We asked presidential candidates questions about a variety of issues facing the country. This is what Democratic candidate Michael Bennet had to say about climate change, gun control, health careÂ and other issues.
Do you believe the earthâ€™s climate is changing? If yes, do you believe it is caused by humans?
Absolutely. Climate change is the greatest threat to our planet and our economy. And the fact that we elected a climate denier to the White House is a disgrace. Iâ€™ll make tackling climate change a priority on Day 1 as president.
If you could unilaterally make one change, or enact one policy, that would affect the climate, what would that be? And why?
We need a solution to climate change that is both urgent and lasts a generation. My climate plan puts us on track to meet the emissions reduction goals scientists say are needed. This will require bringing unlikely voices to the table, like those of farmers and ranchers, to build a broad coalition around combating climate change.
How would you engage foreign leaders to work with the United States on issues related to climate?
The United States must once again lead the world to tackle climate change. As president, Iâ€™ll convene world leaders in the first 100 days of my administration to reassert American leadership and set even more ambitious U.S. emission reduction targets for 2030. We will create a Climate Bank to invest in infrastructure and innovative technologies around the world, devote military, intelligence, and diplomatic resources to analyze climate threats, and set a historic national commitment to conserve 30 percent of Americaâ€™s lands and oceans by 2030 â€” and encourage other countries to follow our lead.
Should the U.S. explore additional use of nuclear power as an alternative energy source? Why or why not?
I support the development of advanced nuclear technologies that are cleaner and have less waste, and in some cases, no waste.
Should the U.S. government offer subsidies for renewable energy, such as wind energy or ethanol? Why or why not?
Yes, in particular for low-income families and in communities that have experienced a disproportionate amount of pollution. The tax credits for wind and solar that I helped secure â€” and that have survived the Trump administrationâ€™s climate regulation rollbacks â€” should continue and extend for solar energy.
How would you address gun violence in America?
It is egregious that mass shootings and daily acts of gun violence plague our communities. As president, I will expand and improve universal background checks, limit the size of magazines, and keep weapons of war off the streets with an assault weapons ban.
How do you propose making schools safer from acts of violence?
As a former school superintendent, I can tell you that our kids think our countryâ€™s gun violence epidemic is normal. And that is unacceptable. In addition to taking action on background checks, magazine size, and an assault weapons ban, we need to cultivate and support a culture in schools that empowers students and educators to speak up when something seems wrong.
What role, if any, should the government have in regulating large technology companies?
The government must play a key role to ensure large tech companies are serving the people. We need to modernize the standard for evaluating anti-competitive behavior, especially for companies that offer free services in exchange for personal data. I support the DOJ and FTC antitrust investigations. We should invest in understanding how these platforms are affecting the health and wellbeing of young people. We must ensure these companies are held accountable for use of their platforms by hostile foreign actors to interfere in our elections or by terrorist or white supremacist groups to radicalize individuals to violence.
If you are elected, how would you interact with North Korea? What relationship would the U.S. and North Korea have?
North Koreaâ€™s nuclear program poses a grave threat to our nation’s security and global stability. As president, I would support a diplomatic approach toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. I also would acknowledge the gravity of the situation, demonstrate leadership befitting of the office, and articulate a strategy to address this threat alongside our international partners. We must be clear eyed about the dangers in giving a dictator like Kim Jong-Un legitimacy on the world stage â€” and clear about what we receive in return.
Would you re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran? Why or why not?
I disagreed with Trumpâ€™s decision to abandon the deal on Iranâ€™s nuclear program. Itâ€™s my hope that parties can reach an agreement on enduring restrictions on Iranâ€™s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon. I have always had concerns about what the shape of Iranâ€™s nuclear program could look like in 10 or 15 years, and Iâ€™ve long said that the United States must think about a post-JCPOA world. Iran is a destabilizing force in the region. It foments terrorism and sows violence â€” activities that Republicans and Democrats agree would be all the more dangerous if backed by a nuclear weapon.
How do you plan to address the threat of extremism in the U.S.?
We must invest resources to address all forms of domestic terrorism and extremism in the United States, including white supremacy and misogynistic violence, commensurate with the threat we face. We need to invest in resources to understand the threat and in mechanisms to find and disrupt cells and lone wolf actors who seek to inflict violence. We also must work to address and expose the root causes of ethnonationalist ideology. We need a president who unites Americans instead of dividing us and who addresses hate and bigotry in all its forms.
Do you believe there is equal access to voting in the U.S.? If not, how would you go about expanding access to voting?
We should not only be the worldâ€™s oldest democracy, but the strongest. Unfortunately, the fundamental right to vote has come under assault in recent years from a wave of voter suppression unseen since the era of Jim Crow. There is not equal access to voting in the U.S. today. There are many steps we should take, including establishing automatic voter registration, pre-registering 16- and 17-year-olds, creating online voter registration, and requiring same-day registration. We should also expand early voting and re-enfranchise the millions of Americans who have served time immediately upon release from prison.
Do you believe voter fraud is a problem in the U.S.? If yes, how do you plan to you address it?
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States. Donald Trumpâ€™s attempt to spread conspiracy theories and suppress voter participation is antithetical to our democracy.
Should it be a crime to enter the U.S. illegally?
We can treat people humanely, end the Trump Administration’s horrific family separation policies, and secure our border at the same time. We have two issues: the refugee crisis and our broken immigration system. We should lead the hemisphere in a conversation about how to resettle refugees and address the root causes of violence in the Northern Triangle. We also need comprehensive immigration reform similar to the 2013 â€œGang of Eightâ€ bill I authored, which passed the Senate with 68 bipartisan votes. It had a pathway to citizenship, $46 billion in smart border security, and protections for Dreamers.
Should the U.S. expand or limit legal immigration?
I would support an increase in legal immigration in a manner similar to the 2013 “Gang of Eight” effort, which expanded legal immigration opportunities for workers, entrepreneurs, scientists, and students.
In many areas of the country, there is a critical shortage of affordable housing. What would your administration do to address it?
We need more affordable housing in communities with good jobs and good schools. We should directly support the construction, preservation, and refurbishment of nearly 4 million units of affordable housing, while creating incentives for communities to build and preserve millions more. We also need to make home ownership and renting easier through a combination of fully funding opportunity vouchers for low-income families, creating tax credits that make affording down payments easier, and expanding credit access for smaller mortgages in smaller markets or in high-poverty neighborhoods. We also need to reform federal housing tax incentives that disproportionately favor the wealthy.
What is your plan to address the growing national debt?
To pass on a stronger country to the next generation, we must be more responsible than weâ€™ve been over recent decades when it comes to our national debt. At no time in recent history outside of major war have we had declining unemployment and soaring deficits. Yet due to the Trump-McConnell tax cuts and increased spending under Trump, we face $1 trillion deficits. To address our fiscal outlook, we need serious bipartisan proposals that will ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share while also making reforms that bring down the cost of health care and prescription drugs.
Do you think our national debt is a national security issue? Why or why not?
Americaâ€™s security is bolstered by our economic strength. Since 2001, however, we have degraded our economic strength with trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the rich and two wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Every day we fail to address our fiscal outlook is another day that we fail to prioritize the investments we need to enhance our global competitiveness. Meanwhile, China is stealing our technology, expanding its military presence, exporting its surveillance state, landing on the dark side of the moon, and building bridges and ports across the globe.
Is capitalism the best economic structure for the United States? If yes, why? If no, what is better and how do you believe it will benefit Americans?
Capitalism can be a powerful force for good, but only if we acknowledge that it requires strong rules for fair competition and opportunity for upward mobility for all Americans. We need fair competition combined with sensible rules of the road that prevent abuse of consumers, workers, and small businesses by large companies that seek an unfair advantage. If we donâ€™t put in place rules that allow for everyone to benefit from growth through their hard work and contributions, we risk a continued reaction from demagogues like Donald Trump who will use peopleâ€™s grievances to pit Americans against each other.
In many parts of the country, there is a skilled worker gap. How would you close that gap to get more people employed in the industries that need them?
