‘Tis the Season for Making Legislative Moves (w/ Sen. Elizabeth Warren)

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Julián and Sawyer are back from the holidays and back to the DC chatter with special guest Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who explicitly outlines the work Congress still has to do before year’s end. Speaking of Congress, Julián and Sawyer criticize Republicans for their continued ambivalence toward racism and bigotry against their own colleagues while simultaneously casting more doubt on the new omicron COVID variant.

Follow Sen. Warren online at @ewarren.

Keep up with Julián on Twitter at @JulianCastro and Instagram at @JulianCastroTX. Sawyer can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @SawyerHackett. And stay up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @LemonadaMedia.

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Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Sawyer Hackett

Julian Castro  00:13

Hey there. I’m Julian Castro.

Sawyer Hackett 

And I’m Sawyer Hackett.

Julian Castro 

And welcome to OUR AMERICA. Where we tackle some of the week’s leading political headlines impacting your community. Hey, Sawyer. So wait, let me just ask you like how much weight did you gain over Thanksgiving?

Sawyer Hackett 

Well, actually, surprisingly, Thanksgiving is not my favorite meal. It’s a little too carb heavy, doesn’t have enough spice in it. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite. So I don’t go overboard every year.

Julian Castro

I mean, look, I yeah, my Thanksgiving meal was turkey with stuffing with gravy on both. Some pumpkin pie. You know, all of our cranberry sauce. I love cranberry sauce. I even had mashed potatoes. I don’t eat mashed potatoes that often. But I mean, I go all out on Thanksgiving. Are you saying like that’s the time that you watch your weight or something?

Sawyer Hackett 

No, I just think that the traditional dishes that go along with Thanksgiving are just not up to par when it comes to the amount of spice that’s in it, the amount of acidity amount of like sweetness, it just doesn’t have the right balance to me.

Julian Castro 

For of y’all that don’t know, Sawyer on Instagram has this hobby of posting him making these elaborate meals I saw the you know, I think you made something simple, like sweet potato rolls or something a couple of days ago, but you’ve also had this elaborate stuff on there. That’s 15 different little Instagram Stories, one after another. So hey, I’m gonna cut you some slack. You know what you’re talking about when it comes to food, alright.

Julian Castro 

It’s just not my favorite meal. I mean, I think that there are better food holidays out there. Name one better holiday.

Sawyer Hackett 

We usually do like a like a Ribeye roast for Christmas, with usually some potatoes or maybe some like ham or like, all these different greens. Like, I just feel like there’s so much more leeway around Christmas meal than Thanksgiving meal, because you have to stick to those stuffing, Turkey mashed potatoes, you know, it’s all the same thing at every house.

Julian Castro  02:20

You go, at least you have something to look forward to on Christmas Day. So we just got through Thanksgiving. And of course, that’s a fantastic break for a lot of families was also a break for Congress and for the President. But very quickly, the President and Congress are back to work, and they got a lot on their plate. And so today we have a really special guest on our pod. Our friend, Senator Elizabeth Warren, is going to be here to talk about everything going on Capitol Hill and her advocacy, with the Biden administration on a whole host of issues. But first, we want to talk about the latest on the COVID front, as I’m sure many of y’all have heard about this new Omicron variant. And we’re also going to discuss this disturbing pattern of the encouragement of violence and also bigotry that we’re seeing from some Republicans in Congress. So you’re I saw a few days ago, that Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, I guess she was at home in Colorado and this is video that somebody that was there put out but she was in the news for comments that she made about her colleague representative Ilhan Omar, what was that all about?

Sawyer Hackett

Yeah, that’s right, as this video surfaced over the weekend of Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert of Colorado, implying that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar had been mistaken for a terrorist in an elevator on Capitol Hill that, you know, a Capitol Hill police officer mistook her for a terrorist. She also referred to Omar and her colleagues as the Jihad squad, which is obviously disgusting. You know, Democrats leaders in Congress, Ilhan Omar herself quickly took to Twitter to demand you know that Boebert be punished, held accountable by Congress. You know, she took to Twitter and called Boebert a buffoon. She has since issued an apology. Some would say half assed apology, saying that she apologizes to anyone who might be offended by those comments, but hasn’t really apologized in a full-throated manner. And apparently there was this call between the two of them, in which Omar ended up hanging up on her because she didn’t apologize. It’s all a mess.

