Our Platform

Big Money Out of Politics

The Problem

Six years ago, as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, by a 5-to-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially said to the wealthiest people in this country: you already own much of the American economy. Now, we are going to give you the opportunity to purchase the U.S. Government, the White House, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House, Governors’ seats, legislatures, and State judicial branches as well.

The Citizens United decision hinges on the absurd notion that money is speech, corporations are people, and giving huge piles of undisclosed cash to politicians in exchange for access and influence does not constitute corruption.

During this campaign cycle, billions of dollars from the wealthiest people in this country are already flooding the political process. Super PACs – a direct outgrowth of the Citizens United decision – are enabling the wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country to contribute unlimited amounts of money to campaigns.

The situation has become so absurd that super PACs, which theoretically operate independently of the actual candidates, have more money and more influence over campaigns than the candidates themselves.

We know, for example, that the Koch brothers, the second wealthiest family in America, have made public that they and their network intend to spend at least $750 million on politics during this election. This is more money than either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party will spend.

Let’s be honest and acknowledge what we are talking about. We are talking about a rapid movement in this country toward a political system in which a handful of very wealthy people and special interests will determine who gets elected or who does not get elected. That is not what this country is supposed to be about. That was not Abraham Lincoln’s vision of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

As former President Jimmy Carter recently said, unlimited money in politics, “violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now, it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. Senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over.”

The need for real campaign finance reform is not a progressive issue. It is not a conservative issue. It is an American issue. It is an issue that should concern all Americans, regardless of their political point of view, who wish to preserve the essence of the longest standing democracy in the world, a government that represents all of the people and not a handful of powerful and wealthy special interests.

Real campaign finance reform must happen as soon as possible. That is why we must overturn, through a constitutional amendment, the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision as well as the Buckley v. Valeo decision. That is why we need to pass legislation to require wealthy individuals and corporations who make large campaign contributions to disclose where their money is going. More importantly, it is why we need to move toward the public funding of elections.

Our vision for American democracy should be a nation in which all people, regardless of their income, can participate in the political process, can run for office without begging for contributions from the wealthy and the powerful.

Our vision for the future of this country should be one in which candidates are not telling billionaires at special forums what they can do for them.

Our vision for democracy should be one in which candidates are speaking to the vast majority of our people – working people, the middle class, low-income people, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor – and discussing with them their ideas as to how we can improve lives for all of the people in this country.

The Solution

  • Only appoint Supreme Court justices who will make it a priority to overturn Citizens United and who understand that corruption in politics means more than just quid pro quo.
  • Fight to pass a constitutional amendment making it clear that Congress and the states have the power to regulate money in elections. Fight for a publicly financed, transparent system of campaign financing that amplifies small donations, along the lines of the Fair Elections Now Act.
  • Insist on complete transparency regarding the funding of campaigns, including thorough disclosure of contributions to outside spending groups, via legislation, action by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Election Commission, and Federal Communication Commission, and an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending.
  • Fight to eliminate super PACs and other outside spending abuses.
  • Work to aggressively enforce campaign finance rules.
  • Getting big money out of politics is vital, but much more needs to be done to restore our democracy. Notably, we must ensure that all Americans are guaranteed an effective right to vote. Campaign finance reform must be accompanied by efforts to strengthen voting rights – restoring the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, expanding early voting and vote-by-mail, implementing automatic voter registration, ending gerrymandering and making Election Day a national holiday, among others. When nearly two-thirds of the electorate did not vote in 2014 midterm elections, it is clear we need radical change to bring more people into the political system. Our democracy cannot be truly representative unless elected officials hear from all of their constituents, not just the wealthy and the powerful.
  • Returning to a government of, by, and for the people – not the billionaires and giant corporations – will not be easy. We need not some, but all of the measures highlighted here. We won’t be able to accomplish these on our own. They will require agreement of Congress or, in the case of a constitutional amendment, two-thirds of the Congress and three-quarters of the states. We’re going to get there by building and continuing a movement – a movement with enough power not only to insist that all of our elected representatives return power to the people, a movement that not only identifies the deep corruption of our politics but rejects cynicism and instead insists on solutions, action and accountability.

Income & Wealth Inequality

The Problem

Today, we live in the richest country in the history of the world, but that reality means little because much of that wealth is controlled by a tiny handful of individuals.

The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time, it is the great economic issue of our time, and it is the great political issue of our time.

The reality is that since the mid-1980s there has been an enormous transfer of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the wealthiest people in this country. That is the Robin Hood principle in reverse. That is unacceptable and that has got to change.

Despite huge advancements in technology and productivity, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages. The real median income of male workers is $783 less than it was 42 years ago; while the real median income of female workers is over $1,300 less than it was in 2007. That is unacceptable and that has got to change.

There is something profoundly wrong when one family owns more wealth than the bottom 130 million Americans.

The reality is that for the past 40 years, Wall Street and the billionaire class has rigged the rules to redistribute wealth and income to the wealthiest and most powerful people of this country.

Our Revolution is sending a message to the billionaire class: “you can’t have it all.” You can’t get huge tax breaks while children in this country go hungry. You can’t continue sending our jobs to China while millions are looking for work. You can’t hide your profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens, while there are massive unmet needs on every corner of this nation. Your greed has got to end. You cannot take advantage of all the benefits of America, if you refuse to accept your responsibilities as Americans.

The Solution

  • Demanding that the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes.
  • Stop corporations from shifting their profits and jobs overseas to avoid paying U.S. income taxes.
  • Create a progressive estate tax on the top 0.3 percent of Americans who inherit more than $3.5 million.
  • Enact a tax on Wall Street speculators who caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, homes, and life savings.
  • Increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2020. In the year 2015, no one who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty.
  • Putting at least 13 million Americans to work by investing $1 trillion over five years towards rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, railways, airports, public transit systems, ports, dams, wastewater plants, and other infrastructure needs.
  • Reversing trade policies like NAFTA, CAFTA, and PNTR with China that have driven down wages and caused the loss of millions of jobs. If corporate America wants us to buy their products they need to manufacture those products in this country, not in China or other low-wage countries.
  • Creating 1 million jobs for disadvantaged young Americans by investing $5.5 billion in a youth jobs program. Today, the youth unemployment rate is off the charts. We have got to end this tragedy by making sure teenagers and young adults have the jobs they need to move up the economic ladder.
  • Fighting for pay equity by signing the Paycheck Fairness Act into law. It is an outrage that women earn just 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.
  • Making tuition free at public colleges and universities throughout America. Everyone in this country who studies hard should be able to go to college regardless of income.
  • Expanding Social Security by lifting the cap on taxable income above $250,000. At a time when the senior poverty rate is going up, we have got to make sure that every American can retire with dignity and respect.
  • Guaranteeing healthcare as a right of citizenship by enacting a Medicare for all single-payer healthcare system. It’s time for the U.S. to join every major industrialized country on earth and provide universal healthcare to all.
  • Requiring employers to provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave; two weeks of paid vacation; and 7 days of paid sick days. Real family values are about making sure that parents have the time they need to bond with their babies and take care of their children and relatives when they get ill.
  • Enacting a universal childcare and prekindergarten program. Every psychologist understands that the most formative years for a human being is from the ages 0-3. We have got to make sure every family in America has the opportunity to send their kids to a high quality childcare and pre-K program.
  • Making it easier for workers to join unions by fighting for the Employee Free Choice Act. One of the most significant reasons for the 40-year decline in the middle class is that the rights of workers to collectively bargain for better wages and benefits have been severely undermined.
  • Breaking up huge financial institutions so that they are no longer too big to fail. Seven years ago, the taxpayers of this country bailed out Wall Street because they were too big to fail. Yet, 3 out of the 4 largest financial institutions are 80 percent bigger today than before we bailed them out. We need to fight to get this legislation signed into law.

Creating Decent Paying Jobs

The Problem

For most of our history, the U.S. proudly led the world in building infrastructure that grew our economy, gave our businesses a competitive advantage, and provided our workers a decent standard of living. Sadly, that is no longer the case.

Today, the U.S. spends less than 2 percent of GDP on infrastructure, less than at any point in the last twenty years. Meanwhile, Europe spends close to twice our rate, and China spends close to four times our rate. It is no wonder the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report now ranks our overall infrastructure at 12th in the world – down from 7th place just a decade ago.

The results are all around us:

One of every 9 bridges in our country is structurally deficient, and nearly a quarter are functionally obsolete. Almost one-third of our roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and more than 42 percent of all urban highways are congested. Transit systems across the country struggling to address deferred maintenance and 45% of American households lack any meaningful access to transit at all.

For Instance, one solution we support is Senator Bernie Sanders’ Rebuild America Act that would more than double the current level of funding for the highway and transit accounts of the Highway Trust Fund, and would create a National Infrastructure Bank to leverage private capital to finance more than $125 billion in new projects.

Much of our nation’s rail network is obsolete, even though our energy-efficient railroads move more freight than ever and Amtrak’s ridership has never been higher. While we debate the merits of high-speed rail, countries across Europe and Asia have gone ahead and built vast high-speed rail networks with trains that run at 125-200 miles per hour. Meanwhile, the Acela – Amtrak’s fastest train – travels at an average speed of just 65 miles per hour.

The Rebuild America Act will invest $75 billion to upgrade our passenger and freight rail lines, to move people and goods more quickly and efficiently. It’s time for America to catch up with the rest of the world.

America’s airports are bursting at the seams as the numbers of passengers and cargo have grown to all-time highs. Moreover – and rather incredibly – our airports still rely on antiquated 1960s radar technology, because we have chronically underfunded a new satellite-based air traffic control system. The Rebuild America Act will invest $12.5 billion to improve airports across the country, and $17.5 billion to bring our air traffic control system into the 21st century by accelerating deployment of NextGen technology to make our skies safer and our airports more efficient.

Bottlenecks at our marine seaports – which handle 95% of all overseas imports and exports –prevent goods from getting to their destinations on time. The same is true for our inland waterways – which carry the equivalent of 50 million truck trips of goods each year.

