California’s presidential primary is coming up on March 3, 2020. In advance of Super Tuesday, we asked each of the Democratic candidates currently in the race a series of questions based on issues that impact L.A. residents–and all Americans. In this edition, we get answers from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Housing & Homelessness
As rents continue to rise faster than incomes, what policies will you institute on a national level that will help people from being priced out of renting in expensive markets like Southern California?
My housing plan tackles the growing cost of housing at its root: a severe lack of affordable housing supply and state and local land-use rules that needlessly drive up housing costs.
My plan would build or rehabilitate more than 3 million new housing units—bring down rents by 10 percent nationwide—and I’ll commit to prioritizing a portion of these units to particularly vulnerable groups, like the chronically homeless.
My plan to protect and empower renters will also prevent homelessness by tackling the growing cost of rent, strengthening fair housing law and enforcement, fighting for a nationwide right to counsel for low-income tenants in eviction proceedings, and creating a national small dollar grant program to help make sure families aren’t evicted because of financial emergencies.
I’ll also push to establish a new Tenant Protection Bureau, housed within HUD and modeled after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to enforce federal tenant protections, like just-cause eviction, for tenants in all federally funded affordable housing developments, ensure safe and decent living conditions, and guarantee landlords don’t illegally raise rents or fees in federally subsidized housing.
How can the federal government make homeownership possible for more people, particularly members of younger generations that are being all but shut out of the real estate market?
A key barrier to home ownership, especially for people in their 20s and 30s, is student loan debt. My student loan debt cancelation plan will cancel debt for 95 percent of people who have it, making it easier for them to save for a down payment and afford a mortgage.
We also have to recognize the impact of systemic discrimination. For decades, the federal government discriminated against Black families by denying them access to the same kind of federal housing subsidies that white families received to purchase a home—a practice known as “redlining.” The federal government officially ended that form of discrimination in the 1960s and passed the Fair Housing Act.
Yet the gap between white homeownership rates and Black homeownership rates today is about 30 percent—bigger than it was in 1960 when housing discrimination was legal. This enormous gap is a moral stain on our country. And because the government bears a big part of the blame for it, the government should take real steps to fix it.
My housing plan takes a first step by creating a first-of-its-kind down-payment assistance program. The people eligible for assistance must be first-time homebuyers who live in formerly redlined neighborhoods or communities that were segregated by law and are still currently low-income. If they qualify, they are entitled to a substantial grant they can put towards a down payment on a home anywhere in the country. The program will provide thousands of families with a real chance to buy a home—the same opportunities the government denied to previous generations of residents of the area.
In recent months, Donald Trump has suggested that local, state, and federal governments address the homelessness crisis by “cracking down,” razing encampments, and moving homeless people into “government-backed facilities.” How would your homelessness policy differ?
Homelessness is a crisis in Los Angeles and other cities around America. While nobody should be homeless in America, we need to stop treating our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness as criminals. All across the country, cities and states make it illegal to live on the street, even when there are fewer emergency shelter beds than people who need them. Enough is enough—it’s time to stop criminalizing poverty. My Department of Justice will not fund efforts to criminalize homelessness and will deny grant money to police departments who are arresting residents for living outside.
Instead, we should provide states and cities the resources they need to prevent and combat the epidemic of homelessness, particularly among LGBTQ+ youth, transgender people, and veterans. As we fight to end homelessness and expand affordable housing, we won’t leave any groups behind.
Thousands of Californians who work in the insurance industry stand to lose jobs under a single-payer health care system. How would you make health care a reality for all Americans while preserving jobs?
The cost of health care is crushing American families, even those with good insurance.
Last year 37 million American adults didn’t fill a prescription, 36 million people skipped a recommended test, treatment, or follow-up, and 40 million people didn’t go to a doctor to check out a health problem—all because of costs. An average family of four with employer-sponsored insurance spent $12,378 on employee premium contributions and out-of-pocket costs in 2018. And 87 million Americans are either uninsured or underinsured.
Tens of millions of people are one bad diagnosis away from going broke—but they don’t have to be.