The Bennet Administration will support the development of 500 Regional Opportunity Compacts by investing $50 billion over five years for locally-based partnerships to transform regional labor markets. These compacts will bring in every part of the community and labor market to connect the dots between whatâ€™s taught in schools, the way we pay for post-secondary education, how students are prepared to enter the workforce, and the needs of local employers.
Should the government forgive student loans? If yes, why and for whom? If no, why not?
We should forgive up to $10,000 per year of student loans for Americans who work in public service or in high-need professions like teachers, nurses, or primary care physicians in underserved urban and rural communities. We should also dramatically reduce debt burdens for middle-class Americans by capping student loan payments at 8% of incomes â€” a 20% reduction in student loan payments from current levels. We should work with states to ensure that every American can graduate debt-free from college, starting by enabling every student whose family income is below $75,000 to graduate debt free immediately.
Should community college be free to anyone who wants to attend? Should other colleges and universities be free to attend?
We should immediately make community college free for all Americans by providing federal funding alongside state support to offset the cost of tuition. For low- and middle-income families up to 300% of the federal poverty threshold, we also must immediately increase support through Pell grants and other aid to ensure these students can graduate from a four-year public college debt free.
Is more funding needed for mental health care in America? If yes, what amount and how should it be allocated? Where should that money come from?
We need to increase funding to close all gaps in mental health care. We have to stop distinguishing between mental health and physical conditions and penalize insurance companies who discriminate against mental health services. Primary care should include mental health screenings and referrals to specialists. Medicare-X, my public option healthcare plan, would cover mental health services and treatment for substance use disorders. We also have to protect Medicaid and Medicare and ensure that those beneficiaries have access to robust mental health services. The Bennet Administration would also bolster loan repayment for mental health providers who practice in rural areas.
How would you address rising prescription drug costs, specifically for medications that are necessary for people to live, such as insulin and mental health medications?
The most effective way to lower the cost of prescription drugs is for the federal government to negotiate prices. No one should have to split tablets or go without insulin. In addition, the Bennet Administration will end â€œpay for delayâ€ and monopolistic tactics that keep affordable generic drugs off the market. We will cap out-of-pocket spending for prescription drugs and require manufacturers to justify price increases and pay penalties when their prices increase faster than inflation. Another measure to reduce drug costs is to implement value-based reimbursement for prescription drugs where pharmaceutical manufacturers are paid based on outcomes.
What do you believe is the biggest health care issue facing Americans? How would you solve it?
Americans are tired of paying month after month into a health care system that doesnâ€™t cover them when they need it. We have to lower the cost of quality health care. My Medicare-X public option healthcare plan will add competition to the market and lower premiums and copays without adding a cent to the federal deficit. We have to take additional measures to increase transparency and lower spending. I led the effort in the Senate to end surprise medical bills.
How would you address the opioid crisis?
We need to invest in more treatmentÂ facilities in rural communities and ensure they are equipped with the resources to combat opioid addiction and drugs of abuse that are on the rise. Specifically, we must make investments to build and sustain treatment centers that are accessible to people in every county in America, and hold manufacturers and distributors accountable for the problem they created by requiring them to pay in to a $20 billion fund for the treatment and prevention of opioid use disorders and hold them criminally liable and increase fines for illegal marketing of addictive opioids.
Should marijuana be legalized federally for medicinal use? Should it be legalized for recreational use?
I support removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances, automatically expunging the convictions of those who have served federal time for marijuana use and possession offenses, and reinvesting in low-income and minority communities who have been disproportionately affected by decades of failed drug policy. I also support policies to ensure companies in states where marijuana is currently legal can access the banking system. As a former school superintendent in a state that has legalized marijuana, I am also focused on policies to ensure young people do not have access to it.
Do you support a public health insurance option for all Americans? If yes, do you support the elimination of private health care in favor of a government-run plan, or do you support an option where Americans can choose a public or private plan? If no, why?
We should let all Americans make the right healthcare choices for their own families. My Medicare-X plan would allow Americans to choose between a private plan or a public option administered by Medicare. They would have access to the Medicare network and be covered for essential health benefits including maternity care, hospital and emergency services, mental health, and affordable prescription drugs.
Should the federal government re-institute the death penalty? If yes, for what crimes?
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