2020 Candidate Conversation: Former U.S. Rep. John Delaney
Former three-term Maryland Congressman John Delaney announced his run for the Democratic nomination in July 2017, the earliest of any candidate--a move seen as unusual even as candidates trend toward announcing earlier. Delaney casts himself as a moderate and says if elected he would sign only bipartisan legislation in his first 100 days as President. He has said he will focus on what he believes matters to most Americans: jobs, wages, and opportunities for their children.
Meet The Candidate:
Background/Experience: Served three terms as U.S. Representative for Maryland’s 6th District, 2013-2019; he declined to run for a fourth term to focus on his presidential run; co-founded HealthCare Financial Partners, a lender to health care companies, as well as CapitalSource, a lender to small and medium-sized businesses. He was ranked the 6th wealthiest member of Congress in 2016.
Top platforms/positions: Rep. Delany has called himself a capitalist who supports social programming. He supports universal pre-K. He wants to make Election Day a federal holiday--he introduced legislation on this in Congress just days before he announced his presidential bid.
Of Interest: He has visited all 99 of Iowa’s counties and attended more than 30 Bruce Springsteen concerts.
For More on Former Congressman John Delaney:
- Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney spoke with Jeremy Hobson of Here & Now last month and discussed his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and his plans for health care.
- Conservative columnist George F. Will writes that Democrats should strongly consider John Delaney if they want to defeat President Trump.
- Delaney criticized his party for deciding not to allow Fox News to host a primary debate.
- Delaney spoke with John Harwood of CNBC 17 months after he declared his big in July 2017. He talked about his business background and his interst in social justice, which he links to his Catholic faith: "...even though I'm a capitalist and I've spent most of my career in the private sector as an entrepreneur starting businesses, I believe strongly that there's a role for government to prepare our citizens for the world and to create a safety net for those that are inevitably left behind."
Read an edited transcript of our interview with former U.S. Rep John Delaney. This transcript is computer-generated, and may contain errors.
Laura Knoy: [00:01:00] Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney is with us today. He's a former three-term Maryland congressman with a business background in health care and finance. Delaney was the first Democrat to jump into the 2020 primary, announcing back in the summer of 2017. He's been campaigning ever since, positioning himself in the moderate end of the party. For example, He says if elected he'd only sign bipartisan legislation in his first 100 days as president. Delaney also describes the Democratic primary race overall as a choice between socialism or a more just form of capitalism.
Knoy: [00:02:02] So how do you define yourself as a Democrat? I use the term moderate but maybe there's another term you like to use.
John Delaney: [00:02:06] Well, in many ways I'm a different kind of Democrat because I am definitely defined by some as more moderate and more centrist. I tend to think of myself as someone who's a problem solver. You know I've spent my whole career whether it's been in Congress or in the private sector bringing people together and actually finding common ground and getting things done. And I think that's exactly what we need today because there's so many things we should have already dealt with in our country in our society we need someone who actually wants to lead us around a conversation about some of the things we agree with each other on and actually make progress on those issues to help the American people but also to help us rethink our future because the future we're leaving our kids right now is not the one we want to leave them.
Knoy: [00:02:48] Is this a time for a moderate Democrat? It seems that in the Democratic Party anyway it's becoming more you can call it progressive, you can call it liberal, you can call it left whatever you want to call it. So is this your time?
Delaney: [00:03:01] I think so because I think what the Democratic primary voters are ultimately going to want to put forth is someone who they think can be the best leader for our country. And I think what our country needs now more than anything, more than anything is someone to try to bring us together. I think the central issue facing this country is how terribly divided we are. And I think our current president just thrives in those divisions. He pits American against American, he's basically projecting an image to the American people that your enemy is your fellow American. And we need a leader to bring us together to start getting some real things done that matter to the American people and working to rebuild the future.
Knoy: [00:03:38] Got a couple e-mails actually on your moderate politics. Here's one from Tom who says "why did you not run as an independent using the power of social media, online forums, news coverage regarding what would be a distinctly different campaign?" Tom says "your target market thoughtful moderates like me, and there are a lot of us," Tom says "might not be aligned with either party, as both parties give us more and more reasons to be disaffected." Tom thank you for the e-mail. And what about that Congressman Delaney why not run as an independent?
Delaney: [00:04:08] Well, you know listen I've been a Democrat my whole life. I grew up in a union family. My dad was a union electrician. I believe the things that I'm fighting for is completely consistent with what Democrats around this country stand for. I just believe Tom, that the Democratic Party should not give up on the center. I mean I believe the election in 2020 is going to be fought in the center. I'm convinced of that as I am of anything. I think the president's going to turn out his voters, he's going to turn out our voters and the winner in 2020 is going to be the party and the candidate that can capture the center. So I think it's incredibly important for the Democratic Party to be a big tent party, to be a party that's welcoming of progressives who want change, you know, moderates like me and like you Tom who wants solutions you know independents who just want their elected officials to put their country ahead of their political party and all these disaffected Republicans who are leaving the Republican Party because they have a sense that this president doesn't really have the kind of moral compass that they think that Party's always stood for. So I think there's an enormous opportunity for the Democratic Party to be the party the American people are looking for which is a real governing leadership party. But I also think that's the candidate in the party that wins.
Knoy: [00:05:19] You've said that this primary, on the Democratic side is a choice between "socialism and a more just form of capitalism." What do you mean by that Congressman Delaney?
