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 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: Former congressman from Maryland's 6th District (2013–19); co-founder of Health Care Financial Partners; founder of CapitalSource
Education: Columbia University, bachelor's degree (1985); Georgetown Law, JD (1988)
Family: Married (April), four daughters
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?
Delaney: My proposal is to create a carbon fee and dividend, which is modeled after the legislation that I introduced in Congress. It was the only bipartisan bill on climate change in Congress, by the way. This puts a fee on carbon, which makes fossil fuels more expensive and less attractive, and it takes all the money generated from these fees, $3 trillion over 10 years, and gives it back to the American people in the form of a dividend. So in many ways it increases energy costs related to fossil fuels, which makes us use less fossil fuels. It takes all the money associated with those increases in energy cost and it gives it right back to the American people. So it goes out one pocket and in another. And what's good about that is as a market mechanism to address climate change, which has been proven to work in Columbia University's model, this proposal would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 92%.
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?
Delaney: Yes, I think the problem with politics these days is, people just want to make villains as opposed to solving problems. Obviously, we're off in a world where these technology companies have been allowed to go around things in society that they don't like. For a lot of young voters, these technology companies have been enabling a way of communicating and way of interacting and a way of doing commerce that is very important to them. A lot of out-of-step politicians seem to think that these technology companies are all bad.
There are definitely problems with technology companies, mostly around privacy, in my opinion, and the fact that they don't protect our privacy and we haven't passed privacy laws. But I think politicians underestimate how these companies have fundamentally changed people's lives in ways that are pretty extraordinary. I think younger voters really only grew up in a world where they knew these things.
I think there's a disconnect between political leaders and young voters around a lot of things related to the private sector. For example, a lot of politicians continue to attack big banks. While I'm not a defender of big banks, my sense is younger voters have had generally pretty good experiences with banks. They've invested heavily in technology platforms, and they're pretty easy to use. Most young voters have had no bad experience with big banks related to their day-to-day banking services. So there's another example.
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)?
Delaney: I'm not against the buyback program, but I think the best thing we can do in the short term to make a difference is to have universal background checks. We should put limitations on high-powered assault weapons and also pass more red flag laws which allow law enforcement and the judicial system to actually take guns from people with mental illnesses who have posed a significant threat to themselves or society.
CNBC: Currently, Americans have $1.5 trillion in outstanding college debt. What is a more realistic option: canceling student debt or making college tuition free?
Delaney: Well, the more realistic option of those two is to make public tuition free as part of a national service program. So I think there's a potential to make tuition free at public universities as part as young people doing national service. I think that is the most realistic option.
CNBC: According to Gallup, 4 in 10 Americans embrace some form of socialism. Do you think this is a realistic vision for the future of the American economy?
Delaney: No, in its pure form, absolutely not, but I also think these terms don't mean much to most Americans, because the truth of the matter is, we're a free market economy that has strong social programs, and that's really the model of the United States of America. I don't think we need to throw out that model. I think we need to reaffirm it, updated for the world we live in.
Netflix or Hulu: Netflix
Apple Music or Spotify: Apple Music
Who is on your music playlist? Bruce Springsteen
What was your first job? Landscaper
What was your college major? Double major in biology and English
Favorite TV show: Star Trek
What is the best financial advice you have ever received from your parents? Save a little bit every week.
If you were a Gen Z individual entering the workforce, what sector would you enter? Energy
Should marijuana be legalized nationally? Yes or no only! I think the federal government should remove it from Schedule 1 and then the legalization question is up to the states.
Editor's note: The interview with John Delaney was transcribed in full and edited for clarity.