Even though the midterm elections are still over two weeks away, the 2020 presidential race has already begun. And California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris is kicking off her candidacy with a bang.
The former California Attorney General was in South Carolina — home to an early presidential primary — and she didn’t mince words in her criticisms of Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress.
But before going to South Carolina she dropped a bombshell on the 2020 race when she came out with a unique proposal to give every working family in America a $6,000 income tax credit.
In South Carolina she harshly criticized Republican attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and blasted the Republican tax law as a giveaway to the rich. Instead of repealing and replacing Obamacare, Harris proposed that we repeal and replace the GOP tax law that was a $1.5 trillion windfall for large corporations and the super-rich.
The proposal from Harris, which other Democrats support, would eliminate last year’s tax cuts and instead put the money into government-guaranteed cash for low- and middle-income households.
Rep. Ro Khanna of California explained the plan this way:
“The idea was to provide a clear contrast with Donald Trump. You know what you could actually do with this money? You could give anyone making under $75,000 a raise.”
In making this proposal Harris is positioning herself as the champion of the working Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. She — like other Democrats — want to contrast their approach to the programs of Trump and the GOP which favor billionaires.
Democrats have been trying to find new, bold ideas to energize their electorate, and this proposal might do the trick. Harris’s proposal would benefit an estimated half of American workers, according to the senator’s office.
“There’s all kind of evidence that voters are not looking for incremental solutions,” said Adam Ruben, campaigns director at the Economic Security Project, a liberal think tank that has pushed the idea. “They’re looking for a big vision of how to pick up all the people who have been left behind in this economy.”
Harris’ plan would create a new tax credit of $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for joint filers. Money could be received in a lump sum after filing their annual tax return or in monthly installments, which would help reduce reliance of the poor on payday lenders who charge astronomical interest rates.
It would be a refundable tax credit which means workers would receive it even if they don’t owe any taxes. People earning up to $100,000 would be eligible.
The cost of this type of program would be about the same as the cost of the Republican tax law that was passed last December. It would be rejected by Republicans, so for it to pass would require that Democrats retake power in Washington.
But according to Ruben the Democratic Party will need fresh thinking to connect with voters in 2020 and to stimulate turnout to beat Donald Trump if he runs for reelection.
“People want to feel the confidence that someone is going to fight for them and push for big changes and not let classic Washington gridlock or the constrained sense of what is acceptable in politics get in the way,” Ruben said.
He may be right. And if he is, Kamala Harris has now positioned herself as the person who will fight for the big changes that people want.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.