The Rebuild America Act will invest an additional $15 billion over five years to clear the backlog of projects to improve inland waterways, coastal harbors and shipping channels. Our businesses simply can’t compete in the global economy if they can’t move their goods and supplies to, from and within our country more efficiently.

Right now, more than 4,000 of the nation’s 84,000 dams are considered deficient, and one of every eleven levees have been rated as “likely to fail” during a major flood.

The Rebuild America Act will invest $12 billion a year to repair and improve the high-hazard dams that provide flood control, drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, and recreation across the country; and the flood levees that protect our cities and our farms.

Much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life – we lose more than 2 trillion gallons of treated drinking water each year through leaking pipes, faulty meters and nearly a quarter-million water main breaks. Our wastewater treatment plants aren’t in much better shape: almost ten billion gallons of raw sewage are dumped into our nation’s waterways each year when plants fail or pipes burst.

The Rebuild America Act will invest $6 billion a year so states can improve the drinking water systems that provide Americans with clean, safe water; and $6 billion a year to improve the wastewater plants and stormwater infrastructure that protect water quality in our nation’s rivers and lakes.

America’s aging electrical grid – which consists of a patchwork of power generation, transmission, and distribution facilities, some of which date back to the early 1900s – simply isn’t up to 21st century challenges, including resiliency to cyber-attacks. It is no wonder the World Economic Forum ranks our grid at just 24th in the world in terms of reliability, just behind Barbados.

The Rebuild America Act will invest $10 billion a year for power transmission and distribution modernization projects to improve the reliability and resiliency of our ever more complex electric power grid. This investment will also position our grid to accept new sources of locally generated renewable energy, and it will address critical vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks the U.S. 16th in the world in terms of broadband access. We are only marginally better in terms of average broadband speed – 12th in the world. Today, businesses, schools and families in Bucharest, Romania have access to much faster internet than most of the United States. That is unacceptable and has got to change.

The Rebuild America Act will invest $5 billion a year to expand high-speed broadband networks in under-served and unserved areas, and to boost speeds and capacity all across the country. Internet access is no longer a luxury: it is essential for 21st century commerce, education, telemedicine, and public safety.

If $1 trillion over five years sounds like a lot of money, consider that the American Society of Civil Engineers says we need to invest $3.6 trillion by 2020 just to get our nation’s infrastructure to a state of good repair.That is $1.6 trillion short of current spending levels.

Moreover, there is an economic cost of not acting. Several studies have concluded that our deteriorating infrastructure already costs our economy close to $200 billion per year.

Further, investing in infrastructure is not just about “bricks and mortar.” At its core, it is about jobs and the economy.

While the economy has improved significantly since the worst days of the recession, our nation still faces a major jobs crisis. We need to create millions of decent paying jobs, and we need to create them now. And infrastructure spending is one of the best ways to do just that.

The Rebuild America Act would put more than thirteen million Americans to work in decent-paying jobs. These are jobs in sectors of the economy that haven’t fully recovered from the recession, like construction, and they are jobs that cannot be shipped offshore or outsourced overseas.

Moreover, each and every project will require equipment, supplies and services – from architects, engineers, and building materials and supply companies. Thirteen million Americans will spend their hard-earned salaries in their communities, supporting restaurants and local stores.

It is no wonder groups from across the political spectrum – from organized labor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – agree that investing in infrastructure makes sound economic sense. When spending goes up, both GDP and household incomes grow. Even the International Monetary Fund – long a proponent of economic austerity – now says that well-designed infrastructure projects spur almost $3 in economic output for each dollar spent.

Minimum Wage

The Problem

Millions of Americans are working for totally inadequate wages. We must ensure that no full-time worker lives in poverty. The current federal minimum wage is starvation pay and must become a living wage. We must increase it to $15 an hour over the next several years.

We must also establish equal pay for women. It’s unconscionable that women earn less than men for performing the same work.

Millions of American employees have been working 50 or 60 hours a week while receiving no overtime pay. The Administration’s new rule extending that protection to everyone making less than $947 a week is a step in the right direction. It is a win for our economy and for our workers.

Lastly, we must support and strengthen the labor movement to ensure that workers have a say in their own economic futures. We need to support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to organize and bargain collectively.

What can we do about it?

The Solution

  • Fight for a national $15 per hour minimum wage and a union for fast food workers, and federal contract workers.

Combating Climate Change to Save the Planet

The Problem

Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet. The debate is over, and the scientific jury is in: global climate change is real, it is caused mainly by emissions released from burning fossil fuels and it poses a catastrophic threat to the long-term longevity of our planet. If we do nothing, the planet will heat up five to ten degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. That would cause enough sea level rise from melting glaciers to put cities like New York and Miami underwater – along with more frequent asthma attacks, higher food prices, insufficient drinking water and more infectious diseases.

But this isn’t just a problem for the future – the impacts of climate change are apparent here and now. Whether it’s more intense forest fires on the West Coast, or more frequent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, or damaging flash floods in California, climate change is here and it’s already causing devastating human suffering. The worst part is this: people who live in low-income and minority communities will bear the most severe consequences of society’s addiction to fossil fuels.

This is every kind of issue all at once: the financial cost of climate change makes it an economic issue, its effect on clean air and water quality make it a public health problem, its role in exacerbating global conflict and terrorism makes it a national security challenge and its disproportionate impacts on vulnerable communities and on our children and grandchildren make acting on climate change a moral obligation. We have got to solve this problem before it’s too late.

Why haven't we solved it yet?

Solving this should be straightforward. After all, the majority of Americans understand the seriousness of climate change, and they demand action. 97 percent of scientists agree about the urgent need to act and the vocal minority who don’t are bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry. More and more countries around the world are beginning to do their part, by stepping up to significantly curb their use of fossil fuels to become part of the solution. If our democracy worked the way it’s supposed to, that would be enough – the debate would be over, the facts would be heard and lawmakers would obey the will of the people.

But that’s where the billionaire class comes in. Instead of engaging on this issue in good faith and allowing democracy to play out, executives and lobbyists for coal, oil, and gas companies have blocked every attempt to make progress on climate change, and thrown unprecedented amounts of money at elected officials to buy their loyalty. Recent reporting even shows that executives at Exxon pioneered the research on climate change before anyone else did, but may have deliberately lied about it to spread disinformation and confusion to protect their bottom line. It’s eerily reminiscent of the fight over tobacco regulation, when executives from the tobacco companies repeatedly testified before Congress that cigarettes don’t cause cancer. Recently leaked internal documents show that even they knew they were lying.

Let’s be clear: the reason we haven’t solved climate change isn’t because we aren’t doing our part, it’s because a small subsection of the one percent are hell-bent on doing everything in their power to block action. Sadly, they have deliberately chosen to put their profits ahead of the health of our people and planet.

Here’s the good news: our society is already moving in the right direction. Solar panels cost 80 percent less than they did in 2008 and they’re popping up on rooftops everywhere. In fact, nearly a full quarter of the world’s electricity today comes from clean, sustainable resources like the sun and wind. The leaders of the seven major industrialized nations, including the United States, agreed in the summer of 2015 to a long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuels entirely and moving to an economy powered entirely by clean energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal. We’re already transitioning to a clean energy economy – but scientists say we need to do it faster and we need to do it right.

Doing it right means ensuring that workers have the skills, equipment, and training they need to succeed in a clean energy economy. It also means workers need to be able to organize and advocate for good wages and safe working conditions. We know these workers do some of the most important work in America and we need to ensure without a doubt that their livelihoods will be helped – not hurt – by the transition to clean energy.

The key is to stop funding the problem by subsidizing fossil fuels and instead accelerate our path to progress by showcasing our American innovation to accelerate the transition. This is important, because the support of the American people can make an enormous difference. In the 60’s, President Kennedy set a goal that many said was impossible – but by the end of that decade, Neil Armstrong had successfully taken his giant leap for humanity. Our government needs to think that big today and commit to prioritizing the transition to an economy powered by more than 80 percent clean energy sources by 2050. That starts with simple, commonsense steps: instead of subsidizing massive fossil fuel corporations, we can create millions of jobs for working families by investing in clean energy. The answer is clear and affordable. The solutions are within our reach – we just need average Americans to come together to make it happen.

Racial Justice

The Problem

Physical Violence

Perpetrated by the State

Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Jessica Hernandez, Tamir Rice, Jonathan Ferrell, Oscar Grant, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Samuel DuBose and Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas. We know their names. Each of them died unarmed at the hands of police officers or in police custody. The chants are growing louder. People are angry and they have a right to be angry. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that this violence only affects those whose names have appeared on TV or in the newspaper. African-Americans are twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police. African-American and Latinos comprise well over half of all prisoners, even though African-Americans and Latinos make up approximately one quarter of the total US population.

Perpetrated by Extremists

We are far from eradicating racism in this country. Today in America, if you are black, you can be killed for getting a pack of Skittles during a basketball game. Or murdered in your church while you are praying. This violence fills us with outrage, disgust and a deep, deep sadness. These hateful acts of violence amount to acts of terror. They are perpetrated by extremists who want to intimidate and terrorize black, brown and indigenous people in this country.

Political Violence

Disenfranchisement

In the shameful days of open segregation, literacy laws and poll taxes were used to suppress minority voting. Today, through other laws and actions — such as requiring voters to show photo ID, discriminatory drawing of Congressional districts, restricting same-day registration and early voting and aggressively purging voter rolls — states are taking steps which have a similar effect.

The patterns are unmistakable. 11 percent of eligible voters do not have a photo ID—and they are disproportionately black and Latino. In 2012, African-Americans waited twice as long to vote as whites. Some voters in minority precincts waited upwards of six or seven hours to cast a ballot. Meanwhile, thirteen percent of African-American men have lost the right to vote due to felony convictions.

Yet in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the seminal Voting Rights Act, even while saying “voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that.”

This should offend the conscience of every American.

The fight for minority voting rights is a fight for justice. It is inseparable from the struggle for democracy itself.

Legal Violence

Millions of lives have been destroyed because people are in jail for nonviolent crimes. For decades, we have been engaged in a failed “War on Drugs” with racially-biased mandatory minimums that punish people of color unfairly.

It is an obscenity that we stigmatize so many young Americans with a criminal record for smoking marijuana, but not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted for causing the near collapse of our entire economy. This must change.

