WAVERLY — Only one day removed from releasing her “Medicare for All” plan that would delay the rollout until what would be her third year in office, Sen. Elizabeth Warren didn’t talk about it much Saturday afternoon.
Instead, the Democratic presidential front-runner began her town hall at Wartburg College in Waverly by talking about growing up in Oklahoma. In particular, she spoke of how her father’s heart attack pushed her mother to swallow her fears and get a minimum wage job at Sears, which helped save Warren’s family home.
“When it comes down to it, you reach down deep and you take care of the people you love,” Warren told a crowd of about 500 inside Knights Ballroom. “That’s the lesson millions of people live every single day.”
But that was decades ago, when a minimum-wage job would support a family of three, Warren said.
“That same job today will not keep a family out of poverty,” she said. “Today, the question asked in Washington is, ‘Where do we set the minimum wage to help the profits of giant, multinational corporations?’”
Warren said that’s because lobbyists for those corporations pour money into the coffers of U.S. senators and representatives.
“That is corruption, pure and simple — and we need to call it out for what it is,” she said. “Whatever issue brought you here today ... if there is a decision to be made in Washington, I guarantee you it’s been shaped by money.”
Only “big, structural change” can solve that, she said, and as president she’d end lobbying, “block the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington,” set conflict-of-interest rules for the Supreme Court and “make every single person who runs for federal office put their tax returns online.”
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She also said she’d enforce federal antitrust laws, make it easier to join a union and give them greater power to negotiate, end what she called “voter suppression laws” and “political gerrymandering,” and seek to overturn the Citizens United decision on political campaign money.
“It’s about the choices we make — we need to protect our democracy,” Warren said.
She would tax those with a fortune of more than $50 million two cents per dollar they have over $50 million, and use that revenue to provide universal child care and preschool, investing $800 billion in K-12 schools, public colleges and historically black colleges and universities, and canceling 95 percent of student loan debt.
“You made a great fortune in America, good for you,” Warren said. “But if you built a great fortune in America, I guarantee you built it at least in part using workers all of us helped educate, getting goods to market on roads all of us helped build, protected by using police and fire all of us help pay the salaries for. All we’re saying is, if you make it really big, pitch in two cents so everybody else has a chance to make it big.”
Warren is polling at an average of 20 percent among likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers, according to the Real Clear Politics average. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is nipping at her heels at 19.7 percent. Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders are polling at 17 percent and 16.3 percent. The rest of the Democratic presidential field is polling at an average of 5 percent or less.
Carol Wertz of Osage said she like Warren’s passion.
“She sure makes you feel it,” Wertz said.
Wertz had seen presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris in Fort Dodge and liked what she heard there, too.
“She’s my No. 1. I think Elizabeth might be my No. 2, though,” Wertz said.
Warren and Buttigieg are the top two for Waverly-Shell Rock High School juniors Cali Angel and Emma Seward. Angel, who will be old enough by Feb. 3 to take part in the caucuses, said reproductive rights are a big issue for her. Seward said climate change is high on her priorities.
“It’s really cool to see a female candidate leading, and I like a lot of her plans,” Angel said.
But she wasn’t committed just yet.
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“Any people that come to Waverly, I’m interested in going to see them,” Angel said. “I like to hear what everyone’s saying and keep an open mind.”
That also was true for Wartburg freshman Tessa Burger, who said she still doesn’t know much about the candidates or the election process in general. But she said she’s inspired by Warren’s back story of her family struggling to get by. It reminds her of her own family’s struggles. Burger said her top two candidates are Warren and Sanders.
“A lot of it has to do with education,” Burger said, noting she liked Warren’s ideas about eliminating most student loan debt and funding public schools. “She’s definitely invested in the future of our country.”