Elizabeth Warren

Remarks at the National Press Club - Nov. 18, 2015

Elizabeth Warren
November 18, 2015— Washington, D.C.
National Press Club Meeting
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Thanks so much, it’s good to be here! I appreciate you're doing a list because I wanted to come here to expand that list a little bit.

Change in the air in Washington. The lobbyists are swarming on Capitol Hill, the buzz is everywhere. Congress is going to revise the corporate tax code and the time is nearly here. So, the lobbyists have a pretty strong elevator pitch. It goes like this, US corporations are paying too much in taxes, the top tax corporate rate is 35 percent, which is much higher than the rest of the developed world, and it’s forcing U.S. corporations to flee abroad. The solution is to slash corporate rates across the board. So that's the elevator pitch.

The story of over taxation is everywhere it is told and retold by lobbyists for giant U.S. corporations, told and retold by their friends in congress, and promoted by more than one Republican candidate for President. So I put together a sampling of what the Republican candidates have said, Ben Carson, “our government is driving businesses to other countries because our corporate tax rate is the second highest in the world,” Donald Trump, “our multinational corporations can't compete because we have the worst corporate tax rate in the industrialized world,” Marco Rubio, “the U.S. imposes a double tax on the corporate earnings of U.S. multinationals, holding back our nation's potential to compete around the globe”.

So only one problem with the over taxation story. It's not true. There is a problem with the corporate tax code, but that isn't it. So let's go through some of the numbers. Let's start with the claim that U.S. corporations pay more than their foreign counterparts. Now it's true, the highest nominal tax rate on paper is 35 percent, but hardly anybody actually pays that rate. Multiple studies have estimated that the average effective federal tax rate for U.S. corporations, the tax rate that corporations actually pay, to the U.S. government, after they take advantage of all of the deductions, the exceptions, the credits, is only 20 percent. 20 percent is right in the middle of corporate taxes paid in the rest of the world. Right in the middle.

So the tax rate is about average, what about the trend line. Are corporate taxes getting more burdensome as lobbyists claim? Nope. In fact, there has been a ten point decline in effective tax rates for U.S. corporations between 1998 and 2013, but there is a deeper lie hidden right at the center of the elevator pitch, the tax code is so tangled up with exceptions and with credits that were some of the biggest corporations, the effective federal income tax rate is zero. That's right, not 35%, not 20%, 0%.

For example, over a five-year period, Boeing, General Electric, and Verizon paid nothing in net federal income taxes. That's across a five year period. These three Fortune 500 companies reported nearly eighty billion dollars in combined profits, and actually got tax rebates from the federal government. So what's the problem with our corporate tax code? It's not that taxes are far too high for giant corporations as lobbyists claim. No, the problem is that revenue generated from corporate taxes is far too low, and the trend line here is unmistakable.

Over the past 60 years, corporations have contributed a smaller and smaller and smaller share of the costs of running the government. Back to the nineteen fifties, corporations contributed about three out of every ten dollars in federal revenue. Today, corporations contribute just one out of every ten dollars. So how does it compare with other countries?

While of all countries in the OECD, 75% of them collected higher corporate tax revenues, as a share of GDP, than we do here in the United States. That means that three-quarters of all developed countries require corporations to contribute more than the US does. Japan, Canada, The UK, these are just a few of the countries that collect a bigger share of corporate tax revenue than the United States.

Now think about this, Fortune 500 companies proudly proclaim that they are making record-breaking profits, and then they hire armies of lawyers to make sure they don't pay taxes on those record-breaking profits. I could give you a dozen examples of how different tax dodges work. There's check the box, there's reverse hybrid mismatches, inversions, earnings stripping’s. But before you all head for the exits, because you're afraid that's what I will do, I'm just going to focus on one or just one highlight one of these.

And that is attributing corporate income, to the subsidiary set up an offshore tax havens. As of last year nearly three-quarters of all fortune 500 companies operated subsidiaries in tax havens. Based on filings with the SEC, these three hundred and fifty eight companies reported at least seven thousand six hundred and twenty-two tax haven subsidiaries. For the math-phobes in the room, that's more than 21 tax haven subsidiaries for each fortune 500 company, that's also in the tax dodge business.