If current trends continue, one in four black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during their lifetime. Blacks are imprisoned at six times the rate of whites and a report by the Department of Justice found that blacks were three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop, compared to white motorists. Together, African-Americans and Latinos comprised 57 percent of all prisoners in 2014, even though African-Americans and Latinos make up approximately one quarter of the US population. These outcomes are not reflective of increased crime by communities of color, but rather a disparity in enforcement and reporting mechanisms. African-Americans are twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police. This is an unspeakable tragedy.

It is morally repugnant that we have privatized prisons all over America. Corporations should not be allowed to make a profit by building more jails and keeping more Americans behind bars. We have got to end the private for-profit prison racket in America.

The measure of success for law enforcement should not be how many people get locked up. We need to invest in drug courts as well as medical and mental health interventions for people with substance abuse problems, so that people struggling with addiction do not end up in prison, they end up in treatment.

For people who have committed crimes that have landed them in jail, there needs to be a path back from prison. The federal system of parole needs to be reinstated. We need real education and real skills training for the incarcerated.

We must end the over-incarceration of nonviolent young Americans who do not pose a serious threat to our society. It is an international embarrassment that we have more people locked up in jail than any other country on earth – more than even the Communist totalitarian state of China. That has got to end.

We must address the lingering unjust stereotypes that lead to the labeling of black youths as “thugs” and “super predators.” We know the truth that, like every community in this country, the vast majority of people of color are trying to work hard, play by the rules and raise their children. It’s time to stop demonizing minority communities.

In many cities all over our country, the incentives for policing are upside down. Departments are bringing in substantial sums of revenue by seizing the personal property of people who are suspected of criminal involvement. So-called civil asset forfeiture laws allow police to take property from people even before they are charged with a crime, much less convicted of one. Even worse, the system works in a way that makes it very difficult and expensive for an innocent person to get his or her property back. We must end programs that actually reward officials for seizing assets without a criminal conviction or other lawful mandate. Departments and officers should not profit off of such seizures.

Local governments that rely on tickets and fines to pay bills can become dependent on implicit quotas for law enforcement. When policing is a source of revenue tied to the financial sustainability of agencies, officers are pressured to meet internal goals which can lead to unnecessary or unlawful traffic stops and citations which disproportionately affect people of color. Implicit quota systems promote racial stereotyping and breed distrust between officers and communities of color.

Furthermore, we must ensure police departments are not abusing avenues of due process to shield bad actors from accountability. Local governments and police management must show zero tolerance for abuses of police power at all levels. All employees of any kind deserve due process protections, but it must be clear that departments will vigorously investigate and, if necessary, prosecute every allegation of wrongdoing to the fullest extent.

Economic Violence

It is necessary to try to address the rampant economic inequality while also taking on the issue of societal racism. We must simultaneously address the structural and institutional racism which exists in this country, while at the same time we vigorously attack the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality which is making the very rich much richer while everyone else — especially those in our minority communities – are becoming poorer.

In addition to the physical violence faced by too many in our country we need to look at the lives of black children and address some difficult facts. Black children, who make up just 18 percent of preschoolers, account for 48 percent of all out-of-school suspensions before kindergarten. We are failing our black children before kindergarten. Black students are expelled at three times the rate of white students. Black girls are suspended at higher rates than all other girls and most boys. According to the Department of Education, African-American students are more likely to suffer harsh punishments — suspensions and arrests — at school. Black students attend schools with higher concentrations of first-year teachers when compared with white students. Black students are more than three times as likely to attend schools where fewer than 60 percent of teachers meet all state certification and licensure requirements.

Communities of color also face the violence of economic deprivation. Let’s be frank: neighborhoods like those in west Baltimore, where Freddie Gray resided, suffer the most. However, the problem of economic immobility isn’t just a problem for young men like Freddie Gray. Despite hard-work and the will to get ahead, millions of Americans spend their entire lives struggling to survive on the economic treadmill.

We live at a time when most older workers have no retirement savings, and millions of working adults have no idea how they will ever retire in dignity. An unforeseen car accident, a medical emergency, or the loss of a job could send their lives into an economic tailspin. And the problems are even more serious when we consider race.

Let us not forget: It was the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street that nearly drove the economy off of a cliff seven years ago. While millions of Americans lost their jobs, homes, life savings and ability to send their kids to college, African-Americans who were steered into expensive subprime mortgages were the hardest hit.

Most black and Latino households have less than $350 in savings. The black unemployment rate has remained roughly twice as high as the white rate over the last 40 years, regardless of education. Real African-American youth unemployment is over 50 percent. African-American women earn 64 cents for every dollar white men make. This is unacceptable. The American people in general want change — they want a better deal. A fairer deal. A new deal. They want an America with laws and policies that truly reward hard work with economic mobility. They want an America that affords all of its citizens with the economic security to take risks and the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Environmental Violence

Perpetrated by Polluting Industries

People of color disproportionately experience a daily assault on their health and environment. Communities of color are the hardest hit by air and water pollution from industrial factories, power plants, incinerators, chemical waste and lead contamination from old pipes and paint. At the same time, they lack access to parks, gardens and other recreational green space.

Like income inequality, environmental inequality is rapidly growing in the United States.

Black children are five times more likely than white children to have lead poisoning. Indigenous peoples are impacted disproportionately by destructive mining practices and the dumping of hazardous materials on their lands. As demonstrated by Hurricane Katrina, poor communities of color have a harder time escaping, surviving and recovering from climate-related disasters. Taken together, it is clear that people of color experience a disparate exposure to environmental hazards where they “work, live, and play.”

Nationwide, the health of communities is consistently ignored in favor of the profits of corporate polluters. The fact that people of color breathe 46 percent more nitrogen dioxide —which causes respiratory diseases and heart conditions — than whites helps explain why one in six African-American kids has asthma.

The environmental violence being inflicted on people of color who are denied the full rights of citizenship — especially migrant workers and new immigrants — is especially pronounced. Low-income Latino immigrants are more likely to live in areas with high levels of hazardous air pollution than anyone else. In fact, the odds of a Latino immigrant neighborhood being located in an area of high toxic pollution is one in three.

Latinos and African-Americans are more likely to work in hazardous jobs that place them at higher risk for serious occupational diseases, injuries and muscular-skeletal disabilities. The fatality rate among Latino workers is 23 percent higher than the fatal injury rate for all US workers. Often reluctant to complain about poor working conditions for fear of deportation or being fired, Mexican migrant workers are nearly twice as likely as the rest of the immigrant population to die at work. This is unacceptable and must be addressed.

Taken together, these injustices are largely the product of political marginalization and institutional racism. The less political power a community of color possesses, the more likely they are to experience insidious environmental and human health threats. The environmental violence being inflicted on these communities of color is taking a terrible toll, and must be made a national priority. Access to a clean and healthy environment is a fundamental right of citizenship. To deny such rights constitutes an environmental injustice that should never be tolerated.

Medicare For All

The Problem

It has been the goal of Democrats since Franklin D. Roosevelt to create a universal health care system guaranteeing health care to all people. Every other major industrialized nation has done so. It is time for this country to join them and fulfill the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and other great Democrats.

The Affordable Care Act was a critically important step towards the goal of universal health care. Thanks to the ACA, more than 17 million Americans have gained health insurance. Millions of low-income Americans have coverage through expanded eligibility for Medicaid that now exists in 31 states. Young adults can stay on their parents’ health plans until they’re 26. All Americans can benefit from increased protections against lifetime coverage limits and exclusion from coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

But as we move forward, we must build upon the success of the ACA to achieve the goal of universal health care. Twenty-nine million Americans today still do not have health insurance and millions more are underinsured and cannot afford the high copayments and deductibles charged by private health insurance companies that put profits before people.

The U.S. spends more on health care per person, and as a percentage of gross domestic product, than any other advanced nation in the world, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. But all that money has not made Americans healthier than the rest of the world. Quite simply, in our high-priced health care system that leaves millions overlooked, we spend more yet end up with less.

Other industrialized nations are making the morally principled and financially responsible decision to provide universal health care to all of their people—and they do so while saving money by keeping people healthier. Those who say this goal is unachievable are selling the American people short.

Americans need a health care system that works for patients and providers. We need to focus our federal investments on training the health care providers. We need to ensure a strong health care workforce in all communities now and in the future. We need to build on the strength of the 50 years of success of the Medicare program. We need a health care system that significantly reduces overhead, administrative costs and complexity. We need a system where all people can get the care they need to maintain and improve their health when they need it regardless of income, age or socioeconomic status. We need a system that works not just for millionaires and billionaires, but for all of us.

What can we do about it?

The Solution

  • BETTER COVERAGE. We support creating a federally administered single-payer health care program. Universal single-payer health care means comprehensive coverage for all Americans. A solution for healthcare needs should cover the entire continuum of health care, from inpatient to outpatient care; preventive to emergency care; primary care to specialty care, including long-term and palliative care; vision, hearing and oral health care; mental health and substance abuse services; as well as prescription medications, medical equipment, supplies, diagnostics and treatments. Patients should be able to choose a health care provider without worrying about whether that provider is in-network and will be able to get the care they need without having to read any fine print or trying to figure out how they can afford the out-of-pocket costs.
  • GETTING HEALTH CARE SPENDING UNDER CONTROL We outspend all other countries on the planet and our medical spending continues to grow faster than the rate of inflation. Creating a single, public insurance system will go a long way towards getting health care spending under control. The United States has thousands of different health insurance plans, all of which set different reimbursement rates across different networks for providers and procedures resulting in high administrative costs. Two patients with the same condition may get very different care depending on where they live, the health insurance they have and what their insurance covers. A patient may pay different amounts for the same prescription depending solely on where the prescription is filled. Health care providers and patients must navigate this complex and bewildering system wasting precious time and resources. By moving to an integrated system, the government will finally have the ability to stand up to drug companies and negotiate fair prices for the American people collectively. It will also ensure the federal government can track access to various providers and make smart investments to avoid provider shortages and ensure communities can access the providers they need.

