Presidential campaigns have become incredibly long and draining for the candidates and for the electorate but they also become the seminal influence on what shapes the legislative agenda for the ultimate winner. We are evaluating each of the major candidates for 2020 in terms of their policies and plans for the future of work. This includes both short term tactics to benefit today’s workers and longer term strategies. We hope to be thoroughly objective and non-partisan in our approach.
Bernie Sanders and the Future of Work
“So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this: I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.” Bernie Sanders, Independent Senator from Vermont
It is important to begin with an understanding of Sanders’s role and his policies in the light of his long standing self-description as a Democratic Socialist. He is not advocating the takeover of corporations either through nationalization or armed rebellion but instead admires the Scandinavian countries that balance capitalism with sturdy social safety nets.
What he has done is to energize the progressive wing of the Democratic Party with policies aimed at increasing support to low and middle income families that have suffered income stagnation for decades. In 2016 his policies were in sharp contrast to the centrist orientation of Hillary Clinton and his successful advocacy pushed her to support free tuition at public colleges and to reject the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
In 2020, Sanders has already addressed six areas that might be seen as under the umbrella of the future of work:
- Short term tactics to expand the existing workforce:Bernie is a staunch supporter of the Green New Deal, whose leading advocate is Alexandria Occasio Cortez (AOC), who campaigned for him in 2016. The GND calls for a massive investment to shift America’s energy usage entirely to renewable sources and to eliminate greenhouse gases.
- Development of the Future Workforce:Sanders calls for free tuition for public colleges, community colleges and trade schools. Also for free early childhood education.
- Expansion of the social safety net to mitigate job loss:As in 2016, Sanders supports universal healthcare, which, incidentally will be a huge job creator.
- Industrial Policies and Direct Government Investments: Sanders calls for major infrastructure investments in public transportation and to “protect communities vulnerable to extreme climate impacts such as wildfires, sea level rise” per the Green New Deal.
- Additional Actions:Citing FDR, Sanders supports a federal guaranty of a good job for all Americans. He remains skeptical of trade agreements. He would break up large banks, avoiding the “too big to fail” dilemma.
- Pay-Fors, Funding the New Programs: Unsurprisingly, Sanders has a list of higher taxes aimed at the wealthiest, including raising marginal rates, eliminating breaks for capital gains and interest payments, and hiking estate taxes. He would also put a transaction tax on the “flash trading” of securities.
As he did in 2016, Senator Sanders will set a brisk pace for the Progressive wing of the Democratic party. It will be devilishly hard to leapfrog over his positions and he will most likely be even better honed in his arguments.