WAVERLY — Just one day removed from releasing her Medicare for All plan that would delay the actual roll-out of Medicare for All until what would be her third year in office, Sen. Elizabeth Warren didn't talk much Saturday afternoon about it.
Instead, the Democratic presidential front-runner began her town hall at Wartburg College in Waverly by talking about her family upbringing in Oklahoma, particularly how her father's heart attack pushed her mother to swallow her fears and get a minimum wage job at Sears, which helped save Warren's family home.
"When it comes down to it, you reach down deep and you take care of the people you love," Warren told a crowd of 500-some inside Knights Ballroom. "That's the lesson millions of people live every single day."
But that was decades ago, back when a minimum wage job would support a family of three, Warren said.
"That same job today will not keep a family out of poverty," she said. "Today, the question asked in Washington is, 'Where do we set the minimum wage to help the profits of giant, multinational corporations?'"
Warren said that's because lobbyists for those corporations pour money into the coffers of U.S. senators and representatives.
"That is corruption, pure and simple — and we need to call it out for what it is," she said. "Whatever issue brought you here today ... if there is a decision to be made in Washington, I guarantee you it's been shaped by money."
She said only "big, structural change" would solve that, and said as President she'd end lobbying, "block the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington," set conflict-of-interest rules for the Supreme Court and "make every single person who runs for federal office put their tax returns online."
She also said she'd enforce federal antitrust laws, make it easier to join a union and give them greater power to negotiate, end what she called "voter suppression laws" and "political gerrymandering," and overturn Citizens United.
"It's about the choices we make -- we need to protect our democracy," Warren said.
And she would tax those with a fortune of more than $50 million two cents per dollar they have over $50 million, and use that revenue to provide universal child care and preschool, investing $800 billion in K-12 schools, public colleges and historically black colleges and universities, and canceling 95% of student loan debt.
"You made a great fortune in America, good for you," Warren said. "But if you built a great fortune in America, I guarantee you built it at least in part using workers all of us helped educate, getting goods to market on roads all of us helped build, protected by using police and fire all of us help pay the salaries for. All we're saying is, if you make it really big, pitch in two cents so everybody else has a chance to make it big."
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Warren is currently polling at an average of 20% among likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers, according to the Real Clear Politics average. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is nipping at her heels at 19.7%, while Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders are polling at 17% and 16.3%, respectively. The rest of the Democratic presidential field is polling at an average of 5% or less.
Carol Wertz of Osage said she like Warren's "passion."
"She sure makes you feel it," Wertz said.
Wertz had seen presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris in Fort Dodge and liked what she heard there.
"She's my No. 1. I think Elizabeth might be my No. 2, though," Wertz said.
Warren and Buttigieg are the top two for Waverly-Shell Rock High School juniors Cali Angel and Emma Seward. Angel, who will be old enough to caucus by Feb. 3, said reproductive rights were a big issue for her, while Seward said climate change was her big issue.
"It's really cool to see a female candidate leading, and I like a lot of her plans," Angel said.
But she wasn't committed just yet.
"Any people that come to Waverly, I'm interested in going to see them," Angel said. "I like to hear what everyone's saying and keep an open mind."
That was also true for Wartburg freshman Tessa Burger, who said she still didn't know too much about the candidates and the election process in general. But she said she liked Warren's backstory of her family struggling to get by -- it reminded her of her own family's struggles -- and said her top two candidates were Warren and Sanders.
"A lot of it has to do with education," Burger said, noting she liked Warren's ideas about eliminating most student loan debt and funding public schools. "She's definitely invested in the future of our country."