Sawyer Hackett  04:42

This all comes after Republican Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona tweeted an animated video depicting him killing Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and it comes after Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia express support for you know this racist anti-Semitic Qanon conspiracies. This morning political playbook said about the situation that it quote highlights the slippery slope Democrats created when they removed. Marjorie Taylor Green from her committees. So you know, the Qanon caucus does this crazy crap. Democrats suggest that they be held accountable and the media is framing it as Democrats exposing the rift between the two parties. What do you make of all of this? What do you think? How do you think Democrats should be talking about this? What the hell is going on there?

Julian Castro

Well, first, that example that you just cited from Politico that like, that’s such an important thing to point out, because part of the problem is that in so many ways, this behavior has been normalized. The Republican Party has gone off the rails when it comes to embracing white supremacy, embracing bigotry, allowing that to flourish in its caucus, not penalizing members who engage in this kind of conduct. A few years ago, Steve King made some incendiary comments, you know, bigoted comments, he was stripped of his committee assignments, you know, in pretty short order. That was a few years ago. The comments that Boebert made, and the things that Gosar is spewing. I mean, they’re the same level, if not worse than what Steve King did just a few years ago. And the difference in the Republican Party of 2021, versus just a couple of years ago is that in 2021, they won’t hold you accountable if you spew this bigotry in their caucus.

Julian Castro  06:41

In fact, Kevin McCarthy has already talked about the possibility of Gosar I think, in maybe Marjorie Taylor Greene getting committee assignments back, or at least […] , that doesn’t. So McCarthy is saying these folks could get committee assignments, you have Republicans take over in January of 2023. The point to all of our listeners and to the American people to voters is okay, well, how much of this are you going to take? How much of this are the voters of the third district of Colorado that Boebert represents going to take? How much of this our constituents of these folks, whether it’s in Arizona for Gosar, any number of different places? How much of it are you going to take before you send a message that this is not what our party, this is not what our country is about? Because at this point, it seems like the only way they’re going to be discouraged from continuing down this path is that the voters kick them out.

Sawyer Hackett

Kevin McCarthy is a coward; he is not going to hold any of these people accountable. And when he does, he ends up backtracking, like you said he said of Gosar and Greene, that if Republicans take back the House, that they may have better committee assignments when they return. So he’s not only just dismissing it, he’s saying, oh, yeah, no, they’re leaders in our party, they’re gonna have great committee assignments. And I think it’s important to note that like, these aren’t, this isn’t just an extreme faction of the Republican Party. This is the Republican Party. These are the most extreme members of their caucus, and they’re also the most popular. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Matt Gates, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, these are the ones with the biggest followings, the ones that can raise the most money, the ones that that have Trump, you know, on speed dial whenever they need his help. They called republicans who voted for the infrastructure deal, which you know, would benefit every single one of these members, constituents. They call them traitor Republicans, they’re the ones trying to kick them out of their committee spots.

Sawyer Hackett  08:39

This is an insurgent wing of the Republican Party that has become so mainstream, that they’re the dominant wing of the Republican Party. And so I don’t think we can count on Kevin McCarthy to you know, show any sort of backbone in holding these people accountable. Clearly, we can’t expect the political media in DC to even be talking about it the correct way. I mean, constantly, Democrats are being told that we’re the ones that have to solve the problems that Republicans have, we’re the ones that have to correct all of their extreme extremism. I mean, it just doesn’t make any damn sense. So you’re right. I mean, I think until we expose these people as not just a faction of the Republican Party, but this is the mainstream of the Republican Party, they will rule the day for Republicans.

Julian Castro 

The problem a lot of times has not just been with the leadership. The problem is that there are too many everyday Americans out there that are willing to put their money where these people’s bigoted mouth is, and support them with contributions that allow them to win reelection and to keep spewing their hate. And to me, that’s both the status and the scariest part of the whole thing, because we would like to think that, that people are better than that, and you know, and can be pollyannish. We’ve always known, of course, that there’s a segment of our society that is bigoted that embraces these white supremacist views. I think the problem today is that they’re more empowered than they ever are, they may not ever have been, but that they have been in a long time, because of the way that our politics is set up, because of social media, because of the ease with which disinformation enters the information bloodstream for all of those reasons. And on the other side of it, I mean, Democrats are left to I mean, you can keep trying to rebut the lie, you can make the mistake of trying to get in the mud with these folks, you know, you really don’t have that many good options, because you almost get, you get sucked into the fight. You know, having to address this stuff. You just don’t have a choice; you have to do something about it. But it really is a challenge to our democracy on top of over and above all of the structural changes, legislative changes that these Republicans are making. It’s a problem that they’re taking us down this road of normalizing hatred in this social media age.

