Elizabeth Warren's Character
I grew up in Oklahoma City, attending a high school a few miles away from the one Elizabeth Warren attended. Like Warren, I won a state championship in speech and debate. While we were one year apart in school, our childhood experiences must have been very similar.
In my childhood, however, I was taught never to lie, steal, or cheat. These injunctions, along with "honor thy father and mother," seemed even more important than the prohibition of murder, which was deemed more excusable in certain cases, such as spousal infidelity, than it should have been. These commandments are so much a part of my identity that I cannot imagine life without them. I was fortunate to grow up where and when I did. As I think about Elizabeth Warren, I wonder how she could have grown up in the same city — or on the same planet.
The values expressed by Warren in her presidential campaign, and throughout her life, do not accord with what I was taught in Oklahoma. She seems to have rejected her home state and created a persona very much unlike what she must have been taught. I doubt if Warren ever would have been elected to public office in Oklahoma because she would have been exposed as one who appears to have misrepresented her ethnic background — and her ethnic background is not the only thing that Warren has been accused of misrepresenting. But in New England, it appears that the commandment against lying is no impediment to political office. That region has two U.S. senators who have faced serious charges of lying and cheating, one in connection with her claims of Native American lineage and another in regard to claims of military service in Vietnam.
As for stealing, that seems to be even more of a problem with Warren. Her policy ideas on wealth transfer are radically confiscatory. Her plan to repeal the Trump tax cuts and pile on additional wealth taxes, including an annual 3% confiscation of net worth on affluent Americans, is theft on a grand scale.
Individual tax hikes are just the beginning. Corporate taxes would increase from 21% to 35%, as they were before the Trump tax cuts. Raising corporate taxes to 35% amounts to a 67% tax increase on U.S. businesses. The consequences would be devastating for the economy, and for workers, retirees, and investors. Raising taxes by this amount would also undermine national security. How could America as a nation, permanently in a slump as it would be, compete with the growing power of China?
For Warren, a 67% corporate tax increase is just the beginning. She wants every American to report his net worth to the government every year, and every large corporation to do business under direct government supervision. When I see Warren on the stump, waving her fist and leaning out into the audience, I am reminded of Vladimir Lenin, who wrote, "The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of inflation and taxation." Under Warren, we would have both.
Commentators have begun to notice that Warren is full of "plans" on taxation, business regulation, education, and everything else, including the way Americans conduct their personal lives. The best word to describe someone who wants to regulate everything is "totalitarian." Mussolini's famous conception of totalitarianism was "everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state." With her plans and regulations for everything, Warren sounds a lot like Mussolini.
Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Chávez — they were all obsessed with political power in a way that I fear Warren is. "A lie told often enough becomes the truth." Lenin, Goebbels, and other totalitarians spoke some version of this idea. Warren's "lie" is that government can provide for every human need for everyone residing in America, including 14 million illegal aliens, at "lower cost," a claim disputed by almost every unbiased economist. When asked about the cost of her plans in a recent debate, she dodged the question on how to pay for Medicare for All and reverted to the "pipe dream" that "for middle-class families, [costs] will go down." Warren seems to believe that repeating this lie often enough makes it true. Was that what happened with her American Indian claims, which she repeated time after time on job-related paperwork?
There is a reason why the avoidance of lying and stealing are such important moral injunctions. They, along with others, are the ethical "glue" that holds society together. Once these virtues have been lost, as they appear to be among many liberals, one is capable of any sort of action.
It is not just 3%, but nearly the entire property of "the rich" that Warren wants to take. For most investors, a tax of 3% on net worth is equivalent to at least 30% of annual earnings, and that on top of the 37% top federal income tax bracket and state income taxes as high as 13% for a total of 80%, in addition to local property taxes, sales taxes, usage fees, and other levies. When "the rich" die, the state then imposes a maximum death tax of 40% and state inheritance taxes as high as 19%.
Still, one senses that for Warren, 80% of what one earns and 59% of what remains at death is not enough. She seems impatient to take more through schemes such as transaction fees on stock trades.
Warren likes to focus on her plans for taxing the super-rich, but it is impossible to fund Medicare for All, free college, Social Security raises, slavery reparations, and all else that Warren supports without taxing the middle class. Warren has not been forthright about this. Her apparent lack of truthfulness is one of the most troubling things about her, and it goes hand in hand with her authoritarian bent. When Stalin said, "The death of millions is a statistic," that was a lie on a grand scale. The death of millions, in truth, is millions of agonizingly painful individual deaths, each a horrible injustice. Warren may or may not be another Stalin, but her willingness to dodge the truth in ways convenient to herself bears some resemblance. It is not just white lies, but the worst sort of "bearing false witness" that liberals like Warren spoke in opposing the Kavanaugh nomination and in their continuing demands for his impeachment.
Warren has shown an inclination to violate common norms in her pursuit of status and power. I believe she would employ unprecedented campaign tactics against President Trump, including any sort of lie and intimidation. Her supporters, if Antifa is any indication, would not restrict themselves to legal means. In a 2017 radio interview, Warren refused to condemn Antifa for its violence despite the interviewer's repeated efforts to get her to do so. Granting tacit approval to groups like Antifa is a dangerous thing to do because violence, once it is tolerated, will escalate.
Although I grew up with her in Oklahoma City, I fear the possibility of a Warren presidency. As a radical progressive, Warren has repudiated her past conservatism and with it, it would seem, such fundamental principles as honesty and fair dealing. An increasing number of commentators have accused her of prevaricating when she is asked difficult questions. President Trump is forthright in discussing his positions, and he sticks to them in the face of criticism. Elizabeth Warren would be a different sort of president, one whose policies are always hard left but deceptive in the way they are presented. That is not the kind of person I want to see in the White House for the next four or eight years.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).