Tag Archives: Warren 2020

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more here and below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making it Easier to Obtain Relief Through Bankruptcy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ending the Prohibition on Discharging Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy

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

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

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

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

Letting People Protect Their Homes and Cars in Bankruptcy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Addressing Racial and Gender Disparities in the Bankruptcy System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Senator Warren’s bankruptcy plan here

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

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

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

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

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

This is from the Warren campaign:

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

Reverse Donald Trump’s sabotage of Obamacare 

Improve the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Protect people with pre-existing conditions

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

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

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

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

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

Children under the age of 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about her plan here and below: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But how do we get there? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First 100 Days of a Warren Administration

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

But I’ll do much more than that. 

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

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

Anti-Corruption Reforms to Rein in Health Industry Influence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dramatically Lower Key Drug Prices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment A Reality 

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

Reverse Trump’s Sabotage 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strengthen the Affordable Care Act 

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

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

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

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

Strengthen Medicare 

As president I will use administrative tools to strengthen Medicare:

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

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

Strengthen Medicaid 

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

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

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

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

Antitrust Enforcement for Hospitals and Health Systems 

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

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

Bringing Health Records into the 21st Century 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My approach is different. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Health System Reforms to Save Money and Lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Completing the Transition to Medicare For All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Senator Warren’s plan here

Watch explainer video here

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

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

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

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

This is from the Warren campaign:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting Earned Benefits for Those Who Serve

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

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

Guaranteeing Pay and Benefits

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

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

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

Empowering Military Students 

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

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

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

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

Preventing Fraud and Abuse  

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

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

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

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

Prioritizing Family Readiness

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

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

Increasing Military Spouse Employment 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ensuring High Quality Childcare and Education

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

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

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

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

Wounded Warriors and their Families

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

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

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

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

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

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

Providing Safe and Affordable Housing

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

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

Putting Service Members and Veterans First

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

Eliminating Military Sexual Assault 

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

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

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

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

Ending Veteran and Military Suicide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treating the Opioid and Addiction Crisis

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

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

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

Addressing the “Invisible Wounds” of War

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

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

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

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

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

Equal Treatment For All Who Serve

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

LGBTQ+ Service Members

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

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

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

Empowering Women Service Members 

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

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

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

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

Immigrant Service Members 

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

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

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

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

Easing the Transition for Veterans

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

Ensuring a “Warm Hand-Off” 

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

Eliminating the Benefits Backlog

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

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

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

Clearing “Bad Paper” Discharges 

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

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

Providing Good Jobs 

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

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

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

Ending Veterans’ Homelessness 

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

Creating a 21st Century VA Health Care System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Warren Details Plan to Restore Trust in the Federal Judiciary

Senator Elizabeth Warren holds campaign rally in Washington Square Park, NYC.
Warren’s proposals to restore trust in the federal judiciary are particularly noteworthy in light of widespread concern that the judiciary has been politicized © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With Attorney General William Barr facing criticism for his direct involvement in extorting Ukraine to engage in a bogus investigation intended to harm Democratic candidate for 2020 Vice President Joe Biden and opening a criminal investigation into the intelligence officers in the CIA and FBI who initially investigated and exposed Russian meddling in the 2016 Election and contacts with the Trump campaign, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposals unveiled earlier this month to restore trust in the federal judiciary are particularly noteworthy in light of widespread concern that the judiciary has been politicized. This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren detailed how she will strengthen the ethical integrity and impartiality of the federal judiciary. Her plan will ensure that judges do not hear cases where they have conflicts of interests, strengthen our nation’s ethics rules for judges, and ensure accountability for judges who violate these rules.

Under her plan, investigations into judicial misconduct could continue even when a judge resigns from office or is elevated to the Supreme Court. This provision would allow the judiciary to reopen the investigations into Alex Kozinski, Maryanne Trump Barry, Brett Kavanaugh, and any other judge who benefited from this loophole.

In December 2017, more than 15 female law clerks alleged that Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski committed sexual misconduct and created a “hostile, demeaning and persistently sexualized environment” for employees. According to their accounts, Kozinski inappropriately touched female clerks and showed them pornography in his chambers. 

