Where he stands: Pete Buttigieg

One in a series profiling Democratic presidential candidates – in their own words:

 

https://peteforamerica.com/

 

Health care

Provides universal access to affordable coverage for everyone.

For those who want it, Pete’s plan:

  • Preserves Medicare Advantage for 22 million seniors and people with disabilities
  • Allows you to make your own choices whether that’s private insurance or the public option
  • Forces insurance companies to compete and improve

Pete’s plan protects your right to choose your own health plan, and that includes preserving Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C). About one out of three people on Medicare, or 22 million people, rely on Medicare Advantage today. They would lose this choice under Medicare for All.

Pete’s plan won’t increase taxes on middle- or working-class Americans. Instead, he will pay for Medicare for All Who Want It by repealing Trump’s corporate tax breaks and by allowing the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to dramatically lower prescription drug prices.

Under Pete’s plan, if you choose the public option, your employer will be required to continue paying their share of your health care costs.

Infrastructure

Key policies include:

  • Create 6 million well-paying jobs with strong labor protections.For every infrastructure project that his administration funds, Pete will protect and support the Davis-Bacon Act to ensure that workers are paid fair wages and that taxpayers receive the best value for their money.
  • Commit $10 billion to attracting and training a skilled infrastructure workforce, including by supporting pre-apprenticeship programs that collaborate with Registered Apprenticeships. He will also establish a National Infrastructure Accelerator and offer $100 million in grants to support initiatives that introduce K-12 students to infrastructure and clean energy jobs.
  • Dramatically expand access to infrastructure jobs for underrepresented communities. Pete will commit $100 million to expanding Apprenticeship Readiness Programs that help job seekers from underrepresented communities enter apprenticeships and careers.
  • Create a $200 billion transition fund for workers in a clean energy economy. Pete’s transition fund will support programs to align mining and fossil fuel workers with new well-paying jobs with strong labor protections in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure.
  • Ensure lead-free water by investing $20 billion in replacing three million lead service lines by 2030 and supporting best-in-class corrosion control. As a Midwestern mayor of an industrial city, Pete understands the severity of this threat and knows that addressing these problems is not easy. That is why Pete will provide the resources to tackle this crisis by establishing a $100 billion Lead-Safe Communities Fund to address lead in water, paint, and soil.
  • Prevent and address PFAS contamination by establishing science-based standards that limit the amount of PFAS in drinking water and developing safe alternatives to PFAS in commercial use.
  • Lower water bills by an average of 50 percent for 10 million families through a Drinking Water Assistance Matching Fund. Water and wastewater services are unaffordable for nearly 14 million households, and this number could triple within five years. The Fund will provide a 1:3 federal funding match for states and local water systems that assist low-income families with water bill payments.
  • Invest more than $30 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure to expand access to basic services, upgrade existing systems, and drive innovative approaches.
  • Invest $150 billion to support cities and towns in providing equitable public transportation, including improved options for subway, light rail, bus rapid transit, and last-mile service.
  • Expand accessible rural public transportation with a $12 billion investment.
  • Improve the connectivity and safety of our national rail network.
  • Ensure that federal transportation projects improve access to opportunity by determining how effectively they connect people to jobs and services.
  • Double the BUILD program and create a Local Leaders Office at the Department of Transportation (DOT) to help local communities more easily access federal funds and expertise.
  • Create a $3 billion grant program for programs of national significance to facilitate collaboration across states and regions.
  • Provide dedicated funding to repair half of roads in poor condition and structurally deficient bridges by 2030. Pete’s DOT will strengthen State of Good Repair Performance Management requirements and require states to develop achievable plans for maintaining their roads before they use federal funds for new roads or expansions. He will also create a $50 billion grant program for states to repair bridges.
  • Power millions of new electric vehicles (EVs) by investing $6 billion in new charging infrastructure. Investing in EVs is a tool both to combat climate change and to drive manufacturing job growth. Pete will provide $6 billion in grants and loans through the American Clean Energy Bank for states and cities to partner with private companies and unions on installing publicly available charging infrastructure powered by clean energy. At least 40 percent of the funds will be available for projects in multi-unit dwellings and economically disadvantaged communities.
  • Make the Highway Trust Fund solvent. The Highway Trust Fund has been insolvent since 2008, causing uncertainty about whether states can complete projects. Pete will inject $165 billion into the Fund to ensure that it remains solvent through 2029.
  • Build safer roads for all, including by doubling funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program to install more accessible sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes. Pete will provide incentives for states, cities, and counties to build safe, accessible roads and retrofit existing unsafe roads. His DOT will work with tribal communities to ensure that roads in Indian Country are safe for families.
  • Increase funding in the Highway Safety Improvement Program for building safer rural roads. Pete’s DOT will also fund studies to improve road safety on rural roads, which account for 50 percent of traffic fatalities and are over twice as deadly as urban roads.
  • Connect funding to safety performance by requiring state transportation agencies to set targets that reduce fatalities and injuries and are consistent with a national Vision Zero goal. Pete’s administration will require states to improve their safety records or road design processes, or else lose federal funding for other roadway projects.
  • Incentivize safe driving practices. Pete will increase federal funding to $1 billion a year for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Highway Administration to address unsafe driving behavior, research solutions for distracted driving, and strengthen enforcement.
  • Protect millions of families from lead poisoning by investing $80 billion in lead-based paint remediation and ensuring that the EPA fully enforces the Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule.
  • Double funding for Community Development Block Grants.
  • Create good infrastructure jobs in local communities, including by extending the DOT’s Local Labor Hiring Preference Pilot and promoting Community Benefit Agreements.
  • Repair school infrastructure. America’s $46 billion annual funding gap for repairing school buildings harms many students, including students in communities of color who suffer from poor heating and mold in classrooms. Pete’s administration will provide schools with $80 billion in grants and loans to repair classrooms and facilities.
  • Offer cities and states $3 billion to launch programs that lower infrastructure costs for low-income families.
  • Mitigate past injustices in transportation planning. Pete will use innovative solutions like complete urban streets to mitigate the negative effects of highway expansion projects on Black and Latino neighborhoods.
  • Ensure full high-speed broadband coverage with an $80 billion Internet For All initiative.
  • Ensure that students can use the Internet to learn and succeed.
  • Make broadband more affordable, especially for low-income families.
  • Repair and modernize flood protection systems in every community that needs it by 2030.
  • Prepare for rising seas with a $40 billion Sea Level Defense Fund.
  • Empower communities to develop tailored solutions for resilience through Cooperative Extensions for Climate and Flood Resilience.
  • Increase reliable water supply to mitigate the effects of drought.
  • Expand pre-disaster mitigation programs for inland and coastal areas.
  • Create a U.S. Infrastructure Cyber-Protection Taskforce to protect against digital threats.
  • Build a more resilient electric grid by improving risk management and emergency response.
  • Protect against wildfires, including by recruiting 5,000 firefighters and fire management experts.
  • Develop smart and integrated infrastructure by establishing a Digital Infrastructure Council and tasking every infrastructure agency with creating a digital infrastructure strategy.
  • Lead the world in safe and zero-emissions autonomous vehicle technology.
  • Create the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Infrastructure to research innovative infrastructure technologies and solutions.

