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TO THE 2020








Table of

About the Authors 08 Infrastructure 88

How To Use This Guide 10 The Rise of Big Tech 116

A Nation Divided 12 The American Dream 142

Green New Deal vs. 16 Immigration 172

Make America Great Again
The Magic Money Tree 204
A Foundation of Facts 20
Fixing The System 236
No Labels Unity Agenda 22
The Road Ahead 264
Health Care 26

Energy & Climate Change 54


IMPORTANT DATES: Issues I Care Most About:

2020 lowa Caucuses: Health Care Economic Security &
Monday, February 3 Climate Change
and Energy Immigration

2020 New Hampshire Primary: Infrastructure The Debt

Tuesday, February 11 The Impact of Big Tech Fixing the Political System

2020 General Election:

November 3 My Current Perspective:
What I’m most optimistic about for What I think has been neglected:
our country:


What our politicians could do
You can access a footnoted digital version of this better:
What I’m most concerned about:
book at You can also dive deeper
into the policy solutions we present here at What I would like to learn more
about: ­— through 2019 and 2020.
6 7

About the

Ryan Clancy Margaret White

Ryan Clancy is a senior advisor for No Labels, developing corporate narratives and executive Margaret White began her political career helping oversees all fundraising, congressional relations,
where he leads the development of policy and positioning plans for Fortune 500 companies good people get elected to public office, and and strategic execution of the staff, co-founders,
communications for the organization. He is an and CEOs; creating investor pitches for start- serving on three senatorial and gubernatorial executive board, and membership. She has played
experienced strategist who has advised leaders and up companies and entrepreneurs; and advising campaigns. She began at No Labels in 2009 and the lead role in cultivating and empowering an
crafted messages at the highest levels of business, political reform groups and candidates on all facets now serves as a senior advisor to the organization. emerging Problem Solvers Caucus on Capitol Hill.
government, and philanthropy. of communications strategy. Since beginning with No Labels, she has played
an integral role in growing and developing Margaret is a graduate of the University of South
Ryan has helped some of the world’s most A graduate of Villanova University, Ryan lives in the organization from an idea to a nationwide Carolina. She lives in South Carolina with her
respected leaders and organizations tell their story: Brooklyn with his wife Erika and daughter Elle. movement of more than half a million citizens. In husband Matt and their dog Gibbs.
serving as a speechwriter for cabinet officials in her role, Margaret serves as a spokesperson and
the Obama administration; ghostwriting books;

8 9

This book is here to help you
cut through the noise of the
upcoming 2020 election. No

Labels has put together the
Ultimate Guide to today’s
biggest issues and the most
important questions to ask

THIS the presidential candidates.

We explain why the solutions
offered by the far right and

GUIDE left fail to meet this moment;

and how solutions forged in
the center can. But first, an

10 11

A Nation
Democrats and Republicans don’t appear to agree Though the extremes seem to dominate our
on much of anything, and “hate” does not seem too national conversation, they don’t represent
strong a word for how many partisans feel about anything close to a majority of Americans. A 2018
the other side. study by the group More in Common classified
just 14% of the country as “devoted conservatives”
This goes well beyond the familiar polarization and or “progressive activists.” Stuck in between are
legislative gridlock people complained about when the two-thirds of Americans who belong to an

No Labels launched in 2010. “exhausted majority,” united by their “sense of
fatigue with our polarized national conversation,
What’s happening in American politics lately is a willingness to be flexible in their political
new, different, and scary. viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national
Reason and persuasion ­— the pillars of our
democracy since its founding — are out.

Anger and intimidation are in. The No Labels Ultimate

As the 2020 presidential election shapes up, it
Guide to the 2020 Election
doesn’t feel like a battle of ideas so much as a war
of two tribes bent on the other’s destruction.
aims to give a voice to
President Trump says his opponents hate America,
this exhausted majority,
and he appears poised to spend the next year firing
up his base with endless tweet storms trolling
to provide an unbiased
For years, we’ve worked together as leaders Hollywood, the elites, globalists, and the left.1 look at the challenges
of No Labels, a national organization of Meanwhile, the progressive base — fueled by facing America, and to
seething hatred for Trump — pushes Democratic
primary contenders to embrace the most left-wing outline the shape of a new
Democrats, Republicans, and independents policy agenda in generations.
agenda that we believe
trying to bring America’s political leaders We seem headed for a depressing and dispiriting
can unite our divided
slog to November 2020, when one candidate
together to solve problems. manages to convince a bare majority of Americans
that they are not as bad as their opponent.

But what if the American people demanded

We know this idea sounds crazy in 2019. something different?

12 13

Since 1939, Gallup pollsters have been asking the He said the number of transistors you could fit on You could argue that Donald Trump is the 45th
American public to identify the biggest problem an integrated circuit — a measure of the amount president of the United States because he told
facing our country. of processing power you could pack into a chip — Americans a simple story:

would double every two years.
In the February 2019 poll, 35% named government, “You are worse off — and good jobs are harder
poor leadership, or politicians as the single Moore’s Law, as it became known, held true for to find — because of immigration and bad trade
greatest problem facing the U.S. — the highest
percentage who made this choice in at least 55
over 50 years and it explains why your smart
phone has more computing power than all of
NASA possessed in 1969 when it sent a man to the

Most who’ve researched the issue don’t endorse

How did it get this bad, this fast?

Technology unquestionably makes our lives

the president’s view, with one notable study
finding that 85% of lost U.S. manufacturing jobs
resulted from technological change, not trade.5
We blame the iPhone.
better. Thanks to technology and innovation, we
have conquered diseases, saved lives, developed
cleaner energy, and created unprecedented
The real problem isn’t NAFTA. It’s the factory that
used to employ 10,000 people but now employs
No, Apple is not to blame for upending American prosperity. Life is more convenient than many of us 1,000 with robots doing the rest. A 2019 Brookings
democracy. But technology is. In the last 30 years, ever imagined. Institution report found that as many as a quarter
technology has radically reshaped every aspect of of the current jobs in the U.S. are at risk of being
our lives — how we work, how we play, and how But technology always brings disruption. It was disrupted by artificial intelligence (AI).6 The 2020 presidential candidates haven’t
we connect to one another. But our political system true when millions moved from farms to factories yet released full policy agendas and there
has barely changed at all. at the turn of the 20th century. It’s still true today. Just look at truck driving, which is the most might eventually be several dozen contending
common occupation in 29 states and provides a Democrats. In this book, we will explain the kinds
And it simply can’t keep up. Technology has usually followed a familiar pattern: solid middle-class income.7 of policies the left and the right are pushing these
when breakthrough innovations happen — like candidates to embrace. It is important, however,
Our political system is still stuck in the industrial the advent of the cotton gin, the steam engine, the In 2015, the first self-driving semi-truck was tested to first define the “left” and “right.” Although the
age and it has no way to deal with the changes car, or the Internet — they kill old, unproductive in Nevada.8 Uber has started testing driverless left does include radicals like Antifa and the right
brought about by the information age. And neither industries and jobs. And they create new and cars on public roads.9 includes white nationalists, these groups aren’t
do many of the citizens and communities across better ones. our focus.
the country — and around the world — who So let’s do a little thought experiment together.
increasingly feel left out and left behind. When this change happens over decades, If AI decimates the top job in most states, what For the purposes of this book, when we mention
communities and our political system have time do you think will happen to our already fragile “left” and “right,” we invite you to think of the
It only gets harder from here, because technology to adjust. But today, this change is happening democracy? most ideological flanks of the Congressional
doesn’t progress in a linear fashion. It progresses instantaneously. Progressive Caucus and the Freedom Caucus.
exponentially. It will strain it like never before, unless we do
something about it. Knowing this is coming, as
In 1965, Gordon Moore — the founder of Intel, And our political system many politicians in Washington do, you would
It’s still a rough proxy, but we hope you get the
which invented the first microprocessor — made a
prescient prediction. isn’t remotely equipped imagine that the future and the challenges of
technological change would be front and center in

to handle it. our political debate.

But in their own ways, both the left and right are
pushing agendas rooted in the distant past.
14 15

THE GREEN NEW The Green New Deal, proposed

by New York Rep. Alexandria
Make America Great Again
combines a mix of 1950s

Ocasio-Cortez and endorsed by nostalgia, 1980s economics,

several Democratic presidential and President Trump’s hostility
contenders, is still more toward trade and immigration.
aspirational idea than actual
policy agenda.

But it envisions a “new national,

social, industrial, and economic
mobilization on a scale not

seen since World War II” to
combat climate change, to right The Green New Deal and Make America Great
economic and social injustices,

Again resonate because they speak to real and
urgent concerns. Climate change is happening
and to guarantee employment, and it’s getting worse. Globalization and free trade
housing, and health care.10 have not distributed their benefits equitably and
too many American communities have been left
behind with no hope for the future.

Meanwhile, business and political leaders have

caused or overseen catastrophic failures like the
2008 financial crisis while others suffered the
consequences. No one went to jail. No one took
the blame. They got reelected. They got bonuses.
Millions of Americans, on the other hand, lost their
jobs and were evicted from their homes.

Americans are angry and they have a right to be.11

Make America Great Again and the Green New
Deal offer radically different visions to address this

16 17

But they are both great If we just fight long and hard enough for what we
believe in, we will prevail. We will win enough power
This is what No Labels aims to do. We are creating
a new center of gravity in American politics in
There is common ground
brands. in some future election to ram through every item on which the forces in our system align to encourage that can and must be
Trump, of course, rode Make America Great Again
our wish list. And we won’t have to deal with those
evil people on the other side.
politicians to come together to solve problems.
found, if only our leaders
to victory in 2016.
But that day never comes. In a divided country,
Our work is quietly paying dividends as No
Labels counts over a million supporters online
will look for it.
As of early 2019, large majorities of Americans said neither party can ever get all the power it wants. and has citizen-led chapters in every state. In the But finding that common ground requires a
they supported the goals of the Green New Deal.12 In the instances when one party fully controls the last Congress, No Labels inspired the creation certain kind of attitude — one that is increasingly
White House and Congress — as when Democrats of a first-of-its-kind group called the Problem dismissed by the left and right.
The problem — as we’ll explore throughout this unilaterally passed the Affordable Care Act in Solvers Caucus, which featured equal numbers
book — is that both ultimately offer simplistic, 2010 and Republicans did the same with the Tax of Democrats and Republicans working to forge It requires a willingness to sit down with anyone —
unworkable solutions to exceptionally complex Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017 — the opposing party solutions across the aisle. conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between —
challenges. immediately tries to dismantle what was just so long as they are willing to work together to find
passed. Cynics often write off groups like No Labels as solutions.
Make America Great Again and the Green New squishy centrists or mushy moderates — the
Deal — when you look behind the slogan and into Instead of recognizing the folly of this approach, kind of people who beg politicians to be nice to It means recognizing that having principled and
the policy — are underpinned by ideas that push the extreme partisans double down, demanding one another and settle for some lowest common deeply held political beliefs doesn’t require an all-
the country much further right or left than most more purity and less flexibility in a vicious cycle denominator compromise between the two parties. or-nothing approach to governance.
Americans want to go. that never ends.
That’s not what this is about. In fact, this attitude is what created this mess in the
This is a feature, not a bug. The way incentives are And we end up where we are now, where no one is first place. It’s the dominant attitude on the 2020
set up in our system today, politicians and even happy with the status quo, everyone is angry, and We know that there are real philosophical campaign trail and it needs to change.
presidential candidates don’t need to care about our country’s problems keep getting worse. differences between Democrats and Republicans
what the majority wants. that can’t be papered over with nice words That’s why we decided to write the No Labels
As we write this, virtually every force in U.S. about civility and cooperation. But we also know Ultimate Guide to the 2020 Election.
They only need to respond to the comparatively politics — money, votes, grassroots energy, and that throughout history, having Democrats and
small number of people and interest groups who enthusiasm — is pushing our political leaders and Republicans at the table and invested in the
fund their campaigns and turn out to vote for them parties in one direction. success of legislation has delivered the most
in elections — especially the primary elections that consequential and durable reforms. These include:
narrow Americans’ choices more than most of us Apart. the creation of Social Security in the 1930s, the
appreciate. passage of Medicare and the Civil Rights Act in the
1960s, tax reform in the 1980s, and the balancing of
The only viable answer to the budget in the 1990s.
Partisans on the left and the right increasingly
subscribe to what we at No Labels have long called these radical forces dividing
Even amid Washington’s dysfunction in 2018,
the “king (or queen) for a day delusion.” It goes a
little something like this:
America is to create equally Congress passed and the president signed
strong forces pushing in the bipartisan legislation to fight opioid abuse, reform
financial regulatory laws, and deliver the most
other direction. significant criminal justice reforms in decades.13

18 19

A Foundation The first thing we hope to do with the Ultimate

of Facts
Guide is to build a foundation of facts to help citizens
understand the shape and causes of our toughest

• Why is health care so

• Why is our immigration
system so broken?
• Why is the political
system so dysfunctional?
• What can be done about We hope you’ll find answers to these

the size and influence of questions and others throughout the course
The late New York But even a casual observer of American politics of this document, which is designed to be
knows that everyone now has their own facts. The
huge tech companies? a handbook you can read, study, write on,
Sen. Daniel Patrick people who watch Fox News live in one reality.
Those who watch MSNBC live in another.
and bring with you to discussion groups and

Moynihan famously said, • Does the American Dream political events.

Without any agreement on where the country

actually is, it’s proving impossible to get agreement still exist? Throughout each of our policy chapters, we’ve

“everyone is entitled to on where we need to go.

also provided sample questions that citizens
and members of the media can — and will,

his own opinion, but not • Is there any way to bridge we hope — ask of President Trump and the
Democratic candidates when they appear at

his own facts.”14 the partisan divide on political events in communities across the
climate change?
20 21

No Labels
To develop this agenda, we worked The solutions offered in the 2020 Unity Agenda are
underpinned by two core values:
over several months with the policy
team at a new nonprofit called The • Opportunity means that all Americans should

2020 Unity
be able to go as far as their gifts and drive can
New Center, whose mission is to take them, and that government policy should
“establish the intellectual basis for encourage and cultivate these gifts.

a viable political center in today’s

• Mutual Responsibility means that both
America.” citizens and the government owe something to
one another. If citizens work hard and engage
This book would not be possible without the hard in our democracy and civic life, they have a
work of The New Center’s policy analysts: Julia right to expect a government that will solve the
Baumel, Evan Burke, Zane Heflin, Laurin Schwab, problems too large and systemic for citizens or
and Aleksandra Srdanovic. We owe them a huge private actors to solve alone. They also expect
debt of gratitude. the government to help catch those Americans
who fall through the cracks — whether
No Labels’ partnership with The New Center will because of luck, circumstance, or systemic
not end with the release of this book. In the injustice.
chapters ahead, we provide brief thumbnail
sketches of various policy solutions. But The Our ambition for the Ultimate Guide is not to fuel
New Center will also release companion papers an independent bid for president, to convince
Finally, we aim to help you understand throughout 2019 and 2020 at www.newcenter. Donald Trump to suddenly abandon Make America
org that provide more context and granularity Great Again, or to urge Democrats to drop the
the choices available to deal with our surrounding these solutions for those who want
to dig deeper into policy.
Green New Deal.

problems. We explain what is being offered It is to help Americans understand the real
challenges that we face, and to see that they have
by the right and left. a broader set of choices — of leaders and of policy
— than they are currently being offered.

If any of the presidential candidates wants to reach

And we present our own ideas that we beyond their base to speak to the massive but
massively unrepresented “exhausted majority,” we

collectively call the 2020 Unity Agenda. think they could do a lot worse than embracing the
ideas offered in our Unity Agenda.

22 23

Each month for decades, Gallup has been asking As this pernicious kind of confidence has risen, the
Americans if they are “satisfied with the way things other, absolutely essential American confidence
are going in the United States.”15 has evaporated:

The “satisfied” number hasn’t cleared 40% in The confidence that tomorrow will be just a little
almost fourteen years. better than yesterday.

America is mired in a long-running confidence It may sound trite, but this confidence is the secret
crisis. sauce of America’s centuries-long success story.

We have way too much of one kind of confidence With confidence, a people and a country can take
and far too little of another. Unfortunately, the one risks to build a brighter future. With confidence, our
we have too little of is the one we need to get our decisions are driven by potential and opportunity
country moving again. instead of fear.

The confidence held by too many on the right We will rediscover this confidence only when our
and left is that they and only they know what is political leaders — and our president — commit to
wrong with our country and how to fix it. It is the the cause of national unity as a national imperative.
confidence that people with different views aren’t
just wrong, but stupid, evil, or treasonous.
We hope this book gives
the American people
the knowledge and the
tools to push the 2020
contenders to unite the
country rather than
divide it.

24 25
In 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed into
law the Affordable Care Act, arguably the most significant
health care reform since the advent of Medicare and Medicaid
in 1965.

Even as the law expanded coverage to tens of millions of

people and implemented welcome reforms, like prohibiting
insurance companies from discriminating against people
with pre-existing conditions, it was unwieldy with plenty of
unintended consequences.

In short, much still needs fixing in American health care.

While the system can deliver world-class care, access to
that care is still uneven. And though America leads the world
in its development of medical breakthroughs, the resulting
treatments are often prohibitively expensive.

For the better part of a decade, the health care “debate” in

America has been singularly defined by the Affordable Care
Act, with its detractors doing little more than trying to tear it
down without offering much of a counter-solution. It is time for
the health care debate to move on, and for the next president
to continue the work to make American health care more
accessible and affordable.

