I can't get there tomorrow, but I can come on Thursday

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One Tuesday night back in 1979, I rushed from my new teaching job at the University of Houston to pick my son Alex up from daycare. He was sitting on a small cot in the crowded daycare, his diaper soggy. He clung to me and cried when I tried to change him, and by the time I got him in the car I was covered in tears, pee and baby snot.

When we got home, I gave Alex a bath, crumbled hamburger in a skillet, and started a load of laundry. By the time I got Alex and his big sister Amelia in bed, I was so tired my bones hurt.

My 78-year-old Aunt Bee called to see how I was doing. I started out ok, but finally I broke down and started to cry. I was failing my kids and I loved teaching, but I was doing my class preparations after midnight. I was always behind. I told Aunt Bee I was going to quit my job.

Aunt Bee matter-of-factly told me, "I can't get there tomorrow, but I can come on Thursday." She arrived with seven suitcases and a Pekingese named Buddy, and she stayed for 16 years.

The reason I'm here today as a United States Senator is because my Aunt Bee rescued me on that Thursday in 1979. I know how lucky I was, because so many working moms don't have a family member who can rush in and save the day.

In fact, the deck has been stacked against working moms for years. And even though women are the main breadwinners, or joint breadwinners, in two-thirds of the families across the country, it's only getting worse.

When I was a law professor, I spent years studying why middle class families were going broke. In my academic research on bankruptcy, I uncovered some grim facts:

  • In one year, more women will file for bankruptcy than graduate from college.
  • Having a child is the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse.
  • Single moms are more likely than any other group to file for bankruptcy – more likely than the elderly, more likely than divorced men, and more likely than people living in poor neighborhoods.
  • Single moms who had been to college are actually 60% more likely to end up bankrupt than their less educated sisters.

Women get hit hard. They still earn, on average, only 77 cents to the dollar that her male colleague earns. Bloomberg analyzed census data to find that women are paid less in 264/265 major occupations – in 99.6% of jobs, women get paid less than men. Yet Republicans have blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act – a law that would make sure women don't get fired just for asking what the guy down the hall makes.

Minimum wage workers haven't gotten a raise in seven years, and today nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Mothers of very young children disproportionately work low-wage jobs in every state in the country. A minimum wage job no longer keeps a mother and baby above the poverty line, yet Republicans continue to block legislation to raise the minimum wage.  

And seniors? Because women make less than men throughout their lifetimes, they receive, on average, more than $4,000 less a year than men in Social Security benefits, yet women rely most heavily on those checks. At a time when Social Security is the only safety net keeping 14 million people out of poverty, Republicans continue to try to cut Social Security for women.

I know how lucky I was to have a woman in my life who was there when I needed her. She's gone now, but the best way I know to honor her memory is to help another woman – or maybe join with a lot of people and help millions of women.  

It's time. It's long past time. Minimum wage. Equal pay. Social Security. Doing something tangible in honor of the women who helped us.

Happy Mother's Day!

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Bank on Students

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Last year, we fought to lower the interest rates on student loans – and nearly all the Republicans in Washington agreed with us that rates were far too high.

So Congress lowered the rates for new borrowers this year – not as much as we would have liked, but some. But Congress did nothing for the millions of people stuck with older high interest rate loans.

Today, I'm introducing the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, and the idea is so popular that it already has 23 co-sponsors. The bill lets qualified borrowers refinance their existing student loan debt to the same lower prices that Congress agreed upon for new students this year.

Sign up now to show your support for the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act.

Student loan debt is exploding. Outstanding student loans now total more than $1.2 trillion – and each year, students are taking on more and more and more. In 2012, an astonishing 71% of college seniors owed student loans, and, from 2004 to 2012, the average student loan balance increased by 70%.

Now, millions of young people are struggling to keep up with their student loan payments. Everywhere I go, I meet young people who worked hard, played by the rules, and got an education – only to be crushed with student loan debt.

The economic impact is real. Federal watchdog agencies like the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are already sounding the alarm. Every day, this exploding debt stops more and more young people from moving out of their parents' homes, from saving for a down payment, buying homes, buying cars, starting small businesses, saving for retirement, or making purchases that grow our economy.

Forty million Americans have outstanding student loans. The Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act will save millions of these young people hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year, putting real money back into their pockets. The sooner we pass refinancing legislation, the sooner they'll get a little bit of relief.   

Tell Congress to give a much-needed break to young people struggling to build a future. Join us in support of the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act.

Elizabeth Warren takes on Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz

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Elizabeth went to Minnesota last weekend to support Senator Al Franken at the 2014 Humphrey-Mondale Dinner.

It was her first time speaking at one of those big Democratic Party events – and Elizabeth didn't waste any time taking on Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, the Tea Party and the national GOP.

