Senator Elizabeth Warren challenged employers on Friday to initiate a “national conversation” that will overcome the Washington political gridlock she says threatens the economic and social structures of the nation.
Warren urged more than 250 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum to contact their friends and colleagues across the country to discuss a path to compromise on the intractable stalemates over the federal budget and national debt.
“This has to be a national conversation. It cannot be a conversation just here in Massachusetts. We cannot sit around and just agree with each other,” Warren said.
“I urge you all hit to your email on regular basis and have this conversation, however you feel about it. But we’ve got to get this resolved and get our country moving forward.”
The commonwealth’s senior senator said fundamental philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans are weighing down the economic recovery and preventing the country from making long-term investments in education, infrastructure and research.
“How stupid is the sequester? That we are now caught in an across-the-board hatchet cut to everything. It is just mindless,” she told the audience.
“And you all realize that if we can’t get this budget deal worked out we’re about to roll into a second year of sequester. That doesn’t mean second year of the same cuts, it means we double the cuts we’ve got and keep on rolling from there.”
Warren argued that the nation built a formidable economy out of the Great Depression with government investments in education and training, construction of the federal highway system and basic research that produced advances such as GPS and the Internet. The manufacturing base that grew out of those investments frayed during the latter half of the 20th century, she said, threatening the economic security of the middle class and challenging the nation to again think about the future of how it makes things.
She rejected the notion that manufacturing inevitably flows overseas.
“It’s the wrong way to think about our present. It’s also the wrong way to think about our future,” she said.
Addressing the employers, she said, “I truly believe that when you grow, America’s middle class grows, and when the middle class grows, America grows.”
Warren also maintained that community colleges must play a key role in ensuring that employers have access to the qualified workers they need to expand. The federal government must maintain funding of those community colleges while letting the institutions themselves determine the skills that employers in their regions need.
“What it takes to do almost any skilled work today is a lot more than it took 30 years ago. The idea that you could do things with a tenth-grade education as you did 30 or 40 years ago, those high paying manufacturing jobs, it’s just not true anymore,” she said.