26 27
The Problem

American health care is defined Health Care Is Way
by two problems that desperately
Too Expensive I AGREE

need fixing.
Both the Cost of Care... And the Cost of Insurance to Cover It.
• $15 for a single Tylenol pill. $10 for the little • Family health insurance premiums are growing
paper cup that holds the pill. $53 for a pair of twice as fast as workers’ earnings.18
latex gloves. $800 for a sterile water IV bag.
These are actual costs that appeared on actual
bills of patients in U.S. hospitals.16

• The average American knee replacement costs

as much as a Tesla.17

What’s causing it?

No One Knows What Anything Costs: Admin Overload:

In a 2017 survey, 3 of 4 U.S. adults said American doctors spend twice as much
they didn’t know of a resource to help time filling out paperwork as seeing
them compare costs among providers.19 patients.21

Drug Prices Are Obscene:

Americans pay three times more than the
British for the same prescription drugs.20

28 29

Medical errors are

the third-leading
cause of death
in the U.S. after
heart disease and

What’s causing it?

Unreliable Patient Information: Uneven Safety Standards:

2. A 2018 study found that 85.5% of

patients lost or gained a diagnosis when
their medical records were transferred
between hospitals.23
In 2006, California founded a statewide
maternal mortality care collaborative that
lowered the state’s maternal death rate by
more than half between 2006 and 2013.25

Too Many People Are Incompatible Information Systems:

In 2015, fewer than 1 in 3 American
Other states did not. Excluding California
and Texas, the maternal death rate in the
U.S. increased by 26.6% from 2000 to

Dying Needlessly
hospitals was able to find, send, receive, 2014.26
and integrate electronic information from
outside providers.24

30 31

54% of rural American More Americans died by

counties did not have drug overdose in 2017 than
a single hospital with the number of American
obstetric services in 2017.27 servicemen killed during the
entire Vietnam War.32

What’s causing it? What’s causing it?

Too Few Hospitals: Rural Hospitals Can’t Turn a Profit:

64 rural hospitals closed between 2013 About 60% of rural hospitals’ revenues Not Enough Treatment: Opioids Are So Addictive:
and 2017, which is more than twice as come from Medicaid and Medicare Fewer than 1 in 5 people with a About 80% of people who use heroin first
many closures as the previous five-year compared to 45% of urban hospitals’ prescription opioid use disorder misused prescription opioids.35
period.28 revenues. Some states, however, chose received specialty treatment in 2016.33
not to expand Medicaid after passage
Too Few Doctors: of the Affordable Care Act, and rural Opioid Pills Are Everywhere:
In 2014, a fifth of Americans lived in rural hospitals closed more in these states In a 10-year span, drug companies
areas but barely a tenth of physicians than others.31 shipped 20.8 million prescription
worked there.29 The National Rural Health painkillers to two pharmacies in
Association estimates that there are Williamson, West Virginia, a town with
almost nine times more specialists in only 2,900 people.34 It’s a similar story
urban areas than rural ones.30 in many other communities across the

32 33

from the Left Medicare for All The Left
and Right
The ascendant health care PROGRAM EXPANSION

idea on the left is Medicare Medicare for All would significantly expand a
program that is popular and vital for seniors, but
for All, which would already on an unsustainable course:

expand the single-payer • Due to our aging population, the Medicare program’s

government program that enrollment is projected to rise to 79 million by 2030.37

Medicare’s own trustees say the program will no

currently provides health longer be able to pay full benefits by 2026.38

care coverage to 44 million Many Medicare beneficiaries find this hard to believe,
thinking that they “paid” for their current benefits
Americans at or over 65 to through payroll taxes. While this is true, they did so

Americans of all ages.

only up to a point. The average Medicare beneficiary
will receive between $2.40 and $7.80 in Medicare
benefits for every $1 they pay in taxes because
beneficiaries are living longer and medical treatment is
The left-leaning Urban Institute estimates
becoming more expensive.39 In addition, the Medicare
that Medicare for All would provide coverage
payroll taxes Americans pay today are not set aside in
to an additional 28 million people but would
a fund for their future care. Instead, the funds are used
increase national health care spending by to pay for the medical care of current retirees.
$660 billion annually over the next 10 years, a
cost equivalent to about 17% of the entire
federal budget in 2017.36

Some Medicare for All advocates also suggest

the virtual elimination of private health insurance.
But 181 million Americans — or more than half the
population — currently get their health care from
QUICK THOUGHTS ON THIS: their employer40, and 75% of them believe the
health care they receive is “excellent” or “good.”41

34 35

The Right
Kill Obamacare
and Replace It
with... TBD
The right has been unable to reckon with a These kinds of tradeoffs are everywhere
When it comes to health In the years after the passage of the
Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), House fundamental contradiction. In health care, in the health care system. But lately, the
care, the right knows what Republicans voted over 70 times to repeal, providing protections and benefits that are right has provided few answers for how
popular sometimes require regulations that to deal with them.
it is against: Obamacare. defund, or modify the law.42
are not. For example, 81% of Americans
But when Republicans assumed control of say insurers should be barred from denying
coverage to people with pre-existing
But they haven’t yet the White House and Congress in 2017, they
were never able to pass a replacement for conditions.44 But if the government forces QUICK THOUGHTS ON THIS:
articulated a workable or the Affordable Care Act. The plans they did insurance companies to provide coverage
propose — which featured Medicaid block to people who are already sick and require
coherent vision of what they grants and more flexibility for states to opt more expensive care, it must also bring more
are for. out of federal regulations — would have people into the insurance market to prevent
price increases for other customers. One way
significantly increased insurance premiums
and reduced coverage, according to to do this is with an individual mandate that
independent analysts like the Congressional requires everyone to buy health insurance.
Budget Office.43

36 37
New Center

Solutions Health Care for All

If there ever was a real debate on The American people are
whether Washington was responsible
for ensuring affordable health care sending a pretty clear
access for all Americans, that debate is message: we don’t want no
essentially over.
government and we don’t
want all government when
it comes to health care.45
A February 2019
The Hill-HarrisX Poll
found that just 15% of So what kinds of ideas
Americans want the
government to have
could bring us closer to real
no role in paying for health care for all?
people’s health care.

Conversely, just 13% say

they’d support Medicare
for All if it meant the
elimination of private
health insurance.

38 39


Lower the Buy-in Age for

Access Coverage Medicare from 65 to 55
Before the Affordable Care Act passed, one in five
people aged 55 to 59 and 29% between 60 and 64
were denied coverage for health reasons. Since the
passage of the law, Americans can no longer be
denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, but
can still struggle to get good coverage in many

More Doctors IF YOU WANT TO LEAN RIGHT… markets.46 In addition, Americans can’t qualify
for Social Security until age 62 or Medicare until
Congress should pursue a plan to expand the 65, which causes the 55-plus population to face
supply of doctors in America by encouraging the Catastrophic Care challenges affording health care premiums.
construction of new medical schools. America for All Paying for such an expansion of Medicare
faces a severe shortage of doctors in primary
care and across many specialties — most often Instead of Medicare for All, with Washington
could require an increase in the payroll tax, and The Public Option
administration would be simpler if Americans were
in rural areas — and a primary factor is the the on the hook for everyone’s medical bills,
automatically enrolled at 55 as Americans aged 65 The government could create a federally
American Medical Association’s near-monopoly policymakers should consider a version of
are today. Although expanding Medicare access to administered public health insurance plan that
on medical schools and professional licensing Catastrophic Care for All. Every American
this group would involve costs, it could also benefit would be eligible to anyone currently enrolled in
standards. would be enrolled in a high-deductible health
younger Americans. Medicaid or an insurance plan through one of the
care plan that pays for basic preventive care Affordable Care Act exchanges. Some versions
and provides coverage for the catastrophic According to a recent article in Health Affairs, of this idea don’t call for the creation of a new
expenses, like accidents and serious diseases, “Private insurers and employers would no longer federally administered insurance plan, but instead
that drive too many families to bankruptcy. be responsible for this [55-64] age group, which suggest simply allowing all Americans to buy into
The government could pay for it with a means- would allow private insurers to reduce premiums Medicare or Medicaid. Private insurance options
tested tax, so those who can’t afford the on younger families because they would have a would continue to exist, and the more than half
coverage pay nothing. younger, and typically healthier, pool of people to of Americans who receive coverage through their
cover.”47 employer would not see it change.48


40 41

To Rein in Some ideas: Let Medicare Real Price Transparency

Negotiate Prices
Costs Change How Medicaid
and Medicare Pay The Department of Veterans Affairs does it.
In early 2018, the Trump administration’s Health
and Human Services Department directed all
hospitals to post prices for all their services.
Other countries do it. It really makes no sense
Hospitals are now doing it, but the information is
that Medicare can’t negotiate the prices it pays
Despite some recent reforms, Medicare still almost useless. The New York Times ran a story
for $129 billion worth of prescription drugs each
mostly pays for the volume of care delivered in January 2019 listing procedures from various
year.50 Some people have legitimate concerns
(number of tests and services) rather than the hospital price lists: $42,569 for a cardiology
about the idea of government bureaucrats in
value (improving patient health). Washington procedure described as “HC PTC CLOS PAT
D.C. arbitrarily setting drug prices. One way
should experiment with different fee schedules DUCT ART” from Vanderbilt University Medical
Medicare is on an unsustainable fiscal to alleviate this concern is to create a fully
to make Medicare more efficient, like perhaps Center and $9,818 for “Embolza Protect 5.5”
transparent price index of what other countries
course. But proposals to reduce Medicare adding bonuses for physicians who can meet a from Baptist Health in Miami.52 In other words,
pay for medicines, and Medicare would pay
benefits or transfer it to a premium certain target budget for care. complete gibberish to anyone who isn’t a medical
some average of it.
support model (in which the government professional.
gives people a set amount of money Medicaid needs the same kinds of reforms.
to buy private insurance) are deeply Because states control how Medicaid is run and We get it. Health care is complicated and hospital
the federal government pays most of the bills, no GREAT. I LIKE THIS IDEA. prices and services will never be as simple as a
one has both the desire and the ability to keep McDonald’s menu. But real price transparency —
costs in check. States could do it but they don’t which would allow informed consumers to shop for
So the best way to rein in costs for really care; the federal government may want to the best and most affordable care — means lists of
Medicare — and for all other private and do it but it can’t. prices and services that everyone can understand.
public payers — is to pursue reforms
that can bring the cost of care down
throughout the entire health care system. GREAT. I LIKE THIS IDEA.
Stop the Crazy
Other developed countries — like Physicians practicing “defensive medicine” —
ordering unnecessary tests and procedures to
Germany, Japan, and Australia — spend
avoid the possibility of future lawsuits — costs
about half as much per person on health
America as much as $100 billion a year, and we
care as the U.S., and often with better
all pick up the tab. Congress should pursue real
tort reform that makes it harder to file frivolous
medical lawsuits.51
We can do better.


42 43

To Stem the Opioid Epidemic To Reduce Medical Errors

Treat Addicts Like Real Data

Patients, Not Criminals Interoperability
In 2018, Congress passed and President Trump signed Big electronic health records companies often
several bills that will help reduce prison time for low- prevent their competitors from importing patient data
level drug offenders and provide resources to combat by disclosing it in unusable or confusing formats.
the opioid epidemic. Washington needs to tear down the walls with
legislation that compels these kinds of companies to
But considering that opioid abuse may be the biggest provide what Cicero Institute Founder Joe Lonsdale
public health crisis in the country, the resources we are describes as an “open application programming
putting towards it fall woefully short, especially when interface (API) that will allow an innovation ecosystem
measured against other government mobilizations to of apps, medical devices, and novel insurance plans to
fight scourges like AIDS or cancer. The next president flourish.”53
and Congress should make a large investment to
provide more beds for rehabilitation, and should push
for the ability of primary care doctors to prescribe the
medication that treats addiction.

44 45


46 47

For President

Q1: Q3:
You said you’d repeal Obamacare and Unlike Medicare, the Veterans Health
replace it with a better system that provides Administration (VA) negotiates its own drug
“insurance for everybody,” and that is “far prices, and as a result they pay 40% less55 for
less expensive.”54 You said also there would prescription drugs. Why can’t Medicare do
be no cuts to Medicaid. But most of the plans the same thing?
Republicans proposed last year in Congress
cut Medicaid spending and reduced
coverage. How do you explain this huge Q4:
disconnect between what you promised on You say you want to protect people with
health care and the legislation you actually pre-existing conditions from insurers who
supported in Congress? would discriminate against them. But 20
states are pushing a federal lawsuit in Texas
to undo these protections, and your Justice
Q2: Department supports it by stating that the
Republicans controlled the White House, protections are unconstitutional.56 How can
Senate, and the House for two years and you say you support these protections when
never once passed a viable replacement for your own Justice Department wants to scrap
Obamacare. Why should we trust you will be them?
able to do it in the future?

48 49

For Democratic
Q1: Q4:
Most people in America get their insurance In a 2016 study, researchers found that 28%
through their jobs and actually like the care of Americans smoked, 62% ate an unhealthy
they are getting. Shouldn’t we try to improve diet, and 53% didn’t get enough exercise.57
our current health care system instead of Before we guarantee unlimited health care
tearing the whole thing down and creating a for everyone, shouldn’t we find ways to
new one? make people more responsible for their own

One estimate says Medicare for All would Q5:
increase national health care spending by The biggest changes the Affordable Care
$660 billion per year. That’s almost 20% of Act made were to the market for individual
the entire federal budget. How can we afford insurance. That’s where premiums seem to
this? be going up the most. Why is this happening
and what will you do to fix it?58

Do you believe private health insurance
— including the insurance provided by
employers — should be eliminated and
replaced with a single-payer plan?

50 51

For All

Q1: Q2:
In the U.S., medical errors are the third- More people died of drug overdoses in
leading cause of death.59 How will you fix this America last year than servicemen during the
problem? entire Vietnam War. Congress passed bills
last year to combat the opioid crisis, but they
did not significantly increase spending on
opioid addiction treatment.60 Will you make
fighting drug addiction more of a priority as
president, and if so, how?

52 53
Energy and


Climate change used to be a scientific idea. Now it Because acknowledging the existence of For the first 1,800 years, human living standards So when people talk about fighting climate
has become a political one: another litmus test for barely rose at all. And then the Industrial change, what they are really talking about is re-
partisans to identify membership in their political
climate change (as most Americans do) is Revolution happened, sparking the greatest designing and re-engineering the entire economic
tribe. Still, as of late 2018, a Monmouth poll found much easier than agreeing on what to do increase in human health, well-being, and longevity and energy system that has propelled humanity
that eight in ten Americans — including two-thirds about it. in history. forward for the last 200 years.
of Republicans — believe that climate change is
happening and causing extreme weather. 61 To understand why, look at this chart of global The Industrial Revolution was spurred on by
economic growth over the last 2,000 years: many things, above all energy, and fossil fuels in
So why is it so impossible for Washington to forge particular: first coal and then oil and gas, which It’s worth doing. It needs doing. But this chapter
a consensus on how to deal with climate change? were abundant, affordable, and portable. will reveal scientific, economic, and political
realities that partisans on the extreme right and left
Other energy advances would follow, such as the won’t want to hear:
The World Until 200062 advent of nuclear power and the harnessing of
the hydropower of rivers and streams. Renewable • Climate change is happening, humans are
energy use grew exponentially. causing it, the risks are growing, and the
science behind it is stronger than it has ever
But today, fossil fuels still
account for about 80% of • Meeting the goal of eliminating carbon
emissions from the U.S. economy by 2030 —

all the world’s energy use as called for in the Green New Deal resolution
introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
West Europe
— which is essentially (D-NY) — requires breakthroughs in science
and technology that simply don’t exist now
East Europe
the same proportion it and may not in the immediate future.

Japan accounted for 30 years
China ago.63
10000 India

So let’s take a look at why the climate change
challenge is serious, why there is hope to address it,
1 1000 1500 1600 1700 1800 1913 1950 2001
and why it will still be so hard to solve.

56 57

Why Climate “
If a baseball player starts taking steroids, he has a much better

Change Is
chance of hitting lots more home runs … Now, that doesn’t
mean you can point to any particular home run and say aha, that
home run is because he’s taking steroids, but the pattern … is
attributable to his taking steroids. And by analogy I think what

Serious we’re seeing is weather on … climate steroids.”

Dr. Jane Lubchenco

Former Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)64

It’s Getting Hotter

Modern global record keeping of weather began in 1880. According to both the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 17 of the 18 warmest years have occurred
since 2001.65

Natural Disasters Are Getting

In 2017, natural disasters cost the United States $306 billion, a record high. 16 of
them surpassed a billion dollars in damage each.66

58 59

Seas Are Rising: “Climate change creates new risks and

The equivalent of a football field worth of land disappears from the Louisiana
exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in
coast every 100 minutes on average.67 communities across the United States, presenting
growing challenges to human health and safety,
quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”70
The Fourth National Climate Assessment (representing the consensus view
of 13 U.S. federal agencies and 300 experts) – 2018
While There Is Scientific Debate About the Future
Costs, Risks, and Tradeoffs of Climate Change...

