Warren talks 'pushing back' against Trump, GOP to overflow crowd at Great Barrington town hall meeting

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GREAT BARRINGTON — U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., spent her Sunday afternoon chatting with some friends — more than 1,000 of them.

They turned out for Warren's town hall forum at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, but there were too many of them. So the overflow crowd of several hundred gathered around the adjacent gazebo, where Warren spoke to them about immigration, health care and the economy before heading inside to speak to the full house seated inside.

Loudspeakers outside streamed her comments to the overflow crowd.

Warren spoke to the largely friendly gathering for a few minutes before taking questions from the audience. And she came out swinging.

She described the Republican Party's vision of America as divisive and tilted to the rich, which will ultimately hurt the economy.

"That is an America where we all suffer," she said. "I believe in an America that invests in every one of us."

As evidence, she noted that the Republicans wasted very little time in passing a tax bill that "gave away $1.5 trillion to the corporate giants and billionaires. And somehow they think that is America's future."

She spoke about the treatment that could be provided to those suffering from addiction. She noted that 150 people die every day from addiction to opioids.

"That's a plane crash every single day," she said.

She suggested to senators on the other side of the aisle that the nation should fund treatment programs for $10 billion a year for 10 years, which medical specialists told her would start to turn it around.

"They said, `Great idea. We can't afford it,'" Warren said, "because they just gave away $1.5 trillion to giant corporations and billionaires."

She used that same formula to describe a number of other issues that could be solved with federal spending, but there's no money to do so because of the tax bill's $1.5 trillion give away.

She noted that major issues with health care, a crumbling infrastructure, and student debt ("It's ruining an entire generation.") could be eliminated, but with every one, the Republicans' response was, "Great idea, but we can't afford it,' Warren said, again noting that they gave $1.5 trillion to corporations and the rich.

She stopped herself there.

"I could go on like this all day," she said.

In taking questions from the audience, Warren touched on a number of other issues.

Someone asked about the immigration crisis.

Warren noted that she visited a detention facility near the Texas border recently, where she interviewed some of the parents who lost their children to the U.S. government.

She described weeping mothers, wondering where their children had been taken, mothers who described being lied to, that their kids would be right back, only to never see them again. She described ICE officials saying it's not their job to know where the children were.

"We abide by international human rights standards," she said. "We have to make sure that people seeking asylum, or refugees, have a chance to be heard. But the Trump administration is saying `Let's see if we can maximize their pain for trying to come here.'

"We can't turn our backs on this" Warren added. "We can't just walk away."

She derided the Trump tactic of dividing the nation along racial and religious lines.

"We don't all look like each other, we don't all worship the same, but that is not our weakness — that's our strength."

In the coming elections, Warren said, the choice is clear, and the differences between the two parties couldn't be easier to see.

"The Republicans are fine if tens of millions of people lose their health care," she said. "Democrats think health care is a basic human right."

On education, the first thing she said was to call for the removal of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who she said has made the student debt crisis worse and has been a supporter of for-profit colleges.

Several folks wondered how this train of misery and depressing back-sliding that has enveloped the government since 2017 can be stopped.

Warren's answer: "The ballot box. We have to take back the Senate. We have to take back the House."

She said people have to pay attention, and not just to the national races, but to all the public offices.

"We're in this fight all across the country," Warren said. "We have to keep pushing back. And when I say we have to take our government back, I mean the whole government."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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