Economy

Lower housing costs. Pete will invest $430 billion in affordable housing and other measures to bring housing costs down for working families. … He will enable more than 2 million more units of affordable housing to be built or restored where it is needed most, using billions of dollars of investments in the Housing Trust Fund, Capital Magnet Fund, HOME and CDBG funds, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. He will enable 1 million low-income families to become homeowners by providing federal down payment assistance and matching funds to scale successful local programs. His administration will invest $170 billion to ensure that all eligible families with children receive housing choice vouchers, and that they also have access to wraparound services that unlock high-opportunity neighborhoods. … Pete will also work with states and cities to reform local zoning laws to make it easier to build housing for working and middle class-families, and repair or replace deteriorated public housing stock. … And he will pass the 21st Century Community Homestead Act to facilitate wealth accumulation through homeownership for low-income families from formerly redlined neighborhoods, supporting neighborhood revitalization that benefits local residents.

Lower child care costs. In more than half of states, a year of child care is more expensive than in-state college tuition — preventing millions of children from accessing the high-quality early learning that catalyzes critical early development. That’s why Pete will make a $700 billion investment in affordable, universal, high-quality early learning, as well as outside-of-school learning opportunities in K-12 education. He will make early learning and care from birth through age 5 free for lower-income families and affordable for all families, and invest in workforce development and compensation for the child care workforce. … He will strengthen and build on Head Start, the successful public program that has positive outcomes for K-12 school performance, child development, and economic success. …

Lower college costs. Tuition at public four-year colleges has tripled over the last 30 years. … That’s why Pete will invest $500 billion to make college affordable for working and middle class families. The 80% of families of public college students that earn up to $100,000 will not pay any public college tuition. The next 10% of families, earning $100,000-$150,000, will get a reduced public tuition on a sliding scale. To keep tuition costs in check, in exchange for receiving federal dollars states will guarantee to invest in their public higher education systems and constrain tuition increases. Larger Pell Grants for students at public colleges will help with costs such as housing and transportation, enabling students from low-income backgrounds to graduate completely debt free. And Pete will make $50 billion in new investments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions to help students of color thrive.

Grow workers’ income by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to increase incomes by an average of $1,000 per year for 35 million American families, as proposed in the Working Families Tax Relief Act by Senators Brown, Bennet, Durbin, and Wyden. This $400 billion tax cut offsets income taxes and other taxes that eat into workers’ take-home pay.

