The 2020 Candidates on Economic Inequality

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Where are the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates on the issue of economic inequality?

Economic inequality was identified by the 2018 midterm voters as one of their most pressing concerns, and is one of the seven issues I covered in my 2020 candidate guides. Many of the readers here at Political⚡Charge asked me to organize the information in those guides by issue, and so, by popular demand, here we are.

In alpha order, here are where the 2020 candidates stand on the issue of economic inequality. You can click on the candidate’s names to go their campaign website to learn more.

Michael Bennet

Minimum Wage: “Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet expressed his disappointment today that a minority of senators blocked the consideration of a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.” (quote from 2014) Source 

Equal Pay: “Michael continues to call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to close the gender pay gap and secure protections for women’s access to safe and affordable health care.” Source

Globalization: “According to a memo from his campaign, Bennet believes that “globalization, automation, and unfair competition from China have left far too many workers and families behind.” Some of the solutions he’s proposed to improve the U.S. economy include creating climate-resilient jobs for farmers and rural workers, investing in “industries of the future,” such as artificial intelligence, and improving mass transit systems.” Source

Student Debt: “As a senator, Bennet supported efforts to simplify the financial aid process and expand year-round Pell Grants to alleviate student debt.” Source

Tariffs: “Bennet has been vocal in his criticism of Trump’s tariffs on trade and agriculture. He said Trump’s trade war is harming more farmers than it helps. Bennet was also a key advocate of the 2018 farm bill.” Source

Family Act: “Mr. Bennet is a co-sponsor of the American Family Act, a Senate proposal that would give every family with children a refundable tax credit of $250 to $300 per month. He also supports expanding the earned-income tax credit.” Source

Economic Platform: “And his campaign outlined the broad strokes of an economic platform involving infrastructure improvements, high-speed broadband in rural areas, and investments in “advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence, superconductors and quantum computing.” Source 

 

Joe Biden

Taxes: “Biden identifies a tax code that is excessively friendly to investors rather than workers as a central problem and calls for higher taxes on rich business owners’ passive income in order to finance things like a tripling of the Child Tax Credit and other benefits for middle class working people.” Source 

Philosophy: “A strong middle class breeds opportunity,” former Vice President Joe Biden said at a Brookings event on May 8, yet “if we have a weak middle class, we have a fractured country.” … “The first of five ideas he proposed was to address income inequity, a “yawning” gap that is “having the effect of pulling us apart.” One way to do this is to address a tax code that, he said, is “wildly skewed” in the way it favors investors over workers.” Source

Minimum Wage: He supports raising the minimum wage to $15/hr. Source 

Equal Pay: “Equal pay for equal work. It’s common sense. It’s also overdue. Let’s close the gap & let’s do it now.” Source

Automation: “‘The bargain has been broken,’ Biden said. ‘Folks in the middle class are in trouble. It’s not just their perception.’ The impact of automation and technology on jobs, for example, will only deepen that inequality, Biden said, and demands a policy response.” Source

Workers’ Rights: “He calls for “laws that allow labor unions to flourish and fight for basic worker protections” but also for a suite of new kinds of protections that operate outside the scope of traditional union-focused labor law. Biden wants a ban on non-compete agreements, a suite of measures to ensure that workers can discuss their pay without fear of retaliation, and stronger measures against wage theft.” Source

 

Cory Booker

Taxes: “The New Jersey Democrat in 2011 endorsed a cut to federal spending, and proposed tax incentives in urban areas to stimulate hiring. Booker will likely tout his work with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., to create “opportunity zones” (which are essentially a form of a tax-break in low-income neighborhoods).” Source 

Minimum Wage: Booker has supported legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $15. “The minimum wage working at a lot of these contract companies only affords them about $22,000 a year. You cannot live and raise a family on $22,000 a year. You can’t afford housing, you can’t afford child care and since your company isn’t helping you with retirement, you can’t save for retirement.” Source 

Wealth Inequality: “In November [2018], Booker introduced a bill intended to combat mass wealth inequality, which would be paid for making “common sense reforms to federal estate and inheritance taxes,” and by restoring the 2009 estate tax law.” Source

Opportunity Accounts: Booker’s “American Opportunity Accounts Act would give each child born in the United States a savings account with $1,000. Each year, until the child turns 18, the government would deposit as much as $2,000 into that account. The size of the annual payments would depend on the child’s family income, with lower-income families receiving larger checks.” Source

Equal Pay: “On a broader level, as a US senator, I’m a co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act that would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and guarantee that women can challenge pay discrimination and hold employers accountable.” Source

Jobs: “Senator Booker is committed to fighting unemployment by promoting policies that grow our economy, provide Americans with job opportunities, and arm them with the skills they need to succeed. Among other efforts, he has partnered with a Republican colleague to introduce the bipartisan Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act.” Source

