Tag Archives: Warren 2020 campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Developing the Green Workforce of the Future

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

Expanding job training.

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

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

Partnering with unions to rebuild the middle class.

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

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

Ensuring the new clean economy is open to everyone.

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

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

Repowering our Energy Sector

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

100% Clean Energy Plan

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

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

Offshore Wind Jobs

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

Restarting Our Transportation Sector

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

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

Build Green Program

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

100% Clean Vehicles.

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

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

Renewing Our Water Infrastructure

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

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

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

Ensuring safe drinking water for all

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

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

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

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

Safe and affordable housing

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

Providing our children with healthy learning and living environments

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

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

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

Financing the Green Jobs Plan

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

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

A New Green Bank

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

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

Green Victory Bonds

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

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

Read her plan here

Read independent analysis here

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

Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a detailed plan to protect and empower renters as part of the fight to end the affordable housing crisis. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren has released a detailed plan to protect and empower renters as part of the fight to end the affordable housing crisis. This is from the Warren campaign:
 
A full-time, minimum-wage worker can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the nation. Gentrification is displacing communities of color, rising rents are crushing millions of families, and landlords are exploiting their power over tenants.
 
Elizabeth’s Housing Plan for America will invest $500 billion over the next ten years to build, preserve, and rehab more than three million housing units that will be affordable to working families. Her plan will lower rents by 10% nationwide, reform land-use rules that restrict affordable housing construction and further racial segregation, and take a critical first step towards closing the racial wealth gap.
 
Today, she released an additional plan to expand on those efforts to protect and empower renters. Her plan will:

Protect and uphold the rights of tenants
 

Tackle the growing cost of rent
 

Invest in safe, healthy, and green public housing
 

Fight exploitation by corporate landlords

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

Protect and uphold the rights of tenants
 

Tackle the growing cost of rent
 

Invest in safe, healthy, and green public housing
 

Fight exploitation by corporate landlords

Protect and uphold the rights of tenants

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

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

Read the plan here

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: 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’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.