Pass a $15 minimum wage that delivers a raise to more than 25 million low-wage workers and spurs wage increases for millions more middle-wage workers. Pete will also end the tipped minimum wage and the subminimum wage.

Ensure all working Americans have access to paid sick leave and 12 weeks of comprehensive paid family and medical leave. Pete will pass an enhanced version of the FAMILY Act to create a national paid family and medical leave fund, which will include making sure that benefits for lower-income workers are high enough for workers to afford to take leave.

Require gender pay transparency, banning the use of salary history to determine wages, passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, aggressively enforcing anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws, and ensuring women can access the STEM education and technical training that enable them to join and lead America’s most innovative industries.

Through actions that include launching the Walker-Lewis Initiative, expanding the SBA Microloan Program, doubling large SBA 7a loans awarded to women-owned small businesses, and supercharging investment (5X) in Community Development Finance Institutions, Pete will unlock $60 billion to support underrepresented entrepreneurs including Black Americans and women.

Increase salaries for teachers, domestic workers, and direct care workers by raising pay standards, ensuring the right to union representation and bargaining, and creating pathways to career development and certification.

Grow job training programs for all workers of all ages in every city and town in America. Pete will invest $50 billion in workforce training and lifelong learning. Local non-profits, unions, employers, and community colleges have created proven pathways for young and middle-age workers into good jobs in health care, technology, clean energy, and other local growth industries. Pete will invest federal dollars into these programs so that incomes can grow for all workers, whether or not they have a college degree.

Hold employers accountable to labor law. Pete will codify and strictly enforce simple tests to prevent workers from being denied minimum wage, overtime, and antidiscrimination protections, and their ability to unionize.

Protect unions. Pete will double union membership by imposing the strongest union protections ever, including equal-speech rights in union elections, multimillion-dollar penalties to employers that interfere with union elections, and an end to so-called “right-to-work” laws.

Grow unions for the future. Pete will enable multi-employer bargaining and ensure that gig workers can unionize, expanding union protections and power.

Expand worker protections for gig workers, farm workers, and domestic workers, all of whom are currently denied protections.

Where he stands: Michael Bloomberg

One in a series profiling Democratic presidential candidates – in their own words:

 

https://www.mikebloomberg.com/getting-it-done

 

Economy

  • Creating jobs

Mike will launch a major public research and development initiative in industries like agriculture, manufacturing, and medicine to create jobs and reward cities with the best plans for inclusive growth. He will also invest in community college partnerships and apprenticeships that connect people with identifiable jobs and career paths.

  • Minimum wage

Mike’s plan will enhance the Earned Income Tax Credit, pay it monthly and pay more where it’s most needed. Mike will also increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, indexed to inflation, ensure affordable child care, paid family leave and the right to sue employers for harassment and discrimination related to characteristics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, veteran status or disability. And his plan will grant all workers — including gig, contract and franchise employees — the right to organize and bargain collectively.

  • Small businesses

Mike will set up “Business Resource Centers” across the country to help entrepreneurs access capital, navigate bureaucracy and take advantage of federal programs. And he will consolidate programs for small businesses in the Small Business Administration, and increase staffing and funding.

  • Rural America

Mike’s plan will include improving rural America’s connection to growth centers – for example, by investing in rural broadband access. These areas will be provided with technical assistance to help reap benefits from efforts to connect them with educational institutions, entrepreneurial projects and the online information economy.

Climate change

  • Mike Bloomberg commits to propelling the country towards a 100% clean-energy economy-wide future … before 2050, slashing emissions by 50% across the U.S. economy in 10 years. Mike calls for phasing out all carbon and health-threatening pollution in the electricity sector, ensuring 80% clean electricity by the end of his second term of office.
  • Immediately rejoin the Paris Agreement and meet the targets science recommends. …
  • Restore U.S. contributions to the Green Climate Fund, so that developed countries meet and exceed their goal to contribute $100 billion a year to developing countries, and ensure that this funding enables these countries to access affordable clean energy and strengthen their resilience to natural disasters.
  • Achieve reductions in all greenhouse gases, including … refrigerants, methane, and black-carbon emissions. Submit the Kigali Amendment to the Senate for ratification; improve satellite detection of methane leaks worldwide; reinstate U.S. leadership on the Arctic Council and prioritize the removal of black carbon from the atmosphere; and strengthen efforts to reduce emissions from the shipping and aviation industries.
  • Make climate change a top priority of U.S. foreign policy, and intensify U.S. and international actions to stop the expansion of coal and otherwise lower emissions. …
  • Calculate the costs of U.S. climate change efforts and apply a corresponding border adjustment – a charge on imports and a tax break for exports – for emissions-intensive goods.
  • Work with other countries to jointly end export assistance for fossil fuel investments.
  • Hold governments accountable and penalize corporations responsible for deforestation and other practices that increase climate change and rob indigenous peoples of their lives and communities.
  • Mandate the disclosure of all climate-related risks, including the full cost of retiring fossil-fuel assets, and greenhouse gas reporting. Furthermore, institute stress testing of financial institutions, including banks. Work with financial regulators around the world to do the same, and standardize these actions.
  • Encourage the G20 and the Financial Stability Board to develop a Task Force that would bring financial institutions together with multilateral and national development banks to finance clean energy and resilience projects in developing countries.
  • Protect national security, and ensure that the world’s most vulnerable people are kept safe from the impacts of climate change.
  • … Create an entry point to apply for refugee status in the United States at a minimum.
  • Make funding clean energy and resilience a priority for U.S. development assistance programs in the President’s annual budget request.
  • Establish an Office of Climate Security in the White House to coordinate climate-related strategies in intelligence, defense, development and diplomacy, and will include civilian and military staff.
  • Lead a new council bringing together all research-focused federal agencies, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to work together on R&D challenges affecting the most vulnerable to climate change.
  • Put military bases at home and abroad on a path to self-sufficiency by improving the resilience of all infrastructure that the military relies on at home and abroad from the effects of climate change, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. …
  • Help homeowners, building owners and tenants replace appliances, and upgrade existing buildings to save energy and reduce building emissions.

