Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is feeling the heat from her rise in the polls: She parried attacks in last night's debate from across the field on her go-big policy plans — including a soak-the-rich wealth tax that's been central to her campaign.
Warren took incoming on a number of fronts, including her support for Medicare for all, her call for breaking up tech giants, and her foreign policy credentials. (See the full debate transcript here.) But it was her call for a 2 percent tax on households with assets worth more than $50 million that brought some of the sharpest jabs.
The proposal — which would add another 1 percent levy for net worths greater than $1 billion — has set off alarms among the Democratic donor class. On the debate stage, some of Warren’s competitors took aim at it as practically unworkable or too politically polarizing.
“Sometimes I think that Senator Warren is more focused on being punitive and pitting some part of the country against the other instead of lifting people up and making sure that this country comes together around those solutions,” former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) said.
The accusation highlights the animating tension in the field between more populist candidates and moderates: Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are pushing for a structural overhaul of the economy while many of the others are focused on more incremental change. (O'Rourke, for his part, said a wealth tax would be part of a solution before going on offense.)
Warren sought to change the tenor of the debate over the wealth tax: “My question is not why do Bernie and I support a wealth tax,” Warren said, nodding to the fact that Sanders has introduced a wealth tax of his own. “It's why is it does everyone else on this stage think it is more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation of Americans?”
The comment elicited some protest from her fellow contenders. “No one is supporting billionaires,” former vice president Joe Biden said. And Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) fired back that Warren needed a “reality check” because “no one on this stage wants to protect billionaires.”
Warren on the campaign trail has emphasized that her levy would raise an estimated $2.75 trillion from roughly 75,000 families. When she rolled it out, she pitched it as a means of rebalancing the concentration of wealth, which she framed as a threat to our democracy itself. Crowds at her rallies now chant “Two cents!” to voice their support for it.
But on the debate stage, Warren said she was “really shocked at the notion that anyone thinks I'm punitive.”
“Look, I don't have a beef with billionaires,” said Warren, who describes herself as a “capitalist to my bones.”
“My problem is you made a fortune in America, you had a great idea, you got out there and worked for it, good for you,” she continued. “But you built that fortune in America. I guarantee you built it in part using workers all of us helped pay to educate. You built it in part getting your goods to markets on roads and bridges all of us helped pay for. You built it at least in part protected by police and firefighters all of us help pay the salaries for. And all I'm saying is, you make it to the top, the top 0.1 percent, then pitch in two cents so every other kid in America has a chance to make it.”
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, the political newcomer who has elbowed his way into contention by touting his pitch for a universal basic income, criticized Warren’s plan as unworkable. “The problem is that it's been tried in Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, and all those countries ended up repealing it, because it had massive implementation problems and did not generate the revenue that they'd projected,” he said. “If we can't learn from the failed experiences of other countries, what can we learn from?”
Warren and Yang also clashed over their theories of the culprit behind growing income inequality. Yang’s campaign is staked on the idea that automation has displaced millions of American jobs, especially for blue-collar and middle class workers, and will only get worse. Warren laid the blame at free trade deals that benefited multinational corporations at the expense of workers.
But the candidates didn’t dig into the essence of the divide between Warren and her moderate rivals until the end of the debate. The attacks on the Massachusetts liberal shared a theme that Biden distilled: That Warren's plans are too ambitious to stand a chance of becoming law. “I'm going to say something that is probably going to offend some people here, but I'm the only one on this stage that has gotten anything really big done,” Biden said. “We all have good ideas. The question is, who is going to be able to get it done?”
Warren responded by pointing to her role in establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Agency in the wake of the financial crisis. “All of the Washington insiders and strategic geniuses said, don't even try, because you will never get it passed,” she said. “And sure enough, the big banks fought us. The Republicans fought us. Some of the Democrats fought us. But we got that agency passed into law.”
Biden countered he had played a role, too, since he “went on the floor and got you votes.”
Warren offered him no thanks. “I am deeply grateful to President Obama, who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law, and I am deeply grateful to every single person who fought for it and who helped pass it into law,” she said. “People told me, 'Go for something little; go for something small; go for something that the big corporations will be able to accept.' I said, 'No, let's go for an agency that will make structural change in our economy.' And President Obama said, 'I will fight for that,' and he sometimes had to fight against people in his own administration.”
— Global economy on track for weakest growth since crisis. WSJ's Josh Zumbrun: "Global growth is expected to slow to 3% this year, according to new estimates from the International Monetary Fund, down from an estimate of 3.2% in July. As recently as 2017, the global economy was growing at a 3.8% pace. The IMF attributed the sharp slowdown over the past two years primarily to rising trade barriers that have stunted manufacturing and investment around the world...
"As the year has progressed, trade has slowed more sharply than forecasters had expected earlier in the year... Mounting signs of a slowdown have alarmed global economic policy makers, many of whom are traveling to Washington this week for the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank. At the top of their agenda is what can be done about a global-growth slowdown."
- U.S. forecast is cut, too: "Forecasts for the U.S. were cut by 0.2 percentage point to 2.4% annual growth in 2019."
— Brexit talks stall. Bloomberg's Ian Wishart and co.: "British and European Union officials are growing increasingly pessimistic about the chances of securing a Brexit deal in time for this week’s summit amid growing resistance from Boris Johnson’s Northern Irish allies. Johnson is struggling to win the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, whose votes will be crucial if Johnson is to get his agreement through parliament. The DUP is objecting to concessions Johnson has offered to secure a deal with the EU, among them putting a customs border in the Irish sea...
"If a deal isn’t sealed and approved by the British Parliament by Saturday, then Britain will once again be pitched into a constitutional crisis that could result in a chaotic no-deal exit. Johnson will be told to seek an extension to EU membership, but he has sworn not to delay Brexit further and a legal battle will probably follow."
— Earnings season is off to a great start: "The unofficial start to earnings season is off to a bullish beginning with companies like UnitedHealth, Johnson & Johnson and J.P. Morgan Chase all blowing past analysts’ expectations, easing concerns that the China-U.S. trade battle would derail the economy," CNBC's Maggie Fitzgerald reports.
"Of the 11 S&P 500 companies that reported earnings before the bell Tuesday, only two [Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs] missed Wall Street’s estimates ... Earnings for the S&P 500 are expected to decline by 4.6% for the third quarter, after growing by more than 3% in the second quarter, according to FactSet. This trend has not played out so far this season."
- United stays strong despite 737 Max issues: "United Airlines topped "Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit, boosted by higher fares and lower fuel costs, and lifted its 2019 profit target despite the continued grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX," Reuters's Tracy Rucinski and Sanjana Shivdas report. "Chicago-based United is one of three U.S. airlines that have each had to cancel more than 2,000 monthly flights through the end of the year as Boeing Co’s 737 MAX remains grounded following two deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia."
- JPMorgan shares rise after bank reports record revenue. CNBC's Hugh Son: "J.P. Morgan Chase on Tuesday posted profit and record revenue that exceeded expectations on the strength of consumer banking operations that helped the bank mitigate the impact of lower interest rates. The bank said third-quarter profit rose 8% to $9.1 billion, or $2.68 a share, exceeding the $2.45 estimate of analysts surveyed by Refinitiv... Banks have trailed the broader indexes this year on worries the Federal Reserve’s shift to easing rates will squeeze the industry’s profit margins."
- But Goldman missed. More from Son: "The bank said profit slumped 26% to $1.88 billion, or $4.79 a share, below the $4.81 expected by analysts, according to Refinitiv. Revenue fell 6% to $8.32 billion, slightly above the $8.31 billion expected, on lower results in the firm’s investing and lending and investment banking divisions... Goldman shares declined by 3.3%."
— Is China really going to follow through with ag purchases? WSJ's Chao Deng and Lingling Wei: "Despite a Chinese promise to buy more U.S. farm products, questions remain over how much, the time frame for purchases, and what the U.S. might have to give in return. Beijing is pushing the U.S. to drop plans to impose new 15% tariffs on $156 billion in consumer goods starting Dec. 15 and could use the farm purchases as leverage.
