Warren offers mild criticism of Baker
Senator covers variety of topics with Gateway Cities reporters
US SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN offered mild criticism of Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday, suggesting that she would like to see Republican governors put more pressure on President Trump and members of the GOP in Congress.
Polls indicate both Baker and Warren are popular with Massachusetts voters. Asked specifically whether she would campaign on behalf of Baker’s eventual Democratic opponent in the 2018 election, Warren was noncommittal.
“Let’s see how the thing emerges,” she said. “Right now we don’t know who our Democratic candidate is going to be. We don’t even know who’s going to be in the Democratic primary, much less who the Democratic candidate will be. Look, I think we need to field a team that is willing to push hard on the Republicans in Washington to make America work for everyone, not just those at the top.”
Warren spoke on a variety of topics at a meeting at the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester with reporters from newspapers in the state’s Gateway Cities. During the discussion, she talked at length about her concerns about the Trump administration and its potential impact on Massachusetts. At times, her rhetoric soared. Here is a sampling from the one-hour conversation.
Are Democrats becoming the party of no? “The Republicans were the party of no. They’re still the party of no. I get they’re passing things, and they’re trying to move the Affordable Care Act. But take a look at what they want to do. They want to take away health care coverage from 24 million Americans. They want to shrink up what gets covered by insurance. That’s the party of no. That’s the party of no help for anyone who needs it. And I think they have to be called out on this. It frustrates me when people say we need Washington to work better…that what’s going on in Washington is gridlock. I hate the word gridlock. This is not gridlock. Gridlock implies four cars got to the intersection at the same time and they’re all jerks and nobody will back up, so nobody goes forward. That’s not what’s going on here. What’s going on in Washington is a fight over the direction our country will go. Will we be a country that works great for the top 10 percent and leaves everybody else in the dirt? You don’t have to take my word for it, just read their budget, read the Affordable Care Act proposal. That’s the Republican vision. Will we be a country that builds a strong middle class, that builds opportunities for working people, that gives people born into poverty a chance to get an education, get a job, and build a future for themselves. I grew up in an America where the odds of doing better than your parents were more than 90 percent. Today, it’s less than a coin toss. It’s a profound shift in America. I want to be the America where kids get that chance. I want to be the America where we make an investment not in just some of our kids but all of our kids so they really have a chance. I want to be the America where we’re building infrastructure so it’s more competitive to put your factories in the United States than China or Indonesia. I want to be the America that’s on the frontlines of medical and scientific research. I want to be the America that believes in the future and is willing to tighten our belts a little bit right now to build that future. For the Republicans, every one of their proposals is about helping people who have already made it and making everyone else pay for it.”
What do you think of Trump’s budget proposal? “The fundamental idea of trying to cut taxes for those at the top, which then means fewer and fewer investments for everybody who hasn’t made it yet, is wrong. It’s not working for America. And it’s causing more and more people to be left behind, not just for a little while, but permanently. We’re fundamentally changing this country and this budget is classic old trickle-down economics on steroids. Take away money from places that build opportunity and put it somewhere else. Put it in the hands of giant corporations and the hands of billionaires. That’s for me the 50,000-foot view on it.”
On defense spending. “Donald Trump talks about wanting to build up the military, presumably to make us safe. That’s the whole idea behind it. And yet, now that I’m on the Armed Services Committee, I have the chance to ask generals and foreign policy experts what makes us safe around the world. While they’re great supporters of making sure we have a well-trained and well-equipped military, they are the first to point out that it’s powerfully important that we use other tools – the State Department, diplomacy, foreign aid – that when we see a problem spot in the world that our only tool is not the military, that we have other responses….The idea that cutting those budgets will make us safer is just wrong. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Take the words of the generals who lead us.”
On the opioid crisis. Warren said the death rate from opioids in Massachusetts is twice the national average and the state ranks second behind North Dakota in terms of growth in people with addiction problems. She said Trump’s proposal to reduce the size of Medicaid will hurt poor people, in part because they will lose coverage but also because of a provision that would allow health plans to do away with mental health and substance abuse coverage. She said $5 billion currently going for treatment of people with addictions could disappear. “This isn’t health care reform. This isn’t making America stronger. This is destroying lives and taking away hope from the people that need it most,” she said.
On Gateway Cities. She warned that Trump is trying to eliminate Community Development Block Grants and to shift money away from public schools. She said he is also threatening cities and towns that declare themselves sanctuary cities and refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials. “His view is that federal money should be used as a weapon against local mayors and police forces who believe that their communities are safer when they are not acting as agents of ICE,” she said, adding that she believes Trump’s position is unconstitutional.
Always a poor kid. Warren, before she began, found a quarter on the conference table and picked it up. “I always look for money in the airport,” she said. “No, this is true. In the airport, where you have to put your suitcase and your shoes and all that stuff, I always look underneath and I dive down and get the money. And you’d be amazed at how much change gets scattered underneath. I’d say at least two out of three trips I end up with some money. I do. People are shocked, but I can’t pass it up once I see it. Once a poor kid always a poor kid.” She took the quarter with her when she left.