- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 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 Rep. John Delaney released a plan Thursday to enhance digital privacy, with his campaign saying he wants to follow California’s lead in guaranteeing the public the right to know whether their electronic devices are being tracked or their personal information being shared.

“So much of our lives, from our personal data to our finances, are now online and we need new consumer protections to ensure that our privacy is protected,” the Maryland Democrat said. “The cost of doing nothing is not nothing. We aren’t serving the people when we have telegraph-era laws in a smartphone age.”

He would grant individuals the explicit right to sue companies that violate their digital privacy, and would prevent collection of personal data of anyone under age 16 without consent.

Mr. Delaney also wants to prevent companies from using smartphones to monitor people’s facial expressions without their consent, and partner with the private sector to develop ways to try to prevent artificial intelligence from inheriting human bias in their automatic decision-making.

His campaign said that laws protecting privacy related to communications devices should extend to smart speakers like Alexa or Google Home or smart interactive toys marketed to children.

Bennet on education

Sen. Michael Bennet on Thursday announced a plan to create universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds, longer school days for K-12 students, and free community college for high school graduates.

Mr. Bennet would set up a federal-state partnership with a goal of expanding free preschool nationwide to all 4-year-olds by 2024 and to 3-year-olds by 2027, hoping to have them better prepared to start learning in primary school.

On the other end, he wants to create “Regional Opportunity Compacts” to connect the skills students learn in school to what they need to enter the workforce. He would spend $10 billion a year over five years to support 500 compacts.

Mr. Bennet’s campaign said he wants the federal government to join with states to provide free community college for all Americans, and increase Pell grant funding to make four-year college debt-free for students in families earning about $75,000 per year or less.

As a former Denver Public Schools superintendent, he expressed frustration that education hasn’t played a bigger role in the presidential debates.

“When education has been raised, it’s been about busing from 50 years ago, free college, or relieving all student debt,” the Colorado Democrat said. “What we should be hearing about, instead, is how to make free preschool a reality for every kid in America, and how to prepare the 70% of kids who don’t graduate from college to earn a living wage.”

Bullock on rural America

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock would create a Rural Affairs office in the White House and steer more funding toward eco-friendly farming techniques, as part of a new plan to boost rural communities.

“Folks shouldn’t have to leave their home, their church, or their community to succeed in America,” Mr. Bullock said Wednesday. “Washington has paid lip service to small and rural communities for too long — they deserve a leader in the White House who will lead with action.”

He would halt President Trump’s tariffs, which farmers say has left them struggling to sell to markets like China, where the government has retaliated against Mr. Trump’s moves with new levies on U.S. agricultural exports.

And Mr. Bullock would insist on stricter adherence to renewable fuel standards, which could be a boon for corn growers, who benefit from sales of ethanol for gasoline. The Trump administration has granted too many waivers, Democrats and some farmers argue.

The governor included a bold plan for a two-year “pause” on proposed mergers of agricultural companies, on the argument that corporate consolidation in markets like poultry and beef have harmed both farmers and consumers.

And the Office of Rural Affairs he envisions adding to the White House would help coordinate the broader effort, which includes directing federal money toward farming interests that are working toward the new economy, such as converting agricultural waste products into energy.

One part of his plan would also make it easier for wealthy foreigners to buy into the path to citizenship in the U.S. if they invest in struggling communities. He would lower the threshold for investing in the “golden visa” EB-5 program down from a minimum of $500,000 to just $350,000.

Sanders on medical debt

Sen. Bernard Sanders wants to cancel an estimated $81 billion in past-due debt Americans have racked up from medical bills.

“In the United States of America, your financial life and future should not be destroyed because you or a member of your family gets sick,” the Vermont senator said in laying out his goal last weekend. “That is unacceptable.”

His campaign said that more details about the broader plan are still forthcoming, but that under the proposal the federal government would negotiate and pay off past-due medical bills in collections that have been reported by credit agencies.

Mr. Sanders would also repeal parts of a 2005 law his campaign said has made it more difficult for Americans to declare bankruptcy, including for medical reasons, and allow “other existing and future medical debt to be discharged.”

His campaign also said the plan would ensure that people’s credit scores won’t be negatively affected by unpaid medical bills.

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