There Is No Debate about

“The pressures caused by climate change will
Whether It’s Happening influence resource competition while placing
97% of published climate research reaches the consensus that climate additional burdens on economies, societies, and
change is both real and influenced by human activity.68 A 2017 study found
the other 3% of studies were all in some way flawed in their research and
governance institutions around the world. These
methodology.69 effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate
stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental
degradation, political instability, and social
tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist
activity and other forms of violence.”71
U.S. Department of Defense Report – 2014

60 61
Why There

Is Hope Renewables Are Becoming

Much More Affordable
Solar and wind costs have dropped 88% and 69% since
2009. In some areas with a lot of sunshine or a lot of wind,
the cost of renewables can actually be less than that of fossil

Low-end Levelized Cost ($/MWh) of Electricity by Source 201872*

Energy Source Low-end Levelized Cost ($/MWh)

Solar (Thin Film Utility Scale) $36

Wind $29

Nuclear $112

Coal $60

Natural Gas (Gas Combined Cycle) $41

*Low-end Levelized Cost is essentially a measure of what it takes to cost, build, run, and supply different
energy facilities nationwide. This measure does not include the cost of transmission and grid integration,
which is why costs for various energy sources can differ widely across the country.

62 63

Renewables Are Providing U.S. Greenhouse Gas

More of Our Energy Emissions (GHG) Are
Renewables’ share of U.S. energy consumption has doubled
since 2008, and now provides 17% of our electricity
generation and 11% of our total energy consumption (which U.S. GHG emissions — which includes carbon and
includes activities like manufacturing, transportation, etc.73). other heat-trapping gases like methane — decreased
by 2.7% between 2016 and 2017.75

Energy Storage Is Getting QUICK THOUGHTS ON THIS:

The cost of utility scale energy storage — which is
necessary to store power when the sun isn’t shining and
wind isn’t blowing — is falling by 20% per year.74

64 65
Why It’s So

Renewables Still
Hard Don’t Pack the Power
Punch of Other Fuels
Perhaps the most important measurement in determining the viability of an energy source is
power density; a measure of how much power you can extract from a unit of volume, energy,
or mass. The most relevant metric for renewables is watts per square meter (w/m2).

How much power can you squeeze out of a given piece of real estate?
In the case of renewables, the answer is not much: 76

Energy Source Power Density (w/m2)

Wind 1.2

Solar Photovoltaic 6.7

Oil 28

The left would have you believe the only But the biggest barrier to a clean energy Nuclear 56
thing standing in the way of a perfectly future today isn’t Big Oil. It’s the basic
green energy future is oil company laws of physics, economics, and the
lobbyists. And some oil companies challenges of global geopolitics that
did spend years doing what tobacco best explain why fossil fuels still rule What’s the real world implication of this measurement?
companies once did: funding junk science and why cutting carbon emissions is so Meeting all of America’s current electricity needs with wind power would require a land
to refute real science they thought would challenging. mass twice the size of California.77
hurt their bottom line.

66 67

The Wind Isn’t Always Steel Can’t Be Made without

Blowing, and the Sun Fossil Fuels
Isn’t Always Shining Steelmaking accounts for seven percent of all
global carbon emissions.78 Although there are a few
Heavy industry — like steelmaking — accounts
for a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions
pilot projects exploring new ways to make steel — and is even more dependent on fossil fuels than
one in Sweden is using hydrogen harnessed from other sectors, like transportation and electricity
Every electric utility in America has one mandate The best measurement for an energy source’s renewables — 71% of the world’s steel is made with generation.80
above all: always keep the lights on. To do it, they ability to meet this standard is capacity factor, coal, with natural gas accounting for most of the
need something called “baseload” power, which which illustrates how often an energy source can rest.79
means power that will always be there when they deliver at maximum power.
need it, like for hot days when energy usage spikes
because everyone is blasting their air conditioner.

Nuclear Power is on the Decline

Nuclear power provides 20% of America’s electrical found that “nearly 35% of the country’s nuclear
CAPACITY FACTORS FOR UTILITY SCALE GENERATORS 2016 output and is our largest source of carbon-free power plants … are at risk of early closure or slated
energy. But nuclear power’s high upfront costs and for retirement to retire.” The report goes on to say
Nuclear 92.3% declining political support — it is not included at all that if this happens “natural gas and coal will fill the
in the Green New Deal proposal for example — is void.”81
Natural gas 55.55% jeopardizing its future in the U.S. A recent study

Coal 53.3%

The Geopolitics
Hydropower 38.2%
Wind 34.5% other 30%
The U.S. only accounts for 15% of global carbon 30%
Solar PV 25.1% emissions and even as the U.S. is decreasing its
emissions, other countries — particularly China —
*Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration are increasing theirs.

Put aside the coal-fired power plants China already United States
Here’s what this chart means: has. The hundreds of new coal plants China is Japan
Let’s imagine an electric utility has a 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor. Because nuclear has building now will equal the output of all coal plants 4%
India EU-28
a capacity factor that is about three and a half times that of solar, that utility would need to in the U.S.83 Russian
build 3,500 megawatts (3.5 x 1,000) worth of solar capacity to reliably deliver the same amount Federation 7% 9% 82

of power to its customers as the 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor. And that may understate it,
• Solar and wind power still account for only 5%
about two percent of all global energy use.84
because remember: the sun isn’t always shining.

68 69

from the Left

and Right

70 71

The Left The Right

Green New Deal “Global warming is an
As noted in the opening of this book, the Green
New Deal is more than just a plan to fight climate
change. It is a comprehensive framework that
• Achieve “net zero” carbon emissions
within 10 years.
expensive hoax!”86
• Upgrade “every residential and
envisions Washington exerting control over large -tweet from Donald Trump, January 2014
sectors of the economy and society to fight industrial building for state-of-the-art
climate change and economic and social injustice. energy efficiency, comfort and safety.”
Even the goals specific to climate and energy are (There are about 100 million residential President Trump has since walked back this Today, too many on the right believe climate
staggering in their ambition and impracticality. The and 6 million commercial buildings in statement a bit, conceding climate change may be change doesn’t exist, that the risks are overstated,
text of the House resolution calling for the creation the U.S.). happening. But this thinking is still dominant on the or that if it is indeed a problem, it is someone else’s
of a Select Committee for the Green New Deal right. problem.
envisions Washington directing an effort to:
• Decarbonize “the manufacturing,
agricultural and other industries” As recently as 2008, Republican presidential
along with “transportation and other candidate John McCain not only admitted the
infrastructure.”85 threat of climate change, but put forth a policy
platform for a national cap and trade system to
reduce carbon emissions.87


72 73

New Center
Solutions Energy Innovation
The right wants to ignore climate change. The left wants to radically disrupt
virtually every part of America’s economy and society to fight it.
Neither approach makes sense.

Climate change is exacting a real cost on our In the early 2000s, energy experts were sounding a
economy and environment now, and if the right dire warning.
doesn’t end its relentless — and indefensible —
climate denial, the costs will keep adding up. But The U.S. was running out of oil and gas. A popular
the left’s utopian vision to fight climate change book released at the time was called “The End
could create large costs too. Consider that if of Oil” and it reflected the growing conventional
household energy costs went up just 10%, it would wisdom that global supplies of crude oil would
push almost 840,000 Americans into poverty.88 soon peak, bringing an era of soaring energy prices
and economic upheaval.89
What if the Green New Deal turns out to be much
more expensive and disruptive than its advocates In 2003, the Oil and Gas Journal reported the
suggest? There are more than a few government United States had just 22.5 billion barrels of proven
initiatives that fit that description. oil reserves.90 But today the U.S. is estimated to
have 264 billion barrels of proven oil reserves —
Battling climate change is a multi-decade more than Saudi Arabia or Russia.91
challenge, which means it needs to be sustained
across multiple presidencies and Congresses. If So how did America actually increase our oil
recent history is any guide, that will include periods reserves by a factor of more than 10, even as we
with unified Republican and Democratic control as were consuming billions of barrels of oil in the last
well as divided government. That’s why any climate 15 years?
change solution — to have any chance to last —
must be forged in the center, with buy-in from both Technology. An advanced drilling technique —
parties. called fracking — allowed us to access energy we
never thought we could reach.
So what to do? Ironically, the solution to a cleaner
energy future may be found in our fossil fuel past.

74 75

How the Fracking

Revolution Is a Model
for a Clean Energy
In July 2013, George P. Mitchell — the To cite just two examples: Sandia National When government lays the foundation for It may take an inventor or a company creating solar
Founder of Mitchell Energy — passed Laboratories developed the seismic modeling and innovation and the private sector is empowered or wind technologies that are exponentially more
away at the age of 94. In his obituary, imaging technology that allowed Mitchell to more to build on that foundation, new products come to efficient at converting sun and wind into power.
precisely locate oil and gas reserves. Meanwhile, market, new jobs are created, and new solutions Or a battery that can efficiently and affordably
The Associated Press called Mitchell the
the U.S. Department of Energy funded joint are found to old problems. store huge amounts of energy. Or smaller, safer,
“Father of Fracking” and credited him with
ventures that ultimately produced the diamond- more affordable nuclear reactors. Or a scalable
sparking the American shale gas revolution. tipped drilling bits and pioneered horizontal drilling This approach is how a president governing technology that can pull carbon straight out of the
In the AP story, Mitchell’s family described techniques that were later adapted for commercial from the center could attack the climate change air.
a “quintessentially American” story of use by Mitchell Energy. challenge.
someone who rose from nothing to become How about we create those technologies in the
a great entrepreneur and energy innovator. In fact, Dan Steward, a former Mitchell Energy China and India are not building hundreds of new U.S.?
Mitchell was indeed a trailblazer, and he VP, told the nonpartisan Breakthrough Institute coal plants because they intend to destroy the
that the “DOE [Department of Energy] started it, world. They are doing it because it’s the cheapest
deserved all the accolades he received. But
and other people took the ball and ran with it. You way to power their economies and to pull people Two big policy ideas stand
he had some help.
cannot diminish DOE’s involvement.”92 out of poverty.
out for the next president.
From the federal government. The lesson here is that government can play a This will not change until energy alternatives
critical role in funding the basic energy research or technologies emerge that provide the same
that is too long-range, risky, or expensive for the thing that coal and other fossil fuels do for these
Although Mitchell’s company came to
private sector to handle alone. It’s true in other countries: cheap, abundant, and affordable power
market in the 1990s with a revolutionary
industries as well, as breakthrough technologies on a massive scale.
fracking technique, it also drew on ranging from GPS and the internet to memory foam
technology that was invented, funded, or mattresses got their start in government research
subsidized by Uncle Sam. labs.

76 77

1. 2.
Double Down on Federal R&D Put a Price on Carbon… and
into Breakthrough Energy Put the Money in People’s
Technologies Pockets
According to the Pew Charitable Although the federal government does have an Carbon tax. Gas tax. Whatever you But the basic idea behind a carbon tax is sound. If
Trust, energy investments have entity — ARPA-E, or the Advanced Research call it, voters tend to hate it. Any companies have to pay for emitting carbon, they
Projects Agency–Energy — to fund investments are more likely to invest in new technologies that
accounted for only one percent of the in breakthrough energy technologies, it needs
policy that increases the cost for reduce carbon emissions or emit none at all. It’s
federal government’s R&D budget significantly more funding to explore and invest in people to fuel up their cars is seen as government’s way of encouraging more clean
since the 1990s. By comparison, potential breakthrough energy technologies. These a political non-starter. In late 2018, energy investment without being too prescriptive
defense has received almost half of could include: people rioted in the streets of Paris about telling innovators how to do it.
federal research money, and health after French President Emmanuel
• Technologies that capture carbon produced One way to have a carbon tax without the
has consumed 20 to 25%.93 at fossil fuel plants and store it underground
Macron announced a new fuel tax.94
politically toxic blowback could be to place a
(carbon capture and storage), and technologies steadily rising fee on fossil fuels but rebate the
that pull existing carbon out of the air. dividends from this fee directly back to U.S.
households each month (sometimes called “carbon
• Advanced energy and battery storage fee and dividend”). Seeing that check each month
could go a long way toward assuring voters they
• Next generation and modular (smaller) nuclear
aren’t on the losing end of any carbon tax policy.

There are many ways to design such a program,

and the politics will always be hard. But the energy
innovation America and the world needs will be
much more achievable if the market sends a signal
that cleaner investments will be more appealing
and carbon intensive investments will be less
appealing over time.


78 79


80 81

For President


Q1: Q2:
The U.S. Defense Department says climate Coal is declining as a share of U.S. energy,
change puts two-thirds of U.S. military and many people say the biggest reason
installations at risk. And 13 different federal is because natural gas is just a cheaper
agencies just released a report stating that and cleaner fuel. So why is a Republican
climate change is real and already harming president — who is supposed to support free
our country. Why don’t you agree with them? markets — doing so much to prop up the
failing coal industry?95

82 83

For Democratic
Q1: Q2:
Do you support the Green New Deal? And if Renewable energy provides about 11% of all
you do, what exactly do you mean by that? the power in the U.S. The Green New Deal
Does it mean you support the resolution calls for increasing this by a factor of almost
introduced in Congress by Rep. Alexandria 10 over 10 years. Can you explain how this is
Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)? Or does it mean remotely possible?
something else?

84 85

For All


Would you consider supporting a carbon fee and dividend policy, which would place a rising
fee on fossil fuels but rebate the dividends from this fee directly back to U.S. households?

86 87

88 89
An Intro

In late 2018, Ryan was driving And yet, Ryan got off easy. He didn’t get hurt. He
could pay the bill. It was an inconvenience, not a
We can and must do a lot
on the Brooklyn-Queens crisis.
Every year the American Society of Civil Engineers
(ASCE) provides a report card with letter grades on
better. America’s decaying
Expressway and suddenly felt a Many Americans and many communities are not
the quality of various American infrastructure. infrastructure is costing jobs,
jolt. Car, meet pothole. that lucky. it is costing lives, and it is long
Aviation: D
In 2014, Americans reacted with horror when we
past due for an overhaul.
Drinking Water: D
A $1,800 mechanic’s bill later learned that Flint, Michigan — due to chronic
underinvestment and mismanagement — had Roads: D
and he had received a stark exposed its residents to unconscionably high levels
Transit: D-
reminder that America’s of lead in their water. Children in Flint suffered
brain and development damage from which they I AGREE
Our rail system got a B, the highest score of any
infrastructure is pretty terrible. will never recover. It’s outrageous. infrastructure.

But the overall grade? D+.96

90 91

The Problem
America’s Broken and Outdated
1. Costs Us Time and Money I AGREE

• Bad roads cost Americans $500 every year in car repairs and
wasted fuel.97

• In 2014, the average American spent 42 hours delayed in traffic.98

2. Wastes Our Resources I AGREE

• Leaks and breaks cost water systems between 6% and 25% of

their water, wasting over 7 billion gallons of water each day, or
enough to fill about 11 Olympic swimming pools.99

92 93

3. Jeopardizes Our Health I AGREE

4. Leaves Communities I AGREE

Behind in the Race for 21st

• Almost 900 million gallons of untreated sewage, which
can include human feces and wastewater from daily Century Jobs
activities, are discharged each year due to aging pipes
and inadequate capacity. This is enough sewage to fill
• 38% of rural Americans don’t have access to high-speed internet,
over 11 million bathtubs.100
and about 6.5 million students in rural K-12 schools don’t have
• In Flint, water testing in 2014 showed lead levels that access to it either.104
were as much as hundreds of times higher than the
• Why does this matter? Because studies show that people who
Environmental Protection Agency’s allowable limit.101
live in states with high-speed internet make more money and
Lead exposure at any level is unsafe and can lead to
have higher college graduation rates than those who don’t.105
permanent brain damage.102

• Flint is not an isolated example. Of states that

reported lead testing results in 2014, 40% had higher
rates of lead poisoning among children than Flint.103

5. Destroys Jobs I AGREE

• Global consulting firm McKinsey estimates that increasing U.S.

infrastructure spending by 1% of GDP would add 1.5 million jobs
to the economy.106 Not investing in infrastructure will do the
opposite; by 2025, deteriorating infrastructure will cost some 2.5
million jobs.107

94 95

Why Is It
So Bad?

96 97

Decades of A Tangle of Red Tape

Underinvestment • According to Common Good, a nonprofit that has spent years advocating
for fixes to the process for building infrastructure, “Permitting for
• The ASCE estimates the U.S. is spending about $200 billion per year less infrastructure projects can take a decade or more. Multiple agencies
than it should to get our infrastructure up to a B grade.108 oversee the process, with no clear lines of authority. Once permits are
granted, lawsuits can last years more. These delays are costly and, often,
• As a share of the economy, Europe spends twice as much and China environmentally destructive.”110
spends five times as much as the U.S. on infrastructure.109

Where Does Infrastructure Funding Come from?

Of the $416 billion in public money spent in their spending paid for the operation and
2014 on infrastructure, about a quarter came maintenance of infrastructure.”
from the federal government and three- Amid the deficit in public infrastructure
fourths from states and localities. According spending, private investment is filling some
to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), of the void. Last year, investors funneled
“of the federal spending, roughly two-thirds a record of $85 billion in private equity
paid for new, improved, or rehabilitated and debt funds focused on U.S. and global
structures and equipment. State and local infrastructure.111
governments spent money on those things
as well, but a much larger proportion of

98 99

from the Left
and Right

Here is the good news: Most In 2018, Republicans and

on the left and right agree Democrats in Washington
that America’s decrepit released competing
infrastructure is a real problem infrastructure plans that read
that needs fixing. more as political documents
than serious policy proposals.
The bad news: they can’t agree
how it pay for it.

