Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
CNN Hosts Town Hall with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Aired 9-10:15p ET
Aired March 18, 2019 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TAPPER: Good evening from Jackson, Mississippi, and welcome to a CNN Democratic presidential candidate town hall with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. I'm Jake Tapper.
We are live at Jackson State University, a historically black university founded in 1877 for the first major Democratic 2020 event in the state of Mississippi. We're here with Senator Warren, a former special needs teacher and law professor who made her name fighting the big banks. If elected, she would make history as the first female president of the United States of America.
Tonight, Senator Warren will take questions from Democrats and independents who say they plan to participate in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Please welcome Senator Elizabeth Warren.
WARREN: Hey, Jake.
TAPPER: How are you? Good to see you.
WARREN: Good to see you.
TAPPER: Have a seat.
WARREN: Oh, this is fun.
TAPPER: So before we begin, you're a former law professor. Feel good to be back on a campus?
WARREN: Oh, it always feels good to be back on a campus. Absolutely.
TAPPER: Which is more fun, teaching law students, teaching on a campus, or working with senators in the U.S. Senate?
WARREN: Oh, teaching. Are you kidding?
Much more fun.
TAPPER: I thought you might give that answer.
WARREN: That's right.
TAPPER: Let's start with our first town hall question. The first one comes from Christopher Lane. He's a doctoral candidate in public health here at Jackson State University. Christopher?
QUESTION: Good evening, Senator Warren. My question is, Mississippi is a deeply red state and one of the poorest states in the country, yet many white poor and working-class citizens continue to vote against their economic interests. What message, if any, do you have that may resonate with them that may encourage them to vote for you?
WARREN: So, thank you for the question, Christopher. Look, this is how I see it. Washington is working great, it's working fabulously for giant drug companies. It's just not working for people who are trying to get a prescription filled.
It's working great for big oil companies that want to drill everywhere. It's just not working for people who see climate change bearing down upon us.
It's working great for giant financial institutions and for payday lenders. It's just not working great for people who are living paycheck to paycheck.
I'm tired of a Washington that works for the rich and the powerful. I want a Washington that works for the rest of America. That's why I'm in this fight.
And I believe on that, that Democrats, independents, and Republicans, they know a scam when they see it. And they see a Washington working for those guys. I think they're ready to get in the fight and get a Washington and a country that works for the rest of America. Thank you. Thank you.
TAPPER: So our next -- our next questioner is Khalita Hicks. She's a supporter of yours and a Spanish language translator from Jackson. Khalita?
WARREN: Hi, Khalita.
QUESTION: Good evening. Since the election of Donald Trump, the number of hate crimes has increased and white supremacists have become more emboldened online and in public. What are your plans to unite the country? WARREN: Oh, good. Thank you for that question. You know, it starts
with the fact that we've got to recognize the threat posed by white nationalism. White supremacists pose a threat to the United States like any other terrorist group, like ISIS, like Al Qaida.
And leadership starts at the top. And that means you've got to call it out.
No sitting by. And then when you call it out, as president of the United States, you've got to use the tools available to you. And that means get the Justice Department when they break the law to go after them with full prosecution. That's what I can do. Thank you.
Thank you. Good question.
TAPPER: Our next question comes from Georgia Cohran. She's a graduate student here at Jackson State University. Georgia?
WARREN: Hi, Georgia.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you, Senator Warren, for taking my question.
TAPPER: Got to hold the mike up there.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for taking my question. I am an African- American female with -- I'm an African-American female with five beautiful adult children and 10 grandchildren.
WARREN: Oh, Georgia, count your blessings every day.
QUESTION: Please, please, describe to me what a public apology to -- for 400 years of free labor...
QUESTION: ... in the South, especially Mississippi, will look like in the African American community in the new election.
WARREN: All right, thank you, Georgia.
QUESTION: In the new administration.
WARREN: Thank you.
So, America was founded on principles of liberty and freedom, and on the backs of slave labor. This is a stain on America, and we're not going to fix that, we're not going to change that until we address it head on, directly. (APPLAUSE)
And make no mistake: It's not just the original founding. It's what's happened generation after generation. The impact of discrimination handed down from one to the next means that today in America, because of housing discrimination, because of employment discrimination, we live in a world where for the average white family has $100, the average black family has about $5.
So I believe it's time to start the national full-blown conversation about reparations in this country.
And that means I support the bill in the House to appoint a congressional panel of experts, of people who are studying this, who talk about different ways we may be able to do it, and to make a report back to Congress so that we can as a nation do what's right and begin to heal. Thank you. Thank you.
TAPPER: Senator, if I could just follow up on -- if I could just follow up on Georgia's question, you've said you're open to a conversation about reparations to the descendants of slaves and also to Native Americans, you also said. Might that include direct payments, direct financial transfer of money?
WARREN: So there are a lot of ways to think about how reparations should be formed. And I noticed, Georgia's question actually started with just the frame of an apology, right, with the frame of a national recognition.
We have a lot of experts around the country, a lot of activists who have a whole lot of different approaches to it. And I think the best we can do right now -- I love the idea of this congressional commission. Let's bring people together and let's open that conversation as Americans. Let's see what ideas people want to put on the table, and let's talk them through, because I got to tell you, ignoring the problem is not working.