Sawyer Hackett 

It’s not even just rhetoric, either. I mean, these are members who wanted to bring their guns onto the floor of Congress. But you know, Pelosi installed these metal detectors that they had to go through. These are members who have physically threatened their colleagues in the case of Pogo star, and also Marjorie Taylor green. And third, I mean, these are people who may have assisted the insurrectionists, who stormed our capitol and put every single one of those members lives at risk in doing so, I mean, these people, this isn’t just empty rhetoric. They are physically trying to create violence. They’re trying to create these altercations. And it’s because what you said because they can use it to fundraise. I mean, she’s definitely goading Congresswoman Ilhan Omar by saying these things because she knows that she can take it to her email, fundraising as soon as she’s done. I mean, it’s absolutely absurd.

Julian Castro  12:00

To me, the whole thing was just sort of a cover your ass apology. Disingenuous. Yes, the heat got to be too hot for her. There are enough people in her district or people that she thinks matter to her. That must have raised a red flag to her. So she felt like she needed to back down. But she didn’t really mean it. Because if she had really meant it, she would have apologized directly to Ilhan Omar.

Sawyer Hackett 

Right. And I think she just did that. So that she you know, so that Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have to face questions about, you know, removing her committee assignments or something like that actually being held accountable. So he can say, oh, she apologized, she apologized. Of course, it was a half assed apology, and everybody could see that. But you know, on the on the topic of conspiracies, you know, and some of these crazy members and what they’re what they’re spewing, wanted to talk about this new variant, and some of the ways that the Republicans are framing this thing. You know, on Friday, the WHO, the World Health Organization designated a new variant of COVID-19, found in South Africa as the Omicron variant. It’s still very early to make assumptions about how this thing is transmitted. You know how deadly it is. But they who did warn today that the risks that Omicron poses are very high cases have been identified in South Africa, the UK, Portugal, Canada, the US shutdown travel to South Africa and others have joined in imposing some of these travel restrictions. On Monday, President Biden addressed reporters on the new variant and underlying three messages that he has for the American people on Omicron. Let’s listen to that.

Sawyer Hackett 

So despite Biden and public health experts urging Americans to remain calm about this variant. Republicans are already using it to sort of play these political games. Senator Ted Cruz shared a message that said, quote, there’s always going to be a new variant. This Fox News roundtable, I almost call them reporters, suggested that Democrats are inventing these variants to keep the country in lockdown, because apparently that helps Democrats win elections. Julian, let’s I guess, leave the commentary about what the variant is and the risks posed to some of the public health experts. But I want to talk to you about the politics of this. Biden seems to be leaning in on the message of making sure people get vaccinated to get booster shots. He’s urging people to remain calm, but Republicans are playing these dangerous games. How do you think we should be handling this? Do you think that that we should be laying this at the feet of Republicans who are pushing these conspiracies, how do you think we should be talking about this?

Julian Castro 

I mean, look, every time I read one of these comments or hear one of these comments from Ted Cruz or another one of these guys that wants to deny that there’s a real problem here, in the face of more than 700,000 Americans that have died and millions of people around the world, I mean, I think like a lot of people I want to say, When are you going to grow the […] Can you not just see but you’re a United States Senator or your congressional representative, like grow up at every juncture of this pandemic, that crowd has made it harder for us to overcome Coronavirus, Trump’s saying it’s a hoax, fumbling the initial response, denying that it was a problem saying that it was going to go away in a few days, and then all of these governors playing to their base and refusing to empower local communities to do what they could to keep people safe. Same thing with schools, with kids in schools. Now people like Ted Cruz downplaying the severity of this new variant, when we just saw how many people the Delta variant got sick and killed.

Julian Castro  16:15

It’s just ridiculous. These guys are like children, the most immature, most irresponsible type of kids that you could find, it’s like throwing them into a policymaking role. And it’s just ridiculous. It gets under my skin every time I hear one of those comments or read one of those comments. Biden did a good job of laying out for Americans. What’s going to happen in the coming weeks and months? Here’s the thing, like, there’s this tension that is going on with I think the ability of President Biden to calm fears and to politically get past this pandemic. And that tension is number one, that so much of this is unknown, right? They’re saying they’re going to know in two weeks whether this Omicron variant is more transmissible, whether it’s vaccine resistant, they don’t know that yet. So at the same time, that all of that is unknown, you know, as a leader, what you want to try and do is provide confidence and comfort, especially in the role of Commander in Chief. I mean, people think of the president they think of this soothing in command, powerful presence that has the answers fundamentally, well, that’s a problem in situations like this, because like nobody has all of the answers right now. So I think that Biden provides, like, the next best thing is that, then you have to do a good job of setting expectations. So much of life comes down to how you set expectations, in your personal relationships at the office, and also in politics, setting expectations about what we can expect about what we can do to be as prepared as possible against this variant, and how we’re going to handle it if the variant presents, you know, some new problems for us.

Sawyer Hackett  18:13

Right. In some ways, I think Republicans and Democrats see the politics of this virus the exact same way, in that we both recognize that this virus, as long as it’s thriving, as long as people are still getting sick, as long as we’re still in, you know, have some of these restrictions lock downs, that people will attribute, you know, their sentiments about politics to the President for how he’s responding to them, you know, it’s generally a sense of what are the overall vibes even if you’re economically doing well, but you’re still in lockdown, you’re still having to homeschool your kids or find childcare. You’re not going to feel good about Democrats who are in charge at a time when this virus continues to spread, even though we’ve had a vaccine for almost a year. Republicans on the other hand, I think, and I’ll just come out and say it, I mean, I think that they want to keep this virus around. I think Ted Cruz wants to keep this virus around because he can continue to hammer Democrats over the head with it. And, you know, if you just look at the leadership, of course, yeah. President Biden is doing what you’re supposed to do, saying get vaccinated, close this gap of because this is a pandemic among the unvaccinated.

Sawyer Hackett 

You have Republicans like Cruz in a state where the vaccination rate is barely over 50%. You know, there was a report a couple months back that said that if Texas had a vaccination rate similar to top performing states, we would have avoided more than three quarters of a million COVID cases and nearly 6400 deaths. If Texas had pushed vaccination the way other states have pushed vaccination but of course, Ted Cruz and Greg Abbott are leading the charge against vaccine mandates, are leading the charge by pushing conspiracies about vaccines and promoting anti-mask wearing and all this stuff. I mean, you can just see the leadership dynamics between Biden and people like Cruz, in trying to get rid of this pandemic, trying to get past it trying to get people back to work. And people like Cruz and Abbott, who seemingly want to keep it around because they think it helps him politically.

Julian Castro  20:13

Absolutely. I mean, in that, that’ll continue until Cruz and Abbott and others like them don’t see any political payoff in that. And right now their base loves it, they love you know, him basically sticking the finger at Biden and pretending like this isn’t a problem or writing it off as a hoax or whatever it is. And so they’re probably going to keep doing it. Here in Texas. Unfortunately, these policies that Greg Abbott has in place, they’re going to be in place. And they may get even worse, because he has two opponents that are seen as more to the right of himself. So at least through that March primary, he’s going to be going as far out on a limb as far to the right as he can to satisfy the Trump crowd, and everybody else, all of us are going to have to pay a price for that, as you noted, people already have paid a price. The number of infections, the number of deaths is much higher than it should have been, because of the backward policies of Abbott. And of people like Ted Cruz and Dan Patrick, and the whole list of them. So as President Biden in the administration, address this Omicron variant, and Congress gets its work underway on Build Back Better, and a couple of other big issues coming up government funding, keeping the government from a shutdown, and raising the debt ceiling within the next couple of weeks. We’re excited about our next guest, we’re going to welcome a friend of the pod Senator Elizabeth Warren, when we come back.

Julian Castro  22:13

Today, we’re so happy to welcome onto the show. Someone who has been a real champion in the United States Senate for some of the most vulnerable communities in our country, one of our country’s leading progressive voices. And I’m proud to say also a friend, someone who during the 2020 presidential race, I always thought put together the case for making America work for everybody. Better than I think just about anybody else did. And she’s fighting for everyday Americans today in the United States Senate. We’re pleased to welcome Senator Elizabeth Warren. Senator, it’s so good to be with you. Thanks for making time to join us.

Elizabeth Warren 

Oh, thank you, Julian . It’s so good to be here with you. And thanks for the high praise, I think of you is in that 2020 race, the guy who is coming up with a really good ideas. So that’s what made it fun, didn’t it?

