To help local voters decide which candidate to support, Las Vegas Weekly and its sister publication the Las Vegas Sun invited the top candidates for interviews in recent weeks to explore their stances on key issues. We chose those candidates based on the same qualifications used to determine their eligibility to participate in the February 7 Democratic debate. Here’s our look at those candidates.
• Despite multiple requests, Warren and Sanders chose not to be interviewed for this project, but here’s a brief look at their stances.
Bio: Second-term senator from Massachusetts (elected in 2012, re-elected in 2018), government adviser on consumer and finance issues, law professor specializing in bankruptcy
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have staked out positions on the left edge of the field by presenting themselves as aggressive champions for economic equality and by taking similar stances on such key issues as health care, wealth taxes and free college.
But this is not a choice between Progressive Candidate A and B. They’re vastly different individuals.
Sanders, the democratic socialist, is a party outsider and culture warrior with a reputation for taking uncompromising stances in the name of ideology. He prides himself on being allergic to incremental steps and is often dismissive of opinions that differ from his own—traits that have drawn unflattering comparisons between Sanders and Donald Trump.
Bio: Third-term senator from Vermont (elected in 2006, re-elected in 2012 and 2018), former U.S. representative (1991-2007) and mayor of Burlington, Vermont (1981-89)
In contrast, Warren has taken a problem-solving, coalition-building approach during her seven years in the Senate and, before that, as a government adviser on consumer issues and corporate oversight. A key case in point was Warren’s instrumental role in establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which she proposed in 2007 while serving as a law professor at Harvard. When President Barack Obama selected her to create the agency, she assembled and led a team of academics, industry insiders and policy experts, and accomplished her task when the agency opened its doors in 2011. Since then, it has returned more than $12.4 billion to consumers who have been cheated by financial companies.
• Warren stands out with her wealth tax, the most aggressive in the field. It includes a 2% tax on household net worth above $50 million and 6% above $1 billion, and it also includes a number of other elements, such as a 40% “exit fee” for multimillionaires who renounce their citizenship to dodge the wealth tax. Warren says the package would generate $3.75 trillion over 10 years.
• The Massachusetts senator also would impose a 7% tax on corporate profits above $100 million, which she says would generate $1 trillion in the next 10 years.
• She claims her wealth tax will provide funding for several initiatives: student debt cancellation, universal child care and pre-kindergarten classes, $800 billion in new federal funding for public schools, $1 trillion toward Medicare for All, addressing the opioid crisis and making college tuition-free.
• Warren, a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, offers a climate plan that calls for $3 trillion in spending.
• Like others in the field, Warren supports a path to citizenship for long-term undocumented immigrants and would make illegal border crossings a civil offense as opposed to a criminal one.
• Sanders was a pioneer of Medicare for All, having long advocated for a single-payer health care system. His version would cost up to $40 trillion and would be funded by tax increases for most Americans. He would also extend coverage to undocumented immigrants.
• The Vermont senator’s climate plan also comes with a whopping price tag—$16 trillion. That’s many times the amount most of his opponents would spend. The plan calls for modernizing the energy grid nationwide and building new solar, wind and geothermal sources across the nation. Sanders also would send $200 billion to poor nations to help battle climate change on a global level. The funding for his plan would come partly from taxing the fossil fuel industry.
• Sanders would impose an aggressive wealth tax that works on a graduated scale, from households with $32 million of net worth paying 1% to those with a net worth of $10 billion paying 8%, with several steps in between. He would also boost the corporate income tax rate back to 35%, undoing Trump’s reduction of the rate to 21%, and would impose incremental increases in the rate for companies whose CEOs out-earn median workers by a 50-to-1 ratio or higher.
• Sanders supports full voting rights for incarcerated citizens, including felons.
• After being criticized for his record on gun safety, which includes votes in the Senate against the Brady Bill and in favor of protecting gun manufacturers from legal liability when their products are used to commit crimes, Sanders is calling for universal background checks, along with bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He doesn’t go as far as some of his opponents, who call for licensing and registration of weapons, but he does favor registration of assault weapons.
In Warren, Americans would be served by a left-of-center president. In Sanders, the nation would get a far more extreme leader, in terms of both policy and temperament.
The difference would be profound.
Warren has demonstrated a clear-eyed, results-oriented approach to leadership along with a proven ability to surround herself with capable professionals. As a result, she could be counted on to form an effective, thoughtful and qualified Cabinet, and to work with lawmakers in a coalition-building manner.
A Sanders presidency threatens to fill the White House with extremists who are far more interested in tearing things down—a la the Trump administration—than finding constructive ways to fix social problems. As with Trump, it’s highly unlikely that knowledgeable people with workable solutions and a knack for compromise would be part of a Sanders team.
Instead, the likely outcome would be four years of the type of chaos the nation has experienced since Trump took office.
Longer versions of these essays will run on lasvegassun.com in the coming week.