College Tuition

The Problem

In a highly competitive global economy, we need the best-educated workforce in the world. It is insane and counter-productive to the best interests of our country and our future, that hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and that millions of others leave school with a mountain of debt that burdens them for decades. That shortsighted path to the future must end.

Our Revolution will fight to make sure that every American who studies hard in school can go to college regardless of how much money their parents make and without going deeply into debt.

The Solution

  • Make tuition free at public colleges and universities. This is not a radical idea. Last year, Germany eliminated tuition because they believed that charging students $1,300 per year was discouraging Germans from going to college. Next year, Chile will do the same. Finland, Norway, Sweden and many other countries around the world also offer free college to all of their citizens. If other countries can take this action, so can the United States of America.
  • Stop the federal government from making a profit on student loans. Over the next decade, it has been estimated that the federal government will make a profit of over $110 billion on student loan programs. This is morally wrong and it is bad economics. We need to prevent the federal government from profiteering on the backs of college students and use this money instead to significantly lower student loan interest rates. Substantially cut student loan rates. Interest rates on undergraduate loans would should be cut in half.
  • Allow Americans to refinance student loans at today's low interest rates. It makes no sense that you can get an auto loan today with an interest rate of 2.5%, but millions of college graduates are forced to pay interest rates of 5-7% or more for decades.
  • Allow students to use need-based financial aid and work study programs to make college debt free. Require public colleges and universities to meet 100% of the financial needs of the lowest-income students. Low-income students would be able to use federal, state and college financial aid to cover room and board, books and living expenses. Triple the federal work study program to build valuable career experience that will help them after they graduate.
  • Fully paid for by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculators. The cost of this $75 billion a year plan is fully paid for by imposing a tax of a fraction of a percent on Wall Street speculators who nearly destroyed the economy seven years ago. More than 1,000 economists have endorsed a tax on Wall Street speculation and today some 40 countries throughout the world have imposed a similar tax including Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland, and China. If the taxpayers of this country could bailout Wall Street in 2008, we can make public colleges and universities tuition free and debt free throughout the country.

Fair and Humane Immigration Policy

The Problem

We cannot and should not sweep up millions of men, women, and children – many of whom lived here for many years, contribute to our society, and are integrated into the fabric of American life – and throw them out of the country unjustly. It is categorically unacceptable that so many voices insisted that the large numbers of desperate, vulnerable, and unaccompanied children primarily from Central America who crossed our borders last year should be turned away and sent back to the countries they fled. Sadly, many of these same voices now advocate for the United States to turn our backs on desperate refugees fleeing violence and terrorism in Syria. Now is not the time for us to succumb to racism and bigotry. We cannot allow ourselves to be divided by the anti-immigrant and xenophobic hysteria.

America has always been a haven for the oppressed. We cannot and must not shirk the historic role of the United States as a protector of vulnerable people fleeing persecution.

Establishing an immigration policy that stops the criminalization of communities of color and keeps families together will be a top priority of my Administration. Our immigration policy will put the sanctity of families at the forefront and will be grounded in civil, human, and labor rights. With bold action that moves our nation towards common sense immigration policies, we can reverse the decline of our middle class, allow the United States to compete economically in the 21st Century and build upon the best parts of our tradition of embracing diversity and harnessing it for the common good.

The Plan

A legislative solution to modernize our immigration system will be a top priority. We should not stand idly by waiting around for Congress to act. We must work to take extensive executive action to accomplish what Congress has failed to do and to build upon President Obama’s executive orders.

Unfortunately, our nation’s foreign policy towards Latin America has made difficult economic and political problems even worse. Supporters of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) claimed that unfettered free trade would increase the standard of living in Mexico and significantly reduce the flow of undocumented immigrants into this country. As history has demonstrated, the opposite is true. Since the implementation of NAFTA, the number of Mexicans living below the poverty line has increased by over 14 million. Not surprisingly we saw 185 percent increase in the number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico between 1992 and 2011.

A political revolution that mobilizes millions of Americans inclusive of Latinos and immigrants will ensure that Congress acts on what the majority of Americans demand – comprehensive and humane immigration reform policies.

Through legislation and executive action, we must implement a humane and secure immigration policy that will:

  • Dismantle inhumane deportation programs and detention centers;
  • Pave the way for a swift and fair legislative roadmap to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants;
  • Ensure our border remains secure while respecting local communities;
  • Regulate the future flow of immigrants by modernizing the visa system and rewriting bad trade agreements;
  • Enhance access to justice and reverse the criminalization of immigrants;
  • Establish parameters for independent oversight of key U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies.

1. Deportation and Detention

The growth of the immigrant detention/deportation machine and the expansion of border militarization has perpetuated unjust policies and resulted in the separation of hundreds of thousands of immigrant families.

Immigration Enforcement
  • Expand DACA and DAPA – We must work to expand President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) to provide broad administrative relief to the parents of DREAMers, the parents of citizens, the parents of legal permanent residents, and other immigrants who would have been given legal protections by the 2013 Senate-passed immigration bill.

    This would allow all undocumented people who have been in the United States for at least five years to stay in the country without fear of being deported. This broad administrative relief is well within the President’s executive authority.

    Over 85% of the nation’s aspiring Americans have resided in the United States for at least five years.

    Under this plan, close to nine million individuals would be able to apply for deferred action.

  • Protect Immigrant Workers Exercising their Rights. Legislatively, we have to establish a whistleblower visa for workers reporting labor violations. Administratively, we need to establish an affirmative process for these individuals to request deferred action. Many employers regularly abuse immigrant workers knowing employees will not hold them accountable for fear of deportation.

  • Provide Permanent Immigration Relief to Families. Our next President must expand the Administration’s parole-in-place policies to include undocumented relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and also provide deferred action for relatives who came to the U.S. on a visa but fell out of status. Today, this policy is only available to current and aspiring service members and their families. Expanding parole-in-place would eliminate the barriers that prevent certain relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents from obtaining lawful permanent resident status (or a “green card”) under federal law.

  • Decouple Local Law Enforcement from Immigration Enforcement. In too many instances, deportation programs like the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), the 287(g) program, and the Criminal Alien Program have unjustly turned local law enforcement officials into immigration officers. Racial profiling and the criminalization of communities of color form the foundation of these deportation programs which should be eliminated. In addition, we will fight to implement the recommendations of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing to “decouple federal immigration enforcement from routine local policing.”

  • Employ Humanitarian Parole to Reunite Families. We must fight to expand the use of humanitarian parole to ensure the return of unjustly deported immigrants. The United States must do the right thing and guarantee the swiftest possible reunification of these broken families.

  • Promote Cooperation Between Immigrants and Local Law Enforcement. We must fight to wholeheartedly reject the “The Great Sanctuary City Slander” as the politics of fear, and supports enacting community trust policies. These policies will strengthen relationships between community members and local law enforcement, respect the constitutional rights of immigrants, and reflect the will of a locally elected electorate.

  • Expand Access to Counsel for Immigrants. Based on the constitutionally enshrined principle of habeas corpus, we need to increase access to legal counsel for detained immigrants. This expansion is critical in light of instances where ICE coerced large numbers of immigrants to sign their own deportation order. We will fight to vigorously implement the protection against coerced or “unwitting deportation” established as part of Padilla v Kentucky (2010).

  • Properly Fund Our Nation’s Immigration Courts. To ensure that our immigration system respects constitutional protections, we will push for Congress to provide additional funding and immigration judges to the Executive Office for Immigration Review and restore discretion to judges and allow them to consider the unique circumstances of an individual’s case.

  • Close Loopholes that Allow Racial Profiling by Federal Authorities. We will fight to end racial profiling. Immigrants should never face deportation as a result of racial or ethnic profiling. We will work to revise the U.S. Department of Justice’s Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies. Under the current guidance, the Department of Justice carved out significant exceptions for federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI, TSA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to profile racial, religious, and other minorities at or in the vicinity of the border. Furthermore, the Guidance does not apply to most state and local law enforcement agencies.

Detention
  • End For-Profit Detention. We must fight to end federal, state and municipal contracts with for-profit private prisons within two years. Termination of these contracts will eliminate the incentive for the private prison industry to support punitive, over-inclusive laws that lead to the detention of 34,000 immigrants on any given day. In addition, we must push for Congress to enact the Justice is Not for Sale Act, which would reinstate a federal parole program that will include immigrants.

  • End Family Detention. We must end family detention. He will work to ensure that detention centers do not hold families and adhere to the letter and spirit of the Flores Order. The detention of families, most of which come to our country seeking protection under our laws, is an affront to the values our nation was founded upon.

  • Propose Budgets with Smart, Targeted Enforcement. We must demand Congress to defund the detention bed quota. Detention should be based on actual need and not arbitrary numbers set by Congress. Congress needs to defund the Department of Justice’s State Criminal Alien Assistance Program.

  • Make Detention Practices Accountable. In the narrow, rare circumstances where detention may continue, we must work towards significantly improving conditions inside detention facilities, especially for vulnerable populations including pregnant women, LGBT individuals, and detainees with disabilities. Moreover, we must immediately address the racial bias on display in the disproportionate detention of Mexican nationals. This deplorable reality bears witness to bias displayed at both the arrest stage and then again when making custody determinations.

  • Alternatives to Detention. We need to promote alternatives to detention, which can cost as little as 70 cents a day. The use of these substitutes to detention would allow thousands of non-violent immigrant detainees to reunite with their families as they wait for their day in court.

  • Guarantee Due Process and Bond Hearings. We must fight to ensure that immigrants have their day in court, including bond hearings and access to due process protections.

2. Eleven Million New Americans

We must make a path to citizenship for the undocumented population the building block of a new humane immigration system and not as a pretext to ramp up enforcement that separates families. Recognizing the difficult path to legislate a comprehensive solution to our nation’s outdated immigration system, we will lead a political revolution that mobilizes millions of Americans, particularly Latinos and immigrants, to ensure that Congress acts on what the majority of Americans demand – a comprehensive and humane immigration reform policy.

