- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Seeking to paint rival Donald Trump as an ally of Wall Street and Democrats as champions for the middle class, Hillary Clinton on Wednesday touted an economic plan that relies heavily on tax increases for major U.S. companies, Wall Street firms and rich Americans.

At a rally in Cleveland, Mrs. Clinton made no bones about the fact that her tax platform centers on raising more revenue to pay for billions of dollars in new spending, including her plan to offer free college to virtually all Americans, make one of the largest investments in history in infrastructure, raise the national minimum wage and underwrite other progressive goals.

Mrs. Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, tried to contrast their approach with that of Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans. The Democratic duo painted Mr. Trump as a heartless businessman whose own tax plan would funnel more breaks to his wealthy friends and institute loopholes benefiting corporations, while leaving middle-class families out in the cold.

The former first lady also vowed never to raise taxes on the middle class — a reversal from her time in the Senate, when she voted to hike taxes on Americans making just over $40,000 — but made clear the rich will be in her crosshairs if she makes it to the Oval Office.

Mrs. Clinton’s tax plan would raise taxes on Americans making over $250,000 per year, and she has said she would pursue new taxes on corporations and penalties for companies that move jobs abroad.

“We are going to tax the wealthy who have made all of the income gains in the last 15 years: the superwealthy, the corporations, Wall Street. They’re going to have to invest in education, in skills training, in infrastructure, because we have to grow this economy. We do need to have the resources to do that,” she said. “I will not raise taxes on the middle class. The middle class has to catch up to where they were before the Great Recession.”

Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Trump’s tax proposals would allow the rich to find new ways to avoid paying their share.

“Under his plans, Donald Trump would pay a lower tax rate than middle-class families,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton made just a passing mention to the latest shake-up inside the Trump campaign. She said the Republican billionaire’s platform and economic priorities will not change, no matter who gets hired or fired from his operation.

Instead, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Kaine, who was on the trail in the battleground state of Iowa, chose mostly to focus on policy.

Mrs. Clinton promised, if she becomes president, to connect every home in the country to broadband internet, create millions of jobs by rebuilding infrastructure across the country, raise the national minimum wage, institute equal pay for women, make child care more affordable and provide debt-free college for most Americans.

Mr. Kaine cast those priorities, especially the effort to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to at least $12 an hour, as a moral imperative.

“If you work in this country for minimum wage, and a lot of people do, … and you have a dependent or two, you are below the poverty level,” he told a crowd at a community college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “So what does that mean about what we say? We tell them, ‘Work is really important, we want you to work really hard, but we have policies that if you work hard you’re going to be below the poverty level.’”

Mrs. Clinton echoed those sentiments, saying hardworking middle-class Americans need tax breaks and the wealthy, including herself, can and must pay more.

“Donald Trump doesn’t need a tax cut. I don’t need a tax cut,” she said.

Republicans fired back by saying Mrs. Clinton’s vow not to raise taxes on the middle class doesn’t square with her record in the Senate.

The Republican National Committee released a fact sheet pointing to Mrs. Clinton’s votes in 2006 and 2007 to raise the capital gains tax on middle-class Americans and to raise taxes on Americans making over $164,550 a year.

The RNC also pointed to Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 vote in favor of a budget resolution that would have raised taxes on individuals with salaries as low as $41,500.

“Not only will Hillary Clinton’s tax plan kill jobs, reduce wages and hurt economic growth, her votes in the U.S. Senate to raise taxes on those making as little as $41,500 per year show she can’t be trusted to look out for the middle class,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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