Tag Archives: Election 2020

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.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden Advances Plan to Assist Military Families, Caregivers, Survivors

Vice President Joe Biden with Dr. Jill Biden are proposing an expansive plan to assist military families, caregivers and survivors © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Second Lady in the Obama Administration, Dr. Jill Biden worked closely with First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of bettering lives for military families. VP Joe Biden, candidate for President, is proposing a plan to reinvigorate and expand that program for military families, caregivers and survivors. This is from the Biden campaign:

FACT SHEET:
The Biden Plan to Fulfill Our Commitment to Military Families, Caregivers and Survivors

As parents of a service member who deployed to Iraq, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden understand that it’s not just military members who sign up to serve our nation, their families do too. The Bidens understand the sleepless nights, wondering if your deployed loved one is safe; the difficulties children experience while their parent is serving far away; and all the added sacrifices and challenges, big and small, military families face because they choose selfless service. Our military families never fail to give their best to the United States, and we owe them our best in return.
 
Less than one percent of Americans sign up to serve. They volunteer to shoulder the sacrifices necessary to keep our country safe. That’s why Vice President Biden has long been adamant that, as a nation, our one truly sacred obligation is to properly prepare and equip our troops when we send them to war, and to take care of them and their families — during deployments and when they return home.  
 


Building on the Biden Commitment to Military Families  
The Obama-Biden Administration made support for our military families a signature issue–and a personal priority. Together with First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Biden created Joining Forces, a national initiative driving top-level focus on the issues that matter to military families, service members, and veterans including employment, education, and wellness. Joining Forces supported opportunities that led to the hiring or training of more than 1.5 million veterans and military spouses and drove reforms in all 50 states to reduce credentialing barriers for qualified military spouses seeking employment. Dr. Biden also supported the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Military Spouse Employment Partnership, which brought together hundreds of companies to help 100,000 military spouses find jobs.
 
As a life-long educator, Dr. Biden spearheaded “Educate the Educators”–a commitment from more than 100 colleges and universities to take steps to meet the unique needs of military-connected children–and championed the GI Comparison tool to help veterans and military family members choose high-quality post-secondary educational institutions. She also worked to make sure that all 50 states signed the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children to better address relocation challenges facing military school-aged children. 
Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden continued this commitment after leaving office, making support for military families a key focus of their continued public service. The Biden Foundation sought to drive economic opportunity for military spouses, create supportive educational environments for military-connected children, and change the conversation around mental health for service members, veterans, and their families.

As President and First Lady, the Bidens will ensure we keep our national commitment to military families by relaunching and strengthening Joining Forces, making it a priority for a Biden Administration.
 

 
We know that many future service members come from military families. So family readiness is integral to mission readiness, both now and in the future. This cannot be an afterthought. It is a national security imperative, and it should be resourced and supported as such.
 
Through nearly two decades of sustained warfare, military families have met many challenges and sacrificed much for our country. They have answered the call to duty again and again. To sustain the world’s finest fighting force, Biden will ensure that families on the homefront receive our full support and the benefits they have earned and deserve through:

Paying Service Members a Competitive Wage

Providing Resources for Military Spouses, Caregivers, and Survivors

Prioritizing Support for Military Children  

President Biden will inspire a future generation of Americans to volunteer for military service by ensuring we fulfill our obligations to the generations who have already answered the call to serve our country and by supporting the well-being of ALL military families.
 
Modernize Compensation to Keep Pace with the Current Economy: Today, more military families are struggling to make ends meet, and some report food insecurity, lack of quality childcare, and poor financial health. That is totally unacceptable. Military service members and their families risk everything for our country–they must be guaranteed a living wage. But the existing compensation framework simply does not allow military families–especially those who are young and more vulnerable–to thrive in today’s modern economy. President Biden will work aggressively to update the federal workforce compensation framework for service members so that the government leads the way in ensuring hard-working families can attain a middle class life, and he will support legislation which will, in the meantime, provide an additional allowance for military families living below the poverty line.
 
Create Stability by Increasing Time between Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Moves: Every year, more than 400,000 Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves occur for service members and their families. This system is expensive, and it is broken. Military families consider frequent relocation as a driver for negative outcomes in career opportunities for military spouses, military child education, and the development of supportive social networks. While every service member and family understands that mission is paramount, we must invest in solutions that build stability for families and set conditions for service member retention and military family well-being.
 
As president, Biden will commission research and develop solutions to support the increase of time between PCS moves while ensuring we meet targets for Operational and Personnel Tempo in order to meet our national security demands. This will require that we comprehensively examine the potential positive and negative impacts of any changes to deployment cycles, unit assignment policies, and force size calculations. One such solution could be investing in the creation of virtual or hybrid learning scenarios for mandatory Professional Military Education (PME) so that service members and their families can remain in place, rather than PCS to a new base for a short educational tour.
 
Ensure Military Spouse Professional and Economic Opportunity: Military spouses are often more highly educated than their civilian peers, yet they face an unemployment rate of around 30%. Frequent relocation and high operational tempos often stifle their career trajectory. The military personnel system was designed with the single-earner family in mind, but many military families, like their civilian counterparts, depend on earning a second income or simply want the opportunity for the military spouse to pursue a career. Military families are increasingly experiencing challenges such as food insecurity or insufficient savings for emergencies, and with far too many military spouses unemployed or underemployed, meeting these needs is a challenge. LGBTQ military spouses may also be disproportionately affected when they reside in states that are allowed to discriminate based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The Trump Administration has not only allowed but encouraged these discriminatory practices, all while claiming to support the military. It’s hypocritical and just plain wrong.
 
To increase economic opportunity for military spouses, President Biden will:

Invest $500 million in a 3-year Department of Defense (DOD) military spouse entrepreneurship pilot program, which will provide micro-grants, mentorship, and technical assistance to military spouses who are interested in starting or growing small businesses.

Ensure that the DoD’s Military Spouse Education and Career Opportunity office is fully funded and staffed so that effective programming such as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) scholarships, and the Military Spouse Transition Program (MySTeP) have the opportunity to deliver results and raise awareness and utilization among military families.

Build bridges between the private sector and the U.S. government to help educate employers about the value of military spouse talent, drive commitments to hire, retain, and promote them, and create concrete career opportunities, as Joining Forces did.

Expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to include military spouses.

Undo the Trump administration’s discriminatory policies and redouble efforts with state officials to ensure that LGBTQ military spouses have the support they need to pursue successful careers.

Continue efforts begun during the Obama-Biden Administration to put an end to unnecessary occupational licensing requirements. While licensing is important in some occupations to protect consumers, in many occupations licensing does nothing but thwart economic opportunity. If a military spouse who works in an occupation that requires a license or credential and has to move because of their military member’s career, they may have to get certified all over again. As president, Biden will build on the Obama-Biden Administration’s efforts to incentivize states to reduce unnecessary licensing requirements and to ensure licenses are transferable from one state to the next.

Fully fund installation-based child care facilities and expand awareness of the DoD fee assistance program, as supported by leading advocates for military families,, so that military spouses can more easily pursue their educations and careers and tap into respite care to relieve stressors of deployments.

Improve Support for Caregivers: Caregivers of wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans face a variety of challenges, including negative health outcomes, lost wages, and difficulties planning their future. They are essential to military families and our veterans, and we owe them the same commitment and support that they show to our wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans. 
 
As president, Biden will:

Ensure that caregivers of active duty service members receive adequate professional and peer support, including competent mental health care, financial readiness training, and transition support throughout the rehabilitation timeline (whether that is leading to the service member’s medical retirement or a return to duty).

Provide transparency and high-touch case management via in-person or telehealth sessions with caregiver coordinators for those caregivers enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Caregiver Support Program, especially to provide personalized assistance as they navigate dual eligibility for benefits and services from both the DoD and VA.

A critical part of meeting our commitment to military families is to do so on time, something the Trump Administration has failed to do. President Biden will ensure that the eligibility expansion for the VA Caregiver Support Program meets its timelines and collects longitudinal satisfaction data through regular surveying of those enrolled or enrolling in the program.

Help caregivers of wounded, ill, injured, or elderly veterans pay for long-term care by providing relief through the creation of a $5,000 tax credit for informal caregivers, modeled off of legislation supported by AARP. This tax credit will be in addition to the financial support provided by the VA Caregiver program.

Support proposals to expand opportunities for much needed respite care for caregivers, to include those offered within DoD, VA, and through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Institute a waiver for the Survivors’ and Dependents’ Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 35), so that spouses and survivors who have not accessed their benefits in the allotted time frame will have the opportunity to request additional time.

End Needless Financial Burdens Facing Survivors: As President, Joe Biden will end the needless financial burdens caused by the Survivor Benefit Plan/Dependency Indemnity Compensation Offset (SBP/DIC Offset) or “Widow’s Tax.” It is wrong that we punish the families of the fallen financially in the wake of their extreme sacrifice. 
 
Improve Military Child Education: There are more than 1 million children of active duty service members worldwide. Whether they are educated in Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools, local school districts, parochial schools, home schools, or online schools, military children require support to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed in their education. 
 
As president, Biden will:

Propose legislation to expand the Military Student Identifier (MSI) to all military-connected children (to include children of National Guard and Reserve personnel regardless of activation/order status), children of veterans, and children of deceased service members or veterans, who are often impacted by the service of their parents. Under the Obama-Biden Administration, we passed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, which included the MSI, a designation that allows educators and schools to better understand where military-connected children are receiving their education, and how we can better support them. Currently, the MSI extends only to children of active duty service members, excluding children of National Guard, Reserve, veterans, caregivers, and children of the fallen. But these children face unique challenges too, and we need to know who they are so we can determine what support they need .

Promote efforts across states to streamline enrollment requirements, standardize educational resources, and train teachers and school-based leadership to ensure we are meeting the unique needs of military children effectively, no matter where they study or how often they have to move.

Promote greater awareness of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children among military families, teachers, and administrators.

Create and disseminate training tools that empower military-connected parents to better advocate for their children.

Provide financial incentives for school districts to train educators on the unique needs and barriers faced by military-connected youth so that they are able to help military children thrive, no matter where they receive their education.

Support and protect post-9/11 GI benefits for veterans and qualified family members by strengthening the GI Bill Comparison Tool and School Feedback Tool to help put an end to post-secondary institutions’ predatory practices.

Enact legislation eliminating the so-called 90/10 loophole that gives for-profit schools an incentive to enroll veterans, service members, and military family members who are using the GI Bill or Tuition Assistance in programs that aren’t delivering results. 

Expand and Improve Behavioral Health Services for Military Dependents: Children and spouses in military families are resilient, but they do experience high levels of stress, whether due to frequent moves, deployment and training schedules of the service member, or weak social/emotional support networks. School-age children and adolescents who experience separation from a parent (either through deployment or other assignments) show higher levels of emotional and behavioral distress. About 25 percent of high school freshmen and juniors in a military family have reported suicidal thoughts during the previous year, and the stresses of military life can exacerbate health issues, among them depression, anxiety, or substance use disorders.
 
Biden has committed to achieving mental health parity, expanding access to behavioral health care, and removing the stigma surrounding behavioral health issues. He will redouble our efforts to ensure enforcement of mental health parity laws and expand funding for mental health services.
 
It is also essential that we invest in an infrastructure that promotes health and well-being, reduces risky behaviors, and provides timely, convenient access to high-quality mental health and substance use/abuse services for military dependents. We must ensure that DoD facilities are fully staffed, equipped, resourced, and able to support the behavioral health of military dependents. If this capacity is not in place, we must invest in solutions to create additional affordable, accessible, and high-quality capacity in the civilian sector. Care must be effective and grounded in evidence-based treatments. Providers must be culturally competent, educated in the unique needs of military families. And families who seek support should never go into debt for treatment or be concerned about confidentiality.
 
The Biden Administration will:

Increase funding for and expand access to telehealth for military families, particularly in areas not able to access timely care.

Expand the number of free, non-medical Military OneSource counseling sessions for military families from 12 sessions to 18 and expand access to Coast Guard families regardless of activation status.

Invest in recruiting and retaining behavioral health care professionals in military treatment facilities to ensure there are enough clinicians to support the needs of not only our active duty force, but military dependents.

Redefine the federal “Health Professional Shortage Areas” (HPSAs) to specifically include military-impacted geographies.

Expand the National Health Services Corps to incentivize early professional behavioral health providers to serve this population.

Re-prioritize and expand the work of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) interagency task force on the behavioral health needs of veterans and military families, to include issues related to traumatic brain injury, substance use disorder and addiction, and other related conditions. Additionally, President Biden will fully restore SAMHSA’s focus on evidence-based solutions and appoint a specific position on the Domestic Policy Council to drive a whole-of-government focus on these issues. 

Direct the Department of Defense to produce a robust, annual report on the state of military family behavioral health, in coordination with VA and SAMHSA.

Guarantee Safe Housing: The government has broken its trust with military families by providing sub-par housing. Now, we have to work twice as hard to rebuild this trust. That will require the utmost transparency and accountability from both the government and the private sector partners charged with housing the families of our service members.
 
The Biden Administration will:

Enforce a comprehensive and standardized tenant bill of rights for all military families, and as advocates have rightly demanded, ensure DoD senior leadership enforces compliance. We won’t be making more empty promises to military families. We will hold these landlords, and ourselves, accountable.

Require regular, standardized, objective, and published reporting of military family satisfaction and concerns from all housing.

Establish a public-facing document outlining expectations of quality and consequences for all housing providers and, when necessary, terminate long-term leases held by private companies.

Know our Families: Long periods of sustained war-fighting have made us reactive in our responses to military family needs. To best support these families and optimize their health and well-being, we must improve our understanding of their current and emerging needs. We can’t be caught on our heels. We must anticipate and prepare solutions that respond to the evolving needs of military families across the military life cycle. We must be able to track and identify emerging trends so that we can be nimble and responsive to the changing needs of our military families.
 
As president, Biden will:

Convene a multi-disciplinary working group of policy makers, program leaders, and research and subject-matter experts to construct a strategic research plan to inform solutions to support military families.

Designate specific resources for research and development related to military families outcomes within the budget of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to include resources for research within both the Military Family and Community Policy and the Defense Health Program.

Require that DoD work across the federal government to leverage national and state-level assessments of health and well-being to ensure they appropriately assess military affiliation in ongoing data collections across the United States. It is imperative that all national surveys include variables that allow us to examine how well military families fare relative to others.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: On Veterans Day, Biden Releases Personal Reflection, Detailed Agenda

Vice President Joe Biden released a detail plan for veterans © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for president, with Dr. Jill Biden, issued a statement on Veterans Day, and his campaign issued a detailed plan about what a Biden Administration would do for veterans. Here are is the statement and fact sheet from the campaign:

John Steinbeck memorably wrote that, “A soldier is the most holy of all humans, because [they are] the most tested.” From Fort McHenry to San Juan Hill, from the Argonne Forest to Midway, from the Mekong Delta to Fallujah, and on every battlefield between, America’s veterans have always been the most tested among us — and they have never failed in their duty.
 
In each generation, a small fraction of Americans serve and sacrifice on behalf of us all. Less than one percent of our population risks everything to protect our country, incurring in the rest of us a debt far greater than our nation could ever repay. We have always believed that the most sacred obligation of our government is to do right by the men and women who defend our nation at war — to care for them and their families, both while they are deployed and after they come home. It’s an obligation we are honor-bound to keep.
 
Veterans Day offers us a moment to reflect on that obligation, and to recommit ourselves to all that it truly means. Every one of our veterans deserves timely, world-class health care — the very best of what our country has to offer. They deserve comprehensive mental health support, and a thoughtful, well-funded plan to address the ongoing tragedy of veteran suicides. They deserve a serious approach to ending veteran homelessness, and greater resources to help them readjust to life at home once their service concludes. Not only do they deserve these things — their families and caregivers do, too.
 
Our veterans also deserve a leg up when it comes to educational and economic opportunities — everything from tuition assistance to skills training to entrepreneurship programs. That isn’t just for their benefit; America benefits enormously from the leadership, talent, and experience of veterans who gird every sector of our economy with sinew and smarts. The GI Bill was one of the greatest engines of widespread prosperity our country has ever conceived, helping to cement the most resilient middle class in the history of the world in the wake of World War II. Our veterans and our country deserve that commitment to be upheld and advanced.
 
Most of all, our veterans deserve leaders who will fight for them as ardently and as forcefully as they have fought for us.
 
That’s why, on this Veterans Day, we are proud to release a detailed and comprehensive plan to honor the full breadth of our obligation to veterans and their families — and to restore the sacred commitments that this White House has seen fit to ignore.
 
This plan and this cause are personal to us. Over the course of many years, it has been our honor to visit our troops in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and to witness their incredible strength of character firsthand. We have been blessed to visit with wounded veterans in Landstuhl, Germany, and at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, and to welcome troops to our home for Thanksgiving dinners and spend many Christmas Days with the heroes at Walter Reed. When our son Beau was deployed to Iraq for a year, we whispered prayers, and learned a small portion of what sacrifice means to the families of those who serve.
 
Every one of the more than 18 million veterans in our country has earned our admiration and our gratitude — but it is our duty to repay them with something more than that. We must honor their service with bold policies that meet our sacred obligation, with opportunities commensurate to the sacrifices they and their families have made, and with trustworthy national leadership.

FACT SHEET:
The Biden Plan to Keep Our Sacred Obligation to Our Veterans
  

Joe Biden believes that as a nation, we have many obligations, but we have only one truly sacred obligation: to properly prepare and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families–both while they are deployed and after they return home. As the parents of a son who deployed to Iraq, Joe and Jill Biden understand the gravity of this promise. Our service members ensure our freedoms, our security, and the very future of our country. They are willing to sacrifice everything. Many do. And each of them deserves our respect and enduring gratitude, both while on active duty and after separating from service. 
 
President Trump has repeatedly failed our veterans and ignored this sacred obligation. From the outrage of deporting undocumented veterans without checking their record of military service, to allowing his wealthy Mar-a-Lago friends to drive veterans policy, to pursuing policies designed to privatize and dismantle the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Trump neither understands nor respects the idea of “duty, honor, country” that inspires our brave military members to serve and imbues our veterans with pride. 
 
Less than one percent of Americans currently serve in the military, and the other 99 percent of us owe them the secure futures they have earned. As president, Joe Biden will keep faith with our veterans and their families. He will meet our sacred obligation.


The Biden Record of Delivering for Our Veterans  
Joe Biden has fought aggressively for our service members and veterans throughout his career in public service. His record speaks for itself. On the broad range of issues that matter to our brave military members and our veterans, Joe Biden has always had their back.
 
As a senator, Joe Biden was an early advocate for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and other toxins to be able to access the care and benefits they deserve.
He championed funding for prosthetics for veterans and mammogram coverage for female veterans, fought for proper burial allowances, and supported the concurrent receipt of retirement and disability pay for veterans. He co-sponsored the legislation to establish the Vietnam, Korean, and WWII memorials in Washington, D.C., as well as the post-9/11 GI Bill to provide educational benefits to a new generation of heroes.
 
Biden also led the way in the Senate on critical issues to protect the health of our military, most notably driving the fight to increase funding for up-armored Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) by $23.6 billion, which saved thousands of lives and limbs of U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he introduced legislation to prohibit cuts to military medical care during times of war.
 
In the White House, Biden continued to be a clarion voice advocating for our veterans. The Obama-Biden Administration accomplished major milestones, including cutting the population of homeless veterans by almost half and reducing the unemployment rate for veterans by more than half. In 2013, when an unacceptable backlog of veterans’ disability claims was uncovered at the VA, the Obama-Biden Administration took aggressive action to rectify the failures and ultimately reduced the backlog by nearly 90 percent in just over three years. The Obama-Biden Administration also increased the overall funding request for the VA by more than 85 percent during its years in office, including a 76 percent increase in funding devoted to the critical issue of veterans’ mental health. It successfully implemented the new GI Bill and approved the long overdue expansion of benefits to those suffering from Agent Orange-related conditions.
 
During the Obama-Biden Administration, the VA also led in creating the Blue Button app to help veterans access their health data and medical records more easily. Today, Blue Button is used by more than million veterans.
 
Additionally, Dr. Jill Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama created and led the Joining Forces initiative to build support for our veterans and military families, including a focus on increasing employment opportunities. Between April 2011 and the end of the Administration, Joining Forces supported programs and secured commitments from employers that led to the hiring or training of more than 1.5 million veterans and military spouses.
 

 
Our longest wars have taken their toll, both on our newest generation of veterans and on the system built to support them and previous generations of veterans. According to the most recent census data, there are more than 18 million veterans in the United States, and today’s veterans population has needs that the VA has never before addressed. This is reflected both in the growing interest for “anywhere, anytime” health care service models and in our growing understanding of behavioral health challenges, the harmful impacts of burn pits, environmental toxins, traumatic brain injury, and the devastating epidemic of opioid addiction and suicide. The VA must adapt to meet the ever-evolving needs of the veteran community. 
 
At the same time, the VA continues to struggle with poor organizational performance, staff shortfalls, leadership gaps, and IT systems failures. The integration of a new generation of veterans into the VA system has added a substantial number of veterans eligible for health care and other benefits as overall demand for services has surged, with the combination creating capacity challenges across the system. Too often, the VA’s performance in terms of access, outcomes, cost, and accountability is mixed. There have been both important successes and intolerable failures or gaps in service. Solving these challenges will require a substantial investment in talent, leadership time, budget, and public attention. It’s what we owe our veterans. It is past time to rethink and reinvent a better VA.
 
There is nothing partisan about improving support for service members, veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors. As president, Joe Biden will unite the country and restore the VA as the premier agency for ensuring our veterans’ overall well-being by:

Providing Veterans World Class Health Care to Meet Their Specific Needs

Driving Progress to Eliminate Veterans Homelessness and Bring Down Suicide Rates

Creating Meaningful Employment and Educational Opportunities

Improving VA Management and Accountability. 

To support the VA mission, a Biden Administration will ensure coordination with the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), state agencies, and the thousands of non-governmental organizations that support this vital community. It will work faithfully to restore public trust in the VA so that no one in the military community or beyond will ever again question whether the United States of America keeps its promises to those who serve our country.
 
Providing Veterans World Class Health Care to Meet Their Specific Needs
The Veterans Health Administration serves upwards of 9 million veterans and is responsible for their whole health, physical and mental. Studies have found that health outcomes at VA hospitals are often better than their non-VA counterpart, and more than 90 percent of those who receive their health services through the VA report that they would recommend it to a fellow veteran. As president, Joe Biden will work to ensure that the VA provides the world class health care that our veterans have earned and deserve and sets the example for private sector care.
 
In the area of mental health, the VA and DoD have done pioneering work to address the specific needs of veterans, deploying innovative treatment solutions such as telehealth and other platforms to address a variety of conditions. The private sector trails the VA in its ability to provide behavioral health services to the nation as a whole, much less to understand the unique needs of veterans.
 
At the same time, the VA is also struggling with a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure, and many VA facilities are more than 60 years old. Further, across the system, the variance in quality of — and access to — care is unacceptable. As the demand for treatment has increased, the VA must continually strive to improve services and outcomes for veterans, especially in the areas of pain, polytrauma recovery, substance-use disorder (SUD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and general behavioral health, in the most effective and cost-efficient way possible.
 
In addition to protecting and building on the Affordable Care Act with a public option to expand access to quality, affordable health care and lower costs, and commitments to keep rural hospitals open and expand health care delivery models for rural areas, a Biden Administration will:

Rebuild trust in the Department of Veterans Affairs. During the Obama-Biden Administration, we improved access to health care offerings for veterans in their communities, but there is still more work to do. Private sector points of care were designed to provide care to veterans when it was faster, closer, or offered superior services for a particular veteran’s needs. We must ensure that health care purchased in the community actually improves access and convenience and does not compromise the health of our veterans. President Biden will establish the right balance of VA care and purchased care, region by region, based on veteran needs, existing VA capacity, and availability of market alternatives.

Conduct a thorough assessment of the staffing needs and requirements across the VA to inform specific hiring initiatives and programs for attracting and retaining medical professionals. This includes ensuring that professionals are working to the full scope of their license and creating incentives to support health care professionals joining the VA workforce.

Refine and update Community Care Guidelines, ensuring that if a veteran is referred to a community care provider that does not meet the same level of access and quality as the VA, the veteran will be referred back to the VA. This full-circle referral process will better ensure that veterans are seen in a timely manner and receive the best possible quality of care.

Establish cultural competency training protocols to ensure that providers in VA facilities and in community care settings understand and are equipped to support the needs of LGBTQ veterans in the health care setting.

Work with Congress to improve health services for women veterans. Biden will ensure that each VA Medical Center has at least one full-time women’s primary care physician; and, within 200 days of taking office, make available a women veterans training module for community health care providers. And, Biden will work with Congress to enact the Deborah Sampson Act and ensure that the safety and privacy concerns of women veterans are addressed throughout his Administration.

Provide funding to ensure there is safe, reliable child care at all VA Medical Centers.

Work with Congress to eliminate co-pays for preventive health care for veterans, which can create unnecessary barriers to seeking basic preventive care. 

Expand the list of presumptive conditions to ensure no veteran who experienced a TBI or had exposure to burn pits or other environmental toxins goes without access to VA health care and benefits. We cannot ask our veterans who are suffering to wait decades, as we did with Agent Orange. President Biden will also increase access to VA care beyond the 5-year eligibility window for combat veterans, as conditions related to toxic exposure may take many years to manifest.

Increase research dollars by $300 million to invest in better understanding the impact of TBI and toxic exposures (including burn pits) on long-term health outcomes, and continue to drive research focused on the needs of disabled veterans.

Ensure that disabled veterans that require a prosthesis are able to access the most modern prosthetics technology available, and that they are able to upgrade their equipment at no cost as new developments occur.

Expand funding for direct and purchase-care treatment for disorders related to the misuse of alcohol and opioids in order to reduce unacceptably long wait-times for treatment.

A Biden Administration will support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes and reschedule cannabis as a schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts. This will include allowing the VA to research the use of medical cannabis to treat veteran-specific health needs.

Ensure the full integration of veteran caregivers as members of the health care team for veterans. The VA offers a diverse array of programs and supports for caregivers, however, we must ensure that the VA remains a caregiver-friendly environment and respects their role in ensuring the recovery and rehabilitation of their loved one. 

Increase funding for and expand access to telehealth through the VA, particularly in rural areas not able to access timely care.

Modernize VA hospitals and clinics to serve our veterans better through a nationwide infrastructure plan that provides a comprehensive refresh of VA health facilities. Biden will retrofit VA’s existing brick and mortar physical locations, where patient volume warrants, and repurpose older facilities to meet new needs such as assisted-living facilities and long-term care alternatives. Biden will improve both the buildings and equipment, so the VA continues to lead in providing 21st century care.  

Create safe, modern, clean, and recovery-oriented housing for veterans being treated for SUDs and those who are homeless by refurbishing buildings condemned or not in use, such as the massive VA Los Angeles campus.

 
Driving Progress to Promote Veterans’ Mental Health and Well-Being
Suicide is a public health crisis–the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. As a society, we need to work together to eliminate the stigma felt by those who are suffering and struggling with their mental health. There is no shame in asking for help. As president, Joe Biden will increase access to mental health treatment by enforcing full mental health parity and ensuring all Americans have access to high-quality mental health care, regardless of their insurance coverage status. Service members and veterans are at an elevated risk of dying by suicide. Recent data show that, on average, 20 veterans and service members die by suicide every day, and among some groups, the rate of suicide is rising alarmingly. Even one death by suicide is devastating, and we must do more to stem the tide. The Trump administration has grossly mismanaged this crisis, at one point leaving millions of VA dollars dedicated to suicide prevention efforts unused, and that’s just not right. This is a serious challenge, and our goal must be to remove the stigma in military communities to seek help, ensure that every veteran that reaches out is immediately connected to support and services, and to ultimately end the suicide crisis among veterans. As president, Biden will ensure a multi-faceted, substantive, and sustained commitment that addresses this as the public health emergency that it is.
 
The same is true when it comes to veterans experiencing homelessness. The Obama-Biden Administration proved that we can make huge inroads to address this persistent challenge with sustained attention and cross-coordination among government departments. But with just over 23,000 veterans without shelter on any given night, we have much more work to do.
 
A Biden Administration will:

Publish within the first 200 days in office a comprehensive public health and cross-sector approach to addressing suicide in veterans, service members, and their families.

Work aggressively to facilitate immediate access to mental health services for veterans in crisis, to include standardizing performance expectations around same day, walk-in and urgent mental health services; hiring more ER psychiatric staff and peer specialists; expanding crisis line capacity to ensure all calls are answered and appropriate referrals occur within hours; and implementing specific programs to encourage veterans to prioritize their mental health by reaching out to the VA when they need support. Within the first year in office, President Biden will have a goal of completely eliminating wait times for veterans who reach out with suicidal ideation so that they are immediately taken into treatment.

Together with states, community-based organizations, and employers, implement public education and outreach initiatives to help veterans understand that care is available and effective. We must work to end the culture of silence around mental health issues and remove the stigma associated with getting mental health treatment, particularly among service members who are more used to helping others than asking for it themselves.

Ensure the DoD’s Suicide Prevention Office and the VA have the resources and staff they need to make smart investments with allocated funds–and that money dedicated to suicide prevention efforts never goes unused.

Create a national center of excellence for reducing veteran suicide, similar to the National Center on Homelessness among Veterans. Biden will recruit top-level leadership to build strategic partnerships and solutions that extend beyond the VA’s health care system.

Require all providers of veterans services funded by the VA to receive training on suicide risk identification and safety planning, to include lethal means restriction and appropriate response and reporting about suicide. 

Enact policies that promote the value and dignity of life by supporting programs that increase economic stability; promote connectedness through structured social support; and reduce risky behaviors, such as substance use, poor sleep, and improper firearm storage.

Expand capacity at Vet Centers to ensure veterans in communities can access readjustment counseling services and resources, including financial and long-term planning. President Biden will specifically expand outreach and resources for veterans as they experience periods of transition, not just out of the military, but throughout their life, including into post-career retirement.

Tackle issues that contribute to higher suicide risk. This includes implementing programs to disseminate high-quality treatments for PTSD, ensuring that veterans have access to the best treatments available no matter where they receive care, and instituting policies that seek to eliminate discrimination, end harassment and hold perpetuators of sexual assault in the military accountable. A Biden Administration will not tolerate the sexual assault culture that has become all too common in the military and veteran sector.

Work with Congress to continue to drive down veteran homelessness by permanently authorizing the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) program, which provides critical funding for wrap-around services for those facing homelessness. President Biden will also work to ensure that we better understand the unique needs of women and LGBTQ veterans experiencing homelessness.

Reform the policy and review processes for veterans so that less-than-honorable discharges will not be unjustly awarded for conduct directly linked to the behavioral health effects of PTSD, TBI, or other trauma experienced while serving.

 
Creating Civilian Lives of Meaning and Opportunity
The Obama-Biden Administration worked tirelessly to bring down high unemployment levels among our veterans. Over the course of 8 years, the Obama-Biden administration cut the veteran unemployment rate by more than half. That is vitally important progress, but now, we have to think about empowering our veterans and their future employers with the tools they need to build pathways to successful, long-term careers. Recent data indicate that veterans are more likely than their civilian counterparts to take a job at lower skill-level. As president, Biden will keep his foot on the gas to ensure that service members transitioning back to civilian lives have the best opportunities to succeed and build fulfilling futures.
 
A Biden Administration will:

Work closely with DoD to ensure that the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is implemented effectively and that outcomes are regularly reported.

Ensure that more transitioning service members are able to access job training and placement services prior to their end of active duty service. By expanding private sector relationships through programs like the SkillBridge program, Biden will give qualified transitioning service members the opportunity to start building a meaningful civilian career as early as possible.

Work with the Department of Labor to enforce the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) hiring benchmark among federal contractors and subcontractors, and provide preferences and incentives to corporations that meet the benchmark.

Promote corporate mentorship programs between veteran-owned businesses and existing contractors to support veteran entrepreneurship.

Ensure careful implementation of the Forever GI Bill so that veterans receive the educational benefits they have earned on time.

Implement annual reporting to be led by the VA in partnership with the Department of Education and promote interagency cooperation and data sharing to better understand academic outcomes for all GI Bill users.

Develop best-practice guidelines for supporting veterans in higher education to assist higher education institutions to improve graduation rates among GI Bill recipients and provide financial incentivizes for campuses that follow guidelines and transparently report their outcomes.

Work aggressively to close the 90/10 loophole on GI Bill and Tuition Assistance dollars to keep for-profit bad actors from raiding the benefits service members and veterans have earned.

Support and protect post-9/11 GI benefits for veterans and qualified family members by strengthening the GI Bill Comparison Tool and School Feedback Tool to put an end to post-secondary institutions’ predatory practices.

Protect undocumented members of our armed services, veterans, and their spouses from deportation, because if you are willing to risk your life for this country, you and your family have earned the chance to live safe, healthy, and productive lives in America.

Work with DoD and the Department of Homeland Security to provide timely naturalization for those who have served honorably in our military, with an earned path to citizenship prior to discharge or retirement.

 
Improving VA Management and Accountability
The agency charged with meeting the needs of our veterans–not only their health care needs, but administering their full range of benefits and overseeing the cemeteries that guard their honor in death–should not be limited by outdated management tools and practices. Our veterans deserve the best services available. As president, Biden will enhance the capacity of the VA to serve our veterans as efficiently as possible by overseeing a generational upgrade to clinical and management systems, by leveraging commercial best-practices and modern technologies to meet the unique demands of public sector mission.
 
A Biden Administration will:

Improve health care access, quality, and customer experience by seamlessly augmenting direct care with purchase care enabled under the Mission Act. Enhance the administrative, financial, and operational systems that underpin the provision of care in the network model by improving vital case management systems, quality oversight, integrative health treatments and supporting administrative, financial and IT systems. These reforms will help ensure access to high-quality care and a first-rate customer experience that satisfies all veterans, regardless of where they receive care.

Create standards of health record interoperability that ensure a comprehensive health record is provided by community care organizations back to the VA.

Invest in improving human resource and management practices across the VA to strengthen the customer experience for our veterans and deliver services more efficiently. This will include a focus on workforce training and cultivating a culture across the VA that places a premium on quality and service.

Leverage options under the Mission Act to pilot alternative payment models and prioritize care models that improve the quality of care, not just the volume of services. Veterans should be able to access care in a way that works best for them, not the way that is most convenient for the system, in particular when it comes to meeting specific needs such as rehabilitation services, SUD, and behavioral health.  

Reduce delays and errors in claims processing and in scheduling the medical exams necessary for veterans to complete their disability claims. This has been a constant source of frustration for veterans. The long delays in the system, and rates of error — in both Regional Offices and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals — are too long and too high, and unfairly delay adjudication of veterans claims. A Biden VA will identify the sources of the problem and undertake the investments in personnel and training needed to ensure that veterans receive accurate decisions in a more timely manner. 

Help more veterans gain access to their own health data and medical records through the Blue Button app. Blue Button has been downloaded by more than 2 million veterans and is increasingly being used by Medicare beneficiaries and the private sector. By making Blue Button easier to use, the VA will continue to lead the movement of patient-centered models of care.

Implement a VA-hosted health record that can serve any and every American who wants one. We can leverage Blue Button to access health information no matter where it is, to allow veterans and citizens to manage and use it as they see fit. By putting our veterans first, we can make the VA the nexus of the best care everywhere.

Create a national health database for non-profit research scientists and the commercial sector that would accelerate discovery of the best therapies against the devastating diseases of our time: cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s, and dementia. Biden will direct the VA to support the database using its infrastructure, making access available to all. Veterans will be able to choose, on an individual basis, whether or not to contribute their data. This national repository for longitudinal health data will enable us to use technological innovations to see patterns that people don’t easily recognize and make connections we don’t normally make for the U.S. population as a whole.

Warren Releases Plan to Keep Our Promises to Servicemembers, Veterans, and Military Families

Senator Elizabeth Warren, candidate for president, detailed her plan for servicemembers, veterans and military families © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to support and protect America’s veterans, service members and military families ahead of Veterans Day. 

“All three of my brothers served, so I know the responsibility we have to our service members, military families, and veterans. As Commander-in-Chief, I will lead our Armed Forces with awareness of the unique challenges service members and military families face, and the difficulties veterans encounter as they navigate VA during their transition to civilian life. I will honor our troops not only by executing sound military strategy, but also by caring for our veterans after they take off the uniform. And I will prioritize our most important strategic asset – our people – as I reform Pentagon spending and address our most pressing national security crises. The way I see it, this is not complicated. It’s about a government that keeps its promises to those who served — it’s about our values. “

This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – As President, Senator Elizabeth Warren pledged to: 

Raise service members’ pay at or above the Employment Cost Index and protect earned benefits, ensuring that total compensation remains competitive with the civilian sector and that it reflects the unique demands of military life

Prioritize family readiness by addressing spouse employment, housing, child care and education, and take care of military caregivers

Expand mental health services and work to end military suicide by setting a goal of cutting veterans’ suicides in half within her first term

Tackle sexual assault and prosecute sexual harassment as a stand-alone crime under military law

Enforce equal treatment for all who serve, including women, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ service members

Ease the transition for veterans by eliminating the benefits backlog and establishing a “warm hand-off” between DOD and VA

Reject attempts to privatize the VA by investing in a VA worthy of the veterans it serves — to provide the high-quality, evidence-based, culturally competent programs that our veterans rely on for years to come.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Elizabeth has worked to achieve pay raises for senior enlisted personnel, fix repeated promotion delays for our National Guard, and fought to protect military families from fraud and abuse. Major provisions of her bill with Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to address unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions on military bases were included as part of the Senate-passed FY2020 NDAA.

Keeping Our Promises to Our Service Members, Veterans, and Military Families

This Veterans Day, Americans will gather in towns and cities across our country to thank our military personnel past and present. With three brothers who served, this day is especially meaningful to me.

Less than 1% of the U.S. population currently serves in uniform. And while Americans rightly honor their service on November 11, too often the day-to-day sacrifices of military families go unseen and unremarked. Parades and salutes to the troops are important ways that Americans express their gratitude, but they’re only platitudes if they’re not backed up with meaningful action and policies that support our military both during and after service — not just on Veterans Day, but every day. 

For me, that starts with care in how we deploy our forces abroad. Defense policy is veterans policy. For decades, we have been mired in a series of wars that have sapped our strength and skewed our priorities. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have seen up close how 18 years of conflict have degraded equipment, eroded our forces’ readiness, and postponed investment in critical military capabilities.

The burden of these wars has fallen primarily on our military personnel, who have endured repeated deployments in dangerous places around the globe year after year, and their families. 7,027 American service members have lost their lives, almost 60,000 have been injured, and countless more live every day with the invisible wounds of war.

I know our service members and their families are smart, tough, and resourceful — they will accomplish any mission we ask of them, whatever the cost. But it’s not fair to our men and women in uniform to ask them to solve problems that don’t have a military solution. Nor is it fair to them when we refuse to make the tough calls to change course when our strategies aren’t working. 

A strong military should act as a deterrent so that most of the time, we won’t have to use it. We can honor our veterans by ending these endless wars, reining in our bloated defense budget and reducing the influence of defense contractors at the Pentagon, and bringing our troops home responsibly — and then providing our veterans with the benefits they’ve earned. That’s why today I’m introducing my plan to care for our nation’s veterans, service members, military families, and survivors. 

Protecting Earned Benefits for Those Who Serve

In prior generations, America experienced a tight relationship between people in uniform and the rest of our nation. For a host of reasons, however, our all-volunteer military is becoming more and more distant from the population it serves. In recent years the military has sometimes struggled to attract and retain sufficient personnel to meet recruitment targets, in both raw numbers and increasingly technical skill sets. A majority of young people are ineligible to serve, and low unemployment rates and declining propensity for military service mean that even fewer apply to serve in today’s military. Many who enlist do so because they have a family member who served. 

It is clear that the services must do more to compete with 21st century careers and employers to continue to attract and retain the best for the All Volunteer Force. That means more flexible talent management systems and improved quality of life for service members and their families — and it also means preserving best-in-class benefits for our military personnel. But it’s about more than recruitment and readiness. It’s about honoring the commitment of those who choose to serve with commitments of our own. 

Guaranteeing Pay and Benefits

In past years, Congress and the Pentagon have too often sought to balance the budget on the backs of our service members through proposals for lower pay raises, increased out-of-pocket costs, and cuts to benefits like housing and commissaries. Proposals that undermine total compensation are a betrayal of our obligation to our service members, and they undermine our ability to recruit and retain the best possible All Volunteer Force.

In the Senate, I’ve worked across the aisle to achieve pay raises for senior enlisted personnel and restrict the president from reducing pay raises promised to our troops. I’ve also fought to fix repeated promotion delays for our National Guard. 

To ensure that compensation remains competitive with the civilian sector and that it reflects the unique demands of military life, as President I will propose pay raises at or above the Employment Cost Index. I’ll ensure that benefits such as housing allowances keep pace with market rates in base communities, and work to ensure that service members are educated and empowered to make decisions about their retirement and savings choices in light of new options for blended retirement. 

Empowering Military Students 

Over the past 70 years, the GI Bill has helped send millions of veterans to college, easing their transition to civilian life, and contributing to our economic growth. I am committed to ensuring these benefits are guaranteed and protected in the future — for our veterans and their family members. I’ve fought to expand eligibility for educational benefits, including by working to provide Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for Purple Heart recipients who were not previously eligible, and expanding the Yellow Ribbon education program to cover families of fallen service members.

As benefits have increased — and increased in complexity — as a result of GI Bill expansions, VA has scrambled at times to keep up, leaving military students in the lurch. I’ve worked to ensure that delays at VA don’t negatively impact student veterans, including by helping to pass a bipartisan measure to protect student veterans’ access to education in the event of delayed GI Bill disbursements. 

Too often, the benefits provided to military and veteran students have made them targets for predatory lenders and shady for-profit schools. I’ve fought to protect students from these scams, including by obtaining refunds for military borrowers cheated by loan servicers like Navient. I also fought to restore GI benefits to those cheated by fraudulent for-profit colleges like ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges. 

But there is more to be done. My plan for affordable higher education will make two- and four-year public college free, and cancel student loan debt up to $50,000 for 42 million Americans — helping thousands of military families burdened with higher education expenses beyond what is covered by the GI Bill, and ensuring all of our veterans and their families have the chance to get essential job training and degrees without taking on a dime of student loan debt. My plan also completely cuts shady for-profit colleges off from federal aid dollars, which will end their abuse of veteran students for their GI Bill benefits once and for all. 

Preventing Fraud and Abuse  

When I set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, I made protecting service members and veterans a priority. We established an Office of Servicemember Affairs, and I recruited Holly Petraeus to run it. Together, we met with active-duty service members and families to discuss financial issues, including the base where two of my brothers completed their basic training.

I saw firsthand that today’s military families face difficult financial challenges as they try to make ends meet, balancing multiple deployments with raising a family. Some even told me that they felt like they were fighting two wars at once – one in a distant war zone and another here at home against creditors. But I’m proud to say that since 2011, the office we established has heard from over 90,000 service members from all 50 states and saved them nearly $230 million, providing some measure of relief for our military families. 

I’ve made fighting for military families a similar priority in the Senate. I fought to prevent predatory lenders from “loan churning,” or repeatedly refinancing VA-backed mortgages to pocket hefty fees. I successfully expanded financial protections for Gold Star spouses, passing a bipartisan bill to allow a survivor to terminate a residential lease within one year of a service member’s death. And I worked with my Republican colleagues in Congress to pass my Veterans Care Financial Protection Act to protect low-income and older veterans in assisted care from scams targeting their pension benefits. 

As President, I’ll work with Congress to give the CFPB new tools and additional authority to enforce the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. And I’ll appoint individuals at the CFPB and DOJ who will use the full extent of those authorities to aggressively go after scammers and protect our men and women in uniform. Criminals and predators will keep coming up with new and creative ways to target the military community. We must be vigilant — but military families can feel confident that a Warren Administration will always have their backs. 

Prioritizing Family Readiness

Military families form the backbone of our armed forces. Just like other middle-class families, they worry about making ends meet: finding child care, giving their children a good education, retiring with dignity. But military families — particularly dual military couples — also face special challenges, like regular moves from assignment to assignment and the anxiety of a loved one’s deployment. And too often, the unique needs of military communities are overlooked by Washington. 

A Warren Administration will continue and expand current policy of weighing basing and force structure decisions to account for quality of life factors in the surrounding communities, including safe living environments, available child care, quality of public schools, and employment opportunities and licensing reciprocity for military spouses. There’s also a lot more we can do to support and uplift our military families. 

Increasing Military Spouse Employment 

majority of military families report two incomes as vital to their family’s well-being. But employment opportunities for military spouses are hindered by a variety of factors, including frequent moves and lack of available child care at some posts. Last year 30% of military spouses were unemployed, and 56% of working spouses reported being underemployed. Spouses in fields that require professional licenses face an additional challenge, as occupational licensing and credentialing standards vary from state to state. 

Reduced spousal employment isn’t just bad for military families — it results in up to $1 billion annually in lost income and associated costs. We need to make spousal employment a priority. 

The Obama Administration made real progress in encouraging states to offer licensing and credentialing reciprocity for the military community — now we need to finish those efforts to remove barriers to military spouse employment. 

We can start by making permanent the program to reimburse military spouses for professional relicensing. I’ll also work with states to provide military families with a one-stop shop where they can review licensing requirements before a move. 

I’ll also work with Congress to expand and better communicate about special hiring preferences for on-base jobs for military spouses and at American Job Centers. These preferences not only benefit spouses, they help build communities on military installations.

We’ll expand educational opportunities like MyCAA for military spouses, and provide targeted training for high-demand, high-growth sectors and to help military spouses find careers that can move with them. 

Military spouses bring unique strengths to the workforce — it’s time we leverage those strengths to benefit not only our military families but our economy. 

Ensuring High Quality Childcare and Education

As a young working mother, child care almost sank me — until my Aunt Bee stepped in to help. But finding affordable and high-quality child care has gotten even harder since my children were growing up, and not everyone is lucky enough to have an Aunt Bee of their own. 

