Fight for Economic Fairness and Against Inequality
Democrats believe that today’s extreme levels of income and wealth inequality are bad for our people, bad for our businesses, and bad for our economy. Our country depends on a thriving middle class to drive economic growth, but the middle class is shrinking. Meanwhile, the top one-tenth of one percent of Americans now own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent combined. These trends create problems beyond insulting our sense of basic fairness. Social mobility is far lower than most believe it to be. Children who are born to families in the lowest fifth of earnings are more than 10 times more likely to remain there as adults than they are to earn as much as those in the top fifth. Unless we invest in building a level playing field, we all lose.
Reining in Wall Street and Fixing our Financial System
To restore economic fairness, Democrats will fight against the greed and recklessness of Wall Street. Wall Street cannot be an island unto itself, gambling trillions in risky financial instruments and making huge profits, all the while thinking that taxpayers will be there to bail them out again. We must tackle dangerous risks in big banks and elsewhere in the financial system. We must make Wall Street work for the job-creating, productive economy—including by making loans more affordable for small- and medium-sized businesses. We need to prohibit Wall Street from picking and choosing which credit agency will rate its products as well as from imposing excessive fees on consumers. And we must hold both individuals and corporations accountable when they break the law. Democrats believe that no bank can be too big to fail and no executive too powerful to jail. Democrats will support stronger criminal laws and civil penalties for Wall Street criminals who prey on the public trust. We also support extending the statute of limitations for prosecuting major financial fraud, and providing the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission more resources to prosecute wrongdoing. “Equal Justice Under Law” will not just be words engraved on the entrance of the Supreme Court. It will be the standard that applies to Wall Street and all Americans.
We will also vigorously implement, enforce, and build on President Obama’s landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and we will stop dead in its tracks every Republican effort to weaken it. We will stop Republican efforts to hamstring our regulators through budget cuts, and we will ensure they have the resources and independence to fully enforce the law and hold both individuals and corporations accountable when they break the rules. We will also continue to protect consumers and defend the CFPB from Republican attacks. We oppose any efforts to change the CFPB’s structure from a single director to a partisan, gridlocked Commission and likewise oppose any efforts to remove the Bureau’s independent funding and subject it to the appropriations process. Democrats will also continue to support the CFPB in enforcing foundational civil rights laws protecting against discrimination in consumer lending. Democrats condemn predatory payday lending, and will protect consumers by defending the CFPB and implementing strong new regulations.
Our goal must be to create a financial system and an economy that works for all Americans, not just a handful of billionaires. We support a financial transactions tax on Wall Street to curb excessive speculation and high-frequency trading, which has threatened financial markets. We acknowledge that there is room within our party for a diversity of views on a broader financial transactions tax.
Democrats will not hesitate to use and expand existing authorities as well as empower regulators to downsize or break apart financial institutions when necessary to protect the public and safeguard financial stability, including new authorities to go after risky shadow-banking activities. Banks should not be able to gamble with taxpayers’ deposits or pose an undue risk to Main Street. Democrats support a variety of ways to stop this from happening, including an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall as well as breaking up too-big-to-fail financial institutions that pose a systemic risk to the stability of our economy.
We believe that personnel is policy. We will nominate and appoint regulators and officials who are not beholden to the industries they regulate—people with a track record of standing up to power and safeguarding the public trust. We will crack down on the revolving door between the private sector—particularly Wall Street—and the federal government. We will ban golden parachutes for those taking government jobs. We will limit conflicts of interest by requiring bank and corporate regulators to recuse themselves from official work on particular matters that would directly benefit their former employers. And we will bar financial service regulators from lobbying their former colleagues for at least two years.
We will protect and defend the Federal Reserve’s independence to carry out the dual mandate assigned to it by Congress—for both full employment and low inflation—against threats from new legislation. We will also reform the Federal Reserve to make it more representative of America as a whole, and we will fight to enhance its independence by ensuring that executives of financial institutions are not allowed to serve on the boards of regional Federal Reserve banks or to select members of those boards.
At a time when many of the largest banks have shunned communities across America, Democrats believe that we need to give Americans affordable banking options, including by empowering the United States Postal Service to facilitate the delivery of basic banking services.
