2020 Top Democratic Candidates' Plans for Office

Decide for Yourself Which Candidate Has the Best Plan

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The 2020 presidential candidates are Republican President Donald Trump, Republican William Weld, Republican Joe Walsh, and 20 members of the opposing Democrat party. Their affiliations help you understand their economic plans.

Republican and Democrat Policies in a Nutshell

Democrats promote the Keynesian theory. It advocates government spending and tax cuts toward low- and middle-income families, where the extra will be spent on food, medicine, and shelter. That drives demand causing businesses to produce and hire more. Democrats offset this deficit spending with higher taxes on investments, corporations, and high-income families. 

Republicans promote the supply-side theory, supporting tax cuts for businesses. They use the extra money to hire more workers. But that only works if tax rates are in the prohibitive zone. Otherwise, companies use the extra money to buy back stocks and purchase U.S. Treasurys. 

Donald Trump was elected by people who were frustrated with the traditional parties. As a result, he doesn't support many conventional Republican views. For example, he is opposed to free trade agreements, he has raised tariffs to lower the trade deficit with China and to stop companies from outsourcing jobs, and he also announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement which will occur in 2020, ensuring the climate crisis will be a major campaign issue.

An April 2019 CNN poll found that 96% of Democratic voters thought candidates must take aggressive action to slow the effects of climate change.

William Weld is a traditional conservative on economic issues. He supports rejoining the Paris agreement. Joe Walsh is a tea party republican, a former congressman and radio host, known for his brazen statements on social media.

Below is a review of the top seven Democratic candidates' social, economic, immigration, and climate policies, and there are two issues that all seven top Democratic candidates agree on: the climate crisis and immigration reform.

Climate Crisis: An April 2019 New York Times survey found all seven candidates would recommit to the Paris agreement, fund clean energy research, and restore President Barack Obama's environmental regulations. All seven also support the Green New Deal. All pledged to not accept donations from fossil fuel companies.

They agree the electric grid, transportation, and housing sectors must become carbon neutral, which would also improve air quality and decrease health costs, a large part of the federal budget.

Zero emissions is a necessary first step, but it's not enough to stop global warming. Candidates must add carbon sequestration strategies to truly stop global warming.

Immigration: All candidates want to undo aspects of Trump's immigration policies. They hope to reunite families separated at the border and award visas based on family unity.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden

Biden is considered to be one of the front runners. He was vice-president under President Barack Obama and claims that he would restore many of those policies. He argues that his return to the ideals of the Obama Administration gives him the best chance to beat Trump.

Climate Crisis: His goals to combat the climate crisis include:

  • Achieving net-zero emissions by 2050
  • Declaring climate change a national security priority
  • Making sure emitters bear the full cost of carbon emissions
  • Investing $1.7 trillion over 10 years
  • Creating 10 million jobs
  • Spending $40 billion annually on clean energy research
  • Creating ARPA-C to target clean energy technologies (these include energy storage, small nuclear reactors, hydrogen power, and decarbonized construction materials)
  • Using agriculture to put carbon in the ground
  • Carbon capturing at power plants which would make natural gas OK
  • Ending subsidies for fossil fuels
  • Helping coal workers transition
  • Restoring methane limits for oil and gas
  • Conserving 30% of America's land and waters by 2030
  • Banning new fossil fuel permitting on public lands
  • Banning offshore drilling in the Arctic
  • Doubling offshore wind by 2030
  • Setting fuel economy standards to support electric vehicles
  • Adding 500,000 public charging stations by 2030
  • Restoring the EV tax credit
  • Requiring the federal government to only purchase zero-emission vehicles
  • Creating a hi-speed rail between DC/NY and between LA/SF

Healthcare: Biden’s plans for healthcare include: 

  • Providing Medicare for all who want it 
  • Strengthening Obamacare for those who don't
  • Expanding Medicaid to all states

Education: Biden’s plans for education include:

  • Tripling Title I funding to raise teachers' pay and reduce the minority achievement gap
  • Funding pre-kindergarten and early childhood development experts for all community health centers
  • Increasing federal funding to rebuild schools
  • Keeping schools safe by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines

Jobs: To strengthen the job force, Biden hopes to create stronger labor laws.

Taxes: Biden’s tax plan entails reversing the Trump tax cuts and making the tax code more progressive.

Immigration: His plans on immigration are minimal: don't deport veterans, even if they aren't citizens.

Representative Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Sanders garnered popular support during the 2016 presidential race against Hillary Clinton. In 2020, he stands as a Democratic Socialist who vows to change the economy more than the middle-of-the-road Biden.

