Elizabeth Warren: ‘Who does this government work for?’

Little Village is posting videos of all 19 speeches made by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration in Cedar Rapids, so readers can hear each candidate in his or her own words.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts speaking at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration in Cedar Rapids, June 9, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Sen. Elizabeth Warren took the stage at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame celebration to the same music she’s used ever since announcing her run for president in February: “9 to 5.” The song is upbeat — just the thing to get a crowd pumped up — but Dolly Parton’s lyrics are about unfair treatment most Americans would find familiar. “Barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’ / They just use your mind and they never give you credit,” Parton sings.

That combination of upbeat but critical has been a signature of Warren’s campaign.

“Right now in America, there’s a lot that’s broken, there’s a lot that’s wrong, there’s a lot that we need to fight back against, but I come to you today with a heart filled with optimism,” she told the audience in Cedar Rapids.

“Right now in America, there is a real hunger. There are people who are ready for big structural change in this country,” Warren said. “They’re ready for change, and I’ve got a plan for that.”

Actually, she has 20 plans, so far. Warren released 17 of them prior to her Hall of Fame speech on June 9, starting with the plan for universal child care she published on Feb. 19. Since this last Cedar Rapids appearance, Warren has unveiled plans for supporting small-business owners of color, eliminating private prisons and for-profit detention facilities and making elections more secure and easier for voters to participate in.

Traditionally, when a presidential candidate announces a “plan,” that plan is limited to the statement of goal with little, if any, information backing it up. Warren, by contrast, offers detailed plans and is able to discuss those details when asked about them. She has also been very clear about how she intended to pay for her plans.

Warren has proposed a wealth tax of 2 percent on fortunes of over $50 million. (“The first $50 million of your fortune — that’s fine, no extra tax on that,” Warren explained during a Cedar Rapids campaign stop in April.)

“Make ’em pay two cents.” Warren said at the Hall of Fame. “They can afford it. And what can we do with that two cents? We can cancel student loan debt for 43 million Americans. We can provide universal childcare and pre-K for every one of our kids. We can create 1.2 million new manufacturing jobs — rebuild an industrial base right here in America.”

Warren has been among the most active campaigners of the 2020 candidates. At the Hall of Fame celebration, the Massachusetts senator said she’s held more than 90 town halls, campaigned in 20 states and Puerto Rico, and taken almost 30,000 selfies with people at events.

“Why do I have the time to do that?” Warren said. “I’m not spending my time with high-dollar donors and with corporate lobbyists. I’m spending my time with you. That’s how we build a grassroots movement in America.”

Almost every one of the 24 declared Democratic presidential candidates has said they will not accept donations for corporate PACs, and many are refusing contributions from all PACs and corporate lobbyists, but only Warren has a policy of no closed-door fundraisers or exclusive events with large contributors.

For decades, Americans have said in surveys they want presidential candidates to offer detailed plans and not rely on big-money donors and PACs. To a certain extent, Warren’s campaign is a test of how sincere those frequently expressed beliefs are.

“Everything I propose comes to one central question,” Warren told the party activists and elected officials at the Hall of Fame. “Who does this government work for? Is it going to continue to work for a thinner and thinner slice at the top, or are we going to make this government work for the rest of America?”

“I’m in this fight to make it work for the rest of America.”