100 101

The Left The Right

A Little Public
A Lot of New Public Investment to Spur
Investment Private Investment
In 2018, Senate Democrats No matter what you think of the 2017 tax
cut package, expecting President Trump to
In 2018, the Trump But the plan had a fatal flaw. Private investors
are only interested in infrastructure projects
proposed a $1 trillion agree to a plan that eliminated his signature administration unveiled a that can generate an economic return. Many
federal investment, which domestic achievement was just as unrealistic
as when congressional Republicans
$200 billion infrastructure of the most critical infrastructure priorities
in America — like fixing old water pipes and
would have been paid for proposed budget deals that would have investment plan, which filling potholes — fall into the category of
by repealing many of the required President Obama to defund his they claimed would spur “deferred maintenance,” which almost always
own signature domestic achievement, the require public investment.
tax cuts President Trump Affordable Care Act. $1.5 trillion in new private
According to the Congressional
had signed into law months It’s not going to happen.
sector infrastructure Budget Office, “almost all spending
earlier.112 investments.113 on transportation, drinking water, and
wastewater infrastructure is done by the
public sector.”114

102 103

New Center
Real Funding and
Real Flexibility
Not only is America not building the But it will also require cutting
infrastructure we will need for the through an incomprehensible
next half-century, we are not even morass of red tape, in which
maintaining what we have built in new infrastructure projects can
the past half-century.115 sometimes require approval from
literally dozens of federal, state,
Our infrastructure needs are and local agencies. Projects that
immense, and undoubtedly require take two years to build in Europe
more investment than public can take a decade or more in the
financing alone can provide. Any U.S.116
significant infrastructure package
will require public and private

104 105

How to Fund The Red Tape Priorities, A Dollar Is a

It Jungle Priorities Dollar… Except
• Publicly owned infrastructure that creates
residual cash flows comparable to private
• A study by Common Good found that red-tape
delays for infrastructure more than double the
• In a time of constrained resources, the federal
government must develop better processes
When It Isn’t
entities — such as airports, ports, toll roads, cost of large projects.117 Because state and to focus investment on the infrastructure
• Many states and localities, and almost all
and utilities — should be considered for local regulatory hurdles are often the primary projects that are most essential to public
businesses, have two separate budgets:
transfer to private ownership, with sale barrier to building new infrastructure, federal safety and economic competitiveness. Too
operational and capital. Roughly speaking,
proceeds used to reduce government infrastructure funding should be contingent much infrastructure spending is because a
the operational budget pays recurring
deficits and liabilities or to reinvest in public upon states and localities streamlining their politician wants their name on a building.
expenses like utility bills and salaries. The
infrastructure that does not appeal to private permitting and regulatory processes. Other spending — like California’s recently
capital budget pays for investments in the
investors. canceled $77 billion high-speed rail project
• Too much federal infrastructure funding is future. It’s a small but critically important
— is done without the proper diligence to
• User fees — such as a freight tax — should allocated with overly prescriptive rules as to distinction.
determine what communities actually need.118
play an increased role in paying for public where states should spend the money. States
• Infrastructure is a capital investment because
infrastructure. should be given more flexibility to spend federal
it helps create jobs and stimulate economic
infrastructure funding on the projects that they
• A one percentage point increase in the activity. So if the U.S. Congress spends $1
deem to be most important.
corporate income tax — which dropped from on a new road, the Treasury can get some of
35% to 21% in the 2017 tax reform — would that back from future tax returns from new
generate $100 billion over 10 years. economic activity.

• Innovative financing mechanisms – such as • But the U.S. Congress doesn’t have a capital
Build America Bonds, Private Activity Bonds, budget, which means every dollar is treated
and more institutional (e.g. pension fund) the same for accounting purposes. This
investment — should play an expanded role in has the effect of decreasing the amount of
financing new projects. infrastructure spending.

• Infrastructure investment should be opened • The details can be tough to work out, but
to individuals, not just institutions, by creating Congress should find a way to implement
more equity instruments that allow individual a capital budget, so the economic return
investors to participate in infrastructure of infrastructure investments is considered
investment via mutual funds, ETFs, and/or along with the cost for budget scoring
401(k)s. purposes.


106 107


108 109

For President

Q1: Q2:
In your 2018 State of the Union you promised Your infrastructure plan calls for the private
to “build gleaming new roads, bridges, sector to do much of the investment, but
highways, railways, and waterways across private investors typically don’t want to
our land.” It hasn’t happened. Why not? spend money on the boring but essential
projects like repairing old roads and water
pipes. Why are you so reluctant to put real
public money into infrastructure?

110 111

For Democratic
It costs more in the U.S. to build new infrastructure projects than anywhere else in the
world, and much of this is due to corrupt or inefficient bureaucracies that have onerous
environmental regulations. Even President Obama said that when it comes to public works,
“there is no such thing as shovel ready projects.”119 What is your plan to fix this problem?

112 113

For All

Q1: Q2:
America has two big infrastructure needs. Far too many communities — in rural and
We need to fix and repair much of what we economically disadvantaged urban areas
already have. But we also need to invest in — don’t have access to high-speed internet
new infrastructure that will let us compete in and other technologies they need to launch
the 21st century. Which kind of infrastructure businesses and get good jobs. What is your
investment should be our highest priority? plan to address this disparity?

What is your plan to pay for significant new
infrastructure investment?

114 115
The Rise
of Big

116 117
The Rise of

Big Tech
In 2010, then Google CEO Eric Schmidt made an Consumers love the ease with which Google These companies have competed and acted in their
offhand joke that only now seems deadly serious. allows us to search, Amazon to buy, and Facebook own interests, which is exactly what we expect
to connect. But the growing dominance of these in a free-market system. But as these companies
Appearing at a conference at the Newseum in tech companies and the platforms they control is have grown, they have also been more prone
Washington, D.C., he was asked a question about coming at a real cost to workers, consumers, and to engaging in the grungier anti-competitive or
whether Google planned to eventually implant the economy. acquisitive practices that the public and political
technology in people’s brains. He said they did not, leaders decry when practiced in other industries.
and in explaining why, said, Not long ago, companies like Amazon, Google,
and Facebook were scrappy upstarts, creating The power of technology companies presents
new industries and disrupting old ways. Today, government with a challenge very different from the
“There is what I call the emerging research suggests these companies are corporate monopolies of the past. These companies

creepy line. The Google preventing other new businesses from doing the
same thing.122
don’t just dominate a commodity, as Standard Oil
did before it was broken up by the Supreme Court

policy on a lot of things In previous eras, a robust legislative or regulatory

in 1911, or physical infrastructure as AT&T did with
telephone lines before it was split into the “Baby

is to get right up to the response to concentrated corporate power

was often spurred by widespread public anger.
Bells” in 1984.125 They own an unprecedented
amount of data, the most valuable asset in the
creepy line and not cross But for a long time, the Big Five technology
companies (Apple, Alphabet [parent company
world today. And the more data they own, the more
powerful they become.
it.”120 of Google], Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft) were
viewed favorably by many consumers, with each Government can’t be expected to sit idly by if
Is there any doubt that Google and other big tech making regular appearances in the top 10 of the size and power of certain companies begins
companies have now crossed this line? Fortune’s annual list of the World’s Most Admired threatening the vigorous competition and
Companies.123 innovation upon which any healthy economy
In recent years, large technology companies depends.
have been investigated for colluding with a secret And why shouldn’t they be? Each has pioneered
agreement not to hire one another’s best workers; world-changing innovations and created great That’s precisely what’s happening and what the
fined billions of dollars for unfairly favoring certain fortunes and great jobs. If you are one of the next president needs to change.
services on their platforms over other rivals; millions who own an S&P 500 index fund in your
and accused of mishandling sensitive consumer 401(k), you can thank the Big Five technology
information or obtaining new customers under companies for as much as a third of the fund’s
false pretenses.121 recent gains.124

118 119

The Problem 1.
They Know Everything
About Us
• Facebook, Apple, and Google can track • Phone carriers like T-Mobile, Sprint, and
your location constantly, even when AT&T are also selling location data, even
you are not using an app that explicitly after they promised they wouldn’t — and
requires location.126 it’s ending up in the hands of shady third
parties like bail bondsmen and bounty
• Google keeps track of your location
even after you turn off location services
in your Google account.127
• Facebook circumvented Federal Trade
Commission rules and gave Spotify and
• 70% of the apps on your smartphone
Netflix “read and write” access to users’
share personal data with third-party
private Facebook messages without
tracking companies.128
explicit consent.130

Big Tech Is Killing Other
While profits at technology companies have soared, revenues in media businesses, such as
newspapers and music, have dropped 70%.131

120 121

3. 4.
Growth by Litigation They Are Bigger and
Instead of Innovation More Powerful Than Any
In 2012, it was reported that Apple and Google’s spending on patent
lawsuits and patent acquisitions exceeded spending on research and
Companies in History
development of new products.132

As of March 2019, the market capitalization

of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google
combined is $3.02 trillion, which is a 12% share
of the S&P 500 and larger than the GDP of
• 94% of social media users have an • For reference, Standard Oil had 87% of
account with Facebook or a company the crude oil market share at its peak.137
owned by Facebook.134
• One out of every two dollars spent online
• 92% of internet search is controlled by goes through Amazon.138
• Eight of the ten most popular smartphone
• 99% of mobile operating systems in the apps are made by Facebook or Google.139
U.S. are made by Apple or Google.136


How Did This


Only two of the five largest technology

companies even existed 25 years ago.
It was probably the right call at the time.
But these tech companies are all grown up Technology companies are
Unsurprisingly, regulators and legislators
have usually played catch-up in their
and simply need to meet a higher standard
of public accountability. Aside from long being much more proactive in
attempts to govern these businesses, which standing privacy concerns, left, right,
pioneered new industries that never existed and center are also increasingly worried dealing with concerns about
before. about the immense role that social media
companies have in shaping (and sometimes consumer privacy and their
In the early years of the Internet, Congress arbitrarily censoring) the news and
and successive presidents made a sensible
decision to be relatively hands off in
information we read. business practices, but so
regulating tech companies for fear that
too much of it could inhibit the growth and
much more needs to be done.
innovation of new companies.

124 125

from the Left
and Right
For a long time, big But now advocates on the left, right, and center
technology companies are finding common cause, and calling for more

escaped more serious aggressive measures to protect consumer privacy

online and to address the growing monopoly
scrutiny because neither position of tech companies.

the left nor right were There are some issues — like health care and
particularly interested in climate change — where the right and left are
miles apart, not just from one another, but from
policing them, even though the political center. The growing influence of

they had different reasons. technology companies is not one of these issues.
There is a gathering consensus we need to do
something, even if the shape of it isn’t clear yet.

THE LEFT has loved to hate certain

kinds of big businesses, like those in oil,
pharmaceuticals, and banking. But even
as tech companies became even more
influential than companies in these other
sectors, the left gave them a pass, believing
tech companies were different: an example
of a different kind of business that was
“doing well while doing good.”

THE RIGHT is generally averse to regulating


126 127
New Center

Solutions Take on Big Tech

In Washington, we have the Federal Drug For starters, innovation in the tech space is
Administration to ensure the safety of new drugs; accelerating and the problems that Congress
the Federal Reserve to ensure the soundness of the might aim to solve with regulation today might be
financial system; and the Securities and Exchange completely ill-equipped to deal with the problems
Commission to protect the integrity of markets. the public will face tomorrow (such as the rise of
artificial intelligence).

Who is in charge of Washington must also be mindful that even

protecting our privacy and as American tech companies have engaged in
troubling behavior, they are still crown jewels of
policing the actions of big American innovation, fueling economic growth,

tech companies? investment, and job creation. Ill-advised or

ineffective regulation might do little to preserve
our privacy or improve competition while hurting
No one, really. Though the Federal Trade
U.S. tech companies and providing an opening
Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications
for foreign companies — like those in China — to
Commission (FCC) have some oversight
outcompete us.
responsibility, they often lack rule-making authority
and the necessary money and manpower.
But the status quo just isn’t acceptable. And if the
next president is interested in reckoning with the
The challenge posed by the rise of big tech
implication of the rise of big tech, he or she might
companies is among the most consequential facing
consider the following.
the next president. We need laws and a regulatory
structure that are up to that challenge.

The next president will have to tread carefully, as

there are many ways that Washington could make
things worse.

128 129

Protect People’s Privacy Protect Public Discourse

Congress Needs to Get Federal Legislation to Make the AI Toward Real

Smart on Tech Protect Online Privacy Accountable Transparency
Recent congressional hearings featuring tech Large tech companies have every incentive to Tech companies necessarily use artificial Large tech companies claim they are being
company executives have revealed that too many collect as much personal data as possible from intelligence (AI) to screen the reams of content more transparent about how they handle your
members of Congress don’t understand how big their consumers. Comprehensive federal privacy that exist and are created across their platforms. data and decide which content can exist on their
tech companies operate or the scope and scale legislation should be enacted to give consumers However, these AI systems are black boxes. platforms, but often they just provide the illusion
of the problems they present. In one infamous more control over their personal data, and it should Consumers don’t understand how or why decisions of compliance: with long, impenetrable terms of
example from 2018, a senator grilling Facebook include: a “right to be removed” from the database are made, and the AI’s decisions are often wrong. service or standards that no one reads.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a hearing did not appear of an online platform; opt-out mechanisms for data We need real standards to make AI — and the
At a minimum the next president should make
to know that the company made money by selling sales and third-party data use; data collection companies behind it — accountable.
clear he or she expects large tech companies to
advertisements.140 disclosure; a right to request all personal data
agree upon and adhere to common standards
collected by tech companies; and prompt data
that establish a clear, standardized process for
Once, Congress had a resource for objective breach notifications.
reviewing and removing material from online
analysis on pressing matters raised by Platform Companies Need platforms.
new technologies, the Office of Technology
Assessment. The OTA was shuttered in 1995, right to Act Like… Platform
before the advent of the modern internet. It needs Companies
to be brought back, and the next president should
include it in their first budget request to Congress. If large tech companies like Facebook and Google
are indeed platform companies as they claim to
be, and not publishers, they need to act like it. That
means that in deciding what can exist on their
platforms, they should hew closely to the First
Amendment as articulated by the U.S. Supreme
Court: speech should be free unless it is inciting

130 131

Promote Competition

Better Laws Better Enforcement AT&T, an Analogue Approaching Safe Harbor

The major U.S. laws governing competition — such In 1997, the U.S. Justice Department sued Microsoft,
Solution for Our Digital With Caution
as the Sherman Act of 1890 — were passed over claiming it was illegally leveraging its dominant Economy In 1996, Congress passed a “Safe Harbor” provision
a century ago. Items for possible inclusion in new operating system to “develop a chokehold” on
to protect early internet companies from litigation—
legislation could include: the internet browser software market.141 The In 1956, the U.S. Justice Department allowed AT&T
so a company like AOL could not be held liable if
government has brought no case of similar size to maintain its phone monopoly in exchange for a
someone posted offensive material on one of its
and impact in the last 20 years. large concession: AT&T would have to license any
• Addressing the ways that digital companies are chat boards. It was a critical safeguard allowing the
past patents royalty-free to any U.S. company. It
using network effects to crowd out potential The decline in antitrust enforcement can be traced nascent internet economy to grow.
had to license future patents for a small fee. These
competitors. back to a legal theory first popularized by Robert licenses helped spur the creation of Motorola, Now, Congress is taking an interest in whether
Bork — a University of Chicago professor and later Fairchild Semiconductor, and Texas Instruments
• Redefining and cracking down on predatory big technology companies are using ‘Safe Harbor’
Supreme Court nominee — that the government among others. The government might consider a
pricing practices. to evade accountability for what goes on their
should only be concerned with inhibiting a similar action with today’s tech behemoths.142 platforms. However, lawmakers must be careful;
• Tougher scrutiny of mergers that threaten company’s size if it is harming “consumer welfare.”
clumsy changes to Safe Harbor laws to target big
competition within sectors. In practice, this has meant government being
tech could instead unfairly impact smaller platforms
hands off so long as prices are low.
• Taking seriously the anti-competitive effects of without the resources to handle increased legal
vertical integration. Since many big technology companies have, to exposure for the content on their sites.
date, delivered lower-cost or even free services,
• Splitting up or regulating corporations that they have escaped scrutiny of their other practices
have the ability to dominate entire sectors. — like violating consumer privacy and inhibiting
• Enacting new rules and procedures to speed competition — that a government should have an
up antitrust litigation, which sometimes drags interest in addressing.
on for a decade or more.

• Exploring the use of free services to disguise GREAT. I LIKE THESE IDEAS.
monopolistic advertising practices.

132 133


134 135

For President

You Tweeted that “Facebook, Twitter and Google are so biased towards the Dems it is
ridiculous!”143 What is your evidence for that and what do you want to do about it?

136 137

For Democratic
The tech industry — and its employees — have donated much more to Democratic
candidates than Republican ones. Can we trust Democrats to properly police this industry
when they have received so many contributions from it?144

138 139

For All

Q1: Q3:
Do you support a nationwide data privacy Do you believe that large tech companies
law? If so, which specific provisions would it like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon
include? should be broken up?

