By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com
When you watch Elizabeth Warren at her rallies, you don’t get the feeling she is doing this for her own ego, for her own advantage. Her own situation is so far passed the stress she had as a young person, when her father, a janitor, got sick and her mother had to go out and support the family on a minimum wage job at Sears, or when she attended the only community college she could afford, She’s well passed being a special education public school teacher, and even the prestigious job of a Harvard law professor and could easily sail through being a US Senator without the superhuman tension of being the Leader of the Free World. She would not personally benefit from any of the proposals she is fighting for, except that they would make the country stronger, healthier, happier, more prosperous, and restore its moral compass so badly misdirected by a president who regards the Constitution as having as much force as a suggestion, who separates families, puts children in cages, launches illegal assassination, pardons war criminals, and advances economic policies that exacerbate the inequality between rich and poor.
As one young woman said walking into the Kings Theater in Brooklyn where Warren was going to campaign with Julian Castro for the first time, “You feel hope. You feel she is speaking to you.”
Her smarts come through, even as she makes jokes and makes fun of herself (“When you have to number your husbands, not a good thing.” “Are you sensing a pattern here?” she says as she relates how her quest to get a college education or hold a job was interrupted by pregnancy and raising a baby. And you must hear her story about the toaster to appreciate how she got the idea for the Consumer Financial Protection Board, which boils down to the idea that government regulation is needed to protect consumers and like with product safety, financial security should also have consumer protection, and level the playing field for enterprises that seek to implement socially responsible, environmentally sustainable practices.)
Not surprisingly, among the reams of specific plans she has come out with, from universal health care to public education to environmental justice, to immigration reform, Warren, who notes that she spent 45 minutes as a lawyer after getting her degree, but as a Harvard law professor, taught everything to do with finance, has come out with specific plan to re-write the bankruptcy law.
At her rally at the grand historic Kings Theater in Brooklyn, in front of an audience of over 3,000 (another 1500 outside who couldn’t be admitted), Senator Warren went through her biography, her resume, and managed to digest down to three key points the sum-total of a bold progressive remaking of America – attack corruption; structural change in the economy; protect democracy – that comes down to “making government work for everyone,” and, as Julian Castro said, putting the American Dream back within reach of ordinary people.
Julian Castro, the former HUD Secretary under Obama who had just abandoned his own presidential bid and immediately endorsed Warren, made this plain, describing her as someone who has overcome adversity, understands what ordinary people need and more significantly, understands the structural forces that contribute to inequality and the undoing of democracy:
“She’s a fighter because she has also struggled and lived that American dream. Elizabeth Warren grew up the daughter of a janitor. She grew up to become a public school teacher. And a law professor. And a United States Senator. And a champion for consumers everywhere in this country.
“She knows what sacrifice is like after her father had a heart attack, her mom had to take a minimum wage job at Sears to make ends meet. She understands because she’s listened to people for many years, throughout this country. She’s heard their calls for change. She’s heard about their dreams and their aspirations for themselves and for their families and communities and for our country. She’s a fighter because she knows that too often times today the deck is stacked against people who just want a shot at reaching their dreams. She knows that too often today in Washington, the power goes to special interests who can afford big lobbyists and lawyers to write in special provisions and legislation. She knows that we need to get big money out of politics.
“She knows that we need to give the people the powerful — the power and not the powerful the biggest voice. And let me tell you something, I don’t have to guess what kind of President she’s going to be, because I’ve seen firsthand what kind of the senator she is…
“She was there to know what we were gonna do to invest in communities that were hurting. She is a fighter for people who need a voice.
“She’s a fighter for everyday Americans that simply want a shot. So I know that that’s the kind of president that she’s gonna be.”
In the video Castro made announcing his endorsement of Warren, he said, In the video announcing his endorsement, Secretary Castro said: “There’s one candidate I see who’s unafraid to fight like hell to make sure America’s promise will be there for everyone. Who will make sure that no matter where you live in America or where your family came from in the world, you have a path to opportunity too. That’s why I’m proud to endorse Elizabeth Warren for president.”
Warren came to the stage, embraced Castro, and immediately opened with her concern about Trump orchestrating a war in Iran, and reaching out to the “brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico who need help” after devastating series of earthquakes, and should get the federal help the island was denied after Hurricane Maria.
