Tag Archives: Elizabeth Warren

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Releases Plan to Reduce Health Care Costs and Transition to Medicare for All

Senator Elizabeth Warren provided more detail about how she would introduce universal health care, reduce health care costs and transition to Medicare for All © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Clearly responding to the backlash against her radical plan to finance Medicare for All, Senator Elizabeth Warren released details of how she would reduce health care costs in America, eliminate profiteering from the health care system, and complete a full transition to Medicare for All in her first term. Warren has already released her plan to fully finance Medicare for All when it’s up and running without raising taxes on the middle class by one penny.

 “Medicare for All is the best way to guarantee health care to all Americans at the lowest cost. I have a plan to pay for it without raising taxes on middle class families, and the transition I’ve outlined here will get us there within my first term as president. Together, along with additional reforms like my plans to reduce black maternal mortality rates, ensure rural health care, protect reproductive rights, support the Indian Health Service, take care of our veterans, and secure LGBTQ+ equality, we will ensure that no family will ever go broke again from a medical diagnosis – and that every American gets the excellent health care they deserve. “

This is from the Warren campaign:

On Day One, Elizabeth will use her executive authority to:

Reverse Donald Trump’s sabotage of Obamacare 

Improve the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Protect people with pre-existing conditions

Drastically lower pharmaceutical costs for millions of families for drugs including Insulin, EpiPens, and drugs that save people from opioid overdoses.

The first bill Elizabeth will pass is her comprehensive set of anti-corruption reforms which include ending lobbying as we know it and knocking back the influence of Big Pharma and insurance companies. 

And in her first 100 days, Elizabeth will use a fast-track legislative process called budget reconciliation to create a true Medicare for All option that will: 

Include all the health care benefits of Medicare for All described in the Medicare for All Act.

Be immediately free for nearly half of all Americans, including: 

Children under the age of 18

Families making at or below 200% of the federal poverty level (about $51,000 for a family of four)

Give every American over the age of 50 the choice to enter a substantially improved Medicare program.

Consumer costs will automatically decline, so eventually coverage under this plan will be free to everyone

Throughout her first term, she will fight for additional health system reforms to save money and save lives–including a boost of $100 billion in guaranteed, mandatory spending for new NIH research.  

And no later than her third year in office, she will pass legislation to complete the transition to Medicare for All: guaranteed comprehensive health care for every American, long-term care, vision, dental, and hearing, with a single payer to reduce costs and produce better health outcomes. 

Elizabeth’s plan can deliver an $11 trillion boost to families who will never pay another premium, deductible, or co-pay. 

And her plan will protect unions and make sure that there’s support for workers affected by these changes.

Read more about her plan here and below: 

My First Term Plan for Reducing Health Care Costs in America and Transitioning to Medicare for All

I spent my career studying why families went broke. I rang the alarm bells as the costs for necessities skyrocketed while wages remained basically flat. And instead of helping, our government has become more tilted in favor of the wealthy and the well-connected. 

The squeeze on America’s families started long before the election of Donald Trump, and I’m not running for president just to beat him. I’m running for president to fix what’s broken in our economy and our democracy. I have serious plans to raise wages for Americans. And I have serious plans to reduce costs that are crushing our families, costs like child careeducationhousing – and health care

The Affordable Care Act made massive strides in expanding access to health insurance coverage, and we must defend Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act against Republican attempts to rip health coverage away from people. But it’s time for the next step.

The need is clear. Last year, 37 million American adults didn’t fill a prescription because of costs. 36 million people skipped a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up because of costs. 40 million people didn’t go to a doctor to check out a health problem because of costs. 57 million people had trouble covering their medical bills. An average family of four with employer-sponsored insurance spent $12,378 on employee premium contributions and out-of-pocket costs in 2018. And 87 million Americans are either uninsured or underinsured.

Meanwhile, America spends about twice as much per person on health care than the average among our peer countries while delivering worse health outcomes than many of them. America is home to the best health care providers in the world, and yet tens of millions of people can’t get care because of cost, forcing families into impossible decisions. Whether to sell the house or skip a round of chemo. Whether to cut up pills to save money or buy groceries for the week. The way we pay for health care in the United States is broken – and America’s families bear the burden. 

We can fix this system. Medicare for All is the best way to cover every person in America at the lowest possible cost because it eliminates profiteering from our health care and leverages the power of the federal government to rein in spending. Medicare for All will finally ensure that Americans have access to all of the coverage they need – not just what for-profit insurance companies are willing to cover – including vision, dental, coverage for mental health and addiction services, physical therapy, and long-term care for themselves and their loved ones. Medicare for All will mean that health care is once again between patients and the doctors and nurses they trust–without an insurance company in the middle to say “no” to access to the care they need. I have put out a plan to fully finance Medicare for All when it’s up and running without raising taxes on the middle class by one penny.

But how do we get there? 

Every serious proposal for Medicare for All contemplates a significant transition period. Today, I’m announcing my plan to expand public health care coverage, reduce costs, and improve the quality of care for every family in America. My plan will be completed in my first term. It includes dramatic actions to lower drug prices, a Medicare for All option available to everyone that is more generous than any plan proposed by any other presidential candidate, critical health system reforms to save money and save lives, and a full transition to Medicare for All.  

Here’s what I’ll do in my first 100 days:

I’ll pursue comprehensive anti-corruption reforms to rein in health insurers and drug companies – reforms that are essential to make any meaningful health care changes in Washington.

I’ll use the tools of the presidency to start improving coverage and lowering costs – immediately. I’ll reverse Donald Trump’s sabotage of health care, protect individuals with pre-existing conditions, take on the big pharmaceutical companies to lower costs of key drugs for millions of Americans, and improve the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid. 

I will fight to pass fast-track budget reconciliation legislation to create a true Medicare for All option that’s free for tens of millions. I won’t hand Mitch McConnell a veto over my health care agenda. Instead, I’ll give every American over the age of 50 the choice to enter an improved Medicare program, and I’ll give every person in America the choice to get coverage through a true Medicare for All option. Coverage under the new Medicare for All option will be immediately free for children under the age of 18 and for families making at or below 200% of the federal poverty level (about $51,000 for a family of four). For all others, the cost will be modest, and eventually, coverage under this plan will be free for everyone.

By the end of my first 100 days, we will have opened the door for tens of millions of Americans to get high-quality Medicare for All coverage at little or no cost. But I won’t stop there. Throughout my term, I’ll fight for additional health system reforms to save money and save lives – including a boost of $100 billion in guaranteed, mandatory spending for new NIH research over the next ten years to radically improve basic medical science and the development of new medical miracles for patients.

And finally, no later than my third year in office, I will fight to pass legislation that would complete the transition to full Medicare for All. By this point, the American people will have experienced the full benefits of a true Medicare for All option, and they can see for themselves how that experience stacks up against high-priced care that requires them to fight tooth-and-nail against their insurance company. Per the terms of the Medicare for All Act, supplemental private insurance that doesn’t duplicate the benefits of Medicare for All would still be available. But by avoiding duplicative insurance and integrating every American into the new program, the American people would save trillions of dollars on health costs.

I will pursue each of these efforts in consultation with key stakeholders, including patients, health care professionals, unions, individuals with private insurance, hospitals, seniors currently on Medicare, individuals with disabilities and other patients who use Medicaid, Tribal Nations, and private insurance employees. 

And at each step of my plan, millions more Americans will pay less for health care. Millions more Americans will see the quality of their current health coverage improve. And millions more Americans will have the choice to ditch their private insurance and enter a high-quality public plan. And, at each step, the changes in our health care system will be fully paid for without raising taxes one penny on middle class families.

Every step in the coming fight to improve American health care – like every other fight to improve American health care – will be opposed by those powerful industries who profit from our broken system.  

But I’ll fight my heart out at each step of this process, for one simple reason: I spent a lifetime learning about families going broke from the high cost of health care. I’ve seen up close and personal how the impact of a medical diagnosis can be devastating and how the resulting medical bills can turn people’s lives upside down. When I’m President of the United States, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that never happens to another person again.

The First 100 Days of a Warren Administration

Donald Trump has spent nearly every day of his administration trying to rip health coverage away from tens of millions of Americans – first by legislation, then by regulation, and now by lawsuit. When I take office, I will immediately work to reverse the damage he has done. 

But I’ll do much more than that. 

In my first 100 days, I will pick up every tool Donald Trump has used to undermine Americans’ health care and do the opposite. While Republicans tried to use fast-track budget reconciliation legislation to rip away health insurance from millions of people with just 50 votes in the Senate, I’ll use that tool in reverse – to improve our existing public insurance programs, including by giving everyone 50 and older the option to join the current Medicare program, and to create a true Medicare for All option that’s free for millions and available to everyone.   

But first, we must act to rein in Washington corruption. 

Anti-Corruption Reforms to Rein in Health Industry Influence.

In Washington, money talks – and nowhere is that more obvious than when it comes to health care. The health care industry spent $4.7 billion lobbying over the last decade. And health insurance and pharmaceutical executives have been active in fundraising and donating to candidates in the 2020 Democratic primary campaign as well. 

Today, the principal lobbying groups for the drug companies, health insurers, and hospitals have teamed up with dozens of other health industry groups to create the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future – a front group whose members spent a combined $143 million on lobbying in 2018 and aims to torpedo Medicare for All in this election. The Partnership has made clear that “whether it’s called Medicare for All, Medicare buy-in, or the public option, one-size-fits-all health care will never allow us to achieve [our] goals.” 

Let’s not kid ourselves: every Democratic plan for expanding public health care coverage is a challenge to these industries’ bottom lines – and every one of these plans is already being drowned in money to make sure it never happens. Any candidate who believes more modest reforms will avoid the wrath of industry is not paying attention. 

If the next president has any intention of winning any health care fight, they must start by reforming Washington. That’s why I’ve released the biggest set of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate – and why enacting these reforms is my top priority as president. Here are some of the ways my plan would rein in the health care industry:

Close the revolving door. My plan will close the revolving door between health care lobbyists and government, and end the practice of large pharmaceutical companies like Novartis, United Health, Roche, Pfizer, and Merck vacuuming up senior government officials to try and monopolize government expertise, relationships, and influence during a fight for health care reform.

Tax excessive lobbying. My plan will also implement an excessive lobbying tax on companies that spend more than $500,000 per year peddling influence – like Pfizer, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Novartis, and Johnson & Johnson. Money from the tax would be used to strengthen congressional support agencies, establish an office to help the public participate in the rule-making process, and give our government additional resources to fight back against an avalanche of corporate lobbying spending.

End lobbyist bribery. My campaign finance plan will ban all lobbyists – including health insurance and pharma lobbyists – from trying to buy off politicians by donating or fundraising for their campaigns. This will shut down the flow of millions of dollars in contributions.

Limit corporate spending to influence elections. My plan bans all election-related spending from big corporations with a significant portion of ownership from foreign entities. That would block major industry players like UnitedHealthAnthemHumanaCVS HealthPfizer, AmgenAbbVieEli LillyGilead, and Novartis – along with any trade associations that receive money from them – from spending to influence elections. 

Crowd out corporate contributions with small dollar donations. I support a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. But until we enact it, my plan would institute a public financing program that matches every dollar from small donations with six more dollars so that congressional candidates are answering to the people who need health care and affordable prescription drugs, rather than health insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Passing these reforms will not be easy. But we should enact as much of this agenda as possible, as quickly as possible. I will also use my executive authority to begin implementing them wherever possible – including through prioritizing DOJ and FEC enforcement against the corrupt influence-peddling game. And I will voluntarily hold my administration to the standards that I set in my anti-corruption plan so that all our federal agencies, including those involved in health care, serve only the interests of the people. 

Money slithers through Washington like a snake. Any candidate that cannot or will not identify this problem, call it out, and pledge to make fixing it a top priority will not succeed in delivering any public expansion of health care coverage – or any other major priority. 

Immediate Executive Actions to Reduce Costs and Expand Public Health Coverage.

There are a number of immediate steps a president can take entirely by herself to lower drug prices, reduce costs, and improve Medicare, Medicaid, and ACA access and affordability. I intend to take these steps within my first 100 days. 

Dramatically Lower Key Drug Prices

As drug companies benefit from taxpayer-funded R&D and rake in billions of dollars in profits, Americans are stuck footing the bill. The average American spends roughly $1,220 per year on pharmaceuticals – more than any comparable country. As president, I will act immediately to lower the cost of prescription drugs, using every available tool to bring pressure on the big drug companies. I’ll start by taking immediate advantage of existing legal authorities to lower the cost of several specific drugs that tens of millions of Americans rely on. 

Some drug prices are high because pharmaceutical companies jack up prices on single-source brand-name drugs, taking advantage of government-granted patents and exclusivity periods to generate eye-popping profits. Pharma giant Gilead, for example, launched its Hepatitis C treatment Harvoni at $94,500-per-twelve week treatment – leaving as many as 85 percent of more than 3 million Americans with Hepatitis C struggling to afford life-saving treatments. 

The government has two existing tools to combat price-gouging by brand-name drug companies, in addition to tough antitrust enforcement against companies that abuse our patent system and use every trick in the book to avoid competition. First, the government can bypass patents (while providing “reasonable and entire compensation” to patent holders) using “compulsory licensing authority.” The Defense Department has used this authority as recently as 2014. Second, under the march-in provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act, the government can require re-licensing of certain patents developed with government involvement when the contractor was not alleviating health or safety needs. Just in this decade, federal research investments have contributed to the development of hundreds of drugs – all of which could be subject to this authority.

But new drugs aren’t the only unaffordable drugs on the market. Even older, off-patent drugs can be expensive and inaccessible. Lack of generic competition allows bad actors like Martin Shkreli to boost the prices of decades-old drugs. Some of the biggest generic drug companies in the country are now being sued by forty-four states for price-fixing to keep profits high. Limited competition and other market failures can also lead to drug shortages. Fortunately, the government can also act to fix our broken generic drug market by stepping in to publicly manufacture generic drugs, stopping price gouging in its tracks and bringing down costs.. 

On the first day of my presidency, I will use these tools to drastically lower drug costs for essential medications – drugs with high costs or limited supply that address critical public health needs. And during my administration, we will use these tools to make other drugs affordable as well.

Insulin was discovered nearly 100 years ago as a treatment for diabetes – but today the drug is still unaffordable for too many Americans. Eli Lilly’s brand-name insulin prices increased over 1,200% since the 1990s. Insulin costs are too high because three drug companies – Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and Eli Lilly – dominate the market, jacking up prices. Americans with diabetes are rationing insulin, and taxpayers are spending billions on it through Medicare and Medicaid. It’s obscene. No American should die because they can’t afford a century-old drug that can be profitably developed for $72 a year. I will use existing authorities to contract for manufacture of affordable insulin for all Americans. 

EpiPens deliver life-saving doses of epinephrine, a drug that reverses severe allergic reactions to things like peanuts and bee stings. Though epinephrine has been around for over a century, the pens that deliver it are protected by a patent that limits competition. In 2016, this lack of competition allowed Mylan, EpiPen’s manufacturer, to jack up EpiPen prices by 400%, leaving families unable to afford this life-saving medication. Though cheaper versions have recently entered the market, prices remain out of reach for many American families. As president, I will use existing authorities to produce affordable epinephrine injectors for Americans (and especially children) who need it.

Naloxone can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from a drug overdose in the United States, with the majority due to opioids. The opioid epidemic cost Americans nearly $200 billion in 2018, including more than $60 billion in health care costs. Health officials agree that naloxone is “critical” to curb the epidemic – but easy-to-use naloxone products like ADAPT Pharma’s Narcan nasal spray and Kaléo’s Evzio auto-injector are outageously expensive, and the approval of a generic naloxone nasal spray is tied up in litigation. Kaléo spiked the price of Evzio by over 550% to “capitalize on the opportunity” of the opioid crisis, costing taxpayers more than $142 million over four years. It doesn’t have to be this way: in 2016, it cost Kaléo just 4% of what it charged to actually make Evzio, and naloxone can be as cheap as five cents a dose. Both products benefited from government support or funds in the development of naloxone. My administration will use its compulsory licensing authority to facilitate production of low-cost naloxone products so first responders and community members can save lives.

Humira is a drug with anti-inflammatory effects used to treat diseases like arthritispsoriasis, and Crohn’s disease. It is the best-selling prescription drug in the world, treating millions. AbbVie, Humira’s manufacturer, has doubled the price of Humira to more than $38,000 a year. In 2017, Medicaid and Medicare spent over $4.2 billion on it – while AbbVie, its manufacturer, developed a “patent thicket” to shield itself from biosimilar competition. In May 2019, the company entered into a legal settlement preventing a competitor from entering the U.S. market until 2023 – probably because prices went down by up to 80% once biosimilars entered in Europe. My administration will pursue antitrust action against AbbVie and other drug companies that pursue blatantly anti-competitive behavior, and, if necessary, use compulsory licensing authority to facilitate production, saving taxpayers billions. 

Hepatitis C drugs like Harvoni are part of a class described as “miracle” drugs. Harvoni’s price tag – $94,500-per-treatment – left 85% of the more than 3 million Americans living with Hepatitis C without a lifesaving medication, while taxpayers foot a $3.8 billion bill. Although the price has come down in recent years, it is still expensive for too many. One estimate suggests that by using compulsory licensing, the federal government could treat all Americans with Hepatitis C for $4.5 billion – just 2% of the $234 billion it would otherwise cost. That is exactly what I will do.

Truvada is a drug that – until recently – was the only FDA-approved form of pre-exposure prophylaxis, which can reduce the risk of HIV from sexual activity by up to 99%. Truvada’s manufacturer, Gilead, relied on $50 million in federal grants to develop it, but today they rake in multi-billion dollar profits while Americans struggle to afford it. The CDC estimates a million Americans could benefit from Truvada, though only a fraction do today – largely due to to its $2,000-a-month price tag, which is nearly thirty times what it costs in other countries. My administration will facilitate the production of an affordable version – reducing HIV infections and saving taxpayers billions of dollars each year.  

Antibiotics provide critical protection from bacterial and fungal infections, and we are in desperate need of new antibiotics to combat resistant infections. Every year, nearly three million Americans contract antibiotic-resistant infections – and more than 35,000 people die. But antibiotics don’t generate much money, discouraging pharmaceutical investment, causing shortages, and contributing to price hikes. Earlier this year, one biotech firm filed for bankruptcy after marketing a new antibiotic, Zemdri, for less than a year. My administration will identify antibiotics with high prices or limited supply and help produce them to combat resistance and provide patients with the treatments they need.

Drug shortages leave doctors and patients scrambling to access the treatments they need, forcing many to ration medications and use inferior substitutes. Our nation’s hospitals, for example, are currently experiencing a shortage of vincristine – an off-patent drug that is the “backbone” of childhood cancer treatment. The vincristine shortage began when Teva, one of its two suppliers, made the “business decision” to stop manufacturing the drug. When I am president, the government will track drugs in consistent shortage, like vincristine, and I will use our administrative authority to ensure we have sufficient production.

Finally, I will also direct the government to study whether other essential medicines, including breakthrough drugs for cancer or high-cost drugs for rare diseases, might also be subject to these interventions because they are being sold at prices that inappropriately limit patient access.  

Make Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment A Reality 

The law currently requires health insurers to provide mental health and substance use disorder benefits in parity with physical health benefits. But in 2018, less than half of people with mental illness received treatment and less than a fifth of people who needed substance use treatment actually received it. As president, I will launch a full-scale effort to enforce these requirements – with coordinated actions by the IRS, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Department of Labor to make sure health plans actually provide mental health treatment in the same way they provide other treatment. 

Reverse Trump’s Sabotage 

I will reverse the Trump administration’s actions that have undermined health care in America. Key steps include:

Protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. The Trump administration has abandoned its duty to defend current laws in court, cheering on efforts to destroy protections for pre-existing conditions, insurance coverage for dependents until they’re 26, and the other critical Affordable Care Act benefits. In a Warren administration, the Department of Justice will defend this law. And we will close the loopholes created by the Trump administration, using 1332 waivers, that could allow states to steer healthy people toward parallel, unregulated markets for junk health plans. This will shut down a stealth attack on people with pre-existing conditions who would see their premiums substantially increase as healthier people leave the marketplace.   

Banning junk health plans. The Trump administration has expanded the use of junk health insurance plans as an alternative to comprehensive health plans that meet the standards of the ACA. These plans cover few benefits, discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, and increase costs for everyone else. And in some cases they direct as much as 50 percent of patient premiums to administrative expenses or profit. I will ban junk plans.

Expanding ACA enrollment. I’ll re-fund the Affordable Care Act programs that help people enroll in ACA coverage, programs that have been gutted by the Trump administration.

Expanding premium tax credits. I will reverse the Trump administration rule that artificially reduced premium tax credits for many people, making coverage less affordable – and instead will expand these credits.

Rolling back Trump’s sabotage of Medicaid. I’ll reverse the Trump administration’s harmful Medicaid policies that take coverage away from low-income individuals and families. I’ll prohibit restrictive and ineffective policies like work requirements – which have already booted 18,000 people in Arkansas out of the program – as well as enrollment caps, premiums, drug testing, and limits on retroactive eligibility that can prevent bankruptcy.

Restoring non-discrimination protections in health care. I will immediately reverse the Trump administration’s terrible proposed rule permitting health plans and health providers to discriminate against women, LGBTQ+ people, individuals with limited English proficiency, and others.

Ending the Trump administration’s assault on reproductive care. I’ll roll back the Trump administration’s domestic and global gag rules, which deny Title X and USAID funding to health care providers who provide abortion care or even explain where and how patients can access safe, legal abortions. And I will overturn the Trump administration’s embattled proposed rule to roll back mandatory contraceptive coverage. 

Strengthen the Affordable Care Act 

As president I will use administrative tools to strengthen the ACA to reduce costs for families and expand eligibility. Key steps include:

Stop families from being kicked out of affordable coverage. Because of something called the “family glitch,” an entire family can lose access to tax credits that would help them buy health coverage if one parent is offered individual coverage with a premium less than 9.86% of their family income. I’ll work to make sure that a family’s access to tax credits is based on the affordability of coverage for the whole family – not just one individual – so families who don’t actually have access to affordable alternatives don’t lose their ACA tax credits.

Expand eligibility to all legally present individuals. I’ll also work to extend eligibility for ACA tax credits to all people who are legally present, including those eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Put money back in workers’ pockets. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of total premium contributions on health care claims (and, in many cases, at least 85 percent), leaving the rest to be spent on plan administration, marketing, and profit. Insurers who waste money must issue rebates – but too often, these are returned to employers who don’t pass on the savings to their employees. Insurance companies are expected to pay out $1.3 billion in rebates in 2019, with employers in the small-group market receiving an average rebate of $1,190 and employers in the large-group market receiving an average rebate of $10,660. My plan will require employers to pass along the full value of the rebate directly to employees. 

Strengthen Medicare 

As president I will use administrative tools to strengthen Medicare:

Expand Dental Benefits. The Medicare statute prohibits coverage of dental care that is unrelated to other medical care, unless it is medically necessary. This has been interpreted to largely exclude any oral health care. As a result, almost two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries, or nearly 37 million people, lack access to dental benefits. I will use my administrative authority to clearly expand the medically necessary dental services Medicare can provide, improving the health of millions of Medicare beneficiaries.

Stop private Medicare Advantage plans from bilking taxpayers. Roughly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries get coverage through a private Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare payments to these plans for each enrollee are supposed to reflect the cost of covering that person through traditional Medicare, but overwhelming evidence shows that these private plans make their enrollees appear sicker on paper than they actually are to earn inflated payments at the expense of taxpayers. Some suggest that this adds $100 billion or more to Medicare spending over ten years. My administration will put an end to this fraud.

Strengthen Medicaid 

As president I will use administrative tools to strengthen Medicaid and potentially allow millions more to access the program.

Use waiver authority to increase Medicaid eligibility. With the approval of the federal government, states can use Section 1115 demonstration waivers to expand coverage to people who aren’t otherwise eligible for Medicaid. Currently, however, states can only obtain these waivers if projected federal spending under the new program will not be higher than without the waiver. While I pursue legislative reforms to expand coverage, I’ll also change this administrative restriction to allow these demonstrations to fulfill their promise of providing affordable health coverage, including working with states that want to expand Medicaid to uninsured individuals and families above the statutory upper limit of Medicaid (138% of the poverty level). Any state that chooses to expand in this way will not be penalized for doing so when full Medicare for All comes online.

Streamlining eligibility and enrollment. Far too many people miss out on Medicaid coverage because of red tape. Some states take coverage away if someone misses just one piece of mail or forgets to notify the state within 10 days of a change in income. These kinds of harsh policies help explain why more than a million children “disappeared” from the Medicaid and CHIP programs in the past year. I will eliminate these kinds of unfair practices, and instead work with states to make it easier for everyone – families, children, and people with disabilities – to maintain this essential coverage.

Ensuring access to care for beneficiaries in managed care plans. I’ll roll back the Trump administration’s proposed changes to rules regulating Medicaid managed care plans, which would dilute important standards, such as requiring health plans to maintain adequate provider networks guaranteeing access to care for Medicaid enrollees. 

Antitrust Enforcement for Hospitals and Health Systems 

For years, both horizontal mergers (where hospitals purchase other hospitals) and vertical mergers (where hospitals acquire physician practices) have produced greater hospital and health system consolidation, contributing to the skyrocketing costs of health care. Today, “not a single highly competitive hospital market remains in any region of the United States.” Study after study shows that mergers mean higher prices, lower quality, and increased inequality due to the growing wage gap between hospital CEOs and everyone else. Bringing down the cost of health care means enforcing competition in these markets. 

As president, I will appoint aggressive antitrust enforcers who recognize the problems with hospital and health system consolidation to the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission. My administration will also conduct retrospective reviews of significant new mergers, and break up mergers that should never have taken place. 

Bringing Health Records into the 21st Century 

Congress spent $36 billion to get every doctor in America using electronic health records, but we still do not have adequate digital information flow in health care – in part because two big companies make up about 85% of the market for medical records at big hospitals. As they attempt to capture more of the market, these companies are making it harder for systems to communicate with each other. My administration will ramp up the enforcement against information blocking by big hospital systems and health IT companies, and I will appoint leaders to the FTC and DOJ who will conduct a rigorous antitrust investigation of the health records market, especially in the hospital space.

Elevating the Voices of Workers in the Transition to Medicare for All

The fundamental goal of my presidency will be returning power to working people. Medicare for All accomplishes that by giving every American high-quality coverage and freeing them from relying on the whims of their employers or private insurance companies for the health care they need. My plan to transition to Medicare for All will also put working people first, and elevate their voices at each stage of the process. 

My plan seeks to build on the achievements of generations of working people and their unions who have fought for and won health care. I view good health plans negotiated through collective bargaining as a positive achievement for working people, and I will seek as part of the first phase of my plan the elimination of the excise tax on those plans.

In my first weeks in office, I will issue an Executive Order creating a commission of workers (including health care workers), union representatives, and union benefit managers that I will consult at every stage of the transition process. The commission will be responsible for providing advice on each element of the transition to Medicare for All, including, at a minimum:

Ensuring workforce readiness and adequate access to care across all provider types.

Determining national standards of coverage and benefits, including long-term care.

Learning from successful existing non-profit health care administrators and integrating them into the new Medicare for All system.

Ensuring a living wage for all health care workers and that savings generated within the new system by hospitals and other health care employers are shared fairly with all of the workers in the health care system.

Ensuring that workers are able to use the collective bargaining process during the transition period and under the new Medicare for All system to ensure both effective health outcomes and to ensure that savings generated by the new system are fairly shared with workers.

In administering the Medicare for All system, my administration will also rely on unions’ expertise on designing good benefits for workers and helping workers navigate our health care system. During the transition to Medicare for All – and even when we ultimately reach a full Medicare for All system – my administration will seek to partner with collectively bargained non-profit health care administrators. For example, we will draw upon their expertise in helping workers choose providers, and look for opportunities to enter into contracts with the administrators of unions’ collectively bargained health plans to provide these services. And my plan will guarantee that union-sponsored clinics are included within the Medicare for All system and will continue serving their members. 

Finally, Medicare for All will be an enormous boost to the economy, lifting a weight off of both workers and businesses and creating good new jobs, including in administering health care benefits. Still, the Medicare for All legislation includes billions of dollars to provide assistance to workers who may be affected by the transition to Medicare for All, and I plan on consulting with the new worker commission and other affected parties to ensure that money is spent as effectively as possible. In the past, transition assistance programs have been underfunded and have not been as responsive as they should have been to the actual needs of workers. That will not be the case in my administration. No worker will be left behind.

Legislation to Expand Medicare and Create a True Medicare for All Option 

In 2017, Senate Republicans came within one vote of shredding the Affordable Care Act and taking health care coverage away from more than 20 million people. How did they get so close? By using a fast-track legislative process called budget reconciliation, which only requires 50 votes in the Senate to pass laws with major budgetary impacts. President Obama also used this process to secure final passage of the Affordable Care Act. 

I am a strong supporter of eliminating the filibuster, which I believe is essential to preventing right-wing Senators who function as wholly owned subsidiaries of major American industries from blocking real legislative change in America. Any candidate for president who does not support this change should acknowledge the extreme difficulty of enacting their preferred legislative agenda. But I’m not going to wait for this to happen to start improving health care – and I’m not going to give Mitch McConnell or the Republicans a veto over my entire health care agenda.

That’s why, within my first 100 days, I will pass my own fast-track budget reconciliation legislation to enact a substantial portion of my Medicare for All agenda – including establishing a true Medicare for All option that’s free for millions and affordable for everyone. 

A True Medicare for All Option. There are many proposals that call themselves a Medicare for All “public option” – but most of them lack the financing to actually allow everyone in America to choose true Medicare for All coverage. As a result, these proposals create the illusion of choice, when in reality they offer tens of millions of Americans the decision between unaffordable private insurance and unaffordable public insurance. A choice between two bad options isn’t a choice at all.

My approach is different. 

Because I have identified trillions in revenue to finance a fully functioning Medicare for All system – without raising taxes on the middle class by one penny – I can also fund a true Medicare for All option. The plan will be administered by Medicare and offered on ACA exchanges. Here are its key features: 

Benefits. Unlike public option plans, the benefits of the true Medicare for All option will match those in the Medicare for All Act. This includes truly comprehensive coverage for primary and preventive services, pediatric care, emergency services and transportation, vision, dental, audio, long-term care, mental health and substance use, and physical therapy. 

Immediate Free Coverage for Millions. This plan will immediately offer coverage at no cost to every kid under the age of 18 and anybody making at or below 200% of the federal poverty level (about $51,000 for a family of four) – including individuals who would currently be on Medicaid, but live in states that refused to expand their programs.

Free, Identical Coverage for Medicaid Beneficiaries. States will be encouraged to begin paying a maintenance-of-effort to the Medicare for All option in exchange for moving their Medicaid populations into this plan and getting out of the business of administering health insurance. For states that elect to maintain their Medicaid programs, Medicaid premiums and cost sharing will be eliminated, and we will provide wraparound benefits for any Medicare for All option benefits not covered by a state’s program to ensure that these individuals have the same free coverage as Medicaid-eligible people in the Medicare for All option. 

Eventual Free Coverage for Everyone. This plan will begin as high-quality public insurance that covers 90% of costs and allows people to utilize improved ACA subsidies to purchase coverage and reduce cost sharing. There will be no premiums for kids under 18 and people at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. For individuals above 200% FPL, premiums will gradually scale as a percentage of income and are capped at 5.0% of their income. Starting in year one, the plan will not have a deductible — meaning everyone gets first dollar coverage, and cost sharing will be zero for people at or below 200% FPL. Cost sharing will scale modestly for individuals at or above that level, with caps on out-of-pocket costs. In subsequent years, premiums and cost sharing for all participants in this plan will gradually decrease to zero. 

Reducing Drug Prices. The Medicare for All option will have the ability to negotiate for prescription drugs using the mechanisms I’ve previously outlined, helping to drive down costs for patients. 

Automatic Enrollment. Anyone who is uninsured or eligible for free insurance on day one, excluding individuals who are over 50 and eligible for expanded coverage under existing Medicare, will be automatically enrolled in the Medicare for All option. Individuals who prefer other coverage can decline enrollment.

Employee Choice. Workers with employer coverage can opt into the Medicare for All option, at which point their employer will pay an appropriate fee to the government to maintain their responsibility for providing employee coverage. In addition, unions can negotiate to include a move to the Medicare for All option via collective bargaining during the transition period, with unionized employers paying a discounted contribution to the extent that they pass the savings on to workers in the form of increased wages, pensions, or other collectively-bargained benefits. This will support unions and ensure that the savings from Medicare for All are passed on to workers in full, not pocketed by the employer.

Provider Reimbursement and Cost Control. I have identified cost reforms that would save our health system trillions of dollars when implemented in a full Medicare for All system. The more limited leverage of a Medicare for All option plan will accordingly limit its ability to achieve these savings – but as more individuals join, this leverage will increase and costs will go down. Provider reimbursement for this plan will start above current Medicare rates for all providers, and be reduced every year as providers’ administrative and delivery costs decrease until they begin to approach the targets in my Medicare for All plan. The size of these adjustments will be governed by overall plan size and the progress of provider adjustment to new, lower rates. 

Expand and Improve Existing Medicare for Everyone Over 50. In addition to the Medicare for All option, any person over the age of 50 will be eligible for expanded coverage under the existing Medicare program, whose infrastructure will allow it to absorb new beneficiaries more quickly. The expanded Medicare program will be improved in the following ways: 

Benefits. To the greatest extent possible, critical benefits like audio, vision, full dental coverage, and long-term care benefits will be added to Medicare, and we will legislate full parity for mental health and substance use services. 

Eventual Free Coverage for Everyone. Identical to the Medicare program, enrollees will pay premiums in Part B and D, with a $300 cap on drug costs in Part D. Plugging a huge hole in the current Medicare program, out-of-pocket costs will be capped at $1,500 per year across Parts A, B, and D, eliminating deductibles and reducing cost sharing. In subsequent years, premiums and cost sharing will gradually decrease to zero. 

Employee Choice. Identical to the Medicare for All option, workers 50-64 can opt into expanded Medicare, at which point their employer will pay an appropriate fee to the government to maintain their responsibility for providing employee coverage. 

Reducing Drug Prices. The expanded Medicare program will receive the ability to negotiate for prescription drugs using the mechanisms I’ve previously outlined, helping to drive down costs for patients. And we will create a publicly run prescription drug plan that is benchmarked off the best current Part D plan. 

Automatic Enrollment. Every person without health insurance over the age of 50 will be automatically enrolled in the expanded existing Medicare program. 

Provider Reimbursement and Cost Control. Provider reimbursement for new beneficiaries will start above current Medicare rates for all providers, and be reduced every year as providers’ administrative and delivery costs decrease until they begin to approach the targets in my Medicare for All plan. It will be a new condition of participation that providers who take Medicare or other federally subsidized insurance also take the Medicare for All option. We will also adopt common sense reforms to bring down bloated reimbursement rates, including reforms around post-acute care, bundled payments, and site neutral payments.

Improving the Affordable Care Act. My reforms will also strengthen Affordable Care Act plans – including the new Medicare for All option – by making the following changes:

Expand Tax Credit Eligibility. We will lift the upper limit on eligibility for Premium Tax Credits, allowing people over 400% of the federal poverty level to purchase subsidized coverage and greatly increasing the number of people who receive subsidies. 

Employee Choice. We will allow any person or family to receive ACA tax credits and opt into ACA coverage, regardless of whether they have an offer of employer coverage. If an individual currently enrolled in qualifying employer coverage moves into an ACA plan, their employer will pay an appropriate fee to the government to maintain their responsibility for providing employee coverage.

Lower Costs. Right now, people may pay up to 9.86% of their income before they get subsidies. Under my plan, this cap would be lowered – and to make sure those tax credits cover more, we will benchmark them to more generous “gold” plans in the Marketplace. And we will increase eligibility for cost sharing reductions, ensuring that more individuals can get into an affordable exchange plan immediately.

Eliminate the Penalty for Getting a Raise. Right now, if someone’s income goes up, they can be forced to repay thousands of dollars in back premiums. We will change this and base tax credits on the previous year’s income. And if someone’s income goes down, they will get the higher subsidy for that year.

State Single-Payer Innovation Waivers. To help states try out different payer arrangements and pilot programs, we will allow states to receive passthrough funding to expand or improve coverage via the ACA’s Section 1332 waivers. Combined with Medicaid waivers, these changes will allow interested states to start experimenting immediately with consolidating public payers and move towards a single-payer system.
 

Additional Financing. My plan to pay for Medicare for All identifies $20.5 trillion in new revenue, including an Employer Medicare Contribution, which will cover the long-term, steady-state cost of a fully functioning Medicare for All system. The cost of this intermediate proposal will be lower. Any revenue needed to meet the requirements of fast-track budget reconciliation will be enacted as part of this legislation from the financing options that I have already proposed.

Additional Health System Reforms to Save Money and Lives

After pursuing administrative changes, expanding existing Medicare, and creating a true Medicare for All option, every person in the United States will be able to choose free or low-cost public insurance. Tens of millions will likely do so. But we can’t stop there. We must pursue additional reforms to our health system to save money and save lives. Some of my priorities include:

Investing in Medical Miracles. Many medical breakthroughs stem from federal investments in science – but in 2018, 43,763 out of 54,834 research project grant applications to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were rejected. We will boost medical research by investing an additional $100 billion in guaranteed, mandatory spending in the NIH over ten years, split between basic science and the creation of a new National Institute for Drug Development that will help take the basic research from the other parts of NIH and turn it into real drugs that patients can use. We will prioritize treatments that are uninteresting to big pharmaceutical companies but could save millions of American dollars and lives. Any drugs that come out of this research and to American consumers can be sold abroad, with the proceeds reinvested to fund future breakthrough drug development. And by enacting my Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, the government can manufacture generic drugs that are not available due to cost or shortage. 

Ending the Opioid Epidemic. The opioid epidemic is a public health emergency. In 2017, life expectancy in the United States dropped for the third year in a row, driven in large part by deaths from drug overdoses. We will enact my legislation, the CARE Act, to invest $100 billion in federal funding over the next ten years in states and communities to fight this crisis – providing resources directly to first responders, public health departments, and communities on the front lines of this crisis. 

Improved Administration. To cut down on time wasted on paperwork, we will create single standardized forms for things like prior authorizations and appeals processes to be used by all insurers (private and public), and we will establish uniform medical billing for insurers and doctors.

All-Payer Claims Database. Right now, there are so many middlemen in health care that no one knows for certain how much we pay for different services across the whole system. A centralized repository of de-identified claims data will help the government, researchers, and the market better understand exactly what we pay for health care and what kind of quality it gets us. Demystifying what we pay for what we get will be a critical part of ensuring fair reimbursement under Medicare for All.

Antitrust Enforcement. In addition to administrative actions to rein in anti-competitive hospital and electronic medical record practices, we’ll also ban non-compete and no-poach agreements and class action waivers across the board, while making it easier for private parties to sue to prevent anti-competitive actions. I’ll work with states to repeal Certificate of Public Advantage, or COPA, statutes that shield health care organizations from federal antitrust review and can lead to the creation of large monopolies with little to no oversight. And I’ll also push to ensure our antitrust laws apply to all health care mergers.

Ending Surprise Billing. Imagine being a woman who schedules her baby’s delivery with her obstetrician at an in-network hospital, but it turns out that the anesthesiologist administering the epidural isn’t in-network. Even though she had no choice – and probably had no idea that doctor was out-of-network – under the current system she gets hit with a huge bill. We will end the practice of surprise billing by requiring that services from out-of-network doctors within in-network hospitals, in addition to ambulances or out-of-network hospitals during emergency care, be treated as in-network and paid either prevailing in-network rates or 125% of the Medicare reimbursement rate, whichever is lower.

Preventing Provider Shortages. With more people seeking the care they need, it will be essential to increase the number of providers. I will make these critical investments in our clinicians, including by dramatically scaling up apprenticeship programs to build a health care workforce rooted in the community. I will lift the cap on residency placements, allowing 15,000 new clinicians to enter the workforce. I will expand the National Health Service Corps and Indian Health Service loan repayment program to allow more health professionals – including physicians, physician assistants, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and other licensed practitioners – to practice in underserved communities. I will also provide grants to states that expand scope-of-practice to allow more non-physicians to practice primary care. And I will push to close the mental health provider gap in schools.

Completing the Transition to Medicare For All

By pursuing these changes, we will provide every person in America with the option of choosing public coverage that matches the full benefits of Medicare for All. Given the quality of the public alternatives, millions are likely to move out of private insurance as quickly as possible. 

No later than my third year in office, at which point the number of individuals voluntarily remaining in private insurance would likely be quite low, I will fight to pass legislation to complete the transition to the Medicare for All system defined by the Medicare for All Act by the end of my first term in office. 

Moving to this system would mean integrating everyone into a unified system with zero premiums, copays, and deductibles. Senator Sanders’s Medicare for All Act allows for supplemental private insurance to cover services that are not duplicative of the coverage in Medicare for All; for unions that seek specialized wraparound coverage and individuals with specialized needs, a private market could still exist. In addition, we can allow private employer coverage that reflects the outcome of a collective bargaining agreement to be grandfathered into the new system to ensure that these workers receive the full benefit of their bargain before moving to the new system. But the point of Medicare for All is to cut out the middleman.

Every successful effort to move the United States to create and expand new social programs – like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid – has required multiple steps. In fact, every credible Medicare for All proposal has a significant, multi-step transition built in. That’s why it’s important to have both short-term goals and long-term goals to guide the process and to deliver concrete improvements to people’s lives at every stage.

I believe the next president must do everything she can within one presidential term to complete the transition to Medicare for All. My plan will reduce the financial and political power of the insurance companies – as well as their ability to frighten the American people – by implementing reforms immediately and demonstrating at each phase that true Medicare for All coverage is better than their private options. I believe this approach gives us our best chance to succeed.

Why do we need to transition to Medicare for All if a robust Medicare for All option is available to everyone? The answer is simple and blunt: cost and outcomes. Today, up to 30% of current health spending is driven by the costs of filling out different insurance forms and following different claims processes and fighting with insurance companies over what is and is not covered. I have demonstrated how a full Medicare for All system can use its leverage to wring trillions of dollars in waste out of our system while delivering smarter care – and I’ve made clear exactly how I would do it. The experience of other countries shows that this system is the cheapest and most efficient way to deliver high-quality health care. As long as duplicative private coverage exists, we will limit our ability to make health care delivery more effective and affordable – and the ability of private middlemen to abuse patients will remain. 

Medicare for All will deliver an $11 trillion boost to American families who will never pay another premium, co-pay, or deductible. That’s like giving the average working family in America a $12,000 raise. This final legislation will put a choice before Congress – maintain a two-tiered system where private insurers can continue to profit from being the middlemen between patients and doctors, getting rich by denying care – or give everybody Medicare for All to capture the full value of trillions of dollars in savings in health care spending. I believe that the American people will demand Congress make the right choice.

Read Senator Warren’s plan here

Watch explainer video here

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:

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Elizabeth Warren Details Plan to Confront Crisis of Environmental Injustice

Senator Elizabeth Warren details her plan to confront the crisis of environmental injustice. “Justice cannot be a secondary concern – it must be at the center of our response to climate change.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details her plan to confront the crisis of environmental injustice. “Justice cannot be a secondary concern – it must be at the center of our response to climate change.” This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren has released her plan to fight for justice as we take on the climate crisis. Warren will implement an equity screen for her proposed climate investments, directing at least $1 trillion into the most vulnerable communities over the next decade and investing not only in cleaning up pollution but in building wealth and lifting up the communities in most need. 