That’s why I have a plan to provide universal child care for every single one of our babies from birth to school age. It will be free for millions of American families, and affordable for everyone. The federal government will partner with local providers to create a network of child care options that would be available to every family. These options would be held to high federal standards, and we’ll pay child care and preschool workers the wages they deserve. And rather than diverting funding from military daycare programs for a needless wall, I’ll invest again in growing DOD child care centers and modernizing schools on base.

We’ll move forward with efforts to introduce more flexibility into the personnel system for families who want to limit moves for assignments, while ensuring that option does not hamper the service member’s ability to get promoted and advance their military career. We’ll invest the resources necessary to ensure families (and their household goods) are no longer subjected to chaos and mistakes that can impact the experience of transitioning to a new assignment. And we’ll seek to limit family moves during the academic year — when they must occur, we’ll provide dedicated support to families as they navigate transferring educational credits. 

Every military family is unique, and some have unique needs. I’ll work to improve oversight and standardize DOD’s Exceptional Family Member Program to care for dependents with special needs. We need to do more to empower military families to make informed decisions, taking  their individual circumstances into account during relocation and providing dedicated case management to help military families identify appropriate programs and interventions regardless of their location. Supporting these families isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also good for military readiness.

Wounded Warriors and their Families

About 30% of veterans between the ages of 21 and 64 have a disability. As president, I will keep fighting for the rights of people with disabilities and to ensure their full inclusion through policy reforms and enforcement priorities. This includes prioritizing the unique challenges that face veterans with disabilities. 

As part of my plan to empower American workers, I have committed to substantially increasing funding for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to uphold the rights of veterans with disabilities at work. I will also ensure that the Department of Labor is enforcing the law to protect disabled veterans againist work discrimination. I support the Raise the Wage Act to guarantee workers with disabilities a minimum wage of $15 an hour, and I will push to pass the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, which would provide grants and assistance to support a transition towards competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities.

It is often family members who care for injured service members and veterans — in some cases, putting aside careers and other opportunities to provide assistance to our wounded warriors. According to a 2014 report, there were approximately 5.5 million military caregivers in the United States — but the physical and emotional strain on this population is understudied and overlooked. 

Medicare for All will expand access to long-term home and community-based care, offering critical support and relieving the financial burden on veterans and their families. A Warren Administration will also empower our nation’s military caregivers by fully implementing the recommendations of the federal advisory panel on caregiving. We’ll create an office within VA focused on the needs of caregivers, ensuring that their voices are heard in the policymaking process and that VA is fully communicating available resources. We’ll ensure that caregivers are formally designated in a patient’s medical record, so that they can be consistently included in medical planning about the course of care. We’ll collect better data on the caregiver population and their needs, including the impact on military children. And we’ll make sure we’re also caring for the caregivers, themselves, including respite care. 

To recognize caregiving for the valuable work it is, my plan to expand Social Security creates a new credit for caregiving for people who qualify for Social Security benefits. This credit raises Social Security benefits for people who take time out of the workforce to care for a family member at least 80 hours a month, including designated “primary family caregivers” of eligible veterans in the Caregiver Support Program. For every month of caregiving that meets these requirements, the caregiver will be credited for Social Security purposes with a month of income equal to the monthly average of that year’s median annual wage.

Lastly, I support eliminating the so-called “Widow’s Tax” and efforts to ensure that all families of veterans who died or became totally disabled from a service-connected condition receive the Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) benefits that they are entitled to.

Providing Safe and Affordable Housing

In the mid-1990s, the Department of Defense agreed to privatize the majority of the 300,000 houses it owned and operated on base, many of which were in need of renovation after decades of neglect. It was a good deal for the private developers, but this system has turned out to be a lousy bargain for military families. With their focus on short-term payoffs, private developers failed to invest in and maintain the properties with which they were entrusted. That’s why earlier this year, I released my plan to improve military housing by ensuring that every base has a housing office staffed with advocates for the service member and establishing a “bill of rights” that all military tenants will receive when they move in. 

And for those families who choose to live off base, and for veterans, my plan to increase affordable housing makes a historic federal investment to increase affordable housing supply, lowering rents around the country by 10%. And while cost is a major challenge to finding safe and affordable housing, too many service members and veterans face additional obstacles, including landlords who don’t understand the housing benefits they receive for their service and those who turn away service members and veterans because of discriminatory stereotypes.  My affordable housing plan extends protection against discrimination under the Fair Housing Act to include veteran status, which would include those using HUD-VASH vouchers. I have also pushed hard for more resources for programs to end veterans’ homelessness, including the successful Tribal HUD-VASH program to assist Native American veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness find homes in Indian country. 

Putting Service Members and Veterans First

Nearly two decades of combat has put significant stress on the force, and this will continue to manifest itself long after combat operations are over. Our first priority must be the care and safety of those who serve or have served in uniform. 

Eliminating Military Sexual Assault 

For decades, the military has affirmed a “zero tolerance policy” — and yet reports of sexual assault in the military have spiked. In 2018 alone, the Department of Defense estimated that more than 20,000 service members experienced assault or unwanted sexual contact. These statistics are a shameful breach of trust with those who serve. Annual promises from senior military leaders to address the issue increasingly ring hollow — we owe it to our service members to make real change. 

Currently, skilled military prosecutors make an evidence-based recommendation on whether or not a case should proceed to trial, but then military commanders get to decide whether or not they want to listen. That’s why I supported Senator Gillibrand’s effort to remove cases of sexual assault from the chain of command and place trained prosecutors in charge instead. It’s simple – if evidence of a crime warrants a trial, then the case should go to trial. We need to reform the military justice system so that the lawyers and judges trying cases have the necessary experience and expertise, and so that every victim of a sexually-based crime benefits from a competent, empowered advocate from the very first day they report.

We need to change the culture. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are correlated— and 24% of military women and 6% of military men said they had been sexually harassed in the past year. In the Senate, I worked to make so-called “revenge pornography” prosecutable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. We should also prosecute sexual harassment as a stand-alone crime under military law. We should push to expose and prevent sexual harassment in the civilian workforce as well, recognizing that our entire culture has work to do.

And we need to invest in survivors, helping them to get the care they need so that they can recover, and so they can continue to serve. Often, survivors worry that reporting a sexual assault may also bring to light other misconduct, such as underage drinking or fraternization. Sometimes, military commanders will distribute punishment for these offenses by survivors while the sexual assault itself goes unaddressed.  Even worse, more than 20% of those who reported an assault also reported experiencing retaliation. If we want to increase reporting and hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable, we need to exercise much wider discretion in the way we approach collateral misconduct as part of instances of sexual assault. Until reporting an assault is not perceived as a possible end to someone’s career, we will never fully address this scourge. 

Ending Veteran and Military Suicide

Our service members are resilient, but even the strongest warriors need care. In 2017, 6,139 U.S. veterans died by suicide, an average of nearly 17 each day, and 1.5 times the rate for non-veteran adults. But only half of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who may need mental health services — including many with diagnoses that increase the risk of suicide, like PTSDtraumatic brain injurysubstance use disorders, or depression — actually access them. 

Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy that could have been prevented. As President, I will set a goal of cutting veteran suicides in half within my first term — and pursue a suite of concrete policies to make sure we get there. 

To get there, we need to invest more in research into the causes of suicide, with a specific focus on contributing factors that are specific to the military experience and a concerted effort to collect the data that will save lives. We should conduct research targeting subgroups of veterans who may be at higher risk of suicide, and evaluate the efficacy of suicide prevention pilot programs and invest in those that make a meaningful difference. 

Veterans account for one in five firearm suicides. My plan to prevent gun violence includes a waiting period before purchase and a federal extreme risk protection law, both of which have been shown to reduce suicides by gun.

We also need to provide consistent, accessible, high-quality mental health care for all of our service members and veterans. Under Medicare for All every person will have this essential care covered. But we must also address the shortfall of mental health providers at DOD and VA, and in the areas where veterans live. 

In the last Congress, I led the fight to prevent budget cuts to the Mental Health Block Grant and secured an additional $160 million for the program, and I urged appropriators to designate $1 billion to mental health programs through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. I have also proposed significant expansions of Community Health Centers and the National Health Service Corps, which would help increase the supply of primary care and mental health providers in underserved areas. We need to make it easier for service members and veterans to see a mental health professional, including by significantly increasing the number of mental health specialists at DOD and VA, streamlining appointment processes, and enhancing access to telehealth options for those who cannot come to a VA facility. 

We should also focus on preventive care — early and often throughout a military career, including by incorporating annual mental health exams for service members in the same way they receive annual physical exams. We should clearly communicate benefits and eligibility, raising awareness about available care. And we must continue to remove the stigma around warfighters seeking help, and do more to support military families who lose someone to suicide. 

Treating the Opioid and Addiction Crisis

In 2017, over 70,000 people died from a drug overdose — the highest year on record, with the majority due to opioids. And the opioid crisis that has devastated so many American families has not spared our military community. Stressors including deployment, combat exposure, injury, and post-deployment reintegration have been shown to increase the risk of substance abuse. Our military population has a higher risk of substance use disorders, with 11% of veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq treated by the VA being diagnosed with a substance use disorder. 

My CARE Act to end the opioid crisis — introduced in partnership with my late friend Congressman Elijah Cummings of Baltimore — is a comprehensive plan to provide the resources needed to begin treating this epidemic like the public health crisis that it is. It would provide $100 billion in federal funding to states and communities over the next ten years, because that’s what’s needed to make sure every single person gets the treatment they need. 

Under my plan, VA facilities will be able to participate in planning councils to address the opioid crisis in order to ensure that veterans are prioritized in our response and organizations serving veterans have a voice in how the funding is spent. We will expand the number of inpatient beds available to veterans for treatment and recovery. We’ll fund community-based organizations, including eligible veteran-serving nonprofits, working to help prevent and treat addicted veterans. And we’ll provide vocational training for people struggling with addiction, helping them to get back into the civilian workforce after their military careers.

Addressing the “Invisible Wounds” of War

17% of post-9/11 military veterans experience some form of traumatic brain injury during their military service. TBI is associated with higher rates of PTSD, depression, and substance abuse. While our knowledge of these conditions has improved dramatically, it is still incomplete. Moreover, too many veterans don’t receive the treatment they so badly need. While TBI is often associated with blunt physical injuries to the head, research has shown that the blast wave produced by even minor explosions, such as firing heavy weapons, can result in TBI — even if the individual does not exhibit outward physical signs of head injury. 

In the Senate, I worked with my Republican colleagues to establish a longitudinal study at DOD to track the impact of blast exposure and brain health over time, and to push DOD to track service member blast exposure. We’ll use this data to improve our understanding of blast exposure injuries, improve protective equipment, and develop innovative new treatments. We’ll also use it to inform the safety guidance provided to our troops, including by limiting non-combat exposure during training exercises. 

Many states have established veterans’ courts or other diversion programs to provide treatment rather than incarceration for veterans with behavioral issues as a result of trauma, and I support the expansion of these programs. I also support legalizing marijuana. I’ve co-sponsored legislation to study the use of medical cannabis to treat veterans as an alternative to opioids, because we need to pursue all evidence-based opportunities for treatment and response.

The prevalence of certain rare cancers has been increasing steadily among military personnel and veterans who have served overseas. It took years for Vietnam veterans to receive treatment for exposure to Agent Orange — and some, including Blue Water Navy veterans, are still fighting for healthcare and benefits. Some veterans of more recent wars attribute their illness to exposure to toxic burn pits used by the military to dispose of waste, and at least one veterans group has projected that deaths from cancer and other illnesses could outpace suicide deaths in the military population by 2020.

As President, I will ensure that DOD tracks and records potential toxic exposure by integrating it into the post-deployment checklist. We need to ensure that adequate funding is allocated to research diseases that may be connected to certain kinds of exposure. And we must treat those affected without delay — we cannot allow today’s veterans to wait for earned health care. 

Equal Treatment For All Who Serve

The diversity of our force is one of its unique strengths — it allows us to incorporate different perspectives and experiences and to look at problems in new ways. The data are clear: inclusive, diverse militaries simply perform better. When we discriminate or treat classes of service members as less worthy than their peers, we fail to honor that diversity and we do enormous harm to our ability to recruit a strong future force. Minority communities in the military — particularly LGBTQ+, women, Black and Latinx service members — are significantly under-represented in the leadership ranks. Here’s what I’ll do to protect and honor everyone who volunteers to serve. 

LGBTQ+ Service Members

The only thing that should matter when it comes to allowing military personnel to serve is whether or not they can handle the job. Our national security community is weaker when LGBTQ+ Americans are excluded. I have opposed the Trump Administration’s shameful ban on transgender service members from the start — and I’ll reverse it on the first day of my presidency. In addition, advances in care and treatment have made it possible for individuals living with HIV to serve and deploy, and the Pentagon’s policies should be updated to reflect these advances in medical science. 

I’ve also supported efforts to review and correct the military records of service members discharged solely due to their sexual orientation, both before and during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell era. As Commander-in-Chief, I’ll prioritize this effort, ensuring that we reflect their honorable service and reinstate the benefits they earned.

I’ll include the LGBTQ+ population in the VA’s Center for Minority Veterans, ensuring that they receive targeted outreach and equal care and are treated with dignity and respect. A Warren VA will ensure that every LGBTQ+ person can get the equitable, gender-affirming, and culturally-competent health care they need. That means providing all medically necessary care related to the health of transgender people, including transition-related surgery, and allowing providers discretion to deem gender-affirming procedures as medically necessary based on an individualized assessment. This care will also be available under Medicare for All. Professional medical associations recognize the need for transition-related surgery. VA’s blanket exclusion policy of medically necessary treatment is not grounded in medicine; it should be repealed. 

Empowering Women Service Members 

Women make up 17.5% of the total force. But they can face unique professional and personal challenges over the course of a military career, including higher rates of sexual harassment and assault, higher rates of divorce, challenges starting a family, and fewer opportunities for career advancement

I supported then-Defense Secretary Carter’s decision to open combat positions to women across the services, because the only thing that should matter is an individual’s ability to meet the standards. I’m proud of the women who have risen to that challenge. Now we must do more to recruit women into service, and then ensure that they are given equal opportunities to compete for command and promotions. We’ll invest in research on appropriate gear and injury prevention for women — over one hundred years after being allowed to enlist, women still perform their duties wearing equipment that doesn’t fit them, and therefore doesn’t adequately protect them. And both DOD and VA should enhance the quality of and access to care for women service members, including for preventive and reproductive care and mental health. 

A 21st century VA must also adapt to the modern fabric of our veteran population, ensuring that gender-specific care is the norm. There are about 2 million women veterans today, and women represent the fastest growing veteran subgroup — that’s why I successfully fought to ensure VA has sufficient resources and expertise in its peer counseling program for women veterans. I’ll also ensure that VA provides full reproductive health care for all veterans, in addition to the full reproductive health coverage they will have under Medicare for All. This includes IVF, which is currently only available to married veterans with service-connected infertility who don’t need donor sperm or eggs — discriminating against unmarried veterans, those who delayed pregnancy during their service, and same-sex couples. It also includes contraception, for which VA continues to charge veterans despite the fact that the Affordable Care Act made it available without cost to their civilian counterparts. This also includes abortions. I’ve called to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funds from being used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the woman. VA’s restrictions go even further, prohibiting coverage for all abortions and all abortion counseling with no exemptions, an extreme policy I will eliminate. 

Too often, women veterans experience sexually explicit comments and other forms of harassment that make them feel unsafe and unwelcome and cause them to delay seeking care at their local VA or miss appointments altogether. This is shameful and it has to stop. I’ll ensure that a Warren VA has a comprehensive policy to eliminate sexual harassment and assault and hold perpetrators — VA personnel or anyone else — accountable, so that women veterans do not have to feel unsafe at their VA medical center when they seek the care they’ve earned. 

Immigrant Service Members 

Immigrants to our country have a proud history of honorable military service and often become citizens. But the Trump Administration has done everything it can to make these patriotic individuals who volunteer to serve and defend the United States of America feel unwelcome in our ranks.

In recent years, ICE has deported noncitizen veterans in violation of its own policies, which require additional review before proceeding with a removal case against a veteran. The Trump Administration has taken steps to withdraw deportation protections from military family members, including family of service members deployed in combat overseas. And under DOD’s current policies, immigrant troops are being denied citizenship at a rate higher than their civilian counterparts, and applications for naturalization as a result of military service dropped 72% between 2017 and 2018.

This is a disgrace. It also undermines military readiness. It’s not reasonable to expect service members to be able to concentrate on their jobs when their families are being deported, which is why I’ve used my position as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to urge the Trump Administration to maintain critical programs like Parole in Place and Deferred Action for undocumented family members of service members. Further, many noncitizen veterans come to the attention of immigration enforcement as a result of PTSD or other trauma associated with their military service; others fear seeking treatment for that reason. Everyone who serves our country deserves equal treatment and benefits, regardless of their citizenship status.

A Warren Administration will make it clear that we will protect veterans and family members of serving military personnel from deportation, and we will review the cases of those who have been deported for possible return to the United States. Consistent with our national security interests, I’ll restart the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which recruits non-citizens with specialized skills or language abilities, paired with appropriate security and counterintelligence protections. I’ll also make it easier for noncitizens who serve honorably in our military to naturalize and become citizens. And we will heed the call of veterans to honor our commitment to translators and others who supported them in combat by re-launching the Direct Access Program for these vulnerable refugees.

Easing the Transition for Veterans

Nearly 200,000 personnel separate from military service every year. The initial transition away from military service can be a challenging period, as veterans work to start school or find a job, and readjust to family after time overseas. Many new veterans struggle to find a sense of purpose or connection in new civilian careers and communities. While DOD has improved its transition counseling in recent years, we can do more to prepare service members to return to civilian life. 

Ensuring a “Warm Hand-Off” 

The key to an effective transition is a seamless connection between DOD and the VA — but too often, veterans fall through the cracks. I’ll direct DOD to require that service members pre-enroll and complete processing at the VA before they leave active service. I’ll set a goal of completing interoperable electronic records between DOD and VA by the end of my first term. And I’ll direct VA to expand the vets.gov online portal for veterans and provide veterans access to a VA-provided email, so that the government can continue to communicate with them about their eligibility even if they move physical addresses over time. 

Eliminating the Benefits Backlog

While the VA has made progress in addressing its backlog of benefits cases waiting for adjudication, today there are over 70,000 veterans who have been waiting more than 125 days for a status determination. Moreover, VA itself acknowledges it takes between 12-18 months to review a new appeal, and 5-7 years to get a decision from a Veterans Law Judge. As President, I’ll fully eliminate the initial claims and appeals backlog. And in the interim, we’ll provide a presumption of eligibility for certain interim benefits to all those waiting for a final status determination. 

Our understanding of traumatic brain injury and other complex injuries has improved dramatically in recent years, but VA’s disability compensation process has not kept pace with those developments. I’ll task the National Academy of Public Administration to review and overhaul the disability ratings system to better accommodate “invisible” wounds like TBI. I’ll direct them to take into account recommendations for best practices, including training additional staff to evaluate cases and taking into account symptoms that are closely-associated with undiagnosed TBI. 

A key concern among veterans is that the benefits adjudication process is byzantine and lacks transparency. I’ll make sure that veterans automatically get full access to the results of their examinations and put in place rigorous processes to ensure claims are granted consistently nationwide. And to help veterans navigate the system and obtain the benefits they deserve, I’ll also establish a grant program to fund additional caseworkers at Veterans Service Organizations and other community-based organizations.

Clearing “Bad Paper” Discharges 

As the research into PTSD and traumatic brain injuries has improved, we’ve come to learn that these often invisible injuries lie behind many less-than-honorable discharges. Nearly 6% of post-9/11 discharges have been other-than-honorable — and one study estimated that 62% of service members separated for misconduct had been diagnosed within the 2 years prior to separation with PTSD, TBI, or related conditions. These so-called “bad paper” discharges can have a lasting negative impact, preventing the most vulnerable veterans from accessing benefits, obtaining employment, and other earned and necessary services.

I’ll create a DOD appeals board for veterans seeking to upgrade their discharges to give those denied by the services another opportunity for review and to ensure consistency across the services. I’ll direct that board to expand “liberal consideration” and consider a broader array of potentially mitigating evidence. I’ll direct the VA to provide certain interim benefits to individuals with other-than-honorable discharges until their appeals are adjudicated. And I’ll direct DOD to establish guidance for commanders to ensure that individuals first receive care for underlying conditions that may be contributing to behavioral problems, rather than merely processed for administrative discharge.  

Providing Good Jobs 

Service members gain valuable skills in the military, but often don’t know how to translate their skills into civilian life or receive appropriate “credit” for military service in a civilian context. And while public-private partnerships and other efforts have broken down the stigma around hiring veterans, we can do more to set veterans up for long-term success.

It starts by making it easier for civilian employers to identify military skill sets that most closely match their needs, and helping veterans to describe their military experiences in language that resonates with civilian employers. In the Senate, I’ve prioritized improving the employment transition for retiring service members, for example by passing a bipartisan bill that made it easier for service members to use their experience operating large military vehicles to obtain a commercial driver’s license. 

As President, I’ll direct DOD to expand resume and career coaching opportunities for military personnel considering transition. To encourage veteran entrepreneurship, I’m proposing a new program to allow veterans to cash out their GI education benefits for a small business loan. And we’ll invest in collaborative programs — like labor’s Helmets to Hardhats program — to connect transitioning service members with federally-recognized apprenticeship opportunities and good, union jobs. 

Ending Veterans’ Homelessness 

While the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has dropped over the last decade, nearly 38,000 were still homeless in January 2018. Veterans constituted nearly 9% of the total adult homeless population. Even one homeless veteran is one too many. I’ll restore SNAP benefits that the Trump administration seeks to cut that support 1.4 million low-income veterans, including those who are unemployed or with disabilities. SNAP is a particularly critical support for young veterans and those recently who have recently transitioned from active service. We’ll fully fund rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing through Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and HUD-VASH. And we’ll create a new competitive grant program for communities to provide wrap-around services for veterans and their families. We know that access to housing can be a barrier to many veterans – and can enhance the scale of other challenges they face.  By strengthening and expanding programs like HUD-VASH, we can end veteran homelessness and allow our veterans to focus on finding meaningful employment, receiving healthcare for service-connected conditions, and building resilient lives.

Creating a 21st Century VA Health Care System

The Veterans Health Administration is America’s largest health care system, providing care at over 1,200 health care facilities nationwide and serving 9 million enrolled veterans each year.

In recent years, attacks on VA have intensified as Republicans have pressed to privatize large chunks of VA service. My Administration will be clear-eyed about leadership challenges at VA. We will hold accountable leaders who fail to put veterans first or misuse resources, and we will empower whistleblowers who report wrongdoing to address their concerns and protect them from retaliation. But the truth is that care provided by VA outperforms care at non-VA hospitals, as multiple studies have shown. And in a recent survey, 91% of veterans who use VA care said they would recommend it to their fellow veterans. VA has pioneered innovations in medical care and service delivery. It provides world-class care for uniquely service-connected injuries, including treatment for polytrauma, amputations, and spinal cord injuries. 

While community care is appropriate where specialists are unavailable or geographically inaccessible, let me be clear: a Warren Administration will invest in the VA, not further dismantle it. We will not cut the high-quality, evidence-based, culturally competent programs that our veterans rely on. And under Medicare for All, veterans will all have high-quality health coverage that gives them the option to seek care from non-VA doctors and hospitals for no additional cost. If there isn’t a VA close to where they live, Medicare for All will ensure that veterans still get the care they need when they need it. 