Affordable Housing: As a strategy to encourage cities to have more affordable housing, “Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the “Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity (HOME) Act” (S.3342). This bill would provide a refundable tax credit to households who spend more than 30% of their income on rent.” Source

 

Pete Buttigieg

Taxes: “What is extraordinary is to do massive tax cuts for the wealthiest, blowing up the debt in the context of an economic recovery where you didn’t need that stimulus in the first place and no one was even asking for it. That’s the kind of irresponsible decision that has a both a very unfair distribution affect within the moment and also winds up effectively telling middle-class people my age that we are going to be subsidizing the wealthiest people today for the rest of our lives.” Source

Trade Policies and Labor: Buttigieg “thinks NAFTA caused irreplaceable job losses across the industrial Midwest. He is a strong supporter of labor and union groups, and says Democrats must work harder to advocate for working people and help them achieve economic stability.” Source

Minimum Wage: As mayor, Buttigieg raised the minimum wage for city employees.  His plan was to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2018, but he moved up the schedule and did it in 2016. Source

Automation & Jobs: “So, finding industries where — or products where because of small intellectual property or security aspect or something about the application or the service that some reason why it does need to be made in the U.S. … But, there’s a bigger picture, which I think is demonstrating that there is a role for American workers to play in a modern and globalized economy that’s not just the role of victim. And so, really highlighting some of these jobs that are being created, again, much less labor intensive than it used to be, you know, a hundred people instead of a thousand for a certain level of output. But the jobs it does create, they’re good jobs, they pay well. And there’s a level of security there.” Source

Housing: As mayor, Buttigieg launched the “1000 Properties in a 1000 Days” program, where the city rebuilt or demolished vacant homes in distressed parts of the city, in an effort to improve those neighborhoods. The project was completed 60+ days ahead of schedule. Source

Economic Growth: “While South Bend’s population declined steadily from 1970 to 2010, in the years since Buttigieg took over as mayor, it’s been growing again. That’s been powered by admitting that the old factories are not going to reopen and refocusing the economic model on higher education, health care, technology, and services.” Source

 

Julian Castro

Taxes: Castro supports raising the marginal tax rate on wealthy individuals, saying, “There was a time in this country where the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent, even during Reagan’s era in the 1980’s it was around 50 percent. So do I support, in order to have something like Medicare for all, that we ask folks that are in the top 0.05 percent or 0.5 percent or the top 1 percent to pay more? And also, that we get more serious about making sure that the corporations pay their fair share.” Source

Minimum Wage:  Castro supports campaign and government staff workers’ rights, including a staff union,  diverse senior staff, $15 minimum wage, paid interns and an anti-harassment policy. Source 

Equal Opportunity: “How do we ensure that everyone–no matter where they live or how much they earn–can make it in America? … First, we must ensure that all communities provide their citizens with a strong foundation, which means ensuring folks have clean water, that electricity and transportation are reliable and available to everyone, that neighborhoods are safe, and that the housing market is free from discrimination and affordable to Americans up and down the income scale. … Second, we must promote smart, inclusive planning in every community. … Finally, our nation must make the investments necessary to prepare citizens, especially our youth, to compete in the global economy.” Source

Automation & Jobs: Castro has talked about investing in “brain power,” meaning education and job training programs. “As for jobs that will continue to be lost due to automation, we don’t have a single person to waste in this country. We need everybody’s talent. We need to make sure that everyone counts in our country, not just some people!” Source

 

John Delaney

Taxes: “A year ago, he wrote a letter urging Trump to raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 23 percent in order to fund a $200 billion infrastructure package. In Congress, he strongly opposed the tax reform bill passed by Republicans in 2017 (which lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent).” Source 

Philosophy: “I’m a big believer in the private economy and market forces, but I also believe there’s a role for government in setting the rules of the road and helping take care of the most vulnerable.” Source

Minimum Wage: “He supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15.” Source 

Equal Pay: “During his three terms representing Maryland in the House, Delaney co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Equal Rights Amendment and the FAMILY Act. He has frequently tweeted about his support for pay equity, and in 2015 he posted a photo of himself holding a sign that read ‘equal pay for equal work is a core American value.'” Source

Job Training: “The way you deal with automation is by upgrading people’s skills so they can get the jobs of the future. National Service helps in that regard because it kind of gives kids a gap year where they have an opportunity get some skills and better position themselves to get some additional education and training.” Source

Automation: “While in Congress, Delaney founded the AI (Artificial Intelligence) caucus and authored legislation to create an advisory committee on AI’s impact in the workforce. He has called for policies that seek to address job loss due to AI and automation.” Source

 