Delaney: [00:05:29] So that quote probably came after I said something like 'it's a bit of a false choice, this debate we're having around capitalism and socialism. Because in truth, the United States of America is a free market economy and the free market is the greatest job creation innovation machine ever created. But we've also always had really strong social programs and in many ways the genius of America is that we allowed capitalism to work its magic, right? Which is to jobs and innovate. But we moderated it or channeled it towards the common good with great societal infrastructure, worker's rights, appropriate tax policy, smart regulation. And really what's happened in the last several decades is we've stopped doing that second half. In other words, the social compact that exists for the benefit of all of our citizens and is really needed to allow capitalism to work in a way that serves a broad number of people? We've let that erode. And we haven't really kind of reimagined it for the time we're in now. So to some extent it's a bit of a false choice. I'm a capitalist, I believe in capitalism but I also believe in really strong social programs so I think as a party we should do what we've always done in this country which is to take affirmative steps to make capitalism more just and inclusive.
Knoy: [00:06:49] So in that quote, and again that's from you, you're not calling your fellow Democrats Socialists? That's not what you're doing there?
Delaney: [00:06:57] I mean, some of them call themselves socialist and some of them are embracing government-only solutions, right? Which I don't think is the right answer. I think the best public policy prescriptions in this country are ones where the private sector, the government sector, and the nonprofit sector work well together. Those are commonsense approaches. So listen my campaign is not about kind of talking about my opponents. I know some of them put forth solutions that I call government-only solutions. And I know those don't work. Not that I don't believe the government should have a more affirmative role in certain things, I do. But I think top down, government-only solutions ultimately don't work as well as solutions that have a market orientation to them.
Knoy: [00:07:44] So give us a couple examples of these government-only solutions that some other Democrats are offering that you think would not be effective.
Delaney: [00:07:54] So healthcare's a good example. I think everyone should have health care is a right. I believe in universal health care. I think it's a basic human right and I think it's smart economic policy but I don't believe in a system where the government is the only payer in health care. And one of the reasons I don't agree with that system is if you look at the government programs right now, Medicaid and Medicare, they don't pay enough. So if you go to a community hospital, if you go to Elliott hospital here in New Hampshire and ask them how they would do if all of their commercial insurance payments were paid at the Medicare or Medicaid rates, They would say "we would close." And the reason for that is Medicaid only pays 80% of costs. Medicare pays 95% cost and commercial insurance pays 115 to120% of cost. So if the government is the only payer, there there's no evidence that they ever pay enough. So I don't see why as a country we would advocate for a government-only payment system in health care? Because that would inevitably lead to lower quality and more limited access. So there's a perfect example. I believe in universal health care and I've got a whole proposal to do that and we probably don't have enough time to go through that now. But it involves a backbone government plan that allows the American people to have options to choose private insurance or to get supplemental plans. Climate change is another example, I believe in a carbon tax. I introduced the only bipartisan carbon tax bill in the Congress. That I believe I can get done in my first year as president with all the Democrats and with the Republicans who live in coastal states. And that would be a market-based solution to start making a real difference against climate change.
Knoy: [00:09:30] So healthcare, a carbon tax, those are areas where you feel like your combination of government and market-oriented solutions would work. And so you've whetted our appetites, Congressman Delaney, so let's jump into some of these issues. Let's tackle healthcare first. You have called as you just said for universal health care, you've called it a fundamental right, what's the difference then between this and Medicare for all? And who pays for this plan by the way?
Delaney: [00:09:57] So Medicare for all basically says the government provides all the healthcare. My plan is different. I leave Medicare alone. I create a new plan that everyone gets as a right from when they're born until they're 65.
Knoy: [00:10:07] So the public option so to speak that we saw during the Obamacare debate?
Delaney: [00:10:11] This is actually a basic health care package that everyone gets, they don't have to choose if they get it. And you roll Medicaid into that. So you'd have this new program from when you're born to when you're 65 and then you have Medicare for over 65. But if you don't want the government plan, you can opt out get, a small tax credit and buy your own commercial insurance. Or you can take your government health care insurance and buy supplemental plans just like what happens with Medicare. Most Medicare recipients have their basic government plan and then they buy supplemental. So what I'm basically proposing is a government backbone market where everyone gets health care as a right. So if they're low income, between jobs, want to go start a business, they age off their parents plan, whatever the case may be, they have health care.
Knoy: [00:10:56] Everybody?
Delaney: [00:10:56] Everybody.
Knoy: [00:10:57] No matter what their income level?
Delaney: [00:10:58] No matter what their income level. But they also have the option of opting out, getting a tax credit, buying their own commercial insurance or buying supplementals to enhance their government plan. And I pay for that whole system, fully paid for in my proposal by eliminating the corporate deductibility of health care which is about a 4 trillion dollar tax exemption.
Knoy: [00:11:20] Why would people need to buy supplemental insurance if the public plan were good?
Delaney: [00:11:25] Same reason they buy it with Medicare. Because as a country we like options, we like choices, we like bells and whistles, we like hanging Christmas ornaments on the tree. And so I just think saying 'one size fits, all we're gonna to create a government plan and get rid of all the other plans out there and make you take this government plan' A) is not practical B) it's not [what] the American people want because they want choices. So just like Medicare where people get a basic plan and then they buy options, that's the common sense way to create universal health care in this country.
Knoy: [00:12:01] Is getting rid of that tax subsidy for employer sponsored insurance that you mentioned, 3.7 trillion, with a "t"? Is that what you said?
Delaney: [00:12:08] Yes, four trillion.
Knoy: [00:12:09] Is that enough to pay for a lot of health care for a lot of people?
Delaney: [00:12:14] Yes, my plan is fully paid for.
