Bold action is required to ensure that the nation’s economy functions for the benefit of all Americans.
That was the message Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren brought to Clarinda Sunday, Dec. 29.
“We need an economy that works for all of us, that creates opportunity, not just for those born into privilege, but for everyone,” Warren said during a campaign “town hall” event at the Garrison House. “We want to have an economy that grows, not just a stock market that grows.”
In the 2020 election, the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts said, citizens are “going to make a decision about the kind of country we want to be, and about the kind of people we are. And I think that starts with an honest assessment of our deep-down values, and our willingness to get out and act on those values.”
Among Warren’s plans for addressing economic issues that impact different demographic groups is her call for the implementation of what she described as a “wealth tax.”
It would be imposed on any family with a net worth of more than $50 million -- at present, approximately the wealthiest 75,000 households in the country.
They would pay a 2% tax, or two cents, on every dollar of their net worth above the $50 million level, and a six percent tax for every dollar above $1 billion.
Warren noted that critics of the proposal contend that levying such a tax would penalize people who have amassed fortunes by founding and operating large business enterprises.
By “having the right idea at the right time,” such entrepreneurs may have become rich, she sai
But she added that she would tell them: “You built a great fortune here in America. You built it at least in part using workers that the rest of us helped pay to educate. You get your products to market on roads and bridges that all of us helped pay the bill for. You are protected by police and fire fighters [for whom] all of us help pay the salaries. We are Americans. We are glad to do it. But all we’re saying is that when you make it big, really big, and I mean the top one-tenth of 1%, then pitch in two cents so everybody else has a chance to make it.”
Revenue generated by the “wealth tax” would be used in a number of ways, Warren said.
It would provide for free tuition to two- and four-year public colleges and universities, as well as technical schools. Student loan debt would be canceled for 42 million Americans, and up to $50 billion could be invested in colleges that have historically served African American students and other minorities.
The tax revenue would pay for pre-kindergarten early childhood education programs and for universal high-quality child care services nationwide. The money could also be directed toward higher wages for child care workers.
In addition, funds could be allocated to public schools to enhance instructional programs, with up to $800 billion invested.
Another area in which direct action is needed relates to the influence that money has on politics, Warren said.
“When you see a government that works great for those with money, but doesn’t work so great for everyone else, that is corruption,” she said.
The corruption takes various forms. “It’s not just campaign contributions,” Warren said. “It’s lobbying. It’s public relations firms. It’s bought and paid for ‘think tanks’ and ‘experts.’”
Responding to the situation in order to achieve real progress against corruption will require what Warren called major “structural changes,” since individuals and firms that currently profit from the existing system favor the status quo.
She said success will depend on a combined effort involving grassroots pressure on politicians from American voters tied to leadership from the executive branch of the government.
“We’re going to do this together,” Warren said. “You from the outside, me from the White House. You push, and I’ll pull. We’re going to squeeze Washington until [it] adopts the biggest anti-corruption plan since Watergate.”
The goal will be to “end lobbying as we know it,” she said. “We must stop the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street, the defense industry and the oil industry.”
Commenting on an issue that has had an often devastating effect on millions of Americans, high prices for prescription drugs, Warren said the pharmaceutical industry should be compelled to negotiate drug prices with the federal government.
In their defense of skyrocketing costs for many medications, the companies have contended that large profits are needed to pay for research into additional products.
Warren noted that a substantial amount of research regarding medications “is done through the National Institutes of Health, paid for with your tax dollars.” The research is then utilized by private firms that do not repay this “seed” money.
She added that studies have shown that some drug companies spend more on advertising and marketing than is spent on actual research.
Costs have also risen on older, established products like insulin and “epi-pens.” Warren said that as president, she would immediately reduce the cost of those products through what are known as “marching orders” inherent in the powers of the office.
She said she is seeking the presidency because “we need big ideas to solve the big problems of our time. Whenever we give up up on big ideas, we give up on people whose lives would have been touched by those ideas.”
