November 16, 2022

ICYMI: In First Speech Since Democrats Held the Senate, Warren Calls on Democrats to Go on Offense and Continue Delivering for Working Families

“Democrats can beat Republican extremism by fighting for working people and making our democratic values clear.”

“Republicans will fight hard for billionaires, billionaire corporations, and conspiracy theorists. Democrats must be willing to fight even harder for working families."

Video of Speech (YouTube)

Washington, D.C. – In a keynote speech at EconCon Presents, a conference co-hosted by Demos Action, EPI Action, Economic Security Project Action, Groundwork Action, Omidyar Network, and Roosevelt Forward, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Democrats to go on the offense and tell their own economic story by continuing to deliver for working families. Senator Warren argued that Democrats can beat Republican extremists by fighting for working people and making their democratic values clear. 

Full text of Senator Warren’s speech, as prepared for delivery, below: 

Keynote Speech from Senator Elizabeth Warren
Remarks as prepared for delivery
EconCon Presents 2022
November 16, 2022

Senator Elizabeth Warren: Hello EconCon! I’m so glad to join you today.

All of you spend your days on the front lines of economic policy, fighting for working people. You care deeply about improving the lives of struggling families. And there is no one I would rather gather with to discuss the lessons of last week’s midterms. 

Despite the predictions of Washington insiders, lobbyists, and pundits, Joe Biden presided over the best midterm elections for the party in power in 20 years. Voters beat expectations and broke records. 

A lot of people were surprised by last week’s results. Not me. The 2022 midterms prove that Democrats can beat Republican extremism by fighting for working people and making our democratic values clear. And as we face the possibility of an extremist Republican House majority intent on creating economic chaos to usher Donald Trump back into office, we should remember: Democrats need to do more for American families – not less. 

Last night, we heard from the disgraced former president who used lies and fear to launch another backward-looking campaign. That didn’t work in 2020, it didn’t work in 2022, and it won’t work in 2024. 

We all know how much the press likes to talk about Donald Trump, but make no mistake, lesson one from last week’s midterms is that when Democrats fight for and deliver for working people, we win. 

Go back to November 2020. The minute Joe Biden was elected, plenty of ivory tower economists and even a few Democrats urged the incoming president to go slow and go small, but the President ignored them. The President made smart personnel choices. Instead of surrounding himself with an economic team that believed that government’s principal job was to deliver an economy that benefitted big banks, well-heeled corporations, and the fancy lobbyists who strut around Washington like they own the place, Joe Biden picked advisers and regulators who understood that the goal of his Administration was to deliver for working families. And in his first years in office, Democrats delivered direct relief to working people who need it most, and we delivered it there fast. We also delivered it alone, without one single Republican to help us. Despite endless Republican attack ads designed to convince people otherwise, the evidence shows that, by and large, we got it right - the American Rescue Plan was popular. It was also successful in saving the economy. It helped people survive the pandemic. And it helped us win elections.

A little over a year later, in August 2022, we passed the fully-paid-for Inflation Reduction Act to lower family costs and reduce the deficit. The week the IRA passed was the single best week of the Biden Presidency. That’s not my view, it’s the view of the national press. Let me read you a few headlines: Biden’s Best Week Ever; Biden is On a Roll that Any President Would Relish; Joe Biden Got the Vibe Shift He Needed; Wait, Is Biden a Better President Than People Thought? The headlines were right. The IRA showed people Democrats were fighting to reduce costs. And it helped us win elections.

Then President Biden followed up by announcing a plan to cancel student debt. A handful of talking heads, lobbyist-friendly Democrats, and anti-government types went nuts over that one. But the President’s poll numbers went up. Tens of millions signed up for student debt relief. Youth voter turnout last week was through the roof. This action will deliver relief to huge numbers of working families in this country. And make no mistake - we WILL deliver this student debt relief. 

But remember, for more than a year between those two successes—costs for families were rising, and a few Democrats blocked much of the president’s agenda for working families. They torpedoed the president’s plan to reverse the Trump tax giveaways. They blocked proposals to cut skyrocketing housing and child care costs. They thwarted efforts to fight corruption, end gerrymandering, defend democracy and protect abortion rights. 

Consider child care. For decades, the United States has barely invested in child care. Among the 37 wealthiest nations, we come in at Number 35 in our support for our children. And parents cannot afford to pay the full cost of care. Add the pandemic, and now millions of parents can’t work because they can’t find someone to care for their children. That’s why over 80% of Americans - including the majority of Republicans - support big, bold investments in child care, not just band-aid pandemic funding. But we failed to get it done.

We also could have lowered the cost of housing – the single-biggest expense for most working families. The U.S. is short 7 million homes, while the cost of rent is skyrocketing. The President’s plan for expanding our housing supply was just commonsense. But it was whittled down to nothing by Democrats who expressed vague concerns that we were doing “too much.”

