Elizabeth Warren perhaps is best known for wanting to break up the big banks. She has been a huge advocate for financial reform since the big crash of 2008, and throughout the Great Recession she made her mark first promoting the establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And while she still contends reinstating Glass-Steagall is hugely necessary, that's not her only policy goal. On Tuesday night's Tonight Show, Warren explained to Jimmy Fallon how to rebuild America so that people like her can still grow up to be U.S. senators.
Given her background as a Harvard professor, you may not realize that Warren wouldn't have grown up having it easy. She was on the show to promote her book, This Is Our Fight, and just like in the book, she contrasted the opportunities of her childhood with the rather dismal reality that today's millennials face in terms of education and job prospects. Warren explained that her book is about the "fight of how we rebuild America," but she first explained where she comes from:
I'm a kid who grew up in a family that had a lot of financial ups and downs, and at the end of the day, the only thing I really ever wanted to do was be a teacher. But you've got to go to college to do that. There was no money, and I ended up graduating from a commuter college that cost $50 a semester.
Would you have guessed that if you weren't already familiar with Warren's story? She continued, "I am the daughter of a janitor who ended up a Harvard professor and United States Senator because I grew up in an America that invested in kids like me, and I believe in that America — all the way down to my toes." So, Warren's goal is to essentially be able to bring the opportunities she had to young people today.
Because as she told Fallon about the country of her childhood, "that America is gone." "Those opportunities are not there for our kids today," Warren argued. "Today 70 percent of kids who graduate from a public university have to borrow money to do it. And here's the part that, man, really sticks the knife in: The federal government is making billions of dollars in profits off the backs of those kids. Now that's not a country that's living its values." The student loan program's profit for 2016 could be about $1.6 billion.
Warren went on to contrast her story with that of a young woman she wrote about in the book. "She had the same kind of dreams I did, she had great plans, she was going to go off, be in the computer industry," Warren explained. But then "she gets her feet tangled up with a for-profit college." When Warren meets her and starts her profile in the book, "she's 27 years old, still hasn't gotten a diploma, and has $100,000 in student loan debt which she's trying to manage on the salary of a waitress." Warren doesn't approve:
That's wrong. That's not an America that's building dreams, that's an America that's crushing dreams. We can do better than that, and that's the fight we need to have, the fight for opportunity.
Fallon said he totally agreed, noting that he just finished of paying his student loans, quipping, "And I'm the host of The Tonight Show." She told Fallon that she's dedicated to reinvesting in education across the board, from pre-K to graduate school. But how do you do that? "We know the things we need to do. The problem is we need to get out there and make them happen. We have to have the courage to get in the fight," Warren said.
Resistance efforts like the Women's March are just the beginning. Warren asks that you join in the fight with her. "Democracy is not a machine that will go of itself," Warren points out. It needs you.
Images: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon