Warren touts economic worldview, put opponents on notice

"I am serious about delivering real change," Warren said in a speech combining her economic vision and crusade against corruption Thursday.
Image: Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Washington in 2017.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Washington in 2017.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

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By Ali Vitali, Molly Roecker and Deepa Shivaram

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., continued to put corruption in the spotlight in a speech here Thursday, delivering remarks that served as both an illustration of her economic worldview — that she alone will launch the crusade against a corrupt system — and also an offensive against those, including her 2020 opponents, whom she sees as unwilling to stand up to that same malfeasance.

“I'm serious about delivering real change — and a lot of powerful people know it,” Warren said in a speech at Saint Anselm College. “Just take a look at who the Washington insiders and Wall Street executives and billionaires spend their time and money attacking on TV and in the press. They believe that I’m the biggest threat to a corrupt system that has enriched them at everyone else’s expense.”

The remarks were a hallmark address for Warren on how to improve an economy she argues is bogged down by deeply entrenched corruption while also taking repeated shots at unnamed opponents.

In some cases, Warren took opponents to task for their reliance on high-dollar donors; in others, for their “naïve hope” that Washington’s partisan rancor can ever be rolled back in the name of bipartisan progress. In fact, there was little hope for bipartisanship in this speech; it centered around the “fight.”

Warren specifically referenced — without naming — former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg for their fundraising practices and how they’ve talked about their donors. To those, like Biden, who talk about a return to bipartisanship, Warren offered: “Unlike some candidates for the Democratic nomination, I'm not counting on Republican politicians having an epiphany.”

At another point of the speech, while defending her belief in markets, she even offered a subtle rebuke of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., saying, “nobody should be surprised that I believe in markets.” Warren and Sanders have dueled over interpretations of their capitalist versus socialist stances, one of the key differences between their worldviews, and something that Sanders has brought up in the past months.

Finally, Warren directly took on the latest candidate to enter the Democratic primary race, saying "I’m no fan of Michael Bloomberg, that has been made clear through the years.” But she used the former New York City mayor to make a larger point about the wealth tax. “He built a successful business,” she allowed, but argued that her wealth tax proposal “isn’t about being punitive or denigrating success ... It’s about making sure that the wealthy don’t pull the ladder up behind them."

Asked after the remarks by NBC News if the rest of the Democrats in the 2020 field were "either not willing or not capable" of affecting the necessary change that Warren talked about, she said: "Well, pretty much. I mean, look, we know how big the problems are that's what I talked about. And right now, no one is proposing the kinds of solutions that address those problems."