TAPPER: Let me bring in Jay Kucia. He's a supporter of yours, as well. He's a student who founded a labor rights group at the University of Mississippi Law School. That's in Oxford, I believe.
TAPPER: He has a question about Medicare for all. Jay?
WARREN: All right.
QUESTION: Senator Warren, thank you so much for being here this evening and your tireless advocacy for universal health care. As a supporter of universal health care and an advocate for organized labor, I do worry about the current bills' elimination of private health insurance...
WARREN: Oh, yeah.
QUESTION: ... that would eliminate the private health employer-based plans that so many unions have advocated for. Can you explain how Medicare for all would be better for workers than simply improving the Affordable Care Act?
WARREN: OK, so it's a good question. Let's start with our statement that we should make every time we start to talk about changes in our health care, and that is health care is a basic human right and we fight for basic human rights.
And then let's put these in order, because I appreciate that your question starts with the Affordable Care Act. Let's all remember when we're talking about what's possible, let's start where we are and the difference between Democrats and Republicans.
Right now, Democrats are trying to figure out how to expand health care coverage at the lowest possible cost so everybody is covered. Republicans right this minute are out there trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They've got a lawsuit pending down in Texas where they're trying to roll it back. What they couldn't do with a vote, they're trying to do with the courts. HHS every day is doing what they can to undermine the Affordable Care Act.
So when we're talking about health care in America right now, the first thing we need to be talking about is defend the Affordable Care Act, protection under the Affordable Care Act.
Then part two. Let's make the improvements that are what I think of as low-hanging fruit. For example, let's bring down the cost of prescription drugs all across this country.
We got lots of ways we can do that. We can import drugs from Canada where the safety standards are the same. That would cut costs dramatically. We can negotiate the prices under Medicare. That would cut costs dramatically.
And I've got a proposal to help bring down the cost on generic drugs, which could be about 90 percent of all prescriptions. So let's get those costs down.
And then you know what you're going to hear from a consumer advocate, and that is we need to hold insurance companies accountable. And that means no tricking and trapping people on those insurance contracts.
And then when we talk about Medicare for all, there are a lot of different pathways. What we're all looking for is the lowest cost way to make sure everybody gets covered. And some folks are talking about let's start lowering the age, maybe bring it down to 60, 55, 50. That helps cover people who are most at risk and can be helpful, for example, to the labor's plans.
Some people say, do it the other way. Let's bring it up from -- everybody under 30 gets covered by Medicare. Others say let employees be able to buy into the Medicare plans. Others say let's let employees buy into the Medicare plans.
For me, what's key is we get everybody at the table on this, that labor is at the table, that people who have to buy on their own, everybody comes to the table together. And we figure out how to do Medicare for all in a way that makes sure that we're going to get 100 percent coverage in this country at the lowest possible cost for everyone. That's our job.
You like that?
TAPPER: If I could just follow up a little on Jay's question, so you are a co-sponsor of Senator Bernie Sanders' Medicare for all bill, and I understand there are a lot of different paths to universal coverage, but his bill that you've co-sponsored would essentially eliminate private insurance. Is that something you could support?
WARREN: He's got a runway for that. I think we get everybody together. And that's what it is, we'll decide. I've also co- sponsored other bills, including expanding Medicaid as another approach that we use. But what's really important to me about this is we never lose sight of what the center is, because the center is about making sure that every single person in this country gets the coverage they need and that it's at a price that they can afford. We start with our values, we'll get to the right place.
TAPPER: So, theoretically, though, there could be a role for private insurance companies under President Warren?
WARREN: There could. Or there could be a temporary role. Even Bernie's plan has a runway before it gets there, because it's -- look, it's a big and complex system, and we've got to make sure that we land this in a way that doesn't do any harm. Everybody has got to stay covered. It's critical.
TAPPER: Let me bring in Kari Johnson. She's a high school principal in Canton, Mississippi. Kari?
WARREN: Hi, Kari.
QUESTION: Hello, Senator Warren, and thank you for coming.
WARREN: I'm glad to be here.
QUESTION: Obviously, building a wall will not prevent foreigners from crossing on U.S. land.
QUESTION: What will you do -- what will you put in place to control the influx of migrants?
WARREN: OK. So let me just start where I think of our whole immigration policy, and that is, we need to have policies on immigration that are consistent with our values.
We are a country that is built on our differences. That is our strength, not our weakness. And when people come to the United States because they are fleeing terror in Central America, they fear for their lives, then we have a moral responsibility to listen...
... and to be there. You know, if I can just take a minute to say on this one, I went down to the border last year when the word first began to come out about children taken away from their mothers. And I just want you all to envision this.
Think of a big, old Amazon warehouse, only dirty and smelled bad. And when I walked in on my left were cages, maybe 10 feet wide, 40 feet deep, a toilet back in the corner, one after another after another crammed full of men. On the right, one after another after another crammed full of women. And then you walk into the main area, and there were cages about the size of this central area here with nothing but little girls in it. And over there, nothing but little boys.
That's not who we are. That is not the country we want to be. And an immigration system that is administered so that it is not able to tell the difference between a criminal, a terrorist, and a 12-year-old little girl is an immigration system that not only is not keeping us safer, it does not reflect our values.