Julian Castro 

It certainly did. And you know, of course, that seems like a world away. Now the 2020 campaign, and I want to talk to you about the action-packed December that y’all have in front of you in the Senate to get things done before the end of the year. But before the serious stuff, maybe the most important stuff. How was your Thanksgiving with your family?

Elizabeth Warren 

It was great. Thank you very much. I mark the years by weather I set the marshmallows on fire, you know the marshmallows on top of the sweet potatoes. And this year, I managed to get them tested without setting them on fire. I took a picture to commemorate it. We had family in, Bailey got to eat lots of Turkey and you know, gravy and that sort of thing. So it was a good Thanksgiving. Thank you.

Julian Castro  24:03

When we think about what you’ll have on your plate over the next month or so. You have a debt ceiling issue to resolve. You got to keep the government up and going because the deal that was worked out I guess a couple of months back expires in a few days. And of course, there’s still the Build Back Better legislation on the table that would make such a transformative difference for so many Americans.

Elizabeth Warren 

We’re not through yet. The states are out there, the ones that are trying to undo it or trying to undo people’s access to the ballot trying to gerrymander. So that one is right in front of us. And we’ve got federal judges, we’ve got members of the administration that need to be confirmed. So we’ve still got a whole lot of work going on. And let’s just make sure everybody understands. The Republicans resisting us, obstructing us, holding back every inch of the way. Big, small anything in between Ted Cruz putting a hold on virtually all the ambassador’s not because he’s got a problem with a particular one. But because he’s Ted Cruz. So trying to just keep the government functioning is tough enough. And then we’ve got all these huge pieces in front of us. So, I just want to make sure that we kind of had the full range and finish.

Julian Castro 

And then, you know, just in terms of what y’all were dealing with in the Senate, and let’s take Build Back Better. This has gone back and forth between the House and the Senate, there’s still an open question about what Senators Manchin and Sinema will accept in terms of price tag. And by nature, I mean, what’s included in the overall legislation? I mean, what’s your prognosis? What do you make of it?

Elizabeth Warren  26:11

I think we’re gonna get it done. Look, it’s certainly not 100%. But I think there’s a really good chance we’re going to get Build Back Better through, basically because it’s good. And, frankly, because we’ve given Manchin and Sinema, most of what they wanted. And now we’re down to just a few outstanding pieces, that are important pieces that have not fully been resolved, what’s going to happen, for example, within the bill, to the immigration portion, because we’ve got to get a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian, and we’ve got a couple of open outstanding issues around the climate part. But this thing is mostly buttoned up based on the House version. And so I’m, I’m hopeful that we’re going to get a vote, and that will get this thing through. And then we can turn to talking about the content instead of just some top line abstract dollar number. And that means that we can get out there and talk about the fact that come on Julian, close to your heart, my heart. For the first time, the federal government putting its resources behind making sure that we have universal pre-K for every three-year-old and four-year-old and near universal childcare for all of our babies, and that we will be doing that with every single Republican voting that, I’m ready for that fight, bub.

Julian Castro 


Sawyer Hackett 

Senator, you mentioned immigration in the Build Back Better act. Last week, 90 House Democrats sent a letter to Senate leadership urging them to include that pathway to citizenship in the build back better act. They specifically mentioned the Senate parliamentarian and said that, you know, this is an unelected adviser that their opinions are not binding on the Senate. Where do you come down on that issue of overruling the parliamentarian? And how do you see that playing out right now?

Elizabeth Warren  28:16

Look, I’m fine with overruling the parliamentarian if we think the parliamentarian is wrong, problem is it takes a minimum of every single Democrat in the Senate, because we just don’t have any, we don’t have any extras. We don’t have anybody to stray away from that line and still have a way of getting it passed. So this goes back to we’re holding on started this conversation. What can we get Manchin and Sinema to go along with? And if they will agree that there was a problem in a parliamentarians ruling and vote to overrule the parliamentarian, then we’re good. But if they won’t, we just don’t have the votes. And that is a problem we cannot get around. There is no way in a body of 100 people that 48 of us can drive this boat, we’ve we have to have at least 50 of us.

Julian Castro 

There’s been so much talk and analysis about how far they will go or won’t go. And I mean, you’re right, that there is a political reality there at the end of the day in terms of getting to 50 plus one. But I want to talk to you for a second about two issues that you’ve been at the forefront of advocacy on and legislating on that are firmly in the executive branch’s purview, which are student loan debt relief, and the pardoning of marijuana convictions. I mean, I think both of them can also be legislated on but the executive branch has quite a bit of latitude on these things. These are two areas where I think people expected at least with student loan debt relief, perhaps the Biden administration to do a little bit more than it has, what do you see going down the road? On these two issues?

