The courts eventually interpreted that language to impose a very high standard for discharge — a standard that generally doesn’t apply to other forms of consumer debt. Then, as part of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, Congress explicitly protected private student loans with the same undue hardship standard.

These requirements have harmed borrowers. Today, 45 millions Americans are being crushed by $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, including more than a hundred billion dollars in private student loan debt. And the 2005 bill closed off almost any path to relief.  

As President, I’ll attack the student debt crisis head on. My student loan debt cancellation plan cancels up to $50,000 in debt for 95% of people who have it, relieving a massive burden on families and boosting our economy. But for people who may still have debt, my bankruptcy reform plan ends the absurd special treatment of student loans in bankruptcy and makes them dischargeable just like other consumer debts.

Letting People Protect Their Homes and Cars in Bankruptcy

My plan also makes it easier for people to protect their homes and cars in bankruptcy so they can start from a better foundation as they try to rebuild their financial lives.

The current system allows bankruptcy filers to protect a certain amount of home equity value (called a “homestead exemption”) in bankruptcy. But these values vary widely from state to state. Some states have limited exemptions that make it hard for anyone in those states to save their homes. Meanwhile, certain states exempt the full value of the filer’s home from bankruptcy, regardless of how much it’s worth. This is ripe for abuse, and disgraced corporate executives (such as Lehman Brothers’ Dick Fuld and WorldCom’s Scott Sullivan) and celebrities (such as O.J. Simpson and Fox News’ Roger Ailes) facing financial distress frequently move to these states as part of their asset-protection planning. And while Congress acted aggressively in the 2005 bill to clamp down on mythical “bankruptcy abuse” by working families, it did little to address this obvious opportunity for abuse by the rich and powerful.

My plan creates a uniform federal homestead exemption. The exemption would be set at half of the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s conforming loan limit for the bankruptcy filer’s county of residence. Because the conforming loan limit varies by county to reflect variations in housing markets, my plan would avoid a cap that is too generous for people in low-cost housing markets and too stingy for those in high-cost markets. Additionally, the use of the conforming loan limit as a benchmark would be more generous than the current federal $170,350 homestead exemption limit. For most communities, it would be $255,200 in 2020. Because home equity makes up a larger share of personal wealth for communities of color, a larger homestead exemption improves racial equity in the consumer credit system.

My plans also permits people to modify their mortgages in bankruptcy — something that is generally prohibited by law. The restriction on mortgage modifications in bankruptcy — even though other types of debts can be renegotiated in bankruptcy — can hurt both bankruptcy filers and mortgage lenders. Studies have found that the existing restriction on modifications has not led to a lasting reduction in mortgage rates. My plan ends this harmful limitation. 

My plan further encourages win-win mortgage modifications by creating a streamlined, standardized mortgage modification option in bankruptcy.

The 2008 financial crisis resulted in an unprecedented wave of mortgage foreclosures, with nearly 8 million foreclosures completed in the decade starting in 2007. While not all of these foreclosures could have been prevented, there were many foreclosures that made no sense. In these cases, the lender and borrower should have been able to agree to a win-win modification. Yet these common sense deals weren’t happening.

A key reason was that most mortgages were securitized. The servicers had little incentive to restructure loans because it was easier and cheaper (and sometimes actually profitable to the servicer) just to foreclose. These foreclosures, however, harmed both the borrowers and the lenders, as well as the owners of neighboring properties.

Bankruptcy does not currently provide a solution for this problem. My plan does. As part of the menu of options available to a bankruptcy filer, it offers a special streamlined pre-packaged mortgage bankruptcy procedure that will allow struggling homeowners to get a statutorily defined mortgage modification. Under this procedure, if a foreclosure has started, and the homeowner certifies that she has attempted to negotiate a modification in good faith, she could seek an automatic modification of the mortgage debt to the market value of the property, with interest rates reduced to achieve a sustainable debt-to-income ratio.

The homeowner benefits by receiving a sustainable mortgage. The lender benefits from a modification that produces significantly better recovery than foreclosure. The neighborhood also benefits by avoiding a nearby foreclosure. This commonsense proposal should not only be win-win, but the possibility of a mortgage modification in bankruptcy should encourage more negotiated modifications outside of bankruptcy.

Finally, my plan will help address so-called “zombie” mortgages. Mortgage lenders sometimes start, but do not complete, foreclosures to avoid assuming liability for property taxes and code violations on the mortgaged property. When the homeowner has vacated the property, the result is a “zombie” title situation, in which the homeowner remains liable for taxes and code violations but does not have use of the property. My plan uses bankruptcy law to “slay” these zombie mortgages by enabling a homeowner who is no longer in residence to force the lender to complete the foreclosure or otherwise take title to the property and pay its ongoing costs. This will enable families to move on with their lives and get a fresh start without the overhang of liability for a former property they no longer live in. It will also help communities by reducing the number of abandoned and derelict properties.

My plan goes beyond protecting homes to offering more fair protection for people’s cars too. For over one-third of bankruptcy filers, cars represent their most important asset. For these struggling Americans, the family car is the principal resource that bankruptcy’s safety net is protecting. And access to a car is often a requirement for commuting to a job, getting children to child care, and starting to rebuild finances.

As part of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, Congress made it more difficult for Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers to keep their cars. Under prior law, a debtor could keep their car by paying the lender the fair market value of the car over a reasonable time. But the 2005 bill changed the law so that families who want to keep their cars often repay more than the fair market value of the car; they must pay the full amount of their original car loan, regardless of the true worth of the vehicle. 

Families should not have to pay more than the car is actually worth to keep it. That’s why my plan repeals the 2005 bankruptcy bill requirement, makes it easier for bankruptcy filers to keep their cars, and ensures that their fresh start includes the ability to get to work, to school, and to the doctor.

Addressing Racial and Gender Disparities in the Bankruptcy System

Bankruptcy doesn’t affect all people equally — it mirrors the systemic inequalities in our economy. Women and people of color are more likely to file for bankruptcy, which is in part a reflection of wealth and income disparities. The situation is especially dire for middle-class families: my research found that Black middle class families are three times more likely to file for bankruptcy, and Latinx families are twice as likely, than white families. The persistent wealth gap in America means that families of color have far less wealth than white families on average — and at the same time, families of color are far more likely to be abused by predatory lending practices. The outcomes in our current bankruptcy system aren’t equal, either. Black Americans appear to be much more likely to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13, a costlier and more burdensome form of bankruptcy that requires people to make several years of payments before getting their debts wiped out — and leaves many in an even worse position as they struggle to make these payments. The data suggests Black filers are more likely to have their cases dismissed, too: people who live in majority Black zip codes are more than twice as likely to have their cases thrown out as those living in majority white areas.I raised the alarm on the disparate effects of bankruptcy during the years-long debate over bankruptcy reform. I called out racial disparities in the economic security of middle-class families filing for bankruptcy. I published articles showing that bankruptcy reform is a women’s issue, and that women — in fact, more women than would graduate from four-year colleges or file for divorce — would be most affected by the changes Congress was considering.The changes I’ve outlined above — like the new single entry point system that eliminates the steering of Black bankruptcy filers into Chapter 13, the new homestead exemption, and the elimination of the means test — will help address some of these shameful racial and gender inequities in the bankruptcy system.

But my plan takes additional steps as well: Local fines. Under current law, people who file for bankruptcy are generally not able to discharge local government fines. Although some of these fines may have an important governmental function, many operate as a regressive form of revenue targeting lower-income Black communities in particular for truly minor offenses. My plan eliminates the special privilege for local fines, with an exception for fines related to death, personal bodily injury, or other egregious behavior that threatened public safety.Civil Rights Debts. While current law prevents people from discharging local fines, it permits discharging debts resulting from civil rights violations. That is unacceptable, especially as police brutality and the shooting of unarmed Black children and adults in particular remain serious problems in our country. My plan changes the law so it’s clear that individuals cannot get relief from debts arising from the commission of civil rights violations such as police brutality.Improved data collection and audits. When individuals file bankruptcy petitions, they are obliged to make a long list of disclosures — but not their race, gender, or age. Although extensive data collection efforts by academics helped bring to light the differential experiences of filers of color, women, and older Americans, we can continue to improve upon our bankruptcy system if we collect this information systematically. That’s why my plan invites bankruptcy filers to provide their racial identification, gender, and age if they choose to.

My plan also addresses serious gender disparities in our current bankruptcy system. Because of systemic discrimination, women generally earn less than men, even for the same job, and it often takes women longer to pay off loans than men, resulting in them paying more interest. Tackling underlying problems of gender inequality may reduce some of the need for bankruptcy in the first place. But there will always need to be a bankruptcy system.

A simpler single portal into the personal bankruptcy system and replacing many line-item categories with a lump-sum personal property exemption, separate from the homestead exemption, will help align those values. The lump-sum personal property exemption would be provided by household, adjusted by the number of dependents, rather than by number of bankruptcy filers in the household, to prevent under-protecting a single parent with children.

In addition, my plan adds extra protections for alimony, child support income, the child tax credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), ensuring that people (especially single mothers) will be able to provide for their families and get back on the path to financial security.   These sources of income and assets traceable to them would be exempt property.

Closing Loopholes that Benefit the Wealthy and Cracking Down on Big Corporations

While the current bankruptcy system imposes all sorts of obstacles for working families, it includes loopholes that benefit wealthy individuals filing for bankruptcy and failed to hold big companies accountable when they break the law. My plan closes these loopholes and imposes more accountability so that our system is more fair.

Loopholes benefiting wealthy individuals. In certain states like Delaware, wealthy individuals can file for bankruptcy and get debt relief while shielding their assets by placing them in trusts for their own benefit. This is known as the “Millionaire’s Loophole.” As part of the 2005 bankruptcy legislation, Congress pretended to close the Millionaire’s Loophole, while rejecting legislation that actually would have shut it down. My plan stitches up the Millionaire’s Loophole once and for all by ensuring that assets in self-settled trusts and revocable trusts are not exempt from creditors’ claims in bankruptcy. My plan also closes off the related “spendthrift clause” loophole that allows the beneficiaries of “dynasty trusts” to avoid paying their creditors (while maintaining such protection for bona fide qualified disability trusts).

I am also committed to giving bankruptcy courts more tools to address fraud. For example, under current law, a bankruptcy filer who lied and submitted fraudulent documents regarding one of his assets is entitled to an exemption even when it was shown that he lied. My plan closes this enormous loophole so that courts can deny an exemption in an asset that the filer has concealed or lied about.

My plan also strengthens the so-called “fraudulent transfer” law. Fraudulent transfer law allows creditors to claw back certain transfers the bankruptcy filer made with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud creditors. For example, fraudulent transfer law would apply to a deadbeat ex-spouse who has transferred money into a trust to avoid paying alimony. The federal statute of limitations for actual fraudulent transfers is shorter than that of some states, so my plan extends the federal statute of limitations to match the longest state statute of limitations. Additionally, to discourage third parties from receiving these fraudulent transfers, my plan updates federal criminal law to add penalties for knowingly engaging in, aiding and abetting, or receiving an actual fraudulent transfer.

Accountability for creditors. My plan also cracks down on big companies that break the law or otherwise unfairly squeeze families in the bankruptcy process. For example, some companies will use the bankruptcy process to collect debts even as they have a track record of violating consumer financial protection laws. By disallowing debts of creditors that harm debtors by violating consumer financial laws, my plan strengthens the deterrent effect of our consumer protection laws and helps ensure better compliance of creditors and their agents, such as mortgage servicers and debt collectors. 

My plan also stops companies from collecting on debts that are no longer valid. In bankruptcy, many debt collectors attempt to collect on expired debts, whose statute of limitations has run, by filing claims to be paid and hoping that no one will notice that they no longer have the right to collect the debt. This practice is harmful to everyone involved, including other creditors with legally enforceable claims. The Supreme Court wrongly ruled that seeking to get paid on expired debts does not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, so it’s up to Congress to fix the law now. That’s what my plan does, by making clear that collection of an expired debt is a violation of the law.

And my plan allows individuals to file to sue to deter creditors from seeking to collect on debts that were already discharged in an earlier bankruptcy. Too often, creditors, particularly companies that buy debts for pennies on the dollar, attempt to collect debts that have been discharged in an earlier bankruptcy. For decades this has been illegal, but the practice has persisted because the courts have limited remedies available to address this misconduct. As recommended by the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy, my plan gives bankruptcy filers the right to file a lawsuit and have the court order compensation for the harms caused by creditors who violate this law. My plan also gives courts the power to impose effective sanctions when they catch this abuse on their own.

Finally, consumer loans often contain provisions requiring the borrower to resolve any disputes outside of court, through arbitration. My plan ensures that creditors cannot continue their efforts to go after consumers during the bankruptcy process through mandatory arbitration as part of my larger fight against unfair forced arbitration clauses. Disputes between bankruptcy filers and creditors should be resolved openly and transparently as part of the bankruptcy process in court, not in forced arbitration proceedings behind closed doors.

