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Not every candidate running for the Democratic Party nomination in the 2020 presidential election makes the debate stage and many good policy ideas miss out on the daily cable news spin cycle — but it is not for a lack of trying. CNBC.com is interviewing presidential candidates this summer to gain insight on their vision and how it can impact the economic outlook for 37% of the 2020 electorate: Millennials and Gen Z.
Set to be the first American generations to be worse off than their parents, facing the threat of climate change, and struggling with how to pay for college, money matters matter to young voters in this election. This series is dedicated to giving every single candidate a platform to share their economic vision for America with the voters — and find out whether they prefer Hulu or Netflix.
Experience: Current U.S. Congressman for the 6th District of Massachusetts; United States Marine Corps (four tours in Iraq); former managing director of the Texas Central Railway, private high-speed rail company
Education: Harvard University, Bachelor of Arts in Physics (2001); Harvard master's degrees in business and public policy;
Family: Married (Elizabeth); children (Emmy, almost 1)
CNBC: According to a Harvard Institute of Politics poll, 53% of young voters (18-29) believe the government should do more to curb the effects of climate change even if it comes at the expense of the economy. What is one specific way your administration would give a competitive advantage to greener businesses and consumers?
Moulton: One of the first things that I would do for climate change is inaugurate my program for Federal Green Corp which would be a climate change national service program and would call on all 33 million young Americans to serve the country and some of them in an AmeriCorps city or other national service programs. But the idea of that Federal Green Corps is that it would put young Americans to work making our country more energy efficient and more climate resilient. That's a great way to bring Americans together and it is one of the best parts of national service. It's a great way to help with education because if you do one to three years of this program, you'll get a federal education guarantee modeled after, after the G.I. Bill. Further, it will help prepare young Americans for the new economy because they'll be working on issues that are critical for the green economy.
CNBC: According to Morning Consult, Amazon is Gen Z's fourth-most loved brand. However, politicians from Donald Trump to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have attacked the brand. Is there a disconnect between leaders and young voters surrounding tech companies?
Moulton: Well, there's definitely a disconnect when the United States Senate cannot understand how Facebook works. That's one of the reasons why I'm in this race! Tech regulation, the tech economy, it's critical to our future and we can't have a government that's totally out of touch. Specifically for Amazon, I love Amazon, I use Amazon, but I think Amazon should pay more in taxes than I do personally; right now that's not the case.
CNBC: The Parkland Students have changed the way Americans discuss gun control. In the wake of mass shooting after mass shooting, would you support a federal buyback program for guns (and if so how would you pay for it)?
Moulton: Yes, I support a federal buyback program and in fact I helped implement one in Iraq. I am one of the only candidates in this race who has actual experience, not only having to use guns for my job, but with controlling and implementing gun reform on the ground. There are a lot of ways to to pay for a gun buyback program like this, but the bottom line is it's a good investment for our country because taking guns off the street improves public health. Gun reform is important because guns are a public health issue. Every time there is an instance of gun violence, it costs America a lot of money, not just lives but money. That's how you pay for the program. The program will pay for itself many times over.
CNBC: Currently, Americans have $1.5 trillion in outstanding college debt. What is a more realistic option: cancelling student debt or making college tuition free?
Moulton: The harsh reality here is that neither is realistic. I know young voters don't like to hear that, but I think young voters deserve the truth. Lack of access to affordable higher education is a real problem in this country and so is the student debt crisis. In my administration, nobody in America will pay more than 10% of their income on student loans, and if you still have loans after 20 years, there'll be forgiven completely. For the families that have the resources to pay for college right now, I don't think all the rest of us should be making their college free with our tax dollars. And we can't forget that 50% of America does not graduate from college. Spending trillions of dollars on free college for the top 50% is not good enough for the whole country.
CNBC: According to Gallup, 4/10 Americans embrace some form of socialism. Do you think this is a realistic vision for the future of the American economy?
Moulton: No, it's UNAMERICAN. I appreciate the debate and there are some policy lessons to be learned from socialist countries. For example, they generally have better access to health care. However, America's not a socialist country. We're a country that thrives on freedom. We thrive on competition. What we need to do is make sure that we have fair markets that remain free, not markets controlled by the government.
Netflix or Hulu: Hulu
Apple Music or Spotify: Spotify
Who is on your music playlist: Zac Brown Band
What was your first job? Soccer referee and I was 13-years-old
What was your college major? Physics
Favorite TV Show: "This is Us"
What is the best financial advice you have ever gotten from your parents? I think the example that they set for us was that education is a good investment.
If you were a Gen Z individual entering the workforce, what sector would you enter and why? I would enter the green economy because I think we have a huge opportunity to grow the American economy while also addressing climate change if we are the country that developed all the new technologies to sell to the rest of the world.
Should marijuana be legalized nationally? Yes or no only! Absolutely.
Editor's note: The interview with Seth Moulton was transcribed in full and edited for clarity.