It wasn’t the first time he was accused of misconduct. But what did Judge Kozinski do when the judiciary started to investigate? He retired.

And because of inadequate ethics laws, the investigation ended immediately. Meanwhile, Kozinski continues to collect his taxpayer-funded pension for life.

The Kozinski case is just one example of the broader problem of accountability in the federal judiciary.

Donald Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry ended an investigation into the Trump family’s potential tax fraud and other tax schemes by resigning from the bench.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia did not recuse themselves from Citizens United v. FEC, the case that opened an avalanche of money in politics to the benefit of people like the Koch brothers, who invited the pair to multiple all-expenses paid retreats.

And several judges have ruled on cases while owning stock in a company that was a party to the case, violating existing conflicts-of-interest rules that expressly prohibit this practice.

The basic premise of our legal system is that every person is treated equally in the eyes of the law – including judges. Our judiciary only functions properly when it lives up to this promise, and it risks eroding its legitimacy when the American people lose faith that judges are ethical and fair-minded.

That’s why today I’m announcing my plan to strengthen the ethical integrity and impartiality of the federal judiciary. It’s time to ensure that judges do not hear cases where they have conflicts of interests, strengthen our nation’s ethics rules for judges, and ensure accountability for judges who violate these rules.

Recusing Judges and Supreme Court Justices with Conflicts of Interest.

In 2011, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge James Hill ruled in favor of Johnson & Johnson in a case brought by a woman who suffered from a malfunctioning medical implant. He did so while owning as much as $100,000 in the company’s stock. The same judge ruled on three other cases involving companies in which he owned stock – and ruled in favor of the company each time. Judge Hill, unfortunately, is not alone: one study identified 24 cases in which judges owned stock in a company that appeared before them in court.

A basic principle of our federal judicial system is that judges make decisions as disinterested, impartial observers – stepping aside when they may not be able to decide cases objectively. This principle should also bar judges from being the final arbiter of whether they can be objective in the first place. 

It’s time for fundamental reform:

Prohibit judges from deciding for themselves whether they should recuse from a case due to a conflict. When a litigant believes that a judge cannot consider a case in an unbiased manner, the litigant may file a recusal motion asking for another judge to decide the case instead. But our current system gives judges enormous discretion to decide for themselves whether to grant recusal motions where their objectivity is challenged. My plan will instead empower the Chief Judges within regional circuits to establish a binding recusal process. It will also require courts to publish its reasons any time judges are disqualified from a case without a recusal motion, including when judges voluntarily recuse or when an automated conflict-checking software disqualifies them. 

Ban judges from owning or trading individual stocks. It’s not enough for judges like James Hill to recuse in cases with conflicts of interest – my plan would eliminate the appearance of impropriety by banning federal judges from owning or trading individual stocks, while allowing them to instead invest in conflict-free mutual funds or open new investment accounts managed by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. Law firms follow rules like these to avoid the appearance of financial conflicts with the interests of their clients. Judges should certainly be held to the same standard.

Require Supreme Court Justices to provide written explanations of recusal decisions when a litigant challenges for recusal. If a Supreme Court Justice has a conflict of interest, they are ethically obligated to recuse themselves from considering a case, but the law allows them to deny recusal motions without even providing an explanation. Under my plan, when a party asks for a Justice to recuse, the Judicial Conference will issue a non-binding, public advisory opinion with its recommendation – and the challenged Justice will publicly explain their final recusal decision in writing. Because all recusal decisions will be a matter of public record, future litigants will understand these conflicts and know when to bring recusal decisions of their own.

Strengthening Ethics Rules for All Judges.

Every lawyer in America is subject to ethics rules. Federal judges are generally subject to a Code of Conduct that applies the most basic of these principles to members of the judiciary.

But there is no Code of Conduct for Supreme Court Justices.

That means that Supreme Court Justices can go on trips with litigants, like Justice Scalia did when he heard a case involving Vice President Cheney after going hunting with him – without an independent ruling on whether it was proper to do so. It means Justices can receive large speaking fees and all-expenses paid trips to fancy conferences, like Justice Thomas did when the Federalist Society, an extremist right-wing legal group, flew him to Palm Springs and paid for meals and transportation for four days. And it means that someone like Brett Kavanaugh can face accusations of lying to Congress – without a full and fair investigation by the judiciary. These actions could violate the Judicial Code of Conduct, but because unlike all other federal judges these Justices are not bound by a code of ethics, they are immune from any judicial investigations into misconduct. 

We must act now to fix this – and that means strengthening the Code of Conduct for all judges.

Here’s where I would start:

Extend the Code of Conduct to Supreme Court Justices. When Judge Kavanaugh was elevated to the Supreme Court, 83 ethics complaints that had been lodged against him were dismissed – and because the Supreme Court is not covered by a Code of Conduct, no procedure exists to file new complaints. Questions are often raised about the behavior of Supreme Court Justices, such as Justice Thomas’s 13 years of financial disclosures that failed to list $690,000 in payments to his wife from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing judicial activist group – but these actions are beyond the scope of current rules. Enough. My plan applies the Code of Conduct for United States Judges to Supreme Court Justices – and places the Judicial Conference in charge of violations. My plan also allows individuals to file complaints against Supreme Court Justices, just like they can against all other federal judges.  

Strengthen the Code of Conduct to ensure a fair and impartial judiciary. When judges accept gifts or financial contributions from interested parties, public trust in a fair-minded judiciary erodes. My plan strengthens the Code of Conduct so that judges generally cannot receive paid speaking fees or all-expenses-paid trips from outside organizations. To ensure that judges continue to interact with the public without the appearance of impropriety, my plan also establishes a modest fund to help cover reasonable expenses.

Real Enforcement for Judicial Misconduct.

When a lawyer violates the ethics rules, their state’s judiciary can investigate their behavior and impose disciplinary punishment, including stripping their licence to practice law.

But the panels of judges that investigate judicial conduct complaints have limited disciplinary power beyond asking the judge to voluntarily resign or asking the House of Representatives to consider impeachment proceedings – a request the House is free to ignore. 

It’s time for real accountability for judges. Here’s how we’ll start:

Continue investigations into judicial misconduct even when a judge resigns from office or is elevated to the Supreme Court.

In 2016, Federal District Court Judge Walter Smith faced a judicial investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of court employees and drinking on the bench while presiding over cases. Judge Smith resigned, and the complaints filed against him were dismissed. 

My plan extends the authority of the Judicial Conference to former judges so that individuals under investigation cannot simply resign from the bench to avoid accountability. This provision would allow the judiciary to reopen the investigations into Alex KozinskiMaryanne Trump-BarryBrett Kavanaugh, and any other judge who benefited from this loophole.

Provide strong disciplinary authority to judicial ethics watchdogs, including the ability to strip non-vested taxpayer-funded pensions from judges.

Under today’s rules, even if retired judges could be investigated, the Judicial Conference has no meaningful tools to discipline them. American taxpayers are paying for the more than $180,000-per-year retirement pay of Judge Smith, Judge Kozinski, Judge Trump-Barry, and several other judges who left office during investigations into their behavior. We need to restore real accountability within our judiciary. 

That’s why my plan provides disciplinary tools to the Judicial Councils and their parent organization, the Judicial Conference, including the ability to strip sitting or retired judges of their non-vested pension benefits by making retirement pay for new judges explicitly contingent on the absence of serious misconduct. In addition to strengthening these disciplinary tools, my administration will also work to prevent judicial misconduct against employees and law clerks by supporting strong climate surveys, questionnaires to court employees about the work environment in our federal courts, to help the judiciary understand how to improve the culture within our courts.

Create a new, fast-track impeachment process for federal judges who commit impeachable offenses. 

The Constitution reserves the impeachment of judges for only the most egregious offenses. But when a judge commits a serious offense or ethical violation, we need to make sure that there is a prompt investigation – and that Congress takes action.

