The Atlantic

Ro Khanna Wants to Give Working-Class Households $1 Trillion

Silicon Valley’s new member of Congress has some big ideas for combatting wage stagnation.
Source: Zach Gibson / AP

Ro Khanna has a $1 trillion plan to fatten Americans’ wallets.

The newly elected member of Congress, who represents Silicon Valley, has become a loud progressive voice on the Hill during his brief tenure there. The way he sees it, Democrats have failed by not offering families a radical plan to end wage stagnation and bring prosperity to the middle class once again. He is working on a bill he believes will do just that, by boosting the Earned Income Tax Credit to provide as much as $6,000 a year for individuals and $12,000 for families. (That would roughly double the maximum payout for families, and increase it tenfold for childless workers.) The plan is being heralded as a move towards a universal basic income in the United States, and Khanna hopes to pair it with efforts to move federal jobs out of Washington, expand universities and colleges, and encourage investment in depressed communities. Such a moonshot effort is not going anywhere soon, he concedes. But it would at the very least demonstrate to voters that Democrats had something new and bold to offer them.

We spoke about what Obama did wrong, what Trump has done right, whether tech companies like Facebook should be broken up, whether deficits matter, and how to help coal miners in Kentucky, along with his tax proposal. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


Annie Lowrey: Let’s start with this trillion-dollar modest proposal.

Ro Khanna: There is this huge income disparity in my own district. It’s a district where rent in some places, like Sunnyvale, is $3,000 a month. If you’re not working at Apple, if you’re not working at Google, if you’re not at a tech startup… if you’re a teacher, if you’re a nurse, if you’re a firefighter, it’s very hard to live there, very hard to afford any sort of higher education for your kids. Forget it if you want to go to Stanford. If you want to go to San Jose State.

There’s this extraordinary wealth that’s being generated, and yet so many people struggling and feeling like they can’t

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