The event wasn't televised, but we just got the video clip of Elizabeth's speech. Trust me, you're going to want to see this for yourself:

When you're done watching Elizabeth shred the Republicans' vision for America, don't forget to share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Everyone should see this clip.

Benghazi

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Earlier this week, Speaker John Boehner announced the formation of a new select committee to investigate Benghazi led by Rep. Trey Gowdy.

All three of my brothers served in the military, and I know firsthand how much Americans serving abroad -- and their families -- sacrifice. What happened in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012 was a tragedy. Four Americans died putting themselves in harm's way in service to peace, diplomacy, and their country. I look at what happened in Benghazi with sadness, with seriousness, and as yet another call to honor the men and women who keep us safe.

So let me be blunt: that kind of seriousness is sorely missing from the no holds-barred political theater of the House Republicans.  

I know a little bit about the way Trey Gowdy pursues oversight. I was on the other end of it when I was setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and I was called to testify before the House. As the Huffington Post reported at the time, Gowdy's interrogation of me "seemed to lack the basic facts" about the agency he was attempting to oversee. I'd like you to read their reporting on one of these exchanges just so you know what this Benghazi "investigation" is likely to look like:

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) grilled Warren on whether the bureau would make public the complaints it gets. She answered that the complaint issue was a work in progress, but that at the very least, there was progress in creating a system for large credit card companies.

"Are any of the complaints public?" Gowdy demanded.

"Congressman, we don't have any complaints yet," Warren said of the still-nascent agency. "What we're trying to do is build the system."

Gowdy also seemed to think that Warren had written the Dodd-Frank law, and he was determined to know what Warren meant by defining "abusive" practices as something that "materially interferes" with the ability of a consumer to understand a term or a condition.

"That suggests to me that some interferences are immaterial. Is that what you meant by that?" he asked a momentarily perplexed-looking Warren.

"Congressman, I believe the language you are quoting is out of the Dodd-Frank act," she said. "This is the language that Congress has adopted."

Still, Gowdy insisted on her answer, although the definitions and regulations required by the law are still being written.

As a Senator, I take oversight seriously because it is powerfully important. But Trey Gowdy gives oversight a bad name. The House GOP is on a waste-of-time-and-resources witch hunt and fundraising sideshow, shamefully grasping for any straw to make President Obama, former Secretary Clinton, or Secretary Kerry look bad. This stunt does a disservice to those who serve our country abroad, and it distracts us from issues we should be taking up on behalf of the American people.

With millions of people still out of work and millions more working full time yet still living below the poverty line, with students drowning in debt, with roads and bridges crumbling, is this really what the House Republicans are choosing to spend their time on? Even for guys who have so few solutions to offer that they have voted 54 times to repeal Obamacare, this is a new low.  

House Republicans are doing whatever they can to distract the American people from what's really going on in Washington – a rigged system that works great for those who have armies of lobbyists and lawyers but that leaves everyone else behind. A system in which Republicans protect tax breaks for billionaires while they block increases in the minimum wage for millions of people who work full time and live in poverty. A system in which Republicans give away billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil while making billions in profits off of our kids' student loans.

It's wrong, and it's shameful.

We don't run this country for corporations

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Hobby Lobby doesn't want to cover its employees' birth control on company insurance plans. In fact, they're so outraged about women having access to birth control that they've taken the issue all the way to the Supreme Court.

I cannot believe that we live in a world where we would even consider letting some big corporation deny the women who work for it access to the basic medical tests, treatments or prescriptions that they need based on vague moral objections.

But here's the scary thing: With the judges we've got on the Supreme Court, Hobby Lobby might actually win.

The current Supreme Court has headed in a very scary direction.

Recently, three well-respected legal scholars examined almost 2,000 Supreme Court cases from the last 65 years. They found that the five conservative justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court are in the top 10 most pro-corporate justices in more than half a century.

And Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts? They were number one and number two.

Take a look at the win rate of the national Chamber of Commerce cases before the Supreme Court. According to the Constitutional Accountability Center, the Chamber was winning 43% of the cases in participated in during the later years of the Burger Court, but that shifted to a 56% win-rate under the Rehnquist Court, and then a 70% win-rate with the Roberts Court.

Follow these pro-corporate trends to their logical conclusion, and pretty soon you'll have a Supreme Court that is a wholly owned subsidiary of big business.

Birth control is at risk in today's case, but we also need to worry about a lot more.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court unleashed a wave of corporate spending to game the political system and drown the voices of middle class families.

And right now, the Supreme Court is considering McCutcheon v. FEC, a case that could mean the end of campaign contribution limits – allowing the big guys to buy even more influence in Washington.

Republicans may prefer a rigged court that gives their corporate friends and their armies of lawyers and lobbyists every advantage. But that's not the job of judges. Judges don't sit on the bench to hand out favors to their political friends.

