As president, Pete Buttigieg says he would measure the economy’s success not by the size of the stock market or the nation’s gross domestic product, but by whether working and middle class families are succeeding. He believes economic policies have to be focused on growing incomes for the 90%.
This rhetoric may seem surprising from someone who spent years as a management consultant at McKinsey after attending elite institutions like Harvard and Oxford, but the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana has had other influences that may have contributed to his progressive policies. Buttigieg is the son of the late Joseph Buttigieg, a Marxist professor and close friend of Democratic Socialist Cornel West. In 2000, as a student in high school he wrote an essay about the integrity and political courage demonstrated by none other than Bernie Sanders.
But while his more radical rivals are proposing sweeping plans to cancel debt and introduce free health care for all Americans, Buttigieg’s agenda is focused on improving things with investments in government programs and small policy reforms. He promises to fix systems in less aggressive ways rather than upending them. He talks about the federal deficit and not about Big Tech or Wall Street. His campaign dance may be set to a song with the lyrics, “Had to have high, high hopes for a living. Shooting for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing,” but Buttigieg’s plan is firmly on the ground in comparison to some of the others. He is perceived as a centrist or a moderate neoliberal.
This may be the former Navy intelligence officer and Rhodes Scholar’s greatest strength in an election where “electability” has received great attention. Surveys showed that voters who describe themselves as “somewhat liberal,” a sizable chunk, leaned towards him in the Iowa primary where he proved a very strong contender.
Buttigieg’s agenda focuses on two things – lowering costs for American families and raising wages. Here are his proposals described briefly.
Costs: Housing, Child Care, College, Heath Care
If elected, Buttigieg says he will devote $430 billion to unlock affordable housing for seven million Americans. His plan involves restoring or building 2 million units through investments in various government programs like the Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund, reforming zoning laws and ensuring access to housing vouchers for all eligible. He will also pass the 21st Century Community Homestead Act to address the racial wealth gap.
His administration would invest $700 billion over the next decade in child care and education to ensure working parents can participate fully in the labor market and help the economy grow. He says child care and early learning would be free for children younger than 5 in lower-income families under his plan. In addition to strengthening the Head Start program, he would create a new one to provide cost assistance to working and middle class families for after-school care and summer programming.
While he is yet to address the country’s massive student debt problem in detail, Buttigieg wants to make college more accessible and affordable and will devote $500 billion to it if elected. Tuition at public universities would be made free for families of public college students that earn up to $100,000 and more affordable for those earning up to $150,000. In addition to this, he wants to increase the size of Pell Grants and invest in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions.
Buttigieg is promoting “Medicare For All Who Want It.” He wants to offer all Americans a low-cost public option that he believes will force private insurers to “step up.” If they don’t, he predicts “a natural glide-path to Medicare for All.” He also wants to bring down administrative costs, increase antitrust enforcement in the industry and invest in mental health resources. His plan is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years and will be paid for by rolling back Trump’s corporate tax cuts and reducing prescription drug prices.
Wages and Workers’ Rights
Buttigieg has come up with several ways to boost incomes. Among them is expanding the Earned Income Credit as proposed in the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2019. This is expected to increase incomes by an average of $1,000 per year for 35 million American families. He also wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, guarantee access to 12 weeks of comprehensive paid family and medical leave, increase gender pay transparency, and increase salaries for teachers, domestic workers, and direct care workers by raising pay standards and protecting unions. He also wants to allow companies an extra tax deduction for 50% of the cost of employing interns from underrepresented backgrounds.
Besides increasing wages, he will invest $50 billion in workforce training and lifelong learning, $5 billion to create an apprenticeship network, $200 billion in a fund for displaced workers, $80 billion to expand internet access to rural workers and entrepreneurs and $500 million in regional innovation clusters.
He also has an extensive plan to protect workers, including those participating in the gig economy and home care workers.
Buttigieg has promised a low-fee public option 401(k) for workers. According to the white paper, it will consist of a Rainy Day Account and a Retirement Account. When an employee chooses to contribute 1.5% of their pay into their Rainy Day Account it will trigger an employer contribution of 3% of pay into their Retirement Account.The campaign expects a middle-earning American worker participating in full over their lifetime to be able to retire with over $500,000 in retirement savings.
He has also said he will protect Social Security benefits and establish a program called Long-Term Care America to provide $90/day fully-covered benefits to 11.3 million people over the age of 65.
Infrastructure and Climate Change
Buttigieg has a $1 trillion infrastructure plan for America. He wants to use this money to create six million well-paying jobs, ensure access to clean drinking water for every American, lower water bills, remove lead in paint, water and soil, update and fix the majority of roads and bridges in poor condition by 2030 and invest in sustainable infrastructure that enables half of all U.S. counties to grow over the next 10 years.
He wants to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. His plan involves quadrupling federal clean energy R&D funding to $25 billion per year by 2025 and eliminating tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industries.