June 27, 2019 / 5:01 AM / 3 months ago

Corporations take it on the chin in first Democratic debate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - To the Democrats running for president of the United States, corporations charge too much for medicines and other critical goods, do not pay enough in taxes and repay bailouts by taking jobs overseas.

Democratic 2020 presidential candidates New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Senator Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and former U.S. Rep. John Delaney participate in the first U.S. 2020 presidential election Democratic candidates debate in Miami, Florida, U.S., June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts led the anti-corporate charge early in the debate on Wednesday night, vowing to break up monopolies and saying the U.S. economy was skewed toward the rich.

“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,” she said.

“It’s doing great for people who want to invest in private prisons, just not for the African-Americans and Latinos whose families are torn apart,” she added. “It’s doing great for giant oil companies that want to drill everywhere, just not for the rest of us who are watching climate change bear down upon us.”

Former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas pointed out that no one from Purdue Pharma had gone to jail. The company is accused of being deceptive about the addictive nature of OxyContin pain medication. Purdue has denied wrongdoing.

“In my administration, we will hold them to account,” O’Rourke said. “We will make sure that they pay a price.”

Asked about Warren’s plan to force Facebook Inc, Amazon and Alphabet Inc’s Google to sell companies they had purchased, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said he did not disagree - and then he went further.

“You see the evidence of ... how dignity is being stripped from labor, and we have people that work full-time jobs and still can’t make a living wage,” he said.

He also noted concerns about concentration in the agricultural sector, where seed and chemical mergers, like Bayer AG and Monsanto, have cut the number of companies serving farmers.

He called out giants such as Halliburton Co and Amazon, saying it was time to change the fact they “pay nothing in taxes.”

Representative Tim Ryan from Ohio bitterly recounted how the federal government saved U.S. automakers during the 2008 recession.

“General Motors got a tax cut. General Motors got a bailout. And then they have the audacity to move a new car that they’re going to produce to Mexico,” he said.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee said he supported unions, noting the huge disparity in wages between chief executives and line workers.

“It is not right that the CEO of McDonald’s makes 2,100 times more than the people slinging hash at McDonalds,” he said.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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