I have a three-part plan to help as many people as possible, as fast as possible. We do this by reducing health care costs in America, eliminating profiteering, and making sure everyone can get the care they need without going broke.
Part One: Starting on day one of my presidency, I will protect people with pre-existing conditions, reverse the Trump administration’s sabotage of our health care system, and take immediate action to bring down the high costs of many common prescription drugs, including insulin and EpiPens.
Part Two: Within my first 100 days in office, I will push Congress to give everyone the choice to join an improved Medicare program that covers vision, hearing, mental health, dental, and longterm care. I will accomplish this by lowering the Medicare age limit to people over 50, and giving everyone else the opportunity to join a Medicare for All option that will be free for children under 18 and for millions of families making under double the poverty level (about $50,000 for a family of four). That’s a total of nearly 135 million Americans who could get free, high-quality coverage. Everyone else who wants to opt-in would pay a modest fee.
Part Three: Once everyone has the chance to try out the improved Medicare option, I will push Congress, no later than my third year in office, to complete the transition to Medicare for All—to put $11 trillion back in the pockets of American families that will never pay another premium or deductible, without raising middle class taxes by one penny.
When I am president, everyone in America will be able to see the doctor they need and be covered for vision, dental, hearing, and more—at little or no cost to them whatsoever. No more out-of-network costs, no surprises, and no one going broke because they get sick.
When we implement Medicare for All, no worker will be left behind. There will be new jobs in the administration of Medicare for All and there will be related jobs for people with insurance expertise. In addition, my health care plan includes billions of dollars to provide assistance to workers who may be affected by the transition to Medicare for All as they shift to new jobs.
Regulating Corporations & Tech
Facebook, Twitter, and other tech companies have been accused of being complicit in the spread of misinformation. How would your administration regulate these platforms?
Today’s big tech companies have too much power—too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation. I want a government that makes sure everybody—even the biggest and most powerful companies in America—plays by the rules. And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish.
To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor. That’s why my administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition—including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
I’ll do that by appointing regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers, and by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform.
Anyone who seeks to challenge and defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 election must also be fully prepared to take on the full array of disinformation that foreign actors and people in and around the Trump campaign will use to divide Democrats, suppress Democratic votes, and erode the standing of the Democratic nominee. That’s why I as a candidate have pledged to fight disinformation aimed at my campaign, my opponents, and voters—and to holding tech companies responsible for the spread of disinformation.
The drive to maximize profit shapes how tech companies design their platforms, prioritize the information users see, and police the use of their platforms. And often, that quest for profit contributes to the spread of disinformation. That’s why I’ve called on the CEOs of all large social media platforms to: share information and resources in a coordinated push to address disinformation, consistent with privacy laws; clearly label content created or promoted by state-controlled accounts; Take steps to alert users affected by disinformation campaigns; create consequences for accounts that attempt to interfere with voting; open up data for research; share information on algorithms and allow users to opt out of algorithmic amplification.
At companies like Disney, executives take home enormous salaries while park workers report being forced to live in their cars and in motels throughout the Southland. Do you have a plan to control the CEO-to-worker pay ratio?
I have a plan to empower workers through accountable capitalism that will transform corporate America so it produces broad-based growth that gets workers the wages they deserve.
It would require large corporations to obtain a federal charter that compels boards to consider the interests of workers and communities in corporate decisions, not just the interests of shareholders. The bill also empowers workers to stop outsourcing and get the higher wages they deserve by requiring large corporations to permit employees to elect no less than 40 percent of the company’s board members.
Finally, my plan would also limit executive compensation by restricting when and how executives could sell shares they own in the company—aligning the interests of executives with the long-term success of the company and its workers.
Would you support making something similar to the 2019 California Consumer Privacy Act, which allows individuals to opt out of having their data sold, national law?
I’m open to supporting privacy laws at the federal level, and I have fought to ensure that people’s data is protected and that companies that compromise confidential personal data are held accountable. For example, my Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act would hold credit reporting agencies like Equifax truly accountable when they allow personal information to be stolen. My plan would hold those companies strictly liable for any data that is lost, creating a strong incentive for companies to safeguard that data.