The climate crisis demands all of us to act, but it is also an opportunity to create millions of new good, middle class, union jobs and to directly confront the racial and economic inequality embedded in our fossil fuel economy. Elizabeth will honor our commitment to fossil fuel workers by fighting for guaranteed wage and benefit parity for workers transitioning into new industries, and to protect the pensions and benefits that fossil fuel workers have earned. She’ll partner with unions every step of the way. 

She will hold corporate polluters accountable, working with Congress to create a private right of action for environmental harm, and imposing steep fines on violators that will be reinvested in impacted communities.

Elizabeth knows we need to elevate environmental justice at the highest levels. She’ll transform the Council on Environmental Quality into a Council on Climate Action with a broader mandate, including empowering frontline community leaders to speak directly to the White House. 

In 1987, the United Church of Christ’s Commission on Racial Justice commissioned one of the first studies on hazardous waste in communities of color. A few years later —  28 years ago this month —  delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit adopted 17 principles of environmental justice. But in the years since, the federal government has largely failed to live up to the vision these trailblazing leaders outlined, and to its responsibilities to the communities they represent. 

From predominantly black neighborhoods in Detroit to Navajo communities in the southwest to Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, industrial pollution has been concentrated in low-income communities for decades — communities that the federal government has tacitly written off as so-called “sacrifice zones.” But it’s not just about poverty, it’s also about race. A seminal study found that black families are more likely to live in neighborhoods with higher concentrations of air pollution than white families — even when they have the same or more income. A more recent study found that while whites largely cause air pollution, Blacks and Latinxs are more likely to breathe it in. Unsurprisingly, these groups also experience higher rates of childhood asthma. And many more low-income and minority communities are exposed to toxins in their water — including lead and chemicals from industrial and agricultural run-off.

And these studies don’t tell the whole story. As I’ve traveled this country, I’ve heard the human stories as well. In Detroit, I met with community members diagnosed with cancer linked to exposure to toxins after years of living in the shadow of a massive oil refinery. In New Hampshire, I talked with mothers fighting for clean drinking water free of harmful PFAS chemicals for their children. In South Carolina, I’ve heard the stories of the most vulnerable coastal communities who face the greatest threats, from not just sea-level rise, but a century of encroaching industrial polluters. In West Virginia, I saw the consequences of the coal industry’s abandonment of the communities that made their shareholders and their executives wealthy — stolen pensions, poisoned miners, and ruined land and water.

We didn’t get here by accident. Our crisis of environmental injustice is the result of decades of discrimination and environmental racism compounding in communities that have been overlooked for too long. It is the result of multiple choices that put corporate profits before people, while our government looked the other way. It is unacceptable, and it must change. 

Justice cannot be a secondary concern — it must be at the center of our response to climate change. The Green New Deal commits us to a “just transition” for all communities and all workers. But we won’t create true justice by cleaning up polluted neighborhoods and tweaking a few regulations at the EPA. We also need to prioritize communities that have experienced historic disinvestment, across their range of needs: affordable housing, better infrastructure, good schools, access to health care, and good jobs. We need strong, resilient communities who are prepared and properly resourced to withstand the impacts of climate change. We need big, bottom-up change — focused on, and led by, members of these communities. 

No Community Left Behind

The same communities that have borne the brunt of industrial pollution are now on the front lines of climate change, often getting hit first and worst. In response, local community leaders are leading the fight to hold polluters responsible and combat the effects of the climate crisis.  In Detroit’s 48217 zip code, for example, community members living in the midst of industrial pollution told me how they have banded together to identify refinery leakages and inform their neighbors. In Alabama and Mississippi, I met with residents of formerly redlined neighborhoods who spoke to me about their fight against drinking water pollution caused by inadequate municipal sewage systems. Tribal Nations, which have been disproportionately impacted by environmental racism and the effects of climate change, are leading the way in climate resilience and adaptation strategies, and in supporting healthy ecosystems. The federal government must do more to support and uplift the efforts of these and other communities. Here’s how we can do that:

Improve environmental equity mapping. The EPA currently maps communities based on basic environmental and demographic indicators, but more can be done across the federal government to identify at-risk communities. We need a rigorous interagency effort to identify cumulative environmental health disparities and climate vulnerabilities and cross-reference that data with other indicators of socioeconomic health. We’ll use these data to adjust permitting rules under Clean Air and Clean Water Act authorities to better consider the impact of cumulative and overlapping pollution, and we’ll make them publicly available online to help communities measure their own health.

Implement an equity screen for climate investments. Identifying at-risk communities is only the first step. The Green New Deal will involve deploying trillions of dollars to transform the way we source and use energy. In doing so, the government must prioritize resources to support vulnerable communities and remediate historic injustices. My friend Governor Jay Inslee rightly challenged us to fund the most vulnerable communities first, and both New York and California have passed laws to direct funding specifically to frontline and fenceline communities. The federal government should do the same. I’ll direct one-third of my proposed climate investment into the most vulnerable communities — a commitment that would funnel at least $1 trillion into these areas over the next decade. 

Strengthen tools to mitigate environmental harms. Signed into law in 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act provides the original authority for many of our existing environmental protections. But even as climate change has made it clear that we must eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels, the Trump Administration has tried to weaken NEPA with the goal of expediting even more fossil fuel infrastructure projects. At the same time, the Trump Administration has moved to devalue the consideration of climate impacts in all federal decisions. This is entirely unacceptable in the face of the climate emergency our world is facing. As president, I would mandate that all federal agencies consider climate impacts in their permitting and rulemaking processes. Climate action needs to be mainstreamed in everything the federal government does. But we also need a standard that requires the government to do more than merely “assess” the environmental impact of proposed projects — we need to mitigate negative environmental impacts entirely. 

Beyond that, a Warren Administration will do more to give the people who live in a community a greater say in what is sited there — too often today, local desires are discounted or disregarded. And when Tribal Nations are involved, projects should not proceed unless developers have obtained the free, prior and informed consent of the tribal governments concerned. I’ll use the full extent of my executive authority under NEPA to protect these communities and give them a voice in the process. And I’ll fight to improve the law to reflect the realities of today’s climate crisis. 

Build wealth in frontline communities. People of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods that are vulnerable to climate change risks or where they’re subject to environmental hazards like pollution. That’s not a coincidence — decades of racist housing policy and officially sanctioned segregation that denied people of color the opportunity to build wealth also denied them the opportunity to choose the best neighborhood for their families. Then, these same communities were targeted with the worst of the worst mortgages before the financial crisis, while the government looked the other way. My housing plan includes a first-of-its-kind down-payment assistance program that provides grants to long-term residents of formerly redlined communities so that they can buy homes in the neighborhood of their choice and start to build wealth, beginning to reverse that damage. It provides assistance to homeowners in these communities who still owe more than their homes were worth, which can be used to preserve their homes and revitalize their communities. These communities should have the opportunity to lead us in the climate fight, and have access to the economic opportunities created by the clean energy sector. With the right investments and with community-led planning, we can lift up communities that have experienced historic repression and racism, putting them on a path to a more resilient future.

Expand health care. People in frontline communities disproportionately suffer from certain cancers and other illnesses associated with environmental pollution. To make matters worse, they are less likely to have access to quality health care. Under Medicare for All, everyone will have high quality health care at a lower cost, allowing disadvantaged communities to get lifesaving services. And beyond providing high quality coverage for all, the simplified Medicare for All system will make it easier for the federal government to quickly tailor health care responses to specific environmental disasters in affected communities when they occur.

Research equity. For years we’ve invested in broad-based strategies that are intended to lift all boats, but too often leave communities of color behind. True justice calls for more than ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions — instead we need targeted strategies that take into account the unique challenges individual frontline communities face. I’ve proposed a historic $400 billion investment in clean energy research and development. We’ll use that funding to research place-based interventions specifically targeting the communities that need more assistance.

No Worker Left Behind

The climate crisis will leave no one untouched. But it also represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity: to create millions of good-paying American jobs in clean and renewable energy, infrastructure, and manufacturing; to unleash the best of American innovation and creativity; to rebuild our unions and create real progress and justice for workers; and to directly confront the racial and economic inequality embedded in our fossil fuel economy. 

The task before us is huge and demands all of us to act. It will require massive retrofits to our nation’s infrastructure and our manufacturing base. It will also require readjusting our economic approach to ensure that communities of color and others who have been systematically harmed from our fossil fuel economy are not left further behind during the transition to clean energy.

But it is also an opportunity. We’ll need millions of workers: people who know how to build things and manufacture them; skilled and experienced contractors to plan and execute large construction and engineering projects; and training and joint labor management apprenticeships to ensure a continuous supply of skilled, available workers. This can be a great moment of national unity, of common purpose, of lives transformed for the better. But we cannot succeed in fighting climate change unless the people who have the skills to get the job done are in the room as full partners. 

We also cannot fight climate change with a low-wage economy. Workers should not be forced to make an impossible choice between fossil fuel industry jobs with superior wages and benefits and green economy jobs that pay far less. For too long, there has been a tension between transitioning to a green economy and creating good, middle class, union jobs. In a Warren Administration we will do both: creating good new jobs through investments in a clean economy coupled with the strongest possible protections for workers. For instance, my Green Manufacturing plan makes a $1.5 trillion procurement commitment to domestic manufacturing contingent on companies providing fair wages, paid family and medical leave, fair scheduling practices, and collective bargaining rights. Similarly, my 100% Clean Energy Plan will require retrofitting our nation’s buildings, reengineering our electrical grid, and adapting our manufacturing base — creating good, union jobs, with prevailing wages determined through collective bargaining, for millions of skilled and experienced workers. 

Our commitment to a Green New Deal is a commitment to a better future for the working people of our country.  And it starts with a real commitment to workers from the person sitting in the White House: I will fight for your job, your family, and your community like I would my own. But there’s so much more we can do to take care of America’s workers before, during, and after this transition. Here are a few ways we can start: 

Honor our commitment to fossil fuel workers. Coal miners, oil rig workers, pipeline builders and millions of other workers have given their life’s blood to build the infrastructure that powered the American economy throughout the 20th century. In return, they deserve more than platitudes — and if we expect them to use their skills to help reengineer America, we owe them a fair day’s pay for the work we need them to do. I’m committed to providing job training and guaranteed wage and benefit parity for workers transitioning into new industries. And for those Americans who choose not to find new employment and wish to retire with dignity, we’ll ensure full financial security, including promised pensions and early retirement benefits. 

Defend worker pensions, benefits, and secure retirement. Together, we will ensure that employers and our government honor the promises they made to workers in fossil fuel industries. I’ve fought for years to protect pensions and health benefits for retired coal workers, and I’ll continue fighting to maintain the solvency of multi-employer pension plans. As president, I’ll protect those benefits that fossil fuel workers have earned. My plan to empower American workers commits to defending pensions, recognizing the value of defined-benefit pensions, and pushing to pass the Butch-Lewis Act to create a loan program for the most financially distressed pension plans in the country. And my Social Security plan would increase benefits by $200 a month for every beneficiary, lifting nearly 5 million seniors out of poverty and expanding benefits for workers with disabilities and their families. 

Create joint safety-health committees. In 2016, more than 50,000 workers died from occupational-related diseases. And since the beginning of his administration, Trump has rolled back rules and regulations that limit exposure to certain chemicals and requirements around facility safety inspections, further jeopardizing workers and the community around them. When workers have the power to keep themselves safe, they make their communities safer too. A Warren Administration will reinstate the work safety rules and regulations Trump eliminated, and will work to require large companies to create joint safety-health committees with representation from workers and impacted communities. 

Force fossil fuel companies to honor their obligations. As a matter of justice, we should tighten bankruptcy laws to prevent coal and other fossil fuel companies from evading their responsibility to their workers and to the communities that they have helped to pollute. In the Senate, I have fought to improve the standing of coal worker pensions and benefits in bankruptcy — as president, I will work with Congress to pass legislation to make these changes a reality.  

And as part of our commitment, we must take care of all workers, including those who were left behind decades ago by the fossil fuel economy. Although Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal is the inspiration for this full scale mobilization of the federal government to defeat the climate crisis, it was not perfect. The truth is that too often, many New Deal agencies and policies were tainted by structural racism. And as deindustrialization led to prolonged disinvestment, communities of color were too often both the first to lose their job base, and the first place policymakers thought of to dump the refuse of the vanished industries. Now there is a real risk that poor communities dependent on carbon fuels will be asked to bear the costs of fighting climate change on their own. We must take care not to replicate the failings and limitations of the original New Deal as we implement a Green New Deal and transition our economy to 100% clean energy. Instead we need to build an economy that works for every American — and leaves no one behind.

Prioritizing Environmental Justice at the Highest Levels

As we work to enact a Green New Deal, our commitment to environmental justice cannot be an afterthought — it must be central to our efforts to fight back against climate change. That means structuring our government agencies to ensure that we’re centering frontline and fenceline communities in implementing a just transition. It means ensuring that the most vulnerable have a voice in decision-making that impacts their communities, and direct access to the White House itself. Here’s how we’ll do that:

Elevate environmental justice at the White House. I’ll transform the Council on Environmental Quality into a Council on Climate Action with a broader mandate, including making environmental justice a priority. I’ll update the 1994 executive order that directed federal agencies to make achieving environmental justice part of their missions, and revitalize the cabinet-level interagency council on environmental justice. We will raise the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to report directly to the White House, bringing in the voices of frontline community leaders at the highest levels. And I will bring these leaders to the White House for an environmental justice summit within my first 100 days in office, to honor the contributions of frontline activists over decades in this fight and to listen to ideas for how we can make progress.  

Empower the EPA to support frontline communities. The Trump Administration has proposed dramatic cuts to the EPA, including to its Civil Rights office, and threatened to eliminate EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice entirely. I’ll restore and grow both offices, including by expanding the Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) and Environmental Justice Small Grant programs. We’ll condition these competitive grant funds on the development of state- and local-level environmental justice plans, and ensure that regional EPA offices stay open to provide support and capacity. But it’s not just a matter of size. Historically, EPA’s Office of Civil Rights has rejected nine out of ten cases brought to it for review. In a Warren Administration, we will aggressively pursue cases of environmental discrimination wherever they occur. 

Bolster the CDC to play a larger role in environmental justice. The links between industrial pollution and negative public health outcomes are clear. A Warren Administration will fully fund the Center for Disease Control’s environmental health programs, such as childhood lead poisoning prevention, and community health investigations. We will also provide additional grant funding for independent research into environmental health effects.

Diminish the influence of Big Oil. Powerful corporations rig the system to work for themselves, exploiting and influencing the regulatory process and placing industry representatives in positions of decision-making authority within agencies. My plan to end Washington corruption would slam shut the revolving door between industry and government, reducing industry’s ability to influence the regulatory process and ensuring that the rules promulgated by our environmental agencies reflect the needs of communities, not the fossil fuel industry. 

Right to Affordable Energy and Clean Water

Nearly one-third of American households struggle to pay their energy bills, and Native American, Black, and Latinx households are more likely to be energy insecure. Renters are also often disadvantaged by landlords unwilling to invest in safer buildings, weatherization, or cheaper energy. And clean energy adoption is unequal along racial lines, even after accounting for differences in wealth. I have a plan to move the United States to 100% clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy in electricity generation by 2035 — but energy justice must be an integral part of our transition to clean energy. Here’s what that means:

Address high energy cost burdens. Low-income families, particularly in rural areas, are spending too much of their income on energy, often the result of older or mobile homes that are not weatherized or that lack energy efficient upgrades. I’ve committed to meet Governor Inslee’s goal of retrofitting 4% of U.S. buildings annually to increase energy efficiency — and we’ll start that national initiative by prioritizing frontline and fenceline communities. In addition, my housing plan includes over $10 billion in competitive grant programs for communities that invest in well-located affordable housing — funding that can be used for modernization and weatherization of homes, infrastructure, and schools. It also targets additional funding to tribal governments, rural communities, and jurisdictions — often majority minority — where homeowners are still struggling with the aftermath of the 2008 housing crash. Energy retrofits can be a large source of green jobs, and I’m committed to ensuring that these are good jobs, with full federal labor protections and the right to organize. 

Support community power. Consumer-owned energy cooperatives, many of which were established to electrify rural areas during the New Deal, serve an estimated  42 million people across our country. While some co-ops are beginning to transition their assets to renewable energy resources, too many are locked into long-term contracts that make them dependent on coal and other dirty fuels for their power. To speed the transition to clean energy, my administration will offer assistance to write down debt and restructure loans to help cooperatives get out of long-term coal contracts, and provide additional low- or no-cost financing for zero-carbon electricity generation and transmission projects for cooperatives via the Rural Utilities Service. I’ll work with Congress to extend and expand clean energy bonds to allow community groups and nonprofits without tax revenue to access  clean energy incentives. I’ll also provide dedicated support for the four Power Marketing Administrations, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission to help them build publicly-owned clean energy assets and deploy clean power to help communities transition off fossil fuels. Accelerating the transition to clean energy will both reduce carbon emissions, clean up our air,  and help bring down rural consumers’ utility bills.

Protect local equities. Communities that host large energy projects are entitled to receive a share of the benefits. But too often, large energy companies are offered millions in tax subsidies to locate in a particular area — without any commitment that they will make a corresponding commitment in that community. Community Benefit Agreements can help address power imbalances between project developers and low-income communities by setting labor, environmental, and transparency standards before work begins. I’ll make additional federal subsidies or tax benefits for large utility projects contingent on strong Community Benefits Agreements, which should include requirements for prevailing wages and collective bargaining rights. And I’ll insist on a clawback provision if a company doesn’t hold up its end of the deal. If developers work with communities to ensure that everyone benefits from clean energy development, we will be able to reduce our emissions faster. 

It’s simple: access to clean water is a basic human right. Water quality is an issue in both urban and rural communities. In rural areas, for example, runoff into rivers and streams by Big Agriculture has poisoned local drinking water. In urban areas, lack of infrastructure investment has resulted in lead and other poisons seeping into aging community water systems. We need to take action to protect our drinking water. Here’s how we can do that: 

Invest in our nation’s public water systems. America’s water is a public asset and should be owned by and for the public. A Warren Administration will end decades of disinvestment and privatization of our nation’s water system — our government at every level should invest in safe, affordable drinking water for all of us.

Increase and enforce water quality standards. Our government should enforce strict regulations to ensure clean water is available to all Americans. I’ll restore the Obama-era water rule that protected our lakes, rivers, and streams, and the drinking water they provide. We also need a strong and nationwide safe drinking water standard that covers PFAS and other chemicals. A Warren Administration will fully enforce Safe Drinking Water Act standards for all public water systems. I’ll aggressively regulate chemicals that make their way into our water supply, including by designating PFAS as a hazardous substance.

Fund access to clean water. Our clean drinking water challenge goes beyond lead, and beyond Flint and Newark. To respond, a Warren Administration will commit to fully capitalize the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to refurbish old water infrastructure and support ongoing water treatment operations and maintenance, prioritizing the communities most heavily impacted by inadequate water infrastructure. In rural areas, I’ll increase funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program to $15 billion annually, empowering family farmers to help limit the agricultural runoff that harms local wells and water systems. To address lead specifically, we will establish a lead abatement grant program with a focus on schools and daycare centers, and commit to remediating lead in all federal buildings. We’ll provide a Lead Safety Tax Credit for homeowners to invest in remediation. And a Warren Administration will also fully fund IDEA and other support programs that help children with developmental challenges as a result of lead exposure.

Protecting the Most Vulnerable During Climate-Related Disasters

In 2018, the U.S. was home to the world’s three costliest environmental catastrophes. And while any community can be hit by a hurricane, flood, extreme weather, or fire, the impact of these kinds of disasters are particularly devastating for low-income communitiespeople with disabilities, and people of color. Take Puerto Rico for example. When Hurricane Maria hit the island, decades of racism and neglect were multiplied by the government’s failure to prepare and Trump’s racist post-disaster response — resulting in the deaths of at least 3,000 Puerto Ricans and long-term harm to many more. Even as we fight climate change, we must also prepare for its impacts — building resiliency not just in some communities, but everywhere. Here’s how we can start to do that:

Invest in pre-disaster mitigation. For every dollar invested in mitigation, the government and communities save $6 overall. But true to form, the Trump Administration has proposed to steep cuts to  FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, abandoning communities just as the risk of climate-related disasters is on the rise. As president, I’ll invest in programs that help vulnerable communities build resiliency by quintupling this program’s funding. 

Better prepare for flood events. When I visited Pacific Junction, Iowa, I saw scenes of devastation: crops ruined for the season, cars permanently stalled, a water line 7 or 8 feet high in residents’ living rooms. And many residents in Pacific Junction fear that this could happen all over again next year. Local governments rely on FEMA’s flood maps, but some of these maps haven’t been updated in decades. In my first term as president, I will direct FEMA to fully update flood maps with forward-looking data, prioritizing and including frontline communities in this process. We’ll raise standards for new construction, including by reinstating the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. And we’ll make it easier for vulnerable residents to move out of flood-prone properties — including by buying back those properties for low-income homeowners at a value that will allow them to relocate, and then tearing down the flood-prone properties, so we can protect everyone.

Mitigate wildfire risk. We must also invest in improved fire mapping and prevention programs. In a Warren Administration, we will dramatically improve fire mapping and prevention by investing in advanced modeling with a focus on helping the most vulnerable — incorporating not only fire vulnerability but community demographics. We will prioritize these data to invest in land management, particularly near the most vulnerable communities, supporting forest restoration, lowering fire risk, and creating jobs all at once. We will also invest in microgrid technology, so that we can de-energize high-risk areas when required without impacting the larger community’s energy supply. And as president, I will collaborate with Tribal governments on land management practices to reduce wildfires, including by incorporating traditional ecological practices and exploring co-management and the return of public resources to indigenous protection wherever possible. 