Knoy: [00:12:16] Just by getting rid of that tax deduction?
Delaney: [00:12:17] Well, it's four trillion dollars. It's not a small tax deduction. You know, four trillion over 10 years. And then the Affordable Care Act has a trillion dollars of subsidies and you wouldn't need that any longer under my plan. So that's five trillion dollars of what are called "pay for's" in my plan costs about five trillion dollars.
Knoy: [00:12:37] How does the private health insurance market, the private health provider industry, the doctors and hospitals and so forth. How do they feel about this approach?
Delaney: [00:12:45] They like it. You know I think that doctors in the hospitals like it because they know under the single payer, government-only plan, that it'll hurt them very much. And I've talked to all the providers about it. I say "How do you feel about getting rid of commercial insurance and having all the bills paid by the government?" They're like "Well to us that's a big cut in our payments and a lot of us wouldn't be able to stay in business." Upwards of a thousand community hospitals would close in this country if the government were the only payer and it paid at Medicare rates. So they like my plan better because they know it maintains commercial insurance which is important to them to sustain their operations. So that's one of the main tests. I also think look, health care is a lot like Congress: if you go to your average American and say "How do you feel about Congress?" They're like "Well, I hate Congress." But 'how do you feel about your member of Congress?' They're like "Well, I kind of like my member of Congress." Same thing with healthcare: if you go to most Americans and say "How do you feel about the U.S. health care system" They say "Well, it's a crazy system but how do you feel about your health insurance?" They're like "Well I kind of like my plan.".
Knoy: [00:13:49] Well that depends on who you talk to.
Delaney: [00:13:53] 70% of the American people like their health care plan.
Knoy: [00:13:56] Let's move on from health care because we've a lot more to talk about. Let's talk about immigration Congressman Delaney. And this week the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said his agency has reached a "breaking point at the southern border." I'm sure you heard about this. He said there are record numbers of migrants arriving seeking asylum. He says the agency is reluctantly releasing migrants into the U.S. because it just doesn't have the capacity to process so many people. A bunch of questions for you: first of all, why do you think this is happening?
Delaney: [00:14:49] I think it's happening because of what's going on in Central America. So I was at the border about two months ago, my wife and I went down there and we took 14 law students with us from Georgetown. She just stepped down as the chair of the Georgetown Law School Board and we took two professors, we sponsored the trip. They were there for a week helping asylum seekers make their case to U.S. authorities. So we basically went into a legal aid center in Dilley,Texas which is located next to the largest detention facility in the United States of America, where there were 17,000 women and children in this detention facility when we were there. We were there for a week helping these asylum seekers make their case. So I heard firsthand from these moms sitting there with their children, why they were seeking asylum in our country.
Knoy: [00:15:39] What did they say?
Delaney: [00:15:40] And they said, because the story was always generally the same, which is someone in their family was either killed or threatened to be killed by the gangs. And the gangs were completely in bed with the law enforcement. So they had no recourse. So if you heard these stories, every single one of your listeners if they were in that situation I believe would leave one of those countries as well.
Knoy: [00:16:05] So what would be a 'President Delaney' approach toward this? Given that, yess there are heartbreaking stories from these families coming [to the U.S.], on the other hand, according to the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection anyway, we've just reached our capacity to manage this.
Delaney: [00:16:24] So what I certainly wouldn't do is be threatening to cut foreign aid to these countries, which is what the president's doing. That'll make the situation worse. So what President Delaney would do is lead a regional effort to help stabilize, which means really build civil institutions in these countries. Because unless we stabilize and create some framework for the rule of law to exist in these countries, we will not be able to stem the tide of people fleeing these countries and coming to our country seeking asylum.
Knoy: [00:16:56] Can we the U.S. really do that? Create a stable environment especially given that, you know this as a former Congressman, you send foreign aid and sometimes it's used effectively and sometimes it isn't. You just said that the law enforcement is in bed with gangs members.
Delaney: [00:17:09] So I think the way you have to do it, it's very hard to do.
Knoy: [00:17:12] And it takes a long time, it's not going to stop this crisis at the border.
Delaney: [00:17:15] Absolutely, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do it. So the way you have to do it is thinking about what your goals are. Your goals are to help these countries build some form of civil society. And the best way for the United States to do that is with foreign aid but not working directly, working indirectly through non-governmental organizations which have been proven to be much more successful in many of these countries, you know nonprofits that actually help. Now that's not the only thing we've got to do, obviously. I'm just saying that if we want to actually get at the core issue as [to] why people are leaving and coming to the United States, you have to recognize that what they're doing is logical, it's what any of us would do.
Knoy: [00:17:58] They're fleeing violence.
Delaney: [00:18:00] For their families. They don't want to sit there and watch one child after another get killed. Anyone would leave that situation. So obviously we need comprehensive immigration reform like we almost had in 2013, that was a huge missed opportunity.
Knoy: [00:18:13] You were in Congress at that point.
Delaney: [00:18:14] I was in Congress. Greatest missed opportunity I think I've ever seen right in front of my eyes, not taken advantage of in my life. It passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis. It would have passed the House of Representatives if it ever got a vote and President Obama would have signed it into law. If that law had been passed, we would have spent tens of billions of dollars more on border security already. Because that was in the bill: smart border security, [it] would have created a pathway to legal status for the 11 million undocumented folks in our country, and we would have reformed our broken visa system. And we would have been just in a much better position or on immigration.
Knoy: [00:18:49] What does that really mean? Path to citizenship?