In the immediate-term, here’s what we can do to revitalize our VA for the 21st century–

Work with Congress to implement more flexible hiring authorities, with a goal of filling the nearly 49,000 staffing vacancies, the vast majority of which are in the health administration. 

Expand the number of physician recruiters and provide additional financial incentives for physicians in hard-to-recruit specialties and rural VA centers or those near tribal lands.

Reinvigorate VA’s training partnership program — nearly 70% of U.S. doctors receive some training at a VA facility, but VA is hindered from converting those into full-time positions because of the cumbersome hiring processes. 

Fully implement the VA MISSION Act — on-time, and in collaboration with veteran’s groups, ensuring community providers are held to the same high standards of care as VA providers and that the direct care system is not weakened by siphoning away money into the private sector. 

We’ll invest in modernizing aging infrastructure and state-of-the-art medical equipment. 

We’ll work to fill gaps in care, benefits, or other services in underserved regions, including on tribal lands; and further integrating federally-qualified health centers, DOD facilities, and the Indian Health System as appropriate.

Read more about Warren’s plan for service members, veterans and military families here:

With Latest North Korean Missile Test, Biden Attacks Trump for Foreign Policy Failures

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Former Vice President Joe Biden, in a hotly contested race for President, attacked Donald Trump for his failed foreign policy in the wake of yet another missile test by North Korea.  Foreign policy is Biden’s greatest strength among the Democratic rivals for 2020. Here is his statement:

This morning, North Korea fired two missiles in a deliberate attempt to provoke its neighbors and intimidate the United States — again. It was the 12th such test the regime has conducted since May in violation of UN resolutions, and which President Trump has down-played. After the latest round of denuclearization talks collapsed almost immediately in Stockholm earlier this month, these tests are a stark reminder that Donald Trump — a self-proclaimed deal maker — has achieved nothing but a string of spectacular diplomatic failures that are making the American people less safe.    

His “love letters” to murderous dictator Kim Jong Un have delivered little more than made-for-TV moments. North Korea today has more fissile material and more capability than when talks began, and Trump has given away our leverage — including suspending military exercises with our allies and granting Kim co-equal status at two summits with the president of the United States of America — for practically nothing in return. Now a more confident Kim is ticking up the pace of his violations because he believes he can pressure Trump to bend to his will. There is no deal, because there is no strategy and no patience for the kind of tough, hard diplomacy that actually produces results.

It’s a pattern we see over and over again. Donald Trump talks a big game, promises the greatest deal ever, then gives away America’s best negotiating tools in exchange for a photo op for himself. He only cares about his own self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. And every single time, it’s the American people who end up paying. 

He pulled us out of the successful Iran nuclear deal, promising he’d get a better one. He hasn’t. And now, Iran has taken its nuclear program out of the deep-freeze and ramped up its aggressive acts across the region — and Trump has no strategy to deal with these predictable responses.

He pulled us out of the Paris climate accord and dismisses climate change as a hoax. In less than a week, we will officially notify our departure from Paris, even as California is on fire and states throughout the Midwest are still recovering from record flooding over the summer.

He scuttled negotiations with the Taliban that might have opened the door to a peace settlement, reportedly because he didn’t get the Camp David moment of glory he wanted. Meanwhile he’s significantly weakened our negotiating position by imposing a possibly politically-motivated timeline for removing our troops from Afghanistan, without extracting any concessions from the Taliban in return.

His vaunted Middle East peace deal has yet to emerge. He gave away our strongest asset to take on ISIS by precipitously withdrawing our troops from Northeast Syria. He promised to get tough with China, saying trade wars were “good and easy to win.” But at more than a year in, what do we have to show for it? Nothing but pain for American farming and manufacturing, and vague promises that would only restore trade levels with China back to where they were before Trump’s irresponsible trade war.

The American people can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump’s art of no deals.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Details How She Would Finance Medicare for All

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president detailed how she would finance her most controversial proposal, Medicare for All, without increasing taxes on middle class families. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for President, has released details of her most controversial proposal, Medicare for All, promising that it will cover every person in America with health care, including long-term care, vision and dental, without increasing taxes on middle class families. Warren focuses on an overall restructuring taxes and spending – going after the loopholes and tax cheats and reining in military spending as well as drug costs and cutting healthcare costs by removing the for-profit insurance companies (gatekeepers) as middlemen. What her plan misses, though, is the obvious: collect the Medicare tax (1.45%, plus an extra 0.9% on income over $200,000) on all income, not just wages, and, if necessary raise the surcharge for incomes over $250,000. Interestingly, while employers would no longer pick and choose the private health insurance they subsidize, employers would still subsidize their employees’ Medicare cost. Health care is considered the leading issue for voters in 2020. Here is the detailed plan, from the Warren campaign: –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Charlestown, MA – Today, Senator Elizabeth Warren, candidate for President, released her plan to finance Medicare for All. The coverage is identical to the coverage in the Medicare for All legislation in the Senate and it will cover every single person in America with excellent, high-quality health care, including long-term care and vision and dental. 

Elizabeth will pay for this plan without raising taxes one penny on middle class families. Instead, she will put about $11 trillion in the pockets of American families by eliminating what they would pay in premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and other out-of-pocket costs over the next ten years. 

Her numbers add up and are backed by experts including: 

Simon Johnson, the former Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund and a professor at MIT

Dr. Donald Berwick, one of the nation’s top experts in health system management and improvement, who ran the Medicare and Medicaid programs under President Barack Obama

Mark Zandi, Chief Economist of Moody’s Analytics

Betsey Stevenson, former Chief Economist for the Obama Labor Department

Elizabeth’s plan to dramatically improve health care and cut family costs would cost the United States less than our current broken system. It would require $20.5 trillion in new revenue, nearly half of which comes simply from having employers pay Medicare instead of private insurance companies.

Elizabeth will finance the remainder of Medicare for All with targeted defense spending cuts, new taxes on financial firms, giant corporations, and the richest 1% of Americans, and by cracking down on tax evasion and fraud. The $11 trillion in household insurance and out-of-pocket expenses projected under our current system goes right back into the pockets of America’s working people — substantially larger than the largest tax cut in American history — and no middle class tax increases.

My daddy’s heart attack nearly sent our family skidding over a financial cliff. Today I think about all the kids this year who will face the double blow of nearly losing a parent and then watching their lives turn upside down as their families struggle to pay a growing stack of medical bills.  

I spent my career studying why so many hard-working middle class families were going broke. For years, my research partners and I traveled the country from bankruptcy courtroom to bankruptcy courtroom, talking directly to people who’d seen their lives turned upside down. We interviewed lawyers, judges, and families involved in bankruptcy cases. To save on printing costs, we lugged around a Xerox machine (I nicknamed him “R2-D2”) to save money on photocopying court records. 

Eventually, we built the largest and most comprehensive database of consumer bankruptcy data ever assembled. That first study surprised us: we found that 90% of families went bankrupt because of job loss, medical problems, and marital disruption. That finding was confirmed in 2007 by my later research, which found that the number one reason families were going broke was health care – and three quarters of those who declared bankruptcy after an illness were people who already had health insurance. 

It’s been nearly thirty years since we published that first groundbreaking study. And after all that time, here’s where we are: between 2013 and 2016, the number one reason families went broke was still because of health care – even though 91.2% of Americans had health insurance in 2016.

Families are getting crushed by health costs. Just look at the numbers. 

$12,378. That’s how much an average family of four with employer-sponsored insurance personally spent per year on employee premium contributions and out-of-pocket costs in 2018. And this figure has increased each year.

87 million. That’s how many American adults in 2018 were uninsured or “underinsured” – meaning either they have no insurance or their so-called health insurance is like a car with the engine missing. It looks fine sitting on the lot, but inadequate if they actually need to use it. Nearly one in every two adults not currently on Medicare has no insurance or unreliable insurance.

37 millionAmerican adults didn’t fill a prescription last year because of costs. 36 millionpeopleskipped a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up because of costs. 40 millionpeople didn’t go to a doctor to check out a health problem because of costs. 57 millionpeople had trouble covering their medical bills. 

Today, in 2019, in the United States of America, the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, inadequate health coverage is crushing the finances and ruining the lives of tens of millions of American families. 

I’m running for President based on a radical idea – calling out what’s broken and speaking plainly about how to fix it. 

All my plans start with our shared values. There are two absolute non-negotiables when it comes to health care:

One: No American should ever, ever die or go bankrupt because of health care costs. No more GoFundMe campaigns to pay for care. No more rationing insulin. No more choosing between medicine and groceries.

Two: Every American should be able to see the doctors they need and get their recommended treatments, without having to figure out who is in-network. No for-profit insurance company should be able to stop anyone from seeing the expert or getting the treatment they need.

Health care is a human right, and we need a system that reflects our values. That system is Medicare for All.

Let’s be clear: America’s medical professionals are among the best in the world. Health care in America is world-class. Medicare for All isn’t about changing any of that. 

It’s about fixing what is broken – how we pay for that care.

And when it comes to health care, what’s broken is obvious. A fractured system that allows private interests to profiteer off the health crises of the American people. A system that crushes our families with costs they can’t possibly bear, forcing tens of millions to go without coverage or to choose between basic necessities like food, rent, and health – or bankruptcy.

We must fix this system. And over the long-term, the best way to achieve that goal is to move from the system we have now to a system of Medicare for All. 

Medicare for All is about where doctors, hospitals, and care providers send the bill – to a collection of private insurance companies who make billions off denying people care or to the Medicare program for fair compensation. Under Medicare for All, everyone gets the care they need, when they need it, and nobody goes broke. 

A key step in winning the public debate over Medicare for All will be explaining what this plan costs – and how to pay for it. This task is made a hundred times harder by powerful health insurance and drug companies that make billions of dollars off the current bloated, inadequate system – and would be perfectly happy to leave things exactly the way they are. 

In 2017 alone, health industry players whose profiteering would end under Medicare for All unleashed more than 2,500 lobbyists on Washington. These industries will spend freely on shady TV ads and lobbying to convince people that a program that saves them massive sums of money will somehow cost them money. That being able to see the doctors and get the treatments they need regardless of what their employer or their insurance company thinks is somehow actually a loss of choice. That a program that covers more services, more people, and costs the American people less than what we currently spend on health care is somehow too expensive.

Meanwhile, where are the 2,500 lobbyists for the people who get sick and can’t pay their medical bills?  Where are the hundreds of millions being spent so that people who are trying to balance a budget around rising health care premiums and growing deductibles and copays can make their voices heard in Washington?  Washington hears plenty from the giant health insurance and giant drug industries, but not so much from families being squeezed to the breaking point.

So let’s focus on families’ expenses and families’ health care. 

Start with the Medicare for All Act – which I have cosponsored. The bill provides a detailed proposal for how to achieve our end goal. But as economists and advocates have noted, the legislation leaves open a number of key design decisions that will affect its overall cost, and the bill does not directly incorporate specific revenue measures. While much of this ambiguity results from the reasonable choice to delegate significant implementation discretion to the Executive Branch, it has also allowed opponents of Medicare for All to make up their own price tags and try to scare middle class families about the prospect of tax increases – despite the conclusions of expert after expert after expert that it is possible to eventually move to a Medicare for All system that gives both high quality coverage for everybody and dramatically lowers costs for middle class families.

The best way to fight misinformation is with facts. That’s why today, I’m filling in the details and releasing a plan that describes how I would implement the long-term policy prescriptions of the Medicare for All Act and how to pay for it. 

Under my plan, Medicare for All will cover the full list of benefits outlined in the Medicare for All Act, including long-term care, audio, vision, and dental benefits. My plan will cover every single person in the U.S., and includes common-sense payment reforms that make Medicare for All possible without spending any more money overall than we spend now. 

My plan reflects careful, detailed analyses from key national experts in health policy, tax policy, and economics. By filling in the details, we can strip away all the misleading political attacks and make plain the choice facing the American people: 

Option 1: Maintain our current system, which will cost the country $52 trillion over ten years. And under that current system – 

24 million people won’t have coverage, and millions can’t get long-term care.

63 million have coverage gaps or substandard coverage that could break down if they actually get sick. And millions who have health insurance will end up going broke at least in part from medical costs anyway. 

Together, the American people will pay $11 trillion of that bill themselves in the form of premiums, deductibles, copays, out-of-network, and other expensive medical equipment and care they pay for out-of-pocket – all while America’s wealthiest individuals and biggest companies pay far less in taxes than in other major countries.

Option 2: Switch to my approach to Medicare for All, which would cost the country just under $52 trillion over ten years. Under this new system –

Every person in America – all 331 million people – will have full health coverage, and coverage for long-term care.

Everybody gets the doctors and the treatments they need, when they need them. No more restrictive provider networks, no more insurance companies denying coverage for prescribed treatments, and no more going broke over medical bills.

The $11 trillion in household insurance and out-of-pocket expenses projected under our current system goes right back into the pockets of America’s working people. And we make up the difference with targeted spending cuts, new taxes on giant corporations and the richest 1% of Americans, and by cracking down on tax evasion and fraud. Not one penny in middle-class tax increases. 

That’s it. That’s the choice. A broken system that leaves millions behind while costs keep going up and insurance companies keep sucking billions of dollars in profits out of the system – or, for about the same amount of money, a new system that drives down overall health costs and, on average, relieves the typical middle class families of $12,400 in insurance premiums and other related health care costs. 

No middle class tax increases. $11 trillion in household expenses back in the pockets of American families. That’s substantially larger than the largest tax cut in American history.

Not every candidate for president supports moving to a system of Medicare for All. Some who support Medicare for All will have different ideas about how to finance and structure it. And everybody knows that there must be a real transition. But you don’t get what you don’t fight for – and my view is clear.  

Every candidate who opposes my long-term goal of Medicare for All should explain why the “choice” of private insurance plans is more important than being able to choose the doctor that’s best for you without worrying about whether they are in-network or not. Why it’s more important than being able to choose the right prescription drug for you without worrying about massive differences in copays. Why it’s more important than being able to choose to start a small business or choose the job you want without worrying about where your health care coverage will be coming from and how much it will cost.

Every candidate who opposes my long-term goal of Medicare for All should put forward their own plan to cover everyone, without costing the country anything more in health care spending, and while putting $11 trillion back in the pockets of the American people by eliminating premiums and virtually eliminating out-of-pocket costs. Or, if they are unwilling to do that, they should concede that they think it’s more important to protect the eye-popping profits of private insurers and drug companies and the immense fortunes of the top 1% and giant corporations, rather than provide transformative financial relief for hundreds of millions of American families. 

And every candidate who opposes my long-term goal of Medicare for All should put forward their own plan to make sure every single person in America can get high-quality health care and won’t go broke – and fully explain how they intend to pay for it. Or, if they are unwilling to do that, concede that their half-measures will leave millions behind.  

And make no mistake – any candidate who opposes my long-term goal of Medicare for All and refuses to answer these questions directly should concede that they have no real strategy for helping the American people address the crushing costs of health care in this country. We need plans, not slogans. 

THE COST OF MEDICARE FOR ALL

A serious conversation about how to pay for Medicare for All requires, first, determining how much such a system would cost. 

In recent years, several economists and think tanks have attempted to estimate the cost of a single-payer system in the United States. Those estimates consider how much our nation’s health care spending will change over a ten year window, and range from a $12.5 trillion decrease to a $7 trillion increase. They also consider how much additional money the federal government would need to fund this system, and those estimates range from a low of $13.5 trillion to a high of $34 trillion over ten years. 

Because nobody can actually see the future, some of this variation results from different assumptions about how parts of our health care system might work differently under Medicare for All. But most of the difference comes from policy choices. And while the Medicare for All Act is clear about some of these choices – for example, generous benefits, long-term care coverage, and virtually no out-of-pocket expenses – it is silent on a number of really important ones. How much will we pay for medical care and for prescription drugs? What do we do with the existing money that states spend on Medicaid? How aggressively will we cut administrative costs? Aggressive choices mean a lower total cost. Less aggressive choices result in a higher total cost. 

Serious candidates for president should speak plainly about these issues and set out their plans for cost control – especially those who are skeptical of Medicare for All. Because whether or not we make modest or transformative changes to our health care system, cancer, diabetes, strokes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s aren’t going to simply disappear. And without leadership from the top, neither will the mushrooming cost of care in America that’s bankrupting our families. 

I’ve asked top experts to consider the long-term cost of my plan to implement Medicare for All over ten years – Dr. Donald Berwick, one of the nation’s top experts in health system improvement and who ran the Medicare and Medicaid programs under President Obama; and Simon Johnson, the former Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund and a professor at MIT. Their analysis begins with the assumptions of a recent study by the Urban Institute and then examines how that cost estimate would change as certain new key policy choices are applied. These experts conclude that my plan would slightly reduce the projected amount of money that the United States would otherwise spend on health care over the next 10 years, while covering everyone and giving them vastly better coverage. 

REDUCING INSURER ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS 

The business model of private insurers is straightforward: pay out less for medical care than they take in as premiums. This model is located right in the center of our health care system, wasting huge amounts of time and money documenting and arguing over who is owed what. Incredibly, insurance companies spend a whopping $350 billion on administration costs annually—and then, in turn, push huge additional administrative costs onto hospitals, doctors, and millions of other health care professionals in the from of complex billing—and then, in turn, drive up costs incurred by employers as they attempt to navigate the complexity of providing their employees with insurance.

Medicare for All will save money by bringing down the staggering administrative costs for insurers in our current system. As the experts I asked to evaluate my plan noted, private insurers had administrative costs of 12% of premiums collected in 2017, while Medicare kept its administrative costs down to 2.3%. My plan will ensure that Medicare for All functions just as efficiently as traditional Medicare by setting net administrative spending at 2.3%.

COMPREHENSIVE PAYMENT REFORM 

In 2016, the United States spent nearly twice as much on health care as ten high-income countries, and these costs have been steadily rising for decades, growing from 5.2% of U.S. GDP in 1963 to 17.9% in 2017. But instead of resulting in better health outcomes, Americans have the lowest life expectancy of residents in high-income countries, the highest infant mortality rate, and the highest obesity rates. 

Why? As a group of health economists famously wrote, “It’s the prices, stupid.” 

Studies have continued to show that it’s not how much people use the health care system, often referred to as “utilization,” but rather how much people pay that drives our high spending. Compared to other high income countries, Americans simply pay more for health care. We pay more for physicians and nurses. We pay more in administrative costs. We pay more for prescription drugs. 

A heart bypass surgery that costs nearly $16,000 in the Netherlands costs an average of $75,000 in the United States. A CT scan that costs $97 in Canada costs an average of $896 here. And in the United States, hospitals can charge new parents for holding their newborn after delivery. 

Meanwhile, private equity firms fight bipartisan legislation in Washington that might undermine the profitability of their investments or prevent their hospitals from sending patients surprise bills. And health care CEO salaries continue to soar. Between 2005 and 2015, non-profit hospital CEO salaries increased by 93% to an average of over $3 million, and last year, 62 health care CEOs raked in a combined $1.1 billion – more than the CDC spent on chronic disease prevention. 

If we expect the American people to be able to afford health care, we need to rein in these costs. Comprehensive payment reform, as part of Medicare for All, will reduce this component of health care spending. Under my approach, Medicare for All will sharply reduce administrative spending and reimburse physicians and other non-hospital providers at current Medicare rates. My plan will also rebalance rates in a budget neutral way that increases reimbursements for primary care providers and lowers reimbursements for overpaid specialties. While private insurance companies pay higher rates, this system would be expected to continue compensating providers at roughly the same overall rate that they are currently receiving. Why? This is partially because providers will now get paid Medicare rates for their Medicaid patients – a substantial raise. But it’s also because providers spend an enormous amount of time on billing and interacting with insurance companies that reduces their efficiency and takes away from time with patients. Some estimate that hospitals will spend $210 billion on average annually on these costs. 

The nonpartisan Institute of Medicine estimates that these wasted expenses account for 13% of the revenue for physician practices, 8.5% for hospitals, and 10% for other providers. Together, the improved efficiency will save doctors time and money – helping significantly offset  the revenue they will lose from getting rid of higher private insurance rates.

Under my approach, Medicare for All will sharply reduce administrative spending and reimburse hospitals at an average of 110% of current Medicare rates, with appropriate adjustments for rural hospitals, teaching hospitals, and other care providers with challenging cost structures. In 2017, hospitals that treated Medicare patients were paid about 9.9% less than what it cost to care for that patient. The increase I am proposing under Medicare for All will cover hospitals’ current costs of care – but hospital costs will also substantially decrease as a result of simpler administrative processes, lower prescription drug prices, the end of bad debt from uncompensated care, and more patients with insurance seeking care. 

Of course, as Medicare currently recognizes, not every provider situation is the same, and my Medicare for All program maintains these base rate adjustments for geography and other factors. In my plan for Rural America, for example, I have committed to creating a new designation under Medicare for rural hospitals due to the unique challenges health systems face in rural communities. That’s why my plan allows for adjustments above the 110% average rate for certain hospitals, like rural and teaching hospitals, and below this amount for hospitals that are already doing fine with current Medicare rates.Universal coverage will also have a disproportionately positive effect on rural hospitals. Because people living in rural counties are more likely to be uninsured than people living in urban counties, these hospitals currently provide a lot of uncompensated care. Medicare for All fixes that problem. And I’ve previously laid out additional investments to increase the number of Community Health Centers and grow our health care workforce in rural and Native American communities, while cracking down on anti-competitive mergers that lead to worse outcomes and higher costs for rural communities. 

We can also apply a number of common-sense, bipartisan reforms that have been proposed for Medicare. Today, for example, insurers can charge dramatically different prices for the exact same service based on where the service was performed. Under Medicare for All, providers will receive the same amount for the same procedure, saving hundreds of billions of dollars. We can also make adjustments to things that we know Medicare currently pays too much for – like post-acute care – by adjusting those payments down slightly while accounting for the patient’s health status, bringing health care costs down even more.  

We will also shift payment rates so that we are paying for better outcomes, instead of simply reimbursing for more services. We build on the success of value-based reforms enabled by the Affordable Care Act, including by instituting bundled payments for inpatient care and for 90 days of post-acute care. Instead of paying providers for each individual service, bundled payments reimburse providers for an entire “episode” of care and have been shown to both improve outcomes and control costs. These bundles help ensure that a patient’s different providers all communicate because they are all tied to the same payment.

RESTORING HEALTH CARE COMPETITION

Health care consolidation has also contributed to rising health care costs. One analysis found that over 90% of metropolitan areas had health care provider markets that were either highly concentrated or super concentrated in 2016. And despite the same kinds of empty promises we see every time there’s industry consolidation – in this case, that bigger hospitals would lead to better care – the data have not borne this out. In fact, it’s the opposite: more competition between providers creates incentives to improve care, and that incentive will only increase under a Medicare for All system where quality, not price, is the main differentiator in the system.

Under Medicare for All, hospitals won’t be able to force some patients to pay more because the hospital can’t agree with their insurance company. Instead, because everyone has good insurance, providers will have to compete on better care and reduced wait times in order to attract more patients. 

That’s why I will appoint aggressive antitrust enforcers to the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission and allow hospitals to voluntarily divest holdings to restore competition to hospital markets. I’ve also previously committed to strengthening FTC oversight over health care organizations, including non-profit hospitals, to crack down on anti-competitive behavior. And I will direct my FTC to block all future hospital mergers unless the merging companies can prove that the newly-merged entity will maintain or improve care. 