How much money can you save by doing that? Well, the savings are huge. The tax dodgers that shift money to these low-tax jurisdictions are on average paying effective tax rate of just three percent on their tax haven profits. Not the 35% of the elevator pitch, but it tidy little 3%. The amount of money tucked away in tax havens is truly staggering. Together, U.S. corporations have 2.1 trillion dollars in untaxed profits sitting offshore. Once again, just look at the trend line. In just the past ten years the amount of untaxed offshore profit has increased nearly fivefold. In other words, one of the hottest investments in America in the past decade hasn’t been biotech or big oil, it's been tax lawyers.

The money sheltered overseas is now about the same as the combined total earnings of all U.S. corporations, in 2013. But here's the trick. That tax bonus is not shared evenly. Now the game is rigged, and it is rigged for the really big guys. Out of the millions of businesses in the U.S., just 50 corporations hold 75 percent of the 2.1 trillion dollars in untaxed offshore profits. Even in that rarefied air, there is a tax dodger Hall of Fame. Just ten American companies hold more than a third of all of those off-shore profit.

Here's the real kick in the teeth. The average American household pays a federal tax rate of 17.6%. The average effective tax rate for an American corporation with fewer than 500 employees, is 17.5 percent. Shoot, even Mitt Romney paid 14 percent. But the biggest American companies are paying far, far less, in many cases, nothing at all. So they enjoy all of the benefits of being an American company but they leave it to families and small businesses to pick up the bill.

For years now, gridlock in Washington has worked in favor of the tax dodgers, despite the occasional expose in the media. The corporations and their top executives continued to sleep comfortably. Secure in the knowledge that they could block any real tax reforms. But now there is change in the wind. Why? Because of the giant tax dodgers they are lobbying for change in the tax laws, and they are lobbying hard.

They’re even signaling that they've just might be willing to bring some of that sheltered money back to the United States, if we will give them a sweet enough deal to do it. So what's going on? Why this sudden change? A burst of conscience? Patriotism? No, as always it's about money. While the United States Congress may be asleep at the switch, other countries are waking up to tax dodges, and they are starting to rewrite their tax laws.

Many of our global competitors have started cracking down on the infamous levels of tax avoidance by U.S. companies. They know U.S. corporations are shuffling cash through their borders without paying any taxes, and they want their cut. The UK, for example, is developing a new tax to go after profits hidden away by U.S. companies. What's the name of the bill? They're calling it the Google tax.

The European Court of Justice is striking down sweetheart deals for U.S. tech companies, and for their subsidiaries throughout Europe. European Commission has been ramping up its tax investigations, and been clawing back tax benefits collected by U.S. corporations. The G-20 just released a sweeping new plan for cracking down on cross-border tax games. There's a move afoot internationally to shut down tax dodges.

Now even here in the U.S., the Treasury Department is entering into tax information exchange agreements with other countries to uncover hidden cash. Treasury is also developing new country-by-country reporting requirements that will shine a light on the scams used by the tax dodgers. In fact, it is so bad that tax advisors have been sending out panicky alerts, warning that other countries have tumbled to the tax dodge game. As a result, the days of single-digit corporate tax rates are coming to an end.

So these giant corporations have suddenly found religion. They say it is time for tax reform. Of course, they plan to write those tax reforms. Their strategy is simple, tell a story about high U.S. taxes, demand tax cuts from the United States congress, and threaten to leave the United States for good if they don't get what they want.

I say it's time to call their bluff. Why? First, because I know that tax rates for giant American corporations are far lower than the lobbyists claim. Second, I know that the tax deals available abroad are disappearing fast. But third, and most of all, I know that America is a great place to do business. That's worth a lot to these multinational corporations.

We have the world's best workforce, smart, skilled, hard-working. We have the world's most attractive consumers, hundreds of millions of people who are ready to buy. We have the world's most reliable and transparent legal system. We have the deepest, and most liquid capital markets. We have copyright and patent laws that reward innovation. Want some evidence for why this is a good place, or how much people believe this is a good place to do business? Look at where startups are going. Fewer than three percent of newly started businesses, with physical headquarters in the U.S., chose to incorporate not in a tax shelter.

I said it backwards, fewer than three percent chose to incorporate in a tax shelter. Tax shelters didn't build the tech sector in Cambridge and Silicon Valley, and tax shelters won't build the next new industry, either. America is a great place to do business, and our companies know. So as we think about fixing our broken corporate tax code we should bet on America, and we should focus on the actual problems in the code, not the fake ones pursued by the tax dodgers, by the lobbyists and by the Presidential candidates, who are hoping to attract big corporate contributions.

It is time to reform the tax code, but let's do it right. How about three principles here.

First, tax reform a substantially increase the share of long-term revenues paid by big corporations. Not just over the next five or ten years, but permanently. Our tax system has already been so corrupted by tax dodgers, that a revenue-neutral rewrite of our corporate tax laws leaves this country with too little money to operate basic services. If America's going to build a 21st century infrastructure, operate 21st century schools, and invest in 21st century research, then giant corporations must pay a fair share of the cost.

Second, tax reform must level the playing field between small businesses and big businesses. Patties Lunch in Cambridge doesn't stash profits in Luxembourg. And The Lakota Bakery in Arlington doesn't put money in the Cayman Islands. Salvato Electric in North Billerica can't hire an army of lawyers to set up a reverse hybrid mismatch to lower their taxes. These loopholes and gimmicks are available only to giant corporations. When small businesses have to pick up a disproportionate share of the taxes paid it makes it that much harder for them to compete.

Third, tax reform should promote investment and jobs here in the US. The loopholes that litter our tax code and allow tax dodgers to hide cash overseas, also actively encourages multinationals to outsource jobs and invest money abroad. Right now, US companies can pay a lower rate by investing overseas instead of in the US, and foreign companies can set up US subsidiaries, and strip out profits more easily than local companies.

This is nuts. Our tax code should protect jobs and investments at home, period. These three principles, raise more long-term revenue, level the playing field for small businesses, and invest in jobs here in America, seem pretty simple. Most Americans probably agree with these common-sense ideas, but congress doesn't talk to most Americans. Congress talks to CEOs and their armies of lawyers and lobbyists, who are pushing some genuinely terrible ideas.

I want to consider three tax proposals that are now getting the most attention. First, deemed repatriation. This is a giant wet kiss for the tax dodgers who have already parked 2.1 trillion dollars overseas. Deemed repatriation says, bring home the money, but only pay half of what you owe on it. Or, with negotiations going on the Capitol Hill right now, if that kiss isn't wet enough some are suggesting the repayment rate should be even less than half, maybe around 14%.

Think about what that means. All the small business owners who have been paying their taxes in full can keep right on paying in full, but the tax dodgers will get a special deal. Patties Lunch gets zip but Apple would get a tax break of 27 billion dollars. The Lakota Bakery gets nothing, but Microsoft would save eighteen billion dollars. Bobby Salvato get zero, but Citigroup would save seven billion dollars. What's the total price tag for this juicy smooch, estimates are in the range of 300 to 400 billion dollars paid by U.S. taxpayers. Right at the moment when other countries are starting to get tough, and the tax dodgers might finally need to move some of their money back to the United States, Washington's top reform idea is to give the tax dodgers a big tax break.

Now the second idea is even worse. The idea is tax overseas income, but to do it at a rate that is lower than U.S. income. So for example, money earned in the U.S would have a top tax rate of 35%, while the top rate for money held abroad would be nineteen percent, or maybe even less. You know it's like holding up a giant sign to all corporations that says higher taxes if you invest in the U.S., lower taxes if you invest abroad.

The result would be that every small business, and every family in America, would be subsidizing foreign investments of multinational corporations. Which would be a great deal for those multinational corporations and for our foreign competitors, but a terrible deal for us. The third idea is called and innovation box. I think of it as the gift for lazy tax dodgers. To get this loophole, there is no need to move money around or to incorporate subsidiaries in tax havens. No, instead a corporation can just check the innovation box on its tax return, and magically pay lower taxes on the earnings it claims came from innovation.

For big pharmaceutical companies and giant tech companies, a provision like this just makes paying taxes or at least a chunk of taxes, optional. I strongly support a robust innovation policy like investing in NSF or NIH. I believe in funding basic research and encouraging companies to invest in research, but the innovation box doesn't do a single thing to encourage new innovation.

Lobbyists and lawyers are really excited about the prospect of tax reform, tax nerds are abuzz, but when I look at the details I see the same rigged game. A game where congress hands out billions in benefits to well-connected corporations, while people who could really use a break, the millions of middle-class families and small businesses that have been squeezed for decades, are just left holding the bag. That's what this tax battle is really about.

Who does this country work for? Is it just for the rich and the powerful? Those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers? Or can we make this country work for millions of hardworking people. This isn't a fair fight. The corporate giants are lined up to make sure that the tax changes all tilt their way. America's working families don't have a zillion dollar PR team, to counter the false claim that corporate taxes are too high.