Read Senator Warren’s bankruptcy plan here

Biden: ‘Trump’s Impulsive Decision May Do More to Strengthen Iran’s Position Than Any of Soleimani’s Plots Could

Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning for president: “We need checks and balances that actually serve to check and balance the worst impulses of our leaders — in any branch.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

While most Americans give little consideration to foreign policy credentials of their candidates for president, over the “kitchen table” issues such as health care, education, taxes, foreign policy should loom largely over the 2020 election as Americans are waking up to the fact that while a president is for the most part constrained by the legislative branch (Congress) on what can be accomplished domestically (recall how Republicans obstructed Obama on health care, immigration reform, gun safety, climate action and infrastructure and why Medicare for All, a wealth tax may still be a pipe dream), a president is virtually unrestrained in making foreign policy at a time when the world is smaller and more globally interdependent, such as addressing climate change.

And while the Constitution theoretically gives Congress the power to declare war, presidents have found loopholes in addressing “imminent threats.” Trump has gone so much further in pulling out of treaties (the Iran nuclear deal), trade agreements and mutual assistance pacts like the Paris Climate Accord, while taking actions to weaken NATO alliance. The way he has dealt with North Korea has only made the world less safe and the list goes on: Iraq, Syria and ISIS, Turkey and the Kurds, Yemen, Venezuela, Australia.

Of the Democratic candidates for president, Vice President Joe Biden is hoping that voters will appreciate his vast experience (which Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg try to diminish because of his vote, along with just about every other Senator, to give George Bush power to address what they were told (lied) was an imminent threat of Saddam Hussein’s use of Weapons of Mass Destruction).

Now there are a few Democrats, like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who are introducing legislation to rescind the 2002 AUMF and require the President to get Congress’ authorization for use of military force, make it specific and require reauthorization after a period of time. But that is already in the Constitution and they are faced with a president who has demonstrated over and over he does not respect the bounds or oversight on him by the Constitution, with Congress apparently unwilling to do anything about it.

Vice President returned to New York to speak again on foreign policy and the unfolding situation in Iran, drawing a contrast to how Trump has mishandled the situation. These are his prepared remarks:

Six months ago, here in New York City, I made the case that Donald Trump was “dangerously incompetent and incapable … of world leadership.”
 
In the past few days, in the wake of the killing of Iranian General Soleimani, Donald Trump has proven it beyond dispute.
 
The haphazard decision-making process that led up to it, the failure to consult our allies or Congress, and the reckless disregard for the consequences that would surely follow — was dangerously incompetent.

In the wake of such an enormous escalation that has exploded geo-politics in the region and put the United States and Iran on a collision course, what would we expect of an American President – and what have we heard from President Trump?
 
We have not heard a sober-minded explanation to reassure the American people about his decision and its consequences.
 
Not level-headed words meant to dial down tensions and take us off the path of conflict.

No press conference or consultation with Congress.
 
No — all we have heard from this president is tweets. Threats. Tantrums.
 
And all we have heard from his administration are shifting explanations, evasive answers, and repeated assertions of an imminent threat, without the necessary evidence to support that conclusion.
 
And since this is a president with a history of lying about everything — who has destroyed his own credibility, and that of the United States on the global stage — neither the American people, nor our allies, are inclined to take his word for it.
 
If there was an imminent threat that required extraordinary action, then we are owed that explanation — and the facts to back it up.
 
These are matters of deadly import, so let me be unmistakably clear: Donald Trump does not have the authority to go to war with Iran without Congressional authorization.
 
Working with Congress is not an optional part of the job. Presidential notification to Congress about the need to exercise war powers cannot be satisfied in 280 characters or less. 
 
And no president should ever take the United States to war without securing the informed consent of the American people.
 
So — because he refuses to level with the American people about the danger in which he has placed American troops and our diplomatic personnel and civilians, as well as our partners and allies, or to demonstrate even a modicum of presidential gravitas — I will.
                                                                                           
That starts with an honest accounting of how we got here.
 
Make no mistake: this outcome of strategic setbacks, heightened threats, chants of “death to America” once more echoing across the Middle East, Iran and its allies vowing revenge. This was avoidable. 

The seeds of these dangers were planted by Donald Trump himself on May 8, 2018 — the day he tore up the Iran nuclear deal, against the advice of his own top national security advisors. The day he turned his back on our closest European allies, and decided it was more important to him to destroy any progress made by the Obama-Biden Administration than build on it to create a better, safer world.
 
When we had the Iran Deal, we had verifiably cut off every one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. International inspectors repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance, as did our intelligence agencies. One of the greatest threats to stability in the region and global security was off the table.
 
And when the Iran Deal was in force, we did not have this dangerous cycle of tit-for-tat provocation and response.
 
There was a united front of allies and partners to address Iran’s other destabilizing actions throughout the region.
 
The Iran Deal was not only accomplishing the critical mission it was designed for,  
it created an environment where diplomacy was possible.
 
But Trump walked away — not Iran.
 
Trump made the United States the international outlier.
 
Trump re-imposed significant sanctions designed to exert “maximum pressure” on the regime,  with claims that it would deter Iranian aggression and return Iran to the negotiating table to secure a much-promised “better deal.” And on both fronts, as many anticipated at the time, Trump’s promises were empty, baseless, and naïve.
 
And since then, all that has materialized is an utterly predictable cycle of escalating conflict with Iran.
 
Of course Iran would seek to demonstrate that the pressure we were exerting was not cost free – that it could take actions to make life more difficult for us, as well.
 
So Iran began again to enrich uranium beyond the limits allowed under the Iran deal. Iran attacked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone. 

Yet the administration had no plan to prevent, mitigate, or appropriately respond to these provocations. Instead, Trump acted erratically and impulsively. He ordered a retaliatory strike, then called it off at the last minute — feeding Iran’s sense of impunity. 

Then, the administration imposed more sanctions, shot down an Iranian drone, issued a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker. 

Before long, Iran attacked Saudi oil facilities and Iranian-backed militia in Iraq restarted rocket attacks against our bases. Until one of those attacks, against our base in Kirkuk, killed a U.S. citizen and wounded others. It was a tragic loss of life, and an act condemned by all Americans.

In response, Trump bombed five sites in Iraq and Syria tied to the militia group, killing at least 25.
 
Iraqi protestors, organized by Iranian-backed militia, assaulted our Embassy in Baghdad and breached the outer wall. No injuries were reported, but Trump was embarrassed by the images of a burnt-out reception area.
 
He ordered a drone strike to kill Soleimani — perhaps the second most important official in Iran — near the Baghdad airport. And rushed thousands more troops to the region to deal with the fallout. 

Action and reaction. Provocation and response. All predictable — and, indeed, all predicted.
 
A president who says he wants to end endless war in the Middle East is bringing us dangerously close to starting a new one.
 
A president who says he wants out of the region sends more than 18,000 additional troops to deal with a crisis of his own making.
 
And an administration that claims its actions have made Americans safer in the same breath urges our citizens to leave Iraq and puts Americans throughout the region on notice because of the increased danger.
 
I have no illusions about Iran. The regime has long sponsored terrorism and threatened our interests. It continues to detain American citizens. They’ve ruthlessly killed hundreds of protesters, and they should be held accountable for their actions.
 
But there is a smart way to counter them  —  and a self-defeating way. Trump’s approach is demonstrably the latter.
 
Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops and thousands of innocent lives throughout the region. He was the mastermind, but he was not the whole of the regime or its capacity to strike back.
 
So the question is: was the reward of removing a bad actor worth the risk of what comes next?

We don’t have any evidence to suggest that Trump or anyone around him thought seriously about that calculus. It’s been reported that the Pentagon — which has long warned against taking a shot like this — was shocked that Trump would take such a risk.
 
This is not just a question of whether Iran will retaliate — it almost certainly will — but what it will mean for our troops and our personnel throughout the region. What it will mean for our allies and partners who also have troops in harm’s way that are impacted by this decision. What it will mean for our long-term mission to counter Iran and prevent ISIS from bouncing back, and our ability to pursue our broader strategic aims in the region.
 
Already, we are seeing the fall out.
 
Iran has declared it will no longer abide by any of the constraints set up under the nuclear deal — putting it back on track to obtaining material for a nuclear weapon, and pushing the region closer to a nuclear crisis.
 
Our forces in Iraq and Syria are now focused on protecting themselves and preparing to leave — putting the counter-ISIS mission on hold, and allowing a deadly terrorist organization the room to regroup and reactivate.
 
The Iraqi parliament has voted to eject all American and coalition forces from the country. And however you may feel about an American military presence in the Middle East,  there is a right way and a wrong way to draw down our troop presence. Getting unceremoniously kicked out is unequivocally the wrong way. And if we do end up having to leave, that would be another boon to Iran — tipping the balance of power in the region.
 
Where, just weeks ago, there were spontaneous protests across Iran against the regime, the killing of Soleimani has taken that pressure off the regime.
 
Trump’s impulsive decision may well do more to strengthen Iran’s position in the region, than any of Soleimani’s plots could have ever accomplished.
 
Whether or not we see more loss of life, more threats against American interests and assets — this is already a debacle.
 
And at what is possibly the most dangerous time in recent American history — at precisely the moment when we should be rallying our allies to stand beside us and hold the line against threats — Donald Trump’s short-sighted “America First” dogmatism has come home to roost.
 
Our closest allies are calling for restraint and de-escalation — on both sides. Making a moral equivalence between us and Iran.
 
Russia and China are quietly reveling in the prospect that the United States may once more be bogged down in another major conflict in the Middle East. They would love nothing more than to be able to pursue their own interests,  and carve out their own spheres of influence, without the United States challenging them on human rights, on abusive trade practices, or on meddling in other nations’ democracies — because we are too busy fighting Iran.
 
We are alone. And we alone will have to bear the costs of Donald Trump’s folly.
 
This is also the moment when we most feel  the lack of a functioning national security process or any investment in diplomacy. 

After three years of hollowing out the State Department; disrespecting and dismissing our intelligence community; destroying the relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill; throwing out the deliberate policy making process that has served Republican and Democratic administrations for decades; corroding the value of the word of the United States; abusing our allies; embracing dictators; creating, not solving, foreign policy crises on the international stage — we are in a much worse position to meet the demands of this crisis than we were when President Obama and I left office.
 
President Trump has no strategy here. No endgame. And here’s the hardest truth of all: His constant mistakes and poor decision making have left us with a severely limited slate of options for how to move forward — and most of the options are bad. 
 
But there are some key steps that any responsible commander in chief would take. And, while I don’t expect Donald Trump will listen to me, I hope he listens to those around him who understand the gravity of the threats we now face.
 
He should take all necessary steps to protect our forces and ensure the security of our diplomats, civilians, and overseas facilities — not just in the Middle East, but anywhere that Iran might strike back.
 
He should ensure that federal authorities are working with states, local governments, and private institutions to guard against the heightened risk of cyber attacks.
 
He should stop tweeting so he doesn’t box us in with his threats, such that the only options left to us or Iran are increasingly damaging strikes and counterstrikes.
 
And he should immediately reach out to our European partners and others to send private signals of deterrence and de-escalation to Iran and find a way to avoid the onrush of war.
 
The best way to do that, of course, would be for President Trump, to rejoin the Iran Deal and build on it — if Iran also moves back into compliance with its obligations — and re-establish international consensus about how to confront the threats from Iran.
 
The only way out of this crisis is through diplomacy — clear-eyed, hard-nosed diplomacy grounded in strategy, that’s not about one-off decisions or one-upsmanship. Diplomacy that is designed to de-escalate the crisis, protect our people, and secure our regional interests — including our counter-ISIS campaign.
 
No one wants war. But it’s going to take hard work to make sure we don’t end up there by accident.
 
Finally, and this one’s not optional, Mr. President, you have to explain your decisions and your strategy to the American people.
 
That is your job as President — Not Dear Leader, not Supreme Leader.
 
Democracy runs on accountability. And nowhere is that more important than in the power to make war and bring peace. You are required to work with Congress. You are required to abide by the War Powers Resolution. You cannot pursue a war with Iran absent Congressional authority. The existing AUMFs — the Congressional Authorizations for the Use of Military Force — do not apply.
 
The American people do not want, and our Constitution will not abide, a president who rules by fiat and demands obedience.
 
I served in the executive branch of our government for eight years, but I served in the legislative branch for 36 prior to that, and I understand better than anyone that the system will not hold unless we find ways to work together to advance our national interests — not the political interests of one person or one party.
 
We need to restore the balance of powers between the branches of government. 
 
We need checks and balances that actually serve to check and balance the worst impulses of our leaders — in any branch.
 
We need to use our system to bring us together as a nation — not abuse it to rip us apart.
 