Elizabeth Warren  30:06

I just want to be clear about this. The President has the authority to cancel student loan debt. And it’s there, it’s clear in the statute. And one way I know for sure that the President can do this is because President Obama did it. President Trump did it. And President Biden has already done it. Now, they did it for subsets for different groups. They framed it differently. But the point is, they cancel student loan debt, not put it off, not delayed it, they canceled chunks, billions of dollars of student loan debt. And there’s nothing in the law that says, oh, well, you could do it up to that level, but you couldn’t do some more. So my view on this is canceled $50,000 in student loan debt. This is something that the leader of the Senate, Senator Schumer has endorsed. We have leadership in the House that is strongly endorsed, Ayanna Presley, Congresswoman from Massachusetts has been really ferocious on this. And the reasons to do it are to me just the most compelling, it’s about whose side government should be on. We cancel $50,000 in student loan debt. And this relieves all student loan burden for about 34 million Americans.

Elizabeth Warren

That frees them up to be able to start small businesses, frees them up to be able to get out there and maybe try a job that doesn’t pay as much like teaching public school, the things they want to do. It’s also the reminder that 10s of millions of people who have student loan debt don’t have a college diploma. These are people who tried college and god bless them. But life went on. And they had babies, mom got sick. They were working three jobs and couldn’t hold it all together. And now they’re out of school, they earn at a high school graduates level, but they’re trying to manage student loan debt, it is crushing them. Millions of people with student loan debt outstanding, have been paying more than 20 years on that student loan debt and still haven’t managed to pay off the balance. And then the racial injustice in student loan debt. African-Americans, Latinos have to borrow more money to go to school, borrow more money while they’re in school, and have a harder time paying it off when they get out of school. I’ll give you just one stat on this one Julian, you look at people 20 years out 20 years that they’ve been paying on their student loan debts. The average white non-Hispanic borrower owes about 6% of the original amount they borrowed. In other words, still paying 20 years later, but the end is in sight. You know, they’re down.

Elizabeth Warren 

That’s not so bad. The average African-American who borrowed 20 years ago, owes 95%. And it’s just this is holding people back. This is, as we talk about the wealth gap in America. If we cancel $50,000 of student loan debt, that would be the single most powerful act the President could take to help shrink that gap among people with student loan debt. There’s nothing else the President could do that would have that kind of impact. So, all of that is by way of saying I think you’ve asked me that question. We’re going to get it done. I’m sure we’re giving you the good reasons he should. And right now I recognize we’ve got a full plate. I keep the drumbeat going on this. And so do others. And thank you for raising it. Not just with me, but I know you’ve raised this with other folks on your podcast. We keep the drumbeat going. Let’s get voting rights done. Let’s get Build Back Better done in the next week. And then this is it. President Biden, you could do this stroke of a pen Christmas is coming, holidays are upon us. Let’s get it done.

Sawyer Hackett  34:22

Senator, I wanted to ask you about inflation because I know that’s been in the news lately, and you’ve been on top of it. Last week, the Labor Department’s jobs report said that jobless claims had tumbled to their lowest point since 1969. The Commerce Department is saying that household spending is up 1.3% In October, the stock market is hitting record highs after record highs every single month. But only 35% of Americans say that the economy is doing well right now. And a lot of people are pinpointing that on inflation. Do you think that Democrats have the right message to combat you know, Republican misinformation and bad faith in the news about why inflation is where it is?

Elizabeth Warren 

That’s the part that really gets me on this inflation discussion. Partly it’s, can we talk about the whole economy, because part of the reason we’re seeing some of the increase in prices, is some of that is attributable to the fact that we recovered from the pandemic, much faster than most people thought we would. And that more people have gone back to work that we’ve been able to do get people back to work. Those are good signs. But remember, price increases can be driven by lots of different factors. And part of what’s happened is the economy itself. Over the last 30 years, when we’ve had these low, very low, I should say, 20, low, low inflation, we’ve also seen a lot more concentration in industries. And what that means is at a stream, a monopolist just sets the price. So people get out there, they start talking about inflation, and then you start scratching the surface just a little bit and see that what’s happened is in industries, like the oil industry, right, the price of gasoline or the poultry industry, the price of a Thanksgiving turkey, or a chicken, that what’s happened is that the industry has a lot of concentration means just a few big companies. And their profit margins have increased.

