Guest Columnist

Bennett: Warren has the intelligence and courage necessary to lead

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center Sunday afternoon.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center Sunday afternoon.

Iowans have a huge role to play in our next presidential election, and critical choices to make at their precinct caucuses next February. It’s no exaggeration to say the future of our country is riding on the outcome.

With the stakes so high, I’m taking my choice seriously. As a state representative and an engaged Iowa voter, I’ve closely followed the Democratic campaigns over the last six months, attending events, meeting candidates and doing my due diligence.

And now I’ve made my decision. I’m endorsing Elizabeth Warren for president in 2020, and I’ll be proud to stand up for her at my local caucus on Feb. 3.

Here in Cedar Rapids, I’ve seen Elizabeth capture a crowd of thousands — and kneel down to share a pinkie promise with a little girl. I’ve seen her engage on the substance and dig into the weeds — and then stay for every selfie. In every interaction, I’ve been impressed by her intelligence and courage, and inspired by her empathy and the effortless way she lives her values.

Elizabeth has spent her entire career — actually, her entire adult life, since long before she entered politics — working to understand what life is like for average people: how they struggle and why, how the game has been rigged against them, and how we, together, can rewrite the rules to ensure opportunity for all.

As a public school teacher and law professor, a leading scholar on bankruptcy and middle-class economics, a consumer advocate and, for the last six years, as a United States senator, Elizabeth Warren has defended what I believe to be the cornerstone of the American dream: a fighting chance for all.

She knows that economic inequality is not just the way things are.

She knows this from her scholarship, advocacy and political leadership, but also from her own life. I’ll never forget the first time I heard Elizabeth tell her story of growing up on the “ragged edge” of the middle class — how her family was saved by a minimum wage job, and how her future was secured at a commuter college where tuition cost $50 a semester.

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I recognize that story — my parents grew up in an America where a person could pay for college with a summer job, or support a family on a job in the trades — and I recognize how far removed from it we are today.

Here in Iowa, hardworking people are finding it harder and harder to get ahead. More than half of the jobs in our state pay less than $15 an hour, and in many places it takes more than that just to afford a two-bedroom apartment. Many Iowans are working two or three jobs just to get by — an injustice you can’t see in the unemployment report.

Workers’ rights and bargaining power have been eviscerated in Iowa, weakening earnings and quality of life for all of us. And when young Iowans go to college today, they all too often leave with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, limiting their options and making it harder to buy a house or start a family.

Elizabeth understands that all this didn’t just happen. This isn’t just the way things are. We got here because of the corrupting influence of money and power over our political system, and because of decisions made by politicians to put profits above people.

She’s been sounding the alarm on this for decades — before it was fashionable, and way before she had any inkling it might lead her to run for president. And she hasn’t just been talking about it, either.

Elizabeth led the Congressional Oversight Panel responsible for protecting taxpayers’ interests in the bank bailout that followed the financial crash of 2008. She imagined a new federal consumer protection agency — and then turned her idea into the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has now returned more than $12 billion to American consumers.

As a candidate for president, she’s led the way with real, detailed plans for leveling the economic playing field and ensuring opportunity for all. Elizabeth Warren has plans for tuition-free college, student debt cancellation, universal child care, affordable housing, green manufacturing, breaking up monopolies and much more.

We need a president who understands our challenges, and who has the plans and persistence to solve them. That’s Elizabeth Warren, and that’s why I’m supporting her in the Iowa caucuses and beyond.

• Liz Bennett is an Iowa state representative from Cedar Rapids.

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