AJC New England 2020 Candidate Survey: Question 4
Racism, Immigration and Human Rights
Question 4: There is growing concern in the country about financial inequality and its consequences for those lower on the economic ladder. If elected to the United States Congress, describe at least one initiative you will propose to address this concern?
Income inequality is one of the hallmark issues of our time, and it is one of the most dangerous threats to our democracy. All of my policies, directly or indirectly, deal with lessening income inequality--from ending cash bail, to expanding public transit, to lowering healthcare costs. Yet one policy I’d like to focus on here is the estate tax. Currently, the estate tax only kicks in for wealth in excess of $22 million. It used to be $7 million, and it’s time to return to that previous figure. We need to lower that number to make sure that millionaires are not bypassing the IRS and leaving their kids with small fortunes. That intergenerational transfer of wealth is one massive barrier to lessening income inequality, and it creates the kind of American aristocracy that our Founders were so against. Lowering the estate tax from $22 million to $7 million will impact the 14,000 richest families in the country, whereas the tax revenue from this change could provide affordable housing for hundreds of thousands or millions of struggling families.
I’m deeply concerned about rising inequality in the United States. Tackling inequality isn’t only a matter of economic justice, but also vital to repairing our social fabric and demonstrating to those who have lost faith in our system that government works for them too. In the country at large, wealth is concentrated in the hands of the top 1% and everyone else is treading water. I will work to repeal the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations, to provide tax relief for the middle class, and to ensure that the ultra-rich and corporate giants pay their fair share. The current financial crisis is an opportunity to reimagine an economy that works for everyone, and we must start to mobilize our federal resources and invest in working families.
I will also advocate for numerous other measures to reduce inequality in America. First, we should couple the need for bold climate action with the need to put millions of Americans back to work with good-paying jobs through robust investments in green jobs, infrastructure, and public transit. We also need a large infusion of affordable housing across every community. The federal government must increase our housing stock while prioritizing groups who have been marginalized on the basis of race and sexual orientation because of redlining and outright discrimination. Another issue I’m passionate about is achieving universal pre-K in child care. Compared to other highly-developed economies, the United States has a glaring lack of public policy and infrastructure to support young families. We know that the opportunity gap starts at the very beginning of a child’s life. And children who don’t have access to quality early childhood care and education grow up with severe, long-term disadvantages. In order to level that playing field, it’s become clear that working families in this country desperately need relief. Rebuilding the middle class, providing pathways to opportunity for those struggling to get into the middle class, starting to tackle the racial wealth gap, and recovering equitably from this economic crisis starts with a child care system that is affordable and accessible to all.
I believe that the best way to alleviate financial inequality is to reform the educational system in the United States with one principal - school choice for those that are stuck in failing school districts. We can reauthorize Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 to state simply that parents can get direct grants from Title 1 funding to send their child to another school if their local school district is failing. They can pay tuition to any other accredited public, private, or charter school that will enroll them. It is undeniable that young people with a good education are far more likely to succeed in the workforce than those who have a poor or incomplete education. It is unacceptable to look the other way and let disadvantaged youth be robbed of a good education in the most successful nation in the world, and this one measure will lift millions out of a life of poverty.
I’ve spent my entire life trying to address the deeply rooted financial inequality that grips so much of this country through national service—it’s been over thirty years since I co-founded City Year with Michael Brown in 1988 in Boston with just 50 young people. Today, City Year enlists more than 3400 young people who serve 29 cities across America as well as three in the UK and one in South Africa. They serve more than 200,000 low income children every day. Since its founding, City Year has given 33,000 young people their first job. I want to emulate City Year’s success on a federal level with legislation that authorizes the expansion of AmeriCorps, the national service program City Year helped inspire and I helped save.
I support a goal of at least 1 million members in service annually. I also support changing the Eli Segal Education award to make it available for the American Dream, and increasing it to $15,000. That way, anyone who is willing to serve our communities and country for two years will be able to graduate college debt free. Especially in light of the COVID-19 crisis and the need for recovery and also to provide jobs for people, I believe that AmeriCorps and other service programs should be grown to one million people in the next two years. I will also fight for fully funding the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Law in 2021, which authorizes growth to 250,000 AmeriCorps members annually. I led the effort to get this law passed years ago, but fully funding the program—especially because of the current economic crisis—is a vital step towards addressing financial inequality.
