Hillary Clinton tackles Republican rivals head-on in economic speech
Hillary Clinton pledged to fight for higher wages and lift the American middle class on Monday, in a speech that outlined her economic agenda and saw the Democratic presidential candidate take a more aggressive tone towards her Republican rivals.
Speaking at the New School in Greenwich Village, a New York university known for its progressive worldview, Clinton placed income inequality and improving the conditions of everyday Americans at the heart of her pitch to grow the economy and increase wages.
“I believe we have to build a growth and fairness economy,” she said. “You can’t have one without the other.
“We must raise incomes for hard-working Americans so they can afford a middle-class life. We must drive strong and steady income growth that lifts up families and lifts up our country. That will be my mission from the first day I’m president to the last.”
To alleviate the financial burden on middle-class Americans, Clinton emphasized policies such as paid family leave, lowering childcare costs, passing equal pay for women and raising the minimum wage.
Signalling a willingness to play offense against Republicans, she called out three Republican candidates who are seen as the leaders in a crowded presidential field: Jeb Bush, on workers, Marco Rubio, on taxes, and Scott Walker on unions.
Invoking Bush’s recent comments that Americans need to “work longer hours” – a clumsy statement that drew immediate scrutiny from Democrats and the media – Clinton sought to portray the former Florida governor as out of touch.
“Well, he must not have met many American workers,” she said. “They don’t need a lecture, they need a raise.”
Clinton also described a tax plan proposed by Rubio, a senator from Florida, as “a sure, budget-busting giveaway to the super wealthy”.
Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, responded to Clinton’s jab by saying the former secretary of state “wants to take us back to yesterday”.
“We cannot raise taxes like the 1990s or increase spending like the 2000s,” Conant said in an email to the Guardian. “Marco is proposing a 21st-century tax plan that would benefit all Americans, especially middle-class families.”
Of Walker, the anti-union Wisconsin governor who formally launched his presidential campaign on Monday, Clinton said she would fight back against the “mean-spirited, misguided attacks” on workers waged by him and other Republican chief executives.
“Republican governors like Scott Walker have made their names stomping on workers’ rights,” Clinton said.
The Bush campaign hit back with a statement that characterized her proposals as “antiquated”.
“Hillary Clinton is proposing the same failed policies we have seen in the Obama economy, where the typical American household’s income has declined and it’s harder for businesses to hire and the middle class to achieve rising incomes,” Allie Brandenburger, a Bush spokeswoman, said in a statement.