Clin­ton to re­veal strat­egy to lift the mid­dle class

Speech on econ­omy will build on Obama’s work but also be a slight jab

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY PHILIP RUCKER AND JIM TANKER­S­LEY philip.rucker@wash­post.com jim.tanker­s­ley@wash­post.com

Cen­ter­ing her pres­i­den­tial cam­paign on boost­ing in­comes for mid­dle-class Amer­i­cans, Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton on Mon­day will be­gin un­veil­ing an eco­nomic pol­icy agenda de­signed to lift work­ing fam­i­lies that have ex­pe­ri­enced years of wage stag­na­tion and eco­nomic anx­i­ety.

In a ma­jor ad­dress in New York, the Demo­cratic front-run­ner will lay out a di­ag­no­sis for why wages have been stuck and a frame­work to en­sure that eco­nomic growth ben­e­fits more or­di­nary work­ers, ac­cord­ing to cam­paign of­fi­cials.

“She be­lieves that mak­ing sure the real in­comes of ev­ery­day Amer­i­cans are ris­ing steadily and strongly is the defin­ing eco­nomic chal­lenge of our time,” said one cam­paign of­fi­cial, who pre­viewed Clin­ton’s re­marks on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

Clin­ton will en­dorse a host of pop­u­lar Demo­cratic poli­cies, such as in­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage and in­vest­ing more in in­fra­struc­ture. She will em­pha­size pro­pos­als tai­lored to­ward work­ing women, one of her most im­por­tant bases of sup­port, such as ex­pand­ing ac­cess to child care and paid fam­ily and sick leave.

The ideas, in many­ways, sound sim­i­lar to the sec­ond-term agenda of Pres­i­dent Obama, who faced an eco­nomic cri­sis dur­ing his first term and started to more di­rectly ad­dress the na­tion’s long-run­ning eco­nomic prob­lems dur­ing his sec­ond. But he has strug­gled to pass ma­jor leg­is­la­tion with a Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated Congress.

Clin­ton will say she wants to build on his agenda, and, in work­ing to craft an eco­nomic vi­sion of her own, she’ll go fur­ther in her em­pha­sis on giv­ing women more flex­i­bil­ity to en­ter the work­force and on new gov­ern­ment ef­forts to change cor­po­ra­tions’ in­vest­ment and pay de­ci­sions.

Clin­ton’s speech, to be de­liv­ered at 10 a.m. Mon­day at the New School, a pro­gres­sive univer­sity in Green­wich Vil­lage, will ce­ment a left­ward shift in the Demo­cratic Party. Since the Great Re­ces­sion, con­cerns about the widen­ing gap be­tween rich and poor have risen to the top of the party’s agenda.

Clin­ton is carv­ing out space be­tween the Repub­li­can can­di­dates, who pay more at­ten­tion to grow­ing the econ­omy than rais­ing wages, and her lead­ing Demo­cratic pri­mary op­po­nent, Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.), who fo­cuses more on re­dis­tribut­ing in­come than on growth to solve the in­equal­ity prob­lem.

Clin­ton’s aides said she plans to as­sert that the Repub­li­can can­di­dates use rhetoric de­signed to ap­peal to mid­dle-class vot­ers but are propos­ing dated, trickle-down poli­cies from Ron­ald Rea­gan’s pres­i­dency — such as tax cuts for the wealthy — with the hope that they fuel growth that even­tu­ally ben­e­fits work­ing fam­i­lies.

The U.S. econ­omy grew only 2.4 per­cent last year, and over the past 15 years, eco­nomic growth has slipped well be­low the av­er­ages of the 1980s and 1990s. For­mer Florida gover­nor Jeb Bush is promis­ing to grow the econ­omy by 4 per­cent a year.

But Clin­ton will ar­gue that “the mea­sure of our eco­nomic suc­cess should be how much in­comes rise for mid­dle-class house­holds, not an ar­bi­trary growth fig­ure,” ac­cord­ing to the cam­paign of­fi­cial.

