It was an off-the-cuff remark that turned into a catchphrase and a campaign T-shirt. Now, it’s a Time magazine cover: “I have a plan for that.” Elizabeth Warren’s reputation as the Democratic Party’s resident wonk is well earned. The Massachusetts senator was churning out ambitious policy proposals even before she became the first big-name challenger to enter the 2020 race. Since then, she’s rolled out one plan after another on issues big and small, from wiping out student debt to improving the living conditions of military families renting homes on U.S. bases. Her latest came just this week: a $100 billion plan to address the nation’s opioid crisis.
Warren isn’t the first presidential hopeful with a bounty of white papers, nor is she the only 2020 candidate who has made policy central to her pitch. Bernie Sanders paints in broad brushstrokes when he rails against the status quo, but the Vermont senator’s “Medicare for All” legislation lies at the heart of his campaign. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker tends to offer soaring rhetoric on the stump, but he rolled out a creative “baby bond” plan early to address the nation’s racial wealth gap and more recently proposed creating a national gun license program. Even California Sen. Kamala Harris and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, neither of whom have reputations as policy heavyweights, have gotten specific of late on issues like guns and climate change, respectively. There are plenty more policy ideas toward the bottom of the polls too. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has the most detailed climate plan of anyone running, and businessman Andrew Yang’s platform runs the gamut from universal basic income to getting rid of the penny.
What makes Warren stand out, though, is that among the major candidates—the half-dozen or so who routinely poll outside the margin of error—she’s offering the most detailed proposals on the widest swath of issues. And she’s putting those policies front and center in each stump speech and in her casual conversations on the way to her next one. Consider this list of more than a dozen of the proposals Warren’s running on.
The “Ultra-Millionaire” Tax
Warren wants Congress to create a new 2 percent annual tax on household wealth—including stocks, real estate, and retirement funds—above $50 million, and an additional 1 percent surtax on any household with a net worth over $1 billion. The plan also calls for increased spending at the IRS to enforce the tax, and an additional “exit tax” on anyone who renounced their U.S. citizenship to avoid the tax. According to her campaign, the plan would affect about 75,000 households—or about 1 out of every 1,700 American families—and raise $2.75 trillion in tax revenue over a decade.
Taxing Corporate Profits
Warren wants Congress to levy a new tax to prevent profitable companies from using existing tax loopholes to avoid paying federal taxes. Under the plan, corporations would pay a new 7 percent tax on every dollar over $100 million in profits they report to shareholders, in addition to whatever they would owe the federal government under the existing corporate income tax. The campaign estimates the new tax would apply to roughly 1,200 companies and bring in $1 trillion over 10 years.
Holding Corporate Executives Accountable
Warren wants Congress to make it easier for federal prosecutors to charge executives of large firms that act illegally, regardless of whether the officials personally signed off on the action in question. According to her campaign, the threat of prison time would motivate the executives to actively root out wrongdoing that they otherwise would benefit from. The new rule would apply to any company with more than $1 billion in annual revenue, and an executive found guilty would serve up to a year in prison for the first violation and as many as three years for a second. The plan would also create a permanent federal unit devoted to investigating financial crimes.
Making Public College Free
Warren wants to make undergraduate education free at public colleges and universities, to beef up Pell and other federal grants to help students cover nontuition expenses, and to create a $50 billion fund to support historically black colleges and universities.
Forgiving Student Debt
Warren wants to wipe out up to $50,000 in student debt for anyone with a household income of less than $100,000. The amount of debt forgiven would gradually decrease for those making more than $100,000, with those making more than $250,000 excluded from the plan.
Providing Universal Child Care
Warren wants to create a network of government-funded care centers. The program would be based, in part, on the existing Head Start network, with employees paid comparably to public school teachers. Families earning less than twice the federal poverty level could send their children to the centers for free; families earning more would pay on a sliding scale, capped at 7 percent of their income.
Increasing Affordable Housing
Warren wants to spend $500 billion over 10 years to build, preserve, and rehab millions of units that will be affordable to lower-income families and to address ongoing housing segregation. The plan would offer down-payment assistance to two groups in particular: black borrowers, who have historically been the victims of redlining, and families who were hit hardest by the last housing crisis. It would also strengthen existing protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and source of income.
Bringing Down Maternal Mortality Rate
Warren wants to incentivize health care providers to focus on bringing down the maternal mortality rate, particularly for black women. The plan would involve a new pricing model that involves “bundled payments,” whereby hospitals charge one set price for an entire pregnancy as opposed to individual payments for each visit. Hospitals that can show they are providing better care would then be given financial bonuses, while those that cannot would be penalized.
Addressing the Nation’s Opioid Crisis
Warren wants to spend $100 billion over 10 years to combat the epidemic, a plan that includes changes to Medicaid and increasing access to medication-assisted treatment. The proposal would direct significant funding to those communities hit hardest by drug addiction, and would also impose criminal penalties on pharmaceutical executives who have contributed to the crisis.
Breaking Up Big Tech
Warren wants to break up America’s largest tech companies—including Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook. The plan would rely on ambitious regulatory moves that would undo some tech mergers as well as legislation that would prevent platforms from competing in the same marketplaces they own—for example, Amazon would be barred from selling its AmazonBasics brand on Amazon.com. Companies would also be prevented from sharing users’ data with third parties.
Breaking Up Big Ag
Warren wants to curb consolidation in the agribusiness industry—specifically at giants like Tyson, DowDuPont, and Bayer-Monsanto. The plan would rewrite antitrust rules to make mergers more difficult, include a national right-to-repair law that allows farmers to repair their farm equipment without having to go to an authorized agent, and establish a mandatory country-of-origin label for beef and pork.
Protecting Public Lands
Warren says she’d sign an executive order that would prohibit new leases for fossil fuel drilling offshore and on public lands, call for the creation of a “21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps” of 10,000 young people, and commit to opening up half of the public acreage that is currently off-limits to hunters, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. She also wants to undo many of the environmental actions of the Trump administration, including reinstating Obama-era air and water protections and restoring national monuments that Trump shrank.
Getting Rid of the Electoral College
Warren wants to replace the Electoral College and have the national popular vote decide the general election. Warren has not said whether she proposes doing so via a constitutional amendment or some other workaround, such as a National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, by which member states would pledge their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
Providing Debt Relief to Puerto Rico
Warren wants Congress to change the law to allow Puerto Rico, which is still struggling to recover from twin hurricanes in 2017, to terminate its unsecured public debt. (Other U.S. territories that meet certain criteria—being hit by a major natural disaster, experiencing major population loss, struggling with massive debt—would be eligible to do the same.) The bill also calls for an independent audit of Puerto Rico and the creation of a federal fund to compensate the holders of any terminated debt—though, notably, not if those holders are bond insurers, large financial firms, or hedge funds.
Improving Military Housing
Warren has proposed legislation that would strengthen oversight of privately managed homes on U.S. military bases and offer new protections for those military families living in them. Among other things, the bill mandates spot inspections of homes as well as annual government audits of housing conditions. It would also hold private landlords accountable for quickly fixing any hazards, and require them to cover moving costs for at-risk families and health care costs for anyone with medical conditions that resulted from unsafe housing.