I will not support the building of a wall that does not make us safer. The administration itself, people within it, have already said this is not about security, this is not how we're going to make ourselves safer. The kind of wall that is proposed now is a monument to hate and division. We are a better country than that. So, I'll just stop there. Thank you.
TAPPER: So, Senator, just to follow up, so Kari's specific question was what will you put in place to control the influx of migrants.
WARREN: So -- I should hit both of those. You're exactly right. One thing we can do is remember all the tools in the toolbox. And that is, when there's a problem in Central America, because the gangs have taken over, because the local officials can't manage, then that's not a point at which we should be cutting our aid. If we want to stop the problem of mamas fleeing for their lives, then
let's make a little more investment in the areas that are troubled. And let's help people be able to stay where they are safely.
That's a much kinder way to do it.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Paul Buckley. He's a high school history teacher from Jackson. Paul?
WARREN: Hi, how are you, Paul?
QUESTION: Doing well. Good evening. Welcome to Mississippi.
WARREN: Thank you.
QUESTION: So, Senator, conservatives are increasingly using the socialist label as a means of attack. So how and to what degree with your policies encourage the traditional value of self-reliance, offering financially challenged Americans a hand up, but not a handout?
WARREN: So, you know, this one really -- this is just a reminder that folks can say whatever they want, but the reality is, at least for me, I believe in markets and I believe in the value that we get out of markets. But it's got to be markets with rules. You know, market without rules is theft.
But a market with rules, a market with rules, a market with a cop on the beat to enforce those rules, that's how it is that small businesses get a chance to start and to grow. That's how it is that employees get to move from one place to another. That's how it is that we get new products. I'm a supporter of markets with rules.
And what's wrong right now in Washington is the big folks, they don't want rules.
These giant corporations, they just want to be able to run over whoever they want to run over. And if that means run over their own employees, then, by golly, they'll do it. If that means run over their customers, by golly, they'll do it. If that means running over their local communities, by golly, they will do it.
So the way I see this is we not only need a government that's on our side with these rules. We need big, systemic change. And that means we need more balance out there in the marketplace.
And I'll tell you, real quick, a couple of ways we can do that. The first one is, we need for employees to have more power, and that means we need to make it easier to join a union and unions need to have more power once people have joined.
Unions built America's middle class. Unions will rebuild America's middle class. That's how we make it happen. Thank you.
TAPPER: And we should note, you're here in Mississippi, you're focusing on housing for people who are struggling. You have a plan to try to tackle that. You say it's going to help lower rent. How does that work?
WARREN: So I have a proposal to build about 3 million new housing units across America.
And I just want to stop for a second. Anybody in here worry about the rise price of housing? Right? Yeah, that's pretty much everybody, right?
The idea is that we need to make a real investment in housing. In the same way that we think about health care as a basic human right, having a decent and safe place to live should be a basic human right.
And the squeeze is everywhere. It's the poor, it's the working poor, it's the working class, it's the middle class, shoot, it even kind of moves up into the upper middle class, that people feel squeezed on housing, because we just don't have enough affordable housing across this country.
So I believe what we should do is we should make a big investment in housing. And by the way, if we do that, independent analysis from Moody's says that we would lower rents across this country by about 10 percent -- that's across the board -- and we'd create an opportunity for more people to become buyers.
So housing is important. And if I can, Jake, I want to tell you about one other part of this. This bill also addresses the black-white gap in housing that comes from generation after generation, not just a passive discrimination, but realize that into the 1960s in America, the federal government was subsidizing the purchase of homes for white families and discriminating against black families. That's red- lining.
This bill tackles that head on. And it says for people who are living in formally red-lined areas, there's going to be special assistance for first-time homebuyers, for people who got cheated in the run-up to the housing crash and lost their homes, some special assistance for folks to be able to get that first home and to start building the generation after generation of wealth.
It's a step in the right direction.
TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break. We'll be right back with more from CNN's Democratic presidential candidate town hall with Senator Elizabeth Warren. We're live in Jackson, Mississippi. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's Democratic presidential candidate town hall with Senator Elizabeth Warren. We are live on the campus of Jackson State University.
We're going to go to the questioners in a second, but before we do, I do want to ask a little bit about your personal story, because voters nationwide are just getting to know you. You grew up in Oklahoma.
WARREN: I did.
TAPPER: And you've talked about how your family stood at the brink...
WARREN: There's one.
TAPPER: One person from Oklahoma.
WARREN: There we go.
TAPPER: Welcome to Mississippi. So you talked about how your family stood at the brink of financial disaster through a good part of your childhood. How has that shaped your life in the Senate?
WARREN: So, I'll tell you about that. So I have three older brothers. They all went off and joined the military. That was their ticket to America's middle class.
I was the late-in-life baby. My mother always just called me "the surprise."
And about the time I was in middle school, my daddy had a heart attack, and it was serious. Thought he was going to die. The church neighbors brought covered dishes. It was a scary time.
He survived, but he couldn't go back to work. And we lost our family's station wagon. And at night, I'd hear my parents talk, and that's where I learned words like "mortgage" and "foreclosure." And I remember the day that I walked into my parents' bedroom and laying out on the bed is the dress.
And some people here will know the dress. It's the one that only comes out for weddings, funerals, and graduations. And my mother is in her slip, and she's stocking feet, and she's pacing back and forth, and she's crying. She's saying, "We will not lose this house. We will not lose this house." She was 50 years old. She had never worked outside the home. She was truly terrified.
And I watched her while she finally just pulled it together, put that dress on, put on her high heels, blew her nose, and walked to the Sears and got a minimum wage job. And that minimum wage job saved our house, but more importantly, it saved our family.
Anybody who wants to know me has just heard this story. But here's the thing for me now. For a long time, I used to think that was just a story about my mother, how when you get scared, you reach down and you find what you have to find and you bring it up.
And then, years later, I came to understand this is a story about millions of Americans, who -- it doesn't matter if you're scared. When you got to do something to take care of people you love, you reach down, you find it, and you pull it up.
And then it was years later that I came to understand it was also a story about government, because when this happened to my family, the minimum wage in America would support a family of three. It would take care of a mortgage, utilities, and put food on the table.
Today in America, a full-time minimum-wage job will not keep a mama and a baby out of poverty. I am in this fight...
... because I believe that is wrong.
You know, it's -- for me, there's the whole story of why I'm in this fight. Washington once asked the question, at least on minimum wage, what does it take to support a family, to get a little toe in the door? Today, I hear them in Washington. They ask, what will improve the profitability of giant multinational banks?
Well, I want a government that doesn't work for giant multinational corporations. I want one that works for little families like mine.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Latoya Hubbard. She works for a defense contracting firm here in Mississippi. Latoya?
QUESTION: Good evening.
WARREN: Hi, Latoya.
QUESTION: Do you have any plans of relieving federally funded, overwhelming student loan debt burdens, in that many middle-class and poor individuals obtained those loans to create a better future, but are having issues doing that?
WARREN: Oh, Latoya, the answer is yes. I have got plans to reduce student loan debt. Let me just start there.
But, you know, there are parts of this that are so personal. I've had one dream since I was in second grade. There's just one thing I wanted to be. All three of my brothers went off and joined the military, and God bless them. Do you know what I wanted to be? I wanted to be a public schoolteacher from the time I was in second grade. Can we hear it for America's public schoolteachers? Yeah.
But you've got to have a four-year diploma to do that. And by the time I graduated high school, my family didn't have the money for a college application, much less to send me off to school. And I have a long and twisty story, got a scholarship, then I fell in love...
... got married, the first time.
And I thought I'd lost it all. I thought I was -- I thought I had given up on that dream. And I found a commuter college, public college, that cost $50 a semester. And that was my ticket. And I became a special needs teacher. I got to live my dream.
So let me just say, I believe in what we can do through education. But if America wants to be a stronger country, America wants to be a country of real opportunity for everyone, then that means that every kid has a right to get an education without getting crushed by student loan debt, period.
TAPPER: While we're on the subject -- while we're on the subject of education, our next question has to do with the place we're standing in right now, a historically black university.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Kathy Johnson. She works in banking in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Kathy?
WARREN: Hi, Kathy.
QUESTION: Thank you, Senator Warren. Being a graduate of a historically black college and university, I see firsthand how we are the first to lose funding or to have budget cuts.
QUESTION: How would you make it a priority that we receive more funding and being able to compete with non-historically black colleges and universities?
WARREN: All right. So, great question.
I believe in HBCUs. I just want to say, I am the proud recipient of a diploma that was granted to me at Morgan State University, so...
As part of their commencement address. So, let me put it this way. What we've got to do is we've got to be willing to invest more in our colleges and universities across the board. We have got to bring down the cost of an education.
And for the schools that are serving the students who often come from -- first time to come to college, from families that struggle more, then that means we've got to double down and double down a second time to make sure they have the resources they need.
And it's not enough just for somebody to stand here and talk about it generally. I want you to know, I get this one. Right now, in America, African American students are more likely to have to borrow money to go to college. They're more likely to borrow more money. And they are more likely to have trouble paying off that debt when they leave college. That is a national disgrace.
And part of dealing with our student loan debt burden needs to focus on that specifically. So, thank you. It's a good question. Thank you.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Brennan Breeland. He's a lawyer and an officer in the Army Reserves. Brennan?
QUESTION: Good evening, Senator.
WARREN: Hi, Brennan.
QUESTION: How do you respond to people who think that, regardless of the underlying facts, the way you handled the question of your Native American heritage was tone-deaf, offensive, and indicative of a lack of presidential tact?
WARREN: Well, you know, I grew up in Oklahoma. I learned about my family from my family. And based on that, that's just kind of who I am. And I do the best I can with it. You know, there was an investigation. Nothing I ever did or my family
played any role in any job I ever got.
But I'll tell you this. I have now done 38 town halls in Massachusetts last year, and this is my 32nd town hall since January. And what I've discovered is that people care a lot about what's happening to their lives every single day and what touches them, like housing and education and health care. That's the kind of reason that I'm in this fight. And I'm going to stay in this fight.
And I'll tell you this. I'm going to fight it from the heart every inch of the way. I'll do my best.
TAPPER: The next question comes from Rukia Lumumba. She's a legal advocate and community organizer here in Jackson. She also happens to be the sister and former campaign manager of Jackson's current mayor. Chokwe Antar Lumumba, her late father, Chokwe Lumumba, was also once the mayor of this city, as well. Rukia?
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
WARREN: Good to see you.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you for being here. Welcome to Jackson, Mississippi. Yeah. So voter disenfranchisement is real. In Mississippi, there are 23 felonies that once convicted ban a person from voting for the rest of their lives, literally limiting their citizenship and right to democracy. Moreover, residents' access to voting is limited by archaic voter registration processes and limited voting formats. How will you expand voting rights to the formerly incarcerated, ensure online voter registration, and non-excuse early voting?
WARREN: All right.
Great question. But can I go you one bigger?
WARREN: And that is, I believe we need a constitutional amendment that protects the right to vote for every American citizen and to make sure that vote gets counted.
We need to put some federal muscle behind that. And we need to repeal every one of the voter suppression laws that is out there right now.
And I'll tell you one more. We need to make sure that every vote counts. And, you know, I want to -- I want to push that right here in Mississippi, because I think this is an important point. You know, come a general election, presidential candidates don't come to places like Mississippi.
QUESTION: That's right.
WARREN: Yeah. They also don't come to places like California and Massachusetts, right? Because we're not the "battleground states." Well, my view is that every vote matters. And the way we can make that happen...
... is that we can have national voting. And that means get rid of the Electoral College and everybody counts.
TAPPER: I want to...
WARREN: I think everybody ought to have to come and ask for your vote. What do you think? Yeah.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Hannah Burnell Williams from here in Jackson. She's hoping to go to graduate school. Hannah?
QUESTION: Hi, Senator Warren.
WARREN: Hi, Hannah.
QUESTION: Recently, many leaders in our nation have taken a stance on whether or not Confederate symbols should remain in the public eye in many of our cities, towns, and parks. As a presidential hopeful, do you have any plans on addressing the removal or lack thereof, of the reminders of this nation's dark past or have any plans on preserving the nation's history in a way that explains it in a more educational sense versus showing praise to the losing side?
WARREN: All right. You put it right.
So, I would support removing Confederate celebrations from federal lands and putting them in museums where they belong. That's right. Thank you.
TAPPER: Let me follow up, if I can, because Mississippi is the only state in the country that still has the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag. Do you think Mississippi should adopt a new flag? WARREN: Yes.
TAPPER: That was the shortest answer I've ever gotten from a politician in my life. We'll be right back with more from CNN's Democratic presidential candidate town hall with Senator Elizabeth Warren. We're living in Jackson, Mississippi. Stay with us.
WARREN: All right.
TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's Democratic presidential candidate town hall. We're here with Senator Elizabeth Warren. We're live in Jackson State University in Mississippi.
In 2018, Jackson, Mississippi, had it highest homicide rate in more than 20 years, with 84 murders. According to local media, it's among the highest murder rates in the country. On that topic, I want to bring in Arreone Hill. She's an accountant for the office of the state treasurer. Arreone?
QUESTION: Hi. With Jackson, Mississippi, having a very high homicide rate, will there be any revisions to gun control to help ensure less killings throughout the metropolitan city?
WARREN: So here's how I look at this. Laws should reflect our values. Laws are about our morals. And right now, across this country, we lose on average seven children and teenagers every single day to gun violence. Just pause for a minute and think, if we were losing seven children every single day to some mysterious virus, man, we'd be pulling out all the stops to say what can we do to change that, where's the medicine we need to develop, how can we respond, what do we need to do?
But instead, with gun violence, right now we don't do anything, not even the most sensible kinds of things, background checks...
... at the federal level. No fly, no buy. Like if you're on the terrorist watch list, maybe you shouldn't be able to buy a gun.
That weapons of war do not belong on our streets.
No bump stocks to make it easier to kill. No.
There's so much that we could do to improve safety for our children and for all of us, things that people agree with who are gun-owners and things that people agree with who are not gun-owners. And we have to do them at a federal level, because the problem is, even if you change your laws right here in Mississippi, if they don't change their laws in the other states, if they still have the gun show loopholes, somebody can just go there, put it in the back of a pickup, and come on down.
So this is a national problem. It goes back to the question I've been talking about, who does government work for? Right now, it works for the wealthy and the well-connected, and that means we have a federal government being held hostage by the NRA. I believe we can fight back and we can change that together.
TAPPER: Senator, let me bring in Samantha Manning. She works here at Jackson State University as an administrative assistant in the Disabilities Services Department. Samantha?
WARREN: Hi, Samantha.
QUESTION: Hello. As a mother of black boys, I am constantly reminded of a judicial system where the scales are often weighed against them, and those that have sworn to protect them, fear them, and are most often ruled justified in excessive actions against other children who look like them. As president, how would you address the concerns that I and many other parents like me have when it comes to protecting our children and restoring our faith in the judicial system?
WARREN: So, thank you very much.
I start with the principle, the four words carved above the United States Supreme Court, "Equal justice under law." That's what I believe in.
But I understand today in America we don't have that.
WARREN: That's right. Race matters, and we need to call it out.
Now, I'd like to follow some of the very practical efforts that Barack Obama, President Obama, put into place when he had his Justice Department going after the police departments that were violating the rights of young black men and women across this country.
(APPLAUSE) I know there's much to criticize this administration about, but the very fact that the Justice Department under President Obama had worked with police departments around the country -- and they were -- they were not finished, but had worked with, and some had already reached the point of signing consent decrees, of starting new training, of trying to put themselves on a better path.
There are many good people in law enforcement who want this to work and want to make it work if they have the right resources, if they have the right opportunities, if they can do community policing. That's where President Obama was leading us, and this administration pulled that out of the Justice Department, reversed it, and that makes the world a lot more dangerous for everyone. I would reverse that and go where President Obama went. Thank you.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Mary Crump. She's a retired nurse from Jackson. Mary?
QUESTION: Thank you, Senator Warren, for being here. How do you plan to make sure the extremely rich pay their fair taxes?
So, look, we need big structural change in this country. And that means the kind of -- let's just admit it. When you've got a government that works for the rich and it's not working nearly as well for anyone else, that's corruption, and we need to call it out plain and simple.
So the first thing we need to do is we need to attack that corruption head on. I have the biggest anti-corruption bill since Watergate. Big problem, you got to have a big bill to deal with it.
Now, it's got a lot of pieces to it, but the main point is to beat back on the influence of money, because that's how they keep getting this government, getting this country to work for them. So, for example, my bill says we're going to end lobbying as we know it.
Lock the revolving door between Main Street -- between Wall Street and Washington.
I'll give you one more. Everyone who runs for federal office ought to have to put their taxes online, everyone.
So, part one, we got to deal with the corruption head on. But let me give you a part two. I was talking earlier about we got to rewrite the rules in this economy. And part of that is putting more power back in the hands of workers. Unions, that's one way to do it. I've got an accountable capitalism bill that says, on the big Fortune 500 companies, that we're going to have employees also sit on the board of directors and help make decisions.
But there's one more we've got to talk about, and that is my ultra- millionaires tax. So the idea is, on the truly great fortunes, $50 million and above, we start charging 2 percent a year on just that $50 millionth and first dollar and on up, 2 percent a year.
And by the way, anybody in here a homeowner?
You've been paying wealth taxes for a long time. They're just called property taxes. I just want to include the Rembrandt and the diamonds in the property taxes. So...
So I'm going to put a wealth tax in place. And I just want to talk to you for one minute about how that restructures our whole economy. We get a 2 percent tax on the 75,000 richest families in this country, we would have enough money to provide universal childcare, universal Pre- K, universal Pre-Pre-K for every child in America, and still have $2 trillion left over. Let's make it happen.
TAPPER: We'll be right back with more from CNN's Democratic presidential candidate town hall with Senator Elizabeth Warren. We're live in Jackson, Mississippi. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's Democratic presidential candidate town hall with Senator Elizabeth Warren. We are live on the campus of Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.
I want to bring in Marcy Croft, she is a lawyer from Madison, Mississippi. Marcy?
WARREN: Hi, Marcy.
QUESTION: Hi. Hi, Senator. You have proposed breaking up the big tech companies.
QUESTION: Is it really possible to increase regulation of private tech companies without stifling innovation?
WARREN: Oh, good question, Marcy. But here's my point. If you break them up, you actually need less regulation. Because here's how this works right now. Think about the big tech companies -- Amazon, Facebook, Google, right?
Here's what they do. They run a platform, OK, where people come -- let's just stick with Amazon. That's where you go to check out 63 coffee makers, all of which can be delivered in 24 hours, right?
And think about this, just so you get an idea of how vast they are right now in our economy. Walmart is about 9 percent of all physical retail sales in America. Amazon, 49 percent of all online. So this is a big deal. If you want to sell online, you're a little guy, you're trying to get your business started, you're an entrepreneur, you've got to be there.
So Amazon runs this platform. You come to the platform. All sounds great. But Amazon also is collecting information on every single buyer who visits and on every single seller who's there, and on every single transaction. And what it does is it has the capacity to look out there and see, you know, Pete's pet pillows, and say, whoa, Pete had a good idea here. He's making money off this. So here's what we're going to do. We're going to take Pete off page one, move him back to page 16, where nobody goes, and then Amazon Pete Pet Pillows is going to step right in front of him.
You know, think of it this way like in baseball. You can be an umpire, run the platform, or you can have a team in the game, run one of the businesses competing with the other businesses. But you don't get to do both at the same time.
So here's my pitch. I just want to break those two things apart. I want you still to be able to go and check out all the coffeemakers you want to check out. The platform works. But nobody gets to suck a lot of information off the platform for the purpose of being able to put a bunch of little businesses out of business.
We want to have more competition in America, break up those tech giants. We can make that work.
TAPPER: The next question comes from Rodney Smith. He's a lawn maintenance contractor here in Jackson. Rodney?
WARREN: Hi, Rodney.
QUESTION: Good evening. The cities of America have crumbling infrastructure. How would you combat these issues? These are problems that everyone knows about but have failed to do anything about these problems. WARREN: Right. All right, it's a good question. So, look, think of
infrastructure this way. I kind of think of it like a farmer plows the fields. We get out there together through our government, and we build the roads and the bridges, we put up the communications system, we do these things together because you can't start a little business and at the same time try to build the road in front of your house, right? So you need all these pieces to make it work. A farmer who does a good job of planting the fields, it means a lot of seeds get to grow and to go forward.
Now, what's happened in America is that we've cut back on making those infrastructure investments. And you all see it every day. You see it in your lives. You see it when you see roads that are crumbling, bridges that are dangerous. Yeah, you're all seeing this, right?
So understand, it's worse than what you see, because America competes all around the world now. That's just the reality. And right now, here in America, we are spending about 0.6 percent, just a smidge, on our infrastructure. In fact, some people say it's not even enough to replace what's breaking and falling apart. China, by comparison, is spending about 5 percent of its GDP on infrastructure. It is spending eight times more, almost nine times more on its infrastructure.
It's building a future for those small businesses, for those medium- sized businesses, for those giant businesses. It is building a future for work in China. We need to step up our investment in infrastructure right here in the United States of America.
That's how we build a future.
And I'll add one little piece to it and say, when you take a look at the Green New Deal, understand this is about building the infrastructure for the 21st century, for a sustainable world.
TAPPER: Let me bring in Maggie Spitz. She works at a public library in Madison, Mississippi. Maggie?
QUESTION: Hi, thank you.
QUESTION: Presently the state of Mississippi imposes a special tax on owners of electric and hybrid vehicles as a penalty for paying less in gas taxes. Do you believe this is the right approach, considering the warnings about climate change? And what would you propose to encourage the increased use of alternative energy? WARREN: OK. So, can we just start with the issue of climate change?
And I want to say something that is very controversial. So, most of you are sitting down. Maggie, is it? You may want to sit down, too, OK, or just hold on to a chair. Because I spend time in Washington. In Washington, this is a very controversial statement: I believe in science.
Climate change is real, it is manmade, and we are running out of runway to be able to fix this problem.
We need all hands on deck on this one. So I mentioned earlier, as part of infrastructure, we need to be thinking about infrastructure in terms of hardening our infrastructure against the climate change that's coming our way and in terms of building green energy infrastructure.
We need to do more, though. We've got to be working in every single direction. More money on research. More money on how we get our vehicles so that we get to a place where we have a sustainable Earth. This is truly the crisis that faces not just our nation, but the world.
The United States is a world leader. The problem is we are leading in the wrong direction right now on climate.
We've got to go the other way. We've got to show the world what can be done. Thank you.
TAPPER: Senator, I just want to follow up on Maggie's question, because she talked about the gas tax. As you know, the federal gas tax has not been raised...
WARREN: I know.
TAPPER: ... since 1993, leaving many states to fend for themselves to maintain the roads and bridges. Would you support, theoretically, raising the gas tax to pay for the infrastructure needs?
WARREN: So, you know, I'll tell you what worries about doing this through gas tax. I'm open to the conversation, but what worries me is it falls hardest on working people. When I talk about raising taxes, what I really want to see is I want to see an ultra-millionaire's tax.
I want to see taxes on the top. And then let's use that to help subsidize what it is that we really want to see: Cleaner vehicles. That's the direction I'd much rather see us go. I want to get us there, but I want to do it the other way.
TAPPER: The next question comes from Ally Mack, a longtime Jackson resident, who served as the dean of international studies here at Jackson State University. Dean Mack?
QUESTION: What is your position on the impeachment of Donald Trump?
WARREN: So, we have a report that is due from the special prosecutor any day now. Understand that that investigation from Mr. Mueller has produced already -- I believe it's 34 indictments or guilty pleas. This is a serious investigation. We need to protect him in finishing that report. And then that report needs to be made public to the American people.
When we get it, we will know what to do with it. Thank you.
TAPPER: Senator Warren, you sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
WARREN: I do.
TAPPER: I want to introduce you to Daniel Bamrick. He's a U.S. Army veteran who served in Kuwait and Syria who is now a research lab technician. Daniel?
WARREN: Hi, Daniel.
QUESTION: Hey, Senator. Good evening.
WARREN: Hi. Thank you for your service.
QUESTION: Thank you. Your family, too. Big brothers.
WARREN: All right. Thank you.
QUESTION: As a veteran, I've seen the amazing capability of our armed forces.
QUESTION: But I was also shocked to see the lack of clearly defined goals and objectives coming down from the highest level. It also worries me that military service itself is becoming a very uncommon experience...
QUESTION: ... for the U.S. population at large. So, as president, my question is, what would you do to provide clear, achievable goals for our military and to broaden the participation rate of American citizens in what is their government's largest organization?
WARREN: Yes. Thank you, Daniel. Thank you for the question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
WARREN: Look, with three brothers in the military, my oldest one spent more than five years off and on in combat in Vietnam. We were lucky to get him back home. And my second brother was overseas for over a year. My third brother trained as an Army medic. I understand the sacrifices that our military makes and the sacrifices their families make. I stood there every day and watched my mother as she waited for the mail to hear from my brothers.
We have the best military on Earth.
They will do whatever we ask them to do. They will go out and fight and, if necessary, die for us. But that puts a sacred responsibility on our leadership to understand that, around the world, we cannot use our military to solve non-military problems.
We need to be willing to use all of the tools in the toolbox, and that means we need to be using our diplomatic tools much stronger. We need to use our economic tools. And we need, when we do feel absolutely pressed to use a military alternative, we need to be clear not just on what our objective is going in, what the measure is of success, but what our plan is to get out on the other side.
We cannot fight endless wars. It's wrong.
TAPPER: So, Daniel worked in Syria. He served in Syria. You've said it's, quote, "right to get our troops out of Syria," but you did criticize President Trump for failing to plan the withdrawal...
TAPPER: ... with U.S. allies. The U.S. is currently planning to leave 400 or more servicemembers in Syria on what is being called a peacekeeping mission. Would you as president keep any troops on the ground in Syria? And if so, how many?
WARREN: I think we need to get out. We need to get out.
Until someone can identify -- and this is the whole point about it. I ask this in hearings in Armed Services. What is the measure of success? If you're going to be there, describe, let us see so we can tell if you're failing or succeeding at this. And no one can come up with an answer. And until they can do that, we need our troops back home. (APPLAUSE)
TAPPER: I want to bring in Jayda Lee, a public health educator from Jackson. Jada?
WARREN: Hello, hi, Jayda.
QUESTION: Hi. Good evening. Mississippi has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation. Black and brown women make up the majority of those who fall victim to higher rates of pregnancy- related mortality.
QUESTION: Although some of this disparity can be attributed to lack of access, other issues are less easily explained. How would you administration create legislation to improve outcomes for these women?
WARREN: So, it is an excellent question.
Let me tell you something I've already been working on in this area. This is a place where we need not only more funding for the National Institutes of Health to be able to do the research, but we need to insist that the National Institutes of Health is actually doing research and keeping track of male/female, African American/other races, so that we better understand all of what's wrong.
As you say, we know that part of this is related to lack of access, but that's not explaining everything that's going on. I believe in research. And we've got to support it so that it supports all of our mamas and all of our babies. It's very important.
TAPPER: Senator, I want to bring in Michael Barber. He's a freshman here at Jackson State University. He says he's currently supporting Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential run. Michael?
WARREN: Hi, Michael.
QUESTION: Good evening, ma'am. Yeah, my question is we have seen recently kids who have the luxury of parents paying their way into school no matter the GPA. The kids who attend inner city schools do not have that luxury or the resources to excel and they suffer greatly as they become closer to adult life. How would you not only improve, but make the educational system fair for all American people?
WARREN: All right. So, thank you.
You know, this scandal just shows one more time that some folks who are rich just think they don't have to play by the same set of rules as anyone else and that they can use their money to do whatever it is in terms of buying influence. We have to put a stop to that.
And it's not just -- it's everywhere now. And we're here talking about a presidential primary. It's everywhere in Washington. You know, I just -- I want to say something about democracy for a minute. I get that we have a lot of differences. There will be some people who have a little more money, some people who have a little less, some people who go further in school, some people who don't. But the one thing we should all own an equal share of is an equal share of our democracy.
We need a government that doesn't just listen to the rich and the powerful, but a government that listens to all of us. And that starts right now in a Democratic primary. Something you can ask everyone in the Democratic primary who wants to ask for your vote is to ask them where they've been and how they've gotten their funding.
Me, I don't take corporate PAC money. In fact, I don't take PAC money of any kind.
I don't take federal lobbyists' money. And...
And I don't go behind closed doors with people of money and influence to try to get their help in this election. I come here to be with you.
Because I believe that our democracy is really on the ropes. We have a country that's working better and better and better for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. In 2020, we have a chance to take that back. We have a chance to build a real grassroots foundation, face to face, person to person, neighborhood to neighborhood.
And if you believe that is how we should be running our presidential primary, I ask you, be part of this. Go to elizabethwarren.com. Be part of this. Make a contribution, volunteer. We're going to have to build this thing ourselves, because democracy is not a machine that will go of itself.
And government, our government, is not for sale. We need a government that works for the people, and that means the people have to be there as part of it. Thank you.
TAPPER: I have one final question for you, Senator. Faith is very important to many people across the country. It's very important to many people in Mississippi. What role does faith play in your life, your public life and your private life?
WARREN: So I was raised as a Methodist, and...
I was a fifth grade Sunday school teacher. All I can say is, nobody got hurt.
It was a low bar for being a fifth grade Sunday school teacher at our church. And I raised my children in the Methodist church. What it is for me is the importance of the lessons we learn when we remember our values, when we remember our faith.
The story for me is Matthew 26, and I'm sure some of you -- a lot of you know this story. You know, this is the one where the shepherd is dividing the world into the sheep and the goats. And as we all know, sheep are going to heaven, goats, nah, they're not.
And the sheep ask him, why us? Why us, Lord? Why did you pick us? We look like those -- like those guys. And the shepherd, the Lord, answers back by saying, "I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me water. I was in prison, and you visited me, naked and ye clothed me. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these, the least of thy brethren, you have done it unto me."
And what I hear in that is two things that guide me every day. The first is there is God, there is value in every single human being.
Every single human being. And the second is that we are called to action.
That passage is not about you had a good thought and held onto it, you sat back and were just a part of -- you know, thought about good things. It does not say, you just didn't hurt anybody and that's good enough. No.
It says, you saw something wrong, you saw somebody who was thirsty, you saw somebody who was in prison.
You saw their face. You saw somebody who was hungry, and it moved you to act. I believe we are called on to act.
TAPPER: Our thank you to Senator Elizabeth warren. Thank you, as well, to our audience here and to Jackson State University. Great questions from all of you. Thank you so much.
Be sure to tune in Wednesday night at 10 p.m. Eastern. Dana Bash will moderate the next CNN Democratic candidate town hall with former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.
WARREN: Thank you.