MANCHESTER, N.H. (CN) – Her poll numbers down, Senator Elizabeth Warren accused her Democratic rivals Thursday of participating in the same “culture of corruption” as the billionaires and large corporations she routinely excoriates.
These politicians are “selling access for money,” Warren claimed, by holding closed-door meetings with wealthy donors and bundlers. Without naming names, Warren also said many of the other Democratic candidates are “willing to sell ambassadorships to the highest bidder.”
The attacks came during an hourlong economic-policy speech before an enthusiastic audience of about 200 at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Warren is polling fourth in the Granite State with 13.3% of the vote, according to the latest Real Clear Politics polling average, down from a high of 28% in mid-October. She has experienced a similar decline in national polls.
Painting a bleak economic view even as the unemployment rate is at a historic low, Warren told the audience that “job quality is declining” and middle-class families are experiencing wage stagnation while education and health care costs continue to rise. She described the country’s long-term economic outlook as “grim” and said that “opportunity is collapsing” for young people.
Warren called for “big structural change” on three fronts: forcing companies to return more profits to workers, increasing competition, and stimulating demand by putting more money in consumers’ pockets.
In 1980, she said, companies returned about 50% of their profits to investors, but today that figure is 93%. She proposed reversing this trend by allowing workers to elect 40% of board positions, limiting executive compensation, abolishing right-to-work laws and punishing companies for outsourcing jobs overseas.
CEOs have been “gorging themselves,” she said, with the average chief executive now earning 268 times the salary of the average employee.
Warren complained about a corporate culture that focuses on short-term gains that enrich shareholders and managers but not employees. Reversing this culture would improve wages and productivity, and “not cost taxpayers a dime,” she said.
As for increasing competition, Warren pledged to use the antitrust laws to break up big tech companies, Amazon, large banks, and agricultural conglomerates. And she said the Green New Deal would create “enormous economic opportunity” for environmentally conscious small businesses.
Although she insisted that free markets “don’t work” for education and health care, she ridiculed the idea that her policies are socialist or radical, arguing that many of her critics “claim to be capitalists but are in fact just cheaters.”
Warren embraced demand-side economics and said the key to economic growth is giving families more money to spend. She proposed doing this through raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; increasing Social Security and disability payments; providing free or federally subsidized housing, child care, health care, and college tuition; and canceling student loan debt. She said that these plans could be accomplished through taxing billionaires and large corporations and pledged not to raise taxes on the middle class.
She rejected the idea that her plans amount to “giving away free stuff.”
“Do you want to know who gets free stuff?” she asked. “Amazon. They made $10 billion in profits last year and paid no federal income tax.” She also said that wealthy investors who don’t pay taxes on unrealized capital gains are receiving “free stuff.”
Finally, Warren pledged to appoint Federal Reserve Board governors “who believe that inflation fears are overblown.”
Dana Price, a retired New Hampshire firefighter who is undecided and who recently attended a Joe Biden rally, was impressed with Warren's speech, which he likened to a college lecture.
“Warren is like a smartphone,” he said. “Biden’s more like a flip phone. It’s basic, it gets the job done, and maybe it’s a little more reliable. But it’s definitely not very exciting.
“I’m starting to get a little tired of always taking the safe route,” he added.