Kirsten Gillibrand

Taxes: “This past summer, she told a crowd that she would support a tax on financial transactions in the stock market, which the New York Times wrote “once would have been unthinkable for a senator from New York, the epicenter of Wall Street money and influence, to back a tax so targeted at her own constituents.” Source 

Minimum Wage: She supports a $15 minimum wage. Source

Equal Pay: “Kirsten really took these issues of family and workplace for women and lifted them up in such a way that they are now the centerpiece of so many conversations in Washington. She deserves a lot of credit for really taking these issues…and putting a big spotlight on them, and saying this is the time, we have to get serious about this. This is not some side issue. This is actually the cornerstone of economic opportunity for American families.” Source

Paid Leave: “The best way to provide national paid leave is to make it an earned benefit.” Gillibrand, alongside Rep. Rosa DeLauro, has reintroduced the FAMILY Act, a plan that would guarantee new parents and other caregivers 12 weeks of paid leave. She’s been talking about this idea for more than five years, and it’s one that would be especially helpful for lower-income families, who often don’t have jobs with paid maternity leave. Source

Automation & Jobs: “She also opposed the bank bailouts after the financial crisis in 2008, she’s endorsed a federal jobs guarantee, and she’s supported training people who lose jobs to automation.” Source 

 

Kamala Harris

Taxes: Harris has written the Lift the Middle Class Act which, instead of giving tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, would give refundable tax credits to the lower and middle classes. Source 

Minimum Wage: Harris supports raising the minimum wage to $15/hr. Source 

Equal Pay: Harris wrote an op-ed arguing for equal pay for women in the workforce. Source

Closing the Wage Gap: Harris has proposed closing the wage gap for teachers vs. other professions (Source), and closing the gap between public defenders and prosecutors. Source

Homeownership: “Kamala Harris, calling on the nation to “deal with the racial wealth gap,” on Saturday proposed a $100 billion federal program to help black people buy homes. The California senator said the plan, which would provide down payment and closing cost assistance of up to $25,000 to people renting or living in historically red-lined communities, would help some 4 million home-buyers.” Source

Automation & Jobs: Harris encourages more funding for workforce training. “As we talk about the economy, one thing that needs to be at the forefront of our minds are the Americans between the ages of 30 and 50 who want to work and are unemployed, or who may lose their jobs to automation. … The reality is that automation has the ability to displace jobs, and we need to be telling the truth about that.” Source

 

John Hickenlooper

Taxes: When Colorado’s tax revenues went up due to retail marijuana sales, Hickenlooper used the money to invest more into education and healthcare. Source 

Taxes: “Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to tinker with Colorado’s tax refunds one more time before leaving office. The Democrat proposed new tax credits for child care and education Thursday in his last official budget… And he wants to return $22 million as tax credits for workforce development, which means the money would go to people continuing their education or retraining for work in a new industry.” Source

Minimum Wage: “Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday threw his support behind Amendment 70, the ballot measure to lift the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour from $8.31 by 2020.” Source 

Equal Pay: “The former governor of Colorado and former Denver mayor has not spoken much publicly about pay equity. In 2018, he did declare April 10 “Equity For All Day” in Colorado, though this was in coordination with an organization’s marketing push for its work to close the gender pay gap.” Source

Economic Record: “Hickenlooper supports pro-business policies and free trade. He opposes President Donald Trump’s trade policy and tariffs on goods from China and the European Union. As a business owner he helped revitalize downtown Denver and as mayor backed a multibillion dollar public transportation initiative, including 119 miles of commuter train track that connects the metro area and suburbs. As governor, Hickenlooper oversaw a booming Colorado economy that was one of the strongest in the country when he left office in 2018.” Source

Jobs: “Hickenlooper has also led the effort to rethink job training in Colorado. He helped start CareerWise, an apprentice program for high school students. And in 2016, working with Microsoft and foundations, Hickenlooper launched Skillful, a nonprofit that helps connect displaced workers with new training and jobs.” Source

 

Jay Inslee

Taxes: “While he has not released a federal tax proposal, he recently introduced a plan in Washington State that would increase several taxes and institute a 9 percent tax on some capital gains.” Source 

Minimum Wage: “Inslee supports increasing the minimum wage, which is currently $12 in Washington state and will rise to $13.50 in 2020.” Source 

Equal Pay: “Inslee signed into law a guaranteed paid family leave plan in 2017, granting eligible parents 12 weeks paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child or for a serious medical condition. He also signed an Equal Pay Opportunity Act that requires employees receive equal pay and work opportunities regardless of gender.” Source

Jobs: Inslee doesn’t see the issue of climate change as separate from other big issues. “During his time as congressman, he co-wrote the book Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean-Energy Economy about a program to fight climate change and boost the nation’s economy through clean energy innovation and job creation.” Source

Jobs: “In 2017, he launched the initiative Career Connect Washington to expand access to high-paying jobs after high school through alternatives to a four-year college degree, including apprenticeships and technical training programs.” Source

 

Amy Klobuchar

Taxes: “We need tax reform for all, not one that cuts Trump family’s taxes by $1.1 billion, gives 50% of benefits to top 1%. How about a new plan?” Source  Klobuchar supports tax reform that would simplify the tax code, fund infrastructure and give incentives for businesses to keep jobs in the U.S. Source

Minimum Wage: “There’s no question about it — the federal minimum wage must be increased to $15 an hour.” Source

Equal Pay: In 2014, Klobuchar released a report on women’s wages and retirement security. “This report clearly shows that lower wages impact women not just during their working years, but straight through retirement. Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act and other policies to help close the pay gap are important for women and their families, but they’re also critical to ensuring the strength of our entire economy.” Source

Women & Entrepreneurship: Klobuchar was the lead sponsor of the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act (in partnership with the National Science Foundation), which passed in 2017. Source

Jobs: To improve the economy, she supports education geared toward invention and entrepreneurship, emphasizing exports and committing resources to federal and private sector research and development. Source

Changing Workforce: “The American workforce is changing & there isn’t just one path to success. There are good jobs that need to be filled — we just need to create and expand apprenticeship and skills training programs to get people the right training.” Source

 

Beto O’Rourke

Taxes: “I think corporations should be asked to pay a greater share into the success of this country. The wealthiest at a time of historic income inequality should be asked to pay a greater share. I don’t know what the levels should be at, but I know that the tax cuts from nearly two years ago of $2 trillion at a time that we had $21 trillion in debt, at a moment of extraordinary need across the country, was one of the most irresponsible things that the country has ever done.” Source 

Minimum Wage: “He said he supports a $15-an-hour minimum wage.” Source 

Equal Pay: “He’s also tweeted about the need for equal pay, and he co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help makes wages more transparent in the workplace.” Source

Importance of Unions: “At a time when unions are under attack, let’s not forget that they are the backbone of our workforce. Critical to bringing more Texans into better, higher paying jobs. Essential to making our communities, businesses, and economy stronger.” Source

Tariffs: “O’Rourke has criticized Mr. Trump’s trade policies, including the imposition of tariffs, which have hurt some farmers and blue-collar workers. In his Senate campaign, he emphasized the needs of farmers, calling for a stronger crop insurance program and federal investments in rural infrastructure, including high-speed internet, roads and schools.” Source

 

Bernie Sanders

Taxes: “To address growing wealth inequality, Sanders wants to expand the estate tax. A plan proposed in January would tax estates starting at $3.5 million, with a 77 percent rate on billionaire estates.” Source 

Minimum Wage: Sanders supports raising the minimum wage to $15/hr. Source 

Equal Pay: “We must follow the example of our brothers and sisters in Iceland and demand equal pay for equal work now, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality.” Source

Paid Family Leave: “He also has made paid family and medical leave a part of his campaign and has supported the Family Act, which would increase payroll taxes in order to fund the leave.” Source

Jobs: “Sanders wants to create jobs by investing heavily in new infrastructure projects that he says will create 13 million jobs over the course of five years. His “Rebuild America Act” would put that money into roads, bridges, water treatment systems, railways and airport projects – and comes with a $1 trillion price tag.” Source

 

Elizabeth Warren

Taxes: “Warren recently proposed a new tax on Americans with a net worth of $50 million or more. CNN reports that Warren’s plan would impose a 2 percent tax on those whose net worth exceeds $50 million and would include an additional 1 percent tax on billionaires.” Source 

Wages: “The Senator believes a minimum wage should be a living wage, one that is able to support a family and allow people the chance to enter the middle class. Warren also wants to end the gender pay gap and supports legislation that would allow women to ask about a colleagues’ salary without the risk of being fired.” Source 

Consumer Protection: Warren is one of the few members of Congress to have created a new agency. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, protects Americans against financial abuse.

Fairer Corporations: “In August 2018, Warren introduced the Accountable Capitalism Act, which would require 40% employee representation on boards of federal corporations with over $1 billion in income, require such enterprises to obtain a “federal charter of corporate citizenship” which would mandate social responsibility by enshrining a kind of triple bottom line, and require 75% shareholder and board member approval for political donations.” The bill would “would redistribute trillions of dollars from rich executives and shareholders to the middle class.” Source

Trade Policies: “Warren is a critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and blames U.S. trade policy more generally for widening economic inequality in the country. While she favors renegotiating NAFTA, she argues the deal Trump struck with Canada and Mexico in 2018 will have few benefits for American workers.” Source 

Protection for Veterans: Warren was a primary sponsor of the the Veterans Care Financial Protection Act, which passed in 2017. Source

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