We must also give people more control over how their personal information is collected, shared, and sold—and do it in a way that doesn’t lock in massive competitive advantages for the companies that already have a ton of our data. I also support breaking up Big Tech, in part because more competition in this space will likely result in companies adopting better data privacy practices.
In addition, I’ll establish a task force on digital privacy in public safety to establish guardrails and appropriate privacy protections for body cameras and other surveillance technology, including the use of facial recognition technology and algorithms that exacerbate underlying bias. I have also committed to fighting potential privacy violations and disparate impacts related to inappropriate uses of data in schools. That includes banning the sharing, storing, and sale of personally identifiable student data by education technology companies, as well as issuing guidance to schools on surveillance practices like massive databases of student characteristics, classroom video cameras, and facial recognition. The government can enforce the law and protect our security without trampling on Americans’ privacy. Law enforcement should not be able to access sensitive information about an individual without a warrant—period.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti recently reiterated a policy that Los Angeles law enforcement will not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents’ attempts to apprehend undocumented individuals. What is your position on sanctuary cities and ICE’s authority?
There are good reasons to keep immigration enforcement and law enforcement separate. When law enforcement is forced to also handle immigration violations, people are less willing to report crimes for fear of revealing their immigration status. Combining these functions sows distrust and harms public safety. As president, I’ll put in place strict guidelines to protect sensitive locations like schools, medical facilities, and courthouses from enforcement actions. I’ll expand programs that grant protections to immigrant victims of serious crimes who come forward and assist law enforcement. And I’ll end programs like 287(g) and “Secure Communities” that force local cops to enforce federal immigration laws so they can focus on effectively serving their communities.
Our immigration agencies should protect Americans and uphold the rule of law, not pursue punitive anti-immigrant policies that target communities of color. I’ll hold immigration enforcement to the same due process standards as other law enforcement agencies—no more warrantless arrests or stops deep in the interior of our country. I’ll reshape ICE from top to bottom, focusing their efforts on homeland security efforts like screening cargo, identifying counterfeit goods, and preventing smuggling and trafficking. And to change the culture, I’ll insist on transparency and strengthen the authorities of independent internal watchdogs to prevent future abuses.
In your presidency, what would become of Donald Trump’s border wall project?
As president, I will immediately stop construction of Trump’s wall, a monument to hate. I’ve also introduced legislation to redirect funding diverted to the wall toward fighting the coronavirus instead. I support smart border security focused on ports of entry and homeland security efforts like screening cargo, identifying counterfeit goods, and preventing smuggling and trafficking—but building new walls doesn’t make Americans safer. I am the only candidate with a plan to ensure accountability and prosperity in our border communities, and I will be their partner in the White House.
Environment & Climate Change
How would you address the fires that now annually plague California?
Climate change is an existential threat to all life on this planet—and Californians are already seeing the dangers of climate change first hand. Wildfires pose an especially serious threat to low-income communities, people with disabilities, and seniors.
That’s why I have committed to dramatically improve fire mapping and prevention by investing in advanced modeling with a focus on helping the most vulnerable—incorporating not only fire vulnerability but community demographics. We need to prioritize these data to invest in land management, particularly near the most vulnerable communities, supporting forest restoration, lowering fire risk, and creating jobs all at once. We also need to invest in microgrid technology, so that we can de-energize high-risk areas when required without impacting the larger community’s energy supply.
To really bend the curve on climate, we must transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy as quickly as possible. I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution and I am proud to have released a dozen plans to defeat the climate crisis. All told, my plans for a Green New Deal will invest $10 trillion into the new, clean energy economy and create more than 10 million new, good-paying, union jobs.
Hollywood & Entertainment
In general, do you see Hollywood being a more positive or negative influence on American life and culture?
There are movies I’ve watched and art I’ve seen that really helps push the conversation, expands our view of who we can be, makes us laugh or cry, or helps us see things from different perspectives. I believe we need more of that in this world.
What is your favorite movie?
My all-time favorite is Casablanca. We watch it every New Year’s Eve.
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