That’s not a naïve or outdated way of thinking. That’s the genius and timelessness of our democratic system, which has, for more than 240 years, allowed us to remake ourselves, reckon with our shortcomings, and move ever forward.
 
That’s what we owe to those brave men and women who step forward to wear the uniform of these United States; who dedicate their lives to diplomatic service; who choose to join the Peace Corps or to work in development; who represent the best of our country all around the world — and who are, today, doing so at greater risk because of the actions of our president. 
 
Thank you — and in these dangerous times — may God protect our troops.

At a fundraiser before his speech, he told the gathering:

“Did you ever think you’d see the time when we would be engaged in potential conflict and our NATO allies would be applying a moral equivalence between what we do and what the Iranians do? I never thought I see that day I spent my entire professional career dealing with NATO and dealing with foreign policy…Now the president says he did this to make us safer. Make Americans safer. Yet, we’re surging another roughly 18,000 forces in the region. And we find ourselves in position where there’s no evidence that they thought through how to protect our diplomats and our military personnel.”

Mr. Biden used the Iran situation to argue “the next president better be able to on day one, know how to begin to bring things together.”

Later in the day, at another fundraising event, news of an Iranian air strike on a US military base in Iraq started breaking. Without more details about the event, Biden said he would only speak briefly and generally about what happened:

“What’s happening in Iraq and Iran today was predictable – not exactly what’s happening but the chaos that’s ensuing,” he said, faulting Trump for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and the recent order of a missile strike killing a high ranking Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, according to the pool report by Julia Terruso of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Some of the things he’s done and said in the meantime have been close to ludicrous, including threatening to bomb holy sites…And I just pray to God as he goes through what’s happening, as we speak, that he’s listening to his military commanders for the first time because so far that has not been the case.”





Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren’s Plans for Green New Deal Will Create 10.6 Million Green Jobs

Senator Elizabeth Warren, campaigning for President, released a new independent analysis estimating that her plans for a Green New Deal will create 10.6 million new green jobs © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren has released independent analysis supporting her plans for a Green New Deal creating 10.6 million new green jobs. This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren, campaigning for President, released a new independent analysis estimating that her plans for a Green New Deal will create 10.6 million new green jobs. 

“America has a long and proud history of rising to the challenges that have faced this country — and defeating the climate crisis is no exception. A Warren administration will ensure that as we fight climate change, each and every American benefits from the opportunities created by the clean economy — especially the 10.6 million workers who will power our transition to 100% clean energy.”
 
Elizabeth Warren’s plans for a Green New Deal will:

Develop the green workforce of the future by expanding job training, partnering with unions to rebuild the middle class, and ensuring the new clean economy is open to everyone

Rebuild and repower our energy grid to grow our economy, invest in offshore wind, and achieve 100% carbon-neutral power by 2030

Transform our transportation sector by expanding green public transportation programs and requiring all new light and medium-duty vehicles sold by 2030 to be zero-emission vehicles

Repair our water infrastructure by rebuilding America’s dams, levees, and inland waterways and ensuring safe drinking water for all

Rebuild our homes, buildings and schools to achieve safe and affordable housing and provide our children with healthy living and learning environments

Finance the green jobs program by creating a new Green Bank and issuing Green Victory Bonds, modeled after the programs FDR implemented during the New Deal

 
My Plan to Create 10.6 Million Green Jobs
 
Earlier this month, climate scientists published new research suggesting the planet is hurtling towards an ecological tipping point that would irreversibly damage the earth and threaten our livable climate — for good. This most recent study adds to the growing body of evidence that climate change is happening faster than scientists originally thought. And it further reinforces what we already know: we have roughly a decade left to avoid catastrophic impacts by ending our economic dependence on fossil fuels and substantially reducing global emissions.

But while climate change presents an urgent threat, it also presents the greatest opportunity of our time: the chance to rebuild our economy with 100% clean energy, to address the racial and economic inequality embedded in our fossil fuel economy, and to create millions of good, union jobs in the process.
This is not the first time our country has faced a threat of this magnitude.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt said we would build a historic air force of 185,000 planes to defeat the Nazis, America had a nascent military aircraft industry. But FDR rallied the nation to the task: by the end of World War II, we had produced around 300,000 aircraft in less than 5 years.

When John F. Kennedy told the nation that we would send a man to the moon in under a decade, people said that would be impossible, too. But our top scientists and engineers came together and changed the world forever, delivering not just a lunar landing but also a torrent of new technology that helped working Americans here at home.

From World War II to the space race, American ingenuity has risen to meet seemingly impossible challenges — leading the world and unleashing economic benefits for Americans in the process.

Today we face a new challenge. Defeating the climate crisis will require the ingenuity of the moon landing and an economic and industrial mobilization unseen since our efforts in World War II. It will need to happen at the speed and scale of FDR’s New Deal, which launched over 50 federal programs and pulled millions of Americans out of unemployment. It will take workers of all kinds to rebuild and repower our energy grid and to upgrade our transportation, building, and water systems to guard against the worst effects of climate change and protect our most vulnerable communities. And it will take workers in every corner of America — from construction foremen in the Rust Belt to pipefitters in the Bayou — to transform our country’s infrastructure.

The Green New Deal is the answer to this national call.

After the 2008 crash, President Obama ushered through the historic American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to jumpstart our economy and bring an end to the Great Recession. Included in this total federal investment was $90 billion for clean energy, making it one of the largest investments in clean energy in U.S. history. The Council of Economic Advisors later reported that every $1 invested in clean energy leveraged an additional $1.60 in non-federal and private dollars.

Using this historical data and other estimates as a guide, my plans for a Green New Deal will result in an estimated total public and private investment of $10.7 trillion in our new clean energy economy. And independent experts that examined my ideas for a Green New Deal to analyze how they will drive job creation estimated that they will create 10.6 million new green jobs. This will help rebuild the middle class by providing family-supporting wages, career pathways, and worker protections in our new green economy.
This is the opportunity of the Green New Deal: a $10.7 trillion total investment in our clean economy that spurs 10.6 million green new jobs. And we’ll do it all together — with no community and no worker left behind.

I mean it when I say that defeating the climate crisis will be a top priority of my administration. That’s why today I’m releasing my plan to enact a climate change agenda that not only reduces our carbon emissions but also jumpstarts our economy.

Developing the Green Workforce of the Future

There are already clean energy job opportunities across the country. But with $10.7 trillion in federal and private investments, we can turn these opportunities into 10.6 million new, union jobs rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and transitioning to the new clean energy economy. To support the millions of skilled and experienced contractors we will need to plan and execute large construction and engineering projects in the new clean economy and to support the first responders, healthcare workers, social workers, and other public and private employees who respond to climate-induced disasters, my administration will commit to investments in retraining, joint labor management apprenticeships, and creating strong career pipelines to ensure a continuous supply of skilled, available workers. And, we will look for every opportunity to partner with high schools and vocational schools to build pathways to the middle class for kids who opt not to go to college.

Expanding job training.

We currently invest $200 million annually in apprenticeship programs across the country. Successfully training and re-training millions of skilled laborers to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, however, will require scaling up dramatically. That’s why my plan to Defend and Create American Jobs calls for a tenfold increase in investments in apprenticeships — a $20 billion commitment over the next ten years. I’ll follow Governor Inslee’s lead by re-establishing dedicated programs for green industrial and construction job training and placement under the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA), too.

And investing in job training is only the first step. A Warren administration will link public investments in clean energy infrastructure to apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship training, as well as graduation rates and local hires, to ensure that we are creating a full training-to-career pipeline. My plans also call for expanded technical and trade school opportunities to create pathways into good jobs in the new clean energy economy that will not require a college degree. And my administration will create regional sector-specific training partnerships to help better align training with the local job market, leverage the community college system, and ensure that workers gain transferable skills.

Partnering with unions to rebuild the middle class.

I am committed to ensuring that all of the 10.6 million new jobs in the clean economy pull working Americans back into the middle class — and to working hand-in-hand with unions to do so. That’s why I will fight for good wages and strong benefits for every worker that joins the new clean economy. A Warren administration will condition federal clean energy investments to state, local, and tribal governments on employers offering family-supporting wages and benefits — and will enforce this through Project Labor Agreements, prevailing wage laws, and Community Benefit Agreements. And I will work hand-in-hand with unions to return power to the working people powering the green economy. Unions built the middle class and unions will rebuild the middle class in the green economy of the future, too.

I’ve already committed to making sweeping reforms to our labor policy. These changes will extend labor rights to all workers — for example, narrowing the definition of “supervisor” under the National Labor Relations Act to end the exclusion of workers like the construction foremen that will lead the charge on building our clean energy grids. They will guarantee workers entering this new economy have a voice in actually shaping it by strengthening organizing and collective bargaining rights and increasing worker choice and control, including by requiring large companies to allow workers to elect no less than 40% of board members. And I will work with unions to design the training and apprenticeship programs that can create strong career pipelines for workers to enter this new green economy, helping to expand opportunities — and a continuous supply of skilled workers to power this transformation.

Ensuring the new clean economy is open to everyone.

In addition to employing millions of new workers in the clean economy, I am committed to leaving no worker behind as we transition to an economy powered on clean energy. That includes honoring our commitments to fossil fuel workers by holding fossil fuel companies accountable and defending worker pensions, benefits, and securing retirements. I will make sure the opportunities created are available to those who have traditionally been excluded — especially women and communities of color — by imposing new rules on companies that hope to receive federal contracts.

Rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure as part of the new clean energy economy will take all of us, including returning citizens — which is why my administration will partner with organizations that make renewable energy and associated job training available to underserved communities and formerly incarcerated individuals. And my plan to empower workers will expand worker safety protections for workers entering the green economy — like our transit workers who are increasingly subject to assault — and I will strengthen anti-discrimination protections for workers from all backgrounds.

Repowering our Energy Sector

In 2018, clean energy industries employed over 3.2 million Americans — more workers than in the petroleum, natural gas and coal industries combined. The clean energy industry is rapidly expanding — the two fastest-growing jobs in the nation are solar panel installer and wind turbine technician. But there is more to do, and the federal government can and should play a role in increasing the speed and scale of this transition. A Warren administration will focus on rebuilding and repowering our energy grid to grow our economy — and my plans will create 6.8 million good paying jobs in the energy sector, all while cutting carbon pollution.

100% Clean Energy Plan

While some states and utilities have been leading the way on cleaning up their electricity sources, far too many are falling behind. My plan calls for the federal government to set a bold standard for achieving 100% carbon-neutral power by 2030, including carbon-free baseload solutions, putting us on the path to a 100% emissions-free electricity supply by 2035.

These ambitious targets will require us to ramp up renewable energy generation and deployment dramatically. Cleaning up our energy system will create a diverse range of jobs — from construction worker to electrician to project manager. But these good paying jobs won’t just be in renewable energy. They will also come from making homes, offices, and industries more energy efficient. And through my Green Manufacturing plan, we’ll jumpstart American research and manufacturing in areas like battery storage, which will require a whole new set of skills and laborers. And wherever possible, we’ll invest in modernizing our grid with American-made materials, spurring still more jobs right here at home.

Offshore Wind Jobs

Right now, there is only one offshore wind project operating in this country — Rhode Island’s Block Island Wind Farm. It’s clear that today, we are failing to make use of the clean, powerful energy resource that lies just off our coasts. My Blue New Deal For Our Oceans plan will jumpstart the offshore wind industry. Bringing these offshore wind projects to life will generally require the help of workers from more than 70 different occupations — from machinists to engineers, sailors to ironworkers, electricians to longshoremen. By 2030, offshore wind energy development from Maryland to Maine could support more than 36,000 full time jobs. And even after they’re built, we will need workers to operate and service the turbines. My Blue New Deal also calls for electrifying and shoring up our ports, creating additional jobs throughout our coastal communities.

Restarting Our Transportation Sector

America’s transportation and trucking industry accounts for more than 10 million direct jobs, with over 3 million truck drivers alone. But right now, transportation also accounts for the largest portion of U.S. carbon pollution. Moreover, our public transportation infrastructure is crumbling: the American Society of Civil Engineers gave our roads a “D” grade on their most recent infrastructure report card, with one out of every five miles of highway pavement in poor condition.

For too long, our government has failed to invest in critical infrastructure — and unless we take action, poor conditions will continue to plague one of our most important industries. But this, too, is an opportunity: as we rebuild our crumbling transportation infrastructure, we can build in climate resiliency, and create a transportation system powered by electricity rather than fossil fuels. The massive project of investing in our transportation infrastructure will affect every state and county in the nation, creating about 2.6 million jobs in the public and private sector.