REINING IN OUT-OF-CONTROL PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS

Americans pay more for prescription drugs than anyone in the world – $333 billion in 2017 alone. Americans spent $1,220 per person on average for prescription drugs, while the next highest spending country, Switzerland, spent $963 per person. That’s not because Americans use more prescription medication – it’s because lax laws have allowed pharmaceutical companies to charge insurance companies and patients exorbitant rates. In a now-infamous example, when Turing Pharmaceuticals purchased the rights to the HIV medication Daraprim, the company raised the price of this life-saving drug from $13.50 per pill to a stunning $750 per tablet overnight. The price of insulin has skyrocketed, forcing people to risk their lives by rationing. And as prices continue to rise, more Americans are turning to Canada in search of affordable prices. 

Reining in prescription drug costs should be a top priority for any President – and there’s no better way to do it than through Medicare for All. My administration will use a suite of aggressive policy tools to set a net savings target that will bring down Medicare prices for brand name prescription drugs by 70% and prices for generics by 30%, with an initial focus on more expensive drugs. 

Under Medicare for All, the federal government would have real bargaining power to negotiate lower prices for patients. I will adopt an altered version of the mechanism outlined in the Lower Prescription Drug Costs Now Act which leverages excise taxes to bring manufacturers to the table to negotiate prices for both branded and generic drugs, with no drug exceeding 110% of the average international market price, but removes the limit of the number of drugs Medicare can negotiate for and eliminates the “target price” so Medicare could potentially negotiate prices lower than other countries. 

If negotiations fail, I will use two tools – compulsory licensing and public manufacturing – to allow my administration to ensure patient access to medicines by either overriding the patent, as modeled in the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act, or by providing public funds to support manufacturing of these drugs, as modeled in my Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act. Medicare for All will also incentivize pharmaceutical companies to develop the drugs we need – like antibiotics, cancer cures, and vaccines. And it’s not just about driving down drug prices. Making sure patients get important drug therapies up front that keep them healthy and cost a fraction compared to more severe treatment down the line can save money overall. Insurers, who may only cover individuals for a few years of their lives, see those investments in long-term health as a cost they’ll never recoup – so they have a financial incentive to deny patients these treatments. But Medicare for All covers each patient for their entire lifespan. There’s no perverse incentive to deny the prescriptions they need today because the long-term benefits to their health won’t benefit their current private insurance company. 

STEMMING THE GROWTH OF MEDICAL COSTS

Year after year, U.S. health spending has grown at rates above GDP growth, reaching a whopping 17.9% of GDP in 2017. Experts believe the changes to prescription drug spending and value-based payment systems that I’ve already outlined will bring growth rates in line with U.S. GDP, which CBO projects to be an average of 3.9% for the next decade. And if growth rates exceed this rate, I will use available policy tools, which include global budgets, population-based budgets, and automatic rate reductions, to bring it back into line.   

REDIRECTING TAXPAYER-FUNDED HEALTH SPENDING

Through Medicaid and public health plans for state employees, state and local governments play a significant role in financing health care coverage in America. Under my approach to Medicare for All, we will redirect $6 trillion in existing state and local government insurance spending into the Medicare for All system. This is similar to the mechanism that the George W. Bush Administration used to redirect Medicaid spending to the federal government under the Medicare prescription drug program.Under this maintenance-of-effort requirement, state and local governments will redirect $3.3 trillion of what they currently spend to support Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and $2.7 trillion of what they currently spend on employer contributions to private insurance premiums for their employees into Medicare for All. Because we bring down the growth rate of overall health spending, states will pay less than they would have without Medicare for All. They’ll also have far more predictable budgets, resulting in improved long-term planning for state and community priorities. 

Together, these policy choices represent significant reductions in health care spending over current levels. Compared to the estimate by the Urban Institute, they will save over $7 trillion over ten years, bringing the expected share of additional federal revenue to just over $26 trillion for that period. After incorporating the $6 trillion we will redirect from states to help fund Medicare, the experts conclude that total new federal spending required to enact Medicare for All will be $20.5 trillion.

PAYING FOR MEDICARE FOR ALL

Medicare for All puts all health care spending on the government’s books. But Medicare for All is about the same price as our current path – and cheaper over time. That means the debate isn’t really about whether the United States should pay more or less. It’s about who should pay. 

Right now, America’s total bill for health care is projected to be $52 trillion for the next ten years. That money will come from four places: the federal government, state governments, employers, and individuals who need care. Under my approach to Medicare for All, most of these funding sources will remain the same, too. 

Existing federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid will help fund Medicare for All.

Existing state spending on health insurance will continue in the form of payments to Medicare – but states would be better off because they’d have more long-term predictability, and they’d pay less over time because these costs will grow more slowly than they do today.

Existing total private sector employer contributions to health insurance will continue in the form of contributions to Medicare – but employers would be better off because under the design of my plan, they’d pay less than they would have otherwise. 

Here’s the main difference: Individual health care spending. 

Over the next ten years, individuals will spend $11 trillion on health care in the form of premiums, deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket costs. Under my Medicare for All plan, that amount will drop from $11 trillion to practically zero. 

I asked top experts – Mark Zandi, the Chief Economist of Moody’s Analytics; Betsey Stevenson, the former Chief Economist for the Obama Labor Department; and Simon Johnson – to examine options for how we can make up that $11 trillion difference. They conclude that it can be done largely with new taxes on financial firms, giant corporations, and the top 1% – and making sure the rich stop evading the taxes we already have.

That’s right: We don’t need to raise taxes on the middle class by one penny to finance Medicare for All. 

Here’s how it would work.

REPLACING EMPLOYER HEALTH SPENDING WITH A NEW EMPLOYER MEDICARE CONTRIBUTION 

Let’s start with a basic fact: American companies are already paying a lot for health care for their employees. They are projected to pay nearly $9 trillion over the next ten years, mostly on employer contributions for employee health insurance and on health-related expenses for employees under workers’ compensation and long-term disability. My idea is that instead of these companies sending those payments to private insurance companies, they would send payments to the federal government for Medicare in the form of an Employer Medicare Contribution. 

In fact, it’ll be a better deal than what they have now: companies will pay less than they otherwise would have, saving $200 billion over the next ten years. 

To calculate their new Employer Medicare Contribution, employers would determine what they spent on health care over the last few years and divide that by the number of employees of the company in those years to arrive at an average health care cost per employee at the company. (Companies would count part-time employees towards the total based on the number of hours they worked during a year.) Under the first year of Medicare for All, employers would then take that average cost, adjust it upwards to account for the overall increase in national health care spending, and multiply it by their total number of employees that year. Their Employer Medicare Contribution would be 98% of that amount – ensuring that every company paying for health care today will pay less than they would have if they were still offering their employees comparable private insurance. 

A similar calculation would apply to pass-through entities, like law firms or private equity funds, even though many of the people that work there technically aren’t employees. People who are self-employed would be exempt from making Employer Medicare Contributions unless they exceed an income threshold. 

Small businesses – companies with under 50 employees – would be exempt from this requirement too if they aren’t paying for employee health care today. When either new or existing firms exceed this employee threshold, we would phase in a requirement that companies make Employer Medicare Contributions equal to the national average cost of health care per employee for every employee at that company. Merging firms would pay the weighted average cost of health care per employee of the two firms that are merging.  

Employers currently offering health benefits under a collective bargaining agreement will be able to reduce their Employer Medicare Contribution if they pass along those savings to workers in the form of increased wages, pensions, or other collectively-bargained benefits. New companies or existing companies who enter into a collective bargaining agreement with their employees after the enactment of Medicare for All will be able to reduce their Employer Medicare Contributions in the same way. Employers can reduce their contribution requirements all the way down to the national average health care cost per employee. 

That way, my plan helps unions that have bargained for good health care already, and creates a significant new incentive for unionization generally by making collective bargaining appealing for both workers and employers as a way of potentially reducing the employer’s Employer Medicare Contributions.

Over time, an employer’s health care cost-per-employee would be gradually shifted to converge at the average health care cost-per-employee nationally. That helps make sure the system is fair but also gives employers and employees time to adapt to the new system.  

If we’re falling short of the $8.8 trillion revenue target for the next ten years, we will make up lost revenue with a Supplemental Employer Medicare Contribution requirement for big companies with extremely high executive compensation and stock buyback rates.    

There are a variety of ways to structure an employer contribution to Medicare for All. This particular approach has the benefit of helping American employers in a few ways:

Employers would collectively save $200 billion over the next ten years.

Employers receive far more certainty about how their health care costs will vary over time and affect their finances.

Small businesses – who often suffer when competing for employees because they can’t afford to offer health care coverage – would no longer be at a competitive disadvantage against bigger businesses.

Employers can reduce their Employer Medicare Contribution by supporting unionization efforts and negotiating with workers to provide better wages and benefits – reducing costs and promoting collective bargaining at the same time.

Because my plan holds health care cost growth to GDP levels, businesses will have stable balance sheets that grow with the economy instead of crowding out other priorities.

By asking employers to pay a little less than what they are already projected to pay for health care, we can get almost halfway to where we need to go to cover the cost of my Medicare for All plan. 

Automatic Increases in Take-Home Pay 

Medicare for All puts a whole lot of money back in the American people’s pockets. One way it does that is by taking the share of premiums employees are responsible for paying through employer-sponsored insurance – that line on pay stubs each week or month that says “health insurance” – and returning it to working people. Congratulations on the raise! 

And higher take-home pay for workers also means additional tax revenue just from applying our existing taxes – approximately $1.15 trillion if we apply average effective tax rates.  

Medicare for All saves people money in other ways too. With Medicare for All, nobody would need to put money in Health Savings Accounts or medical savings accounts to try and protect themselves against the unthinkable. And because individual spending on premiums, deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket costs will basically disappear, the tax break for medical expenses in excess of 10% of Adjusted Gross Income becomes irrelevant. Together, those changes would generate another $250 billion in revenue.

All told, another $1.4 trillion in funding for Medicare for All is generated automatically through existing taxes on the enormous amount of money that will now be returned to individuals’ pockets from moving to a Medicare for All system with virtually no individual spending on health care. 

Here’s what that means: we can generate almost half of what we need to cover Medicare for All just by asking employers to pay slightly less than what they are projected to pay today, and through existing taxes.  

So where does the rest of the money come from that allows us to eliminate premiums, deductibles, copays, and most out-of-pocket spending for every American? Four sources: (1) better enforcement of our existing tax laws so we stop letting people evade their tax obligations; (2) targeted taxes on the financial sector, large corporations, and the top 1% of individuals; (3) my approach to immigration; and (4) shutting down a slush fund for defense spending. 

CRACKING DOWN ON TAX EVASION AND FRAUD

The federal government has a nearly 15% “tax gap” between what it collects in taxes what is actually owed because of systematic under-enforcement of our tax laws, tax evasion, and fraud. If that 15% gap persists for the next ten years, we will collect a whopping $7.7 trillion less in federal taxes than the law requires. By investing in stronger enforcement and adopting best practices on tax reporting, withholding, and filing, experts predict that we can close the tax gap by a third – generating about $2.3 trillion in additional federal revenue without a single new tax. 

A big part of our current tax gap problem is that we’re letting wealthier taxpayers get away with paying less than what they owe. Studies show that the wealthiest 5% of taxpayers misrepresent their income more frequently than the bottom 90%. 

The wealthy and their allies in Washington have worked to slash the IRS budget, leaving it without the resources it needs. The agency today has about the same number of revenue agents as it did when the economy was one-seventh its current size in the 1950s. And the IRS insists on targeting low-income taxpayers rather than wealthy ones, even though the amount of revenue we can recover from wealthy taxpayers is far more. 

We know how to fix this problem. We can draw lessons from what works in other countries with much lower tax gaps and rely on the recommendations of tax experts. Here’s a game plan:

Substantially increase funding for the IRS, including the Criminal Investigation Division. The Treasury Department estimated in its Fiscal Year 2017 budget request that every $1 invested in IRS enforcement brings in nearly $6 in additional revenue – not even including an indirect deterrence effect three times that amount.

Expand third-party reporting and withholding requirements. Research shows that third-party reporting and withholding cuts down on the tax misreporting rate substantially.

Strengthen enforcement of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to report the holdings and income of U.S. taxpayers, but the IRS is generally not systematically matching these reports to individual tax returns. We also don’t hold foreign financial firms truly accountable for ignoring their reporting obligations. Automatically matching FATCA reports to tax returns and instituting sanctions for non-compliant foreign financial institutions would help narrow the tax gap.

Simplify tax filing obligations in line with other comparable countries with lower tax gaps, including by adopting my Tax Filing Simplification Act and using “smart returns” to improve honest reporting.

Redirect enforcement resources away from low-income taxpayers towards high-income taxpayers. 

Increase the nonfiler compliance program, strengthen reporting requirements for international income, use existing currency transaction reports to enforce cash income compliance, and increase reporting requirements for virtual- or crypto-currencies, as suggested by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General.

Allow employees who disclose tax evasion and abuse to use the protections of the False Claims Act and other whistleblower protections. 

The experts who reviewed these ideas estimated that if we implemented them, we could close the tax gap by one-third from 15% to 10%, bringing us closer to the tax gap in countries like the United Kingdom (5.6%). That will produce another $2.3 trillion in net federal revenue – without imposing a single new tax. 

TARGETED TAXES ON THE FINANCIAL SECTOR, LARGE CORPORATIONS, AND THE TOP 1% 

We can generate a whole lot of the remaining revenue we need for Medicare for All just by eliminating bad incentives in our current tax system and asking those who have done really well in the last few decades to pay their fair share.

Let’s start with the financial sector. It’s been more than ten years since the 2008 financial crisis, and while a lot of families are still dealing with the aftereffects, the financial sector is making record, eye-popping profits. Meanwhile, the risk of another financial crisis remains unacceptably high. By imposing targeted taxes and fees on financial firms, we can generate needed revenue and also make our financial system safer and more secure.

For example, a small tax on financial transactions – one-tenth of one percent on the sale of bonds, stocks, or derivatives – would generate about $800 billion in revenue over the next ten years. The tax would be assessed on and collected from financial firms, and would likely have little to no effect on most investors. Instead, according to experts, the tax could help decrease what Americans pay in fees for their investments and reduce the size of relatively unproductive parts of the financial sector. 

We can also impose a fee on big banks that encourages them to take on fewer liabilities and reduce the risk they pose to the financial system. A small fee that applies only to the forty or so largest banks in the country would generate an additional $100 billion over the next ten years – while making our financial system more safe and resilient. 

Next, we can make some basic changes to ensure that large corporations pay their fair share and to fix some fundamental problems with our current approach that actually encourage companies to shift jobs and investment overseas. These changes will generate an estimated $2.9 trillion over the next ten years. 

For instance, our current tax system lets companies deduct the cost of certain investments they make in assets faster than those assets actually lose value. That means that if a company buys a machine for a million dollars, it gets to deduct a million dollars from its taxes that same year – even if the machine only loses $100,000 in value a year. Letting the company write off the extra $900,000 all at once is like giving them an interest-free loan from the government. 

That might be worth it if the company responded to this tax break by investing more and building out their businesses. But the data suggest this isn’t happening because companies don’t actually value these tax deferrals as much as policymakers assume. Companies are mostly making the same investments they would’ve made anyways – sometimes with small changes in timing – and getting a write-off in exchange. Some experts even suggest that accelerated expensing could induce less domestic investment, not more. 

That’s why I’m proposing to get rid of this loophole. Under my plan, businesses will still write off the depreciation of their assets – they’ll just do it in a way that more accurately reflects the actual loss in value. This would generate $1.25 trillion over ten years.

We can also stop giant multinational corporations from calling themselves American companies while sheltering their profits in foreign tax havens to avoid paying their share for American investments. 

Currently, a U.S. multinational corporation can make billions in profits and attribute it to a company it set up in a tax haven like the Cayman Islands, which has no corporate taxes. The Trump tax bill claimed to address that problem by creating a global minimum tax rate for corporations, but that minimum tax – the result of heavy lobbying by multinationals – is too low and easily gamed. While Trump and congressional Republicans claimed their minimum tax would keep companies from shifting profits to tax havens and limit offshoring, the opposite is happening. The current approach both encourages companies to shift their profits to tax havens and actually incentivizes American companies to outsource their operations overseas. 

That’s why I’m proposing to institute a country-by-country minimum tax on foreign earnings of 35% – equal to a restored top corporate tax rate for U.S. firms – without permitting corporations to defer those payments. Under my plan, corporations would have to pay the difference between the minimum tax and the rate in the countries where they book their profits. For example, an American corporation booking a billion dollars in profits in the Cayman Islands, taxed at 0% there, would need to pay the federal government a 35% tax rate – the difference between the new minimum rate (35%) and the foreign rate (0%) – on the billion dollars in profits. 

My plan would also collect America’s fair share of profits that foreign companies make by selling their products to Americans. Today, we have a “global tax deficit”: companies that sell their goods abroad don’t have to pay the extra taxes that they would have to pay if they were subject to a minimum effective tax rate in each country they operated in. Making U.S. firms pay a country-by-country minimum tax effectively collects their whole global tax deficit – but foreign companies should have to pay their fair share, too. That’s why I’m proposing that the U.S. collect the fraction of this global tax deficit that corresponds to the percentage of that company’s sales in the U.S. In other words, if a foreign company should owe an additional $1 billion in taxes if it were subject to a country-by-country minimum tax, the U.S. would collect a fraction of that $1 billion based on the amount of sales that company made in the United States. 

Together, the country-by-country minimum tax and the taxation of foreign firms based on their domestic sales would result in an additional $1.65 trillion in revenue. 

Finally, we can raise another $3 trillion over ten years by asking the top 1% of households in America to pay a little more. 

The tax burden on ultra-millionaires and billionaires is less than half that of working families in the United States. In 2019, the bottom 99% of families will pay 7.2% of their wealth in taxes, while the top 0.1% of households will pay just 3.2%. My Ultra-Millionaire Tax, a 2-cent tax on the wealth of fortunes above $50 million, tackles this head on. Under this tax, the top 0.1% – the wealthiest 75,000 Americans – would have to pitch in two cents for every dollar of net worth above $50 million and three cents for every dollar on net worth over $1 billion. With this version of the Ultra-Millionaire Tax in place, the tax burden on the wealthiest households would increase from 3.2% to 4.3% of total wealth – better, but still below the 7.2% that the bottom 99% are projected to pay.

Today, I’m going one step further. By asking billionaires to pitch in six cents on each dollar of net worth above $1 billion, we can raise an additional $1 trillion in revenue and further close the gap between what middle-class families pay as a percentage of their wealth and what the top one-tenth of one percent pay. 

Yes, billionaires will have to pay a little more, but they will still likely pay less than what they would earn just from putting their assets into an index fund and doing nothing. The average annual rate of return of the S&P 500 has regularly topped 10%. And billionaires have access to the kinds of fancy investment opportunities that can generate even higher returns on average. Put it this way – should we ask billionaires to pitch in an extra three cents on every dollar above $1 billion, or force middle-class families to bear another $1 trillion in health care costs?

We can also change the way the government taxes investment income for the top 1%. Today, taxes are only assessed on capital gains when securities are sold. That means wealthy investors can put their money in the stock market, see it grow, and not pay a dime in taxes on those earnings unless or until it is taken out of the market. Under the current system, they can then pass along those shares to their heirs when they die and their heirs will be able to pay even less when they choose to sell.

I’ve already proposed closing that loophole for how capital gains are treated when shares are passed on to heirs. But we can go a step further. Under “mark-to-market” system for the wealthiest 1% of households, we will tax capital gains income (excluding retirement accounts) annually, rather than at the time of sale, and raise the rates on capital gains to match the tax rates for labor income. Individuals would still only pay taxes on gains and could use current losses to offset future taxes.

Under this system, investment income will no longer be treated differently than labor income for the top 1% of households. Ultra-millionaires and billionaires won’t be able to earn income on giant fortunes year after year without paying a penny in taxes. And we can raise another $2 trillion over ten years to pay for my Medicare for All plan.

IMMIGRATION REFORM 

I support immigration reform that’s consistent with our values, including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and expanded legal immigration consistent with my principles. That’s not only the right thing to do – it also increases federal revenue we can dedicate to Medicare for All as new people come into the system and pay taxes. Based on CBO’s analysis of the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill, experts project that immigration reform would generate an additional $400 billion in direct federal revenue. 

REINING IN DEFENSE SPENDING 

Since the attacks of 9/11, the United States has appropriated $2 trillion to fund combat and counterterrorism operations around the world via the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, or OCO. On average this spending has amounted to $116 billion per year – and in total, an amount equivalent to nearly 10 percent of all federal discretionary spending over that same time period. 

Republicans – including the President’s current Chief of Staff – and Democrats alike agree that OCO is a budget gimmick that masks the true impact of war spending. The emergency supplemental funding mechanism was never intended to fund the costs of long-scale, long-term operations outside of the normal appropriations process. And in recent years, OCO has also been used to fund so-called “base” requirements unrelated to the wars, outside of the Budget Control Act caps – in effect acting as a slush fund for increased Pentagon spending. And as everything from more F-35s to massive bombs never used in combat have migrated into the OCO account, the Department of Defense has been spared from having to prioritize or live within its means. It’s not just bad budgetary practice – it’s wasteful spending. 

I’ve called out this slush fund for what it is. I’ve also called for an end to endless combat engagements in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and to responsibly bring our combat troops home from these nations. These open-ended commitments are not necessary to advance American foreign policy or counterterrorism interests, their human cost has been staggering, and their financial cost has created a drag on our economy by diverting money better invested in critical domestic priorities. 

I’ve also called to reduce defense spending overall. The Pentagon budget will cost more this year than everything else in the discretionary budget put together. That’s wrong, and it’s unsustainable. We need to identify which programs actually benefit American security in the 21st century, and which programs merely line the pockets of defense contractors – then pull out a sharp knife and make some cuts. 

We can start by shutting down this slush fund and balancing with our overall defense priorities in the context of the actual defense budget. And as we end these wars, eliminating the Overseas Contingency Operations fund and forcing the Pentagon to fund any such priorities through its regular budgetary process will provide $798 billion over the ten-year period relative to current spending levels. 

As I have said repeatedly, under my Medicare for All plan, costs will go up for the very wealthy and big corporations, and costs will go down for middle-class families. I will not sign a bill that violates these commitments. And as my plan to pay for Medicare for All makes clear, we can meet these commitments without a tax increase on the middle class – and, in fact, without any increase in income taxes at all. 

America’s middle class is facing a crisis. For a generation, wages have remained largely flat while family costs have exploded. I’ve spent decades sounding the alarm about it. I’m running for President to fix it. That means doing whatever we can to reduce the overall strain on family budgets. 

Medicare for All can be a huge part of the solution. When fully implemented, my approach to Medicare for All would mark one of the greatest federal expansions of middle class wealth in our history. And if Medicare for All can be financed without any new taxes on the middle class, and instead by asking giant corporations, the wealthy, and the well-connected to pay their fair share, that’s exactly what we should do.

ACHIEVING MEDICARE FOR ALL

Of course, moving to this kind of system will not be easy and will not happen overnight. This is why every serious proposal for Medicare for All contemplates a significant transition period. 