Delaney: [00:21:11] Well, under that bill what it means they would have to basically get to the back of the line. In other words, they'd have to register for citizenship, it would take them 13 years.
Knoy: [00:21:20] Yikes. That's a long time.
Delaney: [00:21:22] Yeah, but it's probably about right. They shouldn't get ahead of people who have actually been processing themselves legally. They have to basically be crime-free for the 13 years or they [will be] subject to being deported for committing a crime and they have to learn English. So it was a rigorous process, which I get, I understand, my grandparents came here as immigrants, one of my grandparents came here in 1923 with his seven brothers and sisters. He was almost deported because he only had one arm and we accept people with disabilities at the time.
Knoy: [00:21:52] And from what country? Just curious?
Delaney: [00:21:53] England. I'm threequarters Irish, one quarter English. He came with seven brothers and sisters, they were all let in. He was detained, scheduled for deportation, sent to Staten Island while he was waiting to be deported. His family got him an appeal and the appeal was held in front of a judge. And it just so happened that the judge also only had one arm and that's the only reason he let the little boy into the country.
Knoy: [00:22:16] What a story.
Delaney: [00:22:18] Yeah. And the judge told him to go make something of his life, which he did. You know, I get the struggle that so many immigrants have lived to come to this country through the legal immigration system. So I think it's appropriate that those folks who are here who are undocumented actually have a rigorous process. But it totally makes sense for us as a country to put them on a path to legal status.
Knoy: [00:22:43] So where does that 13 year wait take place? Because that's the key point.
Delaney: [00:22:48] They're granted temporary status while they wait 13 years. And again that was in that bill, there's other ways of doing, that was in the bill and that bill would be in my first hundred days.
Knoy: [00:22:58] As you know, conservative analysts say allowing the undocumented or illegal immigrants to stay undermines the credibility of our immigration system overall because you're basically sanctioning illegal behavior. What do you think about that point Congressman Delaney?
Delaney: [00:23:12] So that's an example of someone who puts ideology ahead of smart commonsense policy that's in the self-interest of the United States of America. And what I mean by that is, of course we should secure our borders, of course we should invest in kind of a border security regime so that everyone comes into this country legally. But that doesn't also mean, because we didn't do that for a long time and there are now 11 or 12 million undocumented residents in this country, that the right thing to do is to deport, them that's a terrible idea. It's terrible for the country economically, putting aside those [are] human beings. It's terrible for the country. What what some of these ideologues don't understand is the worst thing for a country is to have a shrinking population. You look at Russia, you look at Japan, you look at some of these countries in the world that don't welcome immigrants and are shrinking, it is a disastrous economic model. One of the great things about our country is that we still are growing.
Knoy: [00:24:14] Some people with this situation at the border, again the facilities down there are really straining, at capacity and well beyond. And some folks are saying down there, that part of the reason so many people are coming is because of this idea that they can get "amnesty" as soon as they come in.
Delaney: [00:24:34] I'm sure that is the case with some people right. I mean again like when we're talking about really big numbers, of course there's always going to be some examples of that. But in general we shouldn't allow ourselves to go down this path of these kind of ridiculous false choices. We should have a strong border and strong smart effective border security but then we should do what's also in our self interest which is to allow the undocumented residents in this country who are integral to our economy, at this point and to our communities, right? Many of these people are the fabric of many of our communities. We should create--and their law abiding, they're paying taxes--we should create a pathway for them to get legal status in our country.
Knoy: [00:25:19] Congressman Delaney, a couple of e-mails coming in, people asking questions about your health care plan which we talked about earlier. This base plan that everyone would get and the opportunity to buy supplementals which you described. BJ says "I don't buy my Medicare supplemental insurance because I 'want choices.' I buy because Medicare alone doesn't cover everything" BJ says "I want government sponsored, universal health care that covers everything like other first world countries have" BJ says "I lived in Canada for 10 years, had three babies there, one of whom needed surgery and never saw a bill. That's what we want. Good government health care brings down soaring drug and hospital costs and helps the people ." And then David says "It sounds to me that the quality of health care will be based on income. If you can afford health care, you're OK. But if not, your care will be limited. What happens to those who come down with a life-altering health problem and have limited income? Are they destined to die due to financial restrictions?" This gets the idea of under your plan, one could perceive it as a two tier system, everybody gets the base but those who can afford, buy these nice cushy supplementals.
Delaney: [00:26:26] My view is the base plan will be a very good plan. It will have kind of a benefit package that is similar if not identical to the minimum standards in the Affordable Care Act. And that's a good, solid, base package of health care where all your major medical needs are taken care of. Does that mean that some people won't buy supplementals to give them more options about which providers they can go to etc? Yes, that's what I envision in the plan. And the reason I'm laying out this plan the way I am is because I care so much about this issue. People who are promising a government-only plan, where every optionality is potentially covered. They have no chance of turning that into reality.
Knoy: [00:27:12] So partly this is a political calculation?
Delaney: [00:27:14] No, no, it's not political, it's just smart policy. We have ample evidence, 50 years of evidence to suggest that the government never pays enough. So there's no reason to ever believe that if we had a government-only payer, that it would pay enough. What people don't realize is if you look at Medicaid here in New Hampshire, one of the reasons Medicaid recipients in New Hampshire have such limited options is because New Hampshire Medicaid doesn't pay enough. Why? Because the taxpayers of the state of New Hampshire, don't want to pay more taxes to fund higher health care. And that is a true dynamic around this country. Medicare doesn't pay fully costs. I mean on average in a community hospital in this country, they get paid half from Medicare what they get from private insurance for the exact same procedure. So you have to make sure you maintain some private funding in the health care system.
