ELKHART — During three campaign stops in the Midwest, including one planned in Elkhart on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is proposing an overhaul of the nation’s economic policy that would include the closure of one federal department and the creation of another. She is also proposing $2 trillion worth of investment in combating climate change.
Warren is among more than 20 candidates running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, and local party chairman Chad Crabtree said he was excited to have such a high-profile candidate visit so far ahead of the May 5 primary in Indiana.
“Any time a presidential candidate comes to Elkhart County, that’s good news,” he said, pointing to the state’s late primary as a reason why those visits are so rare.
Despite Elkhart being so close to South Bend and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, another high-level candidate in the Democratic race, Crabtree said most voters have yet to commit with 11 months until the election.
“Senator Warren is somewhat from the progressive side, so a lot of the progressive supporters and activists are gung-ho for her candidacy,” Crabtree said. “There are others that are just excited that she’s coming, (to) put Elkhart County on the map and help shape the conversation in the presidential race.”
Crabtree said Indiana voters could have more of a say in selecting the party’s nominee if the primary were moved up, perhaps to Super Tuesday when a plurality of states vote.
However, he said, Indiana and the Midwest might get more attention this time around, since Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 has been blamed in part on her campaign taking Midwestern states for granted.
“Michigan always goes blue, but look what happened. Michigan didn’t go blue, and that’s why it’s important that candidates don’t take states for granted, that they work every vote,” he said.
The local party chairman said he is meeting with Warren ahead of her campaign event Wednesday, and he is excited she is using the trip to announce new policy proposals.
Warren, in her proposed economic and manufacturing policy, said she aims to retain manufacturing in the United States and create better-paying jobs for workers and the middle class.
The Massachusetts senator said that, as president, she would shut down the Commerce Department, which would be replaced by a new Department of Economic Development, which would also absorb the Small Business Administration, the Patent and Trademark Office, and export and trade authorities such as the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Warren said the trade representative office undermines sustainable American jobs, because it “is captured by the interests of corporate executives and lobbyists.”
The former Harvard Law School professor also wants to spend more federal money on research and development and require that companies that benefit manufacture the related products in the U.S. so American taxpayers get a return on their investment. She also suggested that taxpayers may get an equity stake in or get royalties from any company that relies on such research.
What may be a central point to Warren making this announcement while in Michigan and Indiana is that she plans to spread research funding across the country to ensure economic opportunities in every region.
“There are talented Americans in every part of the country, but too often cities and towns experience brain drain and shrink because corporations move jobs and opportunities overseas or to a small handful of American cities,” Warren said in a document outlining the policy proposal.
Warren also wishes to “take aggressive steps to overhaul our worker training programs.” That includes increasing spending on apprenticeships programs from $200 million to $2 billion annually for the next 10 years. The apprenticeship program should bring together community colleges, technical schools, unions and businesses, the proposal said.
Warren would also create sectoral training program, which she said have been successful in Wisconsin, nationally. These would be local or regional sector training partnerships that “would help align training with the local job market, leverage the community college system, and, by designing training based on an entire sector, ensure that workers gain skills that are transferable across employers.
Another step in the senator’s plan is to more actively manage the value of the American dollar, which she claims has been driven up by foreign investors and banks, hurting domestic production.
Overall, the senator calls her proposals “economic patriotism,” which she said is about “using all the tools we have to boost the American workers and American industries so they have the best opportunity to compete internationally.”
President Donald Trump, whom Warren would face in the 2020 presidential election if she wins the Democratic nomination, has also taken steps aimed at retaining manufacturing jobs in the United States. Under the slogans “Buy American, Hire American,” and “America First,” Trump pulled the country out of trade agreements and introduced new tariffs in an effort to fight the trade deficit.
Warren said using tariffs can be useful, though she seemed to believe it’s not enough.
“Our principal goal should be investing in American workers rather than diminishing our competitors. If our workers are on a level playing field, I know they can take on any challenger and win,” she said.
Connected to her economic policy proposal is what Warren calls her Green Manufacturing Plan.
“My Green Manufacturing Plan is the first example of economic patriotism in action, and part of how I’ll implement my commitment to a Green New Deal,” she said.
She said her plan can make the United States a leader in the global effort to combat climate change and create “more than a million good jobs here at home.”
Warren said climate changes carries poses an existential threat similar to that of Nazi Germany in World War II and a scientific challenge similar to when President John F. Kennedy said that the United States would put a human on the moon within a decade. Both of those challenges led the country to invest heavily in new manufacturing and research, which allowed Americans to reap the rewards later, the candidate said.
The $2 trillion that Warren would invest in her green manufacturing plan would be spent over 10 years, according to her proposal.
n $400 billion would go the what the senator is calling the Green Apollo Program, funding clean energy research and development. It would also involve the creation of a National Institute of Clean Energy.
n $100 billion would be spent on a Green Marshall Plan, which would help countries purchase American-made clean energy technology. The government would also seek to encourage other countries to purchase American-made clean energy technology through diplomatic and economic tools. Warren would create a new federal office to lead that effort.
n $1.5 trillion would go to a government commitment to “using the full power of the federal procurement process to spur innovation and create demand for American-made clean energy products,” meaning that the government would be spending the money on purchasing those products for federal, state and local use and for export.
The senator said part of the money for her environmental plan could be taken from defense procurement funds.
Warren will host a “community conversation” at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday at the RV/MH Hall of Fame Northern Indiana Event Center at 21565 Executive Parkway. The event is open to the public, though RSVPing at the candidate’s website is encouraged. Doors will open at 10:15 a.m.
Elkhart Advocates for Peace and Justice will hold a peace vigil at the same location from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 before moving to the Elkhart Civic Plaza from noon to 1 p.m.
Warren was campaigning in Lansing and Detroit, Michigan, on Tuesday and will be in an MSNBC town hall in Fort Wayne at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter @ReadRasmus