I will also propose Restore the Dream Accounts to end student loan debt and give every single young American a jump start on the American Dream. I have proposed that the federal government invest $15,000 in every single child’s Restore the Dream Account when they are born, paid with funds from the Estate Tax. With standard moderate market returns in safe managed funds, that will grow to $50,000 by their 19th birthday. To unlock those funds, you just have to complete one year of national service by age 28. Families can also contribute to these accounts and any investments that a family makes will go to the child, whether or not they complete a year of service. Funds in a Dream Account can be used to pay for College, job training, for the downpayment on a first home, start up funds to be a small business or social entrepreneur, life-long learning, emergency needs and for retirement. This plan will incentivize Americans to serve their country and community in a meaningful way, while also giving every young person a jumpstart on the American Dream. I see this as a bookend to Social Security.
The expansion of voluntary national service and the implementation of Restore the Dream Accounts will jumpstart national programs on infrastructure, public health, economic development, climate action, and many other critical areas. Each American will enter adulthood with the opportunity to serve for one year and study debt free, as Dream Accounts yield far more than the average student loan debt. These accounts also give young people from low income backgrounds tangible assets to jumpstart their lives that they would not otherwise have, and will help reverse growing financial inequities in communities across the country.
Progressive tax reform should address spiraling inequality by ensuring that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share. First, I believe Congress should eliminate loopholes that shield capital gains from taxes. Second, I believe the richest Americans should contribute more in the form of a wealth tax. I would also support legislation to close loopholes that allow income to be earned or wealth to be stored “offshore” in order to avoid taxes. Finally, I believe that corporations should pay their fair share. I support efforts to reverse the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), specifically the provision that lowers the tax rate on corporate profits.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the people of the Fourth District were experiencing sweeping and systemic economic challenges that were still leaving far too many people and families behind. Now, economic inequality has only been exacerbated. We need to bring this economy back and, unlike now or before, we need a fair economy. This is especially important in a district that’s as economically diverse as the Fourth. And it intersects with many issues that the people of the Fourth District face every day – especially amid this crisis.
An initiative that I would lead on day one is the fight for a national Paid Family and Medical Leave law. The United States is the only industrialized nation without out and our failure to protect our workers is being seen in stark relief during the pandemic. No one should have to choose between earning a paycheck and taking care of a sick loved one.
I was on the eight person team that negotiated the strongest Paid Family and Medical Leave law in the country here in Massachusetts. It is the first state law in the nation to allow for job-protected paid time off for personal health and additional paid time for military caregivers. I will fight to do the same on the federal level.
To build a fair economy, we also must invest in transportation, housing, and infrastructure, enact equal pay, empower SouthCoast communities by providing funding for job training programs and investing in good clean energy jobs, raise the Federal Minimum Wage to $15 per hour, strengthening labor protections, and addressing the underlying causes of the racial wealth gap. I believe we must pass a wealth tax and close corporate loopholes to level the playing field and I have been a fierce advocate in support of the Fair Share Amendment in Massachusetts to tax the wealthiest among us to make critical investments in education and transportation.
Regarding inquiries 1-9, I plan to work with US Government Officials, Institutions and other subject matter experts to work towards addressing these important topics.
My platform is based on the premise of “We the 4th” meaning that we are all in this together and we all have the moral obligation to lift those around us, particularly the most vulnerable. It must start with providing relief for our most vulnerable members, creating economic mobility for our workers and ending the systemic racism, including combating environmental injustice and racism.
We know that education is one of the most powerful ways to address the disparities and inequalities in our country. We need to create a 21st century interconnected education system, starting with universal pre-school for 3-5 year olds and expanding Early Head Start. We must invest in our K-12 education by providing more professional development for our teachers, diversifying our teachers, and providing resources to upgrade and modernize school infrastructure. We must also make public higher education more accessible and affordable, by capping any student debt at a small fixed percentage of a student’s income, allowing students to have the friendly interest rates on their school loans as banks have on loans they receive from other banks. Finally, we must provide free adult vocational education so adults may receive the skills and training necessary to achieve a higher living standard. We must also provide free English classes for our immigrants who have the required skills and tracing for 21st century jobs but do not have the English proficiency.
In addition, we must also enact a Federal Paid Family and Medical Leave policy, as we can’t be the only industrialized country in the world not to have it. We must allow the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices under Medicare to drive down prescription drug costs. We also must expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, pass a $15 minimum wage that is indexed, and expand social security benefits.
American Jewish Committee (AJC) is the leading organization dedicated to Jewish advocacy at home and around the world. Through a global network comprised of 24 domestic regional offices; 12 overseas posts in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East; and 37 partnerships with international Jewish communities, AJC engages with political, religious and civic leaders to combat antisemitism and bigotry, support Israel’s quest for peace and security, and advance democratic values at home and abroad.
AJC New England recently invited all 11 Republican and Democratic declared candidates for the Congressional seat from the 4th District of Massachusetts to participate in a survey on some matters of import to our community.
AJC is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan organization and does not endorse or support any candidate for elected office, whether or not they responded to the survey. We offer this survey to educate the electorate about the views of the candidates for this office.