In the weeks ahead, I will propose a transition plan that will specifically address how I would use this time to begin providing immediate financial relief to struggling families, rein in out-of-control health care costs, increase coverage, and save lives. My transition plan will take seriously and address substantively the concerns of unions, individuals with private insurance, hospitals, people who work for private health insurers, and medical professionals who worry about what a new system will mean for them. It will also grapple directly with the entrenched political and economic interests that would spend freely, as they have throughout modern American history, to influence politicians and try to frighten the American people into rejecting a plan that would save them thousands of dollars a year on premiums and deductibles while making sure they can always see the health care providers they need with false claims and scare tactics.  

But there’s a reason former President Barack Obama has called Medicare for All a good idea. There’s a reason the American people support it. It’s because when it comes to the cost of health care, we are in the middle of a full-blown crisis. 

We are paying twice as much as any other major nation for care – even as tens of millions lack coverage, and even as family after family sees its finances destroyed by a health issue. And the American people know that in the long-term, a simple system that covers everybody, provides the care they need when they need it, puts $11 trillion back in their pockets and uses all of the public’s leverage to keep costs as low as possible is the best option for their family budgets and for the health of their loved ones.

As President, I’ll fight to get it done.

Read the plan here
Read expert letter on cost estimate of Medicare for All here 
Read expert letter on financing Medicare for All here
Calculator here

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Biden Details Ambitious Campaign Finance Plan to Insure Government Works for People, Not Special Interests

Former Vice President Joe Biden, seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is proposing an ambitious plan to guarantee that government works for the people and not for special interests © 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. Former Vice President Joe Biden, seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is proposing an ambitious campaign finance plan to guarantee that government works for the people and not for special interests. Biden has been criticized, however, for his recent announcement, in face of low campaign cash on hand, that he would accept money from Super PACs.

This is from the Biden campaign:

“Donald Trump has presided over the most corrupt administration in modern history. Trump has abused the presidency to enrich himself — spending countless tax dollars at his own properties. Members of his administration have failed to divest themselves from conflicts of interest as promised. Trump has weaponized the Executive Branch against its core mission, including using the U.S. Justice Department to protect the president and his interests, over the American people and the rule of law. And, Trump has welcomed wealthy special interests — including the National Rifle Association — into the Oval Office and to the highest levels of his administration to develop and guide policy.”

Biden will strengthen our laws to ensure that no future president can ever again abuse the office for personal gain. 

As president, Biden will:

Reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics and make it easier for candidates of all backgrounds to run for office;

Return integrity to the U.S. Department of Justice and to Executive Branch decision-making;

Restore ethics in government;

Rein in Executive Branch financial conflicts of interest; and 

Hold the lobbyists and those they lobby to a higher standard of accountability.

Highlights from Biden’s plan include:

Biden will introduce a constitutional amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections. This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United: it will return our democracy to the people, away from the corporate interests that seek to distort it. While we work toward a constitutional amendment, meaningful change can be made by legislation. Biden will propose legislation to provide public matching funds for small dollar donations to all federal candidates. Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a public financing system for House and Senate candidates in 1973.

Biden will block any future president or anyone else in the White House from interfering with decisions about who or what to investigate and prosecute. On day one, Biden will issue an Executive Order directing that no White House staff or any member of his administration may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly influence specific DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; he will commit to terminating anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact legislation giving the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any allegation of improper partisan influence on DOJ investigations and prosecutions; and requiring the IG to report in detail to Congress any time such an allegation is substantiated. 

Biden will establish the Commission on Federal Ethics (CFE), a single government agency empowered to oversee and enforce federal anti-corruption and ethics laws. CFE will have the authority to enforce its own subpoenas and to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ, as well as an obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to proceed with that referral. It will be tasked with tightening existing loopholes that let public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let lobbyists cloak influence campaigns in vague disclosures. And, CFE will be tasked with establishing ethics.gov, a new one-stop destination with all campaign finance, financial disclosure, and lobbying information all in one place.

Biden will expand and strengthen lobbying disclosure laws, requiring the office-holder in addition to the lobbyist to disclose the meeting. And, Biden will require Members of Congress to disclose any legislative language or bill text submitted by any lobbying party. Additionally, Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any regulatory text submitted by any outside entity. 

Biden will bar lobbying by foreign governments; and will require that any foreign business seeking to lobby must verify that no foreign government materially owns or controls any part of it.

Biden will enact legislation that requires all candidates for federal office disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared their candidacy for their first federal office. 

FACT SHEET:
THE BIDEN PLAN TO GUARANTEE GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR THE PEOPLE

REDUCE THE CORRUPTING INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN POLITICS
 
Biden strongly believes that we could improve our politics overnight if we flushed big money from the system and had public financing of our elections. Democracy works best when a big bank account or a large donor list are not prerequisites for office, and elected representatives come from all backgrounds, regardless of resources. But for too long, special interests and corporations have skewed the policy process in their favor with political contributions.
 
Biden has advocated for public financing of federal campaigns since the very beginning of his Senate career. He first co-sponsored legislation to create a public financing system for House and Senate candidates in 1973. In 1997 and many years afterward, he co-sponsored a constitutional amendment that would have limited contributions as well as corporate and private spending in elections and prevented the damage caused by the Supreme Court in Citizens United
 
Biden will reform our campaign finance system so that it amplifies the voices of the public, not the powerful — particularly the voices of working Americans. Under his leadership, our system will make sure that the principles of equality, transparency, and public — not private — interest drive all government decisions. Toward those ends, Biden will:

Introduce a constitutional amendment to entirely eliminate private dollars from our federal elections. Biden believes it is long past time to end the influence of private dollars in our federal elections. As president, Biden will fight for a constitutional amendment that will require candidates for federal office to solely fund their campaigns with public dollars, and prevent outside spending from distorting the election process. This amendment will do far more than just overturn Citizens United:  it will return our democracy to the people and away from the corporate interests that seek to distort it. 

Enact legislation to provide voluntary matching public funds for federal candidates receiving small dollar donations. While we work toward a constitutional amendment, meaningful change can be made by legislation. Biden will propose legislation to provide public matching funds for small dollar donations to all federal candidates. This will especially help first-time candidates access the resources needed to compete, freeing them to focus on interacting with voters, not high-dollar donors.

Keep foreign money out of our elections. Biden will propose a law to strengthen our prohibitions on foreign nationals trying to influence federal, state, or local elections.  He will direct a new independent agency, the Commission on Federal Ethics (discussed in detail below), to assure vigorous and unified enforcement of this and other anti-corruption laws. The Commission will establish robust disclosure requirements, so that any online electioneering communication that originates abroad is identified and flagged.  

Restrict SuperPACs. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is wrong and should be overturned by a constitutional amendment – but we can’t wait to limit its pernicious effect. As president, Biden will work to enact legislation ensuring that SuperPACs are wholly independent of campaigns and political parties, from establishment, to fundraising and spending.  

Increase transparency of election spending.  Our campaign finance law is outdated, and Biden will update it to reflect the modern era. Too often, candidates and their allies now use online platforms like Facebook and Twitter to spread misleading or outright false ads that are micro-targeted to certain populations and unrecognized by the press. Biden will propose legislation codifying what should be a simple tenet of campaign finance law: any group that advocates for or against candidates for federal office in its ads or communications must disclose its contributors.  No more hiding behind “dark money” groups to spread lies. This law will require all online ads, how they’re targeted, and who paid for them to be posted by the groups to a public database on a new one-stop website, ethics.gov — so no one can target voters with misinformation without attracting media or political attention. 

End dark money groups. Federal law recognizes “social welfare” groups, also known as 501(c)(4)s, which were intended to advocate for specific causes. But after Citizens United, they’ve increasingly been used as dark money groups — spending hundreds of millions of dollars on federal and state elections without disclosing their donors. Biden will enact legislation to bar 501(c)(4)s from spending in elections – the same bar that applies to Section 501(c)(3) charitable groups. He’ll also lead reform of the Federal Election Campaign Act, to ensure that any entity of any kind that spends more than $10,000 on federal elections must register with the Commission on Federal Ethics and publicly disclose its donors. 

Require real time disclosure. Today, voters have to wait until after an election to fully learn who spent money to influence their decision. Biden will propose legislation to change that, by requiring campaigns and outside entities that run ads within 60 days of an election to disclose any new contributions within 48 hours.

Ban corporate PAC contributions to candidates, and prohibit lobbyist contributions to those who they lobby. Biden will ensure that lobbyists and corporate PACs do not play a role in our elections. Biden’s presidential campaign is refusing any funding from lobbyists and corporate PACs. As president, he’ll enact legislation to bar lobbyists from making contributions to, and fundraising or bundling for, those who they lobby. This legislation will be designed to ensure that the public knows as much as possible about the political spending of those who seek to influence officeholders and other government officials.  Any lobbyist contribution must be disclosed within 24-hours, and any lobbyist-hosted fundraising event must be disclosed before it occurs.

Reform funding for national party conventions. Biden will propose legislation establishing that any political party that receives more than 5% of the national vote should have its national convention publicly financed.  Primaries — and the conventions that certify their results — are good for democracy. Conventions should be, too. They should not be funded by corporate or monied interests. 

Close the federal contractor loophole. As president, Biden will close the loophole that currently allows officers and directors of federal contractors to contribute to federal candidates. If you make money from government contracts, you should do so on merit — not because of campaign spending.

RETURN INTEGRITY TO THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND OTHER EXECUTIVE BRANCH DECISION-MAKING
 
The Attorney General and the rest of U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) serve and protect the American people, not the private and political interests of the president. The same is true for other Executive Branch agencies. Yet time after time, President Trump has improperly sought to use DOJ to attack his political opponents and to shield him, his family, and his associates from any meaningful oversight or investigation. Trump has asked DOJ to prosecute Democrats and others who disagree with him; he has enlisted DOJ in his effort to keep his tax returns from seeing the light of day; and he has attacked the hard-working career prosecutors and agents who devote their lives to public service.
 
Trump has weaponized the DOJ against laws enacted by Congress and supported by the public — like the Affordable Care Act, which has given more than 20 million Americans access to health insurance that they lacked before.  He has similarly used his appointments and executive orders to ask Executive Branch agencies to stray from their mission — directing the Department of Health and Human Services to dismantle, rather than enforce, the Affordable Care Act and asking the Environmental Protection Agency to excuse polluters, rather than to ensure clean air and clean water for the American people, as the law requires.  It’s wrong.
 
To maintain the rule of law, and to bring integrity back to our justice system and government, Biden will take aggressive action, including:

Prevent the president or White House from improperly interfering in federal investigations and prosecutions. Biden will work to block any future president or anyone else in the White House from improperly interfering with decisions about who or what to investigate and prosecute. Those decisions must be based on the facts and the law alone, free from political or partisan influence. The president can set broad enforcement priorities, but he or she should never tell DOJ which specific people or companies to investigate or prosecute. On day one of his presidency, Biden will issue an Executive Order directing that no White House staff or any member of his administration may initiate, encourage, obstruct, or otherwise improperly influence specific DOJ investigations or prosecutions for any reason; and he will pledge to terminate anyone who tries to do so. Biden will also enact legislation giving the DOJ Inspector General full power to investigate any allegation of improper partisan influence on DOJ investigations and prosecutions; and requiring the IG to report in detail to Congress any time such an allegation is substantiated. And, Biden will work with Congress to strengthen our whistleblower laws, so that any federal employee who learns of an improper attempt to influence a DOJ investigation or prosecution knows how to report it and receives full protection against retaliation by anyone, including the president. Those reforms will also ensure that all such reports are transmitted directly to the Congress.

Increase transparency in DOJ decision-making. Biden will make DOJ policies and practices more transparent and accessible to the public. Too many of the Trump Administration’s worst decisions – whether claiming that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional or that DACA is illegal – were made without grounding in the law. Biden will require DOJ to report and explain in detail any change in position on a significant legal issue to Congress and the public.

Empower agency watchdogs to combat unethical behavior.  Biden will strengthen Inspectors General laws — which established watchdogs in nearly every Executive Branch agency — to give IGs the full subpoena power and independence they need to investigate and publicize any official’s actual or attempted improper conduct. Inspectors General must be given the express authority to prevent, investigate, and disclose all violations.

Prohibit improper interference in agency matters.  Biden will ensure that agency decisions on specific matters, like awarding government contracts or granting government permits, are based on merit and expertise, not on political preferences. Biden will issue an Executive Order prohibiting anyone in the White House from interfering with federal agencies on these matters, and he will require the White House to disclose to the public if any corporation, individual, or other entity tries to solicit White House help.  This information will be aggregated and made public by the Commission on Federal Ethics. 

Empower DOJ to enforce the law. Biden will ensure that DOJ has the resources and authority to enforce our laws, including those the Trump Administration has told career prosecutors and agents to ignore – laws that protect our voting rights, make discrimination illegal, and protect the environment. And, Biden will re-commit the Department’s Civil Rights and Energy and Natural Resources divisions to their missions. 

RESTORE ETHICS IN GOVERNMENT
 
For the eight years of the Obama-Biden Administration, there was not a hint of scandal. The administration established the most stringent ethics code ever adopted by any White House. Its procedures ensured that all decisions were made on the merits, without bias, favoritism, or undue influence. President Obama and Vice President Biden set clear expectations that the ethics code and existing law must be followed. 
 
The Trump Administration has shredded those standards. Trump is accepting foreign emoluments, and has disregarded his pledge not to expand his business overseas. And, Trump is using the federal government to prop up his resorts with countless tax dollars.
 
Many of our imperfect yet essential government ethics laws trace their origins to the country’s response to Watergate. As president, Biden will ensure that the country’s response to the Trump Administration’s violations is even more aggressive. Specifically, Biden will:

Establish the Commission on Federal Ethics to more effectively enforce federal ethics law. Biden will propose and enact legislation establishing a single government agency empowered to oversee and enforce federal anti-corruption and ethics laws. Today, existing law is a patchwork of subject-matter-specific mandates, overseen by agencies that often lack the authority to demand and receive compliance. And, public data tracking who is trying to influence our elected officials is equally patchworked and hard to find. This commission will make all information about how certain interests are seeking to influence our government easily accessible.

The office will have broad investigative and civil enforcement authority, expanding on powers now held by the FEC, OGE, and the Office of Special Counsel. It will have the authority to enforce its own subpoenas, ending the Trump Administration’s illegal stonewalling. It will have the power to refer matters for criminal investigation to the DOJ, and an obligation to report to the public when DOJ has chosen not to proceed with that referral. And it will be tasked with tightening existing loopholes that let public officials hide assets in discretionary trusts, or let lobbyists cloak influence campaigns in vague disclosures.

In addition, the Commission on Federal Ethics (CFE) will be tasked with establishing an ethics.gov, a new one-stop destination for Americans interested in learning about the elected and appointed officials who serve them, and those who seek to influence that service. It will compile campaign finance, financial disclosure, and lobbying information all in one place — and, as detailed in this plan, that information will be more comprehensive than ever. 

CFE Structure: To avoid the stalemate that afflicts some agencies today, CFE will be run by a five-member Commission, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, with no more than three commissioners from the same political party. Commissioners will hold office for staggered 10-year terms across presidential administrations, removable only for cause. Nominations to the Commission will be suggested by a blue ribbon panel of former prosecutors, judges, and state regulators. Only those with experience in prosecuting public corruption or regulating ethics and campaign finance will be eligible for appointment.

To monitor CFE effectiveness, and to ensure that it responds to all threats to ethical and transparent government, the Office will be advised by an 11-member CFE Oversight Board, comprised of bipartisan experts in ethics, campaign finance, and open government. The Board will report to CFE twice annually with recommendations on how to strengthen ethics enforcement; when the Board recommends updates, CFE will be bound to consider them publicly and to explain if any are not followed. 

Require that all candidates for federal office release tax returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared candidacy for their first federal office. Many Senate committees require nominees for Cabinet-level positions to provide their tax returns for inspection – because knowing how a person has earned their living can inform decisions on their suitability for office. If we require that of appointed officials, why do we expect less of elected-office seekers? The past 21 years of Biden’s federal tax returns have been released, open to inspection by voters and the media. As president, Biden will enact legislation requiring that every candidate for federal office disclose returns dating back 10 years prior to the date they declared their candidacy for their first federal office.

Expand on and codify into law the Obama-Biden Administration ethics pledge.  On day one, Biden will issue an ethics pledge, building and improving on the Obama-Biden Administration’s pledge, to ensure that every member of his administration focuses day-in and day-out on the best outcomes for the American people, and nothing else. The pledge will address not only the improper influence of lobbyists, but also any improper or inappropriate influence from personal, financial, and other interests – ensuring an extra layer of review and scrutiny whenever policy proposals or recommendations come from a conflicted source.

REIN IN EXECUTIVE BRANCH FINANCIAL CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
 
President Trump is using the Presidency to enrich himself. His Cabinet is full of members who’ve failed to follow through on promised divestments or recusals. Biden will renew public confidence in our democracy by ensuring that everyone in a position of public trust eliminates even the appearance that their financial holdings could influence decision-making.
 
As president, Biden will:

Prevent the president and other senior Executive Branch members from being influenced by personal financial holdings. No member of the Biden Administration will be influenced by personal financial holdings. As President, just as he did as Vice President, Biden will hold only Treasury bonds, annuities, mutual funds, and private residential real estate; likewise, any retirement plans benefiting Joe or Jill Biden will be in large-cap mutual funds. By Executive Order, Biden will demand strict compliance with ethics agreements that he will demand of each of his Cabinet and other senior administration officials. And, he will enact legislation strengthening these practices, so we’re never again exposed to self-enrichment like that seen in the Trump Administration.

Extend this standard to U.S. House and Senate members. Biden will work with Congress to enact legislation to apply similar standards to its members. 

Eliminate the trust loophole in existing financial disclosure law. The Ethics in Government Act requires candidates for federal office and senior Executive Branch officials to disclose their assets. It aims to give the public, media, and other government officials a chance to identify potential conflicts, and to demand recusal where appropriate. But candidates and public officials often transfer assets into trusts controlled by family members or close friends, and then disclose just the existence of the trust rather than the assets it holds. This loophole has allowed many senior officials — including President Trump — to avoid disclosing significant financial interests. Biden will work with Congress to close this loophole; and will meanwhile require that any member of his Administration who is a beneficiary of a discretionary trust disclose all of its holdings.

HOLD THE LOBBIED AND LOBBYISTS TO A HIGHER STANDARD OF ACCOUNTABILITY
 
Our government should operate in the public interest—making decisions on the merits, and not to meet the demands of well-heeled interests. The public has a right to know when lobbyists meet Members of Congress and Executive Branch officials; it should know with whom they speak, and about what. What’s more, lobbyists often provide draft legislative or regulatory language they hope to be enacted. That information should be made public, too. Today, our lobbyist regulations are filled with loopholes and only lobbyists and the corporate interests they represent are required to disclose far too little.. It is time that we strengthen our lobbyist rules and hold public officials accountable by making sure they meet these higher standards too.     
 
As president, Biden will:

Hold elected officials accountable for public transparency of lobbying meetings. Existing lobbying law focuses primarily on the people who are doing the lobbying. It is time the law expanded to include the public officials who are the subject of lobbying. If your Senator or Representative is meeting with a special interest group, you should know. If the Secretary of Education is making decisions about student debt after dozens of meetings with lenders, you should know that, too. Biden will expand lobbying disclosure laws, so the obligation for transparency falls on the office-holder, as well as on the lobbyist. Specifically, Biden will propose legislation to require elected officials to disclose monthly any meetings or communications with any lobbyist or special interest trying to influence the passage or defeat of a specific bill – whether seeking the officeholder’s vote, or assistance in introducing or developing legislation. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress will be required to disclose any legislative language or bill text submitted by any lobbying party. Executive Branch officials will be required to disclose any regulatory text submitted by any outside entity. And, members of Congress and senior executive branch officials will be required to develop and disclose any access policy they have that governs requests for appointments. The CFE will make all of that information publicly available. If an office-holder believes that meetings with particular entities serve the public, let them explain why.

Make lobbying disclosure meaningful. Lobbying law should effectively inform the public and discourage conduct that distorts government decision-making. But current law does neither. Disclosure requirements are riddled with loopholes, so lobbyists can coordinate a PR campaign without ever disclosing their work. Detailed campaigns can be shielded by vague references to lobbying a chamber of Congress. Influencers are free to disclose only general information about the laws and regulatory activity they are trying to shape, without revealing specifics. Biden will lower the threshold for when those seeking to influence government decisions must register as “lobbyists” — to include anyone who earns more than $1,000 annually to be involved in developing or overseeing a lobbying strategy. The law will require them to disclose in detail exactly what they’re doing: with whom they’re meeting, the materials they’re sharing, any specific legislative (or regulatory) language they are proposing, and precisely what outcomes they’re seeking.

Prohibiting foreign governments’ use of lobbyists. There is no reason why a foreign government should be permitted to lobby Congress or the Executive Branch, let alone interfere in our elections. If a foreign government wants to share its views with the United States or to influence its decision-making, it should do so through regular diplomatic channels. The Biden Administration will bar lobbying by foreign governments; and it will require that any foreign business seeking to lobby must verify that no foreign government materially owns or controls any part of it. 

Ensure truly public access. In Washington, the ability to schedule a meeting with an elected official or his or her staff is a form of currency. Under the Biden plan, members of Congress and senior Executive Branch officials will be required to develop and disclose to the public any policies that their office has instituted on when to accept or prioritize appointments. In addition, Biden will return to the Obama-Biden Administration practice of disclosing White House visitor lists. 

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Details Plan to Bolster Public School Education

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © 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 a recent poll, Americans have indicated that education is a top issue. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in public schools, paid for by a 2c wealth tax on fortunes above $50 million. “It’s time to live up to the promise of a high-quality public education for every student. My plan makes big, structural changes that would help give every student the resources they need to thrive.” This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in our public schools — paid for by a two-cent wealth tax on fortunes above $50 million — and make a series of legislative and administrative changes to ensure a great public school education for every student. 

Her plan has five objectives: 

Fund schools adequately and equitably: Invest hundreds of billions of dollars in pre-K-12 public education, paid for by her wealth tax — including quadrupling Title I funding, fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, investing an additional $50 billion in repairing and upgrading school buildings, and offering schools $100 billion in Excellence Grants to invest in options that schools and districts identify to help their students. A Warren Administration will also set the goal of turning 25,000 public schools into true community schools. She will condition the new Title I money on states chipping in more funding and adopting and implementing more progressive funding formulas, so that more resources go to the schools and students that really need them. She will also improve the way the federal government allocates this new Title I funding.

Renew the fight against segregation and discrimination in our schools: She will attack residential segregation in a variety of ways, strengthen Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by expanding the private right of action under Title VI to cover claims of disparate impact against states and school districts, revive the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, apply particular scrutiny to breakway districts, and commit to enforcing the civil rights of all students.

Provide a warm, safe, and nurturing school climate for all our kids: She will cancel student breakfast and lunch debt and provide free and nutritious school meals, eliminate high stakes testing, end zero tolerance discipline policies, implement and expand Social Emotional Learning, and address chronic absenteeism.

Treat teachers and staff like the professionals they are: She will address not just teacher pay, but other important issues including strengthening bargaining power, cancelling student loan debt, diversifying the teacher pipeline, and funding professional development.