Yes, we got a lot done for American families. Let’s celebrate! But we could have done a lot more to show those families that we’re on their side.

If Democrats had delivered more of the things that touch people’s lives – things like childcare and housing – we could have picked up the additional votes we needed to hold the House and expand our Senate lead. Think what that would mean: we would be drafting legislation to get more help to American families instead of confronting a potential House Republican majority intent on creating economic chaos. 

So that brings me to Lesson Number 2: When families are hurting, deliver more. 

Our performance in the midterms wasn’t judged solely by what we did or didn’t get done. It was also judged by our willingness to fight for the families who sent us to Washington. 

Take student loans. About 90% of the debt relief is aimed at people making less than $75,000 a year—critical help aimed at the people who needed it most. There are more than 2.7 million borrowers in Georgia, Arizona, and New Hampshire. Democrats like Mark Kelly in Arizona and Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire embraced the President’s bold efforts to help these families, and they won their races decisively. 

Voters also rewarded Democrats who said plainly that they would fight to beat back giant corporations that are driving up inflation. Senator-elect John Fetterman, I’m looking at you. Throughout the pandemic, CEOs said right out loud that they were boosting their profit margins on the backs of consumers. Folks here today heard them. And the American public heard them as well. 60% of ALL voters believe that corporations have used the pandemic as an opportunity to goose prices and pad profits. The Biden Administration listened and pursued a bold, anti-price gouging agenda in everything from gas to meat, airline tickets to baby formula. 

Some economists scoffed at the notion that corporate profiteering was even happening, and Beltway commentators rolled their eyes at the idea that Democrats ought to talk about it. John Fetterman ignored all of that. He embraced populist economic policies, called out corporate greed, and won. Candidates up and down the ticket called out price-gouging, from Big Oil to grocery chains - and they won. 

Democrats also talked about what’s at stake for our rights. They talked about our democracy. They talked about abortion. And they won.

Let me say one more thing on this point. Cable news gurus may talk about democracy and individual rights as if they are separate from the economic well-being of families, but voters know better. Americans know there is no economic freedom when individual freedom is on the chopping block. They know there is no economic stability when insurrectionists are marching on the Capitol. They know that abortion is a kitchen-table issue that affects a woman’s health and her economic security. Americans know that they are being squeezed by corporate greed and that they need a government on their side. The Election results confirmed those views: across this country, every ballot initiative to protect abortion rights passed, along with many proposals to tax the wealthy and put money in workers’ pockets. 

That all brings me to Lesson Number 3 from 2022: Voters expect us to fight for them. They understand we can’t solve every problem in two years, but they want to see us giving it all we’ve got. And if we get a little bloody, at least no one doubts where we stand. 

Republicans are licking their wounds this week. But they understand what happens in elections when government delivers for families - and what happens when government doesn’t deliver. Republicans believed that if more families were hurting while Democrats were in control of Washington, the map would look better for Republicans in 2022 and 2024. That’s why every single Republican in Congress voted against the American Rescue Plan. And against the Inflation Reduction Act. And why Republicans are suing to block student debt relief. 

It’s also why Republicans urged President Biden to renominate Jerome Powell to the Fed. When they couldn’t tarnish the Biden economic agenda from Congress, Powell was their best shot to do it from the Fed – and make no mistake, they nearly succeeded in causing enough economic harm to win big last week.

It's no secret that I objected to the renomination of Powell to head the Fed. I believed that a Republican Wall Street banker was a dangerous man to run the Fed, particularly if the economic waters got choppier coming out of the pandemic. 

And now that we’re in those choppy waters, Powell has driven one of the most rapid interest rate hikes in our nation’s history. Of course the Fed has a role to play in getting inflation under control, but there is a big difference between landing a plane and crashing it. Economists from liberal Paul Krugman to conservative Greg Mankiw agree: Powell risks pushing our economy off a cliff. And who will be most likely to lose their jobs? Not stock brokers and investment bankers. Nope. The people out of work will be low-wage workers and those already struggling most with rising prices. The Fed needs to slow down on these extreme rate hikes and remember its dual mandate of price stability AND maximum employment. The jobs and livelihoods of millions of Americans hang in the balance.

The President offered the Powell nomination as an olive branch to Republicans. The Republican response was to break the branch in half, set it on fire, and then spend hundreds of millions of dollars attacking the President for Powell’s interest rate decisions, arguing that Biden is responsible for families’ pain. 

The Republican strategy ahead of the midterm elections should not have been surprising. Republicans have a long history of imposing pain on working families to try to create political advantage for themselves. In 2010, as people struggled to get back on their feet from the 2008 financial crisis, Mitch McConnell announced that the goal of the incoming Republican majority would be “for President Obama to be a one-term President.” They didn’t care what was good for working families. They just cared about seizing power. And as soon as they took control of the House in the 2010 midterms, Congressional Republicans held the economy hostage over the debt ceiling. They demanded two concessions: cut off help for families losing their jobs and their homes, and advance tax cuts for the wealthy. That Republican recklessness caused rating agencies to downgrade U.S. government debt for the first time in our history. 

The Republican strategy wasn’t enough to defeat Obama in 2012, but it was more than enough to prolong economic suffering for millions of Americans. Republican austerity kept unemployment above its pre-recession levels for seven years after the recession officially ended. That pain and chaos helped Donald Trump get into office.

And that’s the heart of Lesson Number 4: When Democrats are in charge, Republicans will try to impose economic pain on families so they can blame us and seize power for themselves. 

That takes us to the challenge we face this January. If Republicans take the House, the incoming GOP majority represents a dangerous new force in American politics. Like their predecessors, they are openly hostile to voting rights, civil rights, abortion rights, and human rights. 

But these Republicans pose a new kind of threat. They have new members who were last in Washington alongside a mob that decided to storm the Capitol on January 6. Their ranks are now stacked with election deniers who have only one goal: install Donald Trump as president in 2024. These Republicans will use any tool they think might work to hurt working families – cut taxes for their wealthy donors, gut Medicare and Social Security, starve public schools and health care providers, and block any efforts to lift children out of poverty. They will use thinly-disguised appeals to racism and xenophobia. Above all, Republicans will eagerly sow economic chaos so they can turn around and blame Democrats for economic chaos—all in service to moving Donald Trump a few inches closer to the White House. If Democrats let ourselves be bullied by Republican hostage-taking, we will hurt the families we came here to help. And, for good measure, we’ll be voted out of office in 2024.

That takes me to Lesson Number 5: Capitulating to extremists is not only wrong, it’s a losing strategy. If ever there was a time for Democrats to grow a spine, this is it.

Democrats now have two jobs. The first is to do everything we can in the lame duck session to prepare for the chaos that is coming if the Republican wrecking crew takes control of the House.

We should eliminate the debt ceiling NOW. The debt ceiling does not limit spending; it simply creates leverage for Republicans who are willing to destroy America’s standing in the world and damage our economy in order to promote their own political power. The American people understand that. In 2021, Democrats raised the debt ceiling without a single Republican vote - and there wasn’t a single Democrat who lost reelection because of it. 

Second, Democrats should tell our own economic story. It’s time to go on offense. 

Republicans are the party that brought us the 2008 financial crash.

Republicans are the party that ran up the deficit with $2 trillion in tax cuts for billionaires and billionaire corporations.

Republicans are the party that is actively working to cut Social Security and Medicare,

Republicans are the party that wants to leave millions of people shackled with student loan debt forever.

Republicans are the party that doesn’t want Medicare to negotiate prescription drugs and doesn’t want the government to end corporate price gouging and doesn’t want to make billionaire corporations pay a minimum tax. 

Listen to that list. There shouldn’t be a single voter in the country who trusts Republicans on the economy. And, if we get out there and make our case, there won’t be a single voter who trusts the Republicans on the economy. 

We need to start fighting back now. Where we can pursue legislative action to help working families, we should fight aggressively. When Republicans try to obstruct and the president can act by executive authority, he must do so. Bipartisanship doesn’t mean politicians in Washington agree; bipartisanship means we deliver what the American people—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—want and need.

So, yes, now is the time to push for universal child care. Now is the time to deliver on student debt relief. Now is the time to lay out plans to expand housing. Now is the time to push hard for home and community-based care. And now is the time to make sure that billionaires and billionaire corporations pay for these investments in America’s hard-working families.

Now is also the time to make government a whole lot more sensible. Sensible immigration reform that will help businesses get more workers and treat people with basic decency. Sensible enforcement of antitrust laws to break up monopolies and get real competition throughout our economy. Sensible understanding about why we need strong unions and why the PRO Act is good for every American worker, union or not.

Now is also the time to fight for basic integrity in government, which means neither members of Congress nor top Administration officials should be allowed to own or trade individual stocks. 

They are good policies and good politics. 

We should keep our doors open for Republicans who want to work together, but we should be equally willing to call out those Republicans who want welfare for the wealthy and economic pain for everyone else. And we should stand up to the chaos caucus that is willing to inflict pain on the American people because they think it will help them in their single-minded goal of restoring Donald Trump to power.

Republicans will fight hard for billionaires, billionaire corporations, and conspiracy theorists. Democrats must be willing to fight even harder for working families. It’s an honor to fight alongside all of you. 

Thank you.