To find out how 2020 Democratic candidates would use their presidential powers to address different aspects of technology, we sent seven key questions to every campaign. This post includes five candidates’ answers to the fifth question. You can find answers to the other six questions on the landing page.
How, if at all, should tech companies be held responsible for the jobs they eliminate with their innovations?
Bernie Sanders: [I] will tell corporate America that artificial intelligence and robotics are not going to be used just to throw workers out on the street. This exploding technology must serve human needs, not just corporate profits. As president, [I] will require firms to convey shares to workers who are laid off due to offshoring or automation.
[I] will work to prevent workers from being displaced by automation in the first place. We will end tax breaks that encourage companies to replace American workers with robots. Trump’s recent tax bill expanded one of those tax breaks; we are going to close it.
[My] Corporate Accountability and Democracy plan would mandate that corporations with more than $100 million in revenue appoint workers to 45 percent of their board seats and issue 20 percent of the corporation’s stock to a worker-controlled fund. When workers have an ownership stake in their company and a say in the decisions that are made, they will not automate their own jobs to increase profits. When workers have more say in their workplace, they will be better able to balance increased productivity and work-saving technology and the interests of the workers that may be replaced.
But whether it is coal miners transitioning to jobs in a clean energy economy or manufacturing workers displaced by corporate greed and automation, [I] will protect workers and the communities in which they live. We will create a sustainable future for all and good-paying union jobs right here in America. We will ensure workers in transition have the opportunities, benefits, and supports they need to thrive. Job guarantees, job training, housing, pensions, health care, and more. No one will be left behind.
We will pass a federal jobs guarantee to ensure that those who work in industries likely to see major impacts of automation or innovation are able to work elsewhere. [I] will make public colleges, universities, and trade schools tuition-free to ensure all are able to get a higher education if they choose to pursue it. [My] Green New Deal will create 20 million jobs needed to save the planet. We will address the shortage of teachers and caregivers in this country. There is plenty of work to be done. We will ensure that work is done and that people are paid well to do it.
Elizabeth Warren: We need to pass my Accountable Capitalism Act. Among other things, it will require large companies to let workers elect board members. This will give workers more control over corporate decisions, including on introducing new technology and how affected workers are compensated.
I’ve also introduced a wealth tax on giant fortunes of more than $50 million to bring in the revenue we need to give every kid an opportunity to build a future by investing in universal child care, public education, universal free college, and student debt cancellation for 42 million Americans. I’ve introduced a Real Corporate Profits tax on the profits very large American companies report to their investors with no loopholes or exemptions. It will make our biggest and most profitable corporations pay more so they don’t get away with paying $0 in taxes ever again. We’ll use this money to invest in green research, manufacturing, and exporting — linking American innovation directly to American jobs.
Pete Buttigieg: Despite the fact that innovation has driven roughly half of all economic growth since World War II, new technologies that create new jobs can also disrupt or destroy old ones. As technological innovation continues to accelerate, the impacts may be broader and swifter than at other points in history. As a result, we must proactively adopt policies that not only ensure that America leads in the creation of new jobs and industries but that also make sure change works for all of us — not just a few.
First, because what you learn is often associated with what you can earn, we need to make sure that every student can develop basic digital and lifelong skills that are increasingly necessary for the new jobs of the future. That is why my Internet for All plan will ensure that every child — regardless of where they live or how much their parents make — can take full advantage of digital learning opportunities. And that’s why I will invest $500 billion to make college affordable for working and middle-class families.
Second, we need to ensure that there are appropriate safety nets in place for those whose jobs are disrupted by innovation, so that they can continue to lead productive and fulfilling lives. As technological transformations shift the nature of our job market, we must be able to provide adequate support and retraining to workers to ensure that American workers work in good jobs and earn a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. That is why my economic plan invests $50 billion in workforce training and lifelong learning — investing federal dollars into eight key programs so that incomes can grow for all workers, whether or not they have a college degree.
Third, when people do get jobs in the tech industry, companies must treat them fairly and be responsible for the workers they hire. I have proposed a bold agenda to tackle this problem, titled A New Rising Tide, which guarantees gig workers the right to unionize through codifying the “ABC” test, and cracks down on companies that misclassify workers as independent contractors. Tech companies should be partners in these policies, not barriers to them.
Tom Steyer: The American economy should reward innovation, ingenuity, and productivity. If our country, however, wants to generate sustained economic growth, we also have to provide opportunity, and ensure the health and welfare of the American worker. That means guaranteeing every American an education and a livable wage. It means providing workers with better and lower-cost health care, clean air and water, and retirement security. It also means that we are going to make a federal tax system that is more equitable, so Americans can fulfill their potential and live in dignity.
Michael Bennet: Companies have a responsibility to consider how their innovations will affect the workforce and society more broadly, and wherever possible, invest in training existing and future employees for jobs that will be available well into the future. At the same time, government needs to develop sensible, forward-thinking policy to harness innovations so that they lead to more jobs with better wages and working conditions, rather than fewer jobs with worse pay and conditions. At a minimum, government should invest far more in K-12 education, proven apprenticeships, community college, and other opportunities to gain the skills for good-paying jobs in the modern economy.
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