Last Friday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was the keynote speaker at the annual Netroots Nation, a political convention for progressive activists. The theme of her speech was that Americans needs to fight back against the system that is rigged against them.
She opened with the story of how she started the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). She said once she had the idea for the CFPB and began talking about it, most people agreed that it was badly needed, but told her “Don’t do it because the biggest banks in this country will hate it, and you will lose.”
But she didn’t, despite the fact that financial institutions “spent more than a million dollars a day for more than a year lobbying against financial reforms.”
“We won,” Warren said, “because you and a zillion other people from across this country got in the fight … You called out sleazy lobbyists and cowardly politicians … You said ‘we the people will have this agency’ and you are the ones who won this fight.” The CFPB is almost three years old, and it has already forced “the biggest financial institutions in this country to return more than $4 billion to consumers they cheated.”
The senator said the American people should never miss the central point of that story:
“The CFPB is proof of how democracy can work in the 21st century. It is proof that if we push back against the biggest, strongest, most ruthless lobbying effort in the country, that if we push back hard, we can win. We fight; we win. Now I understand, we don’t win every time and we’re still trying to figure out how to make it all work. But we have united our voices, and when we unite our voices, we can win … We will fight and we will win; that’s my message today.”
Sen. Warren then turned to how the system works today. “[Corporations] use their money and their connections to try to capture Washington and rig the rules in their favor,” she said. “From tax policy to ret security, those with power fight to make sure that every rule tilts in their favor. Everyone else just gets left behind. That’s what we’re up against. That’s what democracy is up against.”
“Look at the big banks. They cheated American families, crashed the economy, got bailed out, and now the biggest banks are even bigger than they were when they were too big to fail in 2008. They still swagger through Washington, blocking reforms and pushing around agencies. A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail but a big bank launders drug money and no one gets arrested. The game is rigged, and it isn’t right. It’s rigged!”
She then said that the federal government is bleeding billions of dollars in tax loopholes and subsidies – dollars that could be spent on getting college students out of loan debt, rebuilding roads and bridges, and investing in power grids and medical research. She also called out corporations who renounce their American citizenship so they don’t have to pay taxes because they have “lobbyists and Republicans to protect every loophole and every privilege.”
Sen. Warren finished her speech with a series of things she believes are worth fighting for, including increasing the minimum wage, equal pay, protecting Social Security, immigration reform, and overturning the Hobby Lobby decision.
“Right here in this room,” she concluded “this is where it happens. This is 21st century democracy. This is the future of America. This is where we decide that we the people will fight for what we believe in. We’re gonna do this together, and we’re gonna win. That’s what’s gonna happen.”
Watch Sen. Warren’s full speech, which begins at about the 15:00 mark, below.