It’s time to fast-track the process for judges who commit impeachable offenses. My plan would strengthen the process to certify that a judge may have committed an impeachable offense, and would ensure that any impeachment referrals will trigger a series of automatic rules under which the House Judiciary Committee will conduct a thorough investigation and vote without unnecessary delay. These reforms will ensure that judges who commit serious, impeachable offenses will more likely be promptly removed from office.

These changes will not only allow us to ensure accountability for bad actors, including reopening inquiries into the conduct of offenders like Brett Kavanaugh. They will also hold the vast majority of judges who act in good faith to the highest ethical standards, and in the process, begin to restore accountability and trust in a fair and impartial federal judiciary.

Read more about her plan here:  

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

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

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. In a recent poll, Americans have indicated that education is a top issue. Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in public schools, paid for by a 2c wealth tax on fortunes above $50 million. “It’s time to live up to the promise of a high-quality public education for every student. My plan makes big, structural changes that would help give every student the resources they need to thrive.” This is from the Warren campaign:

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

Her plan has five objectives: 

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about her plan here and below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renew the fight against segregation and discrimination in our schools.

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

Treat teachers and staff like the professionals they are.

Stop the privatization and corruption of our public education system.

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

Funding Schools Adequately and Equitably 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, my plan will provide a surge of investment in school facilities and infrastructure. About 50 million students and 6 million adults spend their weekdays in public school buildings. Too many of these schools are dealing with leaky roofs, broken heating systems, lead pipes, black mold, and other serious infrastructure issues. According to the most recent data, more than half of our public schools need repairs to be in “good” condition. Our poor school infrastructure has serious effects on the health and academic outcomes of students and on the well-being of teachers and staff.

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

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

Renewing the Fight Against Segregation and Discrimination in Public Schools 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what we’ll do:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treating Public School Teachers and Staff Like the Professionals They Are 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Combating the Privatization and Corruption of Our Public Schools 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Community Left Behind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Worker Left Behind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prioritizing Environmental Justice at the Highest Levels

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

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

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

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

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

Right to Affordable Energy and Clean Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting the Most Vulnerable During Climate-Related Disasters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holding Polluters Accountable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Senator Warren Would Tax Excessive Lobbying As Part of Her Anti-Corruption Proposal

Senator Elizabeth Warren, seeking the Democratic nomination for President, takes on the issue of corruption at a rally in Washington Square Park, New York City, that drew 20,000 people © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Elizabeth Warren details her plan to tax excessive lobbying as part of her anti-corruption proposal. This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Senator Elizabeth Warren recently unveiled her plan for a new tax on excessive lobbying. It applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over $500,000 per year lobbying our government. The revenue from this tax will be used to help our government fight back against the influence of lobbyists. 

Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue. 

Senator Warren has already laid out how she will end lobbying as we know it and strengthen Congressional independence from lobbyists. (Read more about her plan here.)

Here is more about her plan to tax excessive lobbying:

When Americans think about corporate lobbyists, they usually think about the people in fancy suits who line the halls of Congress armed with donations, talking points, and whatever else they need to win favorable treatment for their big corporate clients. 

They’re right. In fact, corporate interests spend more on lobbying than we spend to fund both houses of Congress — spending more than $2.8 billion on lobbying last year alone. That’s why I have a plan to strengthen congressional independence from lobbyists and give Congress the resources it needs to defend against these influence campaigns. 

But corporate lobbyists don’t just swarm Congress. They also target our federal departments like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. These agencies exist to oversee giant corporations and implement the laws coming out of Congress – but lobbyists often do their best to grind public interest work at these agencies to a halt. 

When the Department of Labor tried to protect workers from predatory financial advisors who got rich by siphoning off large and unnecessary fees from workers’ life savings, Wall Street lobbyists descended on Washington to try to kill the effort – twice. When they failed the second time, they sued to stop it in the courts. 