"Chinese negotiators continue to say purchases must be based on actual demand and at fair-market prices, according to people briefed by the matter. The roughly $50 billion in farm products touted by President Trump is far beyond what China has historically spent and would likely require Beijing to lean heavily on its state-owned firms to accomplish."
China threatens retaliation over Hong Kong bill. Bloomberg's Iain Marlow and co.: "China threatened unspecified 'strong countermeasures' if the U.S. Congress enacts legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters, in a sign of the deepening strain between the world’s two largest economies as they attempt to seal a trade deal. China’s foreign ministry issued the warning Wednesday after the U.S. House passed a package of measures backing a pro-democracy movement that has rocked the former British colony for more than four months."
— Paging Mr. Barron, John Barron: "In almost all of his past books on China and economic issues, [Trump's] top trade adviser Peter Navarro has cited a supposed Harvard scholar and investor named 'Ron Vara' often nicknamed the 'Dark Prince of Disaster' offering bombastic, colorful commentary on China," Business Insider's Grace Panetta reports.
"There's just one problem: according to a new report in the Chronicle Review, "Ron Vara" himself doesn't exist, and appears to be an alter ego for Navarro himself. After all, 'Ron Vara' is simply the word 'Navarro' rearranged ... In response to the Chronicle, Navaro characterized Vara as Alfred Hitchcock-like character and said it was 'refreshing that somebody finally figured out an inside joke that has been hiding in plain sight for years.'"
— Authorities pull DreamWorks animated film over Chinese map scene: "No movie, apparently, is cute enough to be immune from thorny international politics," the New York Times's Daniel Victor reports.
"The news media in Vietnam reported on Monday that the authorities had pulled 'Abominable,' a DreamWorks animated film about a Chinese girl who befriends a yeti, from theaters over a scene that shows a map of China. The map includes China’s so-called nine-dash line, which dips far down into the South China Sea — an audacious and hotly disputed claim to territory that Vietnam and other countries say is theirs."
— Pence cancels event to promote USMCA for Turkey trip: "Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Wisconsin this week has been replaced by a trip to Turkey," local WISN TV reports. "It was to be the seventh in a series put on by America First Policies. Pence's event will be rescheduled for Oct. 23, the group said." Trump said Pence will be leading a group of U.S. officials to seek a ceasefire.
— Turkey bank faces charges as Syria fight continues: "The U.S. brought a criminal case against one of Turkey’s largest banks for aiding a scheme to evade sanctions against Iran, a move that carries political overtones as tensions build over Turkey’s military incursions in Syria," Bloomberg's Greg Farrell and Christian Berthelsen report.
"In an indictment filed ... in Manhattan federal court, prosecutors accused government-owned Halkbank of participating in a wide-ranging plot to violate prohibitions on Iran’s access to the U.S. financial system. The conspiracy involved high-ranking government officials in Iran and Turkey, the U.S. said ... The Turkish lira fell almost 1% after the charges were announced. It’s down 4.5% so far this month, more than any of the 24 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg."
— The GM strike may be ending soon: "General Motors Co. and the United Auto Workers union were near a deal ... to end a 30-day strike that has cost the automaker about $2 billion after Chief Executive Mary Barra and President Mark Reuss took part in contract talks, according to two people briefed on the matter," Reuters's David Shepardson reports.
"While a final agreement has not been announced, the No. 1 U.S. automaker and the union have agreed to terms on most issues but were finalizing the wording on some matters, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the talks were ongoing. A deal will likely be announced on Wednesday."
— The fallout from LeBron's comments and the NBA's Hong Kong row: "As divisive remarks by LeBron James inflame the NBA’s already strained relations with its business partners in China, the league is likely concerned that its most marketable player has—for now—become its most controversial," Sports Illustrated's Michael McCann reports. "The league knows that the manner in which the China situation ultimately plays out will impact the NBA’s global brand, not only in China but also in the United States and with the international companies with whom the league does business."