Small businesses don't have a zillion dollar lobbying organization to fight back against tax giveaways for giant corporations. Mostly what they have is you, the people in this room. The people who report on what's going on in Washington. The people who will hear the elevator pitch, over and over, and decide whether to repeat it or to push back. As tax reform moves forward, I hope that each and every one of you will be paying very close attention

Thank you.

QUESTION: I've got some questions here, many of which have been handed up by the people participating in the audience here. You've been talking about corporate taxes, but there's a question here about individual taxes as well. A lot of Americans sympathized with the Republican argument that the tax code is too complicated. Is it too complicated, and can it be simplified in a way that is fair? Would you simplify it?

WARREN: Yes it's too complicated. It’s hard. You know, I always made a point of pride, before I ever got into politics, to fill out my own taxes. It's got lots of moving parts to it, it’s complicated. But what worries me the most is what's hidden in the complications. It's that the system overall is tilted it's not like there's just a bunch of random stuff in here, and sometimes it will help poor people and sometimes it will help middle-class wage-earners, and sometimes will help this group, and sometimes it will help that group, no. It's that the tax code has been reshaped overtime and particularly over the last decade.

The reshaping has expanded the number of twists and turns that permit billion dollar multinational corporations to say, wo-hoo, this is great, invest in tax lawyers because we won't have to pay money if we can exploit enough of these loopholes. Those things just aren't available to anybody else. Now, I don't think the answer is to try to figure out how we can get middle-class Americans to shelter their money in the Cayman Islands, I think the answer is that we have to get a system that's level. That means that giant corporations should not be getting a competitive advantage in this economy simply because they can exploit tax loopholes that are not available to anybody else. For me that's the heart of it.

QUESTION: Some candidates have also suggested eliminating the IRS altogether, just not having an IRS. Is that a practical idea? Is there any formula for that that would make sense.

ANSWER: No.

QUESTION: What about the Republicans who want to impeach the IRS commissioner John Koskinen, is there any validity to their charges against him, or how do you feel about that issue ?

ANSWER: They can make whatever claim they want to make, and they can try to do whatever they want to do with the politics, what I wanted to talk about what's really in the tax code.

I'm really serious about this. This issue is upon us, the tax lobbyists are swarming Capitol Hill. Everyone is starting to talk, tax rewrite, tax rewrite, tax rewrite. We need tax rewrite that's got the voice, a voice at the table, for middle-class families, a voice at the table for small businesses, a voice at the table for those who really are left to compete in a tough economy. Right now, the United States taxpayers are subsidizing some of the largest and most profitable corporations in the entire world. That's where the true scandal is, and that's where we need to be flipping on all the lights and exposing it.

QUESTION: Obviously one of your main concerns has been income inequality. This morning you did another press conference about women inequality in wages, is the best way to get at income inequality, can it be done significantly through the tax code? Or is that really more of an issue with things like the minimum wage, or you know which way you get out income inequality more efficiently.

ANSWER: Ok, so if you let me I'm going to do a little bit longer answer to this, because this is why, the whole list you were talking about, all of these pieces are woven together. Let me start it this way, America was a boom and bust economy until we hit the nineteen thirties, and in the nineteen thirties the real genius of the moment that came out of the Great Depression was our saying, we can make this better going forward. We can put some regulations in place to make it safe to put money in banks, we can put a cop on the beat on Wall Street, we can separate high-risk gambling from boring banking, that was Glass-Steagle, and we can do progressive taxation and invest in building a middle class. That is exactly what we did.

We invested in education, in DEA loans GI Bill. We invested in infrastructure, an interstate highway system and power grid that was upgraded. We invested in basic research, in medical research, and scientific research, and engineering research, with the idea that if we made those investments together, we would create the right environment, we would plow the fields so that businesses could grow here at home. They could create great new jobs here in America. People who worked hard, who played by the rules, could get an education and have real opportunity, and for half a century, it worked.

For the nineteen thirties, to basically kind of 1980, what you watched happen across that period is GDP keeps going up, and so does median income in the United States. The ninety percent of America, everybody outside the top 10%, the 90% of America, got seventy percent of all income growth from 1935 to 1980. Ok, top 10 percent moved a little faster, but the point is we built America's middle class. Then just picking the 1980 as the point of inflection, obviously the years overlap a bit here and there, but picking nineteen eighty as the point of inflection, a new idea takes hold and the new idea that comes is trickle-down economics.