Build Green Program

Public transportation is a $71 billion industry that employs more than 430,000 people. And yet, 45% of Americans still do not have access to public transportation, leaving those without access reliant on car ownership to get to work, school and worship. We know that increasing public transportation rates and decreasing vehicle miles traveled is one of the best ways to reduce emissions. That’s why I’m proposing a new Build Green program, which would establish a new grant program to electrify public buses, school buses, rail, cars, and fleet vehicles that is modeled after the Department of Transportation’s BUILD grant program. This program will be paid for by closing corporate loopholes, and will open up new funding opportunities for states, cities, counties and tribal governments to expand and electrify public transportation options. A study conducted in the Twin Cities found Black, Asian-American, and Latinx commuters have longer commutes than white commuters. And people with disabilities face particular barriers in using and accessing public transportation. These investments will be crucial to ensuring equitable and accessible transportation for all.

100% Clean Vehicles.

Demand for passenger electric vehicles is growing at home and abroad — but even though more and more people want electric vehicles, they still only account for around 1% of vehicles on the road. To spur auto manufacturing in this space, I have put forward a bold and ambitious goal to require all new light -and medium-duty vehicles sold by 2030 to be zero emission vehicles. We’ll achieve this goal by investing in a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. By the end of the first term of a Warren administration, there will be a charging station at every rest stop in America. And this nation-wide network of charging infrastructure will begin to lay the groundwork for electrifying long-haul trucking, too.
But charging station infrastructure is only half the battle. Right now, consumers don’t have enough access to vehicles. In 2011, there were only two mass market electric vehicles available to consumers — and even now, the auto industry offers only fifteen models. While car manufacturers are already trying to meet growing demand, my investment in clean energy technology, including products designed for use in the electric vehicle supply chain, will further increase adoption of electric vehicles by making it easier for auto manufacturers to build the vehicles that consumers want.

We’ve let our failure to take action destroy our transportation infrastructure for too long and a Warren administration will make sure that the Department of Transportation acts with the speed and scale necessary to address the climate challenges ahead of us. I will take executive action to require the Department of Transportation set performance management rules that require federal transportation investments to be accompanied by life-cycle analysis and reduction strategies for climate and other transportation related pollution.

Renewing Our Water Infrastructure

America’s water infrastructure is crumbling. The government’s failure to invest is putting Americans in danger in two ways: first, our leveesdams and inland waterways infrastructure are all at risk — and will only become more stressed by climate change as sea-level rise, extreme flooding, and drought all become more frequent and severe. Second, our drinking water is increasingly at risk: as the infrastructure supporting it crumbles, an estimated 77 million Americans live with tap water that violates federal safe water standards — and this number does not even include the millions more served by very small water systems or private domestic wells. Meanwhile, more and more Americans struggle to afford their water bills as water bill costs have risen at more than double the rate of inflation over the last 20 years. Fixing our water infrastructure is an urgent priority — but we risk not having enough hands on deck, as the water sector’s aging workforce increasingly enters into retirement. Reinvesting in our nation’s water infrastructure isn’t just essential for the health and the safety of our communities, it’s also a chance to grow our workforce. In a Warren administration, we’ll not only protect Americans by rebuilding our nation’s water infrastructure — we’ll also create about 190,000 thousand good, union jobs in the process.

Rebuilding America’s dams, levees, and inland waterways.

Our nation’s dams, levees, and inland waterways provide necessary infrastructure for shipping and hydroelectric power — but they’ve been so underfunded that they are putting our communities at risk. When the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway failed in 2017, nearly 200,000 people were evacuated from rural Northern California. And the failure of New Orleans’ levees during Hurricane Katrina made Katrina one of the most devastating U.S. hurricane on record, killing 1,800 people, damaging 70% of homes in New Orleans, and resulting in damages of $125 billion. This stops now. A Warren administration will triple the US Army Corps of Engineers’ annual budget so that they have the resources they need to upgrade our water infrastructure and defend our vulnerable communities from harm. We’ll pay for this with savings from my plan to transition the military away from its dependence on fossil fuels and other internal Department of Defense funding shifts. This dramatic expansion will create new opportunities for good, federal jobs as we update critical infrastructure across the nation — an investment that is more important than ever to defend vulnerable front-line communities from more frequent and more severe weather events.

Ensuring safe drinking water for all

Nearly a decade ago the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing access to water and sanitation as basic human rights. But today, the United States is in the middle of a dangerous drinking water crisis. Not only do an estimated 77 million Americans’ have tap water that violated federal standards, but at least 2 million Americans still don’t have access to running water. And because of a long legacy of unfair, racist, and deliberate policy choices, communities of color are disproportionately likely to lack access to safe, affordable drinking water. After decades of declining federal investments in safe water, it’s time to invest in safe, affordable water for our communities. That’s why I have committed to fully capitalizing federal programs that fund drinking water capital infrastructure, such as the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. And I will go further by supporting Rep. Joe Kennedy’s Affordable Safe Drinking Water Act, which would extend the horizon for states and localities to repay revolving loans and expand the funding to cover the installation of lead and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) filtering systems and remediation measures. These important updates to the State Revolving Fund programs will not only guarantee much-needed upgrades to our drinking water infrastructure, but will also spur necessary investments to allow for expanded job opportunities. My administration will continue to invest in brownfield remediation, which is why I have proposed to reinstate and then triple the Superfund Tax to ensure that we protect our communities from the legacy of environmental harm and we put people to work in the process. And I will remain committed to standing with communities across the country that are impacted by lead.

Jobs in the water sector are wide ranging: there are more than 200 different occupations, including in skilled trades, administration, and finance. What’s more, because every community needs quality water, these jobs exist across the nation. I will work to create more inclusive career paths for water workers to meet the needs of our drinking water infrastructure by fighting for increases in the percent of local hires and minority/women-owned contracts that are awarded as part of water-related government contracting. And I will work with Congress to fully fund the EPA’s Brownfields Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Grants Program and the Environmental Health Sciences Environmental Career Worker Training Program, which is helping to improve workforce development for water-related careers. Lastly and in order to confront America’s drinking water crisis head on, I will take executive action to develop a national inter-agency safe and affordable drinking water roadmap. And to inform this effort I will convene a Water Equity Advisory Council with representation from key environmental justice and community-based organizations that are on the frontlines of addressing our safe water crisis.
 
Rebuilding our Homes, Buildings and Schools

In his Second Inaugural Address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that the “test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” Later that term, FDR signed into law the Wagner-Steagall Housing Act, which put Americans to work building new, modern affordable housing units across the country. But today, whether it’s a leaky window, an old appliance, or mold in a home, it’s hard-working Americans that pay the price through increased utility bills and housing costs.

As I’ve outlined in my 100% Clean Energy Plan, I’ll work with states and local governments to develop and implement new and stronger building codes to reach zero-carbon emissions and building those new standards into federal grant requirements, tax credits, and mortgage products. And I’ll launch an initiative to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings, with the goal of upgrading 4% of buildings a year until the job is done. All told, my plans will create over 970,000 thousand new jobs as demand grows across sectors from the manufacturing of American-made energy efficient materials to large and small-scale construction efforts.

Safe and affordable housing

We currently have a government that has paid lip service to the idea of providing all Americans in need with safe and affordable housing. The federal government hasn’t funded new public housing construction in decades and has turned a blind eye to the massive maintenance backlog needed to make sure the limited housing we do have is safe to live in. That stops now. My Affordable Housing Plan would invest $500 billion over 10 years to address this crisis and would create 3 million new housing units. As a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, I recognize the right to safe, affordable housing for every American and the need for new, green jobs to realize FDR’s dream. My Green Public Housing program will build on the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, by raising living standards and providing the financial assistance necessary to retrofit these homes. This will require training a new American workforce and would alone create 240,000 new jobs. We can address the climate crisis while we tackle the housing crisis, too.

Providing our children with healthy learning and living environments

As a former public school teacher, I know firsthand how our children’s learning can be affected by their environment. More than half of our public schools need repairs in order to be in “good” condition. Our poor school infrastructure has serious effects on the health and academic outcomes of students and on the well-being of teachers and staff. That’s why in my K-12 plan I’ve committed at least an additional $50 billion to improving our school infrastructure. This will require a workforce across the country to identify the schools most in need and carry out the necessary upgrades to provide our children with the learning environment they deserve. There’s nothing more important to me than investing in our kids because it means we’re investing in our future.

Green infrastructure means inclusive infrastructure. We have to recognize that our building infrastructure crisis is an environmental justice crisis. The disparities in our building infrastructure reflect the racial inequities that exist in America today. Historically, redlining denied entire groups of people—primarily communities of color—the chance to live in neighborhoods of their choice while also making them the victims of environmental racism. Studies have shown that low-income and minority children bear the brunt of poisoning from lead-based paint and failing lead pipes in older housing units. Our system has also failed Americans with disabilities who occupy 41% of our public housing units and yet only 3% of those units are ADA accessible. These same inequities exist in our public schools, too. In New York City, for example, 83% of elementary schools in New York City are not fully accessible to students with disabilities.

This ends in a Warren administration. It’s the job of our government to reverse these injustices, and I will put Americans to work to finish the job. That’s why I will use the full force of the federal government to invest in addressing these disparities — and creating millions of good, union jobs in the process.Together, these plans will curb homelessness in America, put Americans to work in quality jobs, protect the health of American families, and ease the burden on their pocketbooks.

Financing the Green Jobs Plan

Defeating the climate crisis and transitioning our economy to run on 100% clean energy will take big, structural change. That’s why my plans will result in $10.7 trillion in federal funding to fight for a Green New Deal — backed up by detailed plans laying out exactly how we will use those dollars — to address the size of this crisis.

The transition to clean energy is an opportunity to transform our economy, creating new industries, like in zero-emissions building construction, and greatly expanding others, like electric vehicle manufacturing, at a speed and scale not seen since World War II — and creating huge opportunities for state, local and non-federal investment in the process, too. My Administration will create new financing tools to unlock state, local, and private investment and direct it towards meaningful investments that tackle climate change, produce jobs, and reduce inequality. And my administration will put in place strong protections to ensure that this $10.7 trillion commitment flows to the right places, so that our climate investments benefit all Americans — not just the wealthy and well-connected.

A New Green Bank

A Green Bank is among the best ways to ensure a dedicated funding stream for an economy-wide climate transition to reconcile the scale of investment required with the speed of transition necessary to defeat the climate crisis. I’ll work with Congress to establish a bank modeled after and expanded upon the National Climate Bank Act, introduced earlier this year by my friend and colleague Senator Markey. We’ll put in place strong bipartisan oversight and governance to ensure that investments are equitable and benefit working Americans. And ultimately, this new Green Bank will mobilize $1 trillion in climate and green infrastructure investments across the country over 30 years.

The Green Bank will open up new markets for greater investment by working alongside existing federal authorities through direct spending, grants, and loans. It will provide security for investors looking for climate-friendly investments in mid- to large-scale infrastructure projects that serve the public interest but might not otherwise attract private capital due to risk-return thresholds, payback horizons, credit risk or other factors. It will increase the overall scale of clean energy investment and the pace of substitution of clean energy technologies for fossil-fuel based technologies, while also protecting consumers by keeping energy prices low and ensuring compliance with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s regulations. And it will expand opportunities for communities and the private sector by directing funds toward communities on the front lines of the climate crisis that have traditionally been left out of investment opportunities.

Green Victory Bonds

Today many states have green bonds programs, using the proceeds to fund land use projects, river and habitat preservation, and energy and water infrastructure. Green bonds have also surged in popularity worldwide, with sales growing 46% last year to about a total of about $460 billion.

While the federal government has never issued a green bond, the World War II-era “Victory Bond” program was a major success, raising $185 billion — over $2 trillion in 2012 dollars — and four out of five American households bought Victory Bonds. I’ll propose a “Green Victory Bond,” backed by the full-faith and credit of the United States by the Treasury Department, to finance the transition to a green economy. These Green Victory Bonds will be sold at levels that allow Americans across the socioeconomic spectrum the opportunity to own a piece of the climate solution, and to benefit from the new green economy that we build together.

Read her plan here

Read independent analysis here

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Bernie Sanders Releases ‘Housing for All’ Plan

Senator Bernie Sanders, campaigning for president, released a “Housing for All” plan, costing $2.5 trillion over the next decade, paid for by establishing a wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders released his Housing for All” plan.  This is a summary from the Sanders campaign:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled his Housing for All plan, a bold proposal to guarantee every American – regardless of income – a fundamental right to a safe, decent, accessible, and affordable home. 

“There is virtually no place in America where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a decent two bedroom apartment. At a time when half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck, this is unacceptable,” said Sen. Sanders. “For too long the federal government has ignored the extraordinary housing crisis in our country. That will end when I am president. My administration will be looking out for working families and tenants, not the billionaires who control Wall Street.”

In America today, there is a shortage of 7.4 million affordable homes for the lowest-income renters and more than 18 million families in America are paying more than half of their limited incomes on housing and utilities. The federal government should be expanding housing programs, but Donald Trump wants to cut them by $9.6 billion, or 18 percent.