Clin­ton’s speech is sure to draw fire from Repub­li­cans, who will chafe at her calls for higher taxes on the wealthy and more reg­u­la­tion of Wall Street and busi­ness in gen­eral. Many con­ser­va­tive econ­o­mists warn that such pro­pos­als stunt eco­nomic growth.

In her speech, aides said, Clin­ton will ar­gue that tec­tonic forces in the global econ­omy are con­spir­ing against mid­dle-class fam­i­lies. Among them: au­to­ma­tion and tech­nol­ogy, which are elim­i­nat­ing mid­dle-skill jobs that once pro­vided solid in­comes; and the new “shar­ing econ­omy,” epit­o­mized by Uber, which has cre­ated ef­fi­ciency but also jobs lack­ing ben­e­fits and pro­tec­tions. But she will say that the gov­ern­ment should en­act poli­cies to shape how these forces af­fect Amer­i­cans.

“She’s re­ally ad­dress­ing the is­sues of the mo­ment,” said Neera Tan­den, pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress, who has been ad­vis­ing Clin­ton on pol­icy. “The chal­lenges we face to­day are dif­fer­ent than when she was run­ning eight years ago. . . . She sees that the chal­lenges are large and pro­found, but she thinks they’re is­sues we can ad­dress and that we shouldn’t just be sub­ject to these global trends.”

Clin­ton will at least im­plic­itly cri­tique Obama, whom she served as sec­re­tary of state, with her dis­cus­sion about stag­nant wages un­der his watch. But aides said she in­tends to com­mend him for fac­ing and pass­ing an ur­gent test to ramp up the econ­omy quickly.

Ad­vis­ers said Clin­ton’s eco­nomic agenda will be or­ga­nized in three parts. The first is about break­ing down bar­ri­ers to join­ing the work­force, in­clud­ing in­creas­ing pri­vate and public in­vest­ments in an in­fra­struc­ture bank, tax re­lief for small busi­nesses and clean energy de­vel­op­ment.

As part of her work­force fo­cus, Clin­ton will de­cry that women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the work­force has stalled af­ter decades of growth and that many work­ing par­ents, es­pe­cially sin­gle moth­ers, have passed up job op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause of fam­ily obli­ga­tions. She will preview poli­cies on child care, paid leave and paid sick days.

Clin­ton’s sec­ond area of fo­cus is re­duc­ing in­come in­equal­ity. She will celebrate Obama’s new rules on overtime but also urge rais­ing the min­i­mum wage and over­haul­ing the tax code to make the wealth­i­est Amer­i­cans pay what she con­sid­ers their fair share. She will also back col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing and re­duc­ing health-care costs.

The third area is cor­po­rate re­form. She plans to ar­gue that com­pa­nies should fo­cus more on cre­at­ing last­ing value, such as in­vest­ing in their work­ers. To that end, she will call for more in­vest­ments in re­search and de­vel­op­ment, tax-struc­ture changes and new rules on share­holder ac­tivism.

Lib­eral groups, which have been skep­ti­cal of Clin­ton’s can­di­dacy and es­pe­cially her close­ness to Wall Street, will be watch­ing her speech with a skep­ti­cal eye.

Adam Green, co-founder of the Pro­gres­sive Change Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, a group al­lied with lib­eral Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren (D-Mass.), has not seen Clin­ton’s agenda but said he will be lis­ten­ing to hear whether Clin­ton takes on “the power of Wall Street and cor­po­rate bad ac­tors.”

“Do her pro­pos­als go big and rep­re­sent game-chang­ers in the lives of mil­lions of peo­ple?” Green asked. “Or do they go small and tweak around the edges?”

DAVID GREEDY/GETTY IM­AGES

Among eco­nomic pri­or­i­ties Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton will men­tion in Mon­day’s speech will be pro­pos­als tai­lored to­ward work­ing women, such as ex­pand­ing ac­cess to child care and paid fam­ily and sick leave. Clin­ton is shown here at a cam­paign event July 7 in Iowa City.

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