Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren criticized a US economy that she says favors the wealthy, just as President Obama sets off for Michigan as part of a US tour promoting his administration’s central, and continued, role in the economic recovery.
Warren on Wednesday spoke at the the National Summit on Raising Wages conference hosted by the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the US. Early on in her speech, Warren touted the work of the Obama administration in guiding the broad economic recovery, but said it is not being felt by the middle class.
“The overall picture doesn’t tell us much about what’s happening at ground level to tens of millions of Americans,” Warren said at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. “Despite these cheery numbers, America’s middle class is in deep trouble.”
Warren begins 2015 with a more prominent role in the Democratic party. After the midterm election , Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid announced that he had expanded leadership to include a position specifically for Warren to shape the party’s policy and messaging.
Even with this increased power, Warren did not stray from criticizing the Democrats role in crafting the current economic policy.
“Pretty much the whole Republican party, and, let’s be honest, too many Democrats, have talked about the evils of big government and called for deregulation,” Warren said. “It all sounded good, but what it’s really about is tying the hands of regulators and turning loose the big banks and giant international corporations to do whatever they want to do.”
Warren’s other target was trickle-down economics and how it lead to a structural change in how the US economy operates. “Let’s call it for what it is: trickle-down is nothing more than helping the rich and powerful get more rich and more powerful,” Warren said.
Warren’s opposition to big banks and large corporations has been the centerpiece of her political success. While her comments on Wednesday were consistent with her years of criticism of these powerful entities, the labor crowd was clearly energized by her remarks.
The audience fervently clapped as she called on the government to break up the banks and improve worker wages, but the most energetic response came after she told a personal story about how her mother had to take on a minimum-wage job after her father suffered from a heart attack. That garnered a standing ovation.
Her appearance came hours ahead of a planned speech by Obama at a Ford plant in Michigan on the recovery of the US manufacturing industry. From there, he’ll go to Arizona and Tennessee in what the White House says is a preview of the president’s State of the Union address, to take place on 20 January. In Phoenix, he will “take stock of how far our housing market has come,” said White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer in a post on Medium on Tuesday. Pfeiffer said the president would announce an executive action to boost home ownership by helping “ families who can afford to buy a home, but find themselves shut out because the lending market is too tight”.
The AFL-CIO has long been an ally to Warren. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka called Warren “a remarkable champion of the working people” in his remarks at the conference.
“Senator Warren is that rare political leader: she shares our values, she really connects with us, she is a genius when it comes to policy and she is tough as nails when it comes to politics,” Trumka said.
In April, Trumka said on the website Reddit that Warren is the “the prototype of a person we would want to be president of the United States.” He also endorsed her 2012 campaign for senator, calling her “a champion of Wall Street reform.”
Warren has repeatedly denied that she would run for president.
Warren’s fiery comments followed remarks by the Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez. He was set to travel to Michigan with Obama later in the day to tout “ the comeback of American manufacturing .”
His remarks sold the importance of the “shared economy,” and served as a defacto-Obama rally, with Perez telling the labor crowd: “this president, he gets it.”
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