Promoting Competition by Stopping Corporate Concentration
Large corporations have concentrated their control over markets to a greater degree than Americans have seen in decades—further evidence that the deck is stacked for those at the top. Democrats will take steps to stop corporate concentration in any industry where it is unfairly limiting competition. We will make competition policy and antitrust stronger and more responsive to our economy today, enhance the antitrust enforcement arms of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and encourage other agencies to police anti-competitive practices in their areas of jurisdiction.
We support the historic purpose of the antitrust laws to protect competition and prevent excessively consolidated economic and political power, which can be corrosive to a healthy democracy. We support reinvigorating DOJ and FTC enforcement of antitrust laws to prevent abusive behavior by dominant companies, and protecting the public interest against abusive, discriminatory, and unfair methods of commerce. We support President Obama’s recent Executive Order, directing all agencies to identify specific actions they can take in their areas of jurisdiction to detect anticompetitive practices—such as tying arrangements, price fixing, and exclusionary conduct—and to refer practices that appear to violate federal antitrust law to the DOJ and FTC.
Making the Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes
At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, we believe the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. Democrats will claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, eliminate tax breaks for big oil and gas companies, and crack down on inversions and other methods companies use to dodge their tax responsibilities. We will make sure that our tax code rewards businesses that make investments and provide good-paying jobs here in the United States, not businesses that walk out on America. We will end deferrals so that American corporations pay United States taxes immediately on foreign profits and can no longer escape paying their fair share of U.S. taxes by stashing profits abroad. We will then use the revenue raised from fixing the corporate tax code to reinvest in rebuilding America and ensuring economic growth that will lead to millions of good-paying jobs.
We will ensure those at the top contribute to our country’s future by establishing a multimillionaire surtax to ensure millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share. In addition, we will shut down the “private tax system” for those at the top, immediately close egregious loopholes like those enjoyed by hedge fund managers, restore fair taxation on multimillion dollar estates, and ensure millionaires can no longer pay a lower rate than their secretaries. At a time of near-record corporate profits, slow wage growth, and rising costs, we need to offer tax relief to middle-class families—not those at the top.
Democrats believe that no one should be able avoid paying their fair share by hiding money abroad, and that corrupt leaders and terrorists should not be able to use the system of international finance to their advantage. We will work to crack down on tax evasion and promote transparency to fight corruption and terrorism. And we will make sure that law-abiding Americans living abroad are not unfairly penalized by finding the right solutions for them to the requirements under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).
We will offer tax relief to hard working, middle-class families for the cost squeeze they have faced for years from rising health care, childcare, education, and other expenses. Donald Trump and the Republican Party would do the opposite and provide trillions in tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations at the expense of working families, seniors, and the health of our economy.
Promoting Trade That is Fair and Benefits American Workers
Democrats acknowledge that for millions of Americans, global trade has failed to live up to its promise—with too many countries breaking the rules and too many corporations outsourcing jobs at the expense of American workers and communities.
Over the past three decades, America has signed too many trade deals that have not lived up to the hype. Trade deals often boosted the profits of large corporations, while at the same time failing to protect workers’ rights, labor standards, the environment, and public health. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies that support jobs in America. That is why Democrats believe we should review agreements negotiated years ago to update them to reflect these principles. Any future trade agreements must make sure our trading partners cannot undercut American workers by taking shortcuts on labor policy or the environment. They must not undermine democratic decision-making through special privileges and private courts for corporations, and trade negotiations must be transparent and inclusive.
Democrats’ priority is to significantly strengthen enforcement of existing trade rules and the tools we have, including by holding countries accountable on currency manipulation and significantly expanding enforcement resources. China and other countries are using unfair trade practices to tilt the playing field against American workers and businesses. When they dump cheap products into our markets, subsidize state-owned enterprises, devalue currencies, and discriminate against American companies, our middle class pays the price. That has to stop. Democrats will use all our trade enforcement tools to hold China and other trading partners accountable—because no country should be able to manipulate their currencies to gain a competitive advantage.
While we believe that openness to the world economy is an important source of American leadership and dynamism, we will oppose trade agreements that do not support good American jobs, raise wages, and improve our national security. We believe any new trade agreements must include strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards in their core text with streamlined and effective enforcement mechanisms. Trade agreements should crack down on the unfair and illegal subsidies other countries grant their businesses at the expense of ours. It should promote innovation of and access to lifesaving medicines. And it should protect a free and open internet. We should never enter into a trade agreement that prevents our government, or other governments, from putting in place rules that protect the environment, food safety, or the health of American citizens or others around the world.
These are the standards Democrats believe must be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).