Climate Crisis: Bernie Sanders’s climate plan includes the following initiatives:

  • Becoming 100% dependent on sustainable energy
  • Building out high-speed passenger rail, electric vehicles, and public transit
  • Banning fracking and new fossil fuel infrastructure
  • Banning gas and oil leases on public lands
  • Ending exports of coal, natural gas, and oil
  • Phasing-out nuclear energy
  • Ending tax breaks for fossil fuel companies

Healthcare: Bernie’s healthcare plan includes:

  • Sponsoring the Medicare for All Act
  • Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices
  • Ending the ban on Canadian prescription drugs
  • Pegging drug prices to those in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Japan

Education: Bernie’s education plans entail:

  • Tripling Title I funding
  • Making public higher-level education free
  • Lowering interest rates on student loans
  • Increasing funding for public magnet schools to $1 billion annually
  • Banning for-profit charter schools and not using public funds for new charter schools
  • Establishing a national per-pupil spending floor
  • Providing $5 billion annually for career education, summer, and after-school programs
  • Including healthcare
  • Providing free school meals year-round

Jobs: To improve the job force, Sanders hopes to invest in infrastructure to boost jobs and revenue, and reduce defense spending to lower the deficit.

Taxes: Bernie’s tax plan is as follows: 

  • Raise estate taxes on multi-millionaires
  • End the income tax cap on Social Security payroll taxes
  • Increase marginal tax rates on income above $10 million

Immigration: Bernie’s immigration plan works to undo Trump’s current initiatives. He hopes to:

  • Enact comprehensive immigration reform, including a path towards citizenship
  • Expand DACA and DAPA
  • Provide immediate legal status for young people eligible for the DACA program
  • Develop a humane policy for those seeking asylum
  • Restructure ICE
  • End the practice of family separation and detention of children
  • Dismantle cruel and inhumane deportation programs and detention centers
  • Establish standards for independent oversight of relevant agencies within DHS

Bank Reform: Bernie’s plans for bank reform are as follows:

  • Reinstate Glass Steagall
  • Allow post offices to offer banking
  • Audit the Federal Reserve
  • Impose a financial transactions tax
  • Cap credit card interest rates

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Senator Warren was the driving force behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her plans are focused on fixing the structural economic inequality that she believes slows U.S. growth.

Climate Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s plans to combat the climate crisis are as follows:

  • Become carbon neutral by 2030
  • Invest $2 trillion over 10 years in clean energy
  • Create 1 million jobs
  • Direct $400 billion to research clean energy technology
  • Shift $1.5 trillion in government purchases to clean energy products
  • End fossil fuel extractions from public lands
  • Stop funding oil exploration abroad

Healthcare: Warren’s plans for healthcare include a co-sponsored Medicare for All Act and eliminating private insurance.

Education: Her plans for education include eliminating the $640 billion in student debt and making public colleges tuition-free.

Racial Wealth Gap: To help close this gap, Warren aims to:

  • Fund $7 billion for a Small Business Equity Fund to provide equity grants to minority entrepreneurs
  • Provide support to 1000,000 new firms and create 1.1 million jobs
  • Expand the Community Reinvestment Act by investing $50 billion in banks serving minorities
  • Assist with down payments for homeowners who have been previously redlined

Jobs: Warren aims to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Taxes: Elizabeth’s tax plan hopes to achieve the following:

  • An additional 2% tax on wealth above $50 million and an additional 1% on wealth above $1 billion
  • Add $2.75 trillion in revenue over 10 years
  • Add a 7% tax on companies' profits over $100 million

Immigration: Warren’s immigration plans aim to:

  • Provide a path to citizenship for DACA youth
  • Fix the border crisis
  • Rethink Trump’s wall
  • Support Obama’s immigration reform
  • Support the DREAM Act
  • Combat the Secure Communities Bill

Mayor Pete Buttigieg (South Bend, Indiana)

As mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg instituted housing policies that may have helped turn around his city's population decline.

Climate Crisis: To remedy the climate crisis, Buttigieg hopes to:

  • Implement a Green New Deal
  • Increase energy efficiency in homes
  • Strengthen rural communities via energy efficiency
  • Decarbonize transportation and industry
  • Implement a carbon tax-and-dividend
  • Invest in 100% clean energy
  • Rejoin the Paris Agreement

Healthcare: Pete’s campaign slogan is simple: “Medicare for all who want it.”

Education: Pete has outlined an education plan to make education and higher education more safe and accessible for both teachers and students:

  • Make public higher-level education free to low-income students
  • Increase Pell Grants
  • Raise teachers' pay

Jobs: Buttigieg aims to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and pass a new Wagner Act to support organized labor.

