Creating a Fair & Affordable America: FIGHT ECONOMIC INEQUALITY: LOWER COSTS & HIGHER WAGES
Americans from all walks of life, in every zip code, understand that life has gotten much more expensive. Whether it's groceries, medicines, or just about everything else, costs have risen since our pre-COVID days. That's not to say that for millions struggling to maintain a decent standard of living many things weren't too costly then as well – Because they were, and it's gotten even worse.
The federal government needs to move aggressively to make life more affordable.
As a member of Congress, I have a long history of fighting for fair wages and lower prices, like my co-sponsorship of the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Access to Baby Formula Act. As I’ve traveled across the country, I’ve heard firsthand about the help that Americans need to get back on their feet in the face of a challenging economy post-COVID.
As President, I would fight for higher wages for workers to raise the foundation for Americans and work to address rising costs across core categories like food, fuel, childcare, and more. I will additionally prioritize programs to strengthen Social Security, create American Dream Accounts, and pilot UBI.
55% of American consumers feel their personal finances are not in good shape in 2023 after years of inflation following the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, Americans were able to save up to levels not seen in decades, making the pain of 80% of Americans losing their savings and dropping to below pre-pandemic levels all the more stark.
This drop in savings is unsurprising when you look at the increase in the cost of basic necessities like food which outpaced the average inflation rate in the American economy. While the Fed may have gotten control over inflation, prices for food, fuel, appliances, and other core services have far outpaced Americans’ incomes.
While the Fed has been working to fight inflation, there is still more that can and must be done to make basic needs more affordable. So many goods from food to basic necessities are controlled by a few corporations who can artificially inflate prices. This system has led to Americans paying more while farmers get less and the middlemen clean up.
Beyond lowering costs, we also need to increase wages and benefits across the workforce. Though some states have already taken action, the federal minimum wage has not changed since 2009 when it was raised to $7.25 an hour. Meanwhile, the US is one of seven countries worldwide, and the only industrialized country, to not offer paid family leave.
The first way to make life more affordable in America is to raise wages. The federal minimum wage is still a measly $7.25 an hour. That's a starvation wage that disproportionately impacts women generally, and women of color most intensely.
As President, I would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, and index the minimum wage to inflation so workers don't have the purchasing power of their wages eroded.
The federal government has got to use every lever to ratchet down prices. In the area of food, Americans often pay too much because of the very limited number of competitors in the processing business. This reality hurts not just consumers, but also our nation's farmers and ranchers because they have a limited number of places to sell their products. We also need to take a closer look at our farming subsidies and make sure the federal government is helping farmers produce the food Americans actually need.
My administration would overhaul its antitrust laws and beef up enforcement to not only prevent new anti-competitive mergers but to determine which massive food conglomerates need to be broken up.
But it's not limited to food. In industry after industry America has seen rapid consolidation with fewer and fewer companies controlling goods and services. Competition is at the core of American capitalism, and as long as we keep allowing these companies to skirt antitrust legislation, the American consumer will keep paying the price.
Pilot Universal Basic Income
There is no faster or more efficient way to alleviate poverty and fight economic inequality than by distributing resources directly into the hands of Americans in need. As President, I would pilot Universal Basic Income (UBI) in key states and regions to help lift the floor for Americans.
Universal Basic Income, and other forms of direct cash relief, have proven to improve health outcomes, and lower levels of stress, depression, sadness, and loneliness. UBI is also proven to measurably improve Americans’ job prospects, financial stability, and overall well-being. In fact, Finland’s UBI program actually increased the rate of employment, as people felt more secure searching for jobs.
As President, I will work to put cash directly into the hands of those who need it most, piloting Universal Basic income in 20 cities and regions around the country, measuring the results, improving the outcomes, and preparing the US for a national rollout as we learn how it impacts the American economy at scale.
Strengthen our Social Security
A 2022 survey found that over half of Americans have no savings built up for retirement. In those conditions, we cannot allow Republicans to slash Social Security but instead have to work to build it up further so that future generations can access retirement.
As President, I would raise the cap for Social Security contributions to $250,000 to make sure the program lasts for future generations.
Perhaps more importantly, I would create a philanthropic option for those Americans who are fortunate enough to not need their monthly Social Security checks and are willing to donate them to those who could use some extra cash. This would be a simple mechanism our government could implement that would improve the lives of millions, and create a deeper sense of national connectivity and union.
Relieve the Economic Burden for Families
Many families are struggling purely for economic reasons, adding immense stress and pressure on relationships and everyday life.
Child poverty decreased sharply in 2021, due in part to the American Rescue Plan’s 2021 expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which I voted for in Congress. After the expansion expired at the end of 202, 5.2 million more children were in families with incomes below the poverty line in 2022 than in the year before.
As President, I would continue the American Rescue Plan’s Child Tax Credit expansion in 2022, which would have prevented 3 million children from experiencing poverty. Expanding the Child Tax Credit would make the full Child Tax Credit available to children in families with low incomes.
This would raise the maximum amount of the credit from $2,000 per child to $3,600 for young children (up to age 5) and to $3,000 for older children (aged 6-17), and phase out the maximum credit for married couples with incomes over $150,000 and head of households, which includes most single parents, with incomes over $112,500. Finally, I would make sure this program provides the credit to families on a monthly basis, so they can budget and manage their cash flow.
American Dream Accounts
With strong leadership, the future of America can be bright, and it’s important our government shows confidence in our families and our future citizens and leaders.
As President, I would work with Congress to create and pass an Invest in American Children Act which would seed all 3.7 million American children born each year with a $5,000 American Dream Account with a $500 contribution every year until they turn 18. The money will be invested in public financial markets, and students can learn the effects of compound interest, how stocks and bonds work, and how to manage money as they grow up – imagine our nation’s youth entering the workforce with upwards of $20,000 that they saw grow through the power off the market! When our children graduate high school, they will receive full access to their accounts and can continue to invest the funds or use them to start their lives as adults. Graduates completing a year of public service in programs like Americorps or the Peace Corps will receive an extra $10,000.
The money in American Dream Accounts will be tax-free, and can be used by future generations to buy a car, put a down payment on a house, and generally help them launch their lives. This low-cost program would help to close the wealth gap between rich and poor Americans as well as teach kids about investment as their invested money grows in the market.
Provide Federal Paid Family & Sick Leave
I believe that we must have an economic system that encourages hard work, but also allows families to stay together and take care of themselves and their families when challenging circumstances arise. As President, I will fully support Paid Family & Sick Leave for all Americans.
Nearly every industrialized nation has Paid Family Leave, and despite strong public support, the US has not implemented this much-needed policy. While many Americans have access to some Paid Family Leave through their employer, this does not include certain occupations, part-time workers, and lower-wage workers and programs vary from employer to employer.
My plan would create a Federal requirement to offer all employees, regardless of wages or hours, access to Paid Family Leave, so Americans no longer have to choose between keeping their jobs or caring for themselves or a family member. As President, I would mandate employers provide a minimum of 30 weeks Paid Family Leave for both parents, including parents who adopt children.
In addition to Paid Family Leave, I would implement Paid Sick Leave through his vision for Medicare For All, preventing families from making the impossible choice of caring for their own health and wellness or keeping their jobs. See Dean’s Medicare For All plan here.
Here are the bills I’ve already sponsored in Congress, so you know where I stand:
Voted for the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, a bill that takes on Big Oil by banning them from increasing fuel prices to unconscionably excessive levels during national emergencies - and directing penalties earned from enforcement to low-income energy assistance programs
Voted for the The Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act, a package of bipartisan bills to promote a more resilient food system, bolster biofuels infrastructure, increase competition in the meat and poultry sectors, and strengthen our agriculture and food supply chains, building fairer, more competitive markets and stabilizing prices for consumers.
Voted for the Raise the Wage Act, a bill to deliver a long-overdue pay raise to millions of working families who are currently experiencing the longest period in history without an increase in the federal minimum wage.
Sponsored the Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act, a bill to establish and analyze a three-year universal basic income pilot program
Sponsored the FAMILY Act, a bill to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for themselves and their families.
Sponsored the American Family Act, a bill to make Child Tax Credits from the American Recovery Act permanent.
Sponsored the Child Care Stabilization Act, a bill to keep child care centers open and care affordable for American families.
Sponsored the Social Security 2100 Act, a bill to increase benefits for all beneficiaries, extend the trust fund depletion date by over 30 years, repeal the windfall elimination provision (WEP) and government pension offset (GPO), and end the 5 month waiting period for disability benefits, helping the most vulnerable of Social Security beneficiaries, including dependent students, widows and widowers, caregivers, and low-income individuals.
Sponsored Medicare for All to establish a national health insurance program.
Helped pass the Inflation Reduction Law to make energy and medications more affordable and ensure corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.
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