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Elizabeth Warren Vows to Remake Capitalism. -2-

The problem, said CEO Ben Fowke, is that getting from 80% to 100% depends on as-yet-unproven advances in storage, carbon capture, and nuclear and hydrogen generation. Ms. Warren "would set up some unrealistic expectations."

Automobile manufacturers are rolling out electric models, but none has yet found a way to make such a car affordable to mainstream consumers and profitable. "The current market is 1% electric vehicles. All of those, 100%, are sold at a loss. The industry isn't here as a non-profit, " said one auto executive. The economics will improve, yet Ms. Warren's plan to make all new cars emissions-free by 2030 "is, simply put, preposterous."

The Trump administration is already mulling action on drug prices. Ms. Warren would go much further, letting Medicare negotiate prices with suppliers, permitting imports of cheaper foreign medicines and having the federal government manufacture scarce generics.

Ron Cohen, CEO of biotech drugmaker Acorda Therapeutics said there are legitimate concerns about drug costs and some price increases have been excessive. But her proposals won't work, he said: Patients could lose access to vital drugs if Medicare and manufacturers can't agree on a price, and it would be more efficient for the federal government to offer existing manufacturers incentives such as tax breaks to make scarce generics.

Ms. Warren's sympathizers aren't surprised by the blowback. They see big-company CEOs as preoccupied with their own welfare rather than that of the economy as a whole. Small banks, they argue, would benefit from breaking up big banks, and startup technology companies would benefit from breaking the grip of big tech companies on internet search, social media and e-commerce.

"Breaking up big tech is pro-growth and pro-innovation," said Bharat Ramamurti, who heads Ms. Warren's economic policy team. "In the 90s, Microsoft was threatening to corner the internet via Internet Explorer and Windows, and federal government antitrust action helped pave the way for companies like Google and Facebook to emerge in the first place. And now Google and Facebook dominate that space, and smaller tech companies are run out of business or snapped up -- undermining innovation and dynamism."

Some private analysts agree: "If Warren does break up the big tech giants, we will see more competitors and innovation," said Jonathan Tepper, head of a financial markets advisory firm Variant Perception, who has been critical of the companies. "The telecoms and tech boom happened after AT&T no longer had a stranglehold on U.S. telecoms. Likewise, breaking IBM's hold of hardware and software led to the software boom of the 1980s and 1990s."

Business supporters

Ms. Warren does draw business support, in particular in Silicon Valley, because some agree with her plans for business, don't think they'll happen or simply consider the rest of her agenda more important. Venture capitalist and liberal donor Chris Sacca called her wealth tax "*extremely* and *radically*... reasonable" on Twitter.

In June, venture capitalist and former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya tweeted: "I don't agree with many of her proposals but I donated to Elizabeth Warren because SHE IS THE ONLY MAJOR CANDIDATE WITH STUFF WRITTEN DOWN." In an email, Mr. Palihapitiya predicted big tech wouldn't ultimately be one of the issues Ms. Warren prioritizes.

In response to concerns that phasing out fossil fuels would kill jobs, Ms. Warren has said her green energy and climate adaptation plans will create millions of even better paying jobs.

Businesses have a history of adapting to, and ultimately profiting from, expanded government. Accountants vehemently opposed being regulated under the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, then made a fortune advising companies on the law's provisions, notes one former Democratic staffer who worked on the law.

Some health-insurance executives hope Ms. Warren's push for Medicare for All will fall short and, to win over moderate legislators, she will instead expand coverage in a way that would bring them more customers -- as Mr. Obama's Affordable Care Act did.

And for many business leaders, Mr. Trump, given his attacks on free trade, immigration and companies that cross him, isn't an overly appetizing alternative. Thus, uneasy as they at the prospect of a Warren presidency, few would act actively work to re-elect Mr. Trump, the Washington trade executive speculated.

--Deepa Seetharaman, Anna Wilde Mathews, Christopher M. Matthews, Peter Loftus, Ben Foldy, Liz Hoffman, Katherine Blunt and Rebecca Elliott contributed to this article.

Write to Greg Ip at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 09, 2019 14:13 ET (18:13 GMT)

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