Sharing a stage with French economist Thomas Piketty on Monday night in Boston, Sen. Elizabeth Warren discussed a range issues related to economic inequality during a joint interview with the Huffington Post, but said that people should be careful not to separate the far-reaching implications that outsized wealth and power in the U.S. can have on vital, planetary issues like climate change.
Piketty, the author of the groundbreaking and bestselling book Capitalism in the 21st Century, offered his perspective on the rise of global wealth disparity as Warren focused on her familiar rhetoric surrounding the politics of inequality by describing the numerous ways in which "the system is rigged" against working people in favor of the financial and political elite.
In a direct refutation of the infamous Reagan-era ethos of "trickle-down economics," Warren said that Piketty's invaluable research presented in his book shows that "wealth does not trickle down... it trickles up."
"It trickles from everyone else," she said, "to those who are rich."
In a striking moment of the discussion, Warren stopped to make a cogent point about the intersection between the inequality that Picketty has so well documented and the overwhelming issue of climate change which she argued should not be treated as something separate from the current political realities created by enormous wealth inequality.
"I think [these two issues] are the same debate," said Warren as she crossed her arms to represent intersection. And continued:
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Think of it this way: We have tens of millions of people who live right near coasts, just to pick one example. And so what's happening right now in the debate in the United States? There are giant industries that pollute and the consequence is they make immediate profits and the effects of their pollution will be felt by lots and lots people around this country and ultimately around the globe. Now, it's in their interest to continue to be able to pollute, because they make short term profits and everyone else will bare the costs."
Think about it, they are able to amass the lobbyists to go to Washington, to influence the lawmakers,to influence the regulators, to do everything they can to maintain their opportunities to foul the air and poison the water in order to support short-term profits. Everyone else—who has to pay the price on that—doesn't have that same kind of organized ability to make their voices heard in the same way with lobbyists and lawyers in Washington.
And so for me, this is just one more example of how we have inequality, of how we have a rigged system, where a handful are able to reap benefits at the cost of everyone else. And I think climate change, like economic inequality, are both symptoms of the same problem. The same problem of this with enough power writing the rules too much in their favor, and leaving everyone else behind.
Watch the full interview: