- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 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.


Sen. Bernard Sanders teamed up with freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to roll out legislation Thursday that calls for a guaranteed right to housing and would put up to $180 billion over 10 years toward retrofitting and cutting carbon emissions in federal public housing.

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The legislation would amend federal law to say it’s the policy of the U.S. to use federal funds and the credit of the country “to guarantee the right to housing for every individual,” an expansive view of government reach reflected in their “Green New Deal” to combat climate change.

The bill would provide funding for solar panels and renewable energy resources to power public housing, and it calls for a federal-state partnership for new grant programs to transition public housing into more energy-efficient units.

“This bill shows that we can address our climate and affordable housing crises by making public housing a model of efficiency, sustainability and resiliency,” said Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The legislation is intended to shift the “entire public housing stock” in the country “as swiftly and seamlessly as possible” into “zero-carbon, highly energy-efficient developments,” according to a summary of the bill.

Mr. Sanders’ office estimated the bill would create almost 250,000 jobs per year that would be subject to strong labor standards and “Buy America” provisions.

“Climate change represents both a grave threat and a tremendous opportunity,” said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat. “The Green New Deal for Public Housing Act will train and mobilize the workforce to decarbonize the public housing stock and improve the quality of life for all residents.”

Data for Progress, a progressive think tank, estimated that the retrofits of more than 1 million public housing units would cost between $119 billion and $172 billion and that the bill would create up to 240,723 jobs per year.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, one of Mr. Sanders’ top rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a firebrand freshman Democrat, has endorsed Mr. Sanders in the race.

Biden and infrastructure

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden on Thursday released a plan that calls for a $1.3 trillion investment in infrastructure projects over the next decade.

Mr. Biden would spend $50 billion in his first year in office to repair existing roads, highways and bridges, and pair new infrastructure investments with job training programs.

His campaign said overarching goals that would color the plan are creating union jobs that expand the middle class, building “resilient” infrastructure with an eye toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and revitalizing communities so “no one is left behind.”

He would put $5 billion over five years into battery and other energy storage technology and work with federal and state lawmakers to build 500,000 public charging outlets so that by 2030, Americans would be able to drive anywhere in the U.S. in an electric car.

Mr. Biden, who as a U.S. senator famously commuted from Delaware to Washington via Amtrak, also would invest in high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor, California and the South, with a goal of cutting travel time between New York and Washington in half.

He also would put an additional $10 billion over 10 years into transit projects that serve “high-poverty areas” with limited transportation options to try to cut down on commute times for lower-income workers.

Mr. Biden also is proposing a $40 billion, 10-year “Transformational Projects Fund” that would provide grants for especially complex projects, such as a port upgrade or new tunnel.

Yang and technology

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang on Thursday announced a set of proposals to regulate big technology companies and try to safeguard privacy, including guaranteed proprietary rights for individuals’ data.

Mr. Yang would establish a digital bill of rights to outline the rules of the road and mandate that platforms offer people the option of using their service without collecting data or personal information on the user.

The plan also calls for a new tax on digital ads and data to try to make sure people whose data ends up being used by tech companies to sell ads get a “slice” of the digital ad revenue.

“As the parent of two young children, I’m deeply concerned about technology and how it affects our kids,” Mr. Yang said. “We’re developing technology rapidly and we need to work together to get ahead when it comes to analyzing how it impacts our everyday lives and creating appropriate regulations.”

His campaign said other candidates’ calls to break up online giants such as Google and Facebook wouldn’t fix the underlying problems the companies are creating.

Mr. Yang also would create a “Department of the Attention Economy” that focuses on how to responsibly design smartphones and establish rules and standards around “kid-targeted content” to prevent them from accessing inappropriate material.

He would seek to combat disinformation by sources such as online “bots” by working with companies to create algorithms that head off misinformation as well as information “that’s specifically designed to polarize or incite individuals.”

He also would revive Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment, set new standards and metrics for “antitrust,” and require platforms that are “market players” and “market platforms” to keep an even playing field for competitors’ products or services on their platform, or leave the market.

Warren and ‘corporate perjury’

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Tuesday laid out a proposal to punish companies that knowingly lie to federal agencies or regulators.

Ms. Warren would create a new “corporate perjury” law that would impose fines of up to $250,000 or jail time for “corporate operatives” who knowingly submit false information to government regulators.

“It is illegal to lie to Congress. It is illegal to lie to a court. It’s even illegal to lie to your shareholders,” she said on her campaign website. “But corporate interests are regularly and knowingly peddling false claims in order to stop regulatory agencies from acting in the public interest.”

She also wants to ban federal agencies and courts from considering “non-peer-reviewed, industry-funded” research, saying companies frequently cite studies they effectively underwrite themselves.

Industry actors who submit non-peer-reviewed research to agencies would have to disclose who funded the research, and if any conflicts of interest arise, it would be excluded from any rule-making process and subsequent court challenges unless it passes peer review.

The plan also would establish an Office of the Public Advocate to try to keep the public informed of legal changes from federal agencies during rule making.

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