  • Establish Broad Eligibility for Relief. We must fight to work to ensure that the roadmap to citizenship is inclusive, particularly for women and does not contain arbitrary cut off eligibility dates and application periods. Such dates risk excluding hundreds of thousands of people that have arrived in the United States “too late” but have become part of the American fabric. Moreover, in light of our nation’s deep-rooted belief in rehabilitation and acknowledgement of the criminalization of communities of color, the roadmap to citizenship must allow non-violent individuals with prior contacts with our criminal justice system to apply for relief. For example, non-violent immigration-related offenses should not automatically disqualify a worker or their family from obtaining immigration relief. Old convictions like those that led to the deportation of an Iowa City pastor, should not disqualify individuals from the roadmap to citizenship.

  • Establish a Reasonable and Fair Wait for Citizenship. Future legislation must contain a roadmap to citizenship that allows aspiring Americans to become lawful permanent residents and become citizens within five years. The registered provisional immigrant status in the 2013 Senate immigration bill was a compromise that delayed eligibility for citizenship and created additional, unnecessary bureaucracy.

  • Minimize Financial Penalties and Fees. As DACA has demonstrated, monetary costs often represents the greatest obstacle for eligible individuals to come forward and apply for immigration relief. Immigrants will already have to pay thousands of dollars in regular administrative fees to apply for permanent administrative relief. Future immigration reform should not add onerous fines on top of those administrative fees. Consequently, we must work to ensure that the financial penalties in a roadmap to citizenship are fair.

  • End the Three-Year, Ten-Year, and Permanent Bars. We must push for Congress to end the lengthy, forced and prolonged exit from the country that many immigrants endure when trying to leave the country to adjust their status by rescinding the three-year, ten-year and permanent bars.

  • Provide Expansive Relief to DREAMers. Future legislation must immediately declare DREAMers eligible to serve in the uniformed services, receive financial aid, and become eligible for in-state tuition if they meet a state’s residency requirements. Additionally, future immigration reform should provide expeditious citizenship to DREAMers.

3. Border Security and Militarization

We believe that we can ensure that our borders are modern and secure. Indeed, we must continually modernize our border security measures and maintain security, all while protecting the rights and needs of our border communities. Border communities have much to offer the nation economically and culturally, but these contributions have been stunted or overshadowed by a negligent buildup of border enforcement. Communities along our border, particularly along the southern border, have become militarized and are being patrolled by a highly weaponized Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP).

  • A 21st Century Border Must Use Resources Efficiently and Effectively. Appropriations must be re-directed away from boondoggle walls to high grade cameras, thermal imaging, movement sensors and other technologies. More resources must also be allocated to CBP training and oversight, and to rebuild crumbling infrastructure along the border region. We must fight to work to ensure that the CBP is a highly functioning law enforcement body.

  • Reject Piecemeal Border Enforcement. We must reject the argument that the border must be further militarized before the implementation of a roadmap to citizenship. We must remove the insecurity that border communities face as we modernize and make our border security operations more efficient.

  • Reduce Border Deaths. We must fight to reduce the unacceptable and inhumane number of deaths on the border. One practice that has no place in a humane immigration system is the use of remote deportations. Dumping someone in an unfamiliar location can be lethal as the State Department has recognized that parts of Mexico are run by “organized criminal groups.”

  • End Operation Streamline and Barriers to Asylum. We must end Operation Streamline and remove the barriers established in 1996 that prevent those removed under Expedited Removal from applying for asylum.

  • Implement the “Best Interests of the Child” Standard. It is imperative that a “best interests of child” standard is used in all decision-making and implement child welfare screenings that are conducted by CBP officers along with child welfare experts. In addition, We must fight to ensure that all children at our borders will be provided procedural protections by providing counsel, and legal orientation programs in the child’s native language.

  • Turn Back the Militarization of the Southern Border. The militarization of the border has reached new heights. We need to ensure that we have a modern, secure, efficient border, avoiding the militarization of our border communities.

  • Hold CBP Accountable. Professionalism, accountability, and transparency at the CBP must be a central agency mission. We must fight to require CBP agents to wear body cameras, make complaints public, expand training, and hold agents accountable for excessive force just like any other law enforcement agency. In addition, we need to advance legislation supported by a bi-partisan coalition of border communities and leaders aimed at improving training, increasing accountability, and ensuring the input and consultation of border community residents. The number of deaths of civilians, including numerous U.S. citizens, by CBP are unacceptable. The CBP internal affairs office must be fully funded and staffed. Steps taken by the CBP surrounding excessive force on the southern border must be expanded and we must eliminate racial profiling, violence and prolonged detention.

  • End the “Constitution Free” Zone. We must fight to ensure that border security resources are invested where needed. In order to set the tone for a more efficient and humane immigration policy, we need to update antiquated federal regulations that define the border region for certain purposes as extending 100 miles from the actual border and direct those resources where they are most needed. For example, we can conduct an immediate review of the nearly 170 Border Patrol checkpoints in the interior of the U.S. and redirect resources where most needed.

4. Future Flow of Immigrants

A humane immigration system must honestly look at creating viable, legal channels that match our labor market needs. We must seriously reassess our foreign and international trade policies in light of the effects they have on migration and U.S. workers. A failure to do so will contribute to future flows that even the best-designed system will have extreme difficulty in addressing.

  • Keep Families Together. A humane immigration system must, at its core, recognize that family is integral to a worker’s pursuit of happiness and economic productivity. Additionally, family members are often either workers themselves or, in the case of children, future workers. The preservation of family-based visas is at the center of a more humane, reformed immigration system which recognizes that workers with families nearby are healthier and that their families, particularly children, benefit immensely. Prioritizing the unity of families is a time-tested American value.

  • Protect Women from Discrimination. We must reject the so-called “merit-based” “social engineering” immigration policies that discriminate against women. In addition to upholding the family-based visa system, he will work to ensure that mothers, sisters and wives who come into the United States with their families have the same right to work as their male relatives while enhancing protections for survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking.

  • Strengthen and Expand Our Support for Refugees.In light of the Syrian refugee crisis, we have to welcome refugees to the US and meet our international responsibilities. When hundreds of thousands of people have lost everything and have nothing left but the shirts on their backs, we should not turn our backs on refugees escaping violence, whether it be Syrians in the Middle East or young children in Latin America. We need to continue our efforts to provide refugees fleeing violence with the opportunity for a new life, and explore additional ways to address the humanitarian crisis.

  • End the Economic Exploitation of Immigrant Workers. The visa system must be fundamentally reformed to prevent employers from abusing and exploiting guest workers, especially in the context of H-2B, H1-B, and J-1 workers. Binding workers to a specific employer or not allowing their family members to work creates a situation rife for abuse and exacerbates an already unequal relationship between the employer and the employee. We must substantially increase prevailing wages that employers pay temporary guest workers.

  • Protect and Expand the Legal Rights of Immigrant Workers. Regardless of status, immigrant workers should not fear holding employers accountable for exploitation. We must push Congress to authorize and substantially increase funding for the Legal Services Corporation to provide legal representation to guest workers exploited by employers. Moreover, we need to work toward requiring employers to reimburse guest workers for housing, transportation expenses, and workers’ compensation.

  • Operate Smart and Fair Employment Verification. The regime of employer sanctions enacted through President Reagan’s immigration reform legislation has morphed from the terror of workplace raids to the “silent raids” of I-9 audits. In both scenarios, workers usually lose out in the end, particularly when employers turn over their employees to ICE during labor disputes. An electronic verification system like E-Verify should protect workers’ due process rights, and contain the strongest possible protections against abuse.

  • Reduce Health Care Costs. We strongly believes that all immigrants, including undocumented workers and their families, must be able to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) marketplace exchanges. Aspiring Americans represent a large portion of the remaining uninsured and allowing these Americans to purchase health insurance with their own money is critical to reducing health care costs and moving forward with universal health care coverage. Moreover, we must fight to direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promulgate regulations that restore access to the ACA for all immigrants with deferred action, including DACA and DAPA recipients, by classifying them as “lawfully present.”

  • Defend the Diversity Visa from Attacks. Humane immigration reform must protect and expand the diversity visa. Too often, Congress seeks to end the Diversity Visa program on the grounds that immigration is a zero-sum game. The Diversity Visa program is an enormous and inexpensive source of goodwill, affords potential immigrants with no family ties an opportunity to join our great nation, and is particularly important to African immigrants.

  • Ensure Access to Asylum for Persecuted Immigrants. The Attorney General needs to replicate former Attorney General Janet Reno’s efforts to help extend asylum to victims of domestic violence and by classifying unaccompanied minors coming from Latin American and victims of criminal gang activity as distinct groups of people fleeing persecution. This classification will reduce the barriers for these groups to successfully apply for and receive asylum. Additionally, credible fear of persecution standard need to be restored to its pre-2014 level, allowing more people to present their claims to an immigration judge instead of being summarily deported. We must require DHS to screen arriving immigrants, especially juveniles and families, for humanitarian and immigration relief.

5. Balanced Trade Agreements

Inequality across the world is universally acknowledged as the driving force behind migration. This inequality does not develop organically and the United States must be introspective about its role. For example, the ill-conceived NAFTA, devastated local economies and pushed millions to migrate.

  • Establish Fair and Equitable Trade Policies. We must fight to rewrite our trade policies to end the race to the bottom and work to lift the living standard of Americans and workers throughout the world. Not only have our trade policies with Mexico, Central America, and China led to the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs and thousands of factories, but they have led to destitution for local communities around the world. Accordingly, our nation must level the playing field for workers everywhere. Those who wish to remain in their home country should be able to earn livable wages and not migrate for economic survival. Furthermore, we will work tirelessly to build an international coalition to fight global poverty and address crises to humanely manage migration patterns. Multi-faceted policies that look beyond our borders are critical to addressing the root causes of migration and economic inequality.

6. Immigration Integration

Integration into the great American mosaic is extremely important. Yet our immigrant integration policies, often not a priority in our national discourse, gravitate towards forced assimilation and, even as our society became more inclusive, provided little support, guidance, or even a welcome path to becoming an American.

  • Fully Fund and Prioritize Immigrant Integration. We must recognize that integration is a two-way process that benefits newcomers and Americans alike. Helping immigrants become part of our ever-changing national fabric is essential to a true national security policy, one where aspiring Americans deeply believe in the values of our nation. We need to call for greater investment in immigrant integration as the returns on modest investments are often substantial, both culturally and economically.