Immigration: His plan for immigration includes the following initiatives:

  • Create a pathway to citizenship for taxpaying undocumented immigrants
  • Create a visa for refugees that are sponsored by communities
  • Establish a worker visa program
  • Speed up the review process to eliminate the 300,000 green card backlog
  • Prioritize visas for STEM graduates, entrepreneurs, and patent holders
  • Increase border security personnel
  • Better tracking of visas to eliminate overstays
  • Spend $5 billion to support Northern Triangle communities to fight drug cartels

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)

Harris says her background as Attorney General of California makes her most qualified to take on President Trump.

Climate Crisis: Kamala’s plans to improve our current environmental crisis include:

  • Adding more electric vehicles, solar panels, and wind turbines
  • Investing in carbon-free technologies
  • Creating a Green New Deal
  • Restoring environmental health regulations rolled back by the Trump Administration

Healthcare: Harris’s stance on healthcare is as follows:

  • Supporting the Medicare for All Act
  • Keep using private insurance
  • Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices
  • Fighting to protect reproductive rights

Education: Kamala’s main goal to improve the U.S. education systems starts by giving teachers a $13,500 raise.

Jobs: Harris’s promised job initiatives include:

  • Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour
  • Eliminating discrimination based on gender, sexuality, race, and corporate favoritism
  • Providing a tax credit to working families

Taxes: In order to address the issues surrounding taxes, Harris will aim to:

  • Reverse the Trump tax cuts
  • Add a $6,000 tax credit for working families
  • Provide a tax credit for those spending more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities

Immigration: Kamala’s initiatives surrounding immigration are as follows: 

  • Create a pathway to citizenship for working undocumented immigrants
  • Reinstate DACA
  • Increase funding for border processing centers
  • Reunite families and provide legal counsel to those detained
  • Fix the family backlog

Representative Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas)

Beto O'Rourke predominantly appeals to moderate and progressive Democrats.

Climate Crisis: Beto O’Rourke has an extensive plan on how to address the climate crisis, including the following initiatives:

  • Reach zero emissions by 2050
  • Spend $5 trillion over 10 years to build infrastructure
  • Spend $5 trillion on public-private for clean infrastructure
  • Spend $1.5 trillion on climate-ready infrastructure
  • Spend $200 billion to research clean energy technologies (ARPA-E)
  • Institute a carbon tax
  • End subsidies for the oil industry
  • Have the government only buy green
  • Ban fossil-fuel projects on federal lands
  • Fund communities hit by wildfires, floods, droughts, and hurricanes
  • Reduce methane leakage from the oil industry
  • Reduce hazardous waste from power plants
  • Raise fuel-economy standards

Healthcare: Beto’s healthcare plans include:

  • Medicare for all, including mental health services
  • Maintaining private health insurance for those who want it
  • Protecting and expanding reproductive rights

Education: Beto’s plans for education reform are mainly focused on raising teachers' pay, and creating debt-free higher education.

Jobs: Rep. O’Rourke’s plans for job reform are as follows:

  • Create a $50,000 standard deduction for small businesses
  • Shift $100 billion in government contracts to small businesses, with half going to minority and women-owned firms
  • Double funding of the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund and Manufacturing Extension Partnership
  • Strengthen the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to enforce fair lending laws in small business loans
  • Strengthen unions

Immigration: To reform our current policies on immigration, O’Rourke plans to:

  • Create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
  • Rewrite immigration laws
  • Ensure regional security

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

As mayor of Newark, Booker championed improving public education. As Senator, he supported criminal justice reform, the Green New Deal, and Medicare for All.

Climate Crisis: Senator Booker has an extensive approach to combat the climate crisis. His initiatives include plans to:

  • Rejoin the Paris Climate Accord
  • Hold polluters accountable
  • Implement a Green New Deal
  • Place a moratorium on drilling on public lands
  • Reauthorize and triple the Superfund tax on chemical and oil companies
  • Increase fees on coal mine operators to clean up abandoned mines
  • Protect marginalized communities suffering from environmental injustices
  • Increase EPA staffing
  • Defend communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities by doubling staffing in all EPA enforcement offices
  • Safeguard drinking water
  • End the health issues created by lead paint
  • Raise the standards for granting or renewing the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act Permits
  • Ban fracking
  • Reinstate and expand the crude oil export ban
  • Require consideration of climate change in allowing any new fossil fuel infrastructure
  • Prohibit construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure when cost-competitive clean energy alternatives are available
  • End all federal subsidies for fossil fuel production

Healthcare: Booker’s stance on healthcare is as follows:

  • Medicare for all
  • Implement universal paid family and medical leave
  • Combat the opioid crisis, provide resources for communities to heal, and hold pharmaceutical companies accountable
  • Lower prescription drug costs
  • Take patents away from drug companies that sell the same medication for less in other countries
  • End the maternal mortality epidemic 
  • Reducing racial disparities in maternal mortality rates

