Michael Bennet: The Real Deal

Making Lasting Progress for You and Your Family

As we enter this election year, Democrats across the country have the opportunity to champion an agenda that is progressive, paid for, and popular among the majority of the American people. It’s The Real Deal, and it will make lasting progress for you and your family. This is the political and policy blueprint that should guide our priorities for the next 20 years.

For too many decades, we have failed to invest in our country and our kids’ futures. We have spent $5 trillion on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and another $5.6 trillion fighting wars in the Middle East. Donald Trump has made matters worse. Average monthly job growth during Donald Trump’s first term continues to lag behind the job growth numbers of Obama’s second term. In addition, Trump passed a tax bill that benefited the wealthy and corporations and increased economic inequality.  

We are not going to reverse these policy failures with empty promises of free stuff. Yet that is what many candidates have offered in this primary election—free health care, free college, medical debt forgiveness, and more. Few candidates have offered any plausible means of paying for these plans, and some have offered massive tax increases on working people and the middle class.

There is a better way. With The Real Deal, we can turn away from the politics of empty promises and can’t-do rhetoric. We can choose to invest in our country and our future. We can say to the people who I’ve met in town halls for the last 10 years: We hear you, and we are meeting you with real solutions to make a difference for your family.

The choice we face in this primary is between unrealistic promises that will only breed further cynicism in our politics and building political momentum to achieve actual progress for people who need it. Instead of fighting a losing battle over the next 10 years for Medicare for All, for example, we should build a broad coalition to achieve The Real Deal.

Our country would look very different if we passed The Real Deal: Every three- and four-year old would have access to preschool. Every family with kids would receive at least $3,000 a year, paid out monthly, to put toward rent, groceries, and child care. 40% of kids currently living in poverty no longer would be. Every worker would have paid family and medical leave. The 70% of Americans who graduate from high school but don’t earn a four-year degree would have the training and opportunities they need to earn a living wage, not just the minimum wage, in their local economy. Millions of people would have access to new jobs in clean energy and infrastructure. 11 million undocumented immigrants would have a pathway to citizenship and the chance to contribute even more meaningfully to our economy.

This is an agenda Democrats up and down the ballot—in blue, purple, and red states—can run on. It would profoundly improve the lives of millions of Americans. It is achievable and fiscally responsible. The Real Deal will not only galvanize the Democratic base, but it will also help us win back some of the nine million people who voted twice for Barack Obama and then for Donald Trump. These are policies that will unite us to make the strongest case possible to defeat Donald Trump, take back the Senate, expand control in the House, and win back statehouses all across the country. 

We have an historic opportunity to reimagine a politics that finally makes lasting progress for you, your family, and millions of Americans. This is The Real Deal.

Rebuild the Middle Class and End Childhood Poverty

  • Support Families Raising Kids and Workers Trying to Make Ends Meet: Expand the Child Tax Credit consistent with the American Family Act—$3,600 per year for kids under age six, $3,000 for kids age six and older—which would help middle-class families afford to raise kids and cut child poverty by nearly 40%. Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to $3,000 for workers who do not have children at home—the only Americans that we tax into poverty today. Read more
  • Pass Paid Family and Medical Leave: Pass paid family and medical leave, so that America is no longer the only developed economy in the world that denies its citizens the ability to take care of a newborn, an aging parent, or themselves. Read more
  • Raise the Minimum Wage: 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. Read more
  • Lower Costs and Cover Everyone with High-Quality Health Care: Offer a high-quality public health care option called Medicare-X that will lower healthcare costs, drive down prescription drug prices, and expand coverage to every corner of America in three years. Read more
  • Tackle the Housing Affordability Crisis: Address America’s housing affordability crisis by driving the creation of more than 7 million new, affordable homes for the middle-class, seniors, and working families. Provide rental support so every American can live in high-opportunity areas with good jobs and good schools. Read more
  • Make a Secure Retirement More Attainable and Affordable: Ensure every American can achieve a secure and dignified retirement by protecting Social Security, building more affordable housing for seniors, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and creating a universal retirement savings account that is portable as people switch jobs throughout their lifetime—a so-called 401(k) in the sky. 