Elizabeth Warren  36:39

So if we were just looking at standard old inflation, you know, the wages have gone up costs have all gone up, you know, everything’s going up steadily. Then think about it, we would have seen the margins, the profit margins for these big companies would have either stayed the same, or economic theory would actually tell us, they’d likely shrink a little bit, there’d be some pressure on those margins, if those were competitive markets, but in fact, we’re watching them grow. Now all of that is just a fancy way for me to say what we’re watching here is price gouging. And that’s the proof in the pudding that the oil industry looks around handful of competitors, and they say, whoa, this is our chance, to jerk those prices up and boost our profits. Same thing in the poultry industry, nobody out there to compete with us anymore and bid those prices back down. Everyone’s talking inflation, our chance to jerk the prices up on chickens and turkeys. And so it’s the reminder is Democrats. Look, it’s usually more complicated than just a, you know, headline, a bullet point that the Republicans are hurling in, but my golly, we ought to be fighting back on this point.

Julian Castro  38:03

I want to ask you a head scratcher of a question that takes us from the substance that we’ve been talking about to the politics of it. So a couple weeks ago, the generic ballot came out in one of these, you know, leading polls and Republicans were ahead by 10 points. I think it was a Washington Post-ABC News poll that was the highest that Republicans had ever been ahead by those 10 points. We saw what happened in Virginia. We saw the close call in New Jersey. President Biden has his lowest approval rating. I think the law last one I saw was 41 or 42%. What strikes me is that Democrats have been talking substantively about how to improve people’s lives and have been getting so far a lot of good stuff done, whether it’s the American rescue plan, or infrastructure, and as you say, getting close to the finish line on Build Back Better. I mean, these are things that have such a positive profound impact on people’s lives, whether they’re vulnerable, whether they’re middle class, even upper middle class, and at the same time, you have Lauren Boebert, you know, engaging hate speech against Ilhan Omar, you have Kevin McCarthy refusing to hold his caucus accountable for their hate speech and other things. You have Trump out there doing his rallies still engaging in the same kind of line and everything else. It just seems like the difference between these parties has hasn’t been greater, at least in a long time. And the Democrats are actually the party of substance. And Republicans have slid more and more into this narrow-minded hate-based party. And yet, here we are, less than a year now away from the November 22 midterms. And at least as far as the traditional indicators go, it looks like we have something to worry about in terms of the usual trend. of the party whose president is in power in the Oval Office, that party losing seats in Congress. What do you make of that? And what do you think that we need to do to turn this thing around by next November?

Elizabeth Warren  40:14

Well, I appreciate the question. Look, I’m more a policy gal than a politics. Part of it, but I do my best on it. I think of it this way, right now, who Leon, we need to finish protecting the vote. I mean, I just have to keep shoving that one, front and center. All the things you said about Republicans, let’s be sure to add, and they’re doing everything they can to undermine democracy. I just don’t know any other way to describe it. They want to take away the vote from American citizens, they want to make it harder to vote. They want to push gerrymandering. So your vote doesn’t count. They want to do everything they can to try to load the elections in their favor. And then when they lose to be able to have a second bite at the apple, where just a Republican legislature takes over. And that that’s truly is that’s a fundamental threat to our democracy. So we’ve got to get voting rights done. We got to get build back better done. We get those two things done. I think the whole conversation changes. Because I think at that moment, we have demonstrated our capacity to govern, to protect our democracy to protect our citizenships. I appreciate that you say we’re out there talking about it. Yeah, well talk enough. It is time for us to deliver. We need to deliver on that. And then, I’m ready to spend 2022 talking about what we delivered and what the Republicans refused to help us do what the Republicans said they just weren’t gonna we’re gonna put a nickel in on child care, I’m not going to put a nickel in on lowering the cost of prescription drugs, not going to put a nickel in, on trying to expand our housing supply in this country. I think at that moment, we’re ready to join issue. And, you know, it’s like, then you’ve got both fighters in the ring. Right now, I kind of feel like just to pick up on the boxing metaphor. The Republicans have been in the ring and they’ve been strutting around and you know, pumping the air. We are a party of substance. And that means we need to deliver some substance. We told the American people you put us in the majority and we will deliver, we need to deliver that substance. And then when we deliver that substance, now it’s time to get in the ring. And I like our chances in that fight.

Sawyer Hackett  42:57

Senator, I’m not sure if you saw but last week, it was reported that Michael Strahan will be the next big name to go to space with your friend Jeff Bezos. I have to ask since we have you on the pod Are you on the shortlist to go to space? Are you being you heading up there? Jeff?

Elizabeth Warren

Did you know nobody has invited me as their plus one on a space adventure.

Julian Castro

Be careful, Senator.

Elizabeth Warren 

I was a little worried, I was gonna make sure that it wasn’t just a one-way ticket.

Julian Castro 

We need you here fighting, not lost in space over there. A year from now we’ll be going through these 2022 midterms. Like one of the things that I really appreciated so much about you during the 2020 campaign and for years, is that you have this great ability to explain and also to teach your teacher at heart. What do you think the lessons that Americans regardless of party should take with us after these 20 months or so of this pandemic,

Elizabeth Warren  44:07

That we’re not just a bunch of individuals and able for each of us to you know, plow her own field and not care about each other. The pandemic is a huge lesson and how deeply intertwined our lives are. And that’s true at every level, people who pride themselves on how independent they are, really, let’s take a look at the food chain. What have you eaten so far today and where did it come from? And how do you keep getting clean water and how do you keep getting power to your home? You know, kind of every piece around this and I say that in particular, because I think the related lesson from the pandemic should be the importance of is central workers. That we have a nation. That depends in the hardest of times on people who are paid the least. It, it turns out that the folks who stock the grocery store shelves and make the, you know, the food deliveries to your house are the ones who are absolutely essential. And yet, these are jobs that often are people who are undocumented, they are people of color. They are people who have the fewest rights and the least protection in their jobs and in their personal lives. And so I hope that one of the major takeaway lessons is we need each other. And that means we need to invest in each other’s survival. We need to invest in helping each other flourish in this country.

Julian Castro  46:23

Absolutely. We’re all in this together. I think that definitely is a takeaway that we need to keep with us. And sometimes, when folks ignore that or forget that they’re in Washington, DC, we’re so glad that you’re there to remind them Senator and thank you for not only that, but for today, giving us some of your time.

Elizabeth Warren 

That’s so sweet. Thank you so much, Sawyer, it’s good to have a conversation with you. And Julian, it’s always good, just to be able to visit with you. I’m so glad your voice is part of our national conversation. Thank you.

Julian Castro 

Thank you

Sawyer Hackett 

Thanks, Senator.

Julian Castro  

Welcome back to OUR AMERICA. And you know, we like to end our show with a bit of good news to hopefully brighten up your day a little bit. Today, we wanted to end though with your really dovetailing on what President Biden advised all Americans who haven’t gotten their booster shot or haven’t been vaccinated yet to do, which is to go out there and get your booster shot. If you were, if you receive the vaccine, your second vaccine before June 1, so basically at least six months ago, you can go and get your booster shot now. And Dr. Fauci has made clear that the benefit of this is that it really raises it jacks up your immunity and protects you to a greater extent than you are. If you’ve only gotten both of your initial vaccinations. Of course, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, please go get vaccinated. My son, Christian, who is six got his first vaccination a few days ago. And he was fine. You know, we were a little bit scared, because we thought that, that he might have a bad reaction and start crying and all of that, but he was perfectly fine. And he showed off his little band aid to his sister. Get your children vaccinated, go get your booster shot if you haven’t gotten it yet. Protect yourself and your family as much as you can.

Sawyer Hackett  49:05

I’m really excited because I’m actually scheduled to get my booster shot tomorrow. So I got the J and J, which is that one single shot, obviously. It’s had a couple of different issues along the way. But I got mine I think in April, I am definitely due for a booster and it’s available at 80,000 different locations across the United States. So if you’re over the age of 18, you got vaccinated before June, you are absolutely eligible. Go to vaccines.gov Find your location. Do it right now. Get boosted.

Julian Castro 

There you go. And you can always also leave us a voicemail sharing the stories that you care about most right now. Leave us a voicemail at 833-453-6662 That’s 833-453-6662 you can also subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts.


OUR AMERICA is a Lemonada Media Original. Our Producer is Xorje Olivares, with executive producers Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Julian Castro. Mix and scoring by Veronica Rodriguez. Music is by Xander Singh. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @JulianCastro, at @Sawyer Hackett and at @LemonadaMedia. If you want more OUR AMERICA, subscribe to Lemonada Premium, only on Apple podcasts.

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