Issue Position: Repairing the Ladder of Opportunity

Issue Position

For far too many California families, the ladder of opportunity is broken. Incomes aren't keeping up with increases in the cost of living, and the gap between the wealthy and the middle class is larger than at any time since the Great Depression.

Kamala believes income inequality is the defining economic challenge of our time. The minimum wage must be a living wage, and families should have tools they need to compete in the workforce -- from affordable childcare and early childhood education to paid family leave and truly equal pay. Kamala will fight special interests that try to game the system or take advantage of working families, just as she's taken on the big banks engaged in predatory lending practices, for-profit diploma mills, and big polluters as Attorney General. While some in Washington have voted to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, Kamala will oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and believes we need to strengthen these safety nets.

But addressing income inequality is just one part of the solution. We also need to cultivate economic growth that creates real opportunity for California families and businesses. To that end, we must invest more in education -- from early childhood through college and technical school -- to ensure we spur entrepreneurship, fuel small businesses, and develop a workforce that meets the demands of employers in the 21st century.

California is the world's eighth largest economy -- a place that fosters so much innovation and growth. Washington needs to finally approve critical investments to our transportation infrastructure and support policies -- like clean energy investments and passing comprehensive immigration reform -- that allow entrepreneurs, creators, and small businesses to innovate, expand, and thrive.

Paid Family & Sick Leave: America is the only industrialized country that doesn't have a national paid family leave policy. That lack of flexibility leaves families to choose between taking care of themselves or a loved one, or putting food on the table. Kamala will fight for national paid family and sick leave that provides a safety net for working families.
Raising The Minimum Wage: The federal minimum wage is far too low and makes it impossible to support a family. Kamala believes we need to make the minimum wage a living wage and tie it to inflation so Washington can't keep playing politics with our economic security.
Ending The Student Debt Crisis: The average student takes on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. That's not right. Kamala believes we must create pathways for college students to graduate on time and without a mountain of debt. She supports the President's plan for making community colleges free, and she supports lowering the cost of college and allowing current borrowers to refinance at lower rates. Get more details about how Kamala will work to make higher education affordable for everyone.
Strengthening Social Security & Medicare: Social Security and Medicare are the bedrock of our social contract. Together, these safety net programs keep millions of seniors and people living with disabilities out of poverty. While some in Washington have voted to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, Kamala would oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and believes we need to strengthen these safety nets.
Expand Pro-Work Tax Credits: Together the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) help keep millions of families from falling into poverty and enable many parents to afford childcare, which allows them to work and provide for their families. Kamala supports expanding these credits and the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps pay for college.
Pass Paycheck Fairness: Every person, regardless of gender, deserves equal access to the American dream. However, women still earn, on average, less than men for the same jobs. Nationally, women earn about 21 percent less than men, and the disparities are even more alarming for black women and Latinas. The majority of minimum wage workers are women, and reducing and eliminating this gap will help lift up millions of women and their entire families. In California, Kamala supported the Fair Pay Act, which prohibits employers from setting wages at rates lower than those of the opposite sex for similar work. In the Senate, she'll make it a priority to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and will be a leading voice for economic equality. Get more details on how she'll fight for equality.
Stop Wage Theft & Protect Immigrant Workers: Kamala believes strongly in the protection of workers' rights for all Californians, regardless of immigration status. All individuals are eligible for minimum wage, workers compensation, and other workplace protections. As Attorney General, Kamala established and expanded the Underground Economy Unit within her Civil Rights Enforcement Section in order to increase enforcement of state worker protection laws. She filed suit and obtained more than $1 million from eight Northern and Southern California car washes that underpaid workers, denied rest and meal breaks, and created false records of time worked. She also has aggressively pursued litigation against a Southern California trucking company for misclassifying its employees as independent contractors so the company could avoid paying a minimum wage, workers compensation, and business expense reimbursements. Kamala's prosecution of the case resulted in a landmark 2014 California Supreme Court decision that allows the state to hold accountable trucking companies for violations of state worker protection laws. As Senator, she will work hard to ensure that important workplace protections are strengthened and enforced, keeping our economy strong and the playing field level for all businesses.
Provide Our Veterans With What They Earned: With more than two million Veterans, California has more Veterans than any other state, and we owe them the support and care they earned while wearing our nation's military uniform. Over the years, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been plagued by scandal and budget crises, resulting in disgraceful levels of service and irresponsible delays in providing medical care and disability benefits. As Attorney General, Kamala formed a working group to fight scams and other predatory conduct uniquely targeting service members, and secured enhanced protections for active-duty and Veteran homeowners during the foreclosure crisis. In the Senate, Kamala will champion a robust VA for our Veterans. She will fight to ensure that when Veterans leave military service, they have the support they need to readjust to civilian life, including proper physical and mental health care. It's unconscionable that 22 Veterans take their own lives each day. Kamala will bring together federal, state, and local government leaders plus Veteran Service Organizations and non-profits to ensure that every Veteran knows what benefits they earned and how to access those benefits. Additional outreach should be directed to our rural, minority, women, and LGBT Veterans who often access VA care and benefits at lower rates than others, especially since the issues facing women and LGBT Veterans are changing with their inclusion in combat roles and the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Kamala will bring her prosecutorial drive to the Senate to help clean up the VA's scandals and make sure no Veteran waits unnecessarily for VA benefits. Kamala will continue her fight against the for-profit colleges that prey on Veterans, sapping their GI benefits and robbing taxpayers. Kamala opposes privatizing Veterans Affairs, and she will join President Obama's fight to reduce and end Veteran homelessness.
Universal Pre-K & Educating A 21st Century Work Force: The only way we will be able to compete in a global economy is to create a workforce that can meet its challenges. But too many children in our country are denied a quality education through circumstances beyond their control. Kamala believes we need to ensure every child has access to a quality public education -- from universal pre-kindergarten to affordable higher education -- in order to build the workforce of the future.
Community Colleges Can Help Prepare The Workforce Of The Future: Increasingly it seems that a four-year college education is required to get ahead. Community colleges should play a greater role in preparing students for the jobs of the 21st century, so that when students complete their second year, they're ready for good-paying, sustainable jobs in high technology, clean energy, and other emerging fields. In the Senate, Kamala will bring the educational community together with the private sector and labor organizations and lead the fight to incentivize the development and implementation of curricula that will ensure community college students are prepared for high quality jobs upon graduation.
Investing in Infrastructure: In California, we know infrastructure like roads, bridges, tunnels, and ports form the arteries of our economy. But too much of our infrastructure was built in the early 20th century to meet the needs of a much smaller state, and improvements haven't kept pace with the state's growth. Upgrading our infrastructure in a strategic way -- not just building roads and highways -- will create good-paying jobs, improve our economy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping us fight climate change. Senator Barbara Boxer has been a national leader on expanding our transportation infrastructure, and in Washington, Kamala will follow her in footsteps. Kamala supports proposals to create an infrastructure bank to repair and expand our transportation, water, and technology infrastructure.
Research & Development Tax Credit: In 2014, Congress let the Research and Development Tax Credits expire, a key tool that helps spur innovation in the private sector. But despite bipartisan support, for months Washington failed to extend it. Kamala supports expanding the research and development tax credit and rewarding businesses that invest in science and technology research.
Helping Small Businesses, Start-Ups & Job Creators: Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and job creation. Kamala is committed to both making sure small business owners have access to capital and to cutting excessive red tape. As Attorney General, she supported efforts to stop abusive lawsuits against small businesses and business owners, and in Washington she will fight for our California small businesses and job creators.
Create Clean Energy Jobs To Sustain Economic Growth: Congress has missed many opportunities to spur creation of clean energy jobs, which will strengthen and sustain our economy, power our businesses, and protect our natural heritage at the same time. Kamala will fight to establish a national cap-and-trade market for carbon pollution that will spur investments in clean energy jobs and technology, giving California companies a leg up in a new greener economy and making them more competitive in the global economy over the long term. Get more details about her plans for protecting the environment and building a clean economy.
Combating Climate Change Is Good For Our Economy: Without long-term planning, climate change impacts, like rising sea levels, will create massive economic disruptions since coastal communities are home to 40 percent of America's population. Kamala believes in fighting climate change by investing in clean energy, improved energy efficiency of our homes and buildings, smart grid upgrades, and public transportation -- all investments that will sustainably lower energy costs, create jobs, and help clean our air.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Will Boost The American Economy: Congress has repeatedly refused to pass comprehensive immigration reform that protects our borders and provides a fair and just pathway to citizenship. That failure has hurt our economy, made it harder for our businesses to compete in the global marketplace, and hamstrung local and state governments' ability to meet the needs of their communities. Worse yet, Washington's failure has forced more than 11 million undocumented immigrants to live, work, and raise a family in the shadows of our society. That's unconscionable. Bringing these workers out of the shadows will strengthen the economy, grow the GDP, and reduce federal deficits and debt. Comprehensive immigration reform will increase productivity and wages. With comprehensive reform, all workers will benefit from protections in the workplace, and reform will spur innovation, entrepreneurship, and encourage job growth. Kamala would fight hard to pass immigration reform in Washington, and she'll take on those who stand in the way.