Education: Cory’s education initiatives include:

  • Universal early childhood education
  • Raising teachers’ pay
  • Eliminating student debt
  • Providing financial assistance for teacher certification and licensing
  • Putting additional resources into underperforming school districts
  • Fully funding special education
  • Establishing a path to debt-free college
  • Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities
  • Investing in tuition-free community college and vocational training
  • Reforming and simplifying the application process for federal financial aid
  • Holding student loan servicers accountable for predatory practices
  • Expanding the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education 

Jobs: Cory Booker’s vision for the workforce includes:

  • Creating the Rise Credit: a massive expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Enacting “Baby Bonds” to close the wealth gap and give every American a shot at economic opportunity
  • Making it easier for workers to join a union
  • Strengthening the rights of workers
  • Raising the minimum wage to $15/hour
  • Holding businesses and employers responsible for pay discrimination
  • Requiring that corporations share profits not just with shareholders, but with workers
  • Only supporting trade deals that help working families

Immigration: Booker’s plans for immigration entail:

  • Ending family separation 
  • Ensuring that the U.S. immigration system is humane, fair, and respects immigrants’ rights
  • Creating a respectful asylum process
  • Expanding protections for DREAMers and people with Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure
  • Fighting for a pathway to citizenship 

Bottom Line

The Democratic candidates with the most thorough policies are Senators Sanders and Warren. Even though it’s early in the primary season, candidates should have plans so voters know what they would do if in office. Detailed plans also indicate that the candidate understands the issue well enough to carry it out. Without an emphasis on the issues, the race becomes a popularity contest based on who can brand themselves the best.

Article Sources

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  2. Axios: Bill Weld on the Issues, in Under 500 Words

  3. The New York Times: We Asked the 2020 Democrats About Climate Change (Yes, All of Them). Here Are Their Ideas.

  4. The Washington Post: Where 2020 Democrats stand on  Climate change

  5. NoFossilFuelMoney.org: Presidential Candidate Signers

  6. Cleantech Rising: What’s the Difference Between Carbon Neutral, Zero Carbon & Negative Emissions?

  7. Buzzfeed: Joe Biden’s Campaign Is Fixated On Donald Trump — And Biden’s Supporters Want It That Way

  8. JoeBiden.com: Climate

  9. Slate: Joe Biden Just Offered a Peek at His Health Care Plan. We Have a Bunch of Questions.

  10. JoeBiden.com: Education

  11. CNN: Bernie Sander's New Climate Plan Asks Democrats: Do you want a revolution or not?

  12. BernieSanders.com: Healthcare for All

  13. BernieSanders.com: Reinvest in Public Education and Teachers

  14. Feel the Bern: Bernie Sanders on the Federal Budget & National Debt

  15. BernieSanders.com: Demand that the Wealthy, Large Corporations and Wall Street Pay their Fair Share in Taxes

  16. BernieSanders.com: Immigration Reform

  17. BernieSanders.com: Real Wall Street Reform

  18. Medium: My Green Manufacturing Plan for America

  19. Washington Post: The Health 202: Elizabeth Warren Says She'd Scrap Private Insurance to Get Medicare-for-All

  20. Axios: 2020 Presidential Election: Elizabeth Warren's $640 Billion Student Debt Proposal

  21. Medium: Leveling the Playing Field for Entrepreneurs

  22. Vox: Presidential Hopefuls Are Promising Workers a $15 Minimum Wage

  23. ElizabethWarren.com: Ultra-Millionaire Tax

  24. OnTheIssues: Elizabeth Warren on Immigration

  25.  FiveThirtyEight: How Pete Buttigieg Could Win The 2020 Democratic Nomination

  26. PeteForAmerica.com: Issues

  27. Council on Foreign Relations: Central America's Violent Northern Triangle

  28. The New York Times: Kamala Harris Is Trying to Reset Her Campaign by Taking On Trump

  29. Kamala Harris for the People: Combat the Climate Crisis

  30. Kamala Harris for the people: Quality, Affordable Healthcare For All

  31. Kamala Harris for the People: Raising Teacher Pay

  32. Kamala Harris for the People: Economic Injustice

  33. Kamala Harris for the People: A Fair and Just Immigration System

  34. Beto For America: Climate Change

  35. Beto for America: Healthcare

  36. Beto for America: Education

  37. Beto for American: America's Small Businesses

  38. Beto for America: Immigration

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  41. Cory 2020: Health Care

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  43. Cory 2020: Economic Security and Opportunity

  44. Cory 2020: Immigration