Trickle-down economics has basically just two parts to it. One is, deregulate fire the cops, not the cops on Main Street, the cops on Wall Street. The second is cut taxes for those at the top, and how can you do that, the only way you can afford to do that, is that you've got to cut all of those other investments that helped us build a middle class. That is exactly what happened. We go through all the numbers. But let me just cut to the bottom line, 1980 to 2012, the latest year for which we’ve got data, how is the 90% done? The group that's not in the top 10%? Remember how they got seventy percent of all income growth from 1945 to 1980? From 1980 to 2012 they got zero percent of income growth in America. None, nothing. A hundred percent of income growth in this country went to the top 10% in America.

Is it related to taxes? You bet it's related to taxes. It's related to what we didn't spend in investing in education, and what we didn't invest in infrastructure. What we didn't invest in jobs here in America. What we didn't invest in research. It is related to firing the cops on Wall Street, and saying have at it, built an entire industry out of cheating people, on mortgages and credit cards, that’s the heart of what's gone wrong.

Now those people have so many lobbyists in Washington, so many lawyers crawling across Capitol Hill that were ready to rewrite the tax code. Their view is, you bet. They want to rewrite the tax code to pick up even more benefits from themselves. That's why I say the fundamental question in America today, is who decides government work for. Does it just work for those who can hire an army of lobbyists and lawyers? Or are we gonna make this country work for the rest of America? That's it for me.

QUESTION: The plans that you've talked about, of changing the corporate tax code, would moderate Democrats in the congress support you? How much support is there for this idea, reshaping the tax code in the kinds of ways you're talking about?

ANSWER: Well, we'll find out. I mean look, part of it starts or how about we push back on the elevator speech. The elevator speech is everywhere. You heard the Republican candidacy, but even fact check them on these assertions about how much American corporations are paying in taxes. We're going to start by having the conversation and then my view is anybody who claims to want to rebuild America's middle class, anybody who claims to be there for small businesses, even mid-sized businesses, anybody who claims to care about jobs in America, instead of subsidizing jobs overseas should want to sign up, hook, line, and sinker for these tax proposals.

QUESTION: Start moving towards the lightning round now. I just want to switch to some other topics that people have tossed out, the minimum wage you've touched down briefly, there are different proposals out there for $15 or $12, do you support either the 12 or the 15, and would a steep hike have any impact on job creation in low-income states? Is there are there some problems with having a federal minimum wage that set so high?

ANSWER: So, look, I want to see the minimum wage go up and right now I’ll put wind in the sales for anything that's going to raise the minimum wage. I think it's the right direction for us to go. I’m a data nerd. I mean if you haven’t already figured that out, then you were asleep in the back row. The data just don't support the claim that when the minimum wage goes up, that employment goes down. Study after study, the gold standard of studies, when the minimum wage is put in place across a metropolitan area, and because you know half the city is in one state, have the city is in another, or because the cities in the county and half the city is outside the county, you can actually do comparisons of what happens before and after.

You just don't see a strong measurable impact as a consequence of raising the minimum wage. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that it turns out that the higher minimum wage, means lower turnover, and that people are more stable and their jobs, and employers not having to spend as much training people and so on. Part of it is, people who work at minimum wage, spend all that money, and they spend it locally. So that it’s a real shot in the arm for a lot of local economies for people to have more money.

I hear from small business owners around Massachusetts who say they are doing the right thing they get out there and try to give their workers a living wage. They, just like everybody they’re competing against have to do the same. That's what I think raising the minimum wage is all about. It's about trying to level the playing field. I know you wanted to lightning round but let me say something really quick about the minimum wage. This one is really personal to me, the very short version of this.

My family had some really tough times, and when I was 12 my dad was out of work for a long time. I had a stay at home mom, and we lost our family car, we were right on the edge of losing our house, when my mother pulled on her best dress, put on her lipstick, put on her high heels, and she walked to the Sears Roebuck and got a minimum wage job. That minimum wage job saved our house, and it saved our family. But I grew up in an America where a minimum wage job would keep a family of three afloat. Today, a minimum wage job in America will not even keep a mama and baby out of poverty. This is about economics, but this is also a fundamentally moral question, no one in America should work full time and still live in poverty. We can do better than that as a country.