When the Environmental Protection Agency decided to act on greenhouse gas emissions by passing regulations on methane, fossil fuel companies called in their lobbyists. The rule was dramatically weakened – and then Trump’s EPA went even further than some in the industry wanted by proposing to scrap the rule altogether

When the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tried to crack down on payday lenders exploiting vulnerable communities, lobbyists convinced the Trump administration to cripple the rule – while the payday lenders who hired them spent about $1 million at a Trump resort. 

Regulatory agencies are only empowered to implement public interest rules under authority granted by legislation already passed by Congress. So how is it that lobbyists are able to kill, weaken, or delay so many important efforts to implement the law? 

Often they accomplish this goal by launching an all out assault on the process of writing new rules – informally meeting with federal agencies to push for favorable treatment, burying those agencies in detailed industry comments during the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, and pressuring members of Congress to join their efforts to lobby against the rule. If the rule moves forward anyway, they’ll argue to an obscure federal agency tasked with weighing the costs and benefits of agency rules that the rules are too costly, and if the regulation somehow survives this onslaught, they’ll hire fancy lawyers to challenge it in court. 

I have released the most sweeping set of anti-corruption reforms since Watergate. Under my plan, we will end lobbying as we know it. We will make sure everyone who is paid to influence government is required to register as a lobbyist, and we’ll impose strict disclosure requirements so that lobbyists have to publicly report which agency rules they are seeking to influence and what information they provide to those agencies. We’ll also shut the revolving door between government and K Street to prevent another Trump administration where ex-lobbyists lead the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, the Department of Interior, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. 

My plan also calls for something unique – a new tax on excessive lobbying that applies to every corporation and trade organization that spends over $500,000 per year lobbying our government. This tax will reduce the incentive for excessive lobbying, and raise money that we can use to fight back against this kind of onslaught when it occurs. 

Under my lobbying tax proposal, companies that spend between $500,000 and $1 million per year on lobbying, calculated on a quarterly basis, will pay a 35% tax on those expenditures. For every dollar above $1 million spent on lobbying, the rate will increase to 60% – and for every dollar above $5 million, it will increase to 75%. 

Based on our analysis of lobbying data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, if this tax had been in effect over the last 10 years, over 1,600 corporations and trade groups would have had to pay up – leading to an estimated $10 billion in total revenue. And 51 of them – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Koch Industries, Pfizer, Boeing, Microsoft, Walmart, and Exxon – would have been subject to the 75% rate for lobbying spending above $5 million in every one of those years. 

Nobody will be surprised that the top five industries that would have paid the highest lobbying taxes are the same industries that have spent the last decade fighting tooth and nail against popular policies: Big Pharma, health insurance companies, oil and gas companies, Wall Street firms, and electric utilities. 

Among individual companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would have owed the most of any company or trade group in lobbying taxes: an estimated $770 million on $1 billion in lobbying spending – over $400 million more than the next-highest-paying organization, the National Association of Realtors, which would have paid $307 million on $425 million in lobbying spending. Blue Cross Blue Shield, PhRMA, and the American Hospital Association would have all paid between $149 and $163 million in taxes on between $213 and $233 million in lobbying spending. And General Electric, Boeing, AT&T, Business Roundtable, and Comcast round out the top ten, paying between $105 million and $129 million in taxes. 

Every dollar raised by the lobbying tax will be placed into a new Lobbying Defense Trust Fund dedicated to directing a surge of resources to Congress and federal agencies to fight back against the effort to bury public interest actions by the government. 

Corporate lobbyists are experts at killing widely popular policies behind closed doors. 

Take just one example from the Obama administration. In October 2010, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a “fiduciary rule” to protect employee retirement accounts from brokers who charge exorbitant fees and put their own commissions above earning returns for their clients. The idea was simple: if you’re looking after someone’s money, you should look out for their best interests. 

It’s an obvious rule – but it would cut into financial industry profits. So the industry dispatched an army of lobbyists to fight against the rule, including by burying the agency in public comments. In the first four months, the DOL received hundreds of comments on the proposed rule, including comments from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, BlackRock, and other powerful financial interests. After a public hearing with testimony from groups like Fidelity and J.P Morgan, the agency received over 100 more comments — including dozens from members of Congress, many of which were heavily slanted toward industry talking points. Because the law requires agencies to respond to each concern laid out in the public comments, when corporate interests flood agencies with comments, the process often becomes so time-consuming and resource-intensive that it can kill or delay final rules altogether – and that’s exactly what happened. On September 19, 2011, the DOL withdrew the proposed rule, but said that it planned to try again in the future. 

