The following is a transcript of the remarks Senator Elizabeth Warren delivered at an event held Tuesday night by the Center for Popular Democracy:
Thank you, Center for Popular Democracy. It is an honor to fight by your side – and the side of so many organizations joining us tonight.
Congratulations Danny, Keith, and Ana– my co-honorees tonight. These are people who inspire us all.
As you’ve mentioned, I’ve spent much of my career focused on what’s happening to working people in America. People who work hard, play by the rules, but who try to make in a system that’s increasingly rigged against them. You know these people – you fight for these people every day.
When economists and reporters talk about unemployment numbers or foreclosure rates, it’s easy to forget about the faces behind those numbers. The moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas – our family members and neighbors and friends. Tonight I want to tell you one of their stories.
Eight years ago, after the financial crisis hit, I came down to Washington to chair the Congressional Oversight Panel for the TARP bailout.
It was December 2008, and we had gone to Clark County, Nevada for a hearing. We listened to a few of the millions of people whose lives were being torn apart by the crisis. A man named Mr. Estrada showed up in jeans and a Marine Corps baseball cap, and he told his story.
He and his wife both worked hard, and they had stretched their budget to buy a house that was right across the street from a really good school for his two little girls. He was so obviously proud of those girls, and he loved how he could open up his garage and look across and see his daughters playing at the school playground.
But the Estradas had a mortgage with an ugly surprise buried in the fine print. When the payments jumped, they fell behind. Mr. Estrada and his wife talked to the bank over and over, and he thought they had arranged a settlement. Then—poof!—the house was sold at auction. The notice said he had 14 days to move his family—those two little girls—out of their home.
Mr. Estrada told us that after they got the notice, his six-year-old came home with a full sheet of paper with all of her friends’ names on it. She told him that this was her list of people who were going to miss her because her family was going to have to move. He said he told his daughter, “I don’t care if I have to live in a van. You’re still going to be able to go to this school.”
Mr. Estrada was a solidly built guy, a good family man. I watched as he struggled not to cry in front of a room full of strangers. I watched as he groped for the words to explain what this crazy financial meltdown was doing to his two little girls. Mr. Estrada came to that hearing for help, but there was no help for him. No, Washington was too busy bailing out the giant banks to help out the Estrada family.
That’s what the crash was like. After listening to Mr. Estrada, we drove through town. We saw vacant homes, a pickup loaded with furniture, foreclosure postings, abandoned construction sites. Evidence everywhere of people like Mr. Estrada who had believed in the American dream, worked hard to make it a reality, and were watching it all disappear.
So I’m here tonight for an urgent reason: To stand up and say that we will never, ever let these guys wreck the American economy again--never.
Unfortunately, if you’ve been watching the presidential race, you know that we need to stand up now more than ever. Just yesterday, it came out that Donald Trump had said back in 2007 that he was “excited” for the real estate market to crash because, quote, “I’ve always made more money in bad markets than in good markets.” That’s right. The rest of us were horrified by the 2008 financial crisis, by what happened to the millions of families like Mr. Estrada’s that were forced out of their homes. But Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown – because it meant he could buy up a bunch more property on the cheap.
What kind of a man does that? Root for people to get thrown out on the street? Root for people to lose their jobs? Root for people to lose their pensions? Root for two little girls in Clark County, Nevada, to end up living in a van? What kind of a man does that? I’ll tell you exactly what kind—a man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure moneygrubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt, so long as he makes some money off it. What kind of man does that? A man who will NEVER be President of the United States.
Sometimes Trump claims he is tough on Wall Street – tough on the guys who cheated people like Mr. Estrada. I’m sure you’ve heard him say that. But now he’s singing a very different song. Last week, he said that the new Dodd-Frank financial regulations have, and I’m quoting here, “made it impossible for bankers to function” and he will put out a new plan soon that “will be close to dismantling Dodd-Frank.” Donald Trump is worried about helping poor little Wall Street? Let me find the world’s smallest violin to play a sad, sad song.
Can Donald Trump even name three things that Dodd-Frank does? Seriously, someone ask him. But this much he should know: If he’s so tough on Wall Street, he should be cheering on Dodd-Frank’s capital and leverage requirements that have made big banks less likely to fail. If he’s so tough on Wall Street, he should be cheering on Dodd-Frank’s living wills process, which is helping push big banks to become safer. If he’s so tough on Wall Street, he should be cheering on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has already returned over $11 billion to families who were cheated.
He SHOULD be, but he’s not. Now that he’s sewn up the Republican nomination, Donald Trump is dropping the pretense. Now he’s kissing the fannies of poor, misunderstood Wall Street bankers. But the American people are a whole lot smarter than Donald Trump thinks they are. The American people are NOT looking for a bait and switch. They are NOT looking for a man so desperate for power he will say and do anything to get elected. Take the hint, Donald: the time for letting big banks call all the shots in Washington is coming to an end.
And I want to make just one last point about Donald Trump that won’t fit into a Twitter war. One last point that sums up what Donald Trump is all about – his taxes.
We don’t know what Trump pays in taxes because he is the first Presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. Maybe he’s just a lousy businessman who doesn’t want you to find out that he’s worth a lot less money than he claims.
But we know one thing: the last time his taxes were made public, Donald Trump paid nothing—zero. Zero taxes before, and for all we know he’s paying zero taxes today. And he’s proud of it. Two weeks ago he said he’s more than happy to dodge taxes because he doesn’t want to throw his money “down the drain.”
Trump likes being a billionaire, and doesn’t think the rules that apply to everyone else should apply to him. But let’s be clear: Donald Trump didn’t get rich on his own. His businesses rely on the roads and bridges the rest of us paid for. His businesses rely on workers the rest of us paid to educate and on police-forces and fire fighters who protect all of us and the rest of us pay to support. Donald Trump and his businesses are protected by a world-class military that defends us abroad and keeps us safe at home and that the rest of us pay to support. When anyone builds something terrific, they should get to keep a big hunk of it. But they should also pay a fair share forward so the next kid and the next kid and the next kid who come along gets their chance to build something too. That’s how we build a future that works for everyone.
And that goes double for Donald Trump, because he didn’t even get rich by building something terrific. He inherited a fortune from his father, and kept it going by scamming people, declaring bankruptcy, and skipping out on what he owed.
Nurses, teachers, and dockworkers pay their fair share for all the services that keep Trump’s businesses going. Programmers and engineers and small business owners pay their fair share to support our military who show courage and sacrifice every single day. Donald Trump thinks supporting them is throwing money “down the drain.” I say we just throw Donald Trump down the drain.
Let’s face it: Donald Trump cares about exactly one thing –Donald Trump. It’s time for some accountability because these statements disqualify Donald Trump from ever becoming President. The free ride is over.
I focused tonight on the urgent threat that is Donald Trump for exactly that reason – because the threat is urgent. But we all know that beating Trump is only one step toward rebuilding America’s middle class.
The central question at this juncture in our history is who our country works for. Whether this country works for billionaires like Trump and their big bank friends, or whether this country works for everyone else, for the people who get up every day and work their tails off and who are sick and tired of getting the short end of every stick. That’s what matters, and each of you works every day on different pieces of that fight. Wall Street accountability and Fed reform. Minimum wage and overtime pay and fair scheduling practices. Workers’ rights and racial justice. You know the list, you know the stakes, and you know the challenges. But I know one thing. Whether we’re talking about Donald Trump or economic change – you can’t win if you don’t fight. So we’re in this fight—and we’re in it to win.