Expand Opportunity for All 

  • Create Universal Preschool for 3- and 4-Year Olds: Enact high-quality, universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year old to ensure that every kid in America, regardless of where they are from, can get a strong start in school and in life. Read more
  • Invest in the 70% of Americans Who Don’t Graduate from College: Make a $500 billion investment over 10 years in proven pathways to a middle-class job for the nearly 70% of Americans without a four-year college degree, so they can advance in the 21st Century economy to earn a living wage, not just the minimum wage. Read more
  • Make College Affordable to Drive Upward Mobility: Make a four-year public college degree affordable for every middle-class American and debt free for families with incomes below $75,000 per year. For families and workers with existing debt, we cap debt payments at no more than 8% of a graduate’s income. Read more
  • Pay Teachers Like Professionals: Pay our teachers like the professionals that they are by increasing federal support for K-12 education, especially in high-poverty and rural school districts. Read more

Tackle Generational Challenges

  • Tackle Climate Change and Drive the 21st Century Clean-Energy Economy: Drive $10 trillion in public-private investment to combat climate change and other forms of pollution and create millions of jobs across every part of America, including by compensating farmers, ranchers, and foresters for using our working lands to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Read more
  • Rebuild America’s Infrastructure: Upgrade America’s infrastructure with a major, long-overdue $1 trillion investment, including in our roads, bridges, airports, mass transit, water infrastructure, and connecting every community in America to high-speed, modern broadband internet. Create millions of well-paying American jobs, cut red tape, and empower rural communities to coordinate transportation, water, rail, and other infrastructure regionally. 
  • Reform Our Broken Immigration System: Pass comprehensive, durable immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, enacts the Dream Act, establishes 21st Century border security, and makes our immigration system rational—so that businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers can go through the legal process in a way that expands growth, raises incomes for Americans, and respects our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. 
  • Address Inequality by Making Sure Our Tax Code Requires Everyone Pay Their Fair Share: Reform our tax system to ensure the wealthy are paying their fair share, so working families and the middle-class do not bear an unfair share of the burden. 
  • Reform Campaign Finance Laws and Our Broken Political System: Take the money out of politics and put the American people back in so we can make progress on these challenges, including overturning Citizens United, banning Members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists, ending partisan gerrymandering, and ensuring every eligible voter has access to vote. Read more

All of these policies COMBINED would cost about $6 trillion over the next decade.

That’s less than one-fifth of the cost of Medicare for All alone. 

Over the next 10 years, we can pay for this agenda by:

  • Ending a loophole in Trump’s tax plan created for the super rich, which delivers more than half of its benefits to the top 1% (saves $500 billion);
  • Raising the corporate rate to 28% and undoing other McConnell-Trump tax cut rollbacks (saves $1 trillion);
  • Enacting a smart wealth tax that taxes income from wealth just like income from work—at the same rates and on an annual basis—and ending the “trust fund loophole” that allows huge amounts of wealth to escape taxation (saves $2.2 trillion);
  • Reforming the estate tax to return the thresholds to the $7-million-per-couple levels that prevailed prior to 2009 (with additional carve-outs for family farms) and adding higher estate tax rates for extremely large intergenerational wealth transfers (saves at least $200 billion);
  • Investing in stronger IRS enforcement (saves $400 billion);
  • Raising ordinary income tax rates on high-income taxpayers, including restoring the 39.6% top rate and adding another 44% top bracket for very high-income taxpayers (saves $600 billion);
  • Enacting comprehensive immigration reform (saves $400 billion);
  • Tightening international tax provisions to crack down on multinational corporations dodging their taxes (saves $150 billion);
  • Creating a financial fee on high-risk funding by too-big-to-fail financial institutions (saves $100 billion); and
  • Implementing healthcare savings by reducing prescription drug prices, ending surprise medical bills, and other healthcare reforms (saves $500 billion).

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