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What the 2020 Democrats are saying about economic inequality

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders
Photo: Joshua Lott/ Scott Olson/Salwan Georges/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Democrats are toying with a number of ideas to address economic inequality in the U.S., with candidates such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) making it an integral part of their campaign messaging.

The big picture: Addressing economic inequality means different things to different candidates. There's a push to address tax cuts for the rich, affordable housing, minimum wage, income inequality, labor and unions.

  • There's a general consensus among Democrats to repeal President Trump's tax plan which some say disproportionately benefits the wealthy.
  • Most Democrats agree on raising the minimum living wage and closing the gender pay gap.

What they're saying:

Former Vice President Joe Biden:

  • He's characterized himself as "the" advocate for the middle class, with a strong focus on labor laws and tax codes.
  • He's attacked Trump's tax cuts saying they benefited the wealthy.
  • Biden recently said he wants to increase the national minimum wage to $15, but previously advocated for $12.

Andrew Yang:

  • Yang's key proposal is the Universal Basic Income plan which would give every American $1,000 with no strings attached.
  • He also wants to reduce student debt interest rates.

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Tex.):

  • O'Rourke supports raising the minimum wage to $15.
  • He supports raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.):

  • Sanders advocates for higher quality universal child care and passing the Green New Deal for job creation.
  • He wants to lower student debt interest rates.
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sanders introduced a bill to cap credit card interest at 15%.
  • He wants to eliminate incentives for companies to send jobs overseas, limit tax deductions for corporations and provide support for small businesses.
  • Sanders wants U.S. post offices to offer basic and affordable banking services to end discrimination against Americans.
  • Sanders co-sponsored legislation that would have raised the minimum wage to $15.

Sen. Elizabethe Warren (D-Mass.):

  • Warren wants to break up Big Tech companies she says monopolize industries and harm small business.
  • She wants workers to elect 40% of their company's board members.
  • Warren proposed a $640 billion student loan debt cancellation plan.
  • She is proposing a tax hike on households with incomes exceeding $50 million annually.
  • Her housing plan aims to cut down rent by 10% and create 1.5 million jobs because of construction needs.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.):

  • Booker proposed an expansion to income tax credit.
  • He has a job plan that will guarantee a minimum of $15/hour in 15 urban and rural areas over 3 years.
  • Booker has proposed baby bonds, giving newborns $1,000, totaling $2,000 annually for children in low-income households.
  • He wants to ban banks' overdraft fees, saying they disproportionately affect lower-income Americans.

Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska):

  • He wants to establish the American National Fund that would increase taxes on the wealthy, real estate and IPOs to be redistributed to Americans 18 years and older.
  • Gravel wants to establish a $15 minimum wage, and eliminate the tipping minimum wage.
  • He wants to repeal the Taft-Harley Act, saying it prevents labor unions from having authority.
  • Gravel wants to establish a free credit registry.
  • To increase access to affordable housing, Gravel wants to enact a vacancy tax, increase tenant's rights and pass rent control legislation.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.):

  • She wants to reverse Trump's tax plan, saying it only benefits the wealthy and corporations.
  • Harris wants to raise the minimum wage to $15.
  • She wants to pass the Rent Relief Act, giving a tax credit to people who spend more than 30% of their incomes on rent and utilities.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.):

Mayor Pete Buttigieg:

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper:

Mayor Bill de Blasio:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.):

  • He says the issue of economic inequality is more pressing than anything else, including health care and climate change.
  • Bennet proposed the American Family Act that would've increased the child tax credit to reduce child poverty.

Gov. Steve Bullock:

  • Bullock established the Equal Pay for Equal Work task force with the goal of making Montana the first state to close the gender pay gap.

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro:

  • Under Castro, HUD provided $173 million in grants to develop affordable housing.
  • He advocates for a higher minimum wage.

Marianne Williamson:

  • Williamson wants to repeal Trump's tax plan saying it only benefits the wealthy.
  • She wants to reduce or forgive student loan debt.
  • Williamson supports closing the gender pay gap and increasing the minimum wage.
  • She proposes eliminating the income cap on payroll taxes, carried interest and ETF tax loopholes.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.):

  • She supports raising the minimum wage to $15.
  • Klobuchar proposed a bill to tax the wealthy to fund retirement plans for middle-income Americans.

Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.):

  • Delaney supports closing the gender pay gap.
  • He focused on how the future of artificial intelligence could affect job prospects, and called for a national plan.

Rep. Tusli Gabbard (D-Hawaii):

  • She's proposed legislation to close the gender pay gap and supports raising the minimum wage to $15.

Gov. Jay Inslee:

  • Inslee supports strong labor unions, and says their decline is tied to increasing economic inequality.
  • He believes combating climate change will create more jobs.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio):

  • Ryan opposes further tax cuts, saying cuts are responsive for wage stagnation and increased health-care costs.

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.):

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.):

Mayor Wayne Messam:

  • He increased minimum wage in the city of Miramar.

Go deeper: What you need to know about the 2020 presidential candidates, in under 500 words