Undeterred, Wall Street pushed forward their lobbying campaign to ensure that the Department of Labor wouldn’t try again to re-issue the fiduciary rule. In June 2013, Robert Lewis, a lobbyist for an investment industry trade group, personally drafted a letter opposing this common-sense reform – and got 32 members of Congress to sign it. The letter ominously urged the Department to “learn from its earlier experience” when the financial industry had killed the first proposal. Soon, members of Congress from both parties were joining in, telling the Obama administration to delay re-issuing the rule. 

To its great credit, the Obama Department of Labor didn’t give up. On February 23, 2015, the agency finally re-proposed the rule. Wall Street ramped up their lobbying once more to try to kill it a second time. This time, with firm resolve and committed allies, DOL and those of us fighting alongside them beat back thousands of comments, and retirees won – but it took so long that Donald Trump became President before the rule fully went into effect. 

Trump came through for Wall Street: the new Administration delayed implementing the rule, and after financial firms spent another $3 million on lobbying at least in part on the rule, the Department of Justice refused to defend it in court. Today, the Department of Labor is led by Eugene Scalia, the very corporate lawyer and ex-lobbyist who brought the lawsuit to kill off the proposal. 

Lobbyists have followed this same playbook to block, narrow, or delay countless other common- sense industry regulations. Swarm regulators and Congress, bury everyone in an avalanche of money, and strangle government action in the public interest before it even gets off the ground. 

That’s why I’m using the revenue from my tax on excessive lobbying to establish a new Lobbying Defense Trust Fund, which will help our government fight back against the influence of lobbyists. 

First, we’ll use the Lobbying Defense Trust Fund to strengthen congressional support agencies. In my plan to strengthen congressional independence from lobbyists, I explained how lobbying tax revenue would help to reinstate the Office of Technology Assessment and increase the budget for other congressional support agencies, like the Congressional Budget Office. 

Second, we’ll give more money to federal agencies that are facing significant lobbying activity. Every time a company above the $500,000 threshold spends money lobbying against a rule from a federal agency, the taxes on that spending will go directly to the agency to help it fight back. In 2010, DOL could have used that money to hire more staffers to complete the rule more quickly and intake the flood of industry comments opposing it. 

Third, revenue from the lobbying tax will help to establish a new Office of the Public Advocate. This office will help the American people engage with federal agencies and fight for the public interest in the rule-making process. If this office had existed in 2010, the Public Advocate would have made sure that DOL heard from workers and retirees – even while both parties in Congress were spouting industry talking points.


My new lobbying tax will make hiring armies of lobbyists significantly more expensive for the largest corporate influencers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boeing, and Comcast. Sure, this may mean that some corporations and industry groups will choose to reduce their lobbying expenditures, raising less tax revenue down the road – but in that case, all the better.

And if instead corporations continue to engage in excessive lobbying, my lobbying tax will raise even more revenue for Congress, agencies, and federal watchdogs to fight back.

It’s just one more example of the kind of big, structural change we need to put power back in the hands of the people – and break the grip that lobbyists have on our government for good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is from the Elizabeth Warren campaign:



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

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

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

Why have so many people lost faith in government?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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

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

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

But we must go further.

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

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

And I’m just getting started.

Restoring Public Integrity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s where I would start:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some obvious steps to help address this problem:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s where I’d start:

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

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

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

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

Ending Lobbying As We Know It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End Corporate Capture of our Federal Agencies

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

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

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

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

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

Ensuring Access to Justice for All

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

Here’s how I’ll start:

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

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

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

Holding Bad Actors Accountable

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

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

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

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

Here’s how my plan would fix this:

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

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

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

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

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

Deter Corruption Through Broad New Government Transparency Standards

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about her plan here