Local Politics

Clinton Outlines Economic Agenda

Posted March 27, 2008 6:11 a.m. EDT
Updated March 28, 2008 1:08 a.m. EDT

— Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called Thursday for a $12.5 billion fund for worker training to help the U.S. retain and create millions of jobs.

Clinton used her first campaign appearance in North Carolina before the state's critical May 6 primary to make a far-ranging speech about rebuilding the nation's struggling economy.

"We're going to fight for every single job and create millions of new high-paying jobs that can't be outsourced," she told a crowd at Wake Technical Community College. "You cannot be a strong country with a growing economy if you don't make things."

Clinton held a town-hall meeting Thursday afternoon at Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville.

Standing at a podium at Wake Tech with the slogan, “Solutions for the American Economy” on a backdrop, Clinton also called for more investment in renewable energy, an end to tax breaks for oil companies, more investment in the nation's infrastructure, universal health care, research tax credits and more favorable trade policies.

Calling the economy under President George W. Bush a "trap door" and saying many families are a paycheck or an illness away from financial disaster, she said America needs to return to the ingenuity of people like the Wright brothers.

She also criticized John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, saying he would prefer to ignore the economic problems and blame the middle class for their troubles.

"We've tried almost everything else for seven years. Let's try leadership for a change to rebuild our economy and the middle class," she said.

The training effort would be funded at $2.5 billion a year over five years and would make job retraining available to all laid off workers, as well as supporting more on-the-job training, she said.

"When it comes to retraining assistance, our government is more focused on how you lost your job than how you can find a new one," she said. "While we have been rightly focused on trying to help people who are out of work, there’s been too little thought and effort to help people gain new skills while they still have their existing jobs so they can move up or move on to higher-wage positions."

Redirect Tax Breaks

Ending tax breaks to major corporations, especially those that shift jobs overseas, could save the country $55 billion a year, which could be reinvested in training, middle-class tax cuts and other programs, Clinton said.

"The oil companies don't need your money to make ... huge profits," she said. "I think it's time these companies paid their fair share for our clean-energy future."

"Green-collar jobs" in the renewable energy field could employ at least 5 million people across the U.S. and reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil, Clinton said, calling for $50 billion to be invested in alternative energies.

Universal health-care coverage would allow small business to hire more workers, ease financial burdens on manufacturing companies and allow workers to seek the proper care for themselves and their families, she said.

"Everyone should be insured, and the decisions about what you need for health care should come from doctors and nurses, not insurance companies," she said.

Investing in infrastructure will not only create jobs, it will help ease congestion for commuters and the transportation of goods nationwide, Clinton said, citing clogged arteries like Interstate 40 in the Triangle and Interstate 95 along the East Coast.

"We're trying to run today's economy on yesterday's infrastructure, and we're jeopardizing tomorrow's prosperity," she said. "When we have problems, we're supposed to solve them, not ignore them, not make them worse."

Saying she would eagerly sign a bill allowing stem cell research, Clinton said tax credits for entrepreneurial activity and scientific research need to be extended and strengthened.

"We are the innovation nation. That's how we will lead the global economy," she said.

Education, Immigration Addressed

At Terry Sanford High, Clinton reiterated many of the same points during a speech before answering a range of questions from a crowd that waited hours for her to arrive.

She called for making college more affordable to students, rewarding teachers and using means other than standardized tests to judge educational success.

She promised to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and make sure veterans received proper medical care and support. She dodged a question about medical marijuana use and said more research is needed to lower the death rates from heart disease.

The final question she answered dealt with immigration, and she called for