E-cigarettes

  • Direct the FDA to prohibit the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes, as well as all menthol-flavored tobacco products. .,.
  • Reduce tobacco use by increasing the federal tax on cigarettes by $1. …
  • Fight back against addiction. Nicotine levels in e-cigarettes are boosted to increase the chance of addiction in children. The same is true of traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products marketed to all ages. As president, Mike will mandate the reduction of nicotine in tobacco products to make them less addictive.
  • Make it easier for smokers to quit. … As president, Mike will make health insurance companies cover counseling and cessation medicines for smokers trying to quit. These services will be provided without co-pays, prior authorization requirements or limits on the duration of treatment. Mike will also require the FDA to expedite the approval of improved smoking-cessation products through its Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Gun safety

More effective background checks:

  • Require point-of-sale background checks for all gun sales and close the private sale loophole, which enables prohibited people to buy guns simply by finding unlicensed sellers at gun shows or on the Internet.
  • Require every gun buyer to get a permit before making a purchase.
  • Use sales records to identify crime guns and notify local police when individuals have been prohibited from having a gun. A central system will let local authorities know when a gun owner has become barred from having firearms – due to a criminal conviction or a restraining order.
  • Allow for extreme risk screening before guns are purchased so that issuers would be equipped to deny permits to troubled people who pose a danger to themselves or others. …

Keep guns out of the wrong hands:

  • Close the “boyfriend loophole” which allows domestic abusers to have guns, despite criminal convictions or restraining orders simply because they are not married to their victims.
  • Pass a federal red flag law that expands extreme risk orders to 50 states, and funds state efforts to maximize the policy.
  • Require buyers to be at least 21 years old to buy handguns and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.
  • Set a temporary ban on gun possession by assault and other violent misdemeanor offenders.

Ban assault weapons, protect schools, and prevent unintentional shootings:

  • Reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
  • Require secure storage of firearms, which have been shown to reduce the risk of child gun injuries by up to 85 percent. However, an estimated 4.6 million American children live in houses with an unlocked gun.
  • Ban all guns in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, except for law enforcement.

Tackle daily gun violence in the hardest-hit communities:

  • Fund at least $100 million annually for local violence intervention programs.
  • Increase ATF funding by up to $100 million annually so that the Bureau is able to police the gun industry more effectively.
  • Fund at least $100 million annually for public health research into gun violence.
  • Require all buyers to wait at least 48 hours before any firearm purchase.
  • Make straw purchasing and trafficking stand-alone federal crimes, with serious penalties for offenders in order to help stop illicit sales.
  • Require all gun owners to report to police if their firearms have been lost or stolen, within three days after they know or should know that their guns are missing.
  • Repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) so that gunmakers and gun dealers will no longer have broad immunity from civil lawsuits.
  • Allow the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to treat guns like other household products so that the federal government will have the power to set safety requirements for gun technology.
  • Formally declare the gun violence crisis to be a public health emergency to expedite funds and research.
  • Appoint a White House gun coordinator to mobilize the public to fight gun violence and launch an interagency hub to fight gun violence.
  • Focus executive energy on suicide reduction, school safety interventions, and corporate partnerships.