Prioritize at-risk populations in disaster planning and response. When the most deadly fire in California’s history struck the town of Paradise last November, a majority of the victims were disabled or elderly. People with disabilities face increased difficulties in evacuation assistance and accessing critical medical care. For people who are homeless, disasters exacerbate existing challenges around housing and health. And fear of deportation can deter undocumented people from contacting emergency services for help evacuating or from going to an emergency shelter. As president, I will strengthen rules to require disaster response plans to uphold the rights of vulnerable populations. In my immigration plan, I committed to putting in place strict guidelines to protect sensitive locations, including emergency shelters. We’ll also develop best practices at the federal level to help state and local governments develop plans for at-risk communities — including for extreme heat or cold — and require that evacuation services and shelters are fully accessible to people with disabilities. During emergencies, we will work to ensure that critical information is shared in ways that reflect the diverse needs of people with disabilities and other at-risk communities, including through ASL and Braille and languages spoken in the community. We will establish a National Commission on Disability Rights and Disasters, ensure that federal disaster spending is ADA compliant, and support people with disabilities in disaster planning. We will make certain that individuals have ongoing access to health care services if they have to leave their community or if there is a disruption in care.  And we will ensure that a sufficient number of disability specialists are present in state emergency management teams and FEMA’s disaster response corps. 

Ensure a just and equitable recovery. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, disaster scammers and profiteers swarmed, capitalizing on others’ suffering to make a quick buck. And after George W. Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, the doors were opened for contractors to under-pay and subject workers to dangerous working conditions, particularly low-income and immigrant workers. As president, I’ll put strong protections in place to ensure that federal tax dollars go toward community recovery, not to line the pockets of contractors. And we must maintain high standards for workers even when disaster strikes. 

Studies show that the white and wealthy receive more federal disaster aid, even though they are most able to financially withstand a disaster. This is particularly true when it comes to housing — FEMA’s programs are designed to protect homeowners, even as homeownership has slipped out of reach for an increasing number of Americans. As president, I will reform post-disaster housing assistance to better protect renters, including a commitment to a minimum of one-to-one replacement for any damaged federally-subsidized affordable housing, to better protect low-income families. I will work with Congress to amend the Stafford Act to make grant funding more flexible to allow families and communities to rebuild in more resilient ways. And we will establish a competitive grant program, based on the post-Sandy Rebuild by Design pilot, to offer states and local governments the opportunity to compete for additional funding for creative resilience projects.

Under a Warren Administration, we will monitor post-disaster recovery to help states and local governments better understand the long-term consequences and effectiveness of differing recovery strategies, including how to address climate gentrification, to ensure equitable recovery for all communities. We’ll center a right to return for individuals who have been displaced during a disaster and prioritize the voices of frontline communities in the planning of their return or relocation. And while relocation should be a last resort, when it occurs, we must improve living standards and keep communities together whenever possible.

Holding Polluters Accountable

In Manchester, Texas, Hurricane Harvey’s damage wasn’t apparent until after the storm had passed — when a thick, chemical smell started wafting through the majority Latinx community, which is surrounded by nearly 30 refineries and chemical plants. A tanker failure had released 1,188 pounds of benzene into the air, one of at least one hundred area leaks that happened in Harvey’s aftermath. But because regulators had turned off air quality and toxic monitoring in anticipation of the storm, the leaks went unnoticed and the community uninformed. 

This should have never been allowed to happen. But Manchester is also subject to 484,000 pounds of toxic chemical leaks on an average year. That’s not just a tragedy — it’s an outrage. We must hold polluters accountable for their role in ongoing, systemic damage in frontline communities. As president, I will use all my authorities to hold companies accountable for their role in the climate crisis. Here’s how we can do that: 

Exercise all the oversight tools of the federal government. A Warren Administration will encourage the EPA and Department of Justice to aggressively go after corporate polluters, particularly in cases of environmental discrimination. We need real consequences for corporate polluters that break our environmental law. That means steep fines, which we will reinvest in impacted communities. And under my Corporate Executive Accountability Act, we’ll press for criminal penalties for executives when their companies hurt people through criminal negligence.

Use the power of the courts. Thanks to a Supreme Court decision, companies are often let completely off the hook, even when their operations inflict harm on thousands of victims each year. I’ll work with Congress to create a private right of action for environmental harm at the federal level, allowing individuals and communities impacted by environmental discrimination to sue for damages and hold corporate polluters accountable.

Reinstitute the Superfund Waste Tax. There are over 1300 remaining Superfund sites across the country, many located in or adjacent to frontline communities. So-called “orphan” toxic waste clean-ups were originally funded by a series of excise taxes on the petroleum and chemical industries. But thanks to Big Oil and other industry lobbyists, when that tax authority expired in 1995 it was not renewed. Polluters must pay for the consequences of their actions — not leave them for the communities to clean up. I’ll work with Congress to reinstate and then triple the Superfund tax, generating needed revenue to clean up the mess.

Hold the finance industry accountable for its role in the climate crisis. Financial institutions and the insurance industry underwrite and fund fossil fuel investments around the world, and can play a key role in stopping the climate crisis. Earlier this year, Chubb became the first U.S. insurer to commit to stop insuring coal projects, a welcome development. Unfortunately, many banks and insurers seem to be moving in the opposite direction. In fact, since the Paris Agreement was signed, U.S. banks including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America have actually increased their fossil fuel investments. And there is evidence that big banks are replicating a tactic they first employed prior to the 2008 crash — shielding themselves from climate losses by selling the mortgages most at risk from climate impacts to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to shift the burden off their books and onto taxpayers at a discount. 

To accelerate the transition to clean energy, my Climate Risk Disclosure Act would require banks and other companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and price their exposure to climate risk into their valuations, raising public awareness of just how dependent our economy is on fossil fuels. And let me be clear: in a Warren Administration, they will no longer be allowed to shift that burden to the rest of us.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Releases Plan to End Corruption in Washington

“The Best President Money Can’t Buy” Senator Elizabeth Warren lays out her plan to end corruption in government, in a speech to 20,000 in Washington Square Park, NYC, near where the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire took 146 lives in 1911 and triggered a grassroots movement that secured labor reform. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Ahead of her speech in Washington Square Park near the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, in which she delineated how corruption in Washington has allowed the rich and powerful to tilt the rules and grow richer and more powerful, Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to end Washington corruption. 

Warren has already advanced comprehensive anti-corruption legislation in Congress, but she is going further with a set of far-reaching and aggressive proposals. “Her plan will end lobbying as we know it, end self-dealing in the White House, end corporate capture of the federal government’s rule-making process, hold our federal judiciary and the Supreme Court to the highest ethical standards, and more.”

Warren declared, “No matter what brings you into this fight — whether it’s child care, student loans, health care, immigration, or criminal justice, one thing is crystal clear: corruption is making it worse — and it’s at the root of the major problems we face as a democracy.

“Reforming the money game in Washington isn’t enough. We also need to comprehensively clean up our campaign finance system. That’s why I’ve also called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. It’s why we need to get rid of the Super PACs and secret spending by billionaires and giant corporations that try to buy our democracy. It’s why we need to break the grip that big donors have by creating a system of exclusive public funding of our elections. But even if we solve our campaign finance problems, comprehensive anti-corruption reforms targeted at Washington itself are necessary to finally end the stranglehold that the wealthy and the well-connected have over our government’s decision-making processes.

“I believe that we can root out corruption in Washington. I believe we must make big, structural changes that will once again restore our trust in government by showing that it can work for all of us. And when I’m President, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”

This is from the Elizabeth Warren campaign:



In 1958, the National Election Survey first asked Americans a simple question: Do you trust the government to do the right thing most of the time? That year, 73% of Americans said yes.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In 2019, that number is just 17%. Five out of every six Americans do not trust their government to do the right thing.

Why have so many people lost faith in government?

It’s true that right-wing politicians have spent a generation attacking the very idea of government. But it’s also true that these days, our government doesn’t work for most people. Sure, it works great for the wealthy and the well-connected — but for everybody else, it doesn’t.

It doesn’t work because big insurance companies and hospital conglomerates put profits ahead of the health and well-being of the American people, and dump piles of money into political campaigns and lobbying efforts to block any move toward Medicare for All.

It doesn’t work because big oil companies that have concealed climate studies — and funded bought-and-paid-for climate denial research — bury regulators in an avalanche of shady, bad-faith pseudoscience and then spend freely on influence peddling in Congress to make sure nothing like a Green New Deal ever sees the light of day.

It doesn’t work because giant pharmaceutical companies want to squeeze every last penny out of the people who depend on their prescriptions, while their army of lobbyists suffocates reform any time there’s a discussion in Congress on drug pricing.

Universal child care. Criminal justice reform. Affordable housing. Gun reform. Look closely, and you’ll see — on issue after issue, widely popular policies are stymied because giant corporations and billionaires who don’t want to pay taxes or follow any rules use their money and influence to stand in the way of big, structural change.

We’ve got to call that out for what it is: corruption, plain and simple.

Make no mistake about it: The Trump Administration is the most corrupt administration of our lifetimes.

Foreign nations, like Saudi Arabia, funnel money into Trump’s pockets by spending freely at his hotels.

Trump’s tax bill is a $1.5 trillion giveaway that primarily helps large corporations and wealthy Americans. Half of the total registered lobbyists in Washington worked on issues involving the word “tax” the year the bill was written — that’s eleven lobbyists for every member of Congress. And when the members of Congress who championed it lost their elections, they got juicy gigs in the lobbying industry themselves.

Trump’s Supreme Court Justices were hand-picked by right-wing extremist groups that spent millions on television ads — first to hold open a Supreme Court seat in the Obama Administration, and then to pressure the Senate to rubber stamp their candidates of choice, even when it meant ignoring serious sexual assault charges to ram through the confirmation.

Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency was a climate denier with ties to Big Oil — and when he was forced to resign after a slew of ethics violations, Trump replaced him with a former coal lobbyist.

Our nation’s ambassadors are a who’s who of Trump’s biggest donors and Mar-a-Lago members.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, introduces Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has secured the labor-aligned progressive group’s endorsement for President © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But these problems did not start with Donald Trump. They are much bigger than him — and solving them will require big, structural change to fundamentally transform our government.

That’s why I’ve released plans to fight Washington corruption. A plan to make sure that no president is above the law. A plan to tackle defense contractor coziness at the Pentagon. A plan to ban private prisons and expand oversight, transparency, and enforcement for all contractors hired by the federal government. In Congress, I’ve previously advanced wide-ranging anti-corruption legislation.

But we must go further.

Today, I’m announcing a comprehensive set of far-reaching and aggressive proposals to root out corruption in Washington. It’s the most sweeping set of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate. The goal of these measures is straightforward: to take power away from the wealthy and the well-connected in Washington and put it back where it belongs — in the hands of the people.

My plan lays out nearly a hundred ways that we can change our government to fix this problem — from improving public integrity rules for federal officials in every branch of government to ending lobbying as we know it, fixing the criminal laws to hold corrupt politicians to account, and ensuring our federal agencies and courts are free from corrupting influences.

And I’m just getting started.

Restoring Public Integrity

If you choose to be a public servant, you should serve the public — not your own financial interests or the financial interests of the rich and powerful. But we face a crisis of confidence in the ethics and public integrity of federal officials in America. The revolving door in and out of the Trump Administration is spinning out of control, and wave after wave of people in Trump’s orbit are trying to profit personally from his presidency — including him.

But even before Trump entered the White House, our nation’s public integrity rules were far too lax. Too many public officials can easily leverage public service for personal gain. And the ability to walk around government with obvious and direct personal financial conflicts reduces public faith in honest officials. To fix this, we need a total rewrite of our ethics laws.

We must begin by rooting out financial conflicts of interest in Washington.

Donald Trump is a walking conflict of interest. Actually, more like 2,310 conflicts of interest — and counting. His refusal to divest from his businesses has opened the door for giant corporations, foreign lobbyists, and our own government officials to curry favor with his administration and pad his own bottom line.

According to a study by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Donald Trump has visited one of his own properties for nearly a third of the total days that he has been president. Trump’s Washington hotel even sent the federal government a bill for $200,000 because Secret Service agents were forced to stay there as well.

Foreign countries have also taken the hint. Representatives from 65 foreign governments have visited Trump properties since he took office, and embassies have begun booking Trump’s hotels for their events. Trump has egged them on, shamelessly floating another one of his properties as the venue for a future international summit.

Big corporations and billionaires have also tried to curry favor with Donald Trump by patronizing his properties. T-Mobile sent its top executives to the Trump Hotel in DC right after the company announced a merger requiring the Trump administration’s approval. Payday lenders held their annual meetings at Trump’s golf club in Miami, while the Trump administration has consistently gutted restrictions and regulations on exploitative payday lenders. And several wealthy donors who pay the $200,000 Mar-a-Lago membership fee — which doubled when Trump became President — have exerted “sweeping influence” at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Even Trump’s own appointees and political allies have tried to suck up to Trump by exploiting his conflicts of interest. More than 100 Republican Members of Congress have become patrons of Trump’s businesses since he became President. Most recently, Trump’s Attorney General William Barr spent $30,000 at Trump’s Washington Hotel, implausibly claiming that it was the only place he could find for his holiday party in Washington — and on an official trip to Ireland, Vice President Mike Pence stayed at a Trump property reportedly at Trump’s instruction, even though it was three hours away from his scheduled meetings in Dublin.

Trump is by far the most egregious example — and we need new rules to hold leaders accountable for this kind of conduct. But we cannot condemn this conduct without also acknowledging that opportunities for the appearance of self-dealing are far too easy across the federal government. Restoring public confidence isn’t just about replacing Trump and his cronies. We need new bright lines and clear rules to eliminate the possibility of public officials serving private interests.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here’s where I would start:

End self-dealing in the White House by applying conflict of interest laws to the President and Vice President. Under my plan,Presidents and Vice Presidents would be required to place their businesses into a blind trust to be sold off. No more payoffs. No more bribes from foreign governments. No more self-dealing.

Disclose tax returns of federal candidates and officeholders to the public automatically. Tax return disclosure for federally elected officials shouldn’t be optional — it should be the law. And it shouldn’t just apply to Presidents — it should apply to everyone running for or serving in federal elected office. Presidential candidates, in particular, should follow the standard set by Barack Obama for releasing at least eight years of returns. (I’ve released eleven.) And the IRS should simply put out the required tax returns for qualified candidates themselves — so nothing like Donald Trump’s refusal to disclose his taxes can ever happen again.

Force senior government officials to divest from privately-owned assets that could present conflicts of interest. White House advisers like Jared Kushner have been allowed to use their government positions to further enrich themselves and their families, while Cabinet Officials like Betsy DeVos have hundreds of millions held in privately-owned accounts that make it nearly impossible to determine who could exercise influence over DeVos and her family. The fact that such conduct could pass any kind of ethics screen makes it clear that we need new rules. My plan puts an end to this practice by requiring senior officials, including those who are unpaid like Kushner, to divest from their businesses and other conflicted assets.

Completely ban the practice of government officials trading individual stocks while in office. Under current law, members of Congress can trade stocks and then use their powerful positions to increase the value of those stocks and pad their own pockets. Tom Price, Trump’s former Secretary of Health and Human Services, purchased pharmaceutical stocks while in the House of Representatives — then fought hard to get a return on his investment by pushing policies that would benefit giant pharmaceutical companies. And another member of Congress, Chris Collins, was charged for trading the same stocks based on insider information. But prosecutions like this are rare. And even where investments don’t influence decisions, the existence of these direct conflicts undermine public confidence in government.

The solution is simple — ban members of Congress and senior government officials from owning or trading individual stocks. Instead, they can invest in conflict-free mutual funds or funds managed by the federal Thrift Savings Program. Law firms follow these kinds of rules to prevent the appearance of financial conflicts with the interests of their clients — there’s no reason important public servants and elected officials shouldn’t, too.

Shut down a raft of additional shady practices that provide opportunities for government officials to serve their own financial interests. My plan bans members of Congress and senior congressional staff from serving on corporate boards — whether or not they’re paid to do so. It also strengthens ethics requirements for presidential transition teams to ensure that those who are shaping our government disclose any conflicts of interest and comply with the highest ethical standards. And to ensure that there are no questions about whether members of Congress are acting based on financial conflicts, like lobbyist-turned-Senator-turned-lobbyist Jon Kyl, my plan requires every member of Congress, including appointed ones, to disclose their financial conflicts before they take office.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, speaking from a podium built of wood from the Frances Perkins homestead in Newcastle, Maine, obtained from her grandson, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, evokes FDR’s Labor Secretary in laying out a plan to end the link between corporate greed and political corruption to get a fair deal for workers and families © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Finally, we must immediately end the possibility of trading on access to insider political information. Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars flow into so-called “political intelligence” firms that hire operatives to prowl the halls of Congress for insider information and sell that information to Wall Street traders trying to make a buck. My plan combats this practice by implementing strict disclosure requirements and regulations on so-called “political intelligence consulting,” including criminal penalties for former public officials who use insider political information to make investments or advise others who are doing so.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Next, it’s time to close and padlock the revolving door between government and industry.

Donald Trump has not just enriched himself and his advisers; he has turned his White House into a case study in the dangers of the revolving door between industry and government.

Trump railed against Goldman Sachs on the campaign trail in 2016. But as soon as he was elected, he tapped more than half a dozen of the firm’s employees to fill senior positions in his administration — enough to open a new Goldman Sachs branch office.

One of these people was Gary Cohn, the former President of Goldman Sachs, who became Trump’s top economic adviser. On his way out of Goldman, the firm gave him a whopping $285 million — $123 million in the form of cash and stocks that he could only collect if he left the firm to work in government.

I call that a “pre-bribe.” And it paid off, too. While cashing that $285 million check, Gary Cohn helped rewrite our nation’s tax laws, rammed the changes through Congress, and gave Goldman Sachs their money back — and a few billion dollars in change.

There are countless examples like this in the Trump Administration, but it’s a widespread problem in official Washington — and it goes far beyond obvious and egregious quid-pro-quo bribery. When someone serves in government with plans to immediately turn around and work in the industry they’ve been overseeing, that individual faces obvious incentives to advance the interests of their future employer. And when someone moves immediately from a regulated company to a job regulating that company, the public is right to worry about the risk that such individuals will prioritize the interests of their old bosses.

Government must be able to benefit from tapping private sector expertise, and public servants who leave government should be able to find post-government employment. Similarly, volunteer and part-time government positions, which make sense in certain situations, necessarily assume some level of outside work. But there is a difference between expertise and graft.

It isn’t simply a matter of replacing Trump with an honest President. We’ve seen the issue of industry lobbyists and top execs spinning freely through the revolving door to and from important government positions in both Democratic and Republican administrations. Fixing the underlying problem requires us to tighten up the rules to ensure that when government officials are making decisions, they are considering only the public interest — and not their own personal interests or the interests of their friends and future employers.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here are some obvious steps to help address this problem:

Ban “golden parachutes” that provide corporate bonuses to executives for serving in the federal government. We can’t let big companies get away with installing their top executives in senior government positions and paying them pre-bribes on their way out the door. Under my plan, this would be illegal.

Restrict the ability of lobbyists to enter government jobs. Under my proposal, current lobbyists won’t be able to take government jobs for 2 years after lobbying, with limited exceptions for when the hiring is in the national interest. Corporate lobbyists will have to wait at least 6 years — no exceptions, and no waivers. These extensive cooling off periods will help ensure that if anyone with this background is hired into a government role, they are being selected because of their expertise, and not their connections.

Make it illegal for elected officials and top government appointees to become lobbyists — ever. My plan bans Presidents, Vice Presidents, Members of Congress, federal judges, and Cabinet Secretaries from ever becoming lobbyists — not for one or two years, but for life. All other federal employees will also be barred from lobbying their former office, agency, or House of Congress after they leave government service for at least 2 years — or 6 years for corporate lobbyists.

Restrict the ability of companies to buy up former federal officials to rig the game for themselves. Under my plan, companies would be banned from immediately hiring former senior government officials whose agency or office the company has lobbied in the past two years. And because the biggest and most market-dominant corporations in America also exercise outsized political power, my plan blocks them from using personnel hires to rig the game by banning giant companies, banks, and monopolies from hiring former senior government officials for at least four years.

Next, we’ll hold our federal judiciary to the highest ethical standards.

Giant corporations and powerful interests haven’t limited their influence-peddling to Congress and the White House. They’ve also turned their attention to the courts.

There is “no formal mechanism for review of conflicts” for Supreme Court justices. But covering your eyes doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. The Federalist Society — an extremist, corporate-funded right-wing group that hand-picked Trump’s list of Supreme Court nominees — picked up Justice Clarence Thomas’s bills to attend a fancy retreat hosted by the Koch brothers. And for years, Justice Thomas failed to file public disclosures indicating that his wife worked as the White House liaison for the Heritage Foundation, a group whose co-founder personally began the conservative push to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It’s not just Supreme Court Justices, either. Federal judges can do just about anything without disclosing it, and in the rare instance where their ethical violations are discovered and they face investigation, they can escape further scrutiny altogether by resigning without penalty.

Our federal court system only works if the American people have faith that it is neutrally dispensing fair-minded justice without bias or personal interests interfering in judicial decisions. If we want the American people to believe this, we need some serious judicial ethics reforms.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Here’s where I’d start:

Ensure Supreme Court Justices are held to the same standard as the rest of the federal judiciary. Today, every federal judge is bound by a Code of Conduct — except Supreme Court justices. It’s a recipe for corruption. We can fix it by applying the Code of Conduct for United States Judges to Supreme Court justices.

Strengthen ethics requirements for federal judges. Corporations and advocacy organizations routinely provide federal judges with all-expenses-paid trips to extravagant seminars. My plan tightens existing rules that prohibit judges from accepting gifts and establishes a new fund to cover reasonable expenses for participating in judicial seminars. No more big speaking fees and no more fancy trips to hunting lodges and golf courses. My plan also bans federal judges from owning individual stocks.