Large tech companies are arguably bigger,
more powerful, and more influential than
basically any companies in history. Does this
worry you, and should we do anything about

140 141

142 143

Is the American Dream Ask President Trump and he’ll tell you that “this
is the greatest economy in the HISTORY of

still alive? It depends America.”146 And he can point to data showing the
unemployment rate dropping to 3.7% in October
whom you ask. 2018, the lowest in almost 50 years.147

Ask Democratic presidential candidate Bernie

Twenty-three years after Adams published his book,
Sanders and he’ll decry America’s “grotesque and
another very different kind of book was published
growing level of wealth and income inequality.”148
called How to Lie With Statistics.145
And he can point to data suggesting that the top
earners in America have a greater share of national
In it, the author showed how easy it was for
wealth and income than at any point since the
someone to support their argument — and tell
basically any story they wanted to tell — by
selectively citing and shaping certain statistical
President Trump and Sen. Sanders aren’t lying
In 1931, a writer named James Truslow measures.
about these numbers. They are just presenting the
world as they want you to see it, namely that the
Adams wrote a book called The Epic of American dream is alive and well … or dead.

America in which he coined the term But you can easily challenge President Trump’s

“The American Dream.” He described rosy employment narrative with data showing that
many Americans have given up looking for work

its meaning as: altogether — and therefore aren’t counted in the

unemployment rate measure — while other data
shows that workers’ wages aren’t rising as fast as
they should in a growing economy.150
“A land in which life should be better And you can challenge Sen. Sanders’ doom and
and richer and fuller for everyone, gloom on income inequality by noting that the
most commonly cited income inequality measures
with opportunity for each according don’t include the significant value Americans
receive from tax benefits and other non-cash
to ability or achievement.” assistance like government food and housing

144 145
The Economy is on…
Even statistics on the Unsurprisingly, the American people appear as split
on the state of the economy as our politicians are.

basic state and shape Although a January 2019 Harvard-Harris poll had
Job Market Job Market

of the American middle 66% of registered voters rating the U.S. economy
as “strong” or “somewhat strong,” a separate
The unemployment rate hit a 49-year low of
3.7% in late 2018155
In 1950, 14% of men were out of the labor force.
By 2018 that figure has more than doubled to

class are up for dispute. question found 45% saying our economy is on
the “right track,” and 43% saying it’s on the wrong

In late 2018, U.S. wages grew at their fastest The average U.S. salary has about the same
If you want to be pessimistic, you could say that track.154 rate in a decade157 purchasing power as it did 40 years ago158

the middle class is getting smaller, as only 32%

A June 2018 Labor Department study found Available jobs are often concentrated in certain
of U.S. families were considered middle class in
2014, compared to 37% in 1979.152 A more optimistic
Both sides have a point. that there were more job openings than
available workers to fill them159
industries and regions, and the share of
Americans willing or able to move for a job has
take would note that of the families who did leave dropped by half160
the middle class during this same period, a higher
In 2018, the number of women in the U.S. For every unemployed American man between
percentage moved up to join the upper middle
workforce reached an all-time high161 25 and 55 years of age looking for work there
class than those who descended to the lower are three who are not looking at all162
middle class or poverty.153

Investment Investment
We can play these number games all day.

A record163 $293 billion in venture capital 80% of this funding went to just a few places:
funding was invested in 2018 Silicon Valley and the Acela Corridor spanning
Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C.164

Education Education

More than a third of Americans have a college Total student debt in the U.S. is $1.52 trillion, or
bachelor’s degree – the most ever165 $37,712 for every student borrower166

Workforce Development Workforce Development

The U.S. spends $500 billion on higher The U.S. spends only $8 billion on worker
education167 training168

Wealth and Financial Security Wealth and Financial Security

The stock market hit a record high in 2018169 Only 54% of U.S. families own stocks170

The average nationwide 401(k) balance hit a 1 in 4 non-retired adults has no retirement
new record high of $106,500 in 2018171 savings or pension172

40% of American adults reported in a Federal

According to the Federal Reserve, total U.S.
Reserve Survey that if they were faced with an
household wealth has almost doubled since
unexpected $400 expense, they would either
the depths of the Great Recession173
not be able to pay it or would do so by selling
something or borrowing money174
146 147

from the Left
and Right

The economic offerings from the The left’s ideas to more fairly
right and left simply don’t meet slice up the economic pie for
the current moment, but for some could shrink the pie for
different reasons. everyone.

The right’s ideas to grow the

pie do too little to ensure it is
more fairly sliced.

148 149

The Left
Government Will Take
The Right
Care of It
The left is stuck in 1965, the year Medicare passed. This period was
You’re on Your Own
the apex of big government liberalism, and a time when some on the If the left is stuck in 1965, then the right’s economic philosophy often
left imagined a large government program to solve every problem. seems to be stuck in 1981.

In the 2020 election, the left wants to push In proposing a vast expansion of the public sector In short, the prescription is that whatever Ronald President Trump sold his signature 2017 tax cut as
Democrats back to the future. and significant new burdens on the private sector, Reagan did … do more of it. a major boost for workers, but a late 2018 survey
the left could threaten the engine of economic of 152 companies by the consultancy Korn Ferry
Virtually every new big economic idea from the left Although President Trump’s more restrictive
growth that generates the tax revenue upon which found that most companies were not putting their
entails a massive expansion of the government’s trade and immigration policies are very different
government depends. tax savings toward increasing their payroll.180
role in the economy, even though 57% of the from those offered by recent Republican leaders,
American public tells Pew Research Center they Consider that in 2016, there were about 156 million his key economic policies have mostly followed Lower taxes and less regulation — properly applied
believe government is “almost always wasteful and jobs in America, of which about 22 million were the Reagan-era script of cutting regulations and — can be good for the economy, but they are not a
inefficient.”175 Among the left’s ideas: with state, local, and federal governments.176 cutting taxes. magic bullet.

• A federal jobs guarantee In other words, there are more than seven jobs in The problem is that the core idea behind The nature of the American economy, and the
the private sector for every one in the public sector. Reaganomics — that a rising tide of economic challenges facing workers, has changed radically
• A federally mandated minimum wage
And yet, instead of nourishing the private sector, growth will lift all boats — just isn’t true anymore. since 1981. But the right’s economic thinking has
• Free or debt-free college large parts of the left’s economic agenda could not.
In fact, for decades in the U.S. and around the
crush it.
• Tax rates as high as 70% world, an increasing share of the economy’s gains
have been accruing to the people who own things
• Corporate governance proposals that would at the expense of labor.177 Between 2000 and
enable Washington and outside interest groups 2015, the share of corporate profits going to labor
to direct how and where private companies declined from 82.3% to 75.5%;178 the equivalent of
invest their assets $3,770 less for every worker.179

150 151

New Center The New American Dream

Solutions As British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once
remarked, “It has been said democracy is the worst form
of government except for all those other forms that have
been tried.”181

You could say much the same about capitalism, with ideas that history has proven don’t work. Nor
which despite its occasional failures, excesses, and should they assume strong GDP and corporate
inequities, has proven over time to unquestionably profits are sufficient — as the right often does — to
be the economic system that best encourages expand opportunities for American workers.
innovation and growth and enables people to meet
their full potential.182 Instead, they should pursue policies that support
the many features that are working in the U.S.
But capitalism can easily lose the support of a economy, but with a much more targeted focus
democratic citizenry if it isn’t paired with a strong on Americans who are unquestionably being left
safety net capable of supporting people and behind.
communities that are inevitably left behind, or face
hardship when new industries and businesses are In 2018, scholars from the Brookings Institution
created and old ones are disrupted. and the American Enterprise Institute — among
the most respected center-left and center-
Last year, a much-discussed poll found millennials right think tanks in the country — released a
had a more favorable opinion of socialism than comprehensive Work, Skills, Community Report
they did capitalism.183 to deal with many of the challenges we discuss
in this chapter. Here we share a few of the
We take this poll finding seriously, but not policy prescriptions that could be implemented
literally. Millennials — and many others — are at the federal level and that we think the next
understandably frustrated that the economy isn’t president should consider.
working well enough for them.

But we don’t think the answer to this frustration

is for the next president to follow the left’s plan to
radically restructure every sector of the economy

152 153

Make Work Pay

While there should be support
for Americans already looking for
employment, we need to motivate
Expand the Earned Fix Unemployment Fix Disability Insurance
those who could otherwise join the Income Tax Credit Insurance During George H. W. Bush’s presidency, only 2.5%
workforce to do so.
of working-age Americans received disability
The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable Strengthen incentives and expectations that
checks from the Social Security Administration.
tax credit (which means it can actually reduce recipients of unemployment insurance will seek
The figure has now doubled to 5.2%.184 The federal
someone’s tax liability below zero) to ensure that new employment quickly. Provide lump-sum
government should rigorously review existing
working people receive a living wage. Expanding payments when claimants take a new job. Require
cases to determine whether beneficiaries are
the size and eligibility of the credit could be them to pick up benefits at unemployment offices
still disabled. Strengthen employer incentives to
achieved by: expanding the number of families that where they receive case management services.
contest claims and accommodate workers with
pay estate taxes, limiting tax exemptions available Lower thresholds for acceptable employment after
impairments rather than shift them to disability
to better-off households, or raising minimum taxes prolonged job searches.
for corporations that rely on tax havens.

Wage Subsidy Pilot

Experiment with more direct ways to enhance
the take-home pay of low-wage workers, inviting
states and municipalities to propose pilot
programs. Options could include worker tax credits
or subsidies for each hour worked — money
added to each paycheck alongside wages from


154 155

Workforce of the Future Help for Working Families

When a local factory moves offshore, national and local leaders are supposed to help One in five American families spends more than a quarter of their income on child
workers land new jobs in different industries. But nearly across the board, retraining care.186 A few ways to ease the burden:
programs have failed to live up to their potential.185 Here are a few ways to improve
training and education.

A Training Tax Credit Target Aid to the People Subsidized Family Leave Expanded Childcare Tax
Create a federal tax credit modeled on the R&D
Who Need It Credit
Subsidize eight weeks of paid parental leave, and
tax credit to reimburse companies for 20% of new encourage employers to offer up to 40 weeks of
Target federal financial aid to students who need
training offered to employees earning less than Make the child and dependent care tax credit more
it most, reallocating money currently spent on 529 unpaid time.
$60,000 a year. available to working-class families by making it
education savings accounts, tuition tax credits,
refundable — payable to even families who do
and graduate student loan forgiveness, all of which
not earn enough to owe income taxes. Pay for
benefit primarily higher-income students.
the expansion by capping program eligibility at
$80,000 per family per year. Strengthen state
certification requirements for child care programs.

Federal Financial Aid for

Career Education
Provide federal financial aid for all career
education that meets quality control standards,
including short-term and non-degree programs at GREAT. I LIKE THESE IDEAS. GREAT. I LIKE THESE IDEAS.
unaccredited institutions and options designed for
older workers displaced by new technology.

156 157

Help Americans Go Other Ideas Higher Education

to Where the Jobs That Merit
Are Consideration
to Create a Incentives for College
Ease the College Debt
New American Burden Completion

Financial Support for Long Dream Increase the repayment period for U.S. student
loans from 10 years to 20-30 years and make
Only 55% of Americans who go to college will get
their degree within six years of enrolling.189 The
Distance Moves repayment more contingent on a graduate’s work federal government should:
situation, thus ensuring that repayments don’t
• Provide new incentives for higher education
exceed a certain share of the graduates’ income.188
The federal government should expand the institutions to focus on college completion as
availability of financial support for individuals well as admission.
who want to make long-distance moves to places
• Require public institutions of higher learning,
promising greater economic opportunity. At the
and especially community colleges, to provide
same time, federal policy should encourage states
comprehensive student support services,
and localities to relax zoning restrictions and
including program and course advising,
construct new housing units to increase the supply
mentoring, and remedial education assistance
of affordable housing. For those who wish to stay
for degree or certificate programs.
in their communities to live but not necessarily to
work, state and local governments could provide • Provide federal assistance through a block
a subsidy for workers commuting to adjacent grant program to waive tuition for students
communities.187 enrolled in community colleges in these


158 159

Give Workers a Skills for 21st More Targeted

Fair Share Century Jobs Investment for
Education in K-12
Incorporate new courses such as computer
Incentivize Profit Close the Skills Gap New Avenues for programming, engineering, and data analytics

Sharing Too many Americans don’t currently have

Worker Accreditation into K-12 curricula to better prepare graduates for
the workforce. The federal government can help
the skills employers need. One way to fix this by providing additional funding for STEM teacher
Research shows that companies with College isn’t right for everyone. The
imbalance would be for the federal government training programs and creating STEM Innovation
significant ownership by employees tend federal government could bring together
to make more of its educational funding (e.g. Networks by awarding grants to school districts
to grow faster, pay better, and are less stakeholders to create new types of
Perkins loans) conditioned upon students in partnership with colleges to transform STEM
likely to lay off employees during tough accreditation beyond high school, college,
pursuing majors in areas where there are education in K-12 schools.
times.190 Federal laws and regulations should and graduate school degrees to include
projected future job shortages.
incentivize employers to give employees a accreditation (e.g. digital badges or micro-
greater stake in their employers’ success. degrees) that recognize the acquisition of
Frontline workers could, for example, receive specific skills such as computer coding or
a greater percentage of their income in stock leadership training.
(or have the stock granted in addition to
their salary). Washington could provide tax
incentives that credit companies a portion
of the profits they distribute to employees
beneath a certain cap. Universal Computer
Science Education
Make computer science courses available
to every middle and high school student by
2020. Many local efforts and partnerships are
underway to make this possible, but to bring
computer education to every school, these
bottom-up efforts will need top-down support
from the federal government.

160 161

A Second Boosting Small

Chance to Get and New
Expand the Rural Expand Entrepreneurship
Ahead Businesses Business Investment by Enhancing the
Program Community Reinvestment
According to a New York Times/ According to the Kauffman
CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation, new businesses Act
Rural businesses lack important access to
Foundation poll, men with account for nearly all net new financing since 80% of all venture capital
criminal records account for job creation in the U.S. The next investment goes to a few large metropolitan
Minority-owned businesses have a tougher time
president could clear the path for getting access to credit and often pay higher
about 34% of all nonworking areas. An expansion of the Rural Business
new business creation, especially interest rates. For example, loan denial rates
men ages 25 to 54.191 Investment Program, which helps create job
for minority firms are about three times higher
in rural and disadvantaged areas, opportunities in rural areas by meeting the equity
Give education and job training to people compared to those of nonminority-owned firms.
with the following ideas.192 capital investment needs of rural businesses,
who have served time in prison so that they Enhance the Community Reinvestment Act, which
could help.
can provide for themselves and contribute to provides incentives for banks to meet the credit
society. This could be achieved by mandating needs of people in low- and moderate-income
that previously incarcerated individuals neighborhoods, to allow more funding to be
participate in a re-employment program. funneled to startup businesses.

Regulatory Roadmap for

Small businesses are hit particularly hard by
regulatory compliance, with regulations costing
them over $10,000 per employee — 36% higher
than the cost to larger businesses. The federal
government should develop a regulatory
“roadmap” website that enables entrepreneurs to
view all of the federal, state, and local regulations
GREAT. I LIKE THESE IDEAS. that may affect their business. GREAT. I LIKE THESE IDEAS.

162 163


164 165


For President
Q1: Q3:
40% of people say they can’t handle an Before you signed the tax cut into law last
unexpected $400 expense without borrowing year, you said it would cost wealthy people
money or selling something. With so many “a fortune” and that the “rich will not be
people financially insecure, how can you gaining at all with this plan.”194 You also said
claim the “economy is the greatest in before the 2018 midterm elections that you
American history?” were planning to push for a “major tax cut for
middle-income people.”195 But it doesn’t look
like middle-class tax cuts are moving through
Q2: Congress now, and most of the studies of the
Workers are getting a lower share of national tax cut you did sign show the benefits going
income and corporate profits than any time to upper-income individuals. What’s your
in the last 40 years.193 So my company is plan to get real tax relief for middle-class
generally benefiting more from my work and people?
I am getting less. What’s your plan to fix it?

166 167


For Democratic
Q1: Q3:
Unemployment is almost the lowest it has I see many candidates proposing federal
been in 50 years, and yet some people are “retraining programs for workers.” But most
saying we need Washington to pass a federal of them don’t really work. Why not, and
jobs guarantee. Do you agree? what’s your plan to fix them so people can
actually get the training they need for the
If yes, won’t a bunch of people quit private jobs that are available?
sector jobs to work for the government?196
And how do you ensure these jobs are
actually working on useful projects? Q4:
Do you believe that Congress should be able
to limit companies’ ability to issue dividends
Q2: and buy back shares?
Do you think the federal government should
pay for everyone to go to college? If so, why? If so, why do you think Washington is better
Some people aren’t cut out for college or qualified to tell companies how and where to
don’t want to go. Why should taxpayers foot invest their money than the people who run
this bill? and work at these companies?

168 169


For All

Q1: Q3:
At least one quarter of the current jobs in The average student borrower has over
the U.S. could be disrupted by automation.197 $37,000 in college debt. What, if anything, do
How do you plan to address the potential you think the federal government should do
displacement of workers due to automation? about this problem?

Only half of today’s 30-year old adults
make more than their parents, whereas
90% of adults in 1970 made more than their
parents.198 What would you say to these
young Americans who have lost faith in the
American Dream?

170 171

If ever there were an issue where the right and left Despite the rampant hysteria and vitriol in
are living in parallel universes, it is immigration. the immigration debate, most Americans are
remarkably pragmatic about what is needed to fix
Click on right-wing news, and you’ll see story our immigration system.199
after story of illegal immigrants committing
acts of violence and cruelty against innocent It’s a good thing, too, because everything about the
Americans. Click on left-wing news, and you’ll see immigration debate requires nuance. While both
the opposite: story after story of the American the left and the right tout their own curated facts
government committing acts of cruelty against and arguments, they rarely tell the whole story.
innocent immigrants. Between these two poles
stand the vast majority of Americans, spectators in
a fringe war that decidedly ignores their opinions.

Unlike the radicals on both sides, the vast center of

the country has nuanced, considerate, and sensible
views on how America should fix its antiquated
immigration system.

They believe immigrants are good for America, but

they don’t understand or agree with how or why
the government lets people into our country.
They want innocent people to be protected, but
also for our borders to be strong and our laws to be


The Left Might But So Might

Have a Point the Right

Illegal Immigration
The number of illegal immigrants living But the number of illegal immigrants in
in America has effectively been flat for America also quadrupled in the two decades
the last ten years. prior.

The U.S. Needs a New Approach

Illegal immigrants do commit all But unauthorized immigrants are also to Immigration
categories of crime at lower rates than much more likely to be involved in fatal car
native-borns. accidents because they don’t typically have One that resolves the status of the unauthorized and
driver’s licenses. creates a better process for selecting and tracking
immigrant hopefuls.

Economic Impact Although illegal immigration dominates the public The last time Washington passed a comprehensive
debate, the shape of America’s system of legal immigration reform bill was fifty-four years ago in
Legal immigration is generally good for But it isn’t good for all workers in all places,
immigration is just as consequential. How many 1965. In recent years, bipartisan immigration bills
the economy and for U.S. workers. and the benefits accrue more to some people should receive the privilege of becoming cleared the Senate twice by large margins (once in
(white-collar workers who live in cities) than Americans every year? Should family-based 2006, and once in 2013) but were left to die in the
others (blue-collar workers who don’t). immigration continue to be the prime criterion for House because of the Speaker’s refusal to allow a
entry into the U.S., or should we give more weight vote.
to another, like the potential contributions of new
arrivals to our economy? The American people are eager for an immigration
The Character of America deal forged in the center.
What the American people want — and what
America is and always has been a But the share of foreign-born people living Washington refuses to give them — is an It’s time for the next president to deliver that deal.
nation that welcomes immigrants. in the U.S. is now higher than at any point in immigration system that makes sense for the times
almost a century. we live in, provides security, and strengthens our
174 175

How Does Our Immigration

System Actually Work?
The United States is one of the few nations that puts
an emphasis on family reunification in its immigration

It leads the world in admitting Justifications for Admitting New Immigration in the United States is governed
through The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA),
Becoming a Citizen
immigrants due to family criteria, Immigrants:
with 68% of those admitted in 2016 which provides several avenues through which Once individuals meet certain requirements
accepted for family-based reasons.200 people can enter the United States, including: — such as being a permanent residents for
Canada and Australia, on the other United States201 family-sponsored, employment-based, diversity five years, being at least eighteen years old,
immigration (which gives preference to individuals and being able to read, write, and speak
hand, place greater emphasis on 68% Family reunification of countries with low immigration to the U.S.) and English — they can apply for naturalization
economic factors. 12% Employment refugee and asylee status (for individuals fleeing (i.e. citizenship), a process that involves
17% Other (incl. Humanitarian) war, violence and political persecution). completing an interview, taking an exam, and
submitting necessary documents among
Canada202 Annually, the INA allows for a total worldwide other things.205
cap of 675,000 immigrants, but this limit is often
26.7% Family reunification exceeded due to the unlimited nature of certain
31.5% Employment legal permanent resident categories.
41.8% Other (incl. Humanitarian)

Australia203 As a consequence, about

62% Family reunification one million immigrants
27.7% Employment arrive in the U.S. each
10.3% Other (incl. Humanitarian)

176 177


How Many Are Coming? The Greatest Terror

Happening? The net number of illegal immigrants living in

Threat Is Coming From…
the U.S. has not increased in the last ten years.206 Canada?
In other words, the number of unauthorized
immigrants entering the U.S. equaled the number In the first half of fiscal year 2018, only six illegal
leaving. immigrants whose names were on the federal
government’s database of known or suspected
terrorists were apprehended by Border Patrol at
But illegal immigration exploded by a
the U.S.-Mexico border. During that same period,
factor of 3.4 between 1990 and 2007 —
41 individuals in the database were apprehended
from 3,500,000 to 11,989,297.207 at the U.S.-Canada border.210

Who Is Coming?
Illegal Immigration Is
In the past few years, the nationalities of illegal
immigrants shifted from almost exclusively
Concentrated In A Few
Mexicans seeking work to more Central Places
Most Americans believe illegal Americans seeking refuge from drugs and
immigration is a significant violence at home.208 Just six states account for 59% of all
undocumented immigrants in the U.S.211
problem. But it’s hard to solve
a problem when there’s so
much misinformation about
The Border Might Not Be
what it looks like and why. 59%
The Biggest Problem Undocumented
Recent years have seen
significant shifts in the In each of the last seven years, there were more
illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. legally but
number, nationality, and status became illegal by overstaying their visas than there From 2010 to 2016, the immigrant populations in

of people living in the U.S. were unauthorized border crossers.209 fifteen states grew by at least 15%.212


178 179

The Impacts of
Both Legal and Immigration Is Good for the
Illegal Immigrants U.S. Economy
U.S. economic growth is fueled by two key factors:
either our workforce expands, or we become more
productive—usually through technology that allows
us to produce more with less.

We are approaching trouble on both fronts.

Productivity has been slowing for decades.

Economists don’t agree why, but innovation just isn’t
delivering the economic boost it once did.213
When it comes to immigration, The short answer to all three
So America needs more people working to keep our
there are three dominant questions questions is: it depends. But there economy growing, but the growth of the U.S. labor
on many Americans’ minds: is plenty of research, conducted force is slowing down for a simple reason:214
But the benefits of immigration aren’t shared
over several decades, that can • Baby Boomers are retiring en masse, and our
equally. Some native-born American workers do
birth rate is now half what it was 50 years ago.215
Does immigration increase provide credible insights on each. worse—at least, in the short term.
An orderly influx of legal immigrants could help
or decrease the wages and • Immigration reduces the costs of goods
solve this problem for the United States. Research
economic prospects of for all Americans, with the most benefits
shows that:
native-born Americans? accruing to white-collar workers who also
• Most immigrants enter the country young and benefit from lower costs for immigrant-heavy
work and pay taxes for decades. services like housekeeping and gardening.218
Does immigration make us
• Immigrants are uniquely entrepreneurial, as they • For less educated blue-collar workers,
more or less safe?
are twice as likely to start a business as native- low-skilled (illegal) immigration can
born Americans.216 And some of these small reduce wages. Harvard researcher George
businesses become very big businesses. More Borjas found a 10% increase in low-skilled
Does immigration strain our than half of all American startups worth $1 billion immigrants was associated with a wage drop
social safety net? or more today were founded by immigrants.217 for low-skilled Americans by 3 to 4%.219

180 181

Immigrants Legal Illegal Immigration Has

Do Not Make Immigration Real Costs, Especially
Us Less Safe Could Help For Local Governments
Overall, But Save Social Approximately $18.5 billion of medical care for
unauthorized immigrants is publicly funded each year,

There's More to Security with the heaviest burden falling on local health care

the Story... Immigrants — both high-skilled and low-

skilled — have more children than native-born
• In New York City, the largest public hospital
system provides annual care to over 200,000 illegal
immigrants each year at a cost of $400 million.226
Americans, and tend to enter the country as
Both authorized and unauthorized immigrants
young adults. • 65,000 illegal immigrants in Houston received care
are significantly less likely to be convicted of
felonies and other crimes than are native-born funded by charity.227
• Making up just 13% of the U.S. population,
Americans.220 immigrants produced nearly 25% of births in • California is expected to have around 1.5 million
2015.223 adult immigrant residents without insurance by
• After a careful analysis of Texas arrest 2019.228
records, the Cato Institute reported that • Because most immigrants enter the country
illegal immigrants commit all categories at a young age, the chief actuary of Social Some of these costs are offset by the $11.64 billion
of crime at lower rates than native-born Security estimates that immigration could in state and local taxes undocumented immigrants
Americans. add an additional $500 billion to Social pay each year.229 Illegal immigrants also contribute $7
Security’s finances over the next 25 years billion to Social Security every year, but never collect
However, as with most issues regarding and $4 trillion over the next 75.224 benefits due to their status.230
immigration, the topline numbers don’t tell the
whole story.

• Unlicensed drivers are almost five times

more likely to be in a fatal crash than licensed
ones.221 Only twelve states and D.C. allow
unauthorized migrants to obtain driver’s
licenses, forcing many of them to drive
without safety training.222

• And of course, entering the United States

illegally is itself a crime.

182 183

Why Are Border Security and The Dreamers

Immigration Enforcement So Hard? The fate of Dreamers — young people brought to
America illegally by their parents — is one of the
The United States has difficulty securing its southern border and keeping track of new immigrants once most contentious elements of the immigration
they arrive, despite investing $263 billion in border security since 1986 and having a slew of federal, state, debate. At issue is Deferred Action for Childhood
and local agencies dedicated to regulating our borders and interior.231 Arrivals (DACA), a program instituted through
executive order by President Obama in 2012. It
Here are a few reasons why: provided eligible grantees deferred action on
deportation for two years with the option to renew,
as well as eligibility for a work permit, Social
The U.S.-Mexico Border — Where 98% of Border and Internal Enforcement Is a Security card, and driver’s license. Out of 1.9 million
Border Apprehensions Occur — Is Huge Bureaucratic Mess individuals who are eligible for DACA, about
800,000 are currently protected under the program.
• Our border with Mexico is 1,933 miles long • Authorities don’t have the right infrastructure
and spans Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and or technology to share information and
California. As of 2015, only 703 miles of fencing
have been installed.232
• Coordination is lacking between federal, state,
• The terrain is difficult, and the border runs and local authorities. Enforcing immigration • On average, came to America when
through water, mountains, Native American and policy requires different levels of government they were six
private land, and a national park.233 to collaborate on identification, detention, and
• 97% of them are working or in school
deportation.235 It often does not happen. And
individual states such as Vermont, California, • 900 of them are serving in the U.S.
and the District of Columbia have enacted military.239
legislation in support of sanctuary policies that
prohibit information sharing with local and
On September 5th, 2017, Attorney General Jeff
government officials.236
Sessions announced that the Trump administration
While costs can vary wildly, the accepted budget was ending DACA in an attempt to force Congress
for President Trump’s border wall — meant to to pass a long-term solution. A congressional
cover the remaining unfortified gaps of land — solution has still not been passed and Dreamers
ranges between $15 and $25 billion.237 Some remain in limbo.240
suggest more cost-effective alternatives like video
surveillance, aerial monitoring, and sensors, and its
implementation along the same area as President
Trump’s proposed wall would cost only $145

184 185

Answers Of late, neither the far One of, if not the, most fundamental problems
in the U.S. immigration system is the lack of

from the Left

left nor the far right has coordination between the federal government and
state and local officials. And yet what the left and
much interest in a real the right have recently suggested would inarguably
make this even worse.
immigration debate or a

and Right
In Congress, members on the right want to cut
comprehensive solution. off federal funding for localities that refuse to turn
their local law enforcement into an extension of
ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement),
while members on the left want to eliminate ICE
Instead, what they offer entirely.

is political symbolism
used to fire up their bases
— along with half-baked
measures that would
treat only the symptoms
of broader immigration

186 187

The Left The Right

Too many on the right seem increasingly The Trump administration’s policy to separate
Too many on the left are quick to accuse In a 2018 Politco poll, just 25% mean-spirited, proposing draconian cuts to families crossing the border — and to hold
security-concerned Americans of racism
and xenophobia and to dismiss the potential of Americans agreed that the even legal immigration, lengthy jail sentences parents and children separately while they
for unauthorized border crossers, and even awaited trial — was opposed by two-thirds
dangers of unregulated immigrant flows. Of federal government should the refusal of emergency medical care for of the American public, according to several
late, “Abolish ICE” has become a rallying cry
for the left. eliminate ICE.241 those living illegally in the U.S. polls taken in 2018.242 This policy was later
reversed under strong public pressure.

188 189

New Center
High Wall. Big Gate. 243

This phrase was coined by The New York Times immigration deal will inevitably require leaders on
columnist Tom Friedman, and it accurately both sides to both give and to get, in a way that will
describes both the political and policy imperatives drive their respective bases on the left and right
for any immigration deal forged in the center. crazy. Leaders will only take this risk if they have a
big pool of policy bargaining chips that could allow
“High Wall” doesn’t mean we literally need to build each side to walk away from the negotiating table
a huge wall on the southern border, though more with policy wins.
physical barriers are certainly necessary in some
places. It does mean the American people want So, unlike other chapters where we present a menu
their leaders to get serious about securing our of various policy options, consider this section as
border and getting a handle on who is coming into one cohesive package that is designed to meet
the country. “Big Gate” means all Americans will both the policy and political imperatives of our
benefit from our remaining an open and welcoming current moment.
country that attracts talented, freedom-seeking
people from around the world.
The next president could forge
Immigration is an issue that is almost impossible an immigration deal in the center
to solve piecemeal, for reasons of both policy and
politics. Immigration is a system with many policy with five key features.
parts — tweak one part and you will inevitably
impact several others. As for the politics, any

190 191

1. 2. 3.
Shift Toward More Get the Build a Wall
Employment-Based Undocumented Where It Works
Immigration out of the It is essential to have a fortified border that allows
the U.S. to reliably and consistently prevent
The U.S. currently admits almost five times as
many immigrants for family-based reasons
Other significant legal immigration reforms should
Shadows unauthorized entry. For example, the Rio Grande
Valley Sector in Texas saw more than half of all
U.S.-Mexico family unit border apprehensions.244
as employment-related ones. We should shift
• Eliminating the diversity immigrant lottery in It is unacceptable to have over 11 million people In addition to the fencing scheduled to be built in
our targets closer to those from countries like
favor of immigrants who possess functional living illegally in America. But mass deportation is the area, more funding should be designated to fill
Canada, which currently has an almost equal
English language skills, have achieved superior unacceptable too — both morally and logistically. uncovered spots.
split. Like Canada, the U.S. could use a points
education or employment experience, or have Unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. should
system to determine which immigrants qualify for Other parts of the border make a physical barrier
American family members. be brought out of the shadows and offered a long
employment-related entry, with criteria including: impractical, where more border security personnel,
• Limiting family-related immigration to nuclear and rigorous road toward citizenship that depends
drones, and other surveillance could fill the gap.
• Education, with the most points given for a on them maintaining clean criminal records, paying
families, specifically to spouses, minor children,
Ph.D. or equivalent taxes, and meeting several other requirements. These border fortification measures should be
and parents of U.S. citizens and the spouses
coupled with revised legal measures that quicken
• English language ability and minor children or legal permanent
deportation proceedings to deter crossings.
• Work experience
• Allowing the number of legal immigrants
• Age, with the highest points going to those GREAT. I LIKE THIS IDEA.
admitted to stay roughly the same but
between the ages of 21 and 49
eliminating per-country immigration limits to
• Arranged employment (those who already have allow for the admission of the best-qualified GREAT. I LIKE THIS IDEA.
job offers) applicants.

• Adaptability, which includes previous work

experience in the United States or a family
connection to make assimilation easier

192 193

4. a. b. 5.
Get Serious Enforcement Detention Dreamers: Let
about Internal
• Implement and require a universal E-Verify
system that would assist employers in
ensuring that they only employ individuals
Illegal Immigration detention has to be
humane, which means we should: the Kids Stay
Immigration who are authorized to work in the United
States. Potential employers have an essential
• Establish a legal mechanism for enforcing
higher civil detention standards in ICE
detention centers, and allow for more
Dreamers should not be held culpable for the
actions of their parents, who brought them to the

role to play in enforcement. If undocumented U.S. If they contribute to American society and
frequent inspections that increase both
immigrants can’t work, many will return the economy by working, acquiring an education,
accountability and transparency.
home. E-Verify technology has significantly or serving in the military, then they should have
improved in recent years in its ability to limit • Discontinue the use of private prisons and access to a path to citizenship assuming clean
Immigration enforcement needs to refocus
false negatives and positives. county jails for immigrant detention, thus criminal records.
on unauthorized individuals who conduct
criminal activity in the U.S. And employers reducing the financial corner-cutting that
• Focus on visa overstays. Biometric
need to step up to play a lead role in preventing causes deaths, suicides, sexual abuse, and
technologies (which use methods like
undocumented individuals through the lack of access to medical care.
fingerprints and facial recognition) have
implementation of a universal E-Verify system. made great strides in recent years. A robust • End mandatory detention. Ensure that
and fully funded biometric entry and exit individuals are not placed in detention
system — which would include regular text centers unless they are deemed a threat to GREAT. I LIKE THIS IDEA.
and email communications to visa holders the public or a flight risk.
from the Department of Homeland Security
alerting them to departure deadlines —
GREAT. I LIKE THIS IDEA. should be implemented immediately.