On days like today, it matters who is sitting on the Supreme Court. It matters that we have a President who appoints fair and impartial judges to our courts, and it matters that we have a Senate who approves them.

We're in this fight because we believe that we don't run this country for corporations – we run it for people.

They did everything we told them to do

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Last year, you and I fought to lower the interest rate on new federally subsidized student loans.

During that fight, I also heard from a lot of young people being crushed by their old student loans. They did everything we told them to do: They worked hard, got good grades, went to college and learned new skills -- and now are drowning in debt.

The numbers prove it. More than a third of borrowers under the age of 30 have been delinquent on their student loan payments for more than 90 days. Think about that.

Tying students to a lifetime of financial servitude as a condition of getting an education? That doesn't reflect our values.

In the coming weeks, I'll introduce new legislation to allow eligible borrowers with high interest student loans to refinance at new rates that are at least as low as those now being offered to new borrowers in the federal student loan program -- putting real money back into the pockets of young people who worked hard to get an education.

We know from the last student loan fight that we have an uphill battle ahead of us -- and I'm going to need your help, and the help of tens of thousands of people all across the country, to make the case for why this is so important.

Sign up now to show your support for refinancing student loans -- and share your own student loan story if you have one.

The idea is pretty simple. When interest rates are low, homeowners can refinance their mortgages. Big corporations can swap more expensive debt for cheaper debt. Even state and local governments have refinanced their debts.

Letting recent graduates refinance their student loans puts real money back in the pockets of middle class families. Real money that will help young people find a little more financial stability as they work to build their futures. Real money that says America invests in those who work to get an education.

Real money for people like you, your kids or your grandkids.

As we introduce this bill in the coming weeks, I'll need your help to speak out and say why refinancing student loans is important to you. Sign up now and share your story.

Refinancing student loans won't fix everything that's broken in the higher education system -- but for many of our graduates, it is an important step forward.

My heart-shaped cake

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Elizabeth Warren Valentine's Day CakeFebruary 14 -- Valentine's Day and my mother's birthday.

From the time they were in high school, my daddy bought my mother a heart-shaped box of chocolates every year. And once I was big enough to manage the oven on my own, I baked my mother a heart-shaped cake every year. I loved Valentine's Day.

When my mother was in her 80s, she had some surgery. The day before she was scheduled to go home, she was in good cheer. We gathered in her hospital room and told funny stories, and she was the willing passenger as the teen-aged grandchildren organized impromptu wheelchair races in the hallway. Finally, Daddy sent us all home, cautioning that we would tire her out.

A few hours later, she was propped up in her hospital bed watching television. Daddy was holding her hand when she sat forward and said, "Don, there's that gas pain again." She fell back dead.

The doctors were there in less than a minute, and they did everything they could, but she was gone.

When the call came that she had died, I didn't cry right away. I just couldn't believe it. How could she be gone?

Later the autopsy showed that she had advanced coronary disease. Despite her regular trips to the doctor for check ups and her repeated trips for "that gas pain," Mother had never been checked for heart trouble.

Every year on Valentine's Day, I still bake a heart-shaped cake. I think about my mother and about the millions of women who have died from undiagnosed heart disease. And every year I email my female relatives and friends and ask them to check out the risks because heart disease kills 1 out of every 4 women in America.

I ask the people I love to take care of themselves -- and I hope you'll do that too.

But there's more we can do. Medical science has made great discoveries in the treatment of heart disease, but those discoveries aren't free. At a time when we're on the brink of powerful breakthroughs, funding for the National Institutes of Health and other research investments has been strangled. As a proportion of our GDP, the federal government is spending about half what it was spending the late 1960s.

When NIH was hit with the sequester that slashed another 5% out of its budget, the Framingham Heart Study -- the world's premier longitudinal heart research project -- was threatened. Even now, over 83% of promising research proposals -- proposals seeking to combat some of our biggest health challenges like Alzheimer's, autism, ALS, and diabetes -- go unfunded. Young scientists, seeing how hard it is to get their research funded, are beginning to leave research work for other fields where they see a more promising future.

I'm fighting to double the investment in NIH. The way I see it, if we invest in first-rate medical research, millions of people will lead fuller lives. Millions of children will have the chance to reach their full potential. Millions of mothers will be around longer to have fun with their grandchildren and enrich all our lives.

Double our funding for research. That's the best memorial I can offer to someone I've lost.

Thanks for being a part of this, and happy Valentine's Day!

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Jamie Dimon got a raise

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JPMorgan Chase recently reached yet another settlement with the U.S. government -- a $13 billion deal with the Department of Justice for peddling deceptive mortgages.  

The banking giant broke the law, recklessly gambled with our economy, and had to pay a record government settlement. Guess what happened next? You guessed right: JPMorgan's CEO Jamie Dimon just got a 74% raise yesterday.