Knoy: [00:28:12] Two more quick e-mails: Karen asks "would employers no longer provide health care benefits under this proposed plan?"
Delaney: [00:28:32] They would but they would provide it differently. So if you showed up to work, Karen, if you showed up at your employer you would have your basic government plan. And I suspect what your employer would do, is go negotiate a group supplemental plan using their buying power so that you then would have an option through your employer to purchase a supplemental plan at an attractive price. And the way the supplemental providers would work is very similar to the way they work with Medicare. They would basically merge the plans together and it would feel like you have one plan, because it would be administered by the Supplemental Provider, but whenever you have medical care, the bills would be paid through a combination of using your government insurance and your supplemental plan.
Knoy: [00:29:16] And by the way you have a background in health care.
Delaney: [00:29:18] My first company which I started from scratch and took public. And at the time, I was the youngest CEO in the New York Stock Exchange, focused on lending money to small to midsize health care companies, mostly rural hospitals, long term care providers, home health care companies. So in my business career, I lent money to over a thousand small to midsize healthcare companies. So I really understand how this business works from an economic perspective, particularly in rural America.
Knoy: [00:30:02] Let's talk about climate change Congressman Delaney and the Green New Deal specifically. Some have described this as a gift to Republicans, allowing them to paint Democrats as too far left, out of touch, hurting the economy. One Republican congressman said the Green New Deal would mean more ice cream because he said that it would ban dairy products. So all this sort of stuff is being said about the Green New Deal. What do you think about this Green New Deal as a vehicle for Democrats to present climate change as a problem?
Delaney: [00:30:33] So first of all I think what the Republicans saying are nonsense, they deny climate change exists so they have no credibility with me on this issue. Listen, I think it's created a lot of excitement around doing something big on climate and I think that's positive, I really do. I think my plan is a much better plan for addressing climate, you know, materially better and I'll tell you why. My plan has three components to it. First, a carbon tax: I introduce the only bipartisan carbon tax bill in the Congress. I believe, in my first year as president, I can get it passed with all the Democrats and Republicans who live in coastal states. And under my proposal we put a price on carbon. All the money that gets collected we give back to the American people in a dividend. It's been modeled to cut carbon emissions by 90%
Knoy: [00:31:19] So you're going to have to walk us through that, because people hear 'carbon tax' and they think "whoa that's going to hurt the economy. It's going to cost me more to fill a car, it's going to cost my power plant more to create [natural gas].
Delaney: [00:31:29] Nope. This is how it works. We put a price on carbon and it does raise energy prices, for fossil fuel related energies. And then we collect all the money in a lockbox and then we write a check back to the American people in a dividend. So it goes out one pocket and in the other. But it encourages people to change behavior.
Knoy: [00:31:50] Couldn't they just take that extra money that you just sent them and use it to buy more gasoline?
Delaney: [00:31:55] But the price of gasoline would be higher so they'd actually have an incentive to buy cars that are more fuel efficient. So what their incentive would be is to take the check that they have, use it for something else and do something to lower their energy costs.
Knoy: [00:32:12] That's the hope. Maybe they just use it to spend money on that more expensive gas? It cecomes a circle, you see what I'm saying?
Delaney: [00:32:20] But that's not really how it works. I mean there's evidence is how these things work because you create a financial incentive and human beings respond to financial incentives. So that's the first thing. And a carbon tax has been proven to work. When they don't work, it what happened with what France did.
Knoy: [00:32:35] So where were they proven to work?
Delaney: [00:32:38] Australia had them, many northern European countries have had them.
Knoy: [00:32:42] Had. Still have?
Delaney: [00:32:43] Yeah, they have. Nova Scotia has one that's actually very successful. I mean economists [like these]. When they don't work is what France did. So what France does they put a carbon tax in place and they took all the money and they used it to cut taxes for wealthy French people.
Knoy: [00:33:00] That's the reason for that protest movement just recently. Yellow vests.
Delaney: [00:33:03] That's obviously a horrible idea. The other way they don't work is like [how Governor Inslee tried to get one passed in Washington state, where he proposed a carbon tax but that the government would keep all the money invested in green energy projects. No one trusts the government to do that. So they only work if you put a price on carbon and you give money back to the American people. But that's first thing I do, that doesn't solve climate change but it slows it down. The second thing I would do is increase the investment in basic energy research by fivefold, a real moonshot around research. We spend $6 billion a year on research we should spend $30 billion. We fundamentally need new storage and transmission technologies, it we want to solve this problem. And I believe the American way of innovating our way out of the problem is what we ultimately have to do with climate. And the third thing I would do is create a market for something called "negative emissions technologies." These are machines that actually exist that suck carbon out of the air, filter it and pump it back in the earth. The problem is these machines are incredibly expensive and not of scale. What I've proposed is to take the five billion dollars that we currently give fossil fuel companies in tax breaks and use that money each year to create a market to basically buy carbon and encourage all this innovation to basically get these machines to scale so that they can actually be effective. And I think if we do that we'll actually save the world.
Knoy: [00:34:34] So speaking, purely politically, if you were the nominee I can hear the ads from the other side right now: "Congressman John Delaney is going to raise your cost of filling your gas tank. Congressman Delaney is going to raise the cost of you heating your house." You know I can see the ad with the little old lady sitting at home shivering because you know you've raised her fuel costs. Is that a winning strategy, that's what I'm asking
Delaney: [00:35:02] Yes, because I think what we'll show them is that your price at the pump is gonna go up but you'll get a check every year from this government lockbox, if you will, equal to more than your price of fuel went up. And by the way, you can take your check in cash or we'll put it into a retirement account, Health Savings Account or Educational Savings Account on your behalf which is a tax-free savings account.
