Elizabeth Warren, during 2020 Democratic debate, pushes economic reform efforts

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, during the first Democratic presidential debate, laid out why she thinks structural economic change are necessary in the U.S., despite polling that’s found 71 percent of Americans think the economy is doing well.

The Massachusetts Democrat, the front-runner in night one of the first round of debates, drew the first question on Wednesday as she faced off against nine other Democratic contenders. She was asked about why she’s unveiled so many economic plans -- like canceling student debt, providing universal child care and breaking up big tech companies -- when a majority of Americans believe the U.S. economy is strong.

“I think of it this way,” she said. “Who is this economy really working for? It’s doing great, for a thinner and thinner slice at the top. It’s doing great for giant drug companies. It’s just not doing great for people who are trying to get a prescription filled.”

The question fell directly in Warren’s wheelhouse and gave her the chance to lay out why she’s running for president; she’s positioned herself as consumer advocacy hawk.

“That is corruption pure and simple,” she said. “We need to call it out. We need to attack it head-on. We need to make structural changes in our government, in our economy and in our country.”

The moderators of the debate, which is being hosted by NBC, set up the chance for other candidates on the stage, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, to criticize some of Warren’s economic plans -- but they shied away from directly doing so.

O’Rourke, for instance, dodged a question about whether he supported a 70 percent tax rate for those who earn more than $10 million a year, an idea straight out of Warren’s playbook. But the Texas Democrat would not say directly whether or not he supported that taxation plan.


“I support a tax rate and code for everyone,” O’Rourke said.