Require judges to disclose key information so the American people can verify that their conduct is above ethical reproach. My plan requires the Judicial Conference of the United States — the institution in charge of administering our federal courts — to publicly post judges’ financial reports, recusal decisions, and speeches to bring these activities out of the shadows. This will build public confidence that cases are being heard by fair and independent judges.

Close the loophole that allows federal judges to escape investigations for misconduct by stepping down from their post. When Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski was confronted with a judicial ethics investigation for sexual misconduct towards young female law clerks, he resigned — and the investigation immediately ended. Similarly, sexual assault and perjury complaints against Brett Kavanaugh were dismissed when he was confirmed to the Supreme Court, and Donald Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump-Barry resigned from the bench, ending an investigation into the Trump family’s decades-long tax schemes, including potential fraud. Under my plan, investigations will remain open until their findings are made public and any penalties for misconduct are issued.

Ending Lobbying As We Know It

The fundamental promise of our democracy is that every voice matters. But when lobbyists and big corporations can buy influence from politicians, that promise is broken. The first thing to do to fix it is to end lobbying as we know it.

The Constitution guarantees the American people the right to petition their government with grievances. Lobbying isn’t new — it’s been around for centuries. What’s new is the weaponization of lobbying to coerce our government into doing whatever corporate interests want. While companies have an important role to play in our democratic conversation, the voices of corporations and powerful interests shouldn’t be the only voices in the room. But that’s exactly what’s happened.

Prior to the 1970s, there was little corporate spending on lobbying. Last year, over eleven thousand registered lobbyists roamed the halls of government, mostly representing their powerful clients — to the tune of over $3 billion. It’s no wonder everyone else has such a hard time breaking through the noise.

This boom in the influence-peddling game has happened around the same time that right-wing ideologues have slashed independent government resources and in-house expertise, which are essential for officials to maintain their independence from the “expertise” of self-interested corporate lobbyists. Meanwhile, most corporate lobbying work remains hopelessly opaque — nominally governed by a patchwork of weak definitions, few meaningful restrictions, and inadequate reporting and disclosure requirements. And the free rein granted to corporate lobbyists to also fundraise for political campaigns crosses the line from influence peddling to legalized bribery.

We can break the grip that lobbyists for giant corporations have on our government. Together, we can end lobbying as we know it. Here’s where to start:

Expand the definition of lobbyists to include everyone who is paid to influence lawmakers. Because of our weak laws, only individuals who meet directly with politicians or spend more than 20% of their time lobbying are required to register as lobbyists. That means law firms, consultancies, and even self-described lobbying firms that hire individuals for the express purpose of influencing government may be able to avoid these registration requirements — allowing powerful interests to influence policy without any public accountability. This practice, endemic on both sides of the aisle, must end.

My plan brings this activity out of the shadows by strengthening the definition of a lobbyist to include all individualspaid to influence government. It also creates a new designation for corporate lobbyists to identify individuals paid to influence government on behalf of for-profit entities and their front-groups — and subjects these corporate hired guns to additional restrictions.

Ban lobbying for foreign entities — period. President Trump’s campaign chair currently sits in prison, convicted in part of failing to properly register his shady foreign lobbying activity on behalf of Ukraine. But what is the justification for allowing foreign governments to use Americans as hired guns who sit in the shadows, quietly attempting to influence our domestic political system? That’s not how diplomacy should work. Other nations have ambassadors and diplomatic staff in the United States. If those governments want to interact with our political process they can do so through normal, above-board diplomatic channels. My plan categorically bans the practice of private lobbying for foreign governments, foreign individuals, and foreign companies. No more K Street influence-peddlers looking out for the interests of China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia.

Impose strict rules on all lobbyists, including preventing them from donating to or fundraising for political candidates. Paid lobbyists are hired for one objective: to advance the interests of their clients. Allowing individuals who are paid to influence government officials on policy to also give gifts or funnel money to the political campaigns of those same officials sounds like legalized bribery. My plan not only bans lobbyists from making political contributions, it also bans them from bundling donations or hosting fundraisers for political candidates. And it outlaws lobbying contingency fees, where lobbyists are only paid if they successfully influence politicians to achieve a policy outcome that serves their client’s narrow interests.

Dramatically expand the kinds of information lobbyists are required to disclose. Our current laws require only minimal disclosure from lobbyists of their activities. This prevents the American people from fully understanding who is trying to influence government — and why. My plan requires all lobbyists to report publicly all meetings with Congressional offices or public officials, the documents they provide to those individuals, and all government actions they attempt to influence. It also demands that all charitable non-profit organizations, social welfare organizations, and trade associations disclose any donors whose money was used to develop products to influence Congressional testimony, agency rulemaking, or for lobbying purposes.

Impose a tax on excessive lobbying — and use this revenue to give Congress and agencies the tools to fight back against the corporate influence machine. In 2018, lobbyists spent a whopping $3.4 billion trying to influence public policy on behalf of their clients, including $95 million from the pro-corporate Chamber of Commerce, $73 million from the National Association of Realtors, and $28 million from the Big Pharma lobbying group. The right to petition our government does not allow industries to exercise unlimited financial influence over policymakers. That’s why I will impose a tax on any entity that spends over $500,000 per year on lobbying. The tax will reduce the financial incentive for excessive lobbying, and its revenue will be used to counter the effects of excessive lobbying by providing additional financial resources for agencies to research and review regulatory actions that are the targets of excessive lobbying activity, as well as additional funding for the National Public Advocate, an office established to help the public engage with the rulemaking process, and for Congressional support agencies.

Strengthen Congressional independence from lobbyists. Congressional offices and agencies are severely underfunded, creating unnecessary pressure to rely on lobbyists for expertise. My plan transitions Congressional staff to competitive salaries and reinstates the nonpartisan Congressional Office of Technology Assessment to help members of Congress understand new areas of science and technology — because members of Congress should be able to access expertise and information without being dependent on lobbyists.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

End Corporate Capture of our Federal Agencies

Major federal agencies — agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Energy — were created by Congress to enforce and implement laws that protect the broad interests of the public against the unrestrained exercise of corporate power. But because of the revolving door, the avalanche of lobbyists, and the weakness of our agency tools to fight back, agencies often find their agendas hijacked by the very industries they are supposed to regulate. We can and should make additional changes to strengthen agencies’ independence and their ability to act decisively in the public interest.

Here are some of the steps my plan takes to address this:

Stop powerful actors from peddling fake research — often funded by undisclosed donors — and hold corporations accountable for lying to regulators. I’ll crack down on corporations who manipulate agencies by submitting sham research — like the climate denial studies bought and paid for by oil and gas magnates like the Koch Brothers — by requiring individuals who submit a public comment on a proposed rule to disclose editorial conflicts-of-interest related to any non-peer-reviewed research they cite. Studies that are determined to have conflicts of interest will be withheld from the rulemaking process unless the individual offering that research certifies that they have undergone rigorous, independent peer review. Otherwise, we’ll treat them like the bad faith junk science that they are, excluding them from the rulemaking process and preventing any court from considering them too. And if a company misleads an agency with “analysis” it knows to be false, they’ll be prosecuted just like anyone else who lies under oath to Congress or in a court of law.

End the practice of inviting corporate bigwigs to negotiate rules their companies would have to follow and put a stop to the stall tactics they use to kill public interest rules. My plan restricts the parties eligible to participate in the negotiated rulemaking process so that industry no longer has an open door to dominate the process. It also closes the loopholes that have allowed industry and agencies to delay the implementation of rules it disfavors, including by ending so-called informal review, reducing the review period to 45 days, and clarifying that only Appeals Courts — not individual Federal District judges — can temporarily block the implementation of rules. And my plan requires agencies to publicly justify the withdrawal of any public interest rules.

Give the public the tools to fight back against corporations who seek to co-opt this process for their benefit. My plan establishes an Office of the Public Advocate to help the public engage with important legal changes made by federal agencies during the rulemaking process. I’ll also allow private individuals to bring lawsuits against federal agencies for unnecessarily delaying or failing to enforce agency rules — and against corporations who have violated them.

Ensuring Access to Justice for All

Equal justice is supposed to be the promise of the American legal system. But it’s not delivering on that promise. Instead, we have one system for the wealthy and the well-connected, and a different one for everyone else. It’s hard enough to hold a powerful company accountable through our legal system, but recent developments in the law have made it even harder for individuals to even bring those cases in the first place. We need to reform our legal rules to make sure every person who has been harmed can have their day in court.

Here’s how I’ll start:

Ban forced arbitration clauses. Many companies force their employees and consumers to sign “forced arbitration” clauses as part of their contracts for employment or for services. These clauses mean that if something goes wrong, individuals agree to never file a lawsuit in federal court against the company — and instead are diverted into a private dispute system. These provisions are often tucked in the fine print of contracts that workers or consumers sign, and many people don’t even know that they have signed one until they have been harmed and need our courts to help them get justice. These provisions shouldn’t be enforceable, but the conservative majority in the Supreme Court decided that because there was no law explicitly against them, they could be freely enforced. So let’s pass that law. My plan categorically bans forced arbitration clauses from blocking lawsuits related to employment, consumer protection, antitrust, and civil rights.

Ban mandatory class action waivers. When workers or consumers are wronged by a company, they should be able to band together and seek justice. Taking on a big corporation’s army of lawyers takes enormous sums of money and legal expertise. But class action waivers tucked into consumer and employment contracts prevent individuals from suing together. That makes it virtually impossible to pursue a lawsuit, and gives companies unlimited license to rip you off without any consequences. These anti-worker and anti-consumer provisions shouldn’t be enforceable, but because of a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Gorsuch, they’re alive and well. That’s why my plan would restore the fundamental right of workers and consumers to join together when they are wronged by banning these provisions in employment, consumer protection, antitrust, and civil rights cases.

Restore fair pleading standards. When you file a lawsuit, one of the first steps of the legal process is called “discovery.” That’s when you’re supposed to ask questions and gather facts about your case, but a pair of recent Supreme Court decisions upended decades of pleading standards, making it difficult to file a case without already having many of these facts. These widely criticized cases deprive plaintiffs of their day in court, and allow powerful defendants to successfully dismiss cases before they even begin. My plan would undo this damage by restoring fair pleading standards so that every person who has been harmed gets their day in court.

Holding Bad Actors Accountable

The reforms I’ve outlined will go a long way toward cleaning up Washington. But we also need strong enforcement mechanisms and broad transparency requirements to make sure we can hold bad actors accountable.

Let’s start with real penalties for violating the rules.

When Secretary Ben Carson was warned about his son participating in fancy government events, he brushed it off. And when an independent federal ethics watchdog determined that Kellyanne Conway should be fired for repeatedly violating federal law, the administration barely cared.

In Washington, corrupt actors should face penalties when they break the law — not return to business as usual.

Here’s how my plan would fix this:

Establish a new U.S. Office of Public Integrity and strengthen ethics enforcement. The new office will investigate ethics complaints from the public, impose civil and administrative penalties on violators, and refer egregious violations to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

Expand and strengthen the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. My plan ensures this office has the proper authorities and resources to conduct investigations, refer civil and criminal violations to the appropriate authorities, and recommend disciplinary action to the House and Senate Ethics Committees.

Expand the definition of “official act” in bribery statutes to criminalize the sale of government access. When a politician accepts gifts in exchange for government favors, that’s bribery — but thanks to a wrong-headed Supreme Court decision in United States v. McDonnell, our laws don’t fully recognize it. My plan plugs that tractor-sized loophole and ensures that corrupt politicians who accept bribes can be prosecuted. It also clarifies that a stream of benefits — rather than a single act — qualifies as an unlawful benefit paid in exchange for a bribe.

Clarify the definition of “in-kind contributions” to ensure that no future candidate can receive political assistance from foreign countries or solicit large hush money payments without facing legal consequences. Politicians and advisors like Donald Trump Jr. have reportedly tried to receive help from foreign countries, even though it is illegal for foreign individuals to provide in-kind contributions to campaigns. And Donald Trump directed Michael Cohen to spend $130,000 to cover up an affair so it would not come to light before the 2016 election, despite laws preventing him from soliciting large in-kind contributions. Although a federal judge accepted Cohen’s guilty plea, Trump’s lawyers and defenders continued to insist that what Cohen did — and what Trump solicited — was not a crime. My plan settles this debate and clarifies that the rules governing in-kind contributions also apply to intangible benefits, such as dirt on political opponents, and in-kind financial contributions, like the payment of hush money, when those contributions are made at least in part — even if not exclusively — for campaign purposes.

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Deter Corruption Through Broad New Government Transparency Standards

If government is supposed to work for the people, then the people should be given enough information to judge how well their government is working for them. Too many government records are kept behind lock and key, making it impossible for the public to hold their government accountable. Significant legal actions that have implications for public health and safety can be kept secret. And the actions of federal contractors — the companies often tasked with the implementation of government policies and programs, like Trump’s family separation policy — are almost completely concealed from public view, thanks to an assortment of exemptions and loopholes.

Here’s how my plan would shine a light on government activity:

Prohibit courts from sealing records involving major public health and safety issues. When people were killed by ignition defects in Chevrolet vehicles, General Motors settled the cases on the condition that all documents related to the defects would be sealed from public view. It wasn’t an isolated incident. Big corporations routinely use secret settlements to keep defective products on the market so they can continue to rake in profits. That must stop. My plan bans courts from sealing records in cases involving public health and safety, with rare exceptions, so that corporations cannot conceal these dangerous conditions from the American people.

Impose strict transparency standards for federal courts and remove barriers to accessing electronic judicial records. My plan requires federal appellate courts to livestream audio of their proceedings, share case assignment data in bulk, and make all electronic case records — which currently must be purchased from the government — more easily accessible and free of charge.

Strengthen federal open records laws to close loopholes and exemptions that hide corporate influence, and increase transparency in Congress, federal agencies, and nonprofits that aim to influence policy. The American people have a right to know whether their elected leaders are acting in the public’s best interest — and who is trying to influence them. Under my plan, Congressional committees, government agencies, and federal contractors would be required to publicly release key information so that the American people — and the American press — can hold the federal government accountable.

Read more about her plan here

Warren Tells Crowd of 20,000 in Washington Square Park ‘We can root out corruption in Washington’

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running for president in 2020, outlines her plan to address corruption before a crowd of 20,000 gathered in Washington Square Park, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running to be the Democratic candidate for president, began and ended her speech before some 20,000 gathered at Washington Square Park in New York City relating the history of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 which took place mere blocks from the Arch that took the lives of 146 Jewish and Italian immigrant women and girls – still one of the largest industrial accidents in US history. She spoke of Francis Perkins, who ran from a townhouse just behind where Warren stood. Perkins was already an activist for workers’ rights and won fire safety regulations, “but didn’t stop there,” and other worker protections.

Even before women got the right to vote, Perkins became a political adviser on workers rights and became the first woman Cabinet secretary, Secretary of Labor, under FDR.

Perkins, Warren said, worked from within, while thousands of women in the trade union movement, worked from outside – 500,000 marched in a funeral procession up Fifth Avenue for the 146.

Speaking from a podium built of wood from the Frances Perkins homestead in Newcastle, Maine, obtained from her grandson, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, Warren used the story to prove her point of what can happen through grassroots action, that big bold things – such as what she is proposing to make fundamental, systemic change. “Don’t be afraid…” she declared – a not-so-subtle shout out to the Democrats who, desperate to see Trump voted out of office, are looking for a candidate they believe has the best chance of winning the general election, which for many means someone who won’t rock the boat too much, rather than someone whose ideas and proposals excite, engage and promote real structural change.

There were cheers throughout her speech delivered by a crowd that the campaign estimated at 20,000 (Warren’s biggest to date) but especially as she said, “Medicare for All,” and then, at the phrase, “wealth tax,” chants of 2c, 2c, 2c rose up.

Warren, who had just been endorsed by the National Working Families Party,  said that the 2c on every dollar after the first $50 million in wealth, would correct historic, systemic, and “government sanctioned” racism and sexism that produced gaps in income and also political power – redlining in housing, the pay gap between women and men, particularly women of color, criminal justice reform, eliminating private prisons that incentive locking people up, eliminating student debt, providing universal pre-K. Without using the word “reparations” – she offered a more constructive, implementable series of programs that would accomplish the same goal of equalizing the opportunity to succeed.

“The time to hold back is over. We need structural change.”

Warren added, “I know what you are thinking – it is too much, too big, too hard.” Then, scanning the crowd, she joked, “OK, nobody here. I know this change is possible because others have made big structural change before.”

And she went back to Perkins and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory – how factory owners, made filthy rich because of the horrendous working conditions and wages were able to amass the wealth to buy politicians, how greed by owners and corruption by politicians effectively negated democracy.

“30 years old, Francis Perkins already was a human rights activist…how, seeing the fire at the factory, she ran and watched as young women leaped to their death rather than be consumed by the flames.  500,000 at that march. It wasn’t the first march, but it was different.”

“While they picketed from the outside, Francis pushed from the inside. Those women died because of the greed of business owners and the corruption of politicians. Perkins was the lead investigator, years before women could vote, let alone have a role in government. But Frances had a” plan – she fought for fire safety, but she didn’t stop there.




Senator Elizabeth Warren, running for president in 2020, outlines her plan to address corruption before a crowd of 20,000 gathered in Washington Square Park, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“With Francis working from the inside and the women workers applying pressure from the outside, they rewrote state labor laws top to bottom to protect workers. She became the leading expert on working conditions.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt named her his Labor Secretary through the New Deal.

“That what one woman can do.” She added, “It’s what’s possible when we fight together.”

Warren declared, “No matter what brings you into this fight — whether it’s child care, student loans, health care, immigration, or criminal justice, one thing is crystal clear: corruption is making it worse — and it’s at the root of the major problems we face as a democracy.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, running for president in 2020, outlines her plan to address corruption before a crowd of 20,000 gathered in Washington Square Park, New York City © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Reforming the money game in Washington isn’t enough. We also need to comprehensively clean up our campaign finance system. That’s why I’ve also called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. It’s why we need to get rid of the Super PACs and secret spending by billionaires and giant corporations that try to buy our democracy. It’s why we need to br”eak the grip that big donors have by creating a system of exclusive public funding of our elections. But even if we solve our campaign finance problems, comprehensive anti-corruption reforms targeted at Washington itself are necessary to finally end the stranglehold that the wealthy and the well-connected have over our government’s decision-making processes.

“I believe that we can root out corruption in Washington. I believe we must make big, structural changes that will once again restore our trust in government by showing that it can work for all of us. And when I’m President, that’s exactly what I’ll do.”

Warren, famous now for posing for selfies with people who come out to see her, wound up staying until midnight before the line, thousands long, was through. “I stayed four hours, but so did the last guy on line,” she later said. It is an indication of the enthusiasm for her and her endurance as a candidate at a time when a big issue among Democrats is who can get out the vote.

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Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Warren Releases Bold, Progressive Plan to Expand Social Security

Senator Elizabeth Warren, vying to be the Democratic candidate for president in 2020, has released a bold, progressive plan to expand Social Security © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Whenever Republicans talk about the need to reform “entitlements,” they always refer to the “sacrifice” demanded of the people most dependent upon Social Security benefits and most vulnerable (with the least political power) in society. They never ask the most obscenely rich, most comfortable, most powerful to make any sacrifice – after all, they are the “job creators” and we don’t want to interfere with the number of yachts and vacation homes they can purchase.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, has just released her plan to expand Social Security – not cut it.

“Millions of Americans are depending on Social Security to provide a decent retirement. My plan raises Social Security benefits across-the-board by $2,400 a year and extends the full solvency of the program for nearly another two decades, all by asking the top 2% to contribute their fair share to the program,” Warren states. “It’s time Washington stopped trying to slash Social Security benefits for people who’ve earned them. It’s time to expand Social Security.”

This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Today, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to provide the biggest and most progressive increase in Social Security benefits in nearly 50 years. Her plan will mean an immediate Social Security benefit increase of $200 a month — $2,400 a year — for every current and future Social Security beneficiary in America. That will immediately help nearly 64 million current Social Security beneficiaries, including 10 million Americans with disabilities and their families. 

The plan also updates outdated rules to further increase benefits for lower-income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers, and people of color. The plan finances these benefit increases and extends the solvency of Social Security by nearly two decades by asking the top 2% of earners to contribute their fair share to the program. 

According to an independent analysis, Elizabeth’s plan will immediately lift an estimated 4.9 million seniors out of poverty — cutting the senior poverty rate by 68%. It will also produce a “much more progressive Social Security system” by delivering much larger benefit increases to lower and middle-income seniors on a percentage basis, increase economic growth in the long term, and reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years. 

Read more about her plan here and below: 

I’ve dedicated most of my career to studying what’s happening to working families in America. One thing is clear: it’s getting harder to save enough for a decent retirement.

A generation of stagnant wages and rising costs for basics like housing, health care, education, and child care have squeezed family budgets. Millions of families have had to sacrifice saving for retirement just to make ends meet. At the same time, fewer people have access to the kind of pensions that used to help fund a comfortable retirement.

As a result, Social Security has become the main source of retirement income for most seniors. About half of married seniors and 70% of unmarried seniors rely on Social Security for at least half of their income. More than 20% of married seniors and 45% of unmarried seniors rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. And the numbers are even more stark for seniors of color: as of 2014, 26% of Asian and Pacific Islander beneficiaries, 33% of Black beneficiaries, and 40% of Latinx beneficiaries relied on Social Security benefits as their only source of retirement income.

Yet typical Social Security benefits today are quite small. Social Security is an earned benefit — you contribute a portion of your wages to the program over your working career and then you and your family get benefits out of the program when you retire or leave the workforce because of a disability — so decades of stagnant wages have led to smaller benefits in retirement too. In 2019, the average Social Security beneficiary received $1,354 a month, or $16,248 a year. For someone who worked their entire adult life at an average wage and retired this year at the age of 66, Social Security will replace just 41% of what they used to make. That’s well short of the 70% many financial advisers recommend for a decent retirement — one that allows you to keep living in your home, go to a doctor when you’re sick, and get the prescription drugs you need.

And here’s the even scarier part: unless we act now, future retirees are going to be in even worse shape than the current ones.

Despite the data staring us in the face, Congress hasn’t increased Social Security benefits in nearly fifty years. When Washington politicians discuss the program, it’s mostly to debate about whether to cut benefits by a lot or a little bit. After signing a $1.5 trillion tax giveaway that primarily helped the rich and big corporations, Donald Trump twice proposed cutting billions from Social Security.

We need to get our priorities straight. We should be increasing Social Security benefits and asking the richest Americans to contribute their fair share to the program. For years, I’ve helped lead the fight in Congress to expand Social Security. And today I’m announcing a plan to provide the biggest and most progressive increase in Social Security benefits in nearly half a century. My plan:

Increases Social Security benefits immediately by $200 a month — $2,400 a year — for every current and future Social Security beneficiary in America.

Updates outdated rules to further increase benefits for lower-income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers, and people of color.

Finances these changes and extends the solvency of Social Security by nearly two decades by asking the top 2% of families to contribute their fair share to the program.

An independent analysis of my plan from Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, finds that my plan will accomplish all of this and:

Immediately lift an estimated 4.9 million seniors out of poverty, cutting the senior poverty rate by 68%.

Produce a “much more progressive Social Security system” by raising contribution requirements only on very high earners and increasing average benefits by nearly 25% for those in the bottom half of the income distribution, as compared to less than 5% for people in the top 10% of the distribution.

Increase economic growth in the long term and reduces the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the next ten years.

Every single current Social Security beneficiary — about 64 million Americans — will immediately receive at least $200 more per month under my plan. That’s at least $2,400 more per year to put toward home repairs, or visits to see the grandkids, or paying down the debt you still might owe. And every future beneficiary of Social Security will see at least a $200-a-month increase too, whether you’re 60 years old and nearing retirement or 20 years old and just entering the workforce. If you want to see how my plan will affect you, check out my new calculator here.

Our Current Retirement Crunch — And How It Will Get Worse If We Don’t Act

Seniors today are already facing a difficult retirement. Without action, future generations are likely to be even worse off.

While we’ve reduced the percentage of seniors living in poverty over the past few decades, the numbers remain unacceptably high. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, 14% of seniors — more than 7 million people — live in poverty. Another 28% of seniors have incomes under double the poverty line. A record-high 20% of seniors are still in the workforce in their retirement years. Even with that additional source of income, in 2016, the median annual income for men over 65 was just $31,618 — and just $18,380 for women over 65.

It’s hard to get by on that, especially as costs continue to rise. Most seniors participate in Medicare Part B, and standard premiums for that program now eat up close to 10% of the average monthly Social Security benefit. The average senior has just 66% of Social Security benefits remaining after paying all out-of-pocket healthcare expenses — and if we don’t adopt Medicare For All, out-of-pocket medical spending by seniors is projected to rise sharply over time. The number of elderly households still paying off debt has grown by almost 20% since 1992, and hundreds of thousands of seniors have had their monthly benefits garnished to pay down student loan debt.

Meanwhile, the prospect of paying for long-term care looms over most retirees. 26% of seniors wouldn’t be able to fund two years of paid home care even if they liquidated all of their assets. And for people that have faced lifelong discrimination, like LGBTQ seniors who until recently were denied access to spousal pension privileges and spousal benefits, the risk of living in or near poverty in retirement is even higher.

This squeeze forces a lot of seniors to skimp in dangerous and unhealthy ways. A recent survey found that millions of seniors cut pills, delay necessary home and car repairs, and skip meals to save money.

While the picture for current retirees is grim, it’s projected to get even worse for Americans on the cusp of retirement. Among Americans aged 50 to 64, the average amount saved in 401(k) accounts is less than $15,000. On average, Latinx and Black workers are less likely to have 401(k) accounts, and those who do have them have smaller balances and are more likely to have to make withdrawals before retirement. The gradual disappearance of pensions has been particularly harmful to workers of color who are near retirement. And 13% of all people over 60 have no pension or savings at all.

Meanwhile, this near-retirement group are also suffering under the weight of mounting debt levels and other costs. 68% of households headed by someone over 55 are in debt. Nearly one-quarter of people ages 55 to 64 are also providing elder care. According to one study, 62% of older Latinx workers, 53% of older Black workers, and 50% of older Asian workers work physically demanding jobs, leading to higher likelihood of disability, early exit from the job market, and reduced retirement benefits.

Gen-Xers and Millennials are in even greater trouble. For both generations, wages have been virtually stagnant for their entire working lives. 90% of Gen-Xers are in debt, and they’re projected to be able to replace only 50% of their income in retirement on average. Many Gen-Xers are trapped between their own student loans and mortgages, the costs of raising and educating their children, and the costs of caring for their elderly relativesTwo-thirds of working millennials have no retirement savings, and the numbers are even worse for Black and Latinx working millennials. Debt, wage stagnation, and decreasing pension availability mean that, compared to previous generations at the same age, millennials are significantly behind in retirement planning.

There’s also the looming prospect of serious Social Security cuts in 2035. Social Security has an accumulated reserve of almost $3 trillion now, but because of inadequate contributions to the program by the rich, we are projected to draw down that reserve by 2035, prompting automatic 20% across-the-board benefit cuts if nothing is done.

My plan addresses both the solvency of Social Security and the need for greater benefits head on — with bold solutions that match the scale of the problems we face.

Creating Financial Security By Raising Social Security Benefits

The core of my plan is simple. If you get Social Security benefits now, your monthly benefit will be at least $200 more — or at least $2,400 more per year. If you aren’t getting Social Security benefits now but will someday, your monthly benefit check with be at least $200 bigger than it otherwise would have been.

My $200-a-month increase covers every Social Security beneficiary — including the 10 million Americans with disabilities and their families who have paid into the program and now receive benefits from it. Adults with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty as those without a disability. While 9% of people without disabilities nearing retirement live in poverty, 26% of people that age with disabilities live in poverty. Monthly Social Security benefits make up at least 90% of income for nearly half of Social Security Disability Insurance beneficiaries.

This benefit increase will also provide a big boost to other groups. It will help the 621,000 disabled veterans who are Social Security beneficiaries. It will benefit the 1 million seniors who exclusively receive Social Security Insurance — which helps Americans with little or no income and assets — and the 2.7 million Americans who receive both SSI and Social Security benefits.

On top of this across-the-board benefit increase, I’ll ensure that current and future Social Security beneficiaries get annual cost-of-living adjustments that keep pace with the actual costs they face. The government currently increases Social Security benefits annually to keep pace with the price of goods typical working families buy. But older Americans and people with disabilities tend to purchase more of certain goods — like health care — than working-age Americans, and the costs of those goods are increasing more rapidly. That’s why my plan will switch to calculating annual cost-of-living increases based on an index called CPI-E that better reflects the costs Social Security beneficiaries bear. Based on current projections, that will increase benefits even more over time.

Combined, my immediate $200-a-month benefit increase for every Social Security beneficiary and the switch to CPI-E will produce significantly higher benefits now and decades into the future. My Social Security calculator will let you see how much your benefits could change under my plan.

Targeted Social Security Improvements to Deliver Fairer Benefits

Broadly speaking, Social Security benefits track with your income during your working years. That means pay disparities and wrongheaded notions that value salaried work over time spent raising children or caring for elderly relatives carry forward once you retire. That needs to change. My plan increases Social Security benefits even further by making targeted changes to the program to deliver fairer benefits and better service to women and caregivers, low-income workers, public sector workers, students and job-seekers, and people with disabilities.

Women and Caregivers

In part because of work and pay discrimination and time out of the workforce to provide care for children and elderly relatives, women receive an average monthly Social Security benefit that’s only 78% of the average monthly benefit for men. That’s one reason women over the age of 65 are 80% more likely to live in poverty than men. My plan includes several changes that primarily affect women and help reduce these disparities.

Valuing the work of caregivers. My plan creates a new credit for caregiving for people who qualify for Social Security benefits. This credit raises Social Security benefits for people who take time out of the workforce to care for a family member — and recognizes caregiving for the valuable work it is.

The government calculates Social Security benefits based on average lifetime earnings, with years spent out of the workforce counted as a zero for the purpose of the average. When people spend time out of the workforce to provide care for a relative, their average lifetime earnings are smaller and so are their Social Security benefits.

That particularly harms lower-income women, people of color, and recent immigrants. There are more than 43 million informal family caregivers in the country, and 60% of them are women. A 2011 study found that women over fifty forgo an average of $274,000 in lifetime wages and Social Security benefits when they leave the workforce to take care of an aging parent. Caregivers who also work are more likely to be low-income and incur out-of-pocket costs for providing care. Because access to paid or partially paid family leave is particularly limited for workers of color — and first-generation immigrant workers are less likely to have jobs with flexible schedules or paid sick days — these workers are more likely to have to take unpaid leave to provide care and thus suffer reductions in their Social Security benefits.

My plan will give credit toward the Social Security average lifetime earnings calculation to people who provide 80 hours a month of unpaid care to a child under the age of 6, a dependent with a disability (including a veteran family member), or an elderly relative. For every month of caregiving that meets these requirements, the caregiver will be credited for Social Security purposes with a month of income equal to the monthly average of that year’s median annual wage. People can receive an unlimited amount of caregiving credits and can claim these credits retroactively if they have done this kind of caregiving work in the last five years. By giving caregivers credits equal to the median wage that year, this credit will provide a particular boost in benefits to lower-income workers.

Improving benefits for widowed individuals from dual-earner households and widowed individuals with disabilities. Because women on average outlive men by 2.5 years, they typically spend more of their retirement in widowhood, a particularly vulnerable period financially. My plan provides two targeted increases in benefits for widows.

In households with similar overall incomes, Social Security provides more favorable survivor benefits to the surviving spouses in single-earner households than in dual-earner households. After the death of a spouse, a surviving spouse from a dual-earner household can lose as much as 50% of her household’s retirement income. My plan will reduce this disparity by ensuring that widow(er)s automatically receive the highest of: (1) 75% of combined household benefits, capped at the benefit level a household with two workers with average career earnings would receive; (2) 100% of their deceased spouse’s benefits; or (3) 100% of their own worker benefit.

My plan will also improve benefits for widowed individuals with disabilities. Currently, a widow with disabilities must wait until she is 50 to start claiming Social Security survivor benefits if her spouse dies — and even at 50, she can only claim benefits at a highly reduced rate. Since most widows with disabilities can’t wait until the official retirement age of 66 to claim their full survivor benefits, their average monthly benefit is only $748 a month, or less than $9,000 a year. My plan will repeal the age requirement so widow(er)s with disabilities can receive their full survivor benefits at any age without a reduction.

Lower-Income Workers

My plan ensures that workers who work for a lifetime at low wages do not retire into poverty.

In 1972, Congress enacted a Special Minimum Benefit for Social Security. The benefit was supposed to help people who had earned consistently low wages over many years of work. But it’s become harder to qualify for the benefit, and the benefit amount has shrunk in value so it now helps hardly anyone. Today, only 0.6% of all Social Security beneficiaries receive the Special Minimum Benefit, and projections show that no new beneficiaries will receive it this year.

No one who spends 30 years working and contributing to Social Security should retire in poverty. That’s why my plan restructures the Special Minimum Benefit so that more people are eligible for it and the benefits are a lot higher. Under my plan, any person who has done 30 years of Social Security-covered work will receive an annual benefit of at least 125% of the federal poverty line when they reach retirement age. That means a baseline of $1,301 a month in 2019 — plus the $200-a-month across-the-board increase in my plan, for a total of $1,501 a month. That’s more than $600-a-month more than what that worker would receive under current law.

Public Sector Workers

My plan also ensures that public sector workers like teachers and police officers get the full Social Security benefits they’ve earned.

If you work in the private sector and earn a pension, you’re entitled to your full pension and your full Social Security benefits in retirement. But if you work in state or local government and earn a pension, two provisions called the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset can reduce your Social Security benefits. WEP slashes Social Security benefits for nearly 1.9 million former public-sector workers and their families, while GPO reduces — and in most cases, eliminates — spousal and survivor Social Security benefits for 700,000 people, 83% of whom are women.

My plan repeals these two provisions, immediately increasing benefits for more than two million former public-sector workers and their families, and ensuring that every current state and local government employee will get the full Social Security benefits they’ve earned.

Students and Job Seekers

My plan also updates the Social Security program so that it encourages people to complete college and participate in job training programs or registered apprenticeships.

Restoring and extending benefits for full-time students whose parent has a disability or has died. In the Reagan administration, Congress cut back a provision that allowed children receiving Social Security dependent benefits to continue to receive them until age 22 if they were full-time students. Before the provision was repealed, these beneficiaries came from families with average incomes 29% lower than their college peers, were more likely to have a parent with low educational attainment, and were more likely to be Black. Access to these benefits boosted college attendance and performance by letting low-income students reduce the number of hours they had to work while attending school. When Congress repealed this benefit, college attendance by previously eligible beneficiaries dropped by more than one-third. My plan restores this provision — and it extends eligibility through the age of 24 because only 41% of all students complete college in four years, and Black, Native American, and Latinx students have even lower four-year completion rates. A longer eligibility period will improve the chances the people who receive this benefit complete college before the benefit ends.

Encouraging registered apprenticeships and job training. Currently, workers who participate in registered apprenticeships or job training may receive lower Social Security benefits because they are taking time out of the workforce or agreeing to accept lower-paying positions to gain skills. We’re about to enter a period of immense transformation in the economy, and we should encourage workers to take time to participate in a registered apprenticeship or job training program so they are prepared for in-demand jobs. That’s why I proposed a $20 billion investment in high-quality apprenticeships in my Economic Patriotism and Rural America plans. My plan today complements that investment by letting workers in job training and apprenticeship programs elect to exclude up to three years in those programs from their lifetime earnings calculation for Social Security benefits, thereby producing a higher average lifetime earnings total — and higher benefits.

Improving the Administration of Social Security Benefits

My plan improves Social Security in another important way: it makes it easier for people to actually get the benefits they’ve earned.

Congress is starving the Social Security Administration of money, creating hardship for people who rely on the program for benefits. Congress has slashed SSA’s operating budget by 9% since 2010, even as the number of beneficiaries is growing. Meanwhile, more Baby Boomers are approaching retirement age — a critical period when workers are most likely to claim Social Security Disability benefits. SSA has a staff shortagerising telephone and office wait times, and outdated technology. Sixty-four Social Security field offices have closed since 2011 and 500 mobile offices have closed since 2010. Field office closures are correlated with a 16% drop in disability insurance beneficiaries in the surrounding area because those people — who have paid into the system and earned their benefits — no longer have assistance to file their applications.

Disability insurance applicants can wait as long as 22 months for an eligibility hearing. Thousands of people have died while waiting for administrative law judges to determine if they’re eligible to receive their benefits. To make matters worse, Donald Trump issued an Executive Order that will politicize the process of selecting the judges who adjudicate these cases. And his administration keeps proposing more cuts to the SSA budget.

My plan restores adequate funding to the Social Security Administration so that it can carry out its core mission. That will allow us to hire more staff, keep offices open, reduce call times, update the technology system, and give applicants and beneficiaries the services they need. And I will revoke Trump’s Executive Order on administrative law judges.

Strengthening Social Security By Extending Solvency For Nearly Two More Decades

Currently, the rich contribute a far smaller portion of their income to Social Security than everyone else. That’s wrong, and it’s threatening the solvency of the program. My plan fully funds its new benefit increases and extends the full solvency of Social Security for nearly 20 more years by asking the richest top 2% of families to start contributing more.

Social Security is funded by mandatory insurance contributions authorized by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or “FICA”. The FICA contribution is 12.4% of wages, with employers and employees splitting those contributions equally at 6.2% each. (Self-employed workers contribute the full 12.4%.) If you’re a wage employee, you contribute 6.2% of your very first dollar of wages to Social Security, and 6.2% of every dollar after that — up to an annual cap. This year’s cap is $132,900, and each year, that cap increases based on the growth in national average wages.

Congress designed the cap to go up each year based on average wages to ensure that a fairly steady percentage of total wages in America were subject to the FICA contribution requirement. But growing wage disparities over the past few decades has thrown the system out of whack.

While wages for lower-income and middle-income workers have been fairly stagnant — limiting the growth of the national average wage figure we use to set the annual cap — income at the very top has been skyrocketing. That means more income for the biggest earners has been above the cap and therefore exempt from the FICA contribution requirement. In 1983, 90% of total wage earnings were below the cap. Now it’s just 83%. The top 1% of earners have an estimated effective FICA contribution rate of about 2%, compared to more than 10% for the middle 50% of earners. That amounts to billions of dollars every year that should have gone to Social Security but instead remained in the pockets of the very richest Americans, while the Social Security system slowly starved.

And the very rich have escaped contributing to the system in yet another way: more and more of their income is in the form of unearned investment income, not wages, and they don’t have to contribute any of their investment income to Social Security. Although most Americans earn most of their income from wages, capital income makes up more than half of total income for the top 1% and more than two-thirds for the top 0.1%. All that income escapes the Social Security program.

My plan brings our Social Security system back into balance by asking the top 2% of earners to start contributing a fair share of their wages to the system and by asking the top 2% of families to contribute a portion of their net investment income into the system as well:

First, my plan imposes a 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on individual wages above $250,000 — affecting less than the top 2% of earners — split equally between employees and employers at 7.4% each. While most American workers contribute to Social Security with every dollar they earn, CEOs and other very high earners contribute to Social Security on only a fraction of their pay. My plan changes that and requires very high earners to contribute a fair share of their income. My plan also closes the so-called “Gingrich-Edwards” loophole to ensure that self-employed workers can’t easily reclassify income to avoid making Social Security contributions.

Second, my plan establishes a new 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on net investment income that applies only to the top 2% — individuals making more than $250,000 in annual income or families making more than $400,000 in annual income. My plan creates a new contribution requirement — modeled on the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) from the Affordable Care Act — that asks people and families above these high income thresholds to contribute 14.8% of the lesser of net investment income or total income above these thresholds. My plan also closes loopholes in the NIIT that allow wealthy owners of partnerships and other businesses to avoid it. This contribution requirement will ensure that the very wealthy are paying into Social Security even when they report the bulk of their income as capital returns rather than wages.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Warren Plan to Reduce Mass Incarceration, Reform Criminal Justice System

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president, proposes a plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system without infringing on public safety (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform the criminal justice system without infringing on public safety. This is from the Warren2020 campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Today, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to reduce mass incarceration and reform our criminal justice system. Elizabeth believes we need to reimagine how we talk and think about public safety, spending our budgets not on putting people in prison but on community services that lift people up. It is a false choice to suggest a trade off between safety and mass incarceration – we can decarcerate and make our communities safer. 

Her plan details how she will reform all aspects of our system: what we choose to criminalize, how law enforcement and prosecutors engage with communities and the accused, how long we keep people behind bars and how we treat them when they’re there, and how we reintegrate them when they return.

“We will reduce incarceration and improve justice in our country by changing what we choose to criminalize, reforming police behavior and improving police-community relations, and reining in a system that preferences prosecution over justice. When people are incarcerated, we will provide opportunities for treatment, education and rehabilitation, and we’ll continue those supports for returning citizens as they reenter our communities. Most importantly, we’ll rethink the way we approach public safety — emphasizing preventative approaches over law enforcement and incarceration. That’s the way we’ll create real law and order and real justice in our country.”

Read more about Warren’s plan here: 

The United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, but nearly 20% of the world’s prison population. We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with over 2 million people in prison and jail.

Our system is the result of the dozens of choices we’ve made — choices that together stack the deck against the poor and the disadvantaged. Simply put, we have criminalized too many things. We send too many people to jail. We keep them there for too long. We do little to rehabilitate them. We spend billions, propping up an entire industry that profits from mass incarceration. And we do all of this despite little evidence that our harshly punitive system makes our communities safer — and knowing that a majority of people currently in prison will eventually return to our communities and our neighborhoods.

To make matters worse, the evidence is clear that there are structural race problems in this system. Latinx adults are three times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. For the exact same crimes, Black Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested, charged, wrongfully convicted, and given harsher sentences. One in ten Black children has an incarcerated parent.

Four words are etched above the Supreme Court: Equal Justice Under Law. That’s supposed to be the promise of our justice system. But today in America, there’s one system for the rich and powerful, and another one for everybody else. It’s not equal justice when a kid with an ounce of pot can get thrown in jail, while a bank executive who launders money for a drug cartel can get a bonus. It’s long past time for us to reform our system.

Real reform requires examining every step of this system: From what we choose to criminalize, to how law enforcement and prosecutors engage with communities and the accused, to how long we keep people behind bars, how we treat them when they’re there, and how we reintegrate them when they return.

We cannot achieve this by nibbling around the edges — we need to tackle the problem at its roots. That means implementing a set of bold, structural changes at all levels of government.

And it starts by reimagining how we talk and think about public safety. For example:

Public safety should mean providing every opportunity for all our kids to get a good education and stay in school.

It should mean safe, affordable housing that keeps families together and off the streets.

It should mean violence intervention programs that divert young people from criminal activity, before the police become involved.

It should mean policies that recognize the humanity of trans people and other LGBTQ+ Americans and keep them safe from violence.

It should mean accessible mental health services and treatment for addiction.

It is a false choice to suggest a tradeoff between safety and mass incarceration. By spending our budgets not on imprisonment but on community services that lift people up, we’ll decarcerate and make our communities safer. Here’s my plan.

Rethink Our Approach to Public Safety

It’s not enough merely to reform our sentencing guidelines or improve police-community relations. We need to rethink our approach to public safety, transitioning away from a punitive system and investing in evidence-based approaches that address the underlying drivers of violence and crime — tackling it at its roots, before it ever has a chance to grow.

Break the school-to-prison pipelineSchools increasingly rely on police officers to carry out discipline while neglecting services that are critical to the well being of students. At least fourteen million students attend schools with a police officer but without a single counselor, social worker, psychologist, or nurse. It’s no surprise that tens of thousands of students are arrested annually, many for minor infractions. Zero tolerance policies start early — on average 250 preschoolers are suspended or expelled every day — and, even in the youngest years, students of color bear the brunt. In later grades, Black and Brown students are disproportionately arrested in schools, while students with disabilities face an increased risk of disciplinary action.

Every child should have the opportunity to receive the support they need to thrive inside and outside of the classroom. Adverse childhood experiences such as poverty, violence at home, homelessness, family separation, or an incarcerated caretaker are proven to negatively impact child development. I will equip schools with resources to meet their students’ needs by providing access to health care to support the physical, mental, and social development of children, improve their overall school readiness and providing early intervention services. We should decriminalize truancy and instead increase the number of school mental health personnel and provide schools with resources to train teachers and administrators in positive behavioral interventions, trauma-informed alternative discipline practices, and implicit bias to limit suspensions, expulsions, and minor-infraction arrests. We should require that any police department receiving federal funds provide mandatory training in the scientific and psychological roots of discrimination, youth development, and de-escalation tactics to officers assigned to school campuses. I’ll rescind Trump’s executive order that allows school districts to participate in the 1033 program, giving them access to military-grade weapons. And I’ll fully fund the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education so that it can investigate school districts with dramatic disparities in school disciplinary actions.

Reduce homelessness and housing insecurityChildren that experience homelessness are more likely to drop out of school and more likely to become involved with the criminal system. But as housing and rental costs skyrocket and federal housing assistance doesn’t keep pace, housing insecurity is growing, particularly for families of color. A Warren administration will commit federal funding to the goal of ending homelessness in our country. My housing plan will help, by investing $500 billion over 10 years to build, preserve, and rehab affordable housing, creating 3.2 million new housing units and bringing down rental costs by 10%. It would also help families, especially families of color, buy homes and start to build wealth. Substantially improving housing affordability isn’t just good for the economy and for working families — it will also reduce homelessness and crime.

Invest in evidence-based interruption programsTo improve safety in our communities, we also need to invest in programs that prevent violence and divert criminal behavior. Models in cities like BostonOakland and Chicago demonstrate that we can successfully reduce homicide and gun violence rates through creating cross-community partnerships and focused deterrence on the small percentage of people most likely to commit violence. These programs are cost-effective and have multiplier effects: transforming community climate, improving health outcomes, and boosting local economies. My administration will invest in piloting similar programs at scale.

Decriminalize Mental Health CrisesThe solution for someone experiencing a mental health crisis should not be a badge and a gun, but police officers have become America’s de facto first mental health providers. Historically, 7–10% of police encounters involve a person affected by mental illness, and people with untreated severe mental illness are sixteen times more likely to be killed during a police encounter. People with mental illnesses are not incarcerated at higher rates because they are prone to violence. To the contrary, most are arrested for non-violent offenses, many because they lack access to necessary services. But incarcerating people with mental illness is more expensive as providing appropriate community-based treatment — instead of shuttling people into a system not built to meet their needs, we should invest in preventing people from reaching those crisis points in the first place. Medicare for All will provide continuous access to critical mental health care services, decreasing the likelihood that the police will be called as a matter of last resort. I’ll also increase funding for “co-responder” initiatives that connect law enforcement to mental health care providers and experts. And my administration will pilot evidence-based crisis response efforts to provide needed services to individuals struggling with mental illness.

Invest in diversion programs for substance abuse disorderPeople who struggle with addiction should not be incarcerated because of their disease. Mass incarceration has not reduced addiction rates or overdose deaths, because substance abuse disorder is a public health problem — and it’s long past time to treat it that way. We know that diversion programs are both more humane and a better investment than incarceration — for every dollar we invest in treatment programs, we can save $12 in future crime and health care costs. I’ll support evidence-based safe injection sites and needle exchanges, and expand the availability of buprenorphine to prevent overdoses. And my CARE Act would invest $100 billion over ten years to increase access to high quality treatment and support services. It would provide the regions most affected by the opioid crisis with the resources they need, and would allow state, local and tribal governments to use CARE Act funds to provide incarcerated individuals, and individuals in pre-trial detention, with substance use disorder treatment.

Change What We Choose to Criminalize

We face a crisis of overcriminalization. It has filled our prisons and devastated entire neighborhoods. Addressing the crisis starts by rethinking what we choose to criminalize. It is easy for legislators, fearful of being labeled soft on crime, to rubber stamp every new criminal and sentencing proposal, no matter how punitive. It’s equally easy for them to look the other way when the wealthy and well-connected abuse the rest of us. But from the Senate on down, elected lawmakers have an obligation to do better than that. Here’s where we can start.

Repeal the 1994 crime bill. The 1994 crime bill exacerbated incarceration rates in this country, punishing people more severely for even minor infractions, and limiting discretion in charging and sentencing in our judicial system. That punitive “tough on crime” approach was wrong, it was a mistake, and it needs to be repealed. There are some sections of law, like those relating to domestic violence, that should be retained — but the bulk of the law must go.

Address the legacy of the War on DrugsFor four decades, we’ve subscribed to a “War on Drugs” theory of crime, which has criminalized addiction, ripped apart families — and largely failed to curb drug use. This failure has been particularly harmful for communities of color, and we need a new approach. It starts with decriminalizing marijuana and erasing past convictions, and then eliminating the remaining disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing. And rather than incarcerating individuals with substance abuse disorders, we should expand options that divert them into programs that provide real treatment.

Stop criminalizing homelessnessHousing provides safety and stability, but too many experience homelessness. To make matters worse, many cities have criminalized homelessness by banning behavior associated with it, like sleeping in public or living in vehicles. These laws draw people into the justice system instead of giving them access to the services they need. They disproportionately impact communities of colorLGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities, all of whom experience higher rates of homelessness. Rather than treating the homeless like criminals, we should get them with the resources they need to get back on their feet.

Stop criminalizing povertyA simple misdemeanor like a speeding ticket shouldn’t be enough to send someone to spiraling into poverty or worse — but often the fines and fees levied by our legal system bury low-income people who are unable to pay under court-related debt, with no way out. We abolished debtors prisons nearly two hundred years ago, but we’re still criminalizing poverty in this country — low-income individuals are more likely to find themselves entangled in the system and less likely to find their way out. There is no justification for imposing unreasonably high punitive burdens on those who are least able to bear them. As president, I will fight to:

End cash bail. Around 60% of the nearly 750,000 people in jail have not been convicted of a crime — and too often, those jails are overcrowded and inhumane. Our justice system forces its citizens to choose either to submit to the charges brought against them or be penalized for wanting to fight those charges. We should allow people to return to their jobs and families while they wait for trial, reserving preventive detention only for those cases that pose a true flight or safety risk.

Restrict fines and fees levied before adjudication. In many jurisdictions individuals are charged cost-prohibitive pre-trial fees, sending them into debt even if they are ultimately acquitted of a crime. In cases of pre-trial civil forfeiture, an individual often cannot recover property seized prior to conviction. I’ll reverse the Trump administration’s policy expanding pre-trial civil forfeiture at the federal level, and restrict the use of civil forfeiture overall.

Cap the assessment of fines and fees. Jailing someone who can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars in fines on an hourly minimum wage salary is not only cruel — it’s ineffective. Criminal debt collection should be capped at a percentage of income for low-income individuals. States should also eliminate the profit incentive that drives excessive fees and fines by capping the percentage of municipal revenues derived from the justice system, and diverting seized assets into a general fund.

Eliminate fees for necessary services. Private companies and contractors can charge incarcerated people for essential services, like phone calls, bank transfers, and health care. Private companies also profit from charging individuals for their own incarceration and supervision, including through fees for re-entry, supervision, and probation. As I detailed in my plan to end private prisons, I will end this practice and ensure that private companies don’t get rich from exploiting vulnerable people.

Accountability for the wealthy and the well-connectedEqual justice also means an end to the impunity enjoyed by those with money and power. Instead of criminalizing poverty and expanding mass incarceration, I’ve proposed a new criminal negligence standard for executives of corporations with more than $1 billion in annual revenue when their company is found guilty of a crime or their negligence causes severe harm to American families. Instead of locking up people for nonviolent marijuana crimes, I’ve proposed putting pharmaceutical executives on the hook to report suspicious orders for controlled substances that damage the lives of millions. And I’ve proposed new certification requirements for executives at giant financial institutions so that we can hold them criminally accountable if the banks they oversee commit fraud.

Reform How the Law Is Enforced

While reform begins with deciding what constitutes a crime, the authority to enforce the law includes tremendous discretion. Law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges make countless decisions every day that shape the reality of how our criminal justice system functions for the millions of Americans it comes into contact with. We must critically examine each aspect of the enforcement process to ensure that it is both just and consistent with public safety.

Law Enforcement ReformThe vast majority of police officers sign up so they can protect their communities. They are part of a profession that works tirelessly and takes risks every day to keep us safe. But we also know that many people of color, including Native Americans, disproportionately experience trauma at the hands of law enforcement, sometimes with life-altering consequences. On average, three people are shot and killed by the police every day, a disproportionate number of them young and Black. Others are arrested and entered into a system that unduly penalizes even minor infractions.

Everyone is less safe when trust erodes between the police and the communities they serve. Yet we’ve continued to allow policing practices that are both ineffective and discriminatory. It’s time to fundamentally change how police work is done in America: funding what works; replacing failed policies with effective, evidence-based practices that do not violate individual rights; and reframing our approach to public safety to prioritize prevention over punishment. Here’s how we do it.

Improve access to treatment and early intervention. For the third straight year, the number of suicides among law enforcement in 2018 outnumbered the line-of-duty deaths. Law enforcement officers experience higher rates of addiction, post-traumatic stress, and other trauma related disorders. I’ll invest in mental and emotional health support to help our officers do their job, including by expanding promising pilots like peer intervention and early warning programs.

Improve data collection and reporting. For nearly a century, we have measured crime in this country. It’s time we measure justice — and act when we don’t measure up. Today there is no comprehensive government database on fatal police shootings, ethics issues, misconduct complaints, or use of force incidents. My Justice Department will establish a rigorous and systematic process to collect this data, provide relevant data collection training to local law enforcement, and make data publicly available wherever possible. We’ll use that data to prioritize federal oversight and to hold police accountable for the portion of the bad policing outcomes for which they are responsible. And we’ll work with interested departments to use their own data to improve their legitimacy in the communities they serve and inform more just and effective policing.

Increase federal oversight capacity. The Obama Justice Department used its authority to investigate police departments with a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing — but resource constraints limited the number of interventions carried out. Meanwhile, the Trump administration hasn’t initiated any investigations at all. I’ll reverse the Sessions guidance limiting the use of consent decree investigations, and triple funding for the Office of Civil Rights to allow for increased investigations of departments with the highest rates of police violence and whenever there is a death in custody. In this way, we can further incentivize police departments with persistent issues to adopt best practices.

Empower State Attorneys General. Even an expanded DOJ will not be able to provide oversight for many thousands of law enforcement agencies in this country. And accountability for unconstitutional policing shouldn’t simply shut down under a hostile President like Trump. To build a more durable system, I’ll incentivize states to empower their attorneys general to conduct their own oversight of police behavior nationwide.

Demand increased civilian oversight. Community engagement can fill the gap and provide oversight where the federal government, even with increased capacity, cannot. Approximately 150 communities have civilian oversight boards, but that covers only a small percentage of law enforcement agencies in America. To expand local oversight and democratic engagement in policing, I will implement a competitive grant program that provides funding to communities that establish an independent civilian oversight mechanism for their police departments, such as a civilian oversight board or Office of Civilian Complaints. These boards should have a role in officer discipline and provide input on hiring police executives as well as hiring and promoting within the departments they oversee.

Establish a federal standard for the use of force. When cities employ more restrictive policies for police use of force, they improve both community trust and officer safety. I will direct my administration to develop and apply evidence-based standards for the use of force for federal law enforcement, incorporating proven approaches and strategies like de-escalation, verbal warning requirements, and the use of non-lethal alternatives. At the federal level, I’ll prohibit permissive pursuit policies that often result in collateral damage, like high-speed chases and shooting at moving vehicles. And I’ll work with local law enforcement agencies to ensure that training and technology deployed at the federal level can be implemented at all levels of government, helping to limit the use of force while maintaining safety for officers and the communities they are sworn to protect.

Increase federal funding for law enforcement training. Improved training can reduce the number of police-involved shootings and improve perceptions of police legitimacy. But if If we want police practices to change, then the way we train our officers must change — both when they are hired and throughout their careers. My administration will provide incentives for cities and states that hire a diverse police force and provide tools and resources to ensure that best practices on law enforcement training are available across America, providing local police with what they need to meet federal training requirements, including training on implicit bias and the scientific and psychological roots of discrimination, cultural competency, and engaging individuals with cognitive or other disabilities. And we should support evidence-based continuing education for officers throughout their careers.

Restrict qualified immunity to hold police officers accountable. When an officer abuses the law, that’s bad for law enforcement, bad for victims, and bad for communities. Without access to justice and accountability for those abuses, we cannot make constitutional due process protections real. But today, police officers who violate someone’s constitutional rights are typically shielded from civil rights lawsuits by qualified immunity — a legal rule invented by the courts that blocks lawsuits against government officials for misconduct unless a court has previously decided that the same conduct in the same context was unconstitutional. Qualified immunity has shielded egregious police misconduct from accountability and drawn criticism from across the political spectrum. Last month, for example, a federal appeals court in Atlanta granted qualified immunity to a police officer who, while aiming at a family’s dog, shot a 10-year-old boy while the child was lying on the ground 18 inches away from the officer. Just two weeks ago, another federal court used qualified immunity to dismiss a lawsuit against a school police officer who handcuffed a sobbing seven-year-old boy for refusing to go to the principal’s office. This makes no sense. I support limiting qualified immunity for law enforcement officials who are found to have violated the Constitution, and allowing victims to sue police departments directly for negligently hiring officers despite prior misconduct.

End racially discriminatory policing. Policies like stop-and-frisk and “broken windows” policing have trampled the constitutional rights of countless Americans — particularly those from Black and Brown communities — without any measurable impact on violent crime. I’ll end stop-and-frisk by directing the Justice Department to withhold federal funding from law enforcement agencies that continue to employ it and other similar practices, and I’ll work with Congress to pass legislation to prohibit profiling at all levels of law enforcement.

Separate law enforcement from immigration enforcement. The data are clear. When local law enforcement is mixed with immigration enforcement, immigrants are less likely to report crimes, and public safety suffers. It’s time to stop directing law enforcement officers to do things that undermine their ability to keep communities safe. My immigration plan will address this by ending the 287(g) and “Secure Communities” programs, putting in guidelines to protect sensitive locations like hospitals and schools, and expanding protections for immigrant survivors of violent crimes that come forward and work with law enforcement.

Demilitarize local law enforcement. Officer safety is critically important. But we don’t build trust between police and communities when we arm local law enforcement as if they are going to war. Militarizing our police contributes to mutual fear and distrust, and there is evidence to suggest it can actually make officers themselves less safe. As President, I will eliminate the transfer of military-grade weapons and lethal equipment to local police via the 1033 program, prohibit local law enforcement from buying military equipment with federal funding, and create a buy-back program for equipment already in use in our communities.

Expand the responsible use of body cameras and protect citizen privacy. Body cameras don’t solve every problem, but used consistently and appropriately they can decrease the use of force and misconduct complaints. The federal government should expand funding for body cameras — especially for smaller jurisdictions that struggle to afford them — in exchange for departments implementing accountability policies that ensure consistent and responsible camera use. I’ll also establish a task force on digital privacy in public safety to establish guardrails and appropriate privacy protections for this and other surveillance technology, including the use of facial recognition technology and algorithms that exacerbate underlying bias. And I’ll make it clear that individuals have every right to record an interaction with the police.

Reduce gun violence. We’ve learned the hard way in Massachusetts that the job of our police is made exponentially harder by the weapons flooding our streets. Common sense gun reform and meaningful safeguards will improve safety for law enforcement and the communities they serve. In 2017, almost 40,000 people died from guns in the United States. I have a plan with the goal of reducing that number by 80%, including by expanding background checks, establishing a federal licensing system, and holding the gun industry accountable for the violence promoted by their products.

Prosecutorial and Judicial ReformOur current criminal system is complex and places enormous power in the hands of the state. The government controls what leads to pursue, what charges are levied, whether a plea is offered, and how long someone spends behind bars. It has massive resources at its disposal, and enjoys few obligations to share information and limited oversight of its actions. All of this makes it challenging to ensure that the accused can go to trial, can get a fair trial, and can receive a just and reasonable sentence if convicted. To make matters worse, race permeates every aspect of the system — people of color are twice as likely to be charged with crimes that carry a mandatory minimum sentence. Reform requires a transparent system that emphasizes justice, that gives people a fighting chance — and truly treats everyone equally, regardless of color. Here’s how we can start.

Strengthen public defenders and expand access to counsel. The Sixth Amendment provides every American accused of a crime with the right to an attorney — but too many defendants cannot afford one, and too often, public defenders are under-resourced, overworked, and overwhelmed. If we expect fair adversarial trials, we need to balance resources on both sides of each case in every jurisdiction. I’ll fund federal public defenders and expand targeted grant funding for public defenders at the state level, to ensure that they have the tools to effectively defend their clients. I’ll also reopen and expand DOJ’s Office for Access to Justice, which worked with state and local governments to expand access to counsel. We should ensure that our public defenders are paid a fair salary for their work, and that their caseloads allow for the comprehensive defense of their clients. Finally, I’ll provide funding for language and cultural competency training, including on gender identity and treatment of individuals with disabilities, so that public defenders are best able to serve their clients.

Rein in prosecutorial abuses. Prosecutors are enormously powerful and often not subject to scrutiny or accountability. I will support a set of reforms that would rein in the most egregious prosecutorial abuses and make the system fairer, including reducing the use of coercive plea bargaining by DOJ prosecutors at the federal level, establishing open-file discovery, and putting in place responsible standards for evidence gathering. I’ll establish a Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct to make additional recommendations for best practices and monitor adoption of those recommendations. And I’ll create an independent prosecutorial integrity unit to hold accountable prosecutors who abuse their power.

Expand access to justice for people wrongfully imprisoned. Defendants who are wrongfully imprisoned have the right to challenge their detention in court through a procedure known as habeas corpus. The Framers believed this right was so important to achieving justice that they guaranteed it specifically in the Constitution. It’s particularly important for minority defendants — Black Americans, for example, make up only 13% of the population but a plurality of wrongful convictions. In 1996, at the height of harsh federal policies that drove mass incarceration, Congress made it absurdly difficult for wrongfully imprisoned individuals to bring these cases in federal court. Since then, conservative Supreme Court Justices have built on those restrictions — making it nearly impossible for defendants to receive habeas relief even when they have actual proof of innocence. We should repeal these overly restrictive habeas rules, make it harder for courts to dismiss these claims on procedural technicalities, and make it easier to apply new rules that emerge from these cases to people who were wrongfully imprisoned before those rules came into effect.

Protect the rights of survivors. Crime victims have the right to safety and justice, the right to be consulted and informed about the status of their case, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect. We should provide support for those who have experienced trauma, including medical care and safe housing. This is particularly true for those who have experienced sexual assault or violence at the hands of an intimate partner. I’ll also fight to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and provide full funding to eliminate the rape kit backlog across the country.

Appointing a diverse judicial bench. The justice system should reflect the country it serves. Judicial appointments are primarily white and male, and large numbers tend to have a prosecutorial background. Diversity of experience matters. That’s why I have pushed for increasing the professional diversity of our federal judiciary to insulate the courts from corporate capture, and why I support gender and racial diversity for judicial nominees. I’ll appoint a diverse slate of judges, including those who have a background defending civil liberties or as public defenders.

Take into account the views of those most impacted by the system.As President, I will establish an advisory board comprised of survivors of violence, along with formerly incarcerated individuals. I’ll consult with this advisory board and listen to the needs of those who have first-hand experience with the system as we find fair and just solutions to the challenges we face.

Reforming Incarceration

The federal prison population has grown 650% since 1980, and costs have ballooned by 685%. This explosion has been driven in large part by rules requiring mandatory minimum sentences and other excessively long sentencing practices. These harsh sentencing practices are not only immoral, there’s little evidence that they are effective. As president I will fight change them.

Reduce mandatory minimumsThe 1994 crime bill’s mandatory minimums and “truth-in-sentencing” provisions that require offenders to serve the vast majority of their sentences have not proven effective. Congress should reduce or eliminate these provisions, giving judges more flexibility in sentencing decisions, with the goal of reducing incarceration to mid-1990s levels. My administration will also reverse the Sessions memo that requires federal prosecutors to seek the most severe possible penalties, and allow federal prosecutors discretion to raise the charge standards for misdemeanors and seek shorter sentences for felony convictions.

Raise the age for criminal liability. We know that cognition and decision-making skills continue to develop beyond the teenage years. For that reason, many states have raised the age of adult criminal liability to at least 17, or granted additional discretion to prosecutors when charging offenders between the ages of 16 and 18. The federal government should do the same — raising the age of adult criminal liability to 18, eliminating life-without-parole sentences for minors, and diverting young adult offenders into rehabilitative programs wherever possible.

End the death penaltyStudies show that capital punishment is often applied in a manner biased against people of color and those with a mental illness. I oppose the death penalty. A Warren administration would reverse Attorney General Barr’s decision to move forward with federal executions, and Congress should abolish the death penalty.