Knoy: [00:35:28] Do you think people trust the government enough to say "that sounds like a good idea."
Delaney: [00:35:34] Yes.
Knoy: [00:35:35] That this check will actually arrive and it will actually go to all these programs.
Delaney: [00:35:39] Well the government can guarantee it. I mean people trust that their social security checks going to come. So I think they'll trust that this check is going to come because you basically structured in a way so that check is effectively guaranteed because you can model how much of the carbon tax is going to raise. We have to do something.
Knoy: [00:35:57] So back to our listeners Congressman Delaney, we could talk about Green New Deal, climate for another half hour for sure. Ray's calling in from Londonderry:
Caller: Ray from Londonderry: [00:36:14] Good morning. I'd like to ask the Congressman-- not that my background is important but I've been a lifelong Republican but in 2016 I was supporting, initially, Senator Jim Webb, formerly a senator from Virginia and I was a member of Veterans for Webb. But of course, he dropped out early, saying that the Democratic Party has just become too far left for him to be able to compete. And as I listen to Congressman Delaney, I find his ideas, many of them to be very good, something that I support. But my question is are are you 'left' enough in this primary season where everybody's trying to be more progressive next than the next one to have a chance at winning.
Knoy: [00:37:04] Ray, thank you so much for the question. I remember in past primaries the same question was posed to some Republican contenders: are you conservative enough to win a Republican primary? It's a great question Ray, thank you.
Delaney: [00:37:15] It's a really great question, Ray. And I think the answer is yes. And the reason I say that is as follows, I think as the primary becomes closer, because we're still pretty far, you know we're 11 months from the New Hampshire primary, first in the nation. I think the most important thing for Democrats will be beating Donald Trump. By any measure, that is going to be the number one criteria among Democrats. I think now that the Mueller report's over, now that we're in a country where the economy is doing reasonably well, I think it's pretty obvious that the way you beat Donald Trump is with a more moderate centrist candidate. And I think that will be obvious to everyone in the Democratic Party, when we get closer to the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary because I think people will appreciate that the president is going to turn out his voters and he's going to do a good job turning out Democratic voters. We don't need a candidate to turn out voters, we're going to turn out against Donald Trump so this election's going to be fought in the center.
Knoy: [00:40:07] You mentioned the Mueller investigation. You seem to indicate that it was time to move on but I would like to ask you what your reaction was last week when the Special Counsel released his report and the Attorney General gave us his summary?
Delaney: [00:40:21] Well, my my first reaction was that we need to see the report because, I think you know I have no reason not to trust the Attorney General but I've always believed and trust and verify. And I think every American should see this report. We're never going to be able to move on from this issue as a country unless there's full transparency. And I think the obstruction claim, if you will or case, if you will was obviously a very close call for Mr. Mueller and the Attorney General used discretion in his decision with respect to obstruction. And I think the American people deserve to see the facts themselves so that they can reach their own conclusion.
Knoy: [00:41:01] What facts do you feel are missing that you would like to see?
Delaney: [00:41:03] Well, I just think this has been such a controversial issue that it just demands complete transparency. But your question was how did it feel. Look, at some level I was happy, not only that the report came out but I was actually happy that the President of the United States did not actively collude with a foreign power. I think every American should be happy about that. So as it relates to the collusion case, if you will. I was pleased that the president did not collude with a foreign power. Do I think the president's behavior was presidential? Absolutely not. Do I think he did some unpatriotic things? Absolutely. Do I think the obstruction claim was obviously a close call? Yes. You can tell by the way the attorney general wrote his letter. So I just think we need this report to be out. The American people need to see it draw their own conclusions and then move on.
Knoy: [00:41:54] Where do you think Democrats in Congress, and on the presidential trail, should go from here in terms of what they do, what they say, how they talk about this? What would be your advice?
Delaney: [00:42:05] My advice is to focus on issues that matter to the American people: focus on pharmaceutical prices. Like I just rolled out a plan to dramatically lower pharmaceutical costs. That's what we should talk about. Focus on how we can deal with climate in a way that makes sense. You just asked me if my climate proposal is a politically viable. Well, my climate proposal has bipartisan support in the Congress. Yes, Republicans signed on to my carbon tax bill. Right. So that's the kind of stuff we should be talking about: how to improve health care, how to build infrastructure, how to improve public education.
Knoy: [00:42:36] So you'd advise Democrats to just move on from this thing?
Delaney: [00:42:39] Let's focus on the issues that the American people worry about at their kitchen table.
Knoy: [00:43:00] We had another candidate Tulsi Gabbard on last week and she said the number one reason she was running was to keep the U.S. out of what she called "wasteful regime change war." She felt very strongly about that and with her military background, she talked about how that informed her feelings. What do you think Congressman Delaney? What's your view of how involved the U.S. should be, in what Tulsi Gabbard called, "wasteful regine change wars?"
Delaney: [00:43:23] Well, I suspect every single Democrat running for the presidency believes we should not be engaged in regime change wars.
Knoy: [00:43:30] Although it often doesn't start out that way.
Delaney: [00:43:33] Yeah, they don't start out that way. They never do. Right. I mean although Iraq kind of did. So obviously regime change is not part of my foreign policy perspective. My foreign policy perspective is basically built on the post World War II model of U.S. engagement internationally, which is to work through an incredibly unique portfolio of allies unmatched by any country in the world -- no one has allies like we do-- to work through our allies diplomatically, economically, to actually build a world that is more peaceful and more secure. So my foreign policy is based on engagement, heavy engagement diplomatically and economically. One of the reasons I was supportive of for example the Trans-Pacific Partnership is that I believe it's incredibly important for us to have stability in the Asia-Pacific region for the United States to be engaged economically in Asia, which is what the Trans-Pacific Partnership did. So I generally prescribe to that theory that we should be actively working. when you're meeting with with foreign dignitaries, you should always have your diplomatic and economic team at the table because the best way to create a world that is peaceful and secure and not be engaged in wars all the time is to be engaged in other ways. And I think the United States has to get back to that. I think the current president doesn't value our allies. He engages in a one-off, transactional kind of relationships with different countries and he doesn't fundamentally understand that what the United States has done across the last 70 years, while it hasn't been perfect, and Iraq and Vietnam are good examples of big mistakes we've made, it has in general made the American people safer and more prosperous.
Knoy: [00:45:22] Well, when you talk about economic engagement and how that leads to positive relations, that's the whole basis for the European Union. You've made much though of your family's union background. You talk about how your father you know was a strong proud union man but you have been a supporter of trade deals as you just said Congressman Delaney. In the last presidential election both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders seemed to benefit from an anti-trade stance. Even Hillary Clinton, who had a record as a pro-trade person, dialed back her support for trade deals and on free trade and that was a struggle for her. What's your outlook then on this issue, in terms of the concerns about trade deals as expressed pretty strongly in the last election?
Delaney: [00:46:06] So my philosophy is to, if I could summarize it in a phrase, is to think globally but invest locally. So the problem wasn't that we entered into these trade deals. Sure, they could be better, they always could be better. The problem is that we forgot to invest in the communities that we knew would be left behind. So if you go to like some of these towns, Newton, Iowa was an example, where the Whirlpool plant left. Every single citizen in that town can tell you the day the plant closed. Every single citizen and we didn't do anything about it. So the decision to engage in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, is not the wrong decision, it's absolutely the right decision. We have to be engaged in the world. But what was a terrible decision, for example, was to cut our investment in infrastructure as a percentage of our economy in half across the last 50 years which is what we did.
Knoy: [00:47:05] So trade adjustment assistance?
Delaney:: [00:47:07] Yeah but that's not enough. That's not, that's just a rounding error.
Knoy: [00:47:12] That's been around for a while.
Delaney: [00:47:13] Yeah, but it doesn't work. It has to be something much more meaningful. I urged the Obama administration to pare their efforts to do the Trans-Pacific Partnership with a trillion dollar national infrastructure program. That's the kind of thing that works. Pair it with changes to the tax code to encourage people to invest in communities that are left behind. Pair it with changes to how we contract with government contractors to basically require 25% of government contractors to have half of their employees in places that are negatively impacted by global trade. Those are real solutions to transition the United States into a global economy so that huge parts of our country are not left behind.
Knoy: [00:47:57] Another question about workers left behind: you've called for a national strategy on artificial intelligence but, as I'm sure you know, Congressman artificial intelligence is also blamed for job loss and people fear that it may lead to more job loss, automation, robotics. There are some predictions that many blue collar and even some white collar jobs might be affected. There's a McDonald's halfway between Concord and where my mother lives that is partly automated now. You don't even have to talk to somebody, you just poke some buttons and stick your credit card in. So what's your plan to avoid that kind of job loss and potential economic disruption?
Delaney: [00:48:32] It's funny, I think I was at that McDonald's couple months ago. And I just walked in and one of my colleagues went to the restroom before we ordered and a gentleman walked in who was construction worker. You know, I could just tell by you know what he was wearing and he saw that kiosk and he looked at his buddy he goes "no way I'm touching that thing, that thing's taking away a job.
Knoy: [00:48:56] Ok but most people, or a lot of people are going to feel that way. There's a CVS that I go to when I know I have business in D.C. and there's two people who work there, the rest of it's all automated.
Delaney: [00:49:08] Look, automation is incredibly positive, it improves our lives fundamentally. But people are right to be worried, I mean some people think by 2030, 50 million jobs will be displaced or fundamentally changed because of automation and artificial intelligence.
Knoy: [00:49:19] Wow that's a big number. So what's your plan?
Delaney: [00:49:21] My plan is to prepare our country for it. We have to really prepare our country with changes in education, changes in workforce training, changes with tax policy to encourage investments. You know the thing about innovation: it has always created more jobs than it displaced, always across time. The problem is the jobs don't get created where they were taken away and they don't go to the people who lost their job.
Knoy: [00:49:48] That's right. We often use that example in New Hampshire, the mill worker isn't gonna be retrained to be a software engineer.
Delaney: [00:49:53] And that's where there's a role for the government A) to have a really strong safety net, B) to make sure we do affirmative things to create investments in those communities and C) to make sure their skills training to prepare people and give them the skills.
Knoy: [00:50:07] Oftentimes when people are dislocated, and I use the example of the mill worker here in New Hampshire, it's tough for them to get retraining. They're often in middle age, late middle age.
Delaney: [00:50:21] I agree with you. And that's why we have a strong safety net.
Knoy: [00:50:22] Sometimes people don't want to invest in these workers, even if they want to learn new skills. It's hard.
Delaney: [00:50:26] And that's why we hard that's why we have a strong safety net.
Knoy: [00:50:30] So what does that mean though? Does that mean that displaced worker stays home?
