The American people want their hard work to be rewarded with a decent, middle-class life.
Yet, for decades, incomes for most Americans have stagnated, while the costs of living have continued to rise. That leaves most people unable to afford some combination of health care, housing, child care, and higher education. In other words, they can’t afford a middle-class life.
Donald Trump talks a lot about helping workers, but his tax cuts overwhelmingly favored the wealthiest Americans. His reckless trade war is actively doing damage to our workers, farmers, and ranchers. And his relentless pursuit to take health care away from tens of millions of Americans is the exact opposite of what workers and their families need.
We don’t hear enough on the campaign trail about how we can support the nearly 70% of Americans without a four-year college degree who are already in the workforce. We need a plan that puts workers first and ensures their hard work is rewarded.
This plan will make a historic $500 billion investment in American workers over the next ten years, including in high-quality training like registered apprenticeships. We’ll coordinate these investments across regional economies to connect workers’ skills with local demand. And we’ll support workers seeking to gain the skills and job opportunities they need to succeed in the economy.
We will drive economic security for middle-class Americans and people working to get into the middle class – through expanding the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, enacting paid family and medical leave, and raising the minimum wage. And we will empower workers by cracking down on abuses by big corporations and supporting collective bargaining.
Finally, we will do everything we can to prevent recessions – which hurt people living paycheck to paycheck the most – and to respond aggressively to get the economy going again when they do occur.
INVESTING IN WORKERS
The first pillar of the plan is a major investment of $500 billion over the next ten years in Americans who do not have a four-year college degree.
In the December 2017 tax legislation, Republicans included a provision that was supposed to help small business owners who invested in their workers. Instead, they created a giant pass-through loophole that was so complex, it created jobs for an army of tax lawyers who have had to figure out how to game it.
More than 60% of the benefit of the pass-through loophole goes to people in the top 1% of income earners. And it costs more than $50 billion per year. The Bennet Administration will repeal the egregious pass-through loophole, and use the savings to invest in pro-worker employers and high-quality job training so workers can get ahead.
Invest $500 Billion In American Workers:
We spend only about one-tenth of one percent of our GDP on critical investments in our workers, one of the lowest shares of any advanced economy. Other countries spend as much as 20 times as much to support their workers in dealing with the ups and downs of a global economy. Instead of leaving workers to fend for themselves, the Bennet Administration will increase investment in active labor market policy by more than $500 billion over the next decade to:
- Develop 500 Regional Opportunity Compacts over the next five years. The Bennet Administration will support the development of 500 Regional Opportunity Compacts by investing $50 billion over five years for locally-based partnerships to transform regional labor markets. These Compacts will bring in every part of the community and labor market to connect the dots between what’s taught in schools, the way we pay for post-secondary education, how students are prepared to enter the workforce, and the needs of local employers.
- Expand proven models of high-quality job training. Our federal support for higher education disproportionately funds four-year degrees and is too limited in supporting high-quality two year programs, credentialing, registered apprenticeships, or other pathways to a middle-class job. The Bennet Administration will provide flexibility for federal higher-education support like Pell Grants and loans to be used for proven job-driven training models – including those that do not require a degree – through dramatically expanding registered apprenticeships and reimbursing employers for training if that training results in a worker receiving a significant pay raise that is sustained and they remain employed for at least a year.
- Subsidize employment opportunities that have a proven track record of supporting employment and higher incomes. The program would provide states with funding to reimburse employers for up to 100% of the first six months of wages, with an additional retention bonus of up to $6,000 for employers who retain workers for two years. These programs would target the long-term unemployed; people eligible for public assistance; and the formerly incarcerated, among others. States would be required to match the federal funding based on a sliding scale formula that accounts for both the state’s fiscal capacity (i.e. its total taxable resources), as well as its unemployment rate and its prime-age non-employment rate. The state match would decline as unemployment rose or fiscal capacity fell, providing additional federal support when and where it’s most needed.
- Reform disability insurance to remove the penalty against disabled Americans for re-entering the workforce if their condition improves. This will enable more disabled Americans to enter the workforce without potentially jeopardizing their disability payments.
- Create a national Self-Employment Assistance program, allowing workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own to start a business without being denied continued unemployment insurance benefits.
- Establish wage insurance for workers who lose a job they’ve had more than three years, which will provide income support to those workers for up to two years after they are hired elsewhere. The insurance would replace half of lost wages for workers up to a salary of $50,000, with a capped level of wage replacement.
- Create summer jobs and youth apprenticeships that have a proven track-record of providing meaningful summer work and getting low-income young adults a foothold into the labor market and on a pathway to the middle-class.
EMPOWERING OUR WORKERS
The second pillar of the plan drives economic security and empowers workers to bargain for their fair share of the income they generate.