Stop the privatization and corruption of our public education system: She will ensure public dollars are not diverted from traditional public schools, end all federal funding for creating new charter schools, and push to ensure that existing charter schools are subject to at least the same level of transparency and accountability as traditional public schools. She also supports banning for-profit charters, and will direct the IRS to investigate so-called nonprofit schools that are violating the statutory requirements for nonprofits, and will ban the storing and selling of student data. 

Read more about her plan here and below:

I attended public school growing up in Oklahoma. After I graduated from the University of Houston, a public university where tuition cost only $50 a semester, my first job was as a special education teacher at a public school in New Jersey. I later attended a public law school.  

I believe in America’s public schools. And I believe that every kid in America should have the same access to a high-quality public education — no matter where they live, the color of their skin, or how much money their parents make. 

We’re not living up to that promise. Funding for public K-12 education is both inadequate and inequitable. I’ve long been concerned about the way that school systems rely heavily on local property taxes, shortchanging students in low-income areas and condemning communities caught in a spiral of decreasing property values and declining schools. Despite a national expectation of progress, public schools are more segregated today than they were thirty years ago, and the link between school funding and property values perpetuates the effects of ongoing housing discrimination and racist housing policies, like redlining, that restricted homeownership and home values for Black Americans. 

We ask so much of our public school teachers, paraprofessionals, and school staff. But instead of treating them like professionals — paying them well, listening to them, and giving them the support they need — we impose extreme accountability measures that punish them for factors they cannot possibly control. We divert public dollars from traditional public schools that need them, leave our students vulnerable to exploitative companies that prey on schools’ limited resources for profit, and allow corruption to undermine the quality of education that our students receive. 

And each of these trends has gotten worse under Betsy DeVos — a Secretary of Education who thinks traditional public schools are a “dead end.” 

We can do so much better for our students, our teachers, and our communities. I’ll start – as I promised in May – by replacing DeVos with a Secretary of Education who has been a public school teacher, believes in public education, and will listen to our public school teachers, parents, and students. 

But that’s just the beginning. As public school teachers across the country know, our schools do not have the financial resources they need to deliver a quality public education for every child. That’s why my plan invests hundreds of billions of dollars in our public schools — paid for by a two-cent wealth tax on fortunes above $50 million — and makes a series of legislative and administrative changes to achieve five objectives: 

Fund schools adequately and equitably so that all students have access to a great public education.

Renew the fight against segregation and discrimination in our schools.

Provide a warm, safe, and nurturing school climate for all our kids.

Treat teachers and staff like the professionals they are.

Stop the privatization and corruption of our public education system.

What would this plan mean for America’s families? Parents wouldn’t have to bust their budgets to live in certain exclusive neighborhoods just to ensure that their children get a good education. Parents of children with disabilities wouldn’t have to fight every day so their children get the services they’re entitled to and that they need. Public school teachers and staff would have more financial security and more freedom to use their expertise to teach their students. And every student would have the chance to go to a safe, enriching public school from pre-K to high school. 

Funding Schools Adequately and Equitably 

All students should have the resources they need to get a great public education. That’s not happening today. The data show that more school funding significantly improves student achievement, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds. Yet our current approach to school funding at the federal, state, and local level underfunds our schools and results in many students from low-income backgrounds receiving less funding than other students on a per-student basis. My plan makes a historic new federal investment in public schools — and pushes both the federal government and state governments to dedicate more resources to the schools and students that need them most.

State and local funds make up about 90% of total K-12 education funding. The federal government provides roughly the remaining 10% of K-12 funding, primarily through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. 

Both sets of investments have serious shortcomings. On the state side, even when states provide substantial supplemental funding for high-need communities, reliance on local property tax revenue means wealthier communities are often still able to spend more money on their public schools than poorer communities. As of 2015, only 11 states used a progressive funding formula — one that dedicates more money per-student to high-poverty school districts. The remaining states use a funding formula that is either basically flat per-student or dedicates less money per-student to high-poverty districts. In a handful of states, students in high-poverty districts get less than 75 cents for every dollar that students in wealthier school districts get.

There are problems with federal funding too. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is a civil rights law Congress enacted to provide supplemental support for students from low-income backgrounds or those who need extra support, like English Language Learners and students who are homeless or in foster care. Almost every school district and 70% of schools receive some Title I money, but the current investment in Title I — $15.8 billion — is not nearly enough to make up for state-level funding inequities. And Title I funding itself is distributed based on a formula that isn’t always efficiently targeted to ensure adequate support for the schools and students who need it most. 

Our flawed approach to K-12 funding isn’t just producing disparities in education between poor and rich students. It’s also helping produce disparities in education based on race. Black and Latinx students are disproportionately likely to attend chronically under-resourced schools. Bureau of Indian Education schools are badly underfunded too. 

My plan addresses each and every aspect of this problem. It starts by quadrupling Title I funding — an additional $450 billion over the next 10 years — to help ensure that all children get a high-quality public education. 

But we need to do more than just increase funding. We also need to ensure that federal funds are reaching the students and schools that need it most. That’s why I’m committed to working with public education leaders and school finance experts to improve the way the federal government allocates this new Title I funding. And I would impose transparency requirements on this new funding so that we can understand what investments work best and adapt our approach accordingly.

I’m also committed to using this new federal investment to press states to adopt better funding approaches themselves. I would condition access to this additional Title I funding on states chipping in more funding, adopting more progressive funding formulas, and actually allocating funding consistently with these new formulas. This would ensure that both the federal government and state governments do their part to progressively and equitably fund public schools while still ensuring that no child gets less per-student funding than they do today. 

My plan also lives up to our collective commitments to students with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act protects the civil rights of students with disabilities by guaranteeing their right to a free and appropriate public education. When Congress passed the original version of IDEA in 1975, it promised to cover 40% of the additional costs of educating students with disabilities. 

But today, Congress is failing spectacularly in meeting that obligation. Last year, the federal government covered less than 15% of these costs. That failure has shifted the burden to states and school districts that simply can’t find the money to make up the difference. The result? Students with disabilities are denied the resources they need to fulfill their potential.  

This will end under my administration. I’ll make good on the federal government’s original 40% funding promise by committing an additional $20 billion a year to IDEA grants. I will also expand IDEA funding for 3-5 year olds and for early intervention services for toddlers and infants.

In addition to ensuring that all students have the resources they need for a high-quality public education, I’ll give schools the chance to invest in programs and resources that they believe are most important to their students. That’s why my plan will invest an additional $100 billion over ten years in “Excellence Grants” to any public school. That’s the equivalent of $1 million for every public school in the country to invest in options that schools and districts identify to help their students. These funds can be used to develop state-of-the art labs, restore afterschool arts programs, implement school-based student mentoring programs, and more. I’ll work with schools and school leaders to develop the best way to structure these grants to meet their needs.

Those funds can also be invested in developing sustainable community schools — and the Warren Administration will have the goal of helping 25,000 public schools transition to the community school framework by 2030. Community schools are hubs of their community. Through school coordinators, they connect students and families with community partners to provide opportunities, support, and services inside and outside of the school. These schools center around wraparound services, family and community engagement, afterschool programs and expanded learning time, and collaborative leadership structures. Studies show that every dollar invested in community schools generates up to $15 in economic return to the community. 

Finally, my plan will provide a surge of investment in school facilities and infrastructure. About 50 million students and 6 million adults spend their weekdays in public school buildings. Too many of these schools are dealing with leaky roofs, broken heating systems, lead pipes, black mold, and other serious infrastructure issues. According to the most recent data, more than half of our public schools need repairs 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.

The vastly unequal state of public school facilities is unacceptable and a threat to public education itself. We cannot legitimately call our schools “public” when some students have state-of-the-art classrooms and others do not even have consistent running water. The federal government must step in. 

That’s why, as President, I’ll invest at least an additional $50 billion in school infrastructure across the country — targeted at the schools that need it most — on top of existing funding for school upgrades and improvements in my other plans. For example, my Clean Energy Plan for America commits billions of dollars to retrofit and upgrade buildings to increase energy efficiency and to invest in zero-emission school buses. My housing plan commits $10 billion in competitive grants that communities can use for school repairs. My Environmental Justice plan establishes a lead abatement grant program focused on schools. My Plan to Invest in Rural America commits to universal broadband so that every student in this country can access the Internet at school. And I will fully fund Bureau of Indian Education schools to support major construction and repair backlogs. 

Renewing the Fight Against Segregation and Discrimination in Public Schools 

While Donald Trump tries to divide us and pit people of different races and backgrounds against each other, Americans know that we are stronger because of our differences. As my dear friend Congressman Elijah Cummings said earlier this year before his passing, “America has always been at its best when we understand that diversity is our promise — not our problem.” Integrated communities and integrated schools help create a society built on mutual respect and understanding. 

But broad public affirmation of the Brown v. Board of Education decisions in the 1950s and recent debates about historical desegregation policies have obscured an uncomfortable truth — our public schools are more segregated today than they were about thirty years ago.  

We made only fitful progress towards integration in the years immediately after the Brown v. Board decisions. But by the mid-1980s, thanks to dedicated advocacy by civil rights leaders and sustained investment and oversight by the federal government, school segregation had declined

Then we reversed course. The Supreme Court scaled back the courts’ remedial tools to address segregation, which — as I called out at the time as a law student — entrenched segregation, particularly in Northern urban schools. To make matters worse, the Nixon and Reagan Administrations slashed investments in integration efforts and loosened federal oversight, setting us on a path towards heightened segregation. Over the same period, segregation of Latinx students entrenched even further. 

Integrated schools improve educational outcomes for students of all races. And integrated schools are demanded by our Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection to every person in this country. In a Warren Administration, we will achieve this goal.

The first step toward integrating our schools is integrating our communities. Today in America, residential communities are highly segregated. Some believe that’s purely a result of people choosing to live close to other people who look like them. That’s wrong. Modern residential segregation is driven at least in part by income inequality and parents seeking out the best possible school districts for their children. By investing more money in our public schools — and helping ensure that every public school is a great one — my plan will address one of the key drivers of residential segregation.    

Beyond that, my Housing Plan for America establishes a $10 billion competitive grant program that offers states and cities money to build parks, roads, and schools if they eliminate the kinds of restrictive zoning laws that can further racial segregation. And it includes a historic new down payment assistance program that promotes integration by giving residents of formerly redlined areas help to buy a home in any community they choose.   

My plan would also use federal education funding to encourage states to further integrate their schools. Under current law, states may use a portion of Title I funds to implement evidence-based interventions for low-performing schools. The data show that students at integrated schools perform better, so even in the absence of congressional action, my administration can and will use these provisions to encourage states to use that portion of Title I money on integration efforts of their own design. All told, that will add up to billions of dollars a year that states can use to promote residential and public school integration, including through the use of public magnet schools. And to ensure that school districts won’t have to choose between integration and federal funding, my plan will guarantee that districts will retain access to Title I funds even if their successful integration efforts cause the districts to fall below current Title I funding thresholds.

Incentives to integrate communities and schools will encourage many districts to do the right thing. But they won’t be sufficient everywhere. That’s why I’m committed to strengthening Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in any program or activity that receives federal funding — and reviving robust enforcement of its terms. Betsy DeVos and the Trump Administration have pulled back on civil rights enforcement, seemingly content to let states and districts use billions of taxpayer dollars to entrench or exacerbate racial segregation in schools. That ends under a Warren Administration. Here’s what we’ll do:

Strengthen Title VI: Under current Supreme Court precedent on Title VI, the government can challenge any policy that disproportionately harms students of color, but students and parents can only bring a claim under Title VI for intentional discrimination. Students and parents should have the right to challenge systemic discrimination that perpetuates school segregation, so I will push to expand the private right of action under Title VI to cover claims of disparate impact against states and school districts. I will also fight to give the Justice Department — in coordination with the relevant funding agency — direct enforcement authority to bring disparate impact claims under Title VI, and to give DOJ the right to issue subpoenas and civil investigative demands under Title VI to strengthen their investigative capacity.

Revive and fund the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR): OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws in our public schools. Betsy DeVos rescinded dozens of guidelines intended to prevent discrimination and limited OCR’s capacity to give complaints the consideration they deserve. My administration will restore and expand OCR’s capacity, reinstate and update the rules and guidance revoked by DeVos, press for new protections for students, and give OCR clear marching orders to root out discrimination wherever it is found.  

Subject attempts to create “breakaway” districts to additional enforcement scrutiny: Since 2000, there have been at least 128 attempts to break off a part of an existing school district into its own separate district. These “breakaway” districts are often wealthier and whiter than the district they leave behind and typically result in massive funding inequities between the new district and the old one. Under my leadership, the Department of Education and the Justice Department will subject any attempt to create a breakaway district to careful scrutiny and bring appropriate Title VI enforcement actions.  

Improve federal data collection to support better outcomes: Activists, academics, and legislators rely on the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection to better monitor and remedy what’s broken in our public education system. But there’s a years-long lag in the data collection process — and the data that are collected glosses over crucial details. I will increase funding for CRDC so that we can expand the types of data collected, provide data collection training on the district and state level, and produce data more quickly.  

I am also committed to ending discrimination against all students. My administration will strictly enforce the right of students with disabilities to a free and appropriate public education. I will push to build on Obama-era policies by writing new rules to help ensure that students of color with disabilities are treated fairly when it comes to identifying disabilities, classroom placement, services and accommodations, and discipline. I am opposed to the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, and I will push for sufficient training to ensure student, teacher, and staff safety. I will protect students’ right to be educated in the least restrictive environment. And in light of the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, which affirmed the right of every child to have the chance to meet challenging objectives, my Department of Education will help schools and districts develop and implement ambitious individualized education programs for all students with disabilities. This includes upholding the right to a fair and appropriate public education for students in juvenile detention facilities, who are disproportionately students with disabilities. 

I will also fight to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ students. When Gavin Grimm took his school district to court to defend the rights of transgender students, he bravely stood for the many LGBTQ+ students facing harassment and discrimination in our schools. Today, more than half of LGBTQ+ students report feeling unsafe at school, and nearly a fifth have been forced to switch schools. That’s why I will press to enact the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which requires school districts to adopt codes of conduct that specifically prohibit bullying and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. I will also direct the Department of Education to reinstate guidance revoked under Trump about transgender students’ rights under Title IX, and make clear that federal civil rights law prohibits anti-LGBTQ+ rules like discriminatory dress codes, prohibiting students from writing or discussing LGBTQ+ topics in class, or punishing students for bringing same-sex partners to school events. And I will affirm and enforce federal protections under Title IX for all students who are survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

I will commit to protecting English Language Learners. Our public schools are home to nearly 5 million English Language Learners — about 10% of the entire student population. In 1974, the Supreme Court ruled that failing to give English Language Learners meaningful instruction was a violation of their civil rights. But, once again, the Department of Education is failing these students under Betsy DeVos. As President, I will affirm and strengthen the Obama Administration’s 2015 guidelines on the civil rights of English Language Learners to include meaningful access to rigorous coursework, teachers, special education services, and integration with the rest of the student body, while fostering their home language.

I will also commit to protecting immigrant students and their families. Immigration makes America stronger — economically, socially, and culturally. But because of the Trump Administration’s inhumane immigration policies, many immigrant students are afraid to go to school, and many families living in the shadows are afraid to access resources like free school lunch. I would end the Trump’s Administration’s monstrous policies and enact immigration reform that is fair, humane, and reflects our values. I will ensure immigrant students don’t get second-class status by being directed into GED programs instead of classrooms. I will protect sensitive locations like schools from immigrant enforcement actions. And I’ll recommit OCR to upholding and enforcing Plyler v. Doe — which the Trump administration has tried to undermine — so that all immigrant children have access to a quality education, no matter their native language, national origin, immigration status, or educational history. 

Finally, I will nominate judges who look like America and are committed to applying our civil rights laws. The courts often have the final say on critical civil rights matters. Donald Trump has appointed judges who are overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male. During their confirmation processes, dozens of his appointees refused to state publicly that they would uphold Brown v. Board of Education. I’m committed to appointing a diverse slate of judges, including those who have a background in civil rights. And while it is shocking to need to make this commitment, I will only appoint judges who will apply the law as established in Brown v. Board of Education and other landmark civil rights rulings.

Providing a Warm, Safe, and Nurturing School Climate for All Our Kids

Every student deserves the opportunity to learn in a traditional public school that’s welcoming and safe. Research shows that students learn best when they have supportive and nurturing relationships with teachers and administrators, and when learning is not just academic but social and emotional too. With 46 million children experiencing some form of trauma — whether it’s poverty, violence in the community or in the home, homelessness, family separation, or an incarcerated caretaker — we can’t expect schools to bear this burden alone.  

In addition to my goal of turning 25,000 public schools into true community schools, my plan will ensure the federal government plays its part in trying to bring a positive and nurturing climate to every school.  

Here’s what we’ll do:

Expand access to early childhood services and education: My plan for Universal Child Care and Early Learning will provide high-quality child care and early learning to 12 million kids across the country. As part of a comprehensive early childhood education system, I will ensure all children can attend free high-quality universal pre-K. That means pre-K teachers that are prepared, supported, and compensated fairly, and program alignment to K-3, ensuring that every child is ready for day one of kindergarten and beyond.

Eliminate high-stakes testing: The push toward high-stakes standardized testing has hurt both students and teachers. Schools have eliminated critical courses that are not subject to federally mandated testing, like social studies and the arts. They can exclude students who don’t perform well on tests. Teachers feel pressured to teach to the test, rather than ensuring that students have a rich learning experience. 

I oppose high-stakes testing, and I co-sponsored successful legislation in Congress to eliminate unnecessary and low-quality standardized tests. As president, I’ll push to prohibit the use of standardized testing as a primary or significant factor in closing a school, firing a teacher, or making any other high-stakes decisions, and encourage schools to use authentic assessments that allow students to demonstrate learning in multiple ways.

Cancel student breakfast and lunch debt and provide free and nutritious school meals: No one should have to go into debt to get a nutritious meal at school. I’ve already proposed expanding the farm-to-school program one-hundred fold so that schools get access to fresh, local, nutritious meals. I will also push to cancel all existing student meal debt and increase federal funding to school meals programs so that students everywhere get free breakfast and lunch. And to meaningfully address student food insecurity and hunger, I will direct my Department of Education to work with schools to look for ways to provide dinner, and meals over weekends and throughout long holidays, to students who need it.  

Invest in evidenced-based school safety: Despite evidence that the militarization of our schools does not improve school safety, the Trump Administration has doubled down on militarization policies that only make students, teachers, and parents feel less safe. Enacting basic gun safety laws that the overwhelming majority of Americans support is a critical step towards improving school safety. But we need to take a different approach in our schools, too — 14 million students attend schools with police but no counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker. 

I will push to close the mental health provider gap in schools so that every school has access to the staff necessary to support students. And if police officers have to be in schools, they should receive training on discrimination, youth development, and de-escalation tactics, and the contracts between districts and law enforcement agencies should clearly define the responsibilities and limitations of the officers and the rights of the students. And no teacher should be armed — period.  

End zero-tolerance discipline policies: Zero-tolerance policies require out-of-school suspensions or expulsions on the first offense for a variety of behaviors. These policies are ineffective, disproportionately hurt BlackLatinxNative American, and Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander students, and can serve as the entry point to the school-to-prison pipeline. My administration will encourage schools to adopt discipline policies that draw students in rather than pushing them out, including restorative justice programs, which have been shown to dramatically reduce suspension rates and the discipline gap between Black and White students. I will also push to issue guidance to limit the use of discriminatory dress codes targeting student dress and hairstyle that lead to students of color losing valuable learning time and Muslim students being denied participation in school activities.

Establish more School-Based Health Centers: Students do better when they have access to good health care on site, but students from low-income backgrounds are less likely to have regular access to providers and preventative care. Students from rural communities and students attending Bureau of Indian Education schools also face significant barriers to health care access. School-Based Health Centers have been shown to improve grade promotion and decrease suspension rates and to increase the rates of vaccination and detection of hearing and vision issues. I’ve committed to establishing a $25 billion capital fund for communities that are health professional shortage areas to improve access to care through projects like constructing a School-Based Health Center or expanding capacity or services at an existing clinic. 

Expand the implementation of comprehensive, culturally relevant curriculum and Social Emotional Learning: Rigorous, culturally relevant, identity-affirming curriculum can increase attendance and academic success of students. And Social Emotional Learning — curriculum that focuses on empathy, responsible decision-making, and positive relationships — has positive effects too. Unfortunately, because of tight budgets, these subjects and programs are often considered expendable. We should invest more in curricula that engage all students across a wide array of subject areas like the arts, STEM, civics, and health, including evidence-based inclusive sex ed. I’ll fight to fully fund and target programs that conduct research in and support well-rounded, culturally relevant education, some of which the Trump administration has proposed eliminating entirely. I’ve already committed to supporting programs to ensure that public school curriculum includes Native American history and culture as a core component of all students’ education. In addition to those programs, we should ensure that all the communities that make up our public schools are reflected in school curricula. And I’ll require states receiving these grants to provide the same well-rounded, culturally relevant curriculum in alternative schools and juvenile detention facilities. 

Provide better access to career and college readiness (CCR): As President, I will enact legislation to make public two-year, four-year, and technical colleges tuition-free for all students. We must also ensure that students are able to take advantage of those opportunities and that high schools are funded and designed to prepare students for careers, college, and life. Students from low-income backgrounds are more likely than their wealthier peers to graduate high school without having taken any CCR coursework. Students with disabilities are also less likely to have the opportunity to enroll in CCR courses. I’ve fought hard in Congress to make sure high school students can access career and technical education without paying out of pocket. I’ve also proposed dramatically scaling up high-quality apprenticeship programs with a $20 billion investment that will support partnerships between high schools, community colleges, unions, and companies. I’ll work with the disability community to encourage schools to begin the development of postsecondary transition plans, as required by IDEA, earlier in a student’s school career. I’ll work with states to align high school graduation requirements with their public college admission requirements. And I’ll also direct the Department of Education to issue guidance on how schools can leverage existing federal programs to facilitate education-to-workforce preparedness.

Address chronic absenteeism without punishing parents or children: About 8 million students missed at least three weeks of school during the 2015-2016 school year, with Black and Latinx students more likely to be chronically absent than their white and Asian peers. In younger grades, students who are chronically absent are less likely to meet state proficiency standards. In middle and high school, chronic absenteeism is a predictor of whether a student drops out of school before completing high school. I’m committed to decriminalizing truancy and to working to decrease the rate of chronic absenteeism through other means. My plan to invest in programs that promote Social Emotional Learning, free school meals, and restorative justice would help reduce chronic absenteeism. I’ll also increase federal funding for pilot programs that implement best practices in truancy reduction, like sending parents easy-to-understand notices on the effects of chronic absenteeism, which has been shown to improve attendance by 40%.  

Treating Public School Teachers and Staff Like the Professionals They Are 

Teachers, paraprofessionals, school staff, and school leaders are the foundation of our public education system. But inadequate pay, shrinking benefits, under-resourced classrooms, and dangerously high levels of student debt are squeezing teachers and staff. We trust them to educate our children, but we fail to treat them like the professionals they are. 