QUESTION: There's another issue that you've been dealing with today, that's the trans-pacific partnership. The information in it has been made public, all 6,000 pages. I know I've leafed through them all. Can you tell us more about your thoughts on why you oppose it, and just give us an update on where you see this issue moving forward? Congress would have to approve it. Will it move in 2016, that is to the floor of the Senate and House, and now what do you think is likely to happen?

ANSWER: Ok, lots of questions in. If I don’t do them all, you can elbow me on it, and I'll try to remember. Let me start on the trade deal, with the process for getting to where we are today. That is as the negotiations took place there were cleared advisers. That is people here in the United States, who whispered in the ears of the actual trade negotiators, met with them, talked with them, helped them shape the trade deal. Eighty-five percent of them were either corporate CEOs or lobbyists. That builds a tilt into the entire process, and now we've seen the product. The tilt is right there in the product.

Let me just give you one example. The administration talks a lot about the Greek promises on the trade deal on employment, and competition for workers around the world, on human rights, on the environment, and there are some good promises. But promises without enforcement aren't worth the paper they're printed on. So what's the enforcement? The answer is, it's the same old enforcement of every trade deal that precedes it that hasn’t worked.

So I wanna be clear on, this going back years and years now Democratic administrations, and Republican administrations, have not enforced the labor provisions, the environmental provisions to human rights provisions in earlier trade agreements. So the promises can get fancier, but if there's no enforcement, there's nothing there.

On the other side, what about the giant corporations? The ones who wanted to trade all around the world and want local countries to follow rules that make it profitable for the corporations? If they don’t like how something has gone, in what they believe are the promises that they're entitled to, what do they have to do? They just have to go to a private arbitration board. Private. That private arbitration board will then issue a ruling. There is no appeal, there is no court process that comes out of that, the country that loses in that deal has to write a giant check. That's it.

Now, there are a lot of countries that have already ended up on the short end of the stick, in that process. For some of them, writing a giant check is just not possible. So what's the alternative? They back down and simply change local law. That's the kind of power that this trade agreement magnifies, for the giant multinational corporations. That is a tilt in trade policy doesn't work for American workers, and it doesn't work for the American people.

QUESTION: To move on to another topic that has been huge this week is the Republican suggestions that we stop resettlement of any Syrian refugees to the United States. Can you comment on the situation in Syria?

ANSWER: I can. And actually on the refugees in particular, I did a speech on the floor of the senate yesterday that's available if anybody wants to look at it. So there's the longer answer around this. But let me just say on the shorter answer, it is our responsibility to protect our country, it is our responsibility to protect our people but we don't do that by turning our backs on refugees who are fleeing the butchers of Isis.

Right now to make it as refugee in to the United States from Syria requires a screening process that lasts from 18 to 24 months. Look, we should always look at it and see if there's something else that we should add to it, but we are screening Syrian refugee, screening them very carefully. If we are concerned, and we should be concerned about terrorist threats, the much more worrisome problem is across Europe.

I recently traveled to Greece and visited at refugee centers. Greece is so overwhelmed at this moment by refugees. Last month, a hundred thousand people came through Turkey and into Greece, that all they can do basically is fingerprint them, write down their names, and pass them into the rest of Europe. But think about what that means. There is no effective screening process on the front end. People are passed into Europe, and end up with European passports, which permit them to travel throughout Europe and to travel to the United States.

We need to focus our security concerns more carefully on where threats actually exist. If we want to make a real difference in in threats to Europe, and to the United States, then we need to help the Greek government and the Europeans need to be helping the Greek government. They need the resources to deal with the refugees who come ashore, and they need the expertise to do more screening of the refugees that arrive in Greece. We gotta get the focus in the right place here.

I should say one more thing, I'm sorry but I do have to say one more thing, this is not who we are. We don't turn our backs on people fleeing from terrorists. We are a nation of immigrants and refugees. We were founded by people who were seeking to escape religious persecution, who were seeking religious freedom. The idea that we would turn back children, and babies, to the murders of ISIS, because somebody doesn't like their religion that just fundamentally un-American. That is not who we have ever been in the past, and that is not who we will be in the future.

QUESTION: I want to remind the C-SPAN audience and others, if you hear applause, many of the people in the audience are not journalists, because journalists don't applaud. I wanted just quickly turn to the topic of some politics. You know, it seems that when you listen to the Democratic debate and the Republican debate, the topics aren’t even the same. I mean it's almost as if they're two parallel conversations going on, but there's so little ground in the middle. We have a new house speaker, and we still have one year left in the Obama presidency, is there time, is there space, and is there any opportunity for finding some sort of middle ground for having a productive year in 2016? Can anything still get done in Washington?