Immediately Bolster Economic Security:
To make work pay and provide stability for parents to raise their children and stay in the workforce, the Bennet Administration will:
- Expand the Child Tax Credit through the American Family Act, which will provide a tax credit of up to $300 per month per child to help middle-class families afford to raise kids and cut child poverty by nearly 40%.
- Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to up to $3,000 per worker without children, growing the paychecks of tens of millions of Americans.
- Raise the minimum wage to $15 or more in high-cost cities, with an exemption for rural and lower-cost communities where $15 would potentially harm employment and small businesses.
- Enact Paid Family and Medical Leave, so that workers receive 70% of their monthly wages for up to 12 weeks when they take time to care for a newborn, address a serious health condition, or take care of an ailing family member.
Support Unions and Collective Bargaining:
America’s working men and women built an economy that became the envy of the world, not only because of our wealth, but because of our wages, workers, and middle class. In recent years, we have seen a systematic rollback of union victories in the 20th century. We need to reverse that and support organized labor’s efforts to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions. The Bennet Administration will:
- Strengthen the ability for workers to organize and collectively bargain, to begin reversing the decades-long decline in union membership, including pushing back against right to work laws at the state level.
- Make union dues deductible, to level the playing field between workers and their employers, who can deduct their expenses.
- Appoint strong National Labor Relations Board representatives to prioritize the interests of workers, not special interests.
- Recognize and support unions who seek to represent historically underrepresented workers and fields, including developing and supporting new models for contracts between employers and employees that adapt to sectors that are underrepresented by unions and collective bargaining agreements.
- Protect and expand Registered Apprenticeships in the building trades.
Ban Non-compete Clauses and “No-poaching” Agreements:
Large companies often slip non-compete agreements into the fine print of employment contracts to prohibit their workers from working at a competitor. This includes a disturbingly large share of workers for whom there is no conceivable reason for doing so other than to limit their employment options. Competing employers also often agree not to hire or recruit one another’s employees through so-called “no-poaching” agreements, further limiting employees’ ability to receive the pay they are due. Many workers receive their most significant pay raises when they take a new job or are offered a job and able to bargain with their current employer for higher pay. The Bennet Administration will:
- Ban non-compete agreements for all workers, with limited waivers granted for companies to protect legitimate trade secrets.
- Immediately call on employers to stop including non-compete clauses in employee contracts in states in which they are already unenforceable and consider what legal steps may already be available to prohibit their use.
- Ban “no-poaching” provisions in employment contracts.
Mandate that Antitrust Enforcers Crack Down on Wage Collusion and Suppression:
When industries consolidate – either nationally or regionally – as has increasingly been the case in recent decades, companies can suppress wages because workers do not have enough alternative options for places to work, undermining their leverage to bargain for better pay or treatment. In some cases, separate employers in a labor market will even collude to set the same low wages. The Bennet Administration will:
- Crack down on wage-fixing agreements in which employers agree to collude on wage-setting, as well as other practices that are designed to suppress worker wages.
- Increase monitoring of local labor market data and enforcement of wage collusion and suppression, by securing funding for more monitoring and enforcement based on an assessment from outside experts of what’s needed to achieve this objective.
- Clarify that monopsony is within the FTC’s purview, so that antitrust claims can be leveled against corporations that abuse their market power over workers.
Reduce Barriers from Unnecessary Occupational Licensing:
In the 1950s, only 5% of workers were in industries requiring an occupational license, while that number has grown five-fold to 25% today. About two-thirds of this change stems from an increase in the number of professions that require a license. While some licensing requirements help promote professionalism and public safety, many are overly burdensome and restrict access to good jobs, leading to fewer workers employed in those professions and higher costs. For example, over 1,100 occupations are regulated in at least one state, but fewer than 60 are regulated in all 50 states – suggesting that many of these requirements may not be necessary. Many states do not recognize licensing from other states, often creating unnecessary costs or hurdles for highly-qualified people to remain in a profession after moving to a new state. These restrictions are especially harmful to military families, who often have to move across state lines. Occupational licensing can also often deny people a second chance when they are trying to reenter the workforce after being incarcerated. The Bennet Administration will:
- Coordinate occupational licensing requirements across states through federal grants that encourage collaboration, and working with states to collect and disseminate best practices for reducing barriers to only those needed for professionalism and public safety.
- Work with governors to expand interstate compacts to new occupational categories, either through mutual recognition or a process to expedite state-level licenses that aren’t recognized across state lines with appropriate safety and professionalism protections to prevent a race to the bottom.
- Allow practitioners to offer services to the full extent of their current competency, to ensure that all qualified workers are able to offer services that their skills enable them to deliver. This includes, for example, allowing for medical professionals at the Veterans Administration to practice at their full scope of practice.
- Break down barriers for military spouses to move across state lines and continue to contribute in their professions.
