I have long been an admirer of Elizabeth Warren.
She first became nationally known as a member of academia shining a light on the problems that America's middle and lower classes have faced. Among the books she has authored, the one that got her known by some of the general public was The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke.
Warren and her daughter Amelia Tyagi wrote The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke. In the book they point out that a fully employed worker today earns less inflation-adjusted income than a fully employed worker did 30 years ago. Although families spend less today on clothing, appliances, and other forms of consumption, the costs of core expenses such as mortgages, health care, transportation, and child care have increased dramatically. The result is that even with two income earners families are no longer able to save and have incurred greater and greater debt.
And Warren did a great deal of research into bankruptcy laws and became a noted authority as a law professor at various universities. Although she is now known as a liberal populist, she was originally a staunch Republican, once believing that for example, people filing for bankruptcy were little more than deadbeats. As she explored more, she concluded that almost all of these people were victims of an economy and poorly conceived financial laws that were stacked against them. From then, she eventually became a Democrat and dedicated herself to being a watchdog for the lower and middle classes.
It doesn't appear that Warren originally had any ambitions for an elected office. But because of her efforts to champion the causes of the little guy battling against corporations and financial institutions, President Obama appointed her to help form a new agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama then made the next natural move which was to announce that Warren would be the agency's first Director.
Republican and various business interests put up a great deal of resistance, with the Republicans vowing that she would never be approved by the Senate causing Obama to withdraw the nomination. The plan was to relegate her to obscurity, hopefully never to be bothered by her again.
That backfired - big time! Back in Massachusetts where she lived, Republican Senator Scott Brown was up for reelection after previously winning the late Senator Ted Kennedy's seat in a special election. The Democratic Party persuaded her to run. A video of a 2011 speech circulated around the Internet with a magnificent speech to start her run.
There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. ... You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
It was an election race that was followed throughout the country. Brown had all the money that corporate America could muster against her. Did she have a chance? As it turned out, she won by a relatively comfortable 7 percentage points. Now she gets to regularly torment the same people who tried to get rid of her on her Senate seat on the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
Many wanted Warren to run for president in 2016. Perhaps not wanting to battle Hillary Clinton who many perceived to be the presumptive nominee, she declined. Instead, Bernie Sanders decided to run to represent the more liberal wing of the party. At age 66, this was thought to be her last chance if Clinton was elected to serve a pair of 4 year terms - as many expected. But Donald Trump scored an improbable upset victory.
So Warren will get a crack at the presidency at age 70 against the incumbent Donald Trump. Running against an incumbent president can be a tall order. But with Trump's record unpopularity in his poll numbers, about a couple dozen Democrats - including Bernie Sanders are vying for the nomination.
Warren decided to go against the grain and immerse her campaign over the issues. Her campaign stops were about all issues, all the time. She came up with almost countless and well thought out plans for seemingly every issue under the sun. It got to the point where "I have a plan for that" bordered on self-parody.
Warren’s Policy Proposals
Warren’s Policy Proposals
Of course, this appeals to policy wonks like me. But I have to wonder about some of the other candidates who offer much less in the way of specific policy solutions. How can someone envision him or herself as a future president without already having created a lot of ideas on how they can solve the problems they will certainly encounter?
With only Warren (along with Sanders) refusing large donations from Wall Street, it appeared that she would be at a permanent disadvantage against her rivals. And indeed, she started slowly. But her plain authenticity and dogged determination to passionately focus on plans to fix America has begun to pay off and at the time of this posting, she is second or third in the various polls behind Joe Biden.
Her passionate liberal populism is gaining her support. But Democratic voters have to solve the question of who has the best chance to defeat Trump in 2020. Some say that a moderate (or centrist) has the best chance in a general election. But moderates seem to have trouble getting a passionate following and can underperform like for example, Hillary Clinton in 2016. Like him or hate him, one must agree that Trump has a passionate (but relatively small) following. Although Warren may be too liberal for some Democratic tastes, she also unarguably has a passionate following.
So many ask what is the point of all of the plans if Senate Republicans are able to block most or all of them. It is accurate to say that just about every bit of social progress we have made in our history was at one time considered impossible. Think of women getting the right to vote, legalizing marijuana, or gay marriage to name a few examples. It takes time but somebody first has to get the ball rolling to have any chance of success.
Of all of plans she has, perhaps the most problematic is her (and Bernie Sanders') version of Medicare for All which advocates for switching all private insurance to public Medicare insurance. This is a tough sell to people who already have private insurance through their employers. This will undoubtedly lead to pushback from not only Republicans and the insurance industry but also many Democrats!
But there is another side to the argument. Conservative Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle had these surprising (for her) comments on Warren's plan in a recent op-ed Elizabeth Warren had better hope voters want radical honesty:
Piecemeal reforms that don’t touch employer insurance, or don’t touch it much, may modestly expand coverage. But they won’t fix everything else that’s broken in the current system — and for that reason, the piecemeal reforms would probably be too expensive to pass.
So if you’re serious about creating a European-style health-care system, then you have to be serious about abolishing private insurance.
Call it high risk, high reward. Warren is calling for major government changes. Go big or go home. I will conclude with these remarks to open her 2020 presidential campaign:
It won't be enough to just undo the terrible acts of this administration. We can't afford to just tinker around the edges – a tax credit here, a regulation there. Our fight is for big, structural change. This is the fight of our lives. The fight to build an America where dreams are possible, an America that works for everyone!