Health care

  • Public option. The first step is to create a Medicare-like public option — health insurance that would be administered by the federal government but paid for by customer premiums. Priority would go to the uninsured, including low-income people who are in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the ACA. A public insurance option would improve consumer choice and increase competition in the private insurance market, lower everyone’s premiums. People of modest means who buy the public option would be eligible for the same subsidies that would apply on the health insurance exchanges.
  • Build on the Affordable Care Act. The ACA made great strides in helping people who don’t get health insurance through an employer afford coverage in the individual market. Mike … would expand enrollment efforts, restrict the sale of health plans that don’t meet ACA standards, and defend the law against politically motivated lawsuits. He would expand subsidies to cap premiums at 8.5% of a household’s income. He would create a permanent reinsurance program that, by helping insurers with the largest claims, would reduce customer premiums roughly 10%. Finally, because about a third of Americans choose not to see a dentist regularly because it is too expensive, Mike would expand Medicare to include an optional policy covering dental, hearing, and vision care, and would require all states to cover oral health services for adults in Medicaid.
  • Cap health care prices and ban surprise medical bills. … To bring prices down, Mike would cap out-of-network charges at 200% of Medicare rates. (Medicare does something similar; beneficiaries enrolled in private plans, known as Medicare Advantage plans, have capped prices for out-of-network providers. This cap protects beneficiaries, and, at the same time, gives private insurers greater leverage in negotiating rates with hospitals and clinicians.)
  • Lower drug costs. Mike would work with Congress to authorize the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. The government would cap drug prices at 120% of the average in other advanced nations — and this cap would apply to consumers with public or private insurance. Mike would ban drug company payments to the people who make decisions at pharmacies so that drug makers compete on the cost and value of their products — not on the amount of money they pay to get preferential treatment.

Maternal health

  • … Mike’s plan encourages states to pass laws that allow trained medical professionals to provide more care that is currently limited to a doctor’s scope. This is also aimed at providing better care for more women, especially in rural areas.
  • His proposal calls for the expansion of the National Health Service Corps, which offers loan repayment and scholarship opportunities for doctors who practice in high-need areas, to also cover medical students from minority communities. And he will boost funding for medical schools at historically black colleges and universities to increase the number of people of color in the health care workforce.
  • The plan re-confirms Mike’s long-standing support for women’s reproductive rights. Mike will work with Congress to codify Roe v. Wade into law, guaranteeing legal access to safe abortion in all 50 states. He will also partner with Congress to repeal the Hyde amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of incest or rape.

Housing

  • Mike will work to alleviate the nation’s severe shortage of affordable housing, break down barriers to building it in places where people want to live and ensure that the nation’s poorest can get into it. …
  • He will expand the Low Income Tax Credit, with conditions to ensure that more new construction is in low-income areas with substantial community investments to improve schools and reduce crime.
  • He will increase funding to federal affordable housing programs, such as the Public Housing Capital Fund, the HOME program, Community Development Block Grants, the Capital Magnet Fund and the Housing Trust Fund. …
  • He will set aside $10 billion in federal funds for a competition to reward municipalities that remove obstacles to the construction of affordable housing in neighborhoods with good schools, transportation and economic opportunities — for example, by changing zoning rules or allowing property owners to build additional housing units. Research suggests that in some cities, zoning restrictions increase housing costs by 50% or more.
  • He will enforce Department of Housing and Urban Development rules, such as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, that require cities to demonstrate progress in addressing segregation — for example, by removing exclusionary zoning regulations. …
  • He will increase funding for housing vouchers. It’s unacceptable that only one in four households that qualify for federal housing assistance actually receive it.
  • He will make it easier for people using vouchers to move to where opportunities are — for example, by administering them regionally and matching their value to rents by ZIP code.
  • Mike will … expand efforts to provide housing and prevent people from becoming homeless. …
  • He will expand permanent supportive housing, which provides stability to the chronic homeless, provides services to address issues such as substance abuse and seeks to graduate them to independent living. This approach … reduces the use of publicly-funded crisis services, including shelters, hospitals, psychiatric centers and prisons.
  • He will use federal funds to encourage cities to adopt rapid rehousing strategies, which provide housing search support and short-term rental assistance, and to implement strategies that prioritize access for the homeless and provide support and work training needed to achieve economic independence.
  • He will expand federal grants to cities that implement effective homelessness prevention programs such as Homebase, which work to keep people facing crises in their homes, including with legal aid and temporary financial assistance.
  • Mike recognizes that generations of discriminatory public policy — such as redlining, which effectively denied federal loan guarantees to minorities — have prevented some Americans from accumulating housing wealth and left them concentrated in high-poverty, low-opportunity neighborhoods. …
  • He will create a Housing Fairness Commission, funded with an initial $10 billion, to work with municipalities and nonprofits on testing policies aimed at reversing the effects of discrimination and expanding programs that work.
  • He will expand Fair Housing Act protections to include all relevant forms of discrimination, such as family status, veteran status, sexual orientation and source of funds.
  • He will enforce fair lending laws and keep gathering the data needed to do so.
  • He will revive HUD’s efforts to enforce progress on housing desegregation (under its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule) and ensure people’s right to challenge discriminatory policies in the courts (under its disparate impact rule).

Criminal justice

  • Sentencing reform: Mike supports the First Step Act but he believes that Washington can go further. The Justice Department should provide incentives for states to experiment with and evaluate the impact of shorter sentences.
  • Prison reform: … Mike will push to expand alternative-to-incarceration programs that have a proven record of success, based on his work in New York City. He’ll expand drug treatment, mental health services, and re-entry and career-training for people who are incarcerated. He will restore access to Pell Grant funding for incarcerated individuals, allowing them to pay for post-secondary education while in prison. And he will lower barriers to hiring for public employee and government contractor positions so that job applicants are not asked about their criminal records until after they receive a conditional offer.
  • Bail reform: Americans are spending almost $10 billion a year to incarcerate people who are awaiting trial – in other words, who haven’t yet been convicted of a crime. Many have been granted bail but can’t afford to pay. At the same time, African Americans and Latinos are less likely to be granted bail, which is the definition of injustice. Mike supports reform efforts that aim to reduce or eliminate cash bail for non-violent offenders.
  • Juvenile justice reform: There are more than 50,000 young people in confinement away from their homes. Close to 17,000 of them are being held for low-level, non-violent crimes, and 6,000 are being held before even being convicted. Mike will launch a nationwide initiative to cut imprisonment of young people in half by the end of his first term and eliminate juvenile incarceration for all non-violent offenders.

Veterans services

  • Creates a central repository of the skills required for a military position and the most common civilian jobs that are related.
  • Educates companies to better understand the unique skills that veterans bring to the workforce, including the value in including veterans as part of their diversity-and-inclusion efforts.
  • Calls for the collection of data and developing systems to better evaluate the needs of veterans in order to inform and prioritize future employment support services.
  • Offers credentialing services and support throughout a veteran’s entire career.
  • Makes employment and education benefits available to veterans, and provides critical financial literacy support to help protect veterans and their families from predatory lenders.
  • Helps veterans transition to life outside of the military and into new communities.
  • Mike’s plan also provides relief to any veterans who need support to combat the isolation that may contribute to veteran homelessness, opioid use and suicide.

Voter rights

  • Protecting voting rights for all Americans. Mike will fix burdensome voting laws and practices that make it more difficult for Black and Latino voters, Native Americans, transgender people, and people with disabilities to vote in federal elections. And he will end voter suppression by banning states from purging eligible voters.
  • Preventing gerrymandering and eliminating partisan influence in elections. Mike will require states to establish independent redistricting commissions to draw federal congressional districts, through a transparent and inclusive process, that produces fair representation. This is especially important for communities of color. …
  • Making it easy for all eligible voters to cast their ballots. Mike will make it simpler to vote by implementing uniform standards for federal elections across states, requiring policies like automatic voter registration and early voting, and ensuring the availability and accessibility of polling places.
  • Modernizing election infrastructure so our elections are safe and secure. Mike will … mandate the use of state-of-the-art voting machines, provide training and technical assistance for election officials, and require the Department of Homeland Security to assess threats prior to elections.

Too complex to succeed

A new article reiterates what I’ve seen for awhile: Many Americans aren’t making enough money to make ends meet, much less save for retirement.

 

“Our research has shown that 78 percent of people are living paycheck to paycheck,” financial expert Chris Hogan said on Yahoo Finance’s On the Move. “That means if one check doesn’t show up, they don’t have enough to really make basic needs met month in and month out. So we need a wake-up call all the way around, and people need to engage in this and get more serious.”

Hogan added that he doesn’t think “people understand that it’s really important for us to make sure that we’re putting money away and saving because if we don’t save some money, we won’t have any to spend later.”

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/personal-finance-us-debt-wakeup-call-180504062.html

Survival mode

While that second paragraph is true, I’m not sure Hogan understands how deep this crisis really is. I’ve worked two jobs in the past 10 years where I’ve earned between $9 and $10 an hour. The first job was in a call center, with mostly college-age kids earning spending money. The second was at a company serving adults with developmental disabilities. Many of the people I worked with there had second jobs or took overtime whenever they could because they had a family to provide for.

No one can live on $10 an hour, which is above Ohio’s minimum wage of $8.55 an hour (but not by much). Saving money for a rainy day isn’t an option. It’s already raining.

The unemployment rate is 3.6 percent, the lowest rate in five decades. Yet hourly income rose only 3.2 percent over the last year, less than earlier projections.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/03/upshot/unemployment-inflation-changing-economic-fundamentals.html

Debt inevitable?

The Yahoo article further states that according to a recent survey conducted by Freedom Debt Relief, 41 percent of Americans have not set aside any money at all for retirement. The main reason indicated was due to the cost of everyday expenses.

Debt was another impediment to saving adequately. About 79 percent of those surveyed said they have debt: Credit card debt accounted for 46 percent, mortgage debt 41 percent, and auto loan debt 28 percent.

“Having fallen into that trap myself and taken a few years to get out of it, I really want to encourage college students to avoid this trap,” Hogan said. “Credit card debt is something that once they get their hooks into you, this can take you 12 to 15 years if you’re not aware of it to attack it and get it out of your life. So, I want people to understand credit.”

 

Hogan works for daveramsey.com, which abhors debt of any kind – including mortgage and credit card debt.

Hogan and Ramsey have a point, but I won’t go that far. I will say this: Don’t spend more than you can pay off every month. We have a major credit card; debt is not an issue for us, because we write a check for the balance before each month’s due date. We have a mortgage, but again we make the monthly payments on time.

We can afford the payments. That kind of debt is acceptable, in my opinion.

When I worked for the call center, we dipped into our savings to pay the bills. When I had the second $10 an hour job, my wife also was (and still is) working, so between us we covered our expenses.

While unemployment is low and the economy appears to be booming, wages have not kept up. If you work in the tech industry or in a few other sectors, you’re making good money. But many folks aren’t sharing in the wealth. If the best you can do is $10 an hour – or if that’s all the company or industry is willing to pay – then you will struggle to make ends meet.

A complex economy

But the economy is not that simple. According to inequality.org:

 

The higher the U.S. income group, the larger the share of that income is derived from investment profits. By contrast, Americans who are not among the ultra-rich get the vast majority of their income from wages and salaries. This disparity has contributed significantly to increasing inequality because of the preferential tax treatment of long-term capital gains. Currently, the top marginal tax rate for the richest Americans is 37 percent, while the top rate for long-term capital gains is just 20 percent.

 

I had one job for 24 years that offered a generous 401(k) plan. I don’t consider myself “ultra-rich,” but that investment plan will soon pay dividends as I near the time when I can begin withdrawing from it. The money I put into the 401(k) during my working years was pre-tax money that we never saw. We learned to live without it.

Oh, for simpler times when we could spend less than we brought home, and when we could afford to invest part of our paychecks into a retirement fund.

This is why we need education beyond high school, whether college or a trade school, to learn skills so that we can make a living wage.

Simplicity outdated?

In the June/July 2019 issue of AARP The Magazine which came in the mail this week, Jeff Daniels describes his role as Atticus Finch in the Broadway version of To Kill a Mockingbird. AARP compares Daniels’ version with the 1962 movie, which has never been remade, in which Gregory Peck portrayed Atticus.

AARP compares the two men’s versions of Atticus with these words:

 

While Peck’s Atticus represents virtues that are timeless, he is perhaps too simplistic to be a modern figure, just as “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is too simple to be a modern love song. His Atticus is modest, fierce, brilliant, austere and self-contained. Though people need him, he doesn’t need other people. Daniels’ version has a broader range of feeling and a decided warmth …

Peck’s portrayal is, in addition, from the era when American movie heroes … met danger courageously and hoped to persuade by their example … Daniels’ Atticus, by contrast, seems to be shadowed by the awareness that doing all he can might not be enough. Along with the rest of us, he seems to share the modern awareness that life is possibly too complex, and too many interests are at stake, for a single moral stance to answer all situations. (emphasis mine)

 

Is our modern life so complex that we can’t determine what financial and social values would benefit society as a whole? Do we not even care about that anymore?

Are we so caught up in our own individual pursuits that we have lost the big picture of life?

I’ve met many wonderful people making less than a living wage. Many hop from job to job, trying to get ahead. We too often are leaving these folks behind, in the pursuit of our own goals.

Can we work together to improve all of our lives? Is that even possible today?

I wonder.

Majoring in minor issues

My outlook on life is changing a little bit these days.

I’m much more detached when reading or watching the news. Politics, especially at the national level, doesn’t interest me much anymore.

I’d rather deal in real life.

Politics

For those of you who live and die by what the Democrats and/or Republicans do, I’m sure you won’t understand.

As a newspaper journalist for about three decades, I followed politics closely, because it sold papers.

Does it still?

Perhaps that’s one reason why what newspapers print isn’t the talk of the town anymore. Their editorial pages, as they have always done, focus on politics and not much else.

Not even government. Politics.

There’s a difference.

I rarely read any editorial page columns. They are so predictable. They say the same thing every day, using the issue of the day to promote their agenda.

Most of them these days slam President Trump. I get that.

But how many times do you have to say it?

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed to have an actual discourse leading to a summit, where they would talk about nuclear weapons, among other things.

The summit apparently fell through.

That was interesting, though.

But decades of mistrust can’t end in a few short weeks.

Maybe someday.

For the most part, the national discourse majors in minor issues.

Is kneeling during the National Anthem before NFL games really an issue worth dividing the country over?

Are school shootings really about gun control, or is something deeper at work there?

Do thoughts and prayers actually work? Do they change our outlook on life?

Sex

What’s the point of the #metoo movement, actually? Is it women’s rights, or is there something bigger at work there as well?

We are a sex-crazed society. We are massively messed up, and we all know it.

Exhibit A: #metoo.