194 195


196 197


For President

Q1: Q3:
In your 2019 State of the Union, you said you Aside from building a border wall, what is
wanted to admit legal immigrants into the the single most important policy change
U.S. in the “largest numbers ever.” But your you want to see made to our immigration
administration has pushed several policies system?
to make legal immigration harder.245 Can you
explain this disconnect?
A lot of police chiefs say they don’t want to
Q2: make their departments extensions of ICE
In 2018, Senate Democrats offered you $25 because it harms the trust their officers need
billion for a border wall in exchange for giving to build to police their communities. What do
the Dreamers a path to citizenship. In the you say to that?247
deal you struck with Congress in early 2019,
you got barely a billion dollars. Why didn’t
you take the deal that would have gotten
$25 billion for the wall, and would you take a
similar deal today?246

198 199


For Democratic

Q1: Q3:
Do you support abolishing ICE? If you do, Too much immigration too fast is clearly
how exactly would you propose doing it? harming the stability of some countries
in Europe. Are you worried about that
happening here?
Democrats have never liked the idea of
President Trump’s wall. But in 2018, 45
Senate Democrats were willing to give
President Trump $25 billion for a border wall
in exchange for a path to citizenship for the
Dreamers. By early 2019, Democratic leaders
like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were calling
the wall “immoral.”248 Isn’t this a pretty clear
example of Democrats being hypocritical and
politicizing the issue?

200 201


For All

Q1: Q2:
What’s one big thing that you think What are your three top priorities in
your side is wrong about when it terms of how you want to reform our
comes to immigration? immigration system?

202 203


In 2017, British Prime Minister Theresa May Neither President Trump nor the Democratic It may just mean they are early.
appeared on BBC’s Question Time when a nurse contenders have realistic proposals to make a The debt is a growing problem that could become a
from the country’s National Health Service said measurable impact on our deficit (the difference crisis if the next president doesn’t take it seriously.
that her salary had barely budged at all in the last between what the government spends and
eight years. The nurse asked, “How can that be fair, receives in taxes each year) or our debt (the Even so, we have no illusions about how difficult it
in light of the job that we do?” cumulative total of all our past annual deficits). In will be to get 2020 presidential candidates to talk
fact, as you’ll read later in this chapter, the right seriously about the debt.
The prime minister responded by talking about the and left increasingly rely on obscure, untested, or
“hard choices” government had to make and then flawed economic theories to suggest that maybe Being the deficit Grinch has often been a surefire
closed with a comment that was as colorful as it deficits don’t really matter after all. political loser.
was controversial:
That’s one way to solve a problem: just pretend it In 1984, Democratic presidential candidate Walter
doesn’t exist. Mondale thought he was being a straight shooter
“There isn't a magic about our budget challenges when he famously

money tree that we can The candidates aren’t paying a price because the
American people seem less concerned about the

shake that suddenly debt than ever before. According to a 2019 Pew
Research Center poll, just 48% of Americans say “Mr. Reagan will raise
provides for everything the “budget deficit should be a top priority for
the president and Congress,” which is 24 points taxes, and so will I. He
that people want."249 lower than the 72% of Americans who answered
the same question in the affirmative just five years
won't tell you. I just did.253”
Politically, May’s response was a disaster; it Mondale lost 49 of 50 states to Reagan in that
sounded condescending, tone-deaf, and dismissive November’s election.254
It’s hard to blame them.
of the concerns of a hard-working nurse.
In the 1992 election, Ross Perot had his scary debt
Deficit alarmists have been warning for years that
But May’s money tree quote perfectly describes pie charts and bar graphs.255
America would pay for its profligate ways; that
how both President Trump and the Democratic
we’d wake up one day and find ourselves in the
presidential candidates apparently plan to deal He lost every state.256
same situation Greece did in 2010, with creditors
with America’s budget problem which can be
refusing to buy our debt, interest rates soaring, and
summarized as follows: Tackling the deficit may not be a winning message
our economy collapsing.252
for 2020 either. But that doesn’t mean the
The U.S. government now annually spends American people should let candidates get away
And yet here we are in 2019 with a robust economy
almost $1 trillion more than it receives from tax with skirting the issue.
and interest rates at historic lows, which means
rates for mortgage and car loans are too.

But this doesn’t mean the deficit hawks are wrong.

206 207

The Problem • Debt held by the public is $16.1

trillion* as of December 31, 2018.257

• Annual federal deficit could reach

$1 trillion by the end of 2019.258

• Interest payments alone on U.S.

national debt are projected to reach
$390 billion this year.259

That’s almost one quarter of all the income taxes the

government took in last year and more than 60% of the
entire budget of the Department of Defense.260

*You may read elsewhere that America’s national We use the $16.1 trillion “debt held by the public”
debt is over $22 trillion. But this figure is inclusive figure as our benchmark in this chapter because
of “intragovernmental debt,” which is debt the U.S. that’s the one that most economists consider most
Treasury owes to other federal agencies. Most relevant as a measure of a country’s financial
funds are owed to retiree programs such as Social health.
Security and federal and military pensions.

208 209

Putting the Debt in Context FEDERAL DEBT HELD BY THE PUBLIC

% of GDP

Politicians sometimes like to compare the national In the near future, if the economy slows and
debt to a family’s household budget. Washington continues to do nothing about our 100%
budget problems, the annual deficit could reach as
They will say government is “maxing out our high as $2 trillion.263 80%

nation’s credit card,” or that it needs to “tighten its

belt” just like families do.261 As big as these deficit and debt numbers are, they
ultimately aren’t the most important measure of
This is the wrong way to think about it. America’s fiscal health. What really matters is our
public debt as a share of our total economy (debt/ 20%
The federal government is nothing like a GDP).
household, beginning with the fact that it can 0%
print its own currency. The United States also has Governments can responsibly run annual deficits 1940 1945 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020 2025

the added benefit of being the world’s reserve so long as their economy is growing fast enough to
Source: CBO, 2018
currency, which means much of the world does outpace the increasing debt. But when the public
business in U.S. dollars. When recessions hit, debt/GDP ratio gets too high, it suggests the
investors the world over funnel money into U.S. government is headed for trouble.
Treasury bonds because they view it as the world’s UNITED STATES STANDS OUT265
safest asset. This can help keep interest rates low And the U.S. is headed for trouble.
Change in Debt-to-GDP Ratio, 2018-2023
for U.S. consumers.
America’s debt-GDP is now 10
There are also times — like during a recession 8

— when it is responsible for a government to

higher as a share of our 6

run deficits to help stimulate employment and economy than at almost any 2


economic activity.262 time since World War II.264 -4
But what is completely irresponsible is what In fact, according to a recent report from the -14
America is doing right now, which is running nearly International Monetary Fund, the United States is -18
$1 trillion annual deficits when the economy is the only advanced economy in the world projected -22
growing and the unemployment rate is almost at a to increase its debt-GDP over the next five years. -26
50-year low.






































Source: IMF, April 2018

210 211

What Is
Causing the Next time you hear a politician
or a presidential candidate say
their plan to tackle the deficit is

to get rid of “waste, fraud, and
abuse,” you should translate it in
your head into its true meaning:

“I don’t really have a plan.”

Let’s be clear: waste, fraud, and abuse is a problem
in government at every level. And every president
should seek to reduce or eliminate it.266

But getting rid of it is hard, and anti-waste and

fraud measures often recover just a few billion
dollars — not much in the context of a $4.1 trillion
federal budget.267
Americans might imagine that
Politicians also love to suggest slashing certain government wastes most of our
kinds of federal spending that 1) don’t have much
political support and/or 2) represent a rounding
tax money on useless programs
error in the federal budget. and things they don’t like.

A classic example is foreign aid. But the biggest drivers of

Americans wildly overestimate how much the U.S.
our national debt are things
spends in this area, with the average respondent in Americans like the most:
a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey guessing
that 26% of all U.S. federal spending went to • Entitlement programs like
foreign assistance.
Social Security and Medicare;
The real figure is less than one percent.268 and
• Tax cuts

212 213

What Is Really Driving the Debt?


Americans are accustomed to regular government But you might be surprised to learn that these Fifty years ago, the federal government spent And this disparity will keep
shutdowns, which are often caused by Congress’s increasingly contentious budget debates focus on twice as much on discretionary (future-oriented)
inability to agree on how or where money should only 31% of all federal spending.269 spending as it did mandatory. Now, the ratio is growing over time.
be spent in the federal budget. flipped, with government spending twice as much
The other 69% is basically on autopilot, and it
on mandatory as discretionary spending.
keeps growing every year.

Mandatory programs and interest costs will take over more of

Washington’s Two Kinds of Spending the federal budget, squeezing discretionary programs270
% of Federal Spending

Mandatory spending Discretionary spending 8% 8%
22% Net Interest

80% 31%

The 69% share includes programs like The 31% share must be “appropriated” each 62%
Social Security, Medicare, and interest year, and includes everything else that 60% Mandatory
payments on the debt, and refers to Congress fights over when trying to pass a
ongoing obligations the government is budget.
40% 62%
legally required to pay every year.

Mandatory spending typically goes to fund Discretionary spending often represents 0%
consumption in the present. investments in the future, as funding for 1970 2018 2048
priorities like medical research, education, Total Spending Total Spending Total Spending
19% of GDP 21% of GDP 29% of GDP
and infrastructure plant the seeds for future
economic growth.
Source: Office of Management and Budget, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2019, February 2018; and Congressional Budget Office,
The 2018 Long-Term Budget Outlook, June 2018. Calculated by Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
Note: Numbers may not sum to totals due to rounding. Mandatory programs include Social Security, major federal health programs, other entitlement
programs and offsetting receipts.

214 215

Taxation When and How the Debt

President Trump’s 2017 tax cuts did have beneficial
impacts for the economy, including providing a
According to President Trump’s Treasury Secretary
Steve Mnuchin, the tax plan would “not only pay
Becomes a Problem?
short-term boost to growth and corporate profits for itself but in fact create additional revenue for
even as it failed to deliver the large wage gains that the government.”273 As we noted earlier, analogies between household
were expected for workers.271 Throughout 2018, and government finances usually don’t make sense.
economic growth in the U.S. was much stronger
He is wrong.274 As No Labels co-founder
But there is at least one instance in which it does.
than in other developed economies around the Last year’s federal deficit was $200 billion higher Andrew Tisch wrote in a 2017
world.272 If you apply for a mortgage — but have bad credit
than it would have been without the tax cuts, and
— the bank will typically charge you a higher
the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently
But tax cut supporters made an even more interest rate to compensate for the risk you might
estimated that the law will add $1.9 trillion to the
ambitious promise: that it would also reduce the not pay back the loan.
national debt through 2027.275 If a moment arrives when people don’t think
the U.S. will repay its debts, investors will
Investors in government debt think much the same
demand a higher risk premium in the form of
way. Fortunately, the United States, over 200-plus
higher interest rates. And the costs would be
years, has built a reputation that we always pay our
bills. As a consequence, investors — in America
and around the world — have had confidence Earlier this month, the interest rate on Illinois
they’ll always get their money back with interest if state debt spiked 80 basis points (0.8%) amid
they lend money to the U.S. Treasury. the state’s ongoing budget crisis and the
threat of a ratings agency downgrade.
If and when that sentiment changes, we have a
problem. If the interest rate on U.S. Treasuries spiked
the same amount … it would increase the
federal government’s annual interest payments
by over $100 billion, while making every
consumer product with an interest rate — from
car and credit card loans to mortgages —
more expensive.276

216 217

The Deficit Reduction Ideas

That Don’t Reduce the Deficit
Members of Congress are fond of several symbolic gestures 2. Balanced Budget Amendment
that make it appear as if they care about the deficit, but
usually amount to nothing. Among them:
Members of Congress — mostly on the right Lately, members of Congress have voted for huge
— periodically push for a balanced budget deficit-financed spending increases and tax cuts
amendment that would require federal revenues only to then tout their support for a balanced
and expenditures to be balanced each year. But budget amendment. Former Wyoming Sen. Alan
this is bad economic policy; sometimes, like during Simpson (R) — who was co-chair of the 2010
recessions, the government should run a deficit, Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission —
1. The Debt Ceiling and balanced budget amendments only apply to calls this “chest-pounding fakery.”278
the discretionary part of the budget that makes up
less than a third of all federal spending.

As failed policies go, they don’t get much worse The debt ceiling sounds fiscally responsible. But
than the debt ceiling, which creates a legal limit on it’s dangerously irresponsible.
how much debt the U.S. Treasury Department can
Congressional votes to raise the debt limit are
frequently accompanied by grandstanding
The debt ceiling, which has existed since 1917, has members of Congress threatening not to vote for 3. PAYGO
utterly failed to keep the national debt in check. it unless they can squeeze out a favored policy
concession like spending cuts. If Congress ever
As Andrew Tisch wrote in the same 2017 op-ed: “PAYGO” rules come in different forms but typically cuts during recessions or artificially limit beneficial
failed to raise the debt limit, it would destroy
“An idea like the debt ceiling could only be cooked require any tax cut or spending increase passed by spending (for priorities like infrastructure) that
America’s reputation as a country that always pays
up in Washington; instead of restraining Congress Congress to be offset by tax increases or spending could boost economic growth and employment.
its bills.
from spending taxpayer money, it invites them to cuts elsewhere in the budget. As with the balanced
run up debt first and then debate later whether to And we’d all pay the price. budget amendment, PAYGO only applies to the
pay for it — or not.”277 small discretionary part of the budget, and it could
force lawmakers into arbitrary or harmful spending

218 219

from the Left

and Right
During the 1980 Republican But the late Bush’s catchphrase has
presidential primary, then new relevance today, because both
candidate George H.W. Bush the right and the left — instead of
famously described Ronald offering solutions to deal with the
Reagan’s economic agenda as debt — have their own versions of
“voodoo economics.”279 voodoo economics that conveniently
give them excuses to lower taxes
The line didn’t work well or increase spending without
politically (Bush lost the having to reckon with any of the
primary) and Reagan would go corresponding tradeoffs.
on to oversee strong economic
and job growth during his eight
years as president.

220 221

From the Left From the Right

On the left, a relatively obscure academic idea “Theoretically” is the key word. MMT is untested. The right has a view on taxes that starts with a But a variety of studies have shown that tax cuts
called “modern monetary theory” (MMT) is now And it makes the stability of the economy sensible premise: pay for no more than a third of their initial cost, and
being used to justify massive increases in federal dependent on the willingness of Congress to take other studies peg the figure at much less.281
Lower taxes are good for the economy because
spending. The gist of the idea is that governments the politically difficult step of raising taxes right
when you tax work and investment less, you will There is not — and never has been — any free
— because they control their own currency — can as the economy — and inflation — are heating
generally get more of both. lunch in economics. Tax cuts are no different.
pay off deficits merely by printing more money. If up. That’s a pretty shaky foundation to build our
this spurred inflation, MMT adherents suggest that economy on. But the right has increasingly taken this idea to the
Congress could raise taxes — which would take extreme, suggesting that tax cuts are always and
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell,
money out of the system and theoretically stabilize everywhere the solution to our economic problems,
testifying to Congress in early 2019, said, “The
the economy. including reducing the deficit.
idea that deficits don’t matter for countries that
can borrow in their own currency, I think, is just They claim that tax cuts will spur so much
wrong.”280 economic growth — and result in higher tax
revenues — that they will effectively pay for

222 223

New Center Force Congress to the Table

In 2010, the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Deficit This is not an impossible challenge. Getting
Reduction Commission produced a report laying out America’s finances in order does not mean that
a long-term vision to stabilize America’s finances the government’s revenues and expenses must be
through a mix of modest spending cuts and tax in complete balance every year. It does mean the
increases. trajectory of our budget needs to change. Small
changes to revenue and spending implemented and
The report was sensible, responsible, and dead on phased in now can make a significant difference over
arrival. Members of Congress from both parties could time.
not distance themselves from Simpson-Bowles fast
enough. There is one big idea the next president could
embrace to force Washington to confront the looming
Politicians are smart enough to know that most policy debt challenge: A Fiscal Responsibility Act.
ideas — especially most deficit reduction ideas —
never become law. And they didn’t want to go on
the record to support the kinds of tax increases or
spending cuts that give opponents easy fodder for GREAT. I LIKE THIS IDEA.
attacks ads. Washington can’t and won’t solve the
deficit issue unless our leaders are forced to the table
by a crisis or a mechanism that simply will not let
them kick the deficit can down the road any longer.

A Fiscal Responsibility Act

The next president should support the implementation to go on the record to support specific budget cuts
of a public debt/GDP limit that could only be violated and revenue increases. It does, however, require
with a formal Declaration of War or a supermajority Congress to better align spending and revenues over
vote of both houses of Congress and the signature of an appropriate period of time. Absent a mechanism
the president. This new public debt/GDP limit would like the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the most likely
replace the current debt ceiling limit and the debt course of action is for our federal debt to continue
ceiling limit would be repealed. growing exponentially.

America’s current public debt/GDP ratio is about 78%.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act could prevent that ratio
from exceeding 100%.282 GREAT. I LIKE THIS IDEA.

This proposal does not tell Congress how to get our

fiscal house in order, and it does not require members

224 225

Fixing the Budget Process

The most basic responsibility Congress has is
deciding how much money the government takes
in and how much it spends.