"Over the last 24 hours, James has been widely panned for seemingly prioritizing financial goals—be they his own or those of the league and players—over democratic ideals. Twitter users have created memes that mock James as a tool of the Chinese government. Protesters in Hong Kong have gone so far as to burn replicas of his Lakers jersey."
- What's at stake: "The league has a $1.5 billion contract with Chinese tech giant Tencent as well as relationships with China’s CCTV Sports Channel, the smartphone company Vivo and other Chinese companies. These deals could eventually provide the NBA with billions of dollars in revenue—dollars that, under the collective bargaining agreement, would be shared with NBA players through higher salary caps and higher player salaries. Some of those players, including Golden State Warriors forward Klay Thompson and Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward, are already profiting from the NBA exporting its brand into China."
MONEY ON THE HILL
— Warren pledges to turn down money from Wall Street and tech execs: Warren "took another stance against Big Tech and Wall Street firms ... by pledging to turn down large contributions from their executives," CNBC's Lauren Feiner and Tucker Higgins reports.
"Warren announced on her campaign website that she will decline contributions over $200 from executives at Big Tech companies, large banks, private equity firms or hedge funds. After previously pledging not to take large contributions from pharmaceutical executives, Warren’s announcement on Tuesday expanded the umbrella of forbidden donors."
- Survey finds investors predict Warren will be the nominee: "An Evercore ISI survey on "-- more than three months before the Iowa caucuses in February -- found 70% of investors believe Senator Elizabeth Warren will win the Democratic party’s nomination for president," Bloomberg's Felice Maranz reports.
— Nellie Liang: Deregulation threatens to exacerbate financial instability. The former top Fed official warns in a Brookings Institution piece that systemic risks are rising: "The reason: financial regulations are being relaxed at the same time as the Federal Reserve is cutting interest rates to offset risks from heightened trade tensions. This is not a good combination at this point in the business cycle. It greatly increases the risk that the next recession, whenever it occurs, will be severe because it will be amplified by elevated financial imbalances...
"Given current conditions, regulators should be ensuring the strength of the financial sector to withstand future risks, not weaken it, but that is not what is happening in the U.S. Recent moves to ease regulations suggest financial stability risks are at an inflection point. Incentives to leverage will continue to rise as interest rates remain low amid a global search for yield. Vulnerabilities that have been “moderate” could escalate quickly to “elevated”, as they did in the lead up to the 2007 – 2008 crisis."
- The House Financial Services Committee holds a hearing on the semi-annual review of the CFPB on Wednesday, director Kathy Kraninger will testify.
- IBM, Bank of America, PayPal, Netflix and Alcoa are among the notable companies to report their earnings, per Kiplinger.
- The House Budget Committee holds a hearing on improving economic resiliency on Wednesday.
- A Financial Services Subcommittee holds a hearing on reauthorizing the terrorism risk insurance program.
- The Joint Economic Committee holds a hearing on measuring income inequality.
- The Brookings Institution holds an event on what happens when a big domestic bank fails.
- Brookings also holds an event with European Central Bank economist Phillip Lane on Wednesday.
- E*Trade, Morgan Stanley, Phillip Morris, Union Pacific, Skechers USA and BB&T Corp. are among the notable companies to report their earnings on Thursday, per Kiplinger.
- The Senate Banking Committee holds its hearing on the CFPB’s report on Thursday, Kraninger will testify.
- A Financial Services subcommittee holds a hearing on the impact of stock buybacks on Thursday.
- A House Small Business subcommittee holds a hearing on opportunity zones and small businesses on Thursday.
- The Tax Policy Center holds an event on cryptocurrency and tax administration on Thursday, featuring remarks by IRS chief counsel Michael Desmond.
- Coca-Cola and American Express the notable companies to report their earnings on Friday, per Kiplinger.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Mike Luckovich:
— The Washington Nationals are World Series-bound! Much of official Washington spent Tuesday night flipping back and forth between the Democratic debate and Game Four of the National League Championship Series. The Nats won it, 7-4, to complete a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals and secure the first berth in the Fall Classic for a D.C. baseball team since 1933. Some highlights:
From Post Sports: