- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2019

While the political jockeying gets more attention, candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential race are advancing serious policy proposals. The Washington Times takes a weekly look at some of them that may have flown under the radar.

Former Obama Cabinet official Julian Castro announced an economic plan Thursday that would raise taxes on inheritances and capital gains, while expanding the popular child tax credit and the earned income tax credit that benefits the working poor.

Mr. Castro would replace the current estate-tax rules with a new system in which inheritances worth more than $2 million would be subject to federal income and payroll taxes, raising more than $250 billion over a decade, according to his campaign.

The former Housing and Urban Development secretary also wants to see a “wealth inequality tax” that would require the top 0.1% of asset holders, or people with about $40 million or more in wealth, to pay additional taxes every year on their investment income.

The capital gains tax rate would rise to 40% for people who earn more than $400,000 a year, putting it about in line with his new top individual income tax rate.

“At a time when wealth inequality is through the roof and wages are flat, Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are hell-bent on lining the pockets of the wealthiest few,” Mr. Castro said.

One of his first steps would be to repeal the GOP’s tax overhaul, signed into law in 2017.

His broader economic vision includes calls for equal pay for men and women, 12 weeks guaranteed paid family and medical leave per year, and paid sick leave of at least seven days a year for large employers.

Booker on white supremacy

Sen. Cory A. Booker proposed creating a new White House office to coordinate federal agencies’ ability to combat hate crimes and white supremacist violence in a new plan Thursday calling for collaboration with social media on “civil rights audits.”

Mr. Booker also wants an external advisory group of community stakeholders to share information with the federal government about what they’re seeing.

Martin Luther King Jr. “once said that ‘It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me.’ So in my administration, we will use the full force of the presidency to combat hate crimes and root out white supremacist threats wherever they arise,” the New Jersey senator said.

He would require the Justice Department to report annually on threats posed by white supremacists, direct the FBI to reinstate a “white supremacist” designation in its crime record-keeping, and make lynching a federal crime.

Mr. Booker also wants to see more places added to the list of “sensitive locations” where deportation officers aren’t allowed to enforce the law. The list currently includes schools, hospitals and churches, but anti-enforcement activists want to see courts and other government locations added.

His plan also mentioned working with online platforms on “civil rights audits” to try keep people safe from “white supremacist threats.”

Last year, Facebook announced that it was bringing in an outside adviser to examine the content on its platforms. The company said in June it was taking a closer look at banning content that supports “white nationalist ideology,” even if those specific terms aren’t used.

Yang on democracy reform

Businessman Andrew Yang on Thursday released a plan that said White House employees should undergo regular mental health evaluations, Supreme Court justices should be limited in how long they’re allowed to serve, and the president should meet at least monthly with congressional leaders.

Those were highlights of his plan to reinvigorate democracy and restore trust in the federal government.

“There are very few institutions in which a majority of Americans have a great deal of confidence,” Mr. Yang said. “This is leading to the dissolution of our communal bonds, and it must change, or our country will continue to crumble. This change has to start from the top.”

He said he would undergo a mental health screening as president and would have his staff do so, too.

“Americans have to trust that those working in the White House are handling the stress of the job well, and are making decisions with a clear mind. Especially the president,” his plan says.

Many of President Trump’s critics have questioned his mental fitness for office and speculated that he has diagnosable personality disorders.

Mr. Yang said he would seek to pass legislation to increase the president’s annual salary to $4 million per year, but bar him or her from receiving speaking fees or board positions for personal gain after leaving office.

He also said he would support 18-year term limits for Supreme Court justices, with the terms staggered so there would be a retirement every other year, as well as 12-year terms limits for members of Congress.

Buttigieg on the rural economy

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, released a plan Tuesday to boost the economy in rural parts of America, including up to $500 million in federal money to support 1,000 “regional innovation clusters.”

He wants more apprenticeships, with $5 billion devoted over the next 10 years to expanding access to them.

He also would give tax breaks to companies who bring on interns from rural areas and create a new visa designed to encourage immigrants to live for several years in smaller cities and places that have seen their working-age population fall.

Mr. Buttigieg also backed the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard “as written,” and his plan said the Trump administration has allowed for too many exceptions. The RFS requires alternative fuels such as ethanol — a major factor in Iowa’s corn economy — to be mixed into the U.S. gasoline supply.

The plan also calls for an $80 billion effort to expand high-speed internet access to underserved communities, increased teacher pay at rural schools, and a $25 billion investment in colleges and universities that cater to black and other racial or ethnic minority students.

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