  • Expand Access to Naturalization. There are approximately nine million lawful permanent residents who are eligible to naturalize and become citizens but do not due to financial obstacles. As such, it is well past time to for Congress to appropriate resources to strengthen the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) budget and to reduce application fees. High fees for immigration benefits, especially naturalization, act as a deterrent for aspiring Americans to embrace U.S. citizenship and are not in keeping with the American immigrant tradition.

  • Connect Integration with Educational Programs. Immigrant integration occurs in our schools, our workplaces, and in the community at large. Our Revolution’s policies to make public colleges and universities tuition free, raise the minimum wage, expand Social Security, and make it easier for workers to form unions will benefit all Americans, regardless of immigration status. In addition, we must foster increased access to English as a Second Language instruction, and early learning programs for children.

Fighting for Women's Rights

The Problem

Despite major advances in civil and political rights, our country still has a long way to go in addressing the issue of gender inequality. Many of the achievements that have been made for women’s rights in the 20th century have been under attack by the Republican party — denying women control over their own bodies, preventing access to vital medical and social services, and blocking equal pay for equal work.

We are not going back to the days when women had to risk their lives to end an unwanted pregnancy. The decision about abortion must remain a decision for the woman and her doctor to make, not the government.

We are not going to allow the extreme right-wing to defund Planned Parenthood, we are going to expand it. Planned Parenthood provides vital healthcare services for millions of women, who rely on its clinics every year for affordable, quality health care services including cancer prevention, STI and HIV testing and general primary health care services. The current attempt to malign Planned Parenthood is part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies.

We are not going back to the days when women did not have full access to birth control. Incredibly, almost all of the Republicans in the Senate are in favor of giving any employer who provides health insurance, or any insurance company, the ability to deny coverage for contraception or any other kind of procedure if the employer had a “moral” objection to it. That is unacceptable.

We will not go back to the days when survivors of domestic violence had no access to services or recourse against their abusers, because domestic violence was swept under the rug, as a shameful, private issue. Worse yet, it was not so long ago that spousal abuse was legal in many states. We must expand services provided through the Violence Against Women Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, and fight any attempts to undermine these laws.

We are not going back to the days when it was legal for women to be paid less for doing the same work as men.

It is wrong that women working full-time only earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. We have got to move forward and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act into law.

And, not only are we going to expand policies that advance gender equality, we are going to fight to pass the long-overdue Equal Rights Amendment and vigorously defend the critical laws and programs which protect all working people in our country.

At a time when elderly women are more likely than men to be living in poverty, not only do we say NO to cuts in Social Security, we will expand Social Security.

When 35 million Americans lack health insurance, not only do we say NO to cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, we will expand these programs that are so important to families.

What can we do about it?

The Solution

  • Fight for pay equity for women. It is a national disgrace that women only earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. The gender pay gap is even worse for women of color. Today, African American women earn just 64 cents for every dollar a white male earns, while the figure for Hispanic women is just 54 cents.
  • Expand and protect the reproductive rights of women. Expand funding for Planned Parenthood, the Title X family planning program, and other initiatives that protect women’s health, access to contraception, and the availability of a safe and legal abortion.
  • Only nominate supreme court justices who support Roe v. Wade and the reproductive rights of women. Support Supreme Court justices who understand that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and recognize the rights of women to have access to family planning services.
  • Make quality childcare and pre-k available to all Americans. Make high-quality childcare and Pre-K available to every American, regardless of income. It is unacceptable that the cost of a quality childcare program is out of reach for millions of Americans.
  • Increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. According to the most recent statistics, women make up two-thirds of all minimum wage workers. Increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would significantly boost the wages of more than 15 million women and help close the gender wage gap.
  • Raise the tipped minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023. The federal tipped minimum wage of just $2.13 an hour hasn’t been raised since 1991. More than two-thirds of tipped workers are women. Increasing the tipped minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023 would lift millions of women out of poverty and significantly reduce the gender pay gap.
  • Provide at least 12 weeks of paid family leave, 2 weeks of family vacation, and one week of paid sick days to American workers. End the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee paid leave to workers. The Republicans talk a lot about “family values.” Well, it is not a family value to force the mother of a newborn baby to go back to work a few days after she gives birth, because she doesn’t have the money to stay home and bond with her baby. That is not a family value. That is an insult to everything that we know a family is about. Require employers to provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. At a time when over 65 percent of women work more than 40 hours a week, we must require employers to provide at least two weeks of paid vacation. And, we must require employers to provide at least one week of paid sick leave so that women can stay home to take care of a sick child, among other things.
  • Expand the WIC program for pregnant women, mothers and infants. Increase funding for this WIC so that every low-income mother and her children receive the nutrition they need to live healthy lives.
  • Make healthcare a right. Fight for a Medicare for All single-payer healthcare system to make healthcare a right for all Americans. If the United States joined every major country on earth and enacted a universal healthcare program, women would benefit the most. Today, women have much higher healthcare expenses than men and pay a greater portion of their healthcare costs out of their own pockets. Women make up two-thirds of the low-wage workforce and only about 23 percent of low-wage jobs provide health insurance. It is time for a Medicare for All single-payer healthcare system.
  • Expand social security. Fight to expand Social Security benefits by an average of $65 a month; increase cost-of-living-adjustments to keep up with rising medical and prescription drug costs; and expand the minimum Social Security benefit to lift seniors out of poverty. Women will benefit the most by expanding Social Security. More than twice as many elderly women lived in poverty than men in 2013. Without Social Security, nearly half of all elderly women would be living in poverty.

Fighting for LGBT Equality

The Problem

The United States has made remarkable progress on gay rights in a relatively short amount of time. But there is still much work to be done.

In many states, it is still legal to fire someone for being gay. It is legal to deny someone housing for being transgender. That is unacceptable and must change. We must end discrimination in all forms.

We must also establish equal pay for women. It’s unconscionable that women earn less than men for performing the same work.

What can we do about it?

The Solution

  • Sign into law the Equality Act, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, and any other bill that prohibits discrimination against LGBT people.
  • Work with HHS to ensure LGBT Americans have access to comprehensive health insurance which provides appropriate coverage and do not have to fear discrimination or mistreatment from providers.
  • Continue the great work of the State Department’s Special Envoy for LGBT Rights and ensure the United States helps protect the rights of LGBT people around the world.
  • Advance policies to ensure students can attend school without fear of bullying, and work to reduce suicides.
  • Require police departments to adopt policies to ensure fairer interactions with transgender people, especially transgender women of color who are often targeted by police unfairly, and institute training programs to promote compliance with fair policies.
  • Bar discrimination against LGBT people by creditors and banks so that people will not be unfairly denied mortgages, credit cards, or student loans.
  • Veto any legislation that purports to “protect” religious liberty at the expense of others’ rights.

War and Peace

Foreign Policy: Strength Through Diplomacy

We believe that the test of a great and powerful nation is not how many wars it can engage in, but how it can resolve international conflicts in a peaceful manner. From the Middle East, to Ukraine, to North Korea, to the South China Sea, to civil war in the world’s newest nation – South Sudan, we face a multitude of serious foreign policy challenges.

We should protect America, defend our interests and values, embrace our commitments to defend freedom and support human rights, and be relentless in combating terrorists who would do us harm. However, after nearly fourteen years of ill-conceived and disastrous military engagements in the Middle East, it is time for a new approach. We must move away from policies that favor unilateral military action and preemptive war, and that make the United States the de facto policeman of the world.

We believe that foreign policy is not just deciding how to react to conflict around the world, but also includes redefining America’s role in the increasingly global economy. Along with our allies throughout the world, we should be vigorous in attempting to prevent international conflict, not just responding to problems. For example, the international trade agreements we enter into, and our energy and climate change policies not only have enormous consequences for Americans here at home, but greatly affect our relations with countries around the world.

Iraq and Afghanistan

We believe that the invasion in Iraq was one of the worst foreign policy blunders in modern U.S. history.

6,700 brave men and women lost their lives in those wars, that too many came home without legs, arms or eyesight.

500,000 servicemen and women returned home with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, and that the war disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of families.

Preventing a Nuclear Iran

The U.S. must do everything it can to make certain that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, that a nuclear Iran does not threaten Israel, and to prevent a nuclear arms race in the region. We support the agreement between the U.S., Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program, because it has the best chance of limiting Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon, while avoiding yet another war in the region.

While the agreement is not perfect, it is far better than the path we were on – with Iran developing nuclear weapons and the potential for military intervention by the U.S. and Israel growing greater by the day. If Iran does not live up to the agreement, sanctions can be reestablished and all other options remain on the table. It is incumbent upon us, however, to give the negotiated agreement a chance to succeed, and we applaud President Obama and Secretary Kerry for their efforts.

Israel and Palestine

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been one of the world’s most difficult and intractable disputes for more than sixty years. Moreover, the failure to resolve that crisis has helped fuel other conflicts in the region. We support a two-state solution that recognizes Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, and the Palestinians right to a homeland in which they control their political and economic future.

The U.S. must play a leading role in creating a two-state solution, which will require significant compromises from both sides. The Palestinians must unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist, and hold accountable those who have committed terrorist acts. The Israelis must end the blockade of Gaza, and cease developing settlements on Palestinian land. Both sides must negotiate in good faith regarding all other outstanding issues that stand in the way of a durable and lasting peace in the region. In the meantime, strict adherence, by all sides, to the tenets of international humanitarian law is necessary in order to avoid escalating the conflict yet again.

Combating Terrorism

We live in a dangerous world full of serious threats, perhaps none more so than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. But we cannot combat international terrorism alone. We must work with our allies to root out terrorist funding networks, provide logistical support in the region, disrupt online radicalization, provide humanitarian relief, and support and defend religious freedom. Moreover, we must begin to address the root causes of radicalization, instead of focusing solely on military responses to those who have already become radicalized.

