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“This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class,” by Elizabeth Warren, Metropolitan, NY, 2017. This 337-page hardback is Warren’s most recent book published after the election of Donald Trump but before the 2018 election. She provides a bit of biography. She was born in 1949 in Oklahoma City to middle class parents. She decided to become a teacher and won a scholarship to George Washington University. She left school to marry after two years. Later she finished her degree at a commuter school (University of Houston) and taught special needs kids. She studied law at Rutgers public law school in Newark, NJ. She worked for the government at setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She was elected senator from Massachusetts. There is no mention of her Indian ancestry although her family is from Oklahoma.

The book begins with a review of the wealth divide problem. Economic growth in the US has benefitted the wealthy and left the middle class behind. The differential is worse for minorities. The $7.25 minimum wage is below the poverty line. College is no longer affordable. Student loans are burdensome. Kids no longer expect to do better than their parents.

Warren celebrates Franklin Roosevelt who sought to make capitalism work for all Americans. Presidents through Ford followed the Roosevelt system for the good of all. She quotes Roosevelt: If I were a factory worker, I would join a union. Hard won benefits earned by unions were shared by many.

Reagan began the trickle down theory. That followed from the 1971 Powell report for the US Chamber of Commerce which urged business to defend the free enterprise system from attackers. Union busting began. Antitrust enforcement faded. Massive consolidations followed.

Warren believes the SEC should be led by someone who is not a Wall Streeter. The revolving door limits effectiveness. She does not address the paradox. Can someone without knowledge of the industry regulate it? Where do you find experts untainted by association with Wall Street? Lawyers? Academics? Perhaps experienced journalists who have covered Wall Street for years best fit the bill. E.g., Larry Kudlow?

CEO’s who break the law should go to jail. Antitrust laws should be enforced. Major corporations pay nothing in federal income taxes: Verizon, Boeing, General Electric.

Education is fundamental. Middle class jobs usually require post high school education. States reduced support increasing costs to students. Tuition at commuter colleges is now much higher. Failure to invest in education is trickle down economics at its worst. Affordable state colleges are necessary.

We should invest in infrastructure. Failure to do so gave us lead in water in Flint, MI, a collapsed bridge in Minneapolis, a failing mass transit system in Boston and dams that threaten cities like Sacramento. We should build digital highways.

Wall Street banks are powerful forces in government. She relates the story of efforts to weaken Dodd-Frank. Giant corporations get loopholes built into legislation through lobbyists.

The Koch brothers get attention. Their father was founder of the ultraconservative John Birch Society. They support oil, gas, coal, chemicals, mining and finance business interests as well as opposition to civil rights legislation, criminal justice reform, and marriage equality. They favor low taxes and small government. A senator from Kansas was forced to reverse position on a Supreme Court nomination when they threatened to run a conservative candidate against him. Koch Brothers sends judges on all expense paid trips and junkets. In 2014, Scalia took 23 such trips. The Citizens United Supreme Court opinion opened the flood gates to corporate cash in politics–giving us more of the same.

The Chamber of Commerce is a giant in corporate lobbying. In 2013 they raised $260MM. Out of favor businesses like tobacco work through the Chamber to achieve their goals such as opposition to anti-smoking efforts.

Drug companies feared prescription coverage in Medicare would cause the government to negotiate discounts. They supported Medicare Part D which required government to pay without negotiations. Sierra Club and unions also hire lobbyists. In 2013, lobbying reached $3.24B from $200MM in 1983. Trade deals can have a major impact on commerce and need to be negotiated carefully. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau suggested by Warren was strongly opposed by financial interests as “some kind of Commie plot.” Corporations that advertise often get better treatment in the media.

Non-profits can be used by big business to promote their point of view as a grassroots movement. Even the prestigious Brooking Institution was used. A paid study was presented to Congress opposing legislation regulating kickbacks to financial advisors to promote high fee annuities. Bogus research is handed out by publicists and gets accepted as fact.

Climate change is an example of bogus research. Koch brothers spent $88MM on groups that deny climate change. Contributions from opaque non-profits surged. A petition reportedly signed by 31 thousand scientists was signed by non-climate scientists.

A chapter describes the surprise when Trump was elected. Warren was certain Hillary would be elected, had celebrated at a rally in New Hampshire with her, and had an op-ed piece ready to go.

Union goals opposed by Republicans are listed as minimum wage, paid family leave, fair scheduling laws, affordable health care, Medicaid, Medicare, etc.

In a poll, 70% of voters think students should have a chance at a debt free education. Nearly 3/4 support expanding Social Security, ie increasing benefits by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay more (not to mention funding its pending deficit). They would raise the minimum wage. They would raise taxes on the wealthy, eliminate deductions, and close loopholes. They want more regulation of Wall Street. They would strengthen the CFPB. They would increase spending on infrastructure.

Wells Fargo padded its numbers by creating fake accounts and then responded by firing low level employees who followed orders. When he testified before the Senate Banking Committee, Warren took CEO John Stumpf to task for failure to resign, return personal earnings, or fire senior executives. As a result he resigned and gave up his bonus.

This quote says it succinctly: “If we create honest markets, invest in education, infrastructure, and research, and take enough tax revenue from those who make it big, then we will have the schools, and roads, and bridges that will give the next kid a chance to make it big, too.”

In the end, Warren makes many good points about our problems and needs. She especially favors education, infrastructure, research, and unions. Her main recommendation is increase the minimum wage. The ideas are well presented but not new. Surprisingly there is no mention of the Affordable Care Act or Medicare for all. Health care receives little attention in this volume. References. Index.
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