- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2015

Hillary Rodham Clinton moved sharply to the left Monday, promising, if elected president, she would demand pay raises for the working class, slap more taxes on the rich and increase government spending on a litany of liberal programs.

The proposals from the prohibitive favorite to be the Democratic presidential nominee appeased the party’s liberal base, who long have been skeptical of the once-centrist Mrs. Clinton, and drew a stark contrast with Republicans, whose policies she blamed for past economic downturns and growing income inequality.

“Wages need to rise to keep up with costs. Paychecks need to grow. Families who work hard and do their part deserve to get ahead and stay ahead,” Mrs. Clinton declared in the first major policy address of her campaign, which she delivered at the New School, a progressive university in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

Mrs. Clinton vowed to restore what she called America’s “basic bargain,” a compact by which hard work and following the rules is rewarded with economic security and advancement.

Her economic proposals ranged from mandatory paid sick leave and universal preschool to raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women and giving America’s roughly 12 million illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

She called for an infrastructure bank to finance road, airport and rail projects; a faster broadband network with more Internet providers; investments in clean energy to make America a “clean energy superpower”; tax breaks for small businesses; and closing tax loopholes that allow corporations to hide profits abroad.

Mrs. Clinton called it “an agenda for strong growth, fair growth and long-term growth.”

Democratic strategist Craig Varoga said the populist rhetoric would serve her well in the primary and general election contests.

“This speech will help Hillary Clinton with Democratic voters in all four of the early states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — and will not hurt her with general election voters, because income inequality is a top issue for both Democratic base voters and swing voters in battleground states,” he said.

The proposals put her campaign in sync with Sen. Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent and avowed socialist who has emerged as her chief rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. She checked off nearly every demand of the liberal activists who back Mr. Sanders, including promising to rein in Wall Street and putting an end to too-big-to-fail banks.

Mrs. Clinton even said she wanted jail time for Wall Street offenders.

“We will also prosecute individuals as well as firms when they commit fraud or other criminal wrongdoing,” she said.

Mr. Sanders said he welcomed Mrs. Clinton to the debate about wealth inequality, which he called “the great moral, economic and political issue of our day.” He also noted that he had championed the cause for years.

“Over the last 30 years there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent,” said Mr. Sanders, providing a timeline that coincided with Mrs. Clinton’s career in politics.

In a video rebuttal posted on her campaign Facebook page, the Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina called Mrs. Clinton’s speech a “bundle of contradictions.”

“Her speech proved two things to me: She is a card-carrying member of the professional political class, and she actually doesn’t understand how the economy works,” said the former Hewlett-Packard CEO.

Ms. Fiorina pointed to Mrs. Clinton’s dueling proposals, such as expanding Dodd-Frank banking regulations imposed after the 2008 economic meltdown, and then vowing to promote community banks, which have struggled and thousands closed because of the new regulations.

“Everything she proposed will make crony capitalism worse, not better,” Ms. Fiorina said. “Not once in this speech did she mention the ineptitude or the corruption or the size and power and complexity of the federal government.”

A centerpiece of Mrs. Clinton’s economic platform was incentives for big corporations to provide more profit sharing with employees, though, like most of her agenda, she said voters would have to wait to find out details about the plan.

Mrs. Clinton said she would unveil her profit-sharing scheme later this week at a campaign event in New Hampshire.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted the lack of specifics, saying Mrs. Clinton’s speech was a step in the right direction, but union workers wanted details.

“America needs more than a vision. We need a candidate with the right, specific policies for a better future and the courage to fight for them,” he said. “Any candidate who wants to appeal to workers has to put forth a bold, detailed and comprehensive ‘Raising Wages’ agenda.”

In the speech, Mrs. Clinton not only touted her economic vision but called out potential Republican rivals by name to accuse them of being the enemy of the workingman and -woman.

She mocked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for saying last week in New Hampshire that Americans need to “work longer hours” to spur wage growth.

“He must not have met many American workers,” said Mrs. Clinton. “Let him tell that to the nurse who stands on her feet all day or the teacher in that classroom or the trucker who drives all night. Let him tell that to the fast-food worker marching in the streets for better pay.

“They do not need a lecture, they need a raise,” she said to cheers from the audience.

Mrs. Clinton has launched repeated attacks on Mr. Bush since he made the comment, although Mr. Bush was describing the low worker participation rate and the vast number of people who can only find part-time jobs in the slowly recovering economy.

During an Iowa campaign stop, Mr. Bush fired back, saying Mrs. Clinton’s new economic agenda is a “continuation of the Obama economics, which has been a complete disaster.”

Before more than 100 people gathered at Morningside College, Mr. Bush said he wanted to overhaul taxes and regulations to grow the economy. He said he wants people with part-time jobs to get full-time work, if they want it. And he touted his record in Florida, saying that he had cut taxes and grown jobs.

“High, sustained economic growth has to be part of this answer, and Mrs. Clinton just has it wrong,” Mr. Bush said.

At another point in her speech, Mrs. Clinton praised President Obama for pulling the country out of the Great Recession, but acknowledged that more had to be done to reach full employment.

The former first lady, senator and secretary of state also took aim at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who announced his entrance Monday, saying he “stomped” on workers’ rights when he took on unions to reform the state’s pension system.

She attacked Mr. Walker while making a pitch for new laws to help expand unions.

“It’s time to stand up to efforts across our country to undermine worker bargaining power, which has been proven again and again to drive up wages,” said Mrs. Clinton. “Republican governors like Scott Walker have made their names stomping on workers’ rights, and practically all the Republican candidates hope to do the same as president. I will fight back against these mean-spirited, misguided attacks.”

She bashed Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, another Republican presidential contender, for putting forward a tax reform plan that would cut taxes for households making about $3 million by nearly $240,000.

“Well, that is a sure budget-busting giveaway to the superwealthy, and that’s the kind of bad economics you are likely to hear from any of the candidates on the other side,” said Mrs. Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton said that the scourge of income inequality required the new ideas that she was offering, not the old “trickle-down” economic policies that she said Republicans continue to promote, and which she blamed for both the Great Recession and the concentration of wealth among the richest families.

This story is based in part on wire service dispatches.

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