Democratic Candidates on Poverty and Opportunity, 2016 Election

Click here for full transcripts of all debates, courtesy of the American Presidency Project.

Democratic Party Debate Schedule
October 13, 2015: Las Vegas, Nevada
November 14, 2015: Des Moines, Iowa
December 19, 2015: Manchester, New Hampshire
January 17, 2016: Charleston, South Carolina
February 4, 2016: Durham, New Hampshire
February 11, 2016: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
March 6, 2016: Flint, Michigan
March 9, 2016: Miami, Florida

Candidate statements on poverty & opportunity (alphabetical by last name):

Hillary Clinton
“At the center of my campaign is how we’re going to raise wages. Yes, of course, raise the minimum wage, but we have to do so much more, including finding ways so that companies share profits with the workers who helped to make them. … And I want to do more to help us balance family and work. I believe in equal pay for equal work for women, but I also believe it’s about time we had paid family leave for American families and join the rest of the world.” – Oct 13


“We can design a [paid family leave] system – and pay for it—that doesn’t put the burden on small businesses.” – Oct 13


“I have made very clear that hardworking, middle-class families need a raise, not a tax increase. In fact, wages adjusted for inflation haven’t risen since the turn of the last century, after my husband’s administration. So we have a lot of work to do to get jobs going again, get incomes rising again.” – Nov 14


“Of course we have to raise the minimum wage…and we’ve got to do more on equal pay for equal work. That means passing the Paycheck Fairness Act so we have transparency about how much people are making.” — Dec 19


“I want to be the president for the struggling, the striving and the successful…but I also want to create jobs and I want to be a partner with the private sector. I’m particularly keen on creating jobs in small business.” — Dec 19


“Out-of-pocket costs have gone up too much and prescription drug costs have gone through the roof. And so what I have proposed, number one, is a $5,000 tax credit to help people who have very large out-of-pocket costs to be able to afford those.” — Dec 19


“I don’t believe in free tuition for everybody. I believe we should focus on middle-class families, working families, and poor kids who have the ambition and the talent to go to college and get ahead. So I have proposed debt-free tuition, which I think is affordable and I would move a lot of the Pell Grant and other aid into the arena where it could be used for living expenses.” — Dec 19


“We’ve got to get back to where people can save money again, where they can invest in their families, and I don’t think a middle-class tax should be part of anybody’s plan right now.” — Dec 19


“We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population which is poor in many ways and majority African American has been drinking and bathing in lead contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care. He had request for help and he had basically stone walled. I’ll tell you what, if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would’ve been action.” — Jan 17


“Really systemic racism in this state, as in others, education, in employment, in the kinds of factors that too often lead from a position where young people, particularly young men, are pushed out of school early, are denied employment opportunities. So, when we talk about criminal justice reform, and ending the era of mass incarceration, we also have to talk about jobs, education, housing, and other ways of helping communities.” — Feb 4


“I particularly appreciate the proposal that Congressman Jim Clyburn has — the 10-20-30 proposal — to try to spend more federal dollars in communities with persistent generational poverty. ” — Feb 4


Bernie Sanders
“The middle class of this country for the last 40 years has been disappearing. Millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, and yet almost all of the new income and wealth being created is going to the top one percent.” – Oct 13


“The middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living I poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. …Enough of the [Clinton email scandal]. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.” – Oct 13


“In my view, what we need to do is create millions of jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure; raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; pay equity for women workers; and our disastrous trade policies, which have cost us millions of jobs; and make every public college and university in this country tuition free.” – Oct 13


“If we want to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, workers are going to have to come together and look the Republicans in the eye and say, ‘We know what’s going on. You vote against us, you are out of your job.’” – Oct 13


“This is a great country, but we have many, many serious problems. We should not be the country that has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country and more wealth and income inequality than any other country.” – Oct 13


“I’m running for president, because as I go around this nation, I talk to a lot of people, and what I hear is people’s concern that the economy we have is a rigged economy. People are working longer hours for lower wages, and almost all of the new income and wealth goes to the top one percent.” – Nov 14