It’s been clear for a long time Congress does not

take this responsibility seriously. In fact, Congress No Budget, No Pay Annual Fiscal Report Biennial Budgeting
has only passed its annual budget and spending
bills on time four times in the last four decades, If Congress can’t make spending and budget One of the chief obstacles to fixing America’s Congress should establish a two-year “biennial”
and not at all since 1997.283 decisions on time, its members shouldn’t get paid finances is that no one agrees what’s really on budgeting cycle for the U.S. government, which
on time either. Every government fiscal year begins our balance sheet. When leaders in Washington would enable members to focus more on long-
The upshot is more wasteful and inefficient October 1. If the congressional appropriations debate our budget, they routinely use different term strategic planning. Under this new biennial
government. When Congress fails to pass spending (spending) process does not conclude by that baselines, projections and assumptions, which budgeting process, Congress would complete
bills on time, it relies on temporary spending date, congressional pay would cease as of October often conveniently support whichever policy its budget resolution and appropriations bills in
measures called continuing resolutions — which 1, and would not be restored until appropriations they are pushing at the moment. To quote an old the first year of each Congress and conduct an
typically provide the money federal agencies need were completed. Under No Budget, No Pay, Scottish writer, many of Washington’s leaders “use oversight and review process in the second year to
to operate based roughly on what they spent the members of Congress would not receive any statistics as a drunken man uses lamp posts — for evaluate which programs are and are not working.
previous year. back pay lost as a consequence of their budget support rather than for illumination.”
What continuing resolutions don’t provide is The American people deserve to know what’s
any chance for Congress to debate the most really happening with our nation’s finances, and
fundamental question of all: why are we spending the next president and Congress should at least be
this money? able to work off the same set of numbers. So every
year, a nonpartisan leader such as the comptroller
Congress spends first and asks questions later general should deliver a televised fiscal update
when it should instead be spending only after in-person to a joint session of Congress. The
figuring out which goals it hopes to achieve. president, vice president, all cabinet members,
senators, and members of Congress should be
Meanwhile, Congress’s constant stop-and-go required to attend this fiscal update session. They
budgeting creates havoc for government agencies should be required to take individual responsibility
and the citizens who depend on them. for the accuracy and completeness of the
comptroller general’s report by signing the report,
The following three ideas could help improve just as CEOs are required to affirm the accuracy of
current slapdash budget process. their companies’ financial reporting.

226 227


228 229


For President
Q1: Q3:
When you were running for president in Economic growth is strong and so is the job
2016, you said you were the “king of debt” market. This is the kind of environment in
and that you “loved debt.” Today America’s which our government should be running
annual deficit is now almost $1 trillion. Why surpluses, and yet our deficit could reach
haven’t you done more to get our finances in $1 trillion next year. What is your plan to
order?284 reduce our budget deficit?

Last year, you asked all of your cabinet
secretaries to cut their agencies’ budgets by
five percent. But excluding the Department
of Defense — for which you are increasing
spending — federal agencies make up only
16% of the entire budget. Do you have a
plan to deal with the big drivers of our debt,
which are programs like Medicare and Social

230 231


For Democratic
Q1: Q2:
Some in Congress have been citing an idea Most Americans agree that the wealthy can
called modern monetary theory to argue that and should pay more taxes. But the top 10%
our national debt isn’t really a problem. Do of households already contribute 45% of
you agree? all income tax revenue.285 Even if we had a
federal income tax rate of 50% for upper-
income earners, the national debt would still
increase. So how can we spend so much on
new programs without inevitably requiring
more taxes for everyone?

232 233


For All
Q1: Q2:
Would you support getting rid of the debt The whole budget process in Washington is a
ceiling — which has done nothing to control disaster and consistently causes destructive
our debt — and replacing it with a Fiscal government shutdowns. How can we fix the
Responsibility Act, which would force process?
Congress to cut spending or raise taxes once
our debt became too large as a share of our

234 235
System :
Three Big Ideas to
Restore American

An Intro

In developing this book, we, along with our New Imagine that you’re a member of Congress willing Our political system — the process through which
Center research partners, hoped to uncover to take on a pressing problem. Addressing it we elect our leaders, and the rules they labor under
meaningful, achievable, and responsible policy doesn’t require you to sacrifice your core political once they get elected — is broken. That means that
solutions to America’s toughest challenges. beliefs or principles, but it might require you to even if America is lucky enough to see a perfect American politics can be frustrating and
agitate parts of your base and some very powerful storm in which we elect good leaders with good infuriating. And all the arguing, fighting, and
But even as we dug into the minutiae of health care interest groups. If you act boldly, you might get a ideas, we can still get bad results. gridlock makes many people want to just tune
and immigration policy, we were mindful that the few approving nods from editorial boards. But you out.
biggest barrier to progress in Washington, D.C. is will also probably get third-party groups running
So here, we outline three big ideas But the only way to fix our democracy is for
not a lack of good policy ideas. There are plenty of attack ads in your district saying that you betrayed
great bipartisan white papers floating around. Most your party and the people you represent. You might to reform American politics. This more people to tune in and turn out to vote.
of them are gathering dust on shelves somewhere. get primaried by somebody to your left or right, certainly isn’t an exhaustive list and
and if you are already in Congress, the leadership In the 2016 election, just 55.7% of voting age
there are many others that could Americans voted. This compares to 87% of
The biggest problem is could withhold fundraising support or pull your
committee assignments. merit inclusion. But we believe Belgians, 80% of Australians, 77% of South

political. We shouldn’t be surprised that many leaders

these three can empower leaders Koreans, 72% of Israelis, and 63% of Mexicans
voting in their recent national elections.
choose the easy comfort of the status quo rather
to work together, encourage the Overall, the U.S. places just 26 out of 32
than pursuing a bold, but perhaps career-killing, cause of national unity, and diminish developed nations in citizen voting share.286
compromise on a big issue. Better to blame the
the power of the extremes that are
other side and hold on until the next election.
Presidential candidates, who must first navigate tearing the nation apart.
a primary election process dominated by left
and right-wing partisans, operate under similar

238 239
Fix the


Primary elections, which determine

which candidate will represent the
Democratic or Republican party in a
general election, are a key driver of
the dysfunction in our politics.

Because of how primaries work and

when they are held, a very small
number of Americans decide who
leads us.

240 241


Almost 85% of the 435 U.S. House seats are “safe seats,” in which candidates
from one particular party will almost always win the general election. And In the 2016 presidential election, Americans knew they really had
this trend keeps getting worse. only two choices: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Swing (D+5 to R+5) Safe Democratic (D+5 or Greater) Safe Republican (R+5 or Greater)
You might be surprised to learn that those choices were essentially
195 decided for all of us by just 9% of the entire country.289
186 185

168 169 168

159 160

148 150
147 146
150 143 144
2016 Republican Primary Donald Trump 14,015,993 votes
123 134


108 2016 Democratic Primary Hillary Clinton 16,914,722 votes

100 103
1997 2016
90 90

Source: Cook Political Report 287

Total Population of U.S.: 324,000,000290
In safe seats, the primary election is the only Turnout was actually 50% higher in the 2018 Total Eligible Voters: 231,000,0000
election that really matters in determining who midterms than in the 2014 midterms. That’s the
goes to Congress. But primaries are typically low- good news. The bad news? 2018 turnout in House
turnout affairs in which voters are much further primaries was still under 20% of all registered
to the right or left than the general public, which voters.288
explains how we end up with so many members of
Congress on the ideological fringes.

242 243

New Center
Turnout is low in primary elections partly because But the government could also make it easier for
of their unpredictability. us all by setting one National Primary Day. States
could still decide what kind of elections they want Gerrymandering refers to the practice of politicians
Most people know that general elections are on to have (primaries or caucuses). And to ensure drawing state voting district boundaries in a way that
the first Tuesday in November. But unless you are that underdog candidates — especially at the can unfairly favor one political party over another. It
a political junkie, you’d probably have to look up presidential level — have a chance to compete, any is sometimes described as politicians picking their
the date and details of your state’s primary, which primary in which no one gets a majority could be voters as opposed to voters picking their politicians.
could be held as early as February or as late as sent to a runoff. Both parties engage in gerrymandering, and it can
the end of the summer in an election year. You’ll be pretty unsavory. But gerrymandering is not the
also find an array of confusing registration rules, The bottom line is that primary elections are often polarization bogeyman that many imagine. It does play
different times and places where you can vote, and every bit as important as the general election in a role, but recent research reveals that a much bigger
varying voting dates for the primaries of different deciding who represents us in Congress and the contributing factor is simple self-sorting.
state and federal offices. White House. So let’s make National Primary Day a
new tradition. In other words, Democrats increasingly prefer to live
If you care about the growing, dangerous tribalism alongside Democrats and Republicans increasingly
in our politics, you need to vote in primary prefer to live alongside Republicans.291

244 245
End the

Court Circus
It’s hard to imagine now, but
Supreme Court justices used to be
confirmed in the Senate with huge
bipartisan majorities.

Anthony Kennedy in 1987: 97-0

David Souter in 1990: 90-9
Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993: 96-3

Senators once believed their Constitutional Those days are over. Lately, Supreme Court
“advise and consent” function meant ensuring nominations have been consumed by the partisan
that a Supreme Court nominee was professionally tribalism that infects almost everything else in our
qualified and free of any serious ethical concerns. politics.
Senators did not expect a nominee to agree with
their personal politics, and presidents were given
broad latitude to nominate justices who agreed
with their judicial philosophy.

246 247

Look at how the Senate voting

has changed for Supreme Court
What happened?
nominees over the last three
VOTES FOR SUPREME COURT JUSTICES292 As Congress has become more dysfunctional
Senate confirmation votes for U.S. Supreme Court Justices since 1986, by party — and less able to pass legislation to solve our
problems and settle tough debates — the court
system has become the arbiter of last resort.
Voted yes (R) Voted yes (D) Voted yes (I) For partisans on both sides, a Supreme Court
50 votes for 60 votes to nomination is now the ultimate battle for every
comfirmation break filibuster
issue they care about and everything they believe
Kavanaugh 2018 in.
Gorsuch 2017
Kagan 2010

Sotomayor 2009
Alito 2006
Roberts 2005
There is no magic bullet
Breyer 1994
Supreme Court justices are serving longer than
ever before, with recently retired Justice Anthony
for the first problem of
Ginsburg 1993
Kennedy having served for 30 years. congressional dysfunction.
Thomas 1991 But there is something
Souter 1990 the next president can do
Kennedy 1988
about the second problem.
Scalia 1986

0 20 40 60 80 100

Source: Washington Post, The New York Times

248 249
New Center

Solution United States, John Roberts favored term limits,

writing that they would “ensure that federal judges

would not lose all touch with reality through
decades of ivory tower existence [and] also provide
a more regular and greater degree of turnover
among the judges.”296

APPOINTMENTS TO THE There are several different ideas regarding ways

to implement term limits, with one suggesting a
new constitutional amendment that would limit

SUPREME COURT Supreme Court justices to a single 18-year term.297

The terms would be staggered so each president
would have a chance to nominate a justice in the
first and third years of their own term. And the
amendment would need to include instructions to
ensure a smooth transition from the current lifetime
Is this really what the system to the term-limited one.
Lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court But the average American lifespan is now 79 years
are not explicitly written into the Constitution. old, and recent Supreme Court nominees have Founders intended? Creating term limits for the Supreme Court would
But Article III states that justices “shall hold their been getting younger.294 require a constitutional amendment — no easy task
offices during good behaviour,” which has been Why should a president, who serves at most eight given that the last one happened over 25 years
interpreted to mean that judges can stay on the The last two nominees to the Court, Neil Gorsuch years, have the power to shape the Supreme Court ago.298
bench as long as they’d like.293 and Brett Kavanaugh, are 51 and 54 years old as of and therefore the country for 30 years or more?
2019. But if nothing else, term limits would regularize the
The Founders hoped lifetime appointments would Why should some presidents randomly have the Supreme Court nomination and make it less of a
shield justices from the political pressures faced It’s not hard to imagine them both sitting on the power to nominate three or four Supreme Court no-holds-barred political fight.
by the legislative and executive branches. It was a Court in 2050. Judges and others zero or one?
sensible idea, especially when you consider that Eventually, everyone would know and hopefully
most Supreme Court justices didn’t initially serve Several polls taken in recent years have shown that accept that a president would get to nominate
for so many years. The average retirement age of two-thirds or more of the public supports an end to two Supreme Court justices in any four-year
the first 10 Supreme Court Justices was 60 years lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court.295 presidential term.
old and lifespans were shorter. And before he became the Chief Justice of the

250 251

In 2012, Stanford researchers dug into historical polling data to

find that Americans are increasingly likely to say they’d be angry if
their child married someone from the opposite political party.





Since 1958, Gallup has been surveying
Americans’ attitudes about marriage and, as 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010
you might expect, attitudes have changed
significantly over time.
Republicans Democrats
In 1958, only four percent of Americans
approved of interracial marriage. Today, 87%
In other words, most Americans are fine with their implement to change hearts and minds. But
child bringing home someone from another race or somehow, people need to see that we are all, first
Twenty years ago, most Americans opposed the same gender to Thanksgiving dinner. and foremost, Americans. We can be passionate
same-sex marriage. Today, 61% support it. in defending our views. But we can’t let ourselves
Prejudice, it appears, is on the decline. But the idea of sharing a turkey leg with a think our neighbor is an enemy just because they
Democrat or a Republican? think differently. That’s how democracies fall apart.

Except for one That’s apparently a bridge too far. Here’s one way for the next president to start
healing these divisions, and help Americans see

area: politics. There’s no policy that the next president can how much we have in common with one another.

252 253
No Labels

This would require young people to devote one A universal national service program could be Universal national service wouldn’t be a
year of their lives to national service, which could built on top of the wildly successful AmeriCorps
take many forms, ranging from military service program, which is overseen by the Corporation
panacea. But in bringing together Americans —
to rebuilding rural and disadvantaged urban for National and Community Service (CNCS). For of different creeds, backgrounds, and political
communities to teaching and mentoring. And conservatives uncomfortable with the specter
beliefs ­— to solve problems, it would remind us
there’s no reason people of other ages — retirees, of a big government boondoggle, the private
those out of work — couldn’t participate too. sector could be encouraged to kick in funds that what unites us as Americans is so much
through tax credits or incentives and much of the greater than what divides us.
As the journalist Roger Cohen has written, “a administration of funding could happen at the state
vastly expanded, even mandatory, national service and local levels.
program that might at once throw Americans of
every creed and culture together for a year or two
at an impressionable age, fire up civic engagement
and even revive the American dream.”300

254 255


256 257


For President

You spoke in your State of the Union speech about how we need to “heal old wounds, build
new coalitions [and] forge new solutions.”301 But you also describe the media as “the enemy of
the people.”302 And you say that many Democrats in Congress “hate our country.”303 How can
you possibly unite the country when you talk this way?

258 259


For Democratic
There was a poll last year that found that 61% of Democrats thought Republicans were racist,
sexist, or bigoted. Do you agree?304

260 261


For All

Q1: Q3:
As a way to help unite the country, would you As a way to get Americans to vote in
support a new program of universal national primaries, would you support the creation
service? of a national primary day, just like we have a
certain day for the general election?
A Supreme Court justice nominated today Q4:
could easily sit on the court for the next 30 Our political system is so obviously broken.
years or more. Do you think we should end What do you think is the single most
lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court? important thing we could do to fix it?

262 263
The Road

America’s Founders are often venerated for their This is essentially where American politics is today,
rock-ribbed principles. Less discussed, but no and where the 2020 election seems headed.
less important, was their belief in the virtue of
compromise and their refusal to let the perfect be Demanding that the 2020 candidates offer a vision
the enemy of the good. for how to unite America — as we are here — isn’t

some pie-in-the-sky feel-good notion.
This virtue seems dead in our politics today and on
the 2020 campaign trail. It’s a hard-headed strategy to ensure that our next
president has what it takes to govern the country.
But the American people have the ability and the
responsibility to demand a restoration of this virtue Whoever wins in November 2020 won’t be a king
in the next election. or a queen. As president, they’ll need to push their
ideas through a Congress that may be evenly
If enough Americans reject division and demand divided and that features a Senate that still requires
unity from the people competing to win the 60 votes to pass most legislation.
November 2020 election, these candidates will
move in our direction. Citizens can’t let the 2020 candidates get away
with just telling us what they want to do as
In sports, there’s a popular phrase used to describe president. We need a vision for how it gets done,
a team that wins even when they don’t give a which means a vision for uniting enough of this
performance they should be proud of. country and the next Congress behind a workable
strategy to solve the problems that matter most to
It’s called winning ugly. And in sports, it doesn’t the American people.
matter if you win ugly. A win is a win.
That means a real Unity Agenda.
The year was 1787 and the U.S. Constitutional Under the deal, there would be a House of
But in politics, how you win matters.
Convention that began with so much promise was Representatives with delegates assigned according
Voters — and the country — deserve nothing
on the verge of falling apart. to population, and a Senate in which every state
If you win by barely convincing enough people that less.
would have two members. The divide between the
you’re not as bad as the other side…
At issue was how to share power between the small and large states was bridged, and soon after,
states. a nation was born.
If you win by just exploiting disappointment and
Large states wanted population-based It’s a good thing there was no Twitter in 1787,
representation in the legislature, while smaller because this compromise would have probably
If you win ugly, in other words, then you won’t have
states wanted every state to share equal fallen apart once online trolls branded it as the
a legitimate platform once you’re finally elected and
representation. The stalemate wasn’t broken until #ShermanSellout.
positioned to make decisions.
two delegates from Connecticut — Roger Sherman
and Oliver Ellsworth — came up with what
would appropriately be called the “Connecticut

264 265
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299 Mooney, C. (2012, October 1). Why Republicans don’t want to marry Democrats. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.
278 279
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302 Grynbaum, M. (2017, February 7). Trump calls the news media the ‘enemy of the people’. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.

303 Hains, T. (2019, March 4). Trump: “We have people in our Congress who hate our country”. Retrieved from https://www.

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