Delaney: [00:50:34] No. Listen there's there's lots of ways to deal with this issue. One way is to do something called double the Earned Income Tax Credit. TheEarned Income Tax Credit, which is a tax credit you get if you work, is the most successful antipoverty program in this country. If we were to double it, it would provide a lot more flexibility for people to engage in other jobs in their community that give them meaning and give them dignit, but don't maybe pay as much as they need. So it's a direct worker's tax credit. So I just think some people, they've at a stage in their life where it's going to be very hard to retrain them, but that doesn't mean there's other things they can't do there have huge value in their community, that they would get meaning out of. Oftentimes those those jobs don't have the same compensation as the job they lost, and that's why things like doubling the Earned Income Tax Credit, can make that transition easier. I mean there are real strategies to handle this stuff, using tax policy, using educational policy, using incentives for people to invest in communities that are having jobs displaced. But what we don't have in this country right now, is we don't have any strategy on any of that stuff. We're just letting the free market completely run its course and that's why I've called for a national strategy around this issue where the government, the private sector and the non-profit sector actually acknowledge that this is an issue.
Knoy: [00:51:58] And by 'this,' you mean workers dislocated from jobs.
Delaney: [00:52:00] That's right, talk about you know what where we want to be in 10 or 15 years and what are the affirmative policies we all do together? The government, the private sector and the non-profit sector to make this transition better for hardworking Americans. Because you can't stop change.
Knoy: [00:52:17] Especially those 50 million jobs you say are going to be dislocated.
Delaney: [00:52:21] Well, it's never the right answer to say to put the brakes on innovation. For example, climate change. The only way we're going to solve climate change is through innovation. So the answer to all of our problems is innovation but innovation comes with a cost as well. And that's why we have to actually really address it.
Knoy: [00:52:39] OK so speaking of costs, Congressman Delaney, you've talked about helping dislocated workers, you talked about bigger investments in our education system, you've talked about universal health care, you talked about a "moonshot" on climate change. The debt and deficit, as you know, are already through the roof. The highest level of public debt for the U.S. government ever. Also annual federal deficits are expected to average 1.2 trillion. How do feel about all this?
Delaney: [00:53:09] I have a plan. So everything I've told you, I have a plan to pay for it. See unlike the other candidates running who just promise stuff and have no plan to pay for it, I feel it's my responsibility. I wrote a book after I announced I was running for president. It's called "The Right Answer," it comes from a speech John F. Kennedy gave in 1958 where he said he shouldn't seek the Republican answer, shouldn't seek the Democratic answer, he should seek the right answer. And in the book I laid out you know all of the things I would do for all these issues. And the last chapter was my budget because I said listen if I'm going to promise the American people all the stuff, I'm going to show them how I'm going to pay for it.Just like when I talked about health care I had a plan to pay for all this stuff. So you know, I've got a plan to get our deficits down to 2% which is where they need to be. Because as long as our deficits are less than the rate of economic growth we're going to be just fine as a country. And there's a way to do that here. You wanna hear it?
Knoy: [00:53:58] Briefly.
Delaney: [00:53:59] Briefly. Well, it involves controlling health care costs because that's the biggest driver of spending and it involves tax policy that get our revenues up to about 19% of our economy -- and where they are right now is about 17.5%. Mostly there's a bunch of loopholes that have to be closed. The biggest loophole is the capital gains tax rate. We used to have to encourage people to invest so we created this lower capital gains rate. Now every single person who has any resources invests, we have super liquid markets, people are investing all the time. The fact that people who invest for a living pay half in a tax rate compared to those who work for a living is incredibly unfair.
Knoy: [00:54:33] That's a popular loophole though. Good luck getting that one closed.
Delaney: [00:54:36] Listen but it's terribly unfair because you know we have this tremendous concentration of wealth in this country and then we're allowing them to pay half as much tax.
Knoy: [00:54:45] I have to ask you one last question Congressman. And I do apologize for jumping in because I think you had more to say about how you pay for these programs but I have to ask you, as we discussed before, more than a dozen other Democratic candidates running as you know. At this point, I think were up to 15. How are you going to stand out Congressman?
Delaney: [00:55:01] Well, I think my background is very different. Right, I'm a blue collar kid, first family to go to college, was a successful entrepreneur, created thousands of jobs, youngest CEO on the New York Stock Exchange. And now I've rolled up my sleeves and served in the Congress of the United States. So I have kind of an unmatched set of expertise which I think makes me very, very different. I also think my message, which is about solving problems and actually finding common ground and getting things done and bringing this terribly divided nation back together again which I think is the central issue facing this country, I think that's not only exactly what our country needs at this moment in time and I don't think anyone else is running on that, but I also think it's how we win. And I think by the fall of this year, all Democrats are going to be focused on is how beat Donald Trump.
Knoy: [00:55:50] Well, this is a time when Democrats, many Democrats are excited about the diversity in their party, the diversity of these candidates.
Delaney: [00:55:56] Yeah, I am too.
Knoy: [00:55:57] I got an e-mail from Sophie who says "as a white, heterosexual male, what makes you more qualified than your more diverse/minority counterparts for president?" What do you think about this question, Congressman Delaney?
Delaney: [00:56:08] So what makes me more qualified, has nothing to do with the fact that I'm a white, heterosexual man. I think what's great about the Democratic field this time is that we represent America. I think what's great about the field is that me running as a white person has no advantage--which I would have had 30-40 years ago. But I do believe I'm the best leader. And I do believe that Democratic primary voters are going to nominate someone who they think is the best leader for our country and that has nothing to do with the color of my skin or my gender or my sexual orientation.