WASHINGTON — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., continued her crusade against Washington insiders and big banks Tuesday night, promoting her new book on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
Her memoir, "A Fighting Chance," recounts her rise as an influential liberal watchdog, including her experiences fighting for and launching the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The book, which was released on Tuesday, also provides a more intimate look at Warren's time in Washington, including a confession that she threw up — twice — before her first appearance on the popular Comedy Central program in 2009, when she was heading up the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Warren has been back in the hot seat several times since, and she certainly seemed at ease this time around, sparring with Stewart on the country's many problems.
The Massachusetts Democrat warned that the financial system needs stronger regulators overseeing the big banks, and criticized the trend toward deregulation in recent decades.
After the Great Depression, "we put tough rules in place, so that not only could someone not steal your purse on Main Street, they couldn't steal your pension on Wall Street," she said. "But then starting in the 1980s, the Republicans said they had a different idea. First they said let's start firing the cops, get the cops off the beat. Let the banks do what they want to do. And we saw where that led … in terms of regulation and in terms of building a whole business plan around cheating American families. And then taking all those mortgages that they tricked, packaging them up, selling them out like selling boxes of grenades with the pins already pulled."
She lamented that the biggest banks are now 38% bigger than they were in 2008, and reiterated her concerns that there isn't stronger accountability to go after individual wrongdoing when banks get involved in illegal activity.
"They still break the law and nobody goes to jail. I don't know about you but I think that's wrong and we've got to fight back," she said.
The senator also reiterated her longstanding focus on education and the need for a reformed government student loans program, and generally lamented that the system is "rigged" for the wealthy and powerful.
"The problem we have in this country and we've had for a long time now is that Washington works for those that can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers. If you're a huge corporation, if you're a billionaire, boy your voice gets heard in that place, and what you want gets attended to. For ordinary families, it just doesn't work so well," she said. "So it's really the same kind of fight. I feel like I've been involved in exactly the same kind of fight since the beginning."
In addition, Warren touched on a recurring theme in her book: her treatment as a woman in power. She told Stewart, for example, that the Senate finally had to upgrade its women's restroom this year to accommodate 20 female senators, the most in U.S. history, now in office.
"There was just one tiny, little women's bathroom. And so you had to kind of … scooch sideways to see who was in there. I never saw the men's room, but they seemed to come in and out OK," Warren said. "So actually they had to make a change. The United States Senate is changing; we now have a bigger ladies' room."