She renewed her charge that government works great for Big Pharma but not for people needing to fill prescriptions; for giant oil companies, but not for the rest of us who realize the existential risk that climate change poses. (Just this week, the Trump Administration is seeking to eliminate environmental restrictions on building pipelines or drilling).
“If there is a decision to be made, it’s made by Big Money,” she declared. “The middle class is being hollowed out.”
“To fix this, we can’t just nibble at the edges. We need big structural change. And I have a plan for that.”
Indeed, she has already released a score of detailed plans, including how she would battle corruption in government. “I have the biggest anti-corruption plan since Watergate; I will end lobbying as we know it. Make the Supreme Court play by the basic rules of ethics. Make everyone who runs for federal office put their tax returns on line. Attack the corruption head on. Disrupt the inflow of money into politics. It is time for a president to enforce the anti-trust laws.”
She also is advocating for “an ultra-millionaire” wealth tax, prompting chants of “Two Cents. Two Cents” – the amount of tax she would impose after the first $50 million of net worth (6% on amounts over $1 billion) – that is the top one tenth of one percent of the country who would fall into this category. That money, she insists, would pay for scores of programs needed to restore equal opportunity, from universal child care, to universal pre-K, to erasing student debt (big cheers).
So the first part of her vision is to attack corruption that disrupts the stranglehold on government that money in politics plays, so we can fight back against score of big issues that have languished: climate change, gun safety
The second element is structural change in the economy – and on this, she has proposed a score of changes including tax reform, a living wage, changing the rules for mortgages and rentals and bankruptcy, investing in a Green New Deal and affordable housing.
The third element is protecting democracy.
“I will seek a Constitutional amendment to protect the right to vote and to get every vote counted; a law banning political gerrymandering (applause); to roll back every racist voter suppression law (big cheers), to overturn Citizen United (cheers of “Warren, Warren, Warren.).
And that’s what brought her to toasters.
“I think about toasters,” she turns and with a sly smile, says, “You are surprised?”
“When I was a young mother, toasters could burn down houses – they didn’t turn off. Ask me how I know,” (she again has that sly smile). Then along comes the Consumer Product Safety Board. Manufacturers were forced to put in safety switches.
“In the early 2000s, mortgages were so complex, dangerous that there was a one in five chance of a family losing their home through foreclosure. The federal government was not on the side of the people’s, but was deep in the pocket of banks, preying on the young, farmers, seniors, They crashed the economy.
“So I had the idea for an agency like the toaster agency, so that you can’t cheat people.
“People said, ‘You can’t make a difference. Don’t even try. You can’t get it done.
“Big structural change is hard, but the right thing to do,” she said applying the lesson of having created the Consumer Financial Protection Board (chants of “CFPB”, “CFPB”) to take on Wall Street, which Obama signed into being in 2010. Since then, she said, more than $12 billion in ill-gotten gains from financial companies has been returned to consumers.
“We can make government work for people,” she said.
But, she said with an air of warning to those who would back a moderate candidate believing a moderate would have the best chance at defeating Trump in 2020, “We need big ideas to inspire people, to vote, to bring their friends out to vote, to tell the world who and what Democrats will fight for. To take back the Senate and put Mitch McConnell out of a job,” she declared, bringing the audience of 3000 to its feet with its loudest cheers.
“We need big ideas and be willing to fight. But if we give up big ideas, if we only offer business as usual, Democrats will lose.
“I’m not running to appease big donors – I passed that stop sign a long time ago. This campaign is from the heart. 2020 is our moment. We will fight for a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and a 2 cent wealth tax.”
Before coming to Brooklyn, Warren had held 199 town halls across the country and traveled to 29 states and Puerto Rico. She had taken over 100,000 selfies since the beginning of the campaign (20,000 of them in Washington Square Park, posing until midnight). She took her 100,000th selfie in Manchester, Iowa the Saturday before coming to Brooklyn. She had visited the boroughs of New York City and Queens and now Brooklyn. By the end of the Brooklyn event, with enthusiastic supporters lined up throughout the Kings Theater and down the street, Warren would have added some 3,000 more selfies to her total.
Outside the theater, a score of volunteers on every street corner were collecting signatures to meet the required 40,000 by January 21 deadline to be on New York’s ballot. The New York primary is April 28.
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