Exhibit B: The divorce rate.

Exhibit C: Sex outside of marriage, including among teens, is not only normal, it is expected.

Exhibit D: Pornography is out of control in this country.

Exhibit E: Rape, sexual bondage, date rape …

Exhibit F: Clothing choices. How much cleavage is too much? Only for women, of course.

Exhibit G: Gender identity. Just the fact that we’re talking about this means we don’t know who we are anymore.

I don’t even have to quote statistics. You understand all of this because you experience it, or you know people who do.

But we won’t talk about it.

Not in a way that actually solves anything.

How do we expect to resolve the #metoo movement without talking about the role of sex in society? If sex outside of marriage is normal, why are we surprised when many men (and women) push the limits?

Nearly every song on the radio is about sex, some more blatantly than others. That’s been true for decades. I frequently listen to an oldies’ station that plays songs from my teen years. Talk about politically incorrect …

And yet we still play them. And listen.

Escape

Why are video games so popular? And illegal drugs? And porn?

Those are escapes from real life.

Real life is full of anxiety and stress. We don’t know how to solve real issues. Relationships. School. Jobs.

I’ve done the whole job search thing, and it’s not designed to bring out the best in anyone. It’s not even designed to connect passions with talent with careers. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

Some people say there’s no jobs out there. I see “now hiring” and “drivers wanted” and “positions available, all shifts” signs all over the place.

On the other end of the spectrum, highly technical jobs go unfilled because not enough of us are trained for them.

Most of us would prefer a job/career somewhere in the middle, something more than minimum wage and something that doesn’t require an advanced degree that we don’t have time for or can’t afford to get.

Are most of us left behind?

Dreams

I mentored a fourth-grade student in inner-city Cleveland this spring. He has no concept of a long-term future. All he thinks about is getting dissed by a classmate, for which he gets in trouble. He lives with his grandfather. His mother and two older sisters also are in Cleveland, but he doesn’t see them often. His dad is in Arizona, and my student hopes to move out there with him this summer. Cleveland is too violent, he says.

People are people wherever you go, I told him.

If he leaves Cleveland, will his life magically get better?

I doubt it.

How does arguing about President Trump’s tweets solve my fourth-grader’s lack of focus and maturity? How can he learn not to respond in anger when things don’t go his way?
His family is broken. His school is trying, but isn’t reaching him. His teacher can do only so much.

He got suspended recently for cussing out the school principal. Seriously.

Seriously?

A good friend of mine is a Big Brother to a teenager in another nearby city. That teen also lives in a broken home. Some days, he doesn’t feel like going to school, so he doesn’t.

Is there no big picture in this life?

No goals to aspire to?

No dreams?

Respect

In the mentoring program I’m involved in, we’re not allowed to talk about politics or religion. Too divisive. Yes, they are.

But is that how we solve problems, by saying that certain subjects are off-limits?

I thought democracy meant all issues are on the table. By discussing, even debating, issues, we understand what’s too radical and what actually works.

We don’t know how to talk issues without talking personality. How can we talk about sex without condemning those who practice sex differently than we do? Can we disagree and still respect each other?

That’s what we’ve lost in this country. Respect.

For teachers. For parents. For the boss. For the mayor. For the police.

For ourselves.

I’m right. You’re wrong. The world revolves around me. I can set whatever rules for my life that I want.

And we wonder why we’re so messed up.

A motorcyclist passed me the other day in a right-turn lane. Another vehicle and I were stopped, waiting for traffic to clear before proceeding on to state Route 57, a 45 mph highway at that point. The motorcyclist passed us in the turn lane and roared onto Route 57 before the other driver and I could move.

So much for “look out for motorcycles.” It goes both ways, you know.

Or, I wish you knew.

Faith

So, what is the big picture? How is my outlook changing?

While I can’t talk about my faith in school (unless my student brings it up first, of course), that’s where the answer lies. Not in your perception of faith, or mine, but in real faith.

In a God who wrote the big picture. Who wants the best for us.

Discipline is good, sometimes. My student doesn’t understand that. Most adults don’t either.

Good parents do understand that. Children need boundaries. If you’ve had children, you know this.

So, why do we think that we don’t need boundaries as adults?

Political boundaries change all the time. You and I think differently, so the boundaries I set may not work for you, and vice versa.

If we don’t like them, we can change them.

Why will we not look up? Put the video games down, look away from the porn, turn off the music. LeBron James and Steven Spielberg make far more money than you and I will ever see, but are they the best role models? Do they have all the answers?

When I talk about faith, I don’t even mean in a pastor or the Pope. Their interpretations of faith aren’t always right, either.

The best role model? Jesus Himself. And we killed Him.

If Jesus walked the Earth in the flesh today, we’d kill Him again. I’m sure of it.

We still don’t get it.

We’re searching for love in all the wrong places.

Haven’t heard that song in awhile.