- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 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.


Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, on Thursday released a health care proposal he described as “Medicare for all who want it” that could put the country on a “glide path” to a universal “Medicare for all” system.

“This gives Americans a choice,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “If you prefer a public plan like Medicare — like I think most Americans will — you can choose it. But if you prefer to keep your private insurance, you can.”

Mr. Buttigieg joins 2020 candidates such as former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Sen. Michael Bennet, who have advocated for a public insurance option to compete with private plans.

That’s a contrast to Sen. Bernard Sanders‘ government-run vision, which would eliminate private insurance altogether.

Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign, though, said if private insurers don’t offer something better, the mayor’s proposal would create a “natural glide path” to a government takeover of the health care system.

Under his plan, eligible people would be automatically enrolled in Medicaid or the public option. Other people who can’t afford coverage would receive subsidies, either for private insurance or for the public alternative.

It would cap premium payments at 8.5% of income.

The plan seeks to lower costs by banning health care providers from charging more than twice what Medicare would pay for the same service out-of-network and capping out-of-pocket costs for seniors enrolled in traditional Medicare, among other priorities.

O’Rourke on marijuana

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas on Thursday released a plan to legalize marijuana at the federal level that includes a proposal to dole out monthly grants to people formerly incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses.

“We need to not only end the prohibition on marijuana but also repair the damage done to the communities of color disproportionately locked up in our criminal justice system or locked out of opportunity because of the War on Drugs,” he said.

He would impose a new federal tax on the marijuana industry, with the proceeds going toward a monthly “drug war justice grant” to those who had been imprisoned for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses, reentry services for formerly incarcerated people and substance abuse treatment programs.

Mr. O’Rourke also would seek to end the federal prohibition on marijuana and remove it from the controlled substances list. He would model a regulatory system along the lines of what’s used for alcohol, limiting sales to adults and investing in marijuana “breathalyzer” technology and ignition interlock devices.

He also would end “cannabis-related” charges as grounds for deportation or denial of citizenship.

Sanders on housing

Sen. Bernard Sanders on Wednesday released a $2.5 trillion plan intended to guarantee affordable housing to every American.

He vowed a nearly $1.5 trillion investment in a national “affordable housing trust fund” to build or rehabilitate about 7.4 million housing units.

“There is virtually no place in America where a full-time minimum-wage worker can afford a decent two-bedroom apartment,” said the senator from Vermont. “At a time when half of our people are living paycheck to paycheck, this is unacceptable.”

Mr. Sanders also would impose a national cap on annual rent increases to no more than 3%, or 1.5% times the consumer price index, and implement new “just cause” requirements for evictions in an effort to prevent people from getting kicked out of their apartments for “arbitrary” reasons.

Mr. Sanders‘ campaign also said he would fully fund federal Section 8 rental assistance for lower-income families at $410 billion over the next decade.

The plan also includes a 25% “house flipping tax” for investors who sell a non-owner-occupied property for more than it was purchased within five years, and a 2% “empty homes” tax on owned but vacant homes.

His campaign said the broader proposal would be paid for by imposing a new tax on the top 0.1% of earners.

Booker on labor rights

Sen. Cory A. Booker on Wednesday introduced a plan intended to bolster workers’ rights and labor unions that included new rules of the road for collective bargaining and independent contractors.

Mr. Booker’s plan entails supporting legislation to make it easier for people to join a union, protecting employees’ right to strike, banning right-to-work laws, and supporting “sectoral” bargaining across multiple employers in the same industry.

He also wants a new federal minimum wage of $15 per hour and new rules so that “gig” workers at companies such as Uber aren’t classified as independent contractors.

The New Jersey Democrat tied his proposals to the ongoing United Automobile Workers union strike at General Motors.

“I learned the power of collective action from my grandfather who was an assembly line worker and UAW union rep in Detroit,” Mr. Booker said. “He showed me how, when workers stick together, injustices can be corrected and real progress can be made.”

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