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Presidential Candidate Tom Steyer Says The Threat Of Climate Change Requires An Economic Overhaul

Gage Skidmor/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA)
Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer.

From Texas Standard:

Businessman Tom Steyer is among the eight remaining candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. With early voting beginning Feb. 18 in Texas, Steyer is turning his attention to the Lone Star State, and to the other states with Super Tuesday primaries on March 3.

Steyer made his fortune as a hedge fund investor. He is also an environmental activist who has donated money to many Democratic political candidates over the years. Steyer says addressing climate change while maintaining economic growth will require radical transformation.

"If we're going to actually move to clean energy, we're going to also have to rebuild affordable housing around this country. We're going to have to create public transportation. There is an enormous job ahead of us. It's going to create over 4.5 million good-paying union jobs across the country, including Texas," Steyer says.

To address a possible loss of jobs in the fossil fuel industry, Steyer says his climate plan includes protecting those workers "so that we will guarantee their wages, their health care and their retirement."

His plan allocates $50 billion for easing worker dislocation.

Steyer says he would address gun violence by requiring background checks for gun purchasers and requiring licenses for gun owners "just the way we license car owners." But, he opposes mandatory gun buyback programs.

"Like all rights of Americans, [the Second Amendment] comes into conflict sometimes with other rights," Steyer says.

Steyer would handle U.S.-Mexico relations differently than President Donald Trump. He advocates for a more collaborative approach to foreign policy that includes negotiation to protect American interests.

"Mr. Trump has a foreign policy that involves confrontation and escalations," Steyer says. "I think that for us to succeed, to make our country more prosperous and safer across the board, what we should be doing is working with other countries and negotiating really hard for Americans. But [also] understanding that long term, it's better for us if Mexico and America succeed together."

Steyer points to former President Barack Obama's nuclear deal with Iran as an example of foreign policy negotiation that he says resulted in a good agreement for both sides, despite the current adversarial nature of the U.S.-Iran relationship.

When it comes to immigration, Steyer also disagrees with Trump administration policy and says the U.S. should acknowledge and address the large population of undocumented people living here.

"I believe Mr. Trump is dealing with immigration on a racist basis," Steyer says. "And I believe that he has been breaking international law and the laws of humanity with the way he's treating people coming here seeking asylum."

Steyer says 12 million people without documents have lived in the U.S. an average 15 years. He would give these immigrants a path to citizenship.

To address the high number of people without health insurance, Steyer would offer a "public option" as part of the Affordable Care Act. He would also allow "anybody to join Medicare." He doesn't support a so-called Medicare for All plan that would end employer-based health insurance.

"My goal is to make the public option as part of the Affordable Care Act so cheap and so good that everybody who's got their health care through their employer goes to their employer and says 'Give me the money. I'll buy the public option and I'll get a raise,'" Steyer says.

Steyer says that despite his own wealth, he's an outsider who has spent the past 10 years "organizing coalitions of ordinary American citizens to take on unchecked corporate power." He says he believes reducing corporate influence in politics is what's needed to improve workers' wages and achieve his environmental goals.

"The energy always comes from the grass root," Steyer says. "The energy always comes from the outside."

Texas Standard has extended invitations to all of the remaining presidential candidates. Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared on the show in January.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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