MANCHESTER, NH – Outside in the cold, at the very end of the Manchester Community College driveway, a small group of protesters brandished signs that said things like “Go Back to Mass” and “Taxation is Theft.” Inside the school, a capacity crowd, her golden retriever Bailey, lots of press, and a standing ovation kept U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren warm during her first visit to the Granite State since announcing she was exploring the possibility of a 2020 run for the Oval Office.
“I am in this fight out of gratitude,” Warren told the event attendees. “I am grateful to America.”
Warren began her remarks by talking about the ways the country and government had helped her in her early life. For example, when Warren was in middle school, she said, her father had a heart attack, and her stay-at-home mother had to take a minimum-wage job to keep the family afloat.
“[In the early 1960s] a minimum-wage job in America could keep a family of three afloat,” Warren said. “Today, a minimum-wage job in America will not keep a mama and a baby out of poverty.”
After high school, Warren said, she attended a $50-a-semester commuter college to get her four-year degree and become a public school teacher. Later, Warren said, she attended Rutgers University, New Jersey’s state university, for $450 a semester.
“I got a chance because America invested in kids who wanted to get an education,” she said, answering a question from a woman from Goffstown. “Today America has said to kids who want to get an education, ‘Great! If you’re born into a well-to-do family. If you’re not, you gotta shoulder a huge debt burden’.”
Warren said the U.S. government used to make decisions for the good of the people, but now it’s making them for corporations and the wealthy.
“The rules that are written in far-off Washington are rules that are written to help the rich and the powerful, not rules that are written to help little families like mine. And I’ll give you an example of that, on this question about minimum wage. You know what Washington was asking back when I was a kid? ‘What does it take the family of three to survive? What’s going to get them a chance to pay a mortgage to cover the utilities and still be able to put food on the table?’ Today, do you know what they asked about the minimum wage? ‘What increases the profitability of giant multi-national companies?,” Warren said.
“I am in this fight,” Warren added, “because I think they should be asking about little families instead of giant, multi-national corporations.”
More than 450 people turned out for the campaign event, largely white and mostly middle-aged … and not reflective of Manchester’s population, which, according to census data, is at least 20 percent minority these days.
“An America that works for the wealthy and the well-connected, that’s corruption,” Warren told them. “There’s one set of rules for the rich and one set for everyone else.” The senator outlined an anti-corruption proposal that would “end lobbying as we know it” and hold the Supreme Court to a code of ethics. The proposal also would require anyone running for office to make his or her tax return available for public scrutiny.
Warren said she also wants to change the rules of the economy, in part by putting power back into the hands of labor unions and consumers. The government, she said, also needs to tackle the problems of healthcare, housing, childcare, and education costs.
“That’s what we need to attack as a country,” she said. “Make real changes.”
She also supports a Constitutional amendment that would guarantee every citizen a right to vote and a promise that each vote would be counted.
During the question-and-answer part of the event, State Rep. Wendy Thomas of Merrimack asked what Warren would do, if elected, to restore environmental and health protections dropped by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in recent years. Much of Merrimack’s water is contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical used in making Teflon.
“The EPA has dropped the ball on its duty to protect the environment,” Thomas said.
“The EPA has not dropped the ball,” Warren answered. “The EPA under [the Trump] administration has thrown the ball to the ground.” Warren joked that she was about to take a very controversial stance. “I believe in science,” she said. “Climate change is real. We have a moral and economic responsibility to make changes in this country, starting now … We need a strong EPA. That’s part of the answer, led by someone who believes in science. And we’ll follow through on that.”
Warren also answered questions about power generation and the aging electrical infrastructure (she likes net metering), criminal-justice reform (she’s in favor of legalizing pot), and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (yep, as soon as possible).
The Senator ended the event by stressing her belief in the importance of Medicaid and asking for the support of those assembled in the 2020 race.