Speaking at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas Sunday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who recently joined the 2020 presidential race, recalled the first time she learned what a mortgage was when she was just in middle school.
Her father had a heart attack that kept him from working and her mother, who was hellbent on not losing the house, mustered up enough courage to get her first job outside of the home — a minimum wage job.
“That minimum wage job saved our house,” Warren said. “At that point, a minimum wage job in America was enough to support a family of three. Today, a minimum wage job in America won’t keep a momma and a baby out of poverty. It’s wrong. That’s why I’m in this fight (to become president).”
In her first visit to Nevada since launching her campaign, Warren spoke to a crowd of about 500 people about how she is campaigning to address the fact that “America isn’t working for working families any longer.”
Warren is no stranger to talking about what’s hurting Americans, nor is she estranged from the severe financial hardships Nevadans endured after the economy crashed more than a decade ago.
Warren came to prominence in the wake of the crash, when she chaired the congressional oversight panel of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a position she left when asked to be the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Chairing the oversight panel brought her to Las Vegas neighborhoods that faced some of the highest bankruptcy filings in the country.
Up until the crash, Warren explained, America was finally beginning to close the wealth gap felt by African American and Latino communities created largely in part from decades of being legally shut out of the housing market through discriminatory housing policies — homeownership, she added, is the No.1 way families build wealth in this country.
“But then, our federal government started watching out, not for families, but for giant financial institutions that figured out they could rake in profits beyond their wildest dreams by selling a bunch of lying, cheating mortgages,” Warren said. “They started out by targeting communities of color and nearly destroyed them.”
Pacing back and forth on stage, she recalled stories she heard a decade ago.
“I will never forget Mr. Estrada,” she said. “He talked about the proud day when he bought his home. There was something funny about the mortgage, he found out, when the mortgage payment shot up and the exact time he lost his job. He stood there and talked about what it would mean to lose his home.”
Millions of people like Estrada, she added, lost their homes.
“It’s dollars, but it’s lives,” Warren said. “Our federal government thought it was more important to protect financial institutions than to protect families like Mr. Estrada’s.”
After winning election to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts in 2012, Warren has continued to build a reputation for challenging lax government regulations of powerful industries, and envisioning a government that values people more than corporate profits.
In a nearly hourlong speech, she outlined her ideas of funding universal child care, addressing student loan debt, investing in affordable housing, supporting Medicaid for All, calling for a Constitutional amendment to protect the right to vote — the sort of issues, she said, that can make or break people’s lives.
She isn’t shy about how America pays for many of her proposals: make the ultra rich pay.
Warren has proposed an “ultra millionaire tax” — a 2 percent tax on the wealth of those with more than $50 million in assets, and 3 percent on those with assets exceeding $1 billion.
“If we place a 2 percent tax on the wealth of people who have more than $50 million in assets … we have the money to be able to pay for childcare for (ages) 0 to 5, to bring down student loan debt, to make the investments in infrastructure and jobs in America,” she said. “This is about everybody paying a fair share and everybody gets opportunity to build a real future.”
The wealth tax would fall a tiny portion of the population — roughly 75,000 households, and less than 1,000 would pay the billionaire’s tax. Revenue estimates vary, but one team of economists anticipates the tax could raise $2.75 trillion over a decade.
Following her speech, Warren took questions from the audience, including a question on implementing a universal basic income. Warren said she isn’t necessarily opposed to the idea of a universal basic income, but thinks are more tangible solutions and fixes the government could take before it went that route. “(Universal Basic Income) is a debate right now, but it’s a good debate,” she said. “There is so much we need to do before we get to that fight.”
She was also asked about climate change, in which she talked about her support for proposals such as the Green New Deal.
“The Green New Deal is the way people are getting organized,” she said. “It’s big and it’s important and it’s going to have a lot of important pieces to it. The whole idea of the Green New Deal is looking for all the places we are going to have to make changes.”
Warren says the proposal will usher in a “noisy debate” on issues such as not giving subsidies to fossil fuel companies and instead putting money into green energy, getting rid of offshore drilling, putting money into researching the best renewable energy solutions and finding ways to reduce the carbon dioxide levels.
“This can’t be a long debate,” Warren added. “We are running out of runway on this one.”
Warren is one of several Democratic presidential candidates who are co-sponsors of the Green New Deal resolution, an outline sponsored by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey that envisions a multi-pronged effort to combat climate change and economic inequality.
Days after Gov. Steve Sisolak signed into law state Senate Bill 142, which expanded background checks on the majority of private gun sales and transfers, Warren spoke briefly about expanding background checks saying “we don’t just need them in Nevada, but we need it all over this country.”
Lisa Hendricks, an organizer with the gun control group Moms Demand Action, introduced Warren at the beginning of the event and use the time to tout the senators long-standing support for gun legislation.
“In addition to support background checks the senator has cosponsored many bills on gun violence prevention,” Hendricks said listing legislation that expands research on gun violence and better protect domestic violence victims.
All her visions, Warren said, comes down to where America is going and who as a nation we want to be.
“We have to make a choice about what kind of a nation we are and what kind of a people we are,” she said. “I say, this is the moment to dream big, to fight hard and to win.”