Despite these challenges, our country’s educators have taken matters into their own hands — not only in the classroom, but also in the fight for the future of our country. Teachers have been battling for public investment over privatization, and for shared prosperity over concentrated wealth and power. Educators, particularly women, across the country have carried the #RedforEd movement from the streets to state capitol buildings, striking not just to get the compensation they deserve, but to condemn the diversion of funding from public schools to private ones, to increase funding to reduce class sizes and improve their schools, and to expand services that will make their students’ lives safer and more stable.  

Teachers have shown that they will stand together and fight for what they believe in. They deserve a President who will fight for them too. That’s why, as President, I will:  

Provide funding for schools to increase pay and support for all public school educators: Pay for our public school educators is unacceptably low, and it’s putting incredible strain on them and causing many to burn out and leave the profession. My plan to quadruple Title I funding incentivizes states to shift their funding formulas to better support students in critical ways, such as by increasing teacher pay with the goal of closing the educator pay gap and also paying paraprofessionals and other education support professionals a living wage. It also means additional funds to ensure that classrooms are well-equipped with resources and supports so that teachers aren’t paying out of pocket.  

Strengthen the ability of teachers, paraprofessionals, and staff to organize and bargain for just compensation, for a voice in education policy, and for greater investment in public education: One of the best ways to raise teacher pay permanently and sustainably — and to give teachers more voice in their schools — is to make it easier for teachers to join a union, to bargain collectively, and to strike like educators did across 14 states in 2018-2019. I have led the effort to eliminate the ability of states to pass anti-union “right to work” laws, and I will make enacting that change a top priority. And as part of my plan for empowering American workersI pledged to enact the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which ensures that public employees like teachers can organize and bargain collectively in each state, and authorizes voluntary deduction of fees to support a union. 

Ensure that anyone can become a teacher without drowning in debt: A generation of educators is retiring, and our country is facing a looming teacher shortage. Our country’s student debt crisis hits teachers hard. Combined with salaries that are far too low, that debt makes it difficult for many educators to make ends meet and to continue teaching. Meanwhile, the debt forgiveness programs that the government promised teachers for their years of service turned out to be empty promises. My college plan will wipe out debt for most teachers and provide tuition-free public college so future teachers never have to take on that debt in the first place. In addition, I will push states to offer a pathway for teachers to become fully certified for free and to invest in their educators and build teacher retention plans. I will increase funding for Grow Your Own Teacher programs that provide opportunities for paraeducators or substitute teachers to become licensed teachers. And I will push to fully fund the Teacher Quality Partnership program to support teacher residency programs in high-need areas, like rural communities, and in areas of expertise like Special Education and Bilingual Education.  

Build a more diverse educator and school leadership pipeline: Representation matters in the classroom, and a diverse workforce helps all students. Teachers of color can boost the academic outcomes of their students and improve graduation rates among students of color. Though the teacher workforce is getting more diverse, it is not keeping pace with changes in student demographics: educators of color comprise only 20% of the teaching workforce, while students of color now represent more than half of public school students. 

My plan to cancel student loan debt, provide tuition-free public college, and invest a minimum of $50 billion in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions will help more Black, Latinx, Native American, Asian American, and Pacific Islander students become educators and school and district leaders. Over 38% of Black teachers have degrees from HBCUs or MSIs. And Hispanic Serving Institutions are playing a crucial role in closing the teacher-student population demographic gap. I’ve also committed to significantly increasing BIE funding so these schools can attract and train teachers, particularly those from Native communities. But we must do more. I will target the biases and discrimination that inhibit our ability to build a diverse educator workforce and school leadership pipeline, such as pay discrimination, by expanding OCR’s purview to investigate systemic and individual workplace discrimination in our schools. And I am committed to passing the Equality Act to guarantee workplace protections for LGBTQ+ teachers and staff. 

Provide continuing education and professional development opportunities to all school staff: Ongoing high-quality professional development opportunities for teachers, administrators, and education support professionals produce better outcomes for students. As President, I will increase funding for critical programs that fund professional development and ongoing education on effective instruction, cultural competency, and child development for school staff, like the Supporting Effective Instruction and Supporting Effective Educator Development grants, that the Trump administration has proposed eliminating. And I will invest in funding of IES research on best practices in professional development that is effective and engages educators in decision-making on their own learning. 

Combating the Privatization and Corruption of Our Public Schools 

To keep our traditional public school systems strong, we must resist efforts to divert public funds out of traditional public schools. Efforts to expand the footprint of charter schools, often without even ensuring that charters are subject to the same transparency requirements and safeguards as traditional public schools, strain the resources of school districts and leave students behind, primarily students of color. Further, inadequate funding and a growing education technology industry have opened the door to the privatization and corruption of our traditional public schools. More than half of the states allow public schools to be run by for-profit companies, and corporations are leveraging their market power and schools’ desire to keep pace with rapidly changing technology to extract profits at the expense of vulnerable students. 

This is wrong. We have a responsibility to provide great neighborhood schools for every student. We should stop the diversion of public dollars from traditional public schools through vouchers or tuition tax credits — which are vouchers by another name. We should fight back against the privatization, corporatization, and profiteering in our nation’s schools. I did that when I opposed a ballot question in Massachusetts to raise the cap on the number of charter schools, even as dark money groups spent millions in support of the measure. And as president, I will go further:  

Ensure existing charter schools are subject to at least the same level of transparency and accountability as traditional public schools: Many existing charter schools aren’t subject to the same transparency and accountability requirements as traditional public schools. That’s wrong. That’s why I support the NAACP’s recommendations to only allow school districts to serve as charter authorizers, and to empower school districts to reject applications that do not meet transparency and accountability standards, consider the fiscal impact and strain on district resources, and establish policies for aggressive oversight of charter schools. Certain states are already starting to take action along these lines to address the diversion of public funds from traditional public schools. My administration will oppose the authorization of new charter schools that do not meet these standards. My administration also will crack down on union-busting and discriminatory enrollmentsuspension, and expulsion practices in charter schools, and require boards to be made up of parents and members of the public, not just founders, family members, or profit-seeking service providers.

End federal funding for the expansion of charter schools: The Federal Charter School Program (CSP), a series of federal grants established to promote new charter schools, has been an abject failure. A recent report showed that the federal government has wasted up to $1 billion on charter schools that never even opened, or opened and then closed because of mismanagement and other reasons. The Department of Education’s own watchdog has even criticized the Department’s oversight of the CSP. As President, I would eliminate this charter school program and end federal funding for the expansion of charter schools. I would also examine whether other federal programs or tax credits subsidize the creation of new charter schools and seek to limit the use of those programs for that purpose. 

Ban for-profit charter schools: Our public schools should benefit students, not the financial or ideological interests of wealthy patrons like the DeVos and Walton families. I will fight to ban for-profit charter schools and charter schools that outsource their operations to for-profit companies. 

Direct the IRS to investigate so-called nonprofit schools that are violating the statutory requirements for nonprofits: Many so-called nonprofit schools – including charter schools – operate alongside closely held, for-profit service providers. Others are run by for-profit companies that siphon off profits from students and taxpayers. The IRS should investigate the nonprofit status of these schools and refer cases to the Tax Fraud Division of the Department of Justice when appropriate. I would also apply my plan’s ban on for-profit charter schools to any of these so-called “nonprofit” schools that actually serve for-profit interests. And my plan would ban self-dealing in nonprofit schools to prevent founders and administrators from funneling resources to service providers owned or managed by their family members.  

Expand enforcement of whistleblower actions against schools that commit fraud against taxpayers: Our federal laws allow whistleblowers to bring actions to expose fraud and retrieve stolen federal money. The Department of Justice should expand its enforcement of these whistleblower actions to address fraud that appears all too common in certain charter schools, including online charter schools that falsify or inflate their enrollment numbers. 

It’s also time to end the corporate capture of our education system and crack down on corruption and anti-competitive practices in the education industry. Here’s how we can start:

Require companies that lobby school systems that receive federal funding to comply with expanded federal lobbying restrictions and disclosure requirements: Corporate lobbyists spend millions of dollars lobbying state officials. If companies are lobbying for contracts from schools receiving federal funding, they should be subject to our federal lobbying rules, even when they are lobbying state officials. That’s why my plan would require all companies that lobby for these contracts to comply with the new federal lobbying proposals in my plan to end Washington corruption. That means that these education conglomerates will have to disclose the details of their meetings with all public officials, their lobbyists will not be able to donate or fundraise for federal candidates, those lobbyists will not be able to cycle through the revolving door into our federal government, and education companies like Pearson that often spend over $500,000 in a single year on lobbying will be subject to my new lobbying tax

Ban the sharing, storing, and sale of student data: Several investigations have revealed that educational technology companies, for-profit schools, and other educational entities are selling student data to corporations. My plan would extend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to ban the sharing, storing, and sale of student data that includes names or other information that can identify individual students. Violations should be punishable by civil and criminal penalties. 

Direct the FTC to crack down on anti-competitive data mining practices by educational technology companies: Big companies like Facebook and Google, and smaller companies like Class Dojo, have already collected student data to market products or to sell themselves to companies that can do so. As president, I would direct the FTC to crack down on these antic-competitive data mining practices by technology companies engaging in these practices in the education space, including by reviewing and blocking mergers of companies that have taken advantage of data consolidation.Require high-stakes testing companies to make all released prior testing materials publicly available: High-stakes testing companies create their own test prep companies using proprietary materials or sell these materials directly to those who can afford it, giving some children a distinct advantage on those tests. My plan would bar companies with federal government contracts from selling questions to individuals or to companies for commercial purposes.

Read statements of support from National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, and others here

Bernie Sanders Tells 25,000 at Queens Rally: ‘I Am Back… We Will Win’

“I am back.” Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Pointing to how the park had to be closed once 20,000 people had jammed in, leaving some 5,000 more to take over the street, Senator Bernie Sanders declared, “There is no doubt revolution will sweep the country, sweep Trump out of office and bring the country the change long needed.

“This campaign is not just about defeating most dangerous president in history, it’s about transforming the country, creating economy and government that works for all of us, not just 1%.

“For 45 years, class war has been waged against working families by the billionaire class and corporate elite. I have bad news for them: things will change. We will have government of working people, not 1%.”

Sanders acknowledged the endorsement of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, saying she “is the youngest woman elected to Congress. In one year, it is hard to believe the degree she has transformed politics in America. She has electrified the country with the concept of Green New Deal. She has been an inspiration to millions of young people who now understand the importance of participation and standing up for justice.”

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorses Bernie Sanders for president at rally in, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In his first major campaign rally since undergoing heart surgery, he said, “As far as my health, I am more than ready, more ready than ever to carry on. I am back.

“I was faced with adversity over last couple of weeks, but Americans throughout country are facing own adversity: 500,000 homeless. In NYC over 130,000 including 45,000 children slept in homeless shelters last year. Half our population – working class – is living paycheck ot paycheck, dealing with incredible stress of struggle just to stay alive and feed family.

“87 million are uninsured or underinsured, unable to go to doctor when get sick because the United States maintains the most dysfunctional and cruel health care system in the world.

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“In a country that once led the world in education, millions of working class families search for affordable child care, thousands are unable to fulfill their dream because they can’t afford outrageous cost of higher education, tens of millions struggle with student debt.

“Millions of senior citizens unable to afford prescription drugs – government allowed price fixing and political bribery by the pharmaceuticals industry, while Trump and the Republicans cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.

[Chant: “We will win.”]

“Damn right,” Sanders said.  “Justice is coming to America.”

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Income inequality: people are working two to three jobs to pay their bills, while 49% of all new money goes to the top 1%.

“The richest people live 15 years longer than poorest; poverty is a death sentence. We will end that.

 “The average white family owns 10 times more wealth than blacks; a black woman is three times more likely to die; the rate of infant mortality in black family is double white [boo].

“We have a broken and racist criminal justice system: blacks get 19% more jail time for the same crime; African Americans are jailed at 5 times the rate of whites.

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 “These enormous problems can’t be solved by same old approach to politics. We tell corporate elite, enough is enough, no longer accept greed, corruption, attacks against working class.

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Brothers and sisters, need new vision for America – that’s what this campaign is about.”

Quoting Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” Sanders said, “They want us to believe real change is impossible – not just Republicans, Democrats on the Ohio debate stage, too.

“We disagree on the kind of America we will fight for:

“End all forms of discrimination.

Education, universal affordable child care, rebuild public education that gives teachers respect, compensation they deserve, make public colleges and universities tuition free, fund HBCUs, cancel all student debt.

“If Congress 11 years ago could bail out crooks on Wall Street and provide zero interest loans to banks and Trump and Republicans give over $1 trillion in tax breaks to big corporations and the 1%, if we can spend $750 billion year on military [boo], we can cancel all student debt with a modest tax on Wall Street.”

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

A Federal Jobs Guarantee program that pays good wages and affords union representation. “There is an enormous amount of work to be done – we  need new skilled workers.15 million jobs rebuilding crumbling infrastructure; expand child care, education, health care and services for senior citizens.

Health care: “We must end the international embarrassment of the USA as the only major country that doesn’t guarantee health care to all. End the absurdity of spending twice as much per capita as every major country when 87 million are uninsured or underinsured.30,000die each year for lack of care; 500,000 go bankrupt [over medical bills]. We will pass Medicare for All single payer.

Green New Deal to address climate change – the most comprehensive plan of any candidate. I propose legislation holding the fossil fuel industry accountable. A Green New Deal would create 20 million jobs as we transform away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy, and develop the tools we need to help lead the world in combating climate change and save planet.

“A Green New Deal will end environmental racism. It will clean the environment and end environmental racism.

“In the richest country in history of world, Alexandria and I believe every American should have fundamental right to safe, decent affordable housing. It is unacceptable and un-American for veterans and families with young children to sleep on the streets.

“18 million families pay over half of their income on housing, and wealthy real estate developers are gentrifying neighborhoods.

“We will fund 10 million apartments and homes, eliminate homelessness in America, end gentrification in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and across America. I will create a National Rent Control Standards, and provide $20 billion to the New York public housing authority to repair, modernize, make accessible and access to hi speed broadband.

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I will end broken, racist criminal justice system in America, end the embarrassment of having more people in jail in America than any country. We spend $80 billion on jails and incarceration instead of investing in jobs and education. I will end the war on drugs, legalize marijuana [big cheers]. End the disgrace of 400,000 locked up because they are too poor to afford cash bail. I will redefine criminal justice –it is absurd to jail someone for selling marijuana when the crooks on Wall Street and at drug companies who killed thousands are not facing criminal charges. Equal justice under law, rich or poor.

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Instead of demonizing undocumented immigrants, I will pass comprehensive immigration reform and create a path to citizenship. On my first day, I will sign executive order legalizing the status for 1.8 million DACA recipients and extend it to parents. I will develop a humane border policy for those seeking asylum; I won’t snatch babies from mothers, throw children in cages; I will end ICE raids.

“Our administration will take on the NRA, move aggressively to end the epidemic of gun violence, pass commonsense gun legislation that an overwhelming majority of Americans want. People who should not have guns will not have.

“Women have the right to control own bodies, not politicians. I would never nominate anyone to Supreme Court not 100% pro-Roe v Wade.”

As for how he would pay for his progressive agenda, Sanders said, “I will tell the wealthiest they are going to start paying their fair share of taxes; rescind the Trump tax breaks for billionaires and corporations, end the insanity of tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. And we don’t’ have to spend more than next 10 nations combined on defense.”

“I believe more than ever we are going to win.”

__________

© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

AOC, Michael Moore, Stars of Progressive Politics Endorse Bernie Sanders at Queens Rally

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Amid a sea of “Bernie” signs and chants of “We are the 99%” and “We will win”, Jane Sanders, looked out over the massive crowd of 25,000 that overflowed Queensbridge Park, beneath the Queensborough Bridge, onto the street, and said, “Here are people from every background in the melting pot called New York. Most of our ancestors came to America for a better life- mine from Ireland to escape famine, poverty; Bernie’s from Poland escaping anti-Semitism, poverty.

Jane Sanders at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“All believed they could have a better life. But in the last 40 years that promise has eroded. Bernie plans to change that.” And, noting that this is his first rally since his heart attack, she said to massive cheers, “Bernie is back. He’s healthy and more than ready to continue his lifelong fight for working people of America.”

Michael Moore: “This is not just about defeating Trump, but the rotten system that gave us Trump’

Democracy, said documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, is where “Everyone gets a seat at the table, a slice of the pie and not fight for last crumbs. We don’t just need a democratic politics, we need a democratic economy.”

Filmmaker Michael Moore at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Moore said, “The powers that be are very unhappy you’re here, that Bernie is back. The pundits, the media [boo] are throwing everything out there to get people to think differently:

“That Bernie is too old. Here’s what’s too old: the Electoral College, the $7 minimum wage, women not being paid the same as men, thousands and thousands of dollars of student debt, $10,000 deductible for health care, Super Delegates, the fossil fuel industry – that’s what’s too old.

“It’s a gift we have 78-year-old American running for president. The experience he has, what he has seen. He knows what a pay raise is, a pension – look it up. What it looks like to defend against fascism and white supremacy, to have the library open every day, what regulations are (Boeing). I’m glad he’s 78.

“Health? We should be talking about the health of planet that’s dying [crowd chants “Green New Deal”]; the health of kids in Flint Michigan, of 40 million living in poverty, of young black males shot in back by police [chant Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Count]. The only heart attack we should talk about is the one Wall Street will have when Bernie wins.

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Next, that Bernie can’t win. He will win he has won 8 times to the House, 2 times to the Senate, 22 states in 2016 – almost half [chant “We will win.]. In 2016 [Democratic primary], Bernie won Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota. Of the 11 states that border Canada, Bernie won 10 (not NY) [boo] – we can fix that. Of the 5 states that border the Pacific, he won 4; of 6 in New England, won 4; Bernie won West Virginia – all 55 counties. According to a poll, he is #1 in Nevada, a dead heat in Iowa, #1 in New Hampshire. He has raised more money from more donors with the smallest amount.

“Why say Bernie can’t win? Because they are lying to the American people. Bernie will win. [Chant, “We will win”]

“They say he can’t win because he is a [Democratic] socialist [yay!]. That’s not going to fly. The American people have loved socialism for the last 70 years. Social Security, free public school, Medicare, Medicaid, fire department – all are socialist.

“What they don’t want to do is tell the truth, what would happen if they structured economic policies with democracy instead of capitalism. And this isn’t capitalism of your great grandpa, this is a form of greed, selfishness so that just few at the top succeed, the  rest struggle paycheck to paycheck.

“Afraid taxes on rich will go up under Sanders? It was depressing during the debate to watch Democrats go after Medicare for All. What would Franklin Roosevelt say?

“They say we can’t afford it? How does Canada afford it? Every other industrialized country has figured it out, why can’t we? They don’t want us to figure it out.

“They say taxes will go up? That is part of the big lie – your taxes already are up. We don’t call it a tax – in Canada, France, Finland they get free health care, free or nearly free day care and college, but pay more in tax for these things. The average American family pays $12,000 a year for child care, $4000 in student loans, $6000 for deductibles, co-pays and premiums for health care – too damn much – the average is $20,000/year but we don’t call it a tax.

Over 25,000 turned out for the Bernie Sanders for President rally, in Queensbridge Park, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We are here in Queensbridge Park, Manhattan Island just across the river is headquarters of corporate America [boo], corporate media [boo], Wall Street

[boo]

. So much misery has been visited on the American people from a half mile away. It must stop.

“They must hear us at Goldman Sachs, Fox News, Trump Tower – the scene of the crime.

“This [election] is not just about defeating Trump, but the rotten system that gave us Trump…. beating Trump isn’t enough.  We must crush Trump at the polls, then fix the rotten corrupt economic system that gave us Trump.”

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

San Juan Mayor Cruz: “Move forward on the path of progressive agenda. We are equal. We will win. We must win.”

Calling herself a “climate change survivor,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, attacked Trump for “killing us with inefficiency” that contributed to 3,000 Puerto Ricans dying after being smacked by back-to-back hurricanes.

Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Why we have to win” she says is for Medicare-for-All, so no one has to choose between groceries and insulin; to be able to afford college and life after college, to “stand against those who earn $100 million and pay workers starving wages; who take away women’s right to choose; the crime of separating families at southern border; climate change.

“I am a climate change survivor. Climate change is real – 3000 Puerto Ricans were killed because Trump Is a racist, xenophobic, paper throwing demagogue.” [Chant, “Lock him up. Vote him out.”]

“The time is now to be fearless, relentless. I stand with Sanders – I respect every other candidate but there is one name only who can get the job done. Be united in one progressive voice, cross generations. Move forward on the path of progressive agenda. We are equal. We will win. We must win.”

Nina Turner: “We must knock out Billionaire class that doesn’t believe working people deserve a good life.”

National co chair Nina Turner quoted Congresswoman Barbara Jordan who said American people want an America as good as its promise. “That means an America where people don’t die because have to ration insulin; hospitals are not closing; where there is clean water, air, food; a justice system that doesn’t gun down black folks in their houses.

Nina Turner at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We need to clean up the criminal injustice system, Truth & Reconciliation about the ravages of racism, a health care system not commodified. We need to take care of Mother Earth.”

Alluding to the Democratic candidates, she said, “There are many copies but only one original. We finally have somebody in our lifetime, his own special interest is people of nation.

“We must knock out Billionaire class that doesn’t believe working people deserve a good life.”

Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “We need a United States truly, authentically operated, owned by working people.”

“We must bring revolution of working class to the ballot box of America,” declared Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She prompted chants of “Green New Deal,” saying, “Queensbridge Park is ground zero in the fight for public housing and environmental justice.

“Last February I was working as a waitress in Manhattan, shoulder to shoulder with undocumented workers who were putting in12 hour days with no healthcare, not a living wage. We didn’t think we deserved it. That is the script we tell working people: your inherent worth, value as human depends on income another underpays. Turn around that basic language… We must change the system that puts corporate profit ahead of all human and planetary costs.”

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

After her parents put all they had to buy a house, she said she learned from an early age that “kids’ destiny determined by zipcode. Income inequality is a fact of life of children.” Her father died of cancer when she was 18 and she learned, “We all are one accident away from everything falling apart.

Sanders, she said, has fought for Planned Parenthood, for public education, for CHIP, for single-payer health care, for gender rights, to end “life-crushing” student debt.

“He didn’t do it because it was popular. He fought when it came at the highest political cost in America.

“In 2016, he changed politics in America. We now have one of the best Democratic fields – much because of Sanders.

“I’m in Congress today but one year ago I was a sexually harassed waitress. This freshman class in overwhelming numbers rejected corporate money – thanks to Bernie – endorsed Medicare for All, sees the climate crisis as an existential threat.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“[In Congress] it is no joke to stand up against corporate power and establishment interests. Arms are twisted, political pressure psychological and otherwise applied to make you abandon the working class.

“I have come to appreciate the nonstop advocacy of Sanders. It’s not just what he fights for but how: mass mobilization of the working class at the ballot box, a movement (against) racism, classism of Hyde Amendment, imperialist and colonial histories that lead to endless war and immigration crisis.

“NYCHA is underfunded by $30 billion –that is not an accident, but an outcome of system that devalues poor, Logic that got us into this won’t get us out.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at Bernie Sanders for President rally, Queens, New York © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“We need a United States truly, authentically operated, owned by working people.

“Bernie showed you can run a grass roots campaign and win in America when others thought it impossible.”

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