In my first post in the series of potential endorsements for 2020, I’d like to focus on the candidate who I place at the top in terms of policy alone. That candidate is Elizabeth Warren. While other candidates have demonstrated policymaking capabilities far above their Republican competitors, Senator Warren has been the most thorough and consistent in her proposals to address income inequality and keep a check on predatory, corrupt financial institutions. The potential first woman president has repeatedly presented sound cases for reining in the institutions responsible for the unstable employment (and underemployment) situations and precarious standard of living of the nation’s most economically distressed.
Our lifeline in the financial service sector
Warren proposed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2007, upon the financial crisis and recession, and finally established the institution in 2011. The CFPB, which is being gutted by the Trump administration appointees, is our lifeline in protecting consumers from predatory practices of financial institutions, bank fraud, and ensuring transparency. As Republicans conspire to dissolve our safety net, the CFPB is one of our last lines of defense. Re-enforcers for the faux leather in our bootstraps, if you will. We need someone in office who is on our side as we scramble to pay student loans, or for the lucky few of us who are handling our first mortgages.
A wealth tax that makes sense
Senator Warren’s wealth tax aims to curb spiraling inequality while helping to answer the “How do you pay for it?” barrage of questioning facing every new government initiative. What separates Warren’s wealth tax from others, which have failed, is its comprehensiveness – it closes loopholes which its targets would otherwise exploit to evade and avoid the tax. When simplified, Warren’s wealth tax is levied on stocks, bonds, and private equity, as opposed to income or property, which are the largest assets of the middle class. The wealth tax by definition targets the most wealthy and serves as an alternative to raising income taxes – which, arguably, is in many cases rendered a regressive tax in practice when it disproportionately burdens the middle class and lower middle class (those of us who do not have personal lawyers to find tax loopholes for us to exploit). This two-percent tax, instead, would affect fewer than 80,000 Americans worth more than $50 million.
A Chance to Climb Out of the Hole
So where would this new tax revenue from the ultra-rich go? Elizabeth Warren’s most recent proposal is to help out students who face crushing student debt – by forgiving $50,000 of student loan debt to households earning less than $100,000. This would prove an economic stimulus more justifiable than Obama’s Wall Street bailout. More millennials could afford to buy homes and new cars and start families. Low-income young adults could get themselves on their feet, while middle-income earners could start to build some modest wealth.
Standing up to Big Tech
Warren’s plan to break up some of the big tech companies harkens back to the Antitrust Act of 1890 that targeted Standard Oil, only with a 21st century twist. Big Tech – Facebook, Amazon, and so forth – not only begets untold concentrations of wealth, but also transcends government protection of privacy and civil liberties. In effect, tech companies have Facebook have formed a surveillance state of their own, for surpassing government institutions in terms of Big Brotherdom. Senator Warren is a force to halt the trajectory of dominance of Big Tech and its merging with authoritarian government interests, before it is too late.
But can she win?
Unfortunately, among my potential endorsees, Elizabeth Warren probably fares worst against Trump. She’s wonky, she’s smart, she’s accomplished, and she’s a woman. All things that threaten a fragile male ego, and we are already seeing the most fragile of egos launching their attacks. In American horserace election coverage and meme culture, a one liner from Trump will resonate farther, wider, and longer than Warren’s thorough explanation of how her policies would realize.
The other challenge for Warren’s campaign in a general election is something that hits home hard for me, as someone who has experienced the downward spiral of responding to bullies only to get bullied even more. Take the “Native American” issue. When Warren ran for Senate in Massachusetts against former model Scott Brown, the “issue” was brought up and actually backfired on Brown, making him look petty. Warren said something along the lines of, “Look, my parents told me that I had Cherokee and Delaware ancestry somewhere down the line, and I believed family lore. Now, onto financial protection…” She hasn’t reacted this way with Trump. Instead, she released a cringeworthy video of herself consulting a DNA test analysis, which only produced more memes and derision from Trump supporters and collective facepalms from Native American tribal representatives. In a similar vein, Warren’s Instagram post of her looking like a “real American” having a beer kind of look like she’s trying too hard. Warren, when she’s at her best, focuses on policy and its implementation. The problem is, much of the American electorate does not have the attention span for that.
Endorsement Category: The Policy Candidate
Elizabeth Warren is the clear choice for voters looking for thorough policy proposals and implementation roadmaps. She has the answers to the “but how do you PAY for it” naysayer questions, and will calmly explain how the wealth transfer from the highest high earners is no more radical than it was fifty years ago. Her delivery is poised, her arguments sound, and her candidacy depends on the preparedness of the American electorate for a mature discussion of real and necessary solutions.