Tax breaks to attract companies, the intersection of race and economics, industry consolidation, mining on public lands, 21st century working conditions, and more all came up for comment, and in some instances sharp criticism, during an interview with Elizabeth Warren.
Between the Las Vegas presidential candidate forum and her rally at Bonanza High School Saturday, Warren sat down for an interview with the Nevada Current.
On tax breaks to attract companies
Amazon’s search for a second headquarters sparked criticism nationwide. Five years earlier, Tesla put Nevada in a bidding war against other states for a battery plant, before Nevada agreed to grant Tesla a package of tax breaks, credits and incentives worth $1.3 billion.
Local officials say they have no choice, that they must provide tax breaks to attract corporations, because if they don’t other states will. Critics often describe state and local governments competing against each other to attract big companies as “a race to the bottom” that leaves the public, and public services, behind.
Warren calls it “the hunger games.”
“Different cities are pitted against each other and each offers bigger, fancier, stronger breaks for giant companies if they’ll locate in that city,” she said. “The problem with that is that the big companies end up not paying their way and that falls on everyone else to make up the tax base and the infrastructure. The second big problem is what it means in terms of competition. None of these cities are offering a giant tax break to a medium-sized company, to a little company or to a start-up company. Instead they are saying in effect those smaller companies have to pay full freight on their taxes and other civic responsibilities. But the big guys can get away with doing a whole lot less. That just helps giant corporation out-compete small companies and ultimately not good for our economy.”
Asked if the federal government has a role to play in curbing the practice, Warren didn’t rule it out. “Anything that is to be done to dampen this kind of competition would have to be either on a federal level or the cities themselves joining hands around the country and declaring they will not engage in this kind of competition,” she said.
On fractured work schedules
Warren said federal action to curb the growing problem of unstable work scheduling is long overdue. On-call scheduling and last-minute changes prevent people from knowing their schedules ahead of time, in turn preventing them from getting or holding second jobs, securing child care or attending school.
“A company can’t call workers in, have them sit around, decide they don’t have any work and send them home without paying them,” she said.
She noted that she has introduced legislation to make sure workers are paid while they wait to find out if they have to work a shift.
“Another feature of this bill is to prohibit firing employees simply because they asked for changes in their schedules,” she said. Prohibiting what she called an “abusive practice” would make it easier for workers to find child care, go back to school, or coordinate scheduling with other work, Warren said.
On race and the economy
Warren has been winning approval — and applause — on the campaign trail for weaving economic issues with the impacts of institutional racism.
“Race matters in our economy and in our country,” Warren said. “If we fail to recognize that, we can’t make the changes we need to make as a country.”
The housing and the student debt crises are two examples Warren pointed to in which solutions must account for racial disparities. The federal government, she said, had a long history of preventing African Americans from buying houses through a redlining — decades of the practice resulted in a wealth gap between black and white households.
Civil rights legislation began to make a start toward fixing housing discrimination policies and close wealth disparities, but the market crash split it open again, Warren said. “My housing plan directly takes on the impact of redlining and provides home-ownership assistance to first time buyers who live or lived in formerly red-lined neighborhoods, or people who lost their homes during the crash in formerly red-lined neighborhoods,” Warren said.
Her proposal to cancel student debts, she added, would also narrow black-white economic disparities. “On the day I get to sign that debt cancellation bill into law, the black-white wealth gap will actually narrow,” she said. “The reason for that is because African Americans are more likely to have to borrow money to go to college or borrow more money while they’re in college. They have a harder time paying for it after college.”
The proposals also invests $50 billion into Historically Black Colleges and Universities. “It again tries to address the fact that for well over a century, the government, both state and federal, invested in public institutions that African Americans were largely shut out of,” she said. “HBCUs were developed largely with money from African American charities and benefactors. They were always under-resourced so this is a way to try to level that out.”
On mining and federal lands
The General Mining Law of 1872 allows companies to extract minerals such as gold, silver, and other hard rock minerals on federal public lands without paying royalties, and also, critics contend, while avoiding liability for any environmental damage.
Gold is the most mined mineral in Nevada, leaving the state out of federal mining royalties despite being a state with some of the largest mining operations.
Earlier this month Warren released a public lands plan, promising that on her first day as president, she will sign an executive order prohibiting new leases for oil & gas drilling on public lands.
That order would also be extended to mining, Warren told the Current.
“This country should not be giving away access to our federal lands for pennies on the dollar,” Warren said. “On my first day as president, I will put a moratorium on all new drilling and mining on federal lands and offshore.”
Asked if gold miners should have to pay federal royalties just as coal and oil & gas producers do, Warren turned instead to assuring that mining adheres to all the rules already on the books.
Over the last two decades, what were once several casino-hotel companies have consolidated into just a few giant corporations. Last month reports emerged that Nevada based gaming companies Eldorado Resorts and Caesars Entertainment are in the early stages of exploring a merger, driven by whale investor Carl Ichan’s demand for increased shareholder value.
Warren has called for breaking up the tech giants. She said consolidation is a “significant problem” in multiple industries, but did not address the casino industry directly.
“Our antitrust laws have not been well enforced and the consequence has been that in industry after industry we see significant consolidation,” Warren said. “That has terrible effects on competition, on startups, and small businesses and medium-sized businesses that are trying to compete, and also has bad effects on employees.”
Evidence indicates that mergers directly suppress wage growth for workers in several industries across the United States.
“It’s pretty obvious that if an employee doesn’t have three or five other employers that they could jump to, then the employer that they’re at now knows that they don’t have to raise wages to keep people,” Warren said.
“Breaking up giant companies does not cost jobs,” Warren said. “The same work needs to be done. The same demand for services and goods will still be out there. It just means multiple companies will be competing to do that work and competing for the workers to get that work done.”