Hillary Clinton's plans for US economy: GOP says she’s out of touch

Hillary Clinton is to give a major speech on the economy Monday with an emphasis on middle class wages and income inequality. Republican opponents portray her as wealthy and out of touch with average Americans and business owners.

Charlie Neibergall/AP
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to local residents during a campaign stop at the Iowa City Public Library, Tuesday, July 7, 2015. She's scheduled to give a major speech on the economy Monday.

Hillary Clinton is scheduled to give a major economic speech on Monday – an attempt to articulate her position in relation to Main Street and Wall Street while also defining herself relative to her party’s other declared presidential candidates.

As first lady, US Senator, and Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton had plenty of opportunities to observe if not work on economic policies and programs. As the 2016 presidential campaign unfolds, she has to keep in mind the popularity of positions articulated by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders on the left and potential Republican opponents – especially former Florida governor Jeb Bush – on the right.

Many Democratic Party hands had a part in crafting Clinton’s speech, which is reported to focus on middle class incomes and wages.

To address income inequality, Clinton will call for raising the minimum wage, increasing taxes on the wealthy, boosting the power of unions, and reducing health-care costs, according to The Wall Street Journal. She’ll also endorse corporate profit sharing, a college-affordability program, and a middle-class tax cut.

“The speech is the product of scores of conversations with elite thinkers of the liberal policy establishment, such as former White House advisor Gene Sperling, Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, liberal think tank president Neera Tanden, Princeton University economist Alan Blinder, and Jared Bernstein, former senior economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden,” The Hill newspaper reports.

Professor Blinder says Clinton has expressed interest in policies to curb excessive risk on Wall Street, such as a financial transactions tax on high-frequency trading, taxes on large Wall Street banks based on their risk profile, and eliminating the so-called carried interest loophole that allows managers of hedge funds and private equity firms to pay a lower tax rate than most individuals, according to the Associated Press.

"I'm pretty sure that as the details come out you and others will judge them to be more anti-Wall Street than pro-Wall Street," Blinder told the AP. "This is not going to look like an agenda that came out of a bunch of Wall Streeters."

In line with Clinton’s economic positions designed to appeal to working Americans, she just received a major labor union endorsement – from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which represents more than 1.6 million members nationwide, including K-through-12 teachers and school personnel, higher education faculty and staff, early childhood educators, and retirees.

"In vision, in experience and in leadership, Hillary Clinton is the champion working families need in the White House," AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement Saturday.

Conservatives and Republican presidential candidates are pushing back against Clinton’s economic positions as she develops and articulates them.

The New York Times reports that “an expensive and sophisticated effort is underway to test and refine the most potent lines of attack against Mrs. Clinton, and, ultimately, to persuade Americans that she does not deserve their votes.”

This includes focus groups around the country shown video clips of Clinton, one of which opens with Clinton “looking well-coiffed and aristocratic, toasting champagne with her tuxedoed husband, the former president, against a golden-hued backdrop,” the Times reported. “The ad then cuts to Mrs. Clinton describing being ‘dead broke’ when she and her husband left the White House, before a narrator intones that Mrs. Clinton makes more money in a single speech, about $300,000, than an average family earns in five years.”

“They’re trying to make her Mitt Romney in a pantsuit,” said David Brock, the founder of several pro-Clinton outside groups and author of the forthcoming book, “Killing the Messenger: The Right Wing Plot to Derail Hillary and Hijack Your Government.” Part of Mr. Romney’s failure in the 2012 presidential election was his portrayal – not helped by his own comments about 47 percent of Americans being dependent on government and therefore disinclined to vote for him – as a wealthy elitist with multiple expensive homes and ways to avoid paying taxes.

GOP presidential candidates are sniping at Clinton on economic issues as well.

“What I will continue to point out is the fact that every policy she is pursuing will make income inequality worse, not better – crony capitalism even worse, not better,” former Hewlett Packard chief executive officer Carly Fiorina said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “And meanwhile, we will continue to crush the businesses that create jobs and middle class families.”

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush and Clinton fired off jibes after Mr. Bush suggested that Americans need to increase productivity by working more hours in order to achieve 4 percent economic growth.

“We have to be a lot more productive,” Bush said last week. “Work force participation has to rise from its all time modern lows, it means that people need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families.”

Not so, Clinton tweeted: “Anyone who believes Americans aren't working hard enough hasn't met enough American workers.”

“Anyone who discounts 6.5 million people stuck in part-time work & seeking full-time jobs hasnt listened to working Americans,” Mr. Bush shot back.

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