5 Times Elizabeth Warren Made Complex Economic Issues Brilliantly Simple

She's made a career of tackling hard-to-pin-down issues with clear language.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has made a name for herself as the face of Democratic party's progressive wing. To the far-left and even moderate left, she is seen as a heroic champion of consumer rights and the middle class. To many conservatives, she's either the woman who has made questionable claims about her heritage or a symbol of what's wrong with big government: over-regulation, too many taxes, too much interference from Uncle Sam with your business.


Regardless of political affiliation, though, one of Warren's skills few people would dispute is her uncanny ability to break down complex economic issues into digestible talking points. It's both what the conservative right dislike about her and what liberals laud about her: she's an effective messenger. And while that message often comes with her own progressive or liberal slant, her public appearances frequently turn into educational dives into big, important issues.

To highlight that, we've pulled together five different times Warren has tackled a really complex economic problem and brought it down to something someone without a graduate degree in mathematics can understand — and make decisions based on.

First, the much-debated philosophy of trickle-down economics. The idea is simple: big tax cuts and deregulation for corporations and the wealthy will allow the rich to put more money back into the economy and towards their employers, thus creating job growth and wage increases. Warren — and plenty of economists — are skeptical of this idea. But it's often a cluttered and confusing argument. Despite being a political debate born in the' 80s, trickle-down economics — as The Washington Post put it — "is back." Below, you can see Warren breaking down the goals and failures of trickle-down economics in a short video. 

The most obvious reason that trickle-down economics is back in the spotlight are the two Republican versions of a tax overhaul from the House and Senate. Both proposed bills, which could be passed as early as this week, give long-term cuts to the wealthiest Americans and massive tax breaks to American corporations. Critics of the bill say that it will run up the deficit and point to non-partisan analysis that says by 2027 it will increase the tax burden on any families making less than $75,000 dollars a year. Defenders of the bill claim that the deficit will be offset by the money corporations and wealthy Americans will reinvest back into the economy — which sounds a lot like trickle-down economics.

Here is Warren being interviewed by Stephen Colbert about the Senate tax bill.

While Warren's commentary on trickle-down economics and the Republican tax plan may not be welcomed by the right, she was widely celebrated on both sides of the aisle for her handling of a hearing with Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. In the wake of news that Wells Fargo had allegedly created fraudulent bank accounts to pad its pockets and inflate their stock value, Warren grilled Stumpf about his role in the fraud and how few repercussions he was dealt. 

Plenty of people may have been appeased by Stumpf's defense, but Warren was able to pick it apart during his hearing — and called him out on his dodgy testimony.

Then, in a speech at the end of October, Elizabeth Warren broke down the economic injustices inherent to the justice system, explaining that corporations have funded politicians who will enact policies that protect them in courts and that poor Americans usually face much harsher punishment for their crimes than the rich and powerful.

Over the course of the past week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Warren's brainchild, has been in flux. Conflicting laws led to a fight over the leadership at the CFPB when longtime director Richard Cordray resigned. He attempted to install Leandra English, the deputy director, to his position on the way out. But an old law on the books allowed President Donald Trump to appoint Mick Mulvaney instead, and a fight over the position led a federal district court to rule in President Trump's favor. 

Few things symbolize Warren's legacy better than the CFPB. On one hand, Warren and Democrats point to the fact that the CFPB has returned $11.9 billion to 29 million different US consumers, according to QZ, sourced from unfair banking fees, student loan fraud, fake debt collection and even charging minorities more for car loans, among other scams.

On the other hand, Republicans have long claimed that the CFPB is government overreach into financial institutions, and said that its regulation has been burdensome to businesses and at times made costly mistakes while handing out punishment. The debate is one that could be applied to Warren's policies on the whole: is government regulation protecting consumers, or does it weigh too much on the free market?

Below, Warren does her best to break down why the CFPB is "worth fighting for."


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