The overall plan she is following, she said, is to “dream big, fight hard, and win.”
The Clarinda “town hall,” Warren’s 192nd, attracted an estimated 250 people. It was her 95th event in Iowa.
The United States should be viewed as a nation in which citizens always aspire to come to the aid of those in need, Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar said in Clarinda Saturday, Dec. 21.
“It’s a country of shared dreams, where we look out for each other, no matter where you come from or who you know,” she said during a campaign stop at the Garrison House.
Currently a U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Klobuchar noted that when she announced her candidacy, she did so on a bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.
The location was just a short distance from the site of a bridge that collapsed in 2007. Vehicles traveling over it at the time plunged into the river. Thirteen people were killed and 145 were injured.
In the midst of the catastrophe, Klobuchar said, people immediately provided whatever help they could, with heroic acts by some individuals credited with preventing additional fatalities.
“What happened with the bridge collapse was a tragedy, but it was also the story of a community,” she said. “People made efforts to rescue those affected, and they looked for survivors. That is America. That is a country where we have each other’s backs.”
Klobuchar termed the commitment of individuals to help their friends, neighbors, or even strangers, a “simple idea,” but one that underlies her campaign to seek the presidential nomination.
“All of us have been given opportunities from someone,” she said. “I figure that when you are given an opportunity, you don’t go into the world with a sense of entitlement. You have a sense of obligation to lift people up, not keep them down, and not hoard it all yourself.”
The nation, she said, needs a president who does not put private interests or a political party’s interests “above the interests of our country.”
The incumbent president, Donald Trump, has failed to exhibit such core values as “decency and patriotism,” Klobuchar said.
Trump has been impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for his attempt to have Ukraine launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son.
A trial in the U.S. Senate has not yet been scheduled, partly due to disagreement about calling administration witnesses to testify. So far, Trump has resisted requests for that to happen.
“Why doesn’t he want these witnesses to speak?” Klobuchar said, adding that one recent poll found that nearly two-thirds of Republican respondents favored having the testimony of the witnesses in the Senate trial.
The 2020 election, she said, is “not just an economic check to make things better, which we know we must do because there are so many people who are not sharing in this prosperity, but it’s a decency check and it’s a patriotism check.”
The choice of a bridge as the place where her candidacy was announced also had a symbolic meaning. “When you come to a river, and you want to cross it, you build a bridge, you don’t blow one up,” she said. “That means improving on things and making them better.”
The bridge that collapsed was decades old, one of thousands in the country needing repair or replacement. Klobuchar said infrastructure projects would be among her top priorities as president.
Regarding other topics, she said both Medicare and Social Security should be strengthened by lifting the current cap on income subject to the payroll tax. This would result in increased revenue for each program.
So that more people can have access to health insurance, a “non-profit public option” should be created, she said. In addition, eligibility for Medicaid should be expanded, and coverage for long-term care and mental health treatment should be included in more insurance plans, she said.
Addressing the issue of the high cost of prescription medications, Klobuchar said the Medicare program should be allowed to negotiate for lower prices, and additional drugs from Canada should be allowed into this country. Also, pharmaceutical companies should not be permitted to restrict the supply of generic drugs, she said.
Klobuchar called climate change “the existential crisis of our time,” saying the United States should “rejoin international agreements” and support efforts to curtail the amount of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.
In the area of education, she said it was important to connect instructional programs “with the jobs that are out there. We don’t need more MBAs. We need more plumbers, more electricians, more health care workers.”
Bolstering community colleges is essential, she said, adding that she favors free tuition for students pursuing specific vocational degrees. For those wishing to attend four-year schools, income limits for eligibility for grants should be raised, she said.
In both these cases, she said, costs could be covered by making changes in the capital gains tax rate.
Klobuchar said that as president she would be willing to seek a “bi-partisan solution” to all of the challenges the nation is facing. She described herself as being “progressive and practical at the same time.”
In whatever policies she pursues, she said, “I’m true to my word. And I will never leave Iowa or the Midwest behind.”