Sanders’ Housing for All plan would instead end the housing crisis, build millions of affordable housing units, implement a national rent control standard, revitalize public housing, protect tenants, combat gentrification, end predatory lending and modern day redlining,  and end homelessness by:

Building nearly 10 million homes through the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, social housing, Community Land Trusts, and other housing programs. 

Fully funding tenant-based Section 8 rental assistance at $410 billion over the next ten years and making it a mandatory funding program for all eligible households.

Enacting a national cap on annual rent increases at no more than 3 percent or 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index, whichever is higher, to help prevent the exploitation of tenants at the hands of private landlords.

Ending exclusionary and restrictive zoning ordinances and replacing them with zoning that encourages racial, economic, and disability integration that makes housing more affordable.

Doubling McKinney-Vento homelessness assistance grants to more than $26 billion over the next five years to build permanent supportive housing.

Ending the mass sale of mortgages to Wall Street vulture funds and thoroughly investigating and regulate the practices of large rental housing investors and owners.

Implementing legislation to prevent abusive “contract for deed” transactions and using existing authority to protect communities of color, which for too long have been exploited by this practice.

Sanders’ proposal will be fully paid for by establishing a wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent. It will cost $2.5 trillion over the next decade. 

The details of the Sanders housing plan can be read here.  

See also:

SANDERS, OCASIO-CORTEZ ANNOUNCE THE GREEN NEW DEAL FOR PUBLIC HOUSING ACT

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Bernie Sanders Releases Immigration Plan, ‘A Welcoming and Safe America for All’

Senator Bernie Sanders, campaigning for president, released his immigration plan, “A Welcoming and Safe America for All.”  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders released his immigration plan, “A Welcoming and Safe America for All.”  This is a summary from the Sanders campaign:

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled his immigration plan, “A Welcoming and Safe America for All,” which would fundamentally overhaul immigration into a humane, lawful process that protects families and respects human rights. Sanders would reverse Trump’s executive actions, create a swift and fair pathway to citizenship, decriminalize immigration and demilitarize our border, protect and strengthen immigrant labor rights, support immigrants in America, and enact fair trade deals and a humane foreign policy. 

“My father came to America as a refugee without a nickel in his pocket, to escape widespread anti-Semitism and find a better life,” Sanders said. “As the proud son of an immigrant, I know that my father’s story is the story of so many Americans today. When I am in the White House we will stop the hatred towards our immigrant brothers and sisters, end family separation, and locking children up in cages. We will end the ICE raids that are terrorizing our communities, and on my first day as president, I will use my executive power to protect our immigrant communities and reverse every single horrific action implemented by Trump.”

The plan, which is the most progressive immigration proposal put forth in presidential history, was written in conjunction with several DACA recipients and other immigrants on Bernie 2020 staff. 
 

As President, Sanders will use his executive authority to overturn all of President Trump’s actions to demonize and harm immigrants on day one of his administration. Sanders will extend legal status to the 1.8 million young people currently eligible for the DACA program, and provide administrative relief to their parents, those with Temporary Protected Status, and parents of legal permanent residents. He will also use advance parole, parole-in-place, and hardship waivers to remove barriers to legal status and citizenship for as many undocumented immigrants as possible.

Sanders will:

Use executive authority to reverse Trump’s harmful actions on immigration, including ensuring asylum seekers can make their claims in the United States, ending family detention and separation, reuniting families, reversing the Muslim ban and halting construction on Trump’s racist border wall. 

Place a moratorium on deportations and end ICE raids.

Restore and expand DACA and use advance parole, parole in place, and hardship waivers to remove barriers to legal status and citizenship for as many undocumented immigrants as possible. 

Push Congress to enact a fair, swift, and inclusive path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented living in the United States.

Restructure the bloated, dysfunctional Department of Homeland Security, break up ICE and CBP and return their core functions to their previous departments, and begin treating immigration outside the context of national security. 

Decriminalize and demilitarize the border, ensure migrants due process, and fully fund and staff independent immigration courts.

Strengthen and protect immigrant labor rights, including for historically excluded and underregulated occupations such as farmworkers and domestic workers, ensure employers are held accountable for mistreating immigrant workers, and reform work visas.

Renegotiate disastrous trade deals, develop a humane foreign policy, and lead the world in addressing climate change, including taking in those forced from their homes due to climate change. 

Ensure immigrants in the United States get the support and benefits they need, including healthcare and education, and streamline immigration and naturalization. 

The full plan can be read here

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Mayor Pete Buttigieg Announces ‘An Immigration Policy for A New Era’

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, campaigning for President, released his plan for immigration reform. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Mayor Pete Buttigieg released his proposal to create a modern immigration system. This is a summary from the Pete for America campaign:

SOUTH BEND, IN  — Mayor Pete Buttigieg released “I was a stranger and you welcomed me: An Immigration Policy for A New Era,” a comprehensive immigration policy that lays out Pete’s bold plan to create a modern immigration system that fosters belonging, promotes our shared values, engages with the global community, and ensure our nation remains competitive while protecting all workers. 

“On Day One of my administration, we will reverse this president’s cruel and counterproductive immigration actions that separate families, put children in cages and prevent them from having basic necessities like toothpaste or soap, deport veterans, and sweep up workers in raids while leaving exploitative employers unpunished,” said Buttigieg. “But we will do more than simply end these outrages. We will reform a system that has been in dire need of reform for decades and create an immigration system for a new era that reflects America’s values of welcoming and belonging.”

A Buttigieg administration will work to ensure that our nation is a beacon of hope for immigrants and refugees and will build a better system that serves all of us. Pete’s plan will:  

Pass legislation in his first 100 days that provides a path to citizenship, including for people with temporary protections—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), and withholding of removal. While working on a necessary legislative fix, Pete will immediately restore and extend temporary protections rescinded or threatened by the current administration on day one.

Accelerate reunification of families. Pete will reduce the backlog of family-based visas and increase the number of visas issued for family reunification each year. He also will fight for reforms to re-classify spouses and children of permanent residents as immediate relatives, eliminate discriminatory annual per-country caps, end down-grading of family preferences (through aging out or getting married), and recognize same-sex partners from countries lacking marriage equality.

End the Muslim Ban on Day One. Pete will immediately end this ban, which should be anathema to our values as Americans.

Reduce barriers to health care and education by eliminating the five-year waiting period for green card holders gaining access to public health insurance and food assistance programs; expanding on Obamacare to allow all immigrants to access health coverage on the marketplaces, and expanding access to Pell grants for students with DACA. 

Protect undocumented workers from retaliation when reporting labor violations. Pete will support the Agricultural Worker Program Act, which protects farmworker rights such as labor, pesticide protection, and food safety laws. Pete also supports the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. 

Provide opportunities for people who want to build our economy where they are needed most. Pete will create a local Community Renewal (CR) visa targeted toward counties that have lost prime-working-age population over the last 10 years, and smaller cities that are struggling to keep pace economically with larger cities. 

Create a National Office of New Americans to promote and support immigrant and refugee integration and inclusion. This office will be in the Executive Office of the President and will coordinate integration efforts across federal, state, and local governments.

Keep naturalization affordable. The Trump administration is proposing to hike the naturalization application fee by 83% to $1,170 —that’s more than an average family pays for rent each month in 43 states. Pete’s administration will keep naturalization affordable and ensure that fee waivers are available to those unable to pay. As we do for those who serve in the military. Pete will not require a fee from national service participants.

Put border facilities under the purview of HHS rather than CBP. Byshifting responsibility for processing centers to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), we ensure proper care of asylum seekers. 

Fully restore and increase aid to Central America. The Trump administration suspended nearly $450 million in aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala in retaliation for failing to stop migrants from leaving for the United States, a short-sighted response that has only exacerbated the dire conditions that cause people fleeing in the first place. A Buttigieg administration will restore funding to additional programs proven effective in improving the rule of law, functioning judicial systems, education, regional safety, economic stability, and combating corruption.

Modernize our employment-based visa system. We have not meaningfully updated our visa caps in over 30 years. Rather than reset our visa allotments one time based on current data, which will quickly become outdated as our economy continues to change, Pete will create a flexible review system where the allotment for employment-based visas will be set every other year based on our economy’s needs. This process will make our immigration system more adaptable, evidence-based, and competitive. 

Our democracy is stronger when people living here have a voice in our society.

Read Mayor Pete’s comprehensive plan for An Immigration Policy for A New Era HERE

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Mayor Pete Buttigieg Releases Plan for Public Education

Mayor Pete Buttigieg, running for President, released his plan for equitable public education, starting with universal child care and pre-K, through K-12. © 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. Mayor Pete Buttigieg released his plan for equitable public education, starting with universal child care and pre-K, through K-12. This is a summary from the Pete for America campaign:

SOUTH BEND, IN — Mayor Pete Buttigieg released his plan to ensure every child has access to quality, affordable education that will provide them the opportunity to succeed. Pete’s plan will build an equitable K-12 public education system, provide universal child care and pre-K, and make sure America’s teachers not only reflect the diversity of our country, but are paid fairly for the critical work they do.

By tripling funding for Title I schools and teachers, Pete’s plan will narrow opportunity gaps between districts in high-income and low-income areas. It will also double the proportion of new teachers and school leaders who are people of color in the next 10 years. His plan will eliminate the wage gap for Title I teachers and create over 1 million new, good-paying child development jobs. 

“Too often, access to education is predicted by income or zip code. And success can be determined before a child even sets foot in a classroom,” said Buttigieg. “Every child in America should have access to high quality education, and we need to support our nation’s teachers for the work they do within and outside the classroom. If we honored our teachers a little more like soldiers and paid them a little more like doctors, this country would be a better place.”

To ensure that every child has access to a quality education and support our nation’s teaching workforce, Pete’s plan will:

Provide affordable, universal full-day child care and pre-K for all children, from infancy to age 5, serving more than 20 million children, with a landmark $700 billion investment.

Triple funding for Title I schools to invest in a truly equitable public education system, no matter a child’s zip code, race, or background. 

Establish the Education Access Corps to prepare and retain future educators to teach in Title I schools.

Ban for-profit charter schools and ensure equal accountability for public charter schools. 

Support strong unions for educators and staff and raise wages for early childhood educators. 

Reinstate Obama-era guidance to address discipline disparities in early education as well as K-12, and invest in successful district-level solutions that reduce the use of exclusionary discipline that targets Black and Latino students.

Expand mental health services in schools for students and teachers.

Give every child access to after-school programs and summer learning opportunities. 

Read Pete’s full plan to ensure that America upholds its promise to students and teachers HERE.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Releases Plan to Protect and Empower Renters

Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a detailed plan to protect and empower renters as part of the fight to end the affordable housing crisis. © 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 has released a detailed plan to protect and empower renters as part of the fight to end the affordable housing crisis. This is from the Warren campaign:
 
A full-time, minimum-wage worker can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the nation. Gentrification is displacing communities of color, rising rents are crushing millions of families, and landlords are exploiting their power over tenants.
 
Elizabeth’s Housing Plan for America will invest $500 billion over the next ten years to build, preserve, and rehab more than three million housing units that will be affordable to working families. Her plan will lower rents by 10% nationwide, reform land-use rules that restrict affordable housing construction and further racial segregation, and take a critical first step towards closing the racial wealth gap.
 
Today, she released an additional plan to expand on those efforts to protect and empower renters. Her plan will:

Protect and uphold the rights of tenants
 

Tackle the growing cost of rent
 

Invest in safe, healthy, and green public housing
 

Fight exploitation by corporate landlords

Read more about her plan here and below:
 
Protecting and Empowering Renters
 
Everyone in America should have a decent, affordable, and safe place to live. But today, stagnant wagessky-rocketing rents, and a stark shortage of affordable options are putting the squeeze on America’s 43 million renting households. 
 
In 2015, 38% of renters were “rent burdened” — spending over 30% of their income in rent. In 2017, 23 million low-income renters paid more than half of their total household income on housing. Many renters also face high energy bills, with low-income renters paying as much as 21% of their income because of energy inefficient housing. A full-time, minimum-wage worker can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the nation. Gentrification is displacing communities of color, rising rents are crushing millions of families, and landlords are exploiting their power over tenants.
 
But for decades, the federal government has turned a blind eye to our growing affordable housing crisis. When the government has made investments, it’s focused largely on homeownership. From Nixon’s moratorium on new public housing construction to Reagan’s severe cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s rental assistance program to today’s corporate capture of the right to shelter, Washington has failed America’s renters. To make matters worse, every single Trump administration budget has slashed funding for HUD’s budget.
 
And shamelessly, some of the same Wall Street firms that tanked the dream of homeownership for millions of American families are now the country’s biggest landlords — profiting off the destruction they caused. In the wake of the 2008 crisis, private equity firms like Blackstone went on a shopping spree, snatching up apartment complexes and single-family homes that had been foreclosed. Even the United Nations Special Rapporteurs have reported on their aggressive eviction tactics, the discriminatory impact of their policies on communities of color, and their lobbying efforts against legislation that would protect renters — and accused them of contributing to the global housing crisis.
 