ANSWER: Look, I hope so, I do, and there are places that we are working. Right now, we're working on an education bill to replace No Child Left Behind, and we're still going over the details. But it's got some really good features in it that both Republicans and Democrats have agreed to, and have hammered out.

We talk about medical innovation. This is an area where we should all be able to come together. You know, who doesn't want more funding for the National Institutes of Health. Can I just do one ad to the side, a little commercial here, last year in America collectively we spent two hundred and twenty five billion dollars taking care of people with Alzheimer's. What could we offer them? We couldn’t offer them any help, we couldn't delay the onset by a single day, and we could reduce the impact of it by one inch. So what should we be doing as a country? We should be investing in brain science, in Alzheimer's research. Do you know how much we spent last year from the NIH? Less than two tenths of one percent of that two hundred and twenty five billion dollars.

The NIH budget over the last dozen years has effectively been cut, their spending power by 25%. We don't build a future by turning away from the medical problems that are bearing down on us. We build a future by investing in medical innovation in investing in that research. So there's a place I am hopeful that we can get there, with the Democrats and the Republicans together.

I've got a bill out there. I’ll always put in my plug for my bill, right. That will add another five billion dollars to funding NIH. There are some other ways we may do that, I’ll take anything as long as we can get more money into NIH. So I'm hopeful that there might be places that we could do this, because that's what should be why we're here. We should be here the try to build a stronger country, and I think there are some places where we should be able to agree on it.

QUESTION: Just push a little deeper into the political questions, Hillary Clinton's Wall Street contributions have become an issue in her campaign. Are you concerned about her ties to Wall Street?

ANSWER: I'm concerned about everybody's ties to Wall Street. Look around Washington, I am worried about the influence that Wall Street has on Washington, period. Maybe that's partly because I watched in the aftermath of the Great Crash in 2008 when Congress was trying to put together, the response that ultimately became Dodd-Frank.

I assumed when they started this process of, we’ve gotta have a response, just like they did back in the nineteen thirties, that these giant financial institutions that had been permitted to load up on risk, and then had crashed the economy, and then had to be bailed out by the US taxpayer, would at least be humbled enough to stay out of the political process.

Boy, sure shows you how naive I was about it. Wall Street was spending more than a million dollars a day for over a year, to lobby against financial reform. They haven't let up. In fact, when Dodd-frank passed, one of the lobbyists is quoted as having said, we didn’t lose, it’s just half-time. That's the case. They've come back and they’re there, day, after day, after day. They want to punch this hole in Dodd-Frank, they want to punch that hole in Dodd-Frank, and they want to get an exception. They want to treat it like they do the tax code. They want to make work for the biggest financial institutions in the country, and so this is this is the fight, and this is the one I'm deep in.

QUESTION: Looking at how surprisingly well Bernie Sanders has done, do you look back on it and wish that you had gone ahead and run?

ANSWER: No.

QUESTION: Before I ask you the last question, I have a little bit of housekeeping to take care of. First, I just want to remind everybody that the senator is going to have to depart immediately, so please stay seated until she’s left the room. Thank you for that consideration. The Press Club is the world's leading professional organization for journalists, and we fight for a free Press worldwide. For more information about our club, please visit the website press.org, to donate to our nonprofit. It's the Journalism Institute and that’s at press.org /institute.

I’d also like to remind you about a couple of programs we have coming up. The 23rd Secretary of the Air Force, Debra Lee James is going to come and join us to discuss budget cuts, sexual assaults, and other issues that are facing the Air Force. She’ll be at a Press Club luncheon on Wednesday, December 2nd. On Tuesday, December 8th, the club will have David Skorton, the new secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. At that luncheon he'll discuss his plans for the hundred and sixty nine year old institution. Now, I’d like to present our guest with the famous, traditional, press club mug. I will now ask you the last question, this is just kind of a yes or no question. If Hillary Clinton asked you to be her vice president, could we have an all-woman ticket? Would you do it?

ANSWER: Let me put it this way, if Hillary Clinton were running for president and I were running for her vice president, I'm pretty sure it would be an all-woman ticket.

Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKmaa01mZZ4.