Establish a Monetary Policy that Prioritizes Workers:
Monetary policy is one of the least discussed issues on the presidential campaign trail, but it may be as consequential to American workers as almost anything else the government can do. Monetary policy can prevent recessions, or it can cause them. It can create millions of jobs, or it can eliminate them. It can enhance families’ incomes, or it can stifle them. It can keep inflation steady, or it can allow it to run out of control. Fundamentally, monetary policy is about achieving the right balance, and we are now awakening to the fact that, for too long, America’s monetary policy seems to have been out of balance – underachieving the part of its mandate that’s about job and income growth. According to Jared Bernstein, “by conventional measures, the U.S. job market has suffered some degree of slack for about 70 percent of the time since 1980. The absence of persistent, strong labor market demand has a significant negative impact on wages and incomes, with these costs falling disproportionately on the least advantaged.” We need a monetary policy that prioritizes the typical American worker. To achieve that, The Bennet Administration will:
- Appoint people to the Federal Reserve Board who demonstrate a strong commitment to the employment objective, doing what is needed to achieve broad-based income growth.
- Commission a working group of independent policy experts to review our national approach to monetary policy, including assessing whether Federal Reserve’s framework should be revised to incorporate:
- The recently proposed floor on gross labor income (GLI) growth, which would ensure that the nation’s paycheck (the sum total of all employee compensation) met at least a minimum annual growth rate;
- Nominal gross domestic product (NGDP) targeting, to achieve stable expectations about growth in national output each year; or,
- Other targets or benchmarks that will more effectively meet the Fed’s employment objective in addition to maintaining price stability.
- Consider changes to the Federal Reserve’s authority that will allow it to better meet its employment and price stability objectives, especially when needed to prevent or mitigate the consequences of a recession or financial crisis.
PREVENTING AND RESPONDING TO ECONOMIC EMERGENCIES
The third pillar of the plan is about responding quickly and forcefully to prevent and mitigate recessions and other economic emergencies.
Automatically and Aggressively Ramp Up Response to Potential Recessions:
We need to make more of the response to a recession automatic and to have those automatic responses occur quickly to avert the damage to workers and families, consistent with the recent recommendations put forward by a group of economic experts. The Bennet Administration will enact a law to:
- Automatically issue direct payments to individuals when the unemployment rate rises significantly above its lows over the previous year and an additional payment if unemployment rises substantially above its lows. These payments would be structured to initially scale to about 0.8% of GDP, with an equal payment per adult and per dependent child. They would decline as the economy returned to health.
- Automatically increase state fiscal support when the economy weakens, through a larger federal share of funding for Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), education, and keeping firefighters and police officers on the job during downturns.
- Reform unemployment insurance to automatically increase the federal share of support to states when state unemployment rates rise, increase unemployment benefit amounts in severe downturns, and extend the duration of unemployment insurance to up to 99 weeks in the most severe recessions.
- Automatically ramp up safety net programs in a downturn, by expanding SNAP benefits by up to 15% during recessions. We will also eliminate work requirements on SNAP, Medicaid, and other programs that are designed as administrative hurdles to kick people off of these programs, many of whom are working but lose critical support because of paperwork or other barriers. At the very least, we should automatically tie waivers from existing work requirement waivers to expansions in unemployment benefits due to downturns.
- Create a fast-track infrastructure fund for states that have done the planning for infrastructure needs to receive immediate infrastructure funding for targeting deferred maintenance and other investments in times of elevated unemployment. This could be used to fund projects submitted as applications for competitive funding through the BUILD (previously called TIGER) program, for example.
- Study broader indicators of labor markets to determine if other indicators of labor market slack – such as prime-age non-employment rates, the more broadly inclusive U-6 unemployment rate, or measures of gross labor income – are more timely, consistent, and accurate measures of cyclicality and deteriorating labor markets than the traditional (U-3) unemployment rate.
Respond Aggressively to Regional or Industry-wide Economic Emergencies:
When a regional economy faces a major plant closure or other significant economic disruption such as the impending decline of a major industry with high levels of employment in the area, the Bennet Administration will create a stronger, more collaborative response across federal agencies with state and local officials. To do so, the Bennet Administration will:
- Create a new regional economic emergency declaration. Just as states can request a disaster declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), states should be able to request emergency support for a region that is undergoing a major job loss in a short period of time. In response, the federal government would free up emergency support dollars (to be matched by the state, with the match rate adjusted for the state’s fiscal capacity) at the scale of the disruption and would send in a multi-agency Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) to the region to coordinate with state and local officials; workers, unions, and their representatives; and local businesses to bring to bear the full resources and support of the federal government to help the affected workers and communities.
- Create coordinated federal task forces for transitioning industries or industries facing severe economic distress. A number of industries have undergone significant disruptions or are anticipated to go through such disruptions in the near future. The Bennet Administration will convene cross-agency leaders and business leaders to come up with a coordinated, forward-looking strategy to support the workers, small businesses, and communities affected by industry-wide disruptions, whether they are permanent transitions or more temporary threats.