Use the pardon and clemency powers broadly to right systemic injusticesThe president has significant powers to grant clemency and pardons, and historically presidents have used that power broadly. But today’s hierarchical process at DOJ results in relatively few and conservative clemency recommendations. I’ll remove the clemency process from DOJ, instead empowering a clemency board to make recommendations directly to the White House. I’ll direct the board to identify broad classes of potentially-deserving individuals for review, including those who would have benefited from retroactivity under the First Step Act, individuals who are jailed under outdated or discriminatory drug laws, or those serving mandatory minimums that should be abolished.

Improving conditions in prisonToday prisons are often understaffed and overcrowded, making them dangerous for both inmates and corrections officers. Even as we fight to reduce incarceration levels, we should support improved staffing levels and better training for corrections officers, and humane conditions for those behind bars. As president, I will:

Ensure that incarceration meets basic human rights standards. From inadequate health care to dangerous overcrowding, today our prison system is not meeting the government’s basic responsibility to keep the people in its care safe. I’ll embrace a set of standards for the Bureau of Prisons to fix this. That includes accommodating religious practices, providing reasonable accommodations for prisoners with disabilities, and limiting restrictive housing in accordance with evidence-based best practices. We should ensure that trans people are assigned to facilities that align with their gender identity and provide the unique medical and psychiatric care they need, including access to hormone treatments and help with adjusting to their care. And we should eliminate solitary confinement, which provides little carcerative benefit and has been demonstrated to harm prisoners’ mental and physical health, in favor of safe alternatives.

Protect special populations. Vulnerable individuals like pregnant women, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ individuals often require special protections while behind bars. I’ll implement a rigorous auditing program to ensure that prisons are adhering to legal requirements to protect LGBTQ+ individuals and others from sexual violence and assault while incarcerated, and prosecute prison staff who engage in misconduct. I’ll ensure that juveniles are not housed in adult facilities. I’ll also eliminate the use of solitary confinement for protective purposes. Instead, I’ll direct the Bureau of Prisons to establish a set of standards and reforms to protect the most vulnerable in our prison system in a way that does not involve confining a person for more than 20 hours a day.

Invest in programs that facilitate rehabilitation. The evidence is clear: providing education and opportunity behind bars reduces recidivism when people leave prison. But when prison populations went up and budgets went down, rehabilitation services were often the first cuts. In a world where the vast majority of prisoners will eventually leave prison, this makes no sense. I’ll double grant funding for these services in our prisons, expanding programs focused on things like vocational training, anger management, and parenting skills.

Expand mental health and addiction treatment. 14% of prisoners meet the threshold for serious psychological distress, and many more struggle with addiction — but too often, they receive prison time rather than treatment. And instead of increasing access to treatment in prison, the Bureau of Prisons has reduced it. Providing mental health treatment during incarceration reduces recidivism. We must take a comprehensive approach to incarcerated people who face mental health and addiction challenges, including requiring an adequate number of counselors and addiction specialists, individualized treatment, and increased access to medication-assisted treatment.

Eliminate private prisons. I have called to eliminate private prisonsthat make millions off the backs of incarcerated people. We should also end all-foreign or “criminal alien requirement” facilities, which are reported to have higher negative outcomes.

Support Reentry

The period after release from prison can be challenging for returning citizens. During this critical period, they are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be rearrested, more likely to overdose, and more likely to die. Recidivism rates remain high, in part because our prisons have not fulfilled their rehabilitative function, and in part because lack of opportunity after release drives individuals to re-offend. On top of all of this, more than 60,000 inmates in our prisons are there because of technical violations of their parole — for offenses as minor as a speeding ticket. We need evidence-based programs and interventions to break the cycle of incarceration and set formerly incarcerated individuals up for success when they return to their families and their communities. This is particularly true for youth and minors, who are especially vulnerable when returning to an unstable environment. Here are some of the steps I will take.

Pressure states to eliminate collateral sanctionsMillions of Americans are currently on parole or probation. We know that reducing the barriers to full reintegration in society reduces recidivism, but the system is rife with collateral consequences that hamper reentry for formerly incarcerated people who have served their time — from restrictions on occupational licensing to housing to the disenfranchisement of over 3 million returning citizens. We should remove those barriers and allow those who have served their time to find work and fully rejoin their communities.

Reduce needlessly restrictive parole requirementsTechnical parole and probation violations make up a large number of all state prison admissions, sometimes for infractions as minor as a paperwork error. While many rules are made at the state level, the federal government should seek to remove those barriers wherever possible, reduce parole requirements for low-level offenders, and remove the threat of jail time for minor parole violations.

Reduce discrimination during reentryI’ll reverse the guidance that exempts privately run re-entry programs that contract with the Bureau of Prisons from anti-discrimination laws, restoring protections for individuals with disabilities and those that encounter discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Establish a federal expungement optionMany states provide a certificate of recovery for nonviolent offenders who have served their time and maintained a clean record for a certain number of years. This should be replicated at the federal level.

Ensuring Reform at the State and Local Level

The federal government oversees just 12% of the incarcerated population and only a small percentage of law enforcement and the overall criminal legal system. To achieve real criminal justice reform on a national scale, we must move the decisions of states and local governments as well.

My administration will work with state and local governments and incentivize adoption of new federal standards through the grantmaking process. Federal grants make up nearly one third of state budgets, and states and local authorities spend about 6% of their budget on law enforcement functions. My administration would reprioritize state and local grant making toward a restorative approach to justice, and expand grant funding through categorical grants that require funds to be used for criminal justice reform and project grants that require funding to be allocated to specific programs. When necessary, my plan would also use federal enforcement authority. My administration would expand on the Obama-era practice of using Department of Justice consent decrees and other judicial settlements to enforce federal standards and remedy constitutional violations at the state and local level. My plan would also leverage the federal government’s Spending Clause authority and ability to impose civil rights mandates using cross-cutting requirements to ensure that state and local governments comply with federal criminal justice reform standards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Approach to Trade

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

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

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

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

A Trade Negotiation Process that Reflects America’s Interests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My preconditions are that a country must:

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

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

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

Comply with minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  

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

Eliminate all domestic fossil fuel subsidies.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delivering for American Families with Stronger Enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Plan to Invest in Rural America

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

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

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

Protecting Access to Health Care in Rural Communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Economic Security in Rural America

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

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

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

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

A Public Option for Broadband

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating and Defending Jobs in Rural America

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

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

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

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

Bolstering Small and Local Business

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

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

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

Building a New Farm Economy

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

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

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

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

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


A New Farm Economy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replacing our government’s failed approach to the farm economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paying farmers to fight climate change 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Create opportunities for diverse and beginning farmers 

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Elizabeth Warren Announces Her Plan for Immigration Reform

One of  hundreds of candlelight Lights for Liberty vigils that took place across the country on the eve of Trump’s raids took place at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Garden City, Long Island. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has put forth her plan for immigration reform. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Donald Trump prepares to unleash raids on undocumented migrants in cities across the country, while thousands of men, women and children seeking asylum are crammed into unliveable detention camps for weeks and months without end – a humanitarian crisis created through a combination of cruelty and ineptitude – US Senator Elizabeth Warren, running for Democratic nomination for president, announced a plan to create an immigration system that is fair, humane, and reflects American values. 

“Donald Trump wants to divide us — to pit worker against worker, neighbor against neighbor. He wants Americans to blame their troubles on those who are new to our country, or who don’t look the same, even as his administration robs us dry. He has tried his best to make it appear that immigrants are not welcome on our shores. 

“We can be better than this. Americans know that immigrants helped weave the very fabric of our country in the past — and they know that immigrants belong here today. 

“I’ll work with Congress to pass broad-reaching reform, but I’m also prepared to move forward with executive action if Congress refuses to act. We cannot continue to ignore our immigration challenges, nor can we close our borders and isolate the United States from the outside world. Instead we need big, structural change: a fair immigration system that preserves our security, grows our economy, and reflects our values. That’s good for immigrants, good for workers, and ultimately good for the United States.”

Here is a summary: – Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, introduces her plan for immigration reform © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com


A Fair and Welcoming Immigration System

Immigrants have always been a vital source of American strength. They grow our economy and make our communities richer and more diverse. They are our neighbors, our colleagues, and our friends — and every bit as much a part of America as those who were born in the United States. 

President Trump sees things differently. He’s advanced a policy of cruelty and division that demonizes immigrants. He’s axed programs that protect young Dreamers and asylum seekers fleeing violence and upheaval. He’s championed dramatic cuts to legal immigration, and imposed a bigoted ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries. He’s threatened to close our ports of entry to lawful transit and commerce, and exploited a crisis of his own making at the border to score cheap political points. But while Trump may have taken the system to its most punitive extreme, his racist policies build on a broken immigration system and an enforcement infrastructure already primed for abuse. 

I saw that in McAllen, Texas, in the eyes of mothers who fled violence only to be ripped apart from their babies at the U.S. border. I saw it in the tears of families as they waited for their loved ones at Logan Airport in Boston on the night Trump announced his Muslim Ban. I saw it in the tired faces of little children made to march in formation between makeshift tents in the hot summer sun at the Homestead detention facility in Florida. 

I also see it when I talk with our Dreamers about their aspirations and their fears. When I meet with business owners who watch their competition exploit undocumented workers for a competitive advantage, and with farmers who cannot access the labor they need. When I sit with families who have been waiting decades for a visa to reunite with their loved ones, and with mixed-status families who worry that a parent, brother or sister could be ripped away at any time. 

We must address the humanitarian mess at the border and reverse this president’s discriminatory policies. But that won’t be nearly enough to fix our immigration system. We need expanded legal immigration that will grow our economy, reunite families, and meet our labor market demands. We need real reform that provides cost-effective security at our borders, addresses the root causes of migration, and provides a path to status and citizenship so that our neighbors don’t have to live in fear. That’s why today I’m announcing my plan for immigration reform — to create a rules-based system that is fair, humane, and that reflects our values. 

Eliminating Abusive Enforcement 

President Trump has weaponized deportation in ways that are costly, ineffective, and designed to maximize pain. It’s time to end this cruelty — and refocus on true threats to public safety and national security instead. As president, I will: 

Decriminalize migration and refocus enforcement on serious criminal activity. Entering the country without authorization has always been a violation of civil immigration law, but thanks to a former segregationist Senator, it’s also a criminal violation. This additional criminal provision is totally unnecessary for border security, and for a century, it was rarely enforced. But since the early 2000s, it has been used to build and sustain a massive immigration detention complex. In 2016, over half of all federal criminal prosecutions were for immigration violations — more than prosecutions for terrorism, organized crime, hate crimes, or financial fraud. This obsessive focus ties up federal prosecutors and overwhelms federal courts. It’s costly and unnecessary. And under Trump, it has become increasingly abusive. We should repeal this criminal prohibition to prevent future abuse. As president, I will immediately issue guidance to end criminal prosecutions for simple administrative immigration violations; end Operation Streamline, which subjects migrants to mass prosecutions; and refocus our limited resources on actual criminals and real threats to the United States. I will also issue prosecutorial guidance to prioritize immigration cases with security concerns, and make sure government attorneys are properly exercising their discretion for individuals who pose no public safety risk. 

Separate law enforcement from immigration enforcement to strengthen our communities. There are good reasons to keep immigration enforcement and law enforcement separate. When law enforcement is forced to also handle immigration violations, people are less willing to report crimes for fear of revealing their immigration status. Combining these functions sows distrust and harms public safety. As President, I’ll put in place strict guidelines to protect sensitive locations like schools, medical facilities, and courthouses from enforcement actions. I’ll expand programs that grant protections to immigrant victims of serious crimes who come forward and assist law enforcement. And I’ll end programs like 287(g) and “Secure Communities” that force local cops to enforce federal immigration laws so they can focus on effectively serving their communities. 

Remake CPB and ICE in a way that reflects our values. Our immigration agencies should protect Americans and uphold the rule of law, not pursue punitive anti-immigrant policies that target communities of color. I’ll hold immigration enforcement to the same due process standards as other law enforcement agencies — no more warrantless arrests or stops deep in the interior of our country. I’ll reshape CBP and ICE from top to bottom, focusing their efforts on homeland security efforts like screening cargo, identifying counterfeit goods, and preventing smuggling and trafficking. And to change the culture, I’ll insist on transparency and strengthen the authorities of independent internal watchdogs to prevent future abuses. 

Create accountability for the abuse perpetrated during the Trump Era. President Trump and his Administration are comfortable looking the other way while criminal abuses of immigrants pile up. When I am President, I will not. I’ll designate a Justice Department task force to investigate accusations of serious violations — including medical neglect and physical and sexual assaults of detained immigrants — and give it independent authority pursue any substantiated criminal allegations. Let there be no ambiguity on this: if you are violating the basic rights of immigrants, now or in the future, a Warren Administration will hold you accountable. 

Significantly Reduce Immigration Detention 

Americans are rightfully horrified by scenes of chaos and abuse at our border. Separating parents and children and detaining families and other vulnerable populations is not only staggeringly expensive and inhumane, it has no proven deterrent effect. To end unnecessary detention and rebuild a more humane system, a Warren administration will: 

End unnecessary detention. We already have the tools to effectively track and monitor individuals without shoving them into cages and camps along the border. As President, I’ll issue guidance ensuring that detention is only used where it is actually necessary because an individual poses a flight or safety risk. I will put additional layers of protection in place for certain groups, including asylum seekers, families and pregnant women, and LGBTQ+ people who are more vulnerable in a general detention facility. And I’ll enforce strict standards for remaining detention facilities, including for medical care and to end the use of solitary confinement. 

Eliminate private detention facilities. There is no place in this country for profiting off cruelty. I’ll end the contracts ICE has with private detention providers, and push for legislation to permanently ban for-profit detention. 

Expand the executive use of parole and invest in alternatives-to-detention. DHS has broad authority to parole individuals who are detained prior to their cases being heard in immigration court. Community-based alternatives to detention are safer, save money, and can be more effective at ensuring compliance. I’ll significantly expand successful programs, which include case management, referrals to legal and social services, and periodic check-ins and surveillance. These programs provide a measure of dignity for those in the system, and their expanded use would save over a billion dollars each year in unnecessary detention costs. 

Provide Rights and Due Process in our Immigration Courts 

It’s not enough to merely correct the excesses of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. To prevent future abuses, we need to treat migrants moving through the system in a manner that reflects our Constitution and our values. A Warren administration will: 

Establish professional, independent Article I immigration courts. DOJ both oversees the immigration court system and enjoys massive authority to manipulate those courts to implement the president’s immigration policy agenda. Immigration court rulings can even be overturned by the Attorney General — a fundamental conflict of interest exploited by Jeff Sessions. I’ll work to create a credible, independent system by passing legislation establishing Article I judicial review for immigration cases modeled on our federal courts. I’ll deploy smart efficiency measures, beginning by restoring judges’ ability to prioritize and manage their own dockets. And my administration will recruit highly qualified immigration judges with a diverse set of legal experiences so that everyone receives appropriate justice. 

Eliminate expedited removal and provide due process. Due process ensures basic fairness for individuals attempting to navigate complex laws and prevents law enforcement and Presidents from abusing authority. But mostimmigrants facing deportation do not have attorneys — and in the Trump administration, that even includes toddlers. In fact, one-third of deported immigrants never even see a judge: instead, the immigration officer serves as both prosecutor and jury. I’ll eliminate the use of expedited removal proceedings and guarantee hearings. I’ll call for creating a national-scale immigration public defender corps, and a Warren administration will provide access to counsel in immigration court. 

Welcome Those In Need 

Our laws and our values compel us to help those fleeing violence and oppression, but Trump’s racism has contributed to a climate of fear for those seeking refuge in our country. As president, I will: 

Reject exclusionary policies based on race, religion and nationality. I’ll reverse Trump’s bigoted Muslim Ban on my first day in office. I’ll withdraw the Trump policy that forces immigrant families to choose between staying together and ensuring their children — many of whom are American citizens — have access to critical services. And I’ll reinstate Temporary Protected Status designations and Deferred Enforced Departure to protect individuals at risk in their home countries, including migrants from the Caribbean and Africa that have built lives and businesses in our country. 

Raise the refugee cap. At a time when 70 million are displaced around the world, President Trump has abused his authority to lower the refugee cap for the United States, admitting just over 22,000 refugees in total last year. I’ll welcome 125,000 refugees in my first year, and ramping up to at least 175,000 refugees per year by the end of my first term. 

Affirm asylum protections. We should welcome those fleeing violence, not imprison them in cages. As president, I will reverse Trump’s efforts to stack the deck against asylum applicants. I’ll ensure that asylum seekers can safely present themselves at ports of entry for humane, efficient processing, including by ending the metering and “Remain in Mexico” policies. I’ll restore President Obama’s promise to extend asylum for those fleeing domestic or gang violence and affirm asylum protections for gender identity and sexual orientation-based asylum claims. I’ll streamline processes to eliminate the backlog of individuals waiting for an asylum adjudication. And I’ll pardon those convicted of providing food and water to migrants — because no one should go to jail simply providing humanitarian aid to another person in need. 

Grow Legal Immigration and Establish a Fair and Achievable Path to Status 

As president, I’ll work to expand legal immigration. I’ll also take executive action to provide a measure of protection for those who are undocumented, while pursuing a legislative solution that provides a path to citizenship. 

Expand legal immigration. America should welcome more legal immigration — done in the right way and consistent with our principles. We should use targeted immigration as a tool to create jobs and businesses and grow our economy. We should reflect our values, which means expanding family reunification and making it easier for relatives of citizens and green card holders to come to the United States. We should put American workers first by ensuring that workers already here get the first opportunity to fill any available positions. We should empower workers, not employers, by coupling any expansion of legal immigration with real accountability on employers who break the rules, exploit workers, or don’t adhere to basic labor standards. And we should be transparent and data-driven in our immigration policies, using the best available information to identify true needs in the labor force and to address those needs in a way that incorporates the input of both workers and companies. 

Make it easier for those eligible for citizenship to naturalize. Today over 9 million green card holders are eligible to apply for citizenship but many have not chosen to naturalize due to unnecessary barriers, including the cost of applications, the complexity of the process, and administrative issues and backlogs. I’ll work to make it possible for everyone who is eligible to naturalize to do so. 

Reduce the family reunification backlog. As many as 4 million immigrants who are otherwise eligible to come to the United States legally are prohibited because of by-country visa caps. My administration will redistribute unused visas to reduce this backlog and reunite more families with their loved ones. I’ll also urge Congress to repeal laws that make family reunification more difficult to achieve. 

Repeal the 3- and 10-year bars. The law currently requires a person unlawfully in the United States to depart the country for three or ten years before they can apply for legal status. I’ll petition Congress to repeal that requirement. In the meantime, I’ll reinterpret “extreme hardship” to include family separation, making it easier to obtain a waiver allowing people to apply for legal status without having to leave the country for an extended period of time. 

Provide a fair and achievable pathway to citizenship. For the good of our economy and our communities, it’s long past time to provide a path forward for the approximately 11 million undocumented individuals currently living and working in the Unites States. We should immediately reinstate the DACA program and protections for our Dreamers and their families. I’ll expand the program to cover more young people by extending the cut-off date, eliminating the arbitrary application age requirement, and extending the “minor” designation to anyone who was brought to the U.S. under the age of 18. But Dreamers have families and communities that are productive, longtime members of our American family and need protection too. The same is true of the Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure holders. I’ll extend the individual exercise of discretion to offer deferred action protections to hardworking immigrants who have contributed to our country for years and have built careers and families here. And I’ll push for a far-reaching legislative fix that provides a fair but achievable path to citizenship for them. 

Limit the penalties considered for status determinations. Part of focusing on real threats means distinguishing between actual criminals and law-abiding immigrants. We shouldn’t penalize people for prior convictions under statutes that criminalize border crossing for the purpose of status determinations. And we should establish a statute of limitations for how long a misdemeanor will be considered as part of an individual’s immigration adjudication. Citizens with minor, non-violent criminal records should not be permanently excluded from being a part of American society — and immigrants shouldn’t be, either. 

Create an Office of New Americans. I’ll establish an Office of New Americans dedicated to supporting new immigrants as they transition into our society and economy, and task that office to draft a national strategy for integration. We should provide English, civics, and employment- focused classes and training for immigrants who want to enroll, and work with faith groups and other community organizations to provide support services for refugees and asylees, providing the tools to make it easier for newcomers to integrate into their communities. 

Address the Forces Displacing Migrants from Their Home Countries

Migration has spiked around the world, the result of poverty, climate change, violence and injustice. Migrants have come to our country fleeing naturaldisasters or conflicts that forced them from their homes. 

In recent years, many have fled north from the Northern Triangle. But the solution to Central American migration isn’t placing children in cages, it’s stabilizing the countries that families are risking their lives to escape. Rather than addressing rampant corruption, criminal gangs, and some of the world’s highest rates of gender-based violence, President Trump has cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid for programs that provide vital support. 

We cannot fully address migration until we address its root causes. Now more than ever, the United States must reclaim its role as the world’s beacon of hope — and that means proposing bold and nuanced solutions to these complex challenges. As president, I will: 

Restore and increase aid. I’ll commit at least $1.5 billion annually in aid to fully fund programs that target crime, disrupt trafficking, address poverty, reduce sexual violence, and enhance programs for at-risk youth in Central America and throughout our hemisphere — and I’ll rally the international community to match those funds. 

Step up efforts to address transnational crime. A Warren administration will expand efforts to reduce corruption and improve the rule of law, investigate and prosecute human trafficking, employ targeted financial sanctions against drug kingpins and money launderers, and provide robust funding for efforts to counter gangs. 

Inform and protect those seeking refuge. My administration will provide information about the right to seek asylum, reinstate the Central American Minors program, and coordinate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help resettle children and families who need protection. We’ll also do more to spread awareness about the dangers of attempting migration across borders to help prevent vulnerable people from being exploited along the way.