The New York Times speculates that Dimon got the raise because of his "active role" in negotiating government settlements last year. And as Dimon put it himself, it could have been a lot worse if JPMorgan had been forced to go all the way to a trial instead of just settling.

So here's my question: If JPMorgan is so happy with their settlements that they are rewarding their CEO with a big raise, do you really think the federal bank regulators were tough enough?

There are a lot of steps we can take to push the regulators to do their jobs and hold financial institutions fully accountable when they break the law, and I think a good starting place would be by enacting the Truth in Settlements Act.  

This is the bill I recently introduced with Senator Coburn that would require accessible, detailed disclosures about settlement agreements so the public can hold regulators accountable -- no more hiding out behind closed doors and keeping the details secret.

Sign up now to show your support for the Truth in Settlements Act.

When I question federal regulators in Banking Committee hearings, they insist that they don't need to take big banks to trial when they break the law. They stand by their claim that settlement agreements are tough enough.

But if a settlement is so weak that Wall Street is celebrating with pay raises, it's not a good deal for the American people.

This week Jamie Dimon admitted that the big banks don't want to go to trial, so now there's no doubt: If the regulators were willing to go all the way to a trial, even once in a while, they would have a lot more leverage in the settlement negotiations. And maybe they could get better deals on behalf of consumers and taxpayers.

This is simple: Bankers on Wall Street need to be held accountable when they break the law, and regulators in Washington need to be held accountable when they enforce the law.

So sign up now to show your support for the Truth in Settlements Act. It's time for real transparency and accountability.

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Dr. King's coin

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Each year, we honor the memory of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We honor his struggles and his triumphs. We honor his work to stand up to racial injustice and to help America move one step closer to her founding promise of equality.

But when Dr. King was taken from us, he was engaged in another struggle – a struggle that was no less challenging, a struggle that he believed was essential to America's soul.

It was the struggle to end poverty. And it is a struggle that is still with us today.

For years now, we have heard the claim that America is broke, that we cannot afford to invest in our children and that we must tell our seniors to try to get by on less. We face a world in which those born in wealth will have plenty of opportunity, but those born in poverty have little chance to escape – a world in which people work their hearts out and barely hang on.

That is not the promise of American life. That was not the America of Dr. King's dreams. And that must not be our American future.

In 1967, Dr. King told us what it would take to combat poverty. He said:

[W]e are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

We are now engaged in a great debate over poverty and inequality. And as Dr. King argued, "true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar."

Our success as a community will be measured not by the riches of a few, but by the success of many.

There are some people who say that there is little that we can do, and perhaps less that we can do together, as a country. Dr. King had a response to them. He said, "[t]here is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will."

In this, the richest and most powerful country in the world, we can expose the symptoms and causes of poverty, just as Dr. King's nonviolence "exposed the ugliness of racial injustice."

In this, the richest and most powerful country in the world, we can come together to build an economy that works for all our children, just as Dr. King's movement helped make "justice a reality for all God's children."

"In the final analysis," Dr. King said, "the rich must not ignore the poor because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny. All life is interrelated, and all men are interdependent."

The struggle may be fierce, the climb uphill, the obstacles tall. But in a democracy, we, the people, get to choose our destiny, and we can choose a country that lives up to America's founding promise and achieves Dr. King's dreams.

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This is just wrong

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Millions of families are hanging on by their fingernails to their place in the middle class – and the United States Senate just voted to let them fall.  

I'm ashamed that the Senate didn't extend unemployment benefits yesterday. I'm sickened that my colleagues went home last night knowing that they just cut off a little help for millions of people who have worked hard and who can't find a job.

And I'm appalled that so many Senators cannot admit the simple reality: we are still in the middle of a jobs crisis. People have been looking for work for months or even years. Many are starting to give up entirely. Young people are beginning to think that there isn't a future out there for them. Long-term unemployment isn't just about money; it's also about losing hope.

These people – our friends, our families, our neighbors – they weren't the ones who broke our economy. So many people worked hard, played by the rules, and did everything we told them to – and now struggle to find work. They need our help.

We help because we care about people, but we also help because it is good for the economy. The numbers show money put into unemployment goes right back into the economy to help stimulate more demand and more business activity. According to a new Congressional report, in just one week after unemployment benefits expired, our state economies lost $400 million. Extending unemployment makes good business sense.  

There's so much we should be doing to strengthen our economy and rebuild our middle class, and yesterday we took a step backwards. Washington needs to get back to work solving problems – not making them worse – so families can get back to work.

I really don't get why the Republicans would stand in the way on this issue. I don't get it, but I'm taking stock – and like many of my colleagues who voted to help people yesterday, I'm not giving up.

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