My Housing Plan for America invests $500 billion over the next ten years to build, preserve, and rehab more than three million units that will be affordable to lower-income families. My plan will lower rents by 10%, reform land-use rules that restrict affordable housing construction and further racial segregation, and take a critical first step towards closing the racial wealth gap.
 
Today, I’m expanding on those efforts with my plan to protect and empower renters. It has four goals:

Protect and uphold the rights of tenants
 

Tackle the growing cost of rent
 

Invest in safe, healthy, and green public housing
 

Fight exploitation by corporate landlords

Protect and uphold the rights of tenants

We’ll start by strengthening the rights of tenants. Over 805,000 renter households were threatened with eviction in 2017. When landlords evict tenants, families lose their homes, parents may lose their jobs, kids suffer in schools, and whole communities, especially communities of color, can be displaced by gentrification and skyrocketing rents. In many communities, landlords dramatically hike rents after evicting tenants, driving housing costs up for everyone.
 
Most cities and towns in America allow “no fault” or “no cause” evictions, in which landlords can evict renters for no reason at all, even if they haven’t fallen behind on rent or violated a single lease provision. In other jurisdictions, landlords can refuse to renew leases for any reason at all, including to retaliate against tenants who organize or to flip homes families have lived in for decades into luxury housing, or they can add passthrough fees on top of rent. And in other cases, landlords will make homes so unlivable — for example, by shutting off heat in the winter or neglecting repair requests  — that tenants are “constructively evicted” and have no choice but to leave. In Reno, where there are only 21 affordable housing units per 100 extremely low-income residents, the unjust eviction rate climbed by 300% from 2002 to 2017.
 
Tenants that organize to take on bad landlords are up against a massive power imbalance. I’ll fight to put power back where it belongs: with tenants, not big corporate landlords.
 
Landlords shouldn’t be able to arbitrarily push families out of their communities to make an extra buck or because of thinly-veiled racism and discrimination. I’ll work to secure tenants’ rights nationwide — including by creating a federal just cause eviction standard, a right to lease renewal, protections against constructive eviction, and tenants’ right to organize. To enforce these rights, I’ll condition the $500 billion in new affordable housing funding to states from my housing plan on states affirmatively adopting these key tenant protections. Judges in eviction proceedings would also be required to consider how an eviction might harm a tenant’s health conditions or a child’s ability to stay enrolled in local public schools, and to temporarily stay evictions if tenants can’t find another home in the same neighborhood.
 
As President, I’ll also fight for a nationwide right-to-counsel for low-income tenants.

In 2010, 90% of tenants in eviction proceedings weren’t represented by lawyers, but 90% of landlords were. That legal help matters. Legal representation can significantly increase success in for tenants in their cases, keep eviction filings off their records, and prevent them from having to enter homeless shelters. That’s why I’ll fight to create a national housing right-to-counsel fund  which would provide grants to cities to guarantee access to counsel for low- and middle-income tenants who are facing eviction or taking their landlord to court for violations like breaching their lease, shutting off their heat and water, or violating the housing code. And I’ll fight to create a new tenants’ cause of action that allows tenants to sue landlords who threaten or begin an illegal eviction.
 
I’ll also push to create a new Tenant Protection Bureau within the Department of Housing and Urban Development — modeled after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) — to enforce tenants’ rights, take on bad actors, and make sure landlords keep affordable housing affordable for working families. Before the financial crash, I came up with the idea for a consumer financial protection agency— a new federal agency dedicated to protecting American consumers. I fought for that agency, helped build it from scratch, and now the CFPB has returned nearly $12 billion directly to consumers scammed by financial institutions.
 
Tenants deserve a cop on the beat too. My new Tenant Protection Bureau, housed within HUD, would enforce these federal tenant protections, like just-cause eviction, for tenants in all federally-funded affordable housing developments, ensure safe and decent living conditions, and guarantee that landlords don’t illegally raise rents or fees in federally-subsidized housing. The Tenant Protection Bureau will also empower community organizers with grants to state and local groups who will sue for violations of tenant protections.
 
Tenants face similar dynamics to borrowers facing unscrupulous banks or servicers. I’ll create a tenant hotline modeled after the CFPB consumer complaint database that will route complaints from tenants to their landlords through HUD, which could review the data for enforcement opportunities and share the data with local officials and organizations to help them enforce local protections.
 
I’ll strengthen fair housing law and enforcement, giving HUD the tools to take on modern-day redlining. A 2017 study in Virginia found that Black tenants were more likely to be evicted, even accounting for different income levels. Research has also shown that low-income women in Black and Latinx neighborhoods face a heightened risk of eviction. Fifty years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), housing segregation enduresgentrification is pushing communities of color out of the neighborhoods they built, people with disabilities face pervasive discrimination, and nearly a quarter of transgender people report experiencing housing discrimination.
 
We need to renew our fight against housing discrimination, and I’ll start on day one. I’ll restore the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which the Trump Administration put on ice. The AFFH rule would fulfill the FHA’s promise to end housing segregation by requiring local governments to identify housing policies and practices with racist effects and undo them. I’ll also roll back the Trump administration’s effort to add work requirements to housing assistance. And I’ll withdraw Trump’s racist proposed “mixed status” rule which, according to HUD’s own analysis, would effectively evict tens of thousands of families and 55,000 children based on the immigration status of household family members.
 
The Trump Administration is also trying to weaken HUD’s Disparate Impact Rule, immunizing landlords who use discriminatory algorithms to screen out tenants and making it far harder to hold bad actors accountable. I’ll protect the disparate impact rule so that tenants have the tools to challenge zoning regulations that discriminate against people with disabilities, predatory lending practices that target communities of color, and algorithmic redlining.
 
But reversing the Trump Administration’s attacks on civil rights isn’t enough. The FHA protects against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. To start, I’ll make sure that HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, which has been gutted and undercut by the Trump administration, is fully funded, staffed, and equipped to robustly enforce the FHA — which is particularly critical for renters with disabilities who make up the majority of discrimination complaints.
 
My affordable housing bill would prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, veteran status, and source of income, like a housing voucher. Under a Warren Administration, HUD will issue regulations to the greatest extent it can under the Fair Housing Act to end housing discrimination against domestic violence survivors, LGBTQ+ people, and based on tenants’ immigration status or criminal records. I’ll fight for the Equality Act, which would explicitly ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare, and public accommodations. I’ll also direct HUD to take on chronic nuisance ordinances — local laws that push domestic violence survivors, especially Black women, and people with disabilities, out of their homes. And I support immigration reform that’s consistent with our values, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants — which would make them eligible for public housing benefits.
 
I’ll also create a national small dollar grant program to help make sure families aren’t evicted because of financial emergencies. I spent my career studying why families go broke — so I know that it’s all too easy for a family to fall behind on rent after a surprise trip to the emergency room or car repair. Massachusetts pioneered several programs that provide small grants to help families facing a one-time budget crunch, like the Homestart program, which provides grants of on average $700 and some wraparound services to help families avoid eviction. It’s been reported that 95% of their eviction prevention program recipients remain in their homes four years later. I’ll fight to scale this program up nationwide, likely saving federal, state, and local governments money by helping families stay out of emergency homeless shelters.
 
While nobody should be homeless in America, we need to stop treating our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness as criminals. All across the country, cities and states make it illegal to live on the street, even when there are fewer emergency shelter beds than people who need them — 34% of cities have city-wide bans on camping in public, 43% of cities prohibit sleeping in vehicles, and 9% of cities even prohibit sharing food with homeless people. Even as the affordable housing crisis deepens, pushing more people out of affordable housing, these laws are spreading — just this month the Las Vegas City Council voted to criminalize camping on downtown streets. Enough is enough — it’s time to stop criminalizing poverty. My Department of Justice will not fund efforts to criminalize homelessness and will deny grant money to police departments who are arresting residents for living outside.
 
I’ve also already committed to preventing and combating the epidemic of LGBTQ+ youth, transgender, and veterans homelessness. My LGBTQ+ rights plan commits to reauthorizing and fully funding the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and to creating a LGBTQ+ youth homelessness prevention program within the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. And I will restore and strengthen the HUD Equal Access Rule, reversing Ben Carson’s horrific proposal to allow shelters to discriminate against transgender women – so if a trans women of color loses her home, she doesn’t face widespread discrimination from homeless shelters. My plan to support our veterans calls to fully fund rapid re-housing and permanent supporting housing through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and HUD-VASH programs and to create a new competitive grant program to provide wrap-around services for veterans and their families. As we fight to end homelessness and expand affordable housing, we won’t leave any groups behind.
 
Tackling the growing cost of rent.
 
My Housing Plan for America tackles the growing cost of rent at its root: a severe lack of affordable housing supply and state and local land-use rules that needlessly drive up housing costs. My plan would add more than 3 million new affordable housing units, and I’ll commit to prioritizing a portion of these units to particularly vulnerable groups like the chronically homeless, people living with HIV, people with disabilities, seniors who want to age in place, and people who have been incarcerated and are returning to the community. My plan will bring down the rents by 10% nationwide and make targeted investments in rural housing programs and in a new Middle-Class Housing Emergency Fund to support the construction of new housing for middle-class renters in communities with severe housing supply shortages. My plan also invests $2.5 billion in the Indian Housing Block Grant and the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant to build or rehabilitate 200,000 homes on tribal land.
 
We’ll also incentivize the elimination of costly zoning rules — like minimum lot sizes or parking requirements — with a $10 billion new competitive grant program that state and local government can use to build infrastructure, parks, roads, or schools on the condition that they reform land-use rules to allow for the construction of additional well-located affordable housing units and to protect tenants from rent spikes and eviction. And in doing all of this, my plan would create 1.5 million new jobs.
 
But we must do more. More than 30 states have laws on the books that explicitly prohibit cities from adopting rent control — and when tenants and communities fight to repeal those laws, they’re met with fierce opposition from real estate and private equity giants that have shelled out massive amounts of money to block them. States shouldn’t be able to suppress local innovation or stop towns and cities from adopting the housing policies that best protect their residents. That’s why my administration will work to stop states from preempting local tenant protection laws, including rent control. A Warren Administration will side with people over private equity. I’ll condition the new affordable housing money from my Housing plan that goes to states on repealing state laws that prohibit local rent control laws and other tenant protections.
 
States and local governments across the country have adopted a number of different strategies to tackle rising rent costs. This year, Oregon and California became the first states to pass statewide rental control measures. From Maryland to Colorado, communities across the country have been testing out the community land trust model, to try to break the link between the cost of the land and the private, speculative market. As President, I’ll create an Innovation Lab in HUD to study strategies that keep rents affordable such as rent control, multi-year leases, zoning reform, and community land trusts, and share data on what works and best practices. I’ll also bring together a commission of federal, state, and local government officials, public housing administrators, housing justice organizations, homelessness advocates, and tenants’ unions to discuss affordability and strategies to address it.
 
I’ll direct HUD to recognize strategies that prevent gentrification and displacement of long time communities as ways for meeting jurisdictions’ obligations under the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. I’ll also restore and improve the Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) rule, which the Trump administration has tried to block. SAFMR sets the housing voucher amounts at the zip code level rather than the metro level and promotes integration by allowing vouchers to cover more in neighborhoods with higher rental costs. I’ll also direct HUD to ensure that the shift does not reduce the number of total housing units available to voucher holders, invest additional resources and technical assistance to increase understanding of this rule among public housing authorities (PHAs) and tenants, issue additional guidance on setting payment standards, and make the administrative plans by PHAs of the implementation of this rule publicly available.
 
Invest in safe, healthy, and green public housing.
 
Today, about 2 million people nationwide live in 1.1 million public housing units — and too many are living in homes with lead, rats and roaches, and black mold that jeopardize their health. Tenants who receive HUD rental assistance are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions or go to an emergency room than other similarly situated renters. Children in these households are more likely to have asthma and face an acute risk of lead poisoning.
 
Public housing is also failing in meeting the needs of Section 8 eligible renters who have disabilities. About 41% of all public housing units are home to a disabled person, but only about 3% of those units actually have accessibility features.
 
The federal government’s decision to scale back or not match inflation when funding public housing has resulted in a national public housing capital repair backlog of $70 billion, leading to inaccessible housing for people with disabilities and substandard living conditions. Because units have been demolished or removed due to uninhabitable conditions, the total number of public housing units has fallen by more than 250,000 since the mid-1990s. And with a median public housing waiting list of 9 months, and in some cases, as long as 8 years, we can’t afford to lose a single unit.
 
As climate change makes summer heat waves and winter cold snaps more severe and disasters more frequent, the number of habitable units could fall even further, and public housing across the country is at risk. Last winter, nearly 90% of New York City Housing Authority units lost heat because of boiler system breakdowns. Some of those same residents dealt with extreme heat in the summer, which can be particularly dangerous to the elderly and residents with disabilities. In Charleston, South Carolina, which is facing rising sea levels, 7 of the PHA’s properties are only a few feet above the high tide level, and across the country, nearly half a million HUD-assisted housing units are in flood zones.
 
We must invest in safe, healthy, and green homes. I’ll start by repealing the Faircloth Amendmentwhich has prohibited the use of federal funds for the construction or operation of new public housing units with Capital or Operating Funds, effectively capping the number of public housing units available at 1999 levels. I’ll fight to completely close the national public housing capital repair backlog, expand disability accessibility, and for 1:1 replacement of any units that have to be removed or demolished. And I’ll fight for investments in new public housing construction. 
 
I’ll also update the rules of major federal housing funding programs, like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, Housing Trust Fund, Capital Magnet Fund, and Home Grant program, to allow PHAs or other public institutions to use these funds to develop properties and Section 811 PRA housing themselves and maintain public ownership. Under current rules, states are required to contract with private developers. With this change, PHAs and other public institutions will also be able to benefit from the massive investment of my Housing plan. Like existing developments under these programs, these projects would be subsidized to allow low-income tenants to live alongside market rate tenants. And I’ll encourage PHAs to develop a participatory budgeting process with residents on how capital dollars are spent. 
 
I believe that every renter has the right to a healthy home. I have called for retrofitting 4% of our existing building stock each year in my 100% Clean Energy for America plan. I will ensure that public housing units and public schools are prioritized for retrofitting because more efficient homes mean lower energy bills, and the cost of energy should not hold any family back. And I will work across federal agencies to eliminate toxic substances like mold and lead from all housing and drinking water sources by investing in toxic mold removal, establishing a lead abatement grant program to remediate lead in all federal buildings, and providing a Lead Safety Tax Credit to incentivize landlords to invest in remediation for their tenants. I’ll fully fund CDC’s environmental health programs like the Childhood Lead Prevention program, and fully capitalize the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to ensure that nobody’s drinking water is poisoned because of crumbling infrastructure. And I will immediately roll back the amended timeline of the EPA draft rule on lead pipe replacement, which the Trump administration has tried to relax from 13 to 33 years.
 
For all new affordable rental units, I will ensure that the project undergoes an environmental equity screen during both the siting and construction phases so that we do not continue to subject low-income communities to environmental racism through our housing policies. I will direct the Department of Energy to provide technical assistance to utilities to better support and incentivize on-bill financing to further adoption of clean energy, no matter the income, credit, or renter status of each customer.
 
And as we modernize our public housing units, we will build livable communities starting with a new Green Public Housing program that will create millions of jobs and provide climate smart housing. Because of the massive maintenance backlog in America’s public housing, and because the federal government hasn’t funded new public housing construction in decades, many public housing buildings aren’t equipped to withstand the increasingly harsh realities of climate change. I am a proud supporter of the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, which will create grant programs for public housing authorities to conduct deep energy retrofits, prioritize workforce development, upgrade the facilities’ energy efficiency and water quality, allow for community renewable energy generation, and encourage recycling, community resiliency, and climate adaptation. My 100% Clean Energy for America plan calls for all new commercial and residential buildings to have zero carbon pollution by 2028, and this applies to any new public housing development as well. Nobody should have to face substandard living conditions, and through the Green Public Housing program, we will ensure that we raise the standard of living for all renters. 
 
And I will make sure we’re supporting those who have been displaced by disaster. Renters are particularly vulnerable in the wake of natural disasters. But for too long, renters have been overlooked in government post-disaster response and recovery. That’s why I introduced the Housing Survivors of Major Disaster Actwhich will require FEMA to work with HUD to immediately set up the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) for temporary rental assistance and wraparound services to disaster survivors. This will also support those who might not have residence documentation, to ensure renters without leasing documents and people who are homeless have access to these critical services.
 
Fight the exploitation of renters by corporate landlords. 
 
Since the mortgage crisis, large private equity firms have become some of the country’s biggest landlords — a big win for Wall Street, but a huge loss for America’s renters. Take Blackstone, one of the largest private equity firms in the world. Since 2016, more than 600 complaints have been filed against Blackstone subsidiary Invitation Homes with the Better Business Bureau, and Invitation Homes is currently facing a class action lawsuit in California for subjecting tenants to excessive and illegal late fees.
 
The problems extend to other private equity landlords too. Colony Capital, the third-largest single family landlord in the country, evicted more than 30% of tenants living in its Atlanta rentals. In Memphis, Firstkey Homes, a property management company owned by Cerberus Capital Management, files for eviction at twice the rate of other property managers.
 
We can’t keep letting these firms loot the economy to pad their own pockets while working families suffer. My plan to Rein in Wall Street will hold private equity firms accountable and prevent private equity funds from snatching up properties and dramatically raising rents, allowing more people to stay in their homes.. My Excessive Lobbying Tax will make it more costly for these firms to lobby against policies that protect renters.
 
But we can do more. I’ll stop federal dollars from going to predatory landlords and lenders with a long history of harassing tenants, forcing tenants to live in dangerous or indecent conditions, or redlining our communities. I’ve already committed to strict new requirements for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, limiting the situations in which the agencies can sell mortgages and imposing new requirements on Wall Street buyers to protect homeowners.
 
I’ll also direct the Federal Housing Administration to deny federal support to landlords that violate tenants’ rights. My FHA will develop rules that prohibit federal agencies from insuring, guaranteeing, or lending to landlords with a history of harassing tenants, violating housing codes, unjust evictions, violating fair housing law, or engaging in unconscionable rent increases. That means no federal support for landlords that violate tenants’ rights — like Jared Kushner’s family firm, which is under investigation for harassing tenants out of rent-stabilized homes.
 
I’ll go further and allow all suits for violations of the Fair Housing Act and Federal, state or local housing protections to reach to the private equity firm and its general partners. After the housing crisis, private equity firms gobbled up hundreds of thousands of Real Estate Owned (REO) properties and troubled mortgages from FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. In the years since, private equity firms have expanded their portfolios in housing and have taken a particularly aggressive position in the market for manufactured home parksIn the midst of the financial crisis, private equity firms exploited legal loopholes and used shell companies to ensure tenants were unable to get justice when they’re wronged and removing all disincentive for abuse.
 
My housing plan would end the pipeline of foreclosed homes from Federal agencies to private equity firms, and My Wall Street plan allowed extended liability for actions at a private equity portfolio company to the private equity firm and its general partners in the case of a government enforcement action.
 
I’ll rein in payday lenders who take advantage of renters. Payday lenders cluster in low-income areas, like around government-subsidized housing, and target communities of color. I’ve called out the unscrupulous, exploitative practices for more than a decade. As President, I’ll direct the CFPB to issue a comprehensive package of regulations on payday lenders, including limiting the proximity of payday lenders near public housing. I’ll call for Congress to repeal the Dodd-Frank provision that prohibits the CFPB from capping interest rates, empowering the CFPB to effectively regulate these bad actors.
 
And I’ll take on “land contracts” agreements, predatory loans that are frequently targeted at communities of color. Land contracts are high-interest loans that are often marketed as a path to homeownership. Tenant-buyers make payments towards a lender over a long period of time, and the lenders that own the homes are only required to turn over legal title to the home after the renter has completely paid it off. But homes — often houses lost in the foreclosure crisis — can be in such bad condition they’re basically uninhabitable, and the contracts shift the costs of fixing them up away from banks and onto unsuspecting families.
 
Worse still, these contracts are built to fail: If tenants fall behind on these unregulated, high-interest loans, predatory lenders can seize the property — and keep would-be buyers’ money — so they make it hard for families to keep up with payments by inflating the prices, disguising debts, and hiding unfair terms in the fine print of their land contracts. Predatory lenders target communities of color for land contracts, including the same families displaced by rising rents. I’ll choose a CFPB Director committed to reigning in land contracts.
 
Next, I’ll require large corporate landlords to publicly disclose data. I’ll create a national public database of information about large corporate landlords, by requiring them to report key data to HUD. The database will include information like corporate landlords’ median rent, the number and percentage of tenants they evicted, building code violations, the most recent standard lease agreement used, and the identity of any individuals with an ownership interest of 25% or more, either directly or indirectly, in large landlords’ corporations, LLCs, or similar legal entities. And I’ll direct HUD to study the impact that these kinds of landlords have on local rental markets.

Read the plan here

Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez Announce The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act

Senator Bernie Sanders, along with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, here at a rally in Queens, New York, presented the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act to address the shortage of public housing in a way that also attacks climate change by transitioning to sustainable buildings.© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders, along with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, presented the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act to address the shortage of public housing in a way that also attacks climate change by transitioning to sustainable buildings. Here is the plan from the Sanders campaign:

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), in an event outside the Capitol Building, announced the introduction of the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act in partnership with public housing residents, affordable housing advocates, and climate change activists. The sweeping legislation they will unveil aims to retrofit, rehabilitate, and decarbonize the entire nation’s public housing stock.
 
The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act invests up to $180 billion over ten years in sustainable retrofits that include all needed repairs, vastly improved health, safety and comfort, and eliminate carbon emissions in our federal public housing. The legislation also provides funding to electrify all buildings, add solar panels, and secure renewable energy sources for all public housing energy needs. The bill dramatically improves living conditions for nearly 2 million people living in roughly 1 million public homes.
 
“Faced with the global crisis of climate change, the United States must lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy,” said Sanders. “But let us be clear: as Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez understands, the Green New Deal is not just about climate change. It is an economic plan to create millions of good-paying jobs, strengthen our infrastructure, and invest in our country’s frontline and vulnerable communities. This bill shows that we can address our climate and affordable housing crises by making public housing a model of efficiency, sustainability and resiliency. Importantly, the working people who have been most impacted by decades of disinvestment in public housing will be empowered to lead this effort and share in the economic prosperity that it generates for our country.”
 
“Climate change represents both a grave threat and a tremendous opportunity,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act will train and mobilize the workforce to decarbonize the public housing stock and improve the quality of life for all residents. I am proud to begin the hard work of codifying the Green New Deal into law with my friend and colleague, Senator Bernie Sanders.”
 
About 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption is attributable to residential and commercial buildings. With its focus on transforming 1 million units of federally owned housing, the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act will spur economies of scale for weatherization, retrofitting, and renewable energy, making them more cost effective and attractive throughout the country. The legislation is expected to create nearly 250,000 good-paying, union jobs per year across the country while reducing carbon emissions on the scale of taking 1.2 million cars off the road over the next ten years. Public housing costs would also be reduced by $97 million per year, or 30 percent, and energy costs would be slashed by $613 million, or 70 percent.
 
The legislation envisions a federal-state partnership, creating new grant programs to swiftly and efficiently transition public housing, tribal housing, and Native Hawaiian housing to zero-carbon, energy efficient housing. The bill creates sustainable communities for families by building new childcare and senior centers, expanding access to clean transit, and creating community gardens and other community amenities. Under the legislation, public housing will receive deep energy retrofits, build community-generated renewable electricity, and upgrade unsafe and unsanitary infrastructure, including buildings’ water and electrical systems.
 
The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act requires that the hundreds of thousands of jobs created by this investment be high-road, family-sustaining jobs by requiring strong labor standards, prevailing wages, and “Buy America” requirements. Public housing residents will lead the decision-making process for these investments and receive jobs training for the newly created jobs from this legislation.
 
The bill is cosponsored in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and endorsed by more than 50 organizations.

Read the bill summary here.

Read the legislative text here.

Read a section-by-section overview here.

Read organizational statements of support here.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Klobuchar Releases Plan to Safeguard Elections, Strengthen Democracy and Restore Trust in Government

Senator Amy Klobuchar seeking to become the Democratic presidential nominee for 2020 on the debate stage, released her plan to safeguard elections, strengthen democracy and restore trust in government.   © 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. In light of the threats to free and fair elections posed by Russian hacking, foreign interference, gerrymandering, Citizens United and voter suppression, and the impeachment proceedings unnerving public trust in government, Senator Amy Klobuchar has released her plan to safeguard elections, strengthen democracy and restore trust in government.  This is from the Klobuchar campaign:

Senator Amy Klobuchar released her plan to safeguard our elections, strengthen our democracy and restore trust in government.

Senator Klobuchar believes that everything we talk about getting done – from taking on climate change to gun safety to health care reform — will depend on one thing: a democracy that works for the people and making sure every vote counts.

Today insidious forces are working to suppress the vote and drown out people’s voices with dark money. And our intelligence agencies have confirmed time and time again that there have been foreign attacks on our elections, and that our elections remain a target. Republicans in the Senate have repeatedly blocked Senator Klobuchar’s bipartisan legislation to strengthen our election security while our country faces continued threats from foreign adversaries.

Senator Klobuchar believes it’s time to take back our democracy. She has been a leader in the fight to protect our elections from foreign interference, including by securing $380 million in election security funds in 2018 so states could improve their election infrastructure and protect their election systems from cyberattacks. She leads bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would protect our elections with paper ballots and post-election audits, as well as the bipartisan legislation that would promote accountability and transparency for political ads on the internet. 

Senator Klobuchar is also leading the effort in Congress to automatically register every American to vote when they turn 18, and she has fought for the passage of legislation that would restore the Voting Rights Act to take on discrimination at the polls. And she has worked to get dark money out of politics and restore trust in government dating back to her first month as a Senator, when she helped lead the successful push for meaningful ethics reform in Congress.

As President, Senator Klobuchar will champion a major voting rights and democracy reform package and she has already pledged that the For the People Act — legislation that has thirteen of Senator Klobuchar’s legislative provisions — will be the first bill she sends to Congress as President.

Strengthening Election Security and Regulating Online Political Ads

Promote accountability for political ads on the internet. Senator Klobuchar wrote and introduced the bipartisan Honest Ads Act, which would increase transparency and accountability for political ads on the internet by holding large online platforms to the same disclosure and disclaimer standards that apply to radio, broadcast, cable and satellite providers. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to pass the Honest Ads Act, work to pass the PAID ADs Act — which she leads in the Senate — to make it illegal for foreign nationals to purchase election ads, and work to ban foreign nationals from involvement in decisions regarding political expenditures by corporations, PACs and Super PACs. She will work to prohibit online platforms from allowing political ads that discriminate against people and require online platforms to use human reviewers to approve political ads placed on their platforms. Today, there are no protections preventing misleading and outright false political ads online. That’s why Senator Klobuchar supports preventing social media companies from running political ads full of false claims and lies by holding them responsible.

Take on disinformation campaigns and foreign efforts to influence our elections. As President, Senator Klobuchar will require political campaigns to report any attempt by a foreign entity to influence our elections to the Federal Election Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation. She will also prohibit U.S. political campaigns from offering non-public material to foreign entities. Senator Klobuchar will work to pass legislation based on the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Act, which she leads with Senator Cardin, to make it illegal to knowingly deceive others about how to participate in a federal election and to direct the Attorney General to work with states to counter voter intimidation. She will invest in media literacy education to teach students how to identify misinformation online, based on her Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act. Finally, she will work to pass the Combatting Foreign Influence Act, which she leads in the Senate, to direct the Director of National Intelligence to establish a Malign Foreign Influence Response Center to coordinate work across the intelligence community and law enforcement to assess foreign influence operations with a whole-of-government approach.      

Build U.S. cyber expertise to defend our elections. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make cybersecurity an immediate priority. She will issue an Executive Order launching government-wide cybersecurity initiatives, fast-tracking and streamlining procurement of modern information technology across agencies. She will launch a cabinet-level taskforce on election cybersecurity to coordinate across agencies, including the intelligence community, on how the federal government can work with state and local governments to address cyber threats to our democracy and infrastructure. She will also work to pass legislation based on the Invest in Our Democracy Act, bipartisan legislation she leads in the Senate, to provide grants to states for election officials to receive continuing education in cybersecurity and election administration.

Fortify state election infrastructure against cyberattacks. Senator Klobuchar leads the effort to require all jurisdictions to have paper ballots through her Election Security Act, but Senator McConnell and the White House have prevented the bill from coming to a vote. She also led the successful effort to secure $380 million for State Election Security Grants in 2018. As President, Senator Klobuchar will require states to use paper ballots, set strong cybersecurity standards for voting infrastructure, increase grants to states for upgrades to their voting infrastructure and promote the use of post-election risk-limiting audits. These proposals are based on Senator Klobuchar’s legislation, Senator Wyden’s Protecting American Votes and Elections Act of 2019, which Senator Klobuchar co-sponsors in the Senate, and the SAFE Act, which passed the House in June 2019. She will also require the Director of National Intelligence to assess election threats and work with the Department of Homeland Security and Election Assistance Commission to provide assistance to states to counter those threats. 

Eliminating Obstacles to Voting and Making It Easier to Vote 

Automatically register every American when they turn 18. Senator Klobuchar believes we must do more to reduce barriers to voting. In the Senate, she has championed the Register America to Vote Act to automatically register all eligible citizens on their eighteenth birthday and she will get it passed as President. Automatically registering voters in every state would result in 22 million newly registered voters in just the first year of implementation, according to the Center for American Progress. Senator Klobuchar will also launch a pilot program to provide resources for initiatives that provide 12th graders with voter registration information. This proposal is based on the Students VOTE Act, legislation Senator Klobuchar leads in the Senate. 

Restore the Voting Rights Act. Senator Klobuchar has long advocated for Congress to take action to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down key parts of the Voting Rights Act. As President, she will restore protections for voters in states with a recent history of discrimination. Senator Klobuchar will also champion the Native American Voting Rights Act, legislation she helps lead in the Senate, to provide the necessary resources and oversight to ensure Native Americans have equal access to the ballot box and the electoral process.

Prohibit voter purges and remove exact-match requirements. Senator Klobuchar has pushed to protect the constitutional rights of Americans from voter purges, which disproportionately impact minority, low-income, disabled, and veteran voters. In Georgia, former Secretary of State Brian Kemp purged over 1.4 million voters from the rolls and held up the voter registrations of 53,000 people because of things like a discrepancy over a hyphen in a last name. As President, Senator Klobuchar will pass her bill with Senator Brown, the SAVE Voters Act, to prohibit states from purging Americans from voter rolls for not voting in recent elections. The bill amends the National Voter Registration Act to prevent a state from using someone’s failure to vote or respond to a state notice as reason to target them for removal from voter rolls. Senator Klobuchar will also work with Congress to pass legislation requiring states to remove “exact-match” requirements and other unnecessary and discriminatory obstacles to registering to vote.   

Break down institutional barriers to voting. Senator Klobuchar believes we must do more to make it easier for Americans to vote — not harder. As President, she will champion reforms to break down institutional barriers to voting, including: 

Promote early voting and no-excuse absentee voting. Nine states do not offer early voting and in 19 states an excuse is required to vote absentee. Senator Klobuchar will push to make voting more convenient and support voter participation by working with states to establish early voting and no-excuse absentee voting nationwide. 

Establish minimum notification requirements for voters affected by polling place changes. Senator Klobuchar will stand up to attempts to suppress voter turnout by requiring states notify voters affected by polling place changes no later than seven days before the date of the election or the first day of an early voting period. 

Designate election day as a federal holiday. Senator Klobuchar will designate election day as a federal holiday. 

Establish Same Day Registration. In addition to championing her legislation to automatically register every American when they turn 18, Senator Klobuchar will also pass legislation she leads in the Senate, the Same Day Voter Registration Act, that requires states to allow people to register to vote on the same day as the election. 

Increase accessibility in voting for people with disabilities. Senator Klobuchar believes we need to make it easier for the voices of people with disabilities to be heard on Election Day. As President, she will strengthen requirements for increased accessibility at polling places and expand resources by providing grants for states to make it easier for people with disabilities to vote. 

Ensure ballots are counted from Americans living overseas and those serving in the military and their family members. Senator Klobuchar believes we should be doing everything we can to make voting easier for every American – including the 3 million Americans living overseas and more than 1.3 million active duty service members. Recently, she was successful in passing a provision in the Senate’s 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would require Federal Voting Assistance Program to conduct a comprehensive study on how to scale a ballot tracking program for all military and overseas voters. As President, she will push to require states to ensure that all overseas voters receive their ballots at least 45 days before an election; improve the availability and transmission of absentee ballots abroad; and ensure that those ballots are counted by hand in any recount or audit. In addition, Senator Klobuchar will make sure that spouses of active duty service members do not have to change their legal residency each time they move for a military reassignment, a proposal that is based on the Support our Military Spouses Act, legislation she has championed in the Senate. 

Ensure that those affected by natural disasters can still vote. As the effects of climate change become more disruptive, Senator Klobuchar believes that it is especially important to ensure that natural disasters do not prevent Americans from voting. As President, she will ensure that people living in areas where an emergency has been declared, those who have been displaced by a natural disaster, and professional or volunteer service emergency responders have access to an absentee ballot. In addition, anyone who expects to be hospitalized on Election Day or is not able to receive a requested absentee ballot from their state or jurisdiction would also be eligible to receive an emergency ballot. This proposal is based on the Natural Disaster Emergency Ballot Act, legislation Senator Klobuchar has championed in the Senate.

Overhauling Our Campaign Finance System 

Overturn Citizens United. Senator Klobuchar believes that the surge in special interest cash in political campaigns since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision is undermining our elections and shaking the public’s trust in our elections. She will lead the effort to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get the dark money out of politics.

Establish a public financing system and increase the power of small donors. Senator Klobuchar has long pushed for meaningful campaign finance reform to ensure the voices of average Americans are heard. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to establish a campaign finance system to increase the power of small donors that matches 6-to-1 donations of $200 or less to eligible candidates. 

Reform the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Senator Klobuchar believes that gridlock in the FEC — including the recent lack in quorum — has prevented the Commission from fully playing its role in administering and enforcing federal campaign finance laws. She has called on President Donald Trump to work with the Senate to help reestablish a quorum by nominating a commissioner to fill the vacant Democratic seat. And as President she will advance critical reforms to ensure a fully functioning FEC, including reducing the number of members from 6 to 5, ensuring the Commission has an accountable Chair with clear distribution of duties between the Chair and the FEC, and preventing commissioners from remaining in office indefinitely as holdovers. This proposal is based on the Campaign Finance Transparency Act, legislation she leads in the Senate.

Increase transparency in political spending. Senator Klobuchar believes that we must do more to shine a light on the corporate dark money spending. As President, she will champion the passage of the DISCLOSE Act, legislation she co-sponsors in the Senate, requiring corporations, super PACs and certain non-profits to promptly disclose election spending of $10,000 or more and list any donor who gives over $10,000 to the organization.

Ensuring Free and Fair Elections

End partisan gerrymandering. Senator Klobuchar believes that partisan gerrymandering undermines the principles of our democracy. She has signed the Fair Districts Pledge developed by former Attorney General Eric Holder and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to support fair redistricting that ends map manipulation and creates truly representative districts. Particularly in the wake of the 2019 Supreme Court decision that effectively gave the greenlight to politically manipulate congressional districts, Senator Klobuchar will require states to establish independent, bipartisan redistricting commissions that will develop fair statewide district maps following each decennial census. This proposal is based on the Redistricting Reform Act, legislation Senator Klobuchar leads in the Senate. 

Improve the treatment of provisional ballots. Senator Klobuchar will require states to establish uniform and nondiscriminatory standards for issuing, handling, and counting provisional ballots including requiring provisional ballots from eligible voters who voted at the wrong voting place to be counted. 

Restore Americans’ right to vote after being released from incarceration. Senator Klobuchar believes that Americans who have been released from incarceration should be able to exercise their right to vote. As President she will restore citizens’ right to vote after being released from incarceration. 

Restoring Trust in Government

Ensure that the President is not above the law. Senator Klobuchar believes we must take urgent action to reverse the harm President Trump has done to his office by openly flaunting the rule of law. She will instruct the Justice Department to withdraw the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinions prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president. She will also make it clear that the President and Vice President have to follow conflict of interest laws and require the President and major candidates for President to make their tax returns publicly available.

Overhaul ethics rules for White House employees and other senior officials. Senator Klobuchar believes that accountability starts at the top, and that in addition to strengthening accountability for the President, we must have the highest ethical standards for White House employees and other senior officials. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen investigations of foreign agents who lobby in the United States, give the Office of Government Ethics more enforcement power and provide additional protections for all Special Counsels. She will also publicly post executive branch ethics waivers and report senior officials’ conflicts of interest in rulemaking.

Strengthen protections for whistleblowers. Senator Klobuchar believes that the best way to encourage individuals with knowledge of wrongdoing to come forward is to provide and enforce strong protections for whistleblowers. Within her first 100 days in office, Senator Klobuchar will issue guidance affirming that the Department of Justice cannot intervene in the transmission of a whistleblower complaint to Congress under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act. She will also work with Congress to expand whistleblower protections, including for government contractors, and direct all federal agencies to fully implement whistleblower education and anti-retaliation plans.

Increase transparency and protect journalists. As the daughter of a newspaper man, Senator Klobuchar has always believed transparency and journalism are critical to our nation’s democracy. Within her first 100 days in office, she will restore former Attorney General Eric Holder’s guidance on protections for journalists so that they are not jailed for doing their jobs. Senator Klobuchar will also direct the Office of Legal Counsel to make all of its opinions publicly available unless there is a compelling national security reason to prevent their release. She will fully fund Freedom of Information Act offices within executive agencies and direct them to post FOIA requests online.

Read the full plan here.