“In the last 30 years, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth…The problem is, this redistribution has gone in the wrong direction. Trillions of dollars have gone from the middle class and working families to the top one-tenth of one percent who have doubled the percentage of wealth they now own.” – Nov 14


“I want to end the international embarrassment of the United States of America being the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege.” – Nov 14


“Wages have declined precipitously over the years. So I believe that, in fact, this country needs to move toward a living wage. It is not a radical idea to say that if somebody works 40 hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty. It is not a radical idea to say that a single mom should be earning enough money to take care of her kids. So I believe that over the next few years, not tomorrow, but over the next few years, we have got to move the minimum wage to a living wage, 15 bucks an hour.” – Nov 14


“Every issue that I’m talking about – paid family and medical leave, breaking up the banks on Wall Street, asking the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour – every one of those issues is supported by a significant majority of the American people.” – Nov 14


“I want kids to know that if they study hard, they do their homework, regardless of the income of their families, they will in fact be able to get a college education because we are going to make public colleges and universities tuition-free.” – Nov 14


“For a start, [the very rich] are going to start to pay their fair share of taxes. Second of all what we do is raise the minimum wage to a living wage, 15 bucks an hour over the next several years. Next thing we do, pay equity for women workers. Women should not be making 79 cents on the dollar compared to that.” — Dec 19


“Why is it that we spend almost three times per capita [on health care] as what they spend in the U.K., 50 percent more than what they pay in France, countries that guarantee health care to all of their people and in many cases have better health care outcomes?” — Dec 19


“It is insane to my mind: hundreds of thousands of young people today, bright qualified people, cannot go to college because their families cannot afford to send them. My proposal is to put a speculation tax on Wall Street, raise very substantial sums of money, not only make public colleges and universities tuition-free, but also substantially lower interest rates on student debt.” — Dec 19


“What [my proposal] is is $1.61 a week. Now, you can say that’s a tax on the middle class. It will provide three months paid family and medical leave for the working families of this country. I think, Secretary Clinton, $1.61 a week is a pretty good investment.” — Dec 19


“We’re not going to tear up the Affordable Care Act. I helped write it. But we are going to move on top of that to a Medicaid-for-all system.” — Jan 17


“But today in America, we are the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people, that doesn’t guarantee paid family and medical leave. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on earth. We are seeing millions of families unable to send their kids to college in the United States of America.” — Jan 17


“So when you have childhood African-American poverty rates of 35 percent, when you have youth unemployment at 51 percent, when you have unbelievable rates of incarceration — which, by the way, leaves the children back home without a dad or even a mother — clearly, we are looking at institutional racism.” — Feb 4


Former Candidates

Martin O’Malley
“What I’m talking about is this: our middle class is shrinking. Our poor families are becoming poorer, and 70 percent of us are earning the same or less than we were 12 years ago.” – Oct 13


“I want to associate myself with many of the items that [Sanders] mentioned, and I actually did them in our state. We raised the minimum wage, passed the living wage, invested more in infrastructure, went four years in a row without a penny’s increase in college tuition.” – Oct 13


“This was not merely theory in Maryland. We actually did it. Not only were we the first state in the nation to pass a living wage. We were the first to pass a minimum wage. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which hardly ever says nice things about Democratic governors anywhere, named our state number one for innovation and entrepreneurship.” – Nov 14


“All through the recession, we defended the highest median income in America and the second highest median income for African American families. How? By actually doing more for education. We increased education funding by 37 percent.” — Dec 19


“My [college affordability] plan actually goes further than Senator Sanders because a big chunk of the cost is actually room and board and books and fees. So as a nation we need to increase what we invest in Pell grants.” — Dec 19


“There’s one big entitlement that we can longer afford as a country, and that is the entitlement that the super wealth among us, those earning more than a million dollars, feel that they’re entitled to pay lower income tax rates and a far lower preferred income tax rate when it comes to capital gains.” — Dec 19