And while there is no question our military must be fully prepared and have the resources it needs to fight international terrorism, it is imperative that we take a hard look at the Pentagon’s budget and the priorities it has established. The U.S. military must be equipped to fight today’s battles, not those of the last war, much less the Cold War. Our defense budget must represent our national security interests and the needs of our military, not the reelection of members of Congress or the profits of defense contractors. The warning that President Dwight David Eisenhower gave us about the influence of the Military-Industrial Complex in 1961 is truer today than it was then.

Protecting Americans and American Values

We believe our country must remain vigilant to protect us from terrorist attacks at home, whether from organized international terrorist networks, or from “lone wolf” extremists.

We must rein in the National Security Agency and end the bulk collection of phone records, internet history, and email data of virtually all Americans.Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies must have the tools they need to protect the American people, but there must be legal oversight and they must go about their work in a way that does not sacrifice our basic freedoms.

The same goes for our actions abroad. The U.S. must never again embrace torture as a matter of official policy. In an increasingly brutal world, the wanton use of torture by the Bush administration simply meant we lost our moral standing to condemn others who engage in merciless behavior. We must also, finally, close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. The mere existence of this camp, and the misguided policies that led to its creation, continues to damage the United States’ moral standing in the world, undermines our foreign policy, and fans the flames of terrorism rather than deters it.

What can we do about it?

The Solution

  • Move away from a policy of unilateral military action, and toward a policy of emphasizing diplomacy, and ensuring the decision to go to war is a last resort.
  • Ensure that any military action we do engage in has clear goals, is limited in scope, and whenever possible provides support to our allies in the region.
  • Close Guantanamo Bay, rein in the National Security Agency, abolish the use of torture, and remember what truly makes America exceptional: our values.
  • Expand our global influence by promoting fair trade, addressing global climate change, providing humanitarian relief and economic assistance, defending the rule of law, and promoting human rights.

Strengthen and Expand Social Security

The Problem

Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. Before it was signed into law, nearly half of senior citizens lived in poverty. Today, the elderly poverty rate is 10 percent. Although still much too high, that’s a dramatic improvement.

Through good times and bad, Social Security has paid every nickel owed to every eligible American – on time and without delay. As corporations destroyed the retirement dreams of millions over the past 30 years by eliminating defined benefit pension plans, Social Security was right there paying full benefits. As millions of Americans lost their life savings after Wall Street’s recklessness crashed the economy in 2008, Social Security was right there paying full benefits.

Today, Social Security is more important than ever. Over half of workers between the ages of 55-64 have no retirement savings. More than a third of senior citizens depend on Social Security for virtually all of their income. One out of every five senior citizens is trying to scrape by on an average income of just $8,300 a year.

Given these facts, our job cannot be to cut Social Security. Our job must be to expand it so that every American can retire with dignity and respect.

Virtually every Republican candidate for president disagrees. Many of them claim Social Security is “going broke,” that it’s causing the deficit to explode, and its trust fund is full of IOUs.

They want the American people to believe Social Security is in crisis and must be cut.

They are dead wrong.

Here are the facts:

Social Security has a $2.8 trillion surplus. It can pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 19 years (and more than three-quarters after that).

Social Security’s assets aren’t “just paper,” as conservatives sometimes put it. Social Security invests in U.S Treasury bonds, the safest interest-bearing securities in the world. These are the same bonds wealthy investors have purchased, along with China and other foreign countries. These bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, which in our long history has never defaulted on its debt obligations.

Right now a billionaire pays the same amount of money into Social Security as someone who makes $118,500 a year. That’s because there is a cap on taxable income that goes into the Social Security system.

What can we do about it?

The Solution

We need to lift this cap so that everyone who makes over $250,000 a year pays the same percentage of their income into Social Security as the middle class and working families.

This would not only extend the solvency of Social Security for the next 50 years, but also bring in enough revenue to expand benefits by an average of $65 a month; increase cost-of-living-adjustments; and lift more seniors out of poverty by increasing the minimum benefits paid to low-income seniors.

Not only is this the right thing to do from a moral perspective, it is also what the vast majority of the American people want us to do. 61 percent of the American people support expanding Social Security benefits by lifting the cap on taxable income, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll earlier this year.

It’s time to expand Social Security to make sure that everyone in this country can retire with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Fighting to Lower Prescription Drug Prices

The Problem

Americans pay, by far, the highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world. When we talk about health care, we are talking about the need of the American people to be able to afford the medicine their health care providers prescribe. A life-saving drug does no good if the people who need it cannot afford that drug.

Yet, last year, nearly one in five Americans between the ages of 19 and 64 – 35 million people – did not get their prescriptions filled because they did not have enough money. In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, Americans should not have to live in fear that they will go bankrupt or die because they cannot afford to take the medication they need.

In any given month, more than half of all American adults take at least one prescription drug. There is no question that medicines help millions of people live healthier and longer lives, and can also prevent more expensive illnesses and treatments. However, it is unacceptable that the United States now spends more than $370 billion on prescription drugs and spending is rising faster than at any point in the last decade.

Instead of listening to the demands of the pharmaceutical industry and their 1,400 lobbyists, it is time that Congress started listening to the American people, who overwhelmingly believe that the cost of medication is too expensive. More than 70 percent of Americans believe drug costs are unreasonable and that drug companies are putting profits before people.

Fighting to Lower Prescription Drug Prices

The Problem

Americans pay, by far, the highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world. When we talk about health care, we are talking about the need of the American people to be able to afford the medicine their health care providers prescribe. A life-saving drug does no good if the people who need it cannot afford that drug.

Yet, last year, nearly one in five Americans between the ages of 19 and 64 – 35 million people – did not get their prescriptions filled because they did not have enough money. In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, Americans should not have to live in fear that they will go bankrupt or die because they cannot afford to take the medication they need.

In any given month, more than half of all American adults take at least one prescription drug. There is no question that medicines help millions of people live healthier and longer lives, and can also prevent more expensive illnesses and treatments. However, it is unacceptable that the United States now spends more than $370 billion on prescription drugs and spending is rising faster than at any point in the last decade.

Instead of listening to the demands of the pharmaceutical industry and their 1,400 lobbyists, it is time that Congress started listening to the American people, who overwhelmingly believe that the cost of medication is too expensive. More than 70 percent of Americans believe drug costs are unreasonable and that drug companies are putting profits before people.

Empowering Tribal Nations

The Problem

Native Americans are the first Americans, yet they have for far too long been treated as third class citizens. It is unconscionable that today, in 2016, Native Americans still do not always have the right to decide on important issues that affect their communities. The United States must not just honor Native American treaty rights and tribal sovereignty, it must also move away from a relationship of paternalism and control and toward one of deference and support. The United States has a duty to ensure equal opportunities and justice for all of its citizens, including the 2.5 million Native Americans that share this land. It is no secret that this isn’t the case today.

The Statistics are Staggering

Native Americans continue to face appalling levels of inequality and systemic injustice. One in four Native Americans are living in poverty and the high school graduation rate is 67 percent, the lowest of any racial demographic group. The second leading cause of death for Native Americans between the ages of 15-24 is suicide. One in three Native women will be raped in her lifetime; most of the offenders are non-Native. Most federal programs for tribal nations are underfunded, which has led to inadequate housing, healthcare, education, and law enforcement. Native Americans have a much lower life expectancy and higher uninsured rates than the population at large, and even those who have health insurance often have difficulty accessing the care they need.

Although Native American tribes are supposed to be sovereign nations with the right to self-governance, the United States has greatly exacerbated the struggles of Indian Country because of its failure to support basic principles of self-determination. Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than any other racial group and the rate of violent crime against them is twice the national average. Yet, because the federal courts have chipped away at tribal sovereignty, tribal nations are often unable to prosecute criminal offenders for violent crimes that occur within tribal borders. Tribal governments are distinct sovereigns, and should be recognized as such – they must have the autonomy and authority to protect their own peoples.

What can we do about it?

The Solution

  • Support Tribal Sovereignty and Tribal Jurisdiction: Tribes must have the ability to prosecute non-Native people who commit crimes on tribal land, and have greater jurisdiction over prosecuting all crimes, including family disputes. We need to encourage the continual development of the U.S. Department of Justice Tribal Access Program for National Crime Information to provide tribes with access to national crime information systems for both civil and criminal purposes.
  • Uphold the Trust Responsibility: We must honor the treaties and federal statutes that are the foundation of the trust relationship. We need to maintain a White House Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs to ensure that tribal issues are consistently addressed and coordinated throughout the federal government.
  • Improve Housing: fight for increased local control over the administration and operation of tribal housing programs and for full funding of the Indian Housing Block Grant Program.
  • Strengthen Education: In order to create economic opportunities, we must invest in education from early childhood through higher education. We must fight to fully fund the Bureau of Indian Education and strengthen self-determination to enable culturally tailored learning, unique to each tribal nation, and help to retain qualified teachers for Native youth. We should build upon the “all of government,” integrated work of the Generation Indigenous initiative to ensure that every Native American child can reach their full potential. We should fight for plans that allow students to refinance federal debt, lower interest rates, triples federal work-study jobs, and provides for free college tuition at all public colleges and universities.
  • Improve Healthcare: healthcare is a right. We should support a Medicare-for-all system that would complement the healthcare provided by the Indian Health Service. We need to work to fully fund the Indian Health Service, strengthen regional management and recruitment of committed IHS health care personnel, demand audits of IHS operations, and ensure that Native Americans have adequate, safe, and affordable access to primary care providers, including oral health and mental health practitioners and substance abuse treatment options. Restore Tribal Lands: All tribes must have the right to protect and restore their lands. We support streaming the land-into-trust process and work to reverse the Carcieri Supreme Court decision that resulted in an unjust two-tier system of tribes.
  • Advance Economic Development: we support economic development in Indian Country and believe in investing in infrastructure. We believe we should investment to upgrade our roads and bridges, drinking water and wastewater, freight and passenger rail, and electric, telecommunications and broadband networks, and more. This effort will create and maintain millions of jobs across the country. The investment would go a long way to address the “digital divide,” because lack of internet access means Native American communities are at risk of falling even further behind in their ability to access employment, educational, and other opportunities made available by modern information technology. Lastly, all federal grants open to state and local governments will also be open to tribes.
  • Protect Sacred Places and Native American Cultures: Native Americans must be empowered to maintain and pass on traditional religious beliefs, languages and social practices without fear of discrimination or suppression. Native children are the future of tribal nations; the Indian Child Welfare Act is critical to survival and must be enforced with the original intent of the law. Further, tribal cultures, sacred places, religious practices, and landscapes must be federally protected.
  • Expand Consultation: Examine the Executive Order 13175 “Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments,” to ensure that consultation means more than mere listening sessions. Moreover, all voices — tribal leadership and grassroots alike — must be heard. Expand the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference that brings tribal leaders, cabinet members and the White House together to find solutions to common problems.
  • Promote Voting Rights: stand with Native Americans to fight for Indian voting rights, and defend the franchise in minority communities across the country.
  • Fight Racism: end the scourge of bias and discrimination against Native peoples. A good place to start is by eliminating offensive school and sports mascots that reflect outdated stereotypes and perpetuate racism against Native Americans.
  • Fight Climate Change and Promoting Environmental Protection: For instance, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ climate change plan to transition away from fossil fuels to a 100 percent clean energy system is a plan that we support. We must end fracking for natural gas and mountaintop removal coal mining.

Working to Create an AIDS and HIV-Free Generation

The Problem

Today, one of the biggest problems in caring for the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV is the crisis of access to affordable drugs.

One of the great moral issues of our day is that people with HIV and AIDS are suffering and, in some cases, dying in America because they can’t afford to pay the outrageous prices being charged for the medicine they need to live.

It is indefensible that even with insurance and rebates, a person with HIV must spend thousands of dollars per year just on prescription drugs — often leaving them unable to afford decent housing or other necessities — all while profiteering companies continue to jack up the price of these treatments overnight, simply because they can.

Instead of focusing on public health and the public good, drug companies are focused on padding the pockets of their shareholders and top executives. That has got to change.

In the richest nation in the world, we must not tolerate a health care system that offers the best care to the rich, while leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. We must do everything possible to end the greed of the pharmaceutical companies and get people the medicine they need at a price they can afford.

We must do everything we can to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic. The good news is that San Francisco, New York and other urban areas are making significant progress in combating HIV and AIDS.

The bad news is that nationally we have not seen an improvement in the 50,000 avoidable HIV infections that are taking place each and every year. Tragically, in some regions of the country, the epidemic has gotten even worse. In the year 2016, we have got to do much better than that.

We now have all of the tools we need to end AIDS deaths and HIV transmissions. Now, we need the political will to do it.

What can we do about it?

The Solution

  • UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. To truly ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care, we need to fight for a Medicare-for-all, single payer system. Until that happens, we must make sure insurance companies and providers are not discriminating against those with HIV/AIDS, including when it comes to drug coverage.
  • EXPANDING SUBSTANCE USE AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES FOR PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS AND AT RISK FOR HIV. We need to build on the implementation of President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy by significantly expanding access to mental health and substance use disorder services by protecting and expanding community health centers, which provide key behavioral health and substance abuse services to more than 1.3 million patients. We must also support access to mental health services at community mental health centers.
  • EXPANDING THE RYAN WHITE HIV/AIDS PROGRAM. We need to fight to expand the highly successful Ryan White HIV/AIDS program which provides HIV-related services for those who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources. It was unacceptable that at the height of the Wall Street crash, many states had long waiting lists for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Especially when so many people were losing their jobs and their life savings, people should not have had to wait for the life-saving treatment they needed.
  • EXPANDING SERVICES FOR ALL—PREVENTION AND TREATMENT BEYOND HEALTH CARE. In the year 2016, it is unacceptable that a person could be fired or denied housing in many states based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or health status. We should push for legislation that would expand civil rights protections to all LGBT individuals and those living with HIV/AIDS.
  • EXPANDING THE PRESIDENT’S EMERGENCY PLAN FOR AIDS RELIEF (PEPFAR) AND ENDING THE AIDS EPIDEMIC. We need to fight to end the AIDS epidemic by doubling the number of people on HIV treatment worldwide by 2020. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been an incredibly successful program, currently supporting antiretroviral treatment for more than 9.5 million people. But that is only a fraction of those worldwide who need treatment. More than 22 million people with HIV/AIDS do not have access to the medicine and support services they need.
  • STOPPING BAD TRADE AGREEMENTS LIKE THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP THAT WOULD SUBSTANTIALLY INCREASE PRICES FOR HIV/AIDS DRUGS. A major reason why the fight against the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is important is because it would significantly increase prices for HIV/AIDS drugs for some of the most desperate people in the world. At a time when prescription drug prices are skyrocketing, the TPP would make a bad situation even worse by granting new monopoly rights to big pharmaceutical companies to deny access to lower cost generic drugs to millions of people.

Fighting for Affordable Housing

The Problem

While the housing market has improved since the worst days of the housing meltdown and recession, millions of Americans remain underwater with their mortgages and millions more can’t get a loan to buy a house. On the rental side, more than 7 million households lack access to adequate affordable housing, with many facing a daily choice between housing, food, and healthcare. Meanwhile, many working families, veterans, the mentally ill and the poor are living in their cars, in homeless shelters, or simply out on the street. That is unacceptable.

Working together, this is what we need to do to address the affordable housing crisis.

It is no secret that millions of families are struggling economically. Meanwhile, decent and affordable rental apartments are hard to come by, and millions of households are spending 50 percent or more of their income on housing. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 7.1 million American households cannot find affordable housing. That is unacceptable.

Owning a home remains one of the best ways for families to build wealth and enter the middle class. However, for decades, wages have not kept up with the median costs of homes, putting homeownership out of reach for millions of families. The housing crisis that began in 2007 wiped-out the entire household wealth of millions of families, particularly African-American and Latino families who were disproportionately targeted with sub-prime mortgages and had most of their wealth in their homes – the net worth of African-American households fell by more than 50 percent and Latino families by more than 65 percent. We must take aggressive steps to make homeownership more attainable for first time homebuyers, as well as for the millions of families across the country who lost their homes to foreclosure.

Helping Underwater Homeowners

For millions of American families, and for many hard hit communities, the housing crisis is not over. According to the real estate firm CoreLogic, 4.3 million homeowners still owe more than their houses are worth. While the taxpayers of this country, against my strong opposition, bailed out the largest financial institutions in this country with no strings attached, we have never provided an adequate lifeline to underwater homeowners. While Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification Program has helped more than 1.5 million homeowners avoid foreclosure, and the Hardest Hit Fund has assisted another 250,000 ‎homeowners, these are a fraction of the households that were, or are, underwater.

What can we do about it?

The Solution

  • Expand the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund. We need to fight to increase funding for the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to at least $5 billion a year in order to construct, preserve, and rehabilitate at least 3.5 million affordable housing rental units over the next decade. Not only will this help address the affordable housing crisis, it will also create millions of good paying jobs in the process.
  • Raise the minimum wage. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a renter would need to earn a wage of $19.35 per hour in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in the U.S. One way to start closing the wage/rent gap is to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.
  • Reinvigorate federal housing production programs. Over the past decade, the federal programs that build affordable housing for families, for the elderly and for the disabled have been decimated. Nobody disagrees that we need to address the deficit, but it is absurd to balance the budget on the backs of working families, the elderly, the disabled and the poor. We must return to pre-2010 funding levels by ending sequestration and invest more, not less, in affordable housing.
  • Defend Fair Housing. The sordid history of housing discrimination is a stain on our collective conscious, and for fifty years the Fair Housing Act has provided critically important legal protection from discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or disability. And yet, Republicans have tried over and over again to defund efforts to affirmatively promote fair housing. We must push back, defend and strengthen the law, and make sure we never again tacitly condone housing discrimination.
  • Demand more from Affordable Housing Developers. Housing that is built with government subsidies should remain affordable much longer than the 10, 15 or 20 years typically required by federal housing programs.
  • Repair Public Housing. We need sufficient funding for public housing operating and capital costs, and we need to reduce the unacceptable backlog of public housing capital needs.
  • Protect Rental Assistance. We need to provide full funding to all existing project based rental assistance contracts.
  • Expand Housing Choice Initiative. We need to increase funding for the housing choice voucher program to target families who need support the most and to provide greater economic stability to the more than 3 million households struggling to remain in safe, secure and affordable housing today.

Promoting Homeownership

  • Support First Time Homebuyers. We should expand the Department of Housing and Urban Development and USDA Rural Development assistance programs for first time homeownership, particularly through down payment assistance, loan guarantees and direct loans.
  • Expand Pre-purchase Housing Counseling. Study after study shows that people who receive counseling before buying a home are more likely to succeed at homeownership. Housing counseling is a good investment in families and communities.
  • Implement Credit Score Reform. The credit scores of millions of families have been ruined because of foreclosures or other financial hardships from the economic meltdown. At the same time, a prime score before the crisis was 640. It currently hovers around 740. If we want to rebuild the lost wealth of working families, we need real credit score reform to make the banking and credit industries work for borrowers and not just lenders.
  • Prevent Predatory Lending. We need to work toward requiring that all mortgage costs are clear, risks are visible, and nothing is buried in fine print, the CFBP makes sure consumers have the information they need to make good financial decisions.
  • Protect Homeowner Mortgage Interest Benefits. We need to support tax policies that promote homeownership, and opposes any reform that would negatively impact middle and low-income homeowners. We need to close the second home and yacht loophole, as there is simply no compelling public interest in subsidizing second homes and yachts. We also need to expand homeowner mortgage interest benefits to the 19 million otherwise eligible homeowners who do not itemize their taxes.

Helping Underwater Homeowners

  • Reinvigorate HARP. The Home Affordable Refinance Program was designed to assist homeowners who are current on their mortgage payments but owe more than their home is worth, by allowing them to refinance their underwater mortgages at lower interest rates. While the average homeowner saves about $2,500 per year, many people who theoretically qualify have not benefitted because of various barriers and inadequate outreach.
  • Expand Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling. Just as pre-purchase homeownership counseling works for prospective homebuyers, we need to expand National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling programs to help underwater homeowners. Studies have shown that underwater homeowners who receive counselling are far more likely to cure a serious delinquency or foreclosure, and stay current after obtaining a cure. The best solution is to keep homeowners in their homes.