Elizabeth Warren Proposes ‘Aggressive Intervention’ to Create Jobs

DETROIT — Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Tuesday proposed an economic program of “aggressive intervention on behalf of American workers,” suggesting that as president she would invest $2 trillion in climate-friendly industries over a decade, create a new cabinet-level Department of Economic Development and even manipulate the dollar to promote exports.

Unveiling a campaign theme of “economic patriotism,” Ms. Warren promised to announce further plans under that banner over the next several months, on issues like trade and Wall Street regulation.

By pledging to intervene in markets to support American manufacturing and promote job creation, Ms. Warren laid out a goal that President Trump has also pursued, albeit by different means, like imposing tariffs on imports from China and Mexico.

The new proposals were further evidence that Ms. Warren believes that her policy-first message is helping her stand out in the Democratic presidential primary. Her announcement was timed to coincide with a trip to Indiana and Michigan, where she will hold campaign events this week as she tries to extend her recent political momentum.

Still, challenges remain in Ms. Warren’s bid for the nomination. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. remains the race’s pacesetter in polling and fund-raising, and Ms. Warren must still shake the perception that her nomination would pose problems for Democrats in the general election.

In remarks Tuesday afternoon at a job training center on the northwest side of Detroit, Ms. Warren said the plan would benefit the city’s manufacturing sector, which has experienced hardship in recent years.

“The bottom line is — if they can make a nickel by sending your job somewhere else, they’ll do it,” Ms. Warren said. “I’ll tell you, these corporations may not fight for American workers, but I’m willing to do it.”

And she said her focus on domestic jobs, particularly through investment in climate change, would help revive American economies.

“We need to be all in to fight this climate crisis,” she said to applause.

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The centerpiece of Ms. Warren’s program, a $2 trillion spending package over 10 years for environmentally sustainable research, manufacturing and exports, is intended to help “achieve the ambitious targets of the Green New Deal,” Ms. Warren wrote in a policy paper.

“The climate crisis demands immediate and bold action,” Ms. Warren wrote. “Like we have before, we should bank on American ingenuity and American workers to lead the global effort to face down this threat — and create more than a million good jobs here at home.”

The proposal contains echoes of President Barack Obama’s $840 billion stimulus law, passed during the first year of his administration, which pledged over $90 billion for so-called green jobs in the installation of wind, solar and energy efficiency projects. That spending came under attack after the failure of Solyndra, a solar company that went bankrupt after burning through $527 million in federal loans. But economists have noted that most of the projects and companies funded by the stimulus survived and contributed to the economic recovery.

Many of Ms. Warren’s spending proposals rely on instituting tax hikes on America’s richest individuals and corporations, and some critics have said she is promising voters things that are undeliverable. At the same time, the tolerance for larger federal deficits has been increasing among political leaders and economists on both sides of the aisle.

The investment plan includes a “Green Apollo Plan” that would create a National Institutes of Clean Energy, a “Green Industrial Mobilization” that would push federal spending toward American-made renewable energy technology, and a “Green Marshall Plan” that would promote those products abroad. The programs would largely be paid for through corporate tax increases, a campaign aide said, and would include provisions that prioritized investments in historically marginalized communities and provided benefits for fossil fuel workers.

Government contracts issued under the initiatives would include more stringent criteria than are currently mandated, by requiring that federal contractors offer a minimum wage of $15 an hour, more than twice the current federal minimum, as well as 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

Mr. Biden also issued a plan to combat climate change on Tuesday, including a pledge to invest $1.7 trillion in green energy programs over 10 years.

As another element of her plan, Ms. Warren proposed “more actively managing our currency value” to promote exports — a reference to measures that could weaken the dollar. Mr. Trump has also complained that the dollar is too strong.

The announcement on Tuesday, as Ms. Warren visited states with major manufacturing industries, continued her habit of connecting new policy proposals to her campaign stops. In West Virginia, for example, she touted an idea to invest in curbing the opioid addiction crisis.

By introducing her “economic patriotism” series in the Midwest, Ms. Warren’s campaign is zeroing in on the working-class voters who soured on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest. She is also courting many of the voters who, in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, backed Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who made his support of a more protectionist trade policy a key campaign issue. Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren are now racing to lock down support from the liberal wing of the party.

While Ms. Warren’s sprawling jobs, energy and environmental plans have stirred enthusiasm among left-wing activists, they also draw on ideas that have attracted strong bipartisan support in the past. A push to scale up apprenticeship programs and the mandate that the federal government buy American-made goods when possible echo efforts by the Trump administration.

The apprenticeship model, though successful in Germany, has often been viewed skeptically by high school students and parents who have been bombarded by the message that a college education brings the greatest economic rewards.

The federal Government Accountability Office found in a December 2018 report that the effect of existing Buy American initiatives, some of which date to the Great Depression, was relatively minor because of waivers, exemptions and treaty constraints.

In another proposal aimed at American workers, Ms. Warren said the Commerce Department under her administration would be revamped and renamed the Department of Economic Development, and would be required to create a national jobs strategy every four years. The new department would also be responsible for all trade programs.

Such long-term economic planning would be akin to efforts in countries like China and Germany, Ms. Warren said. Some Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, have also talked about the need for the United States to have an economic plan.

In a post on Medium, Ms. Warren criticized previous administrations, Republican and Democratic, for putting the interests of corporations above the American people.

“We should put all of these offices and programs in the same place,” she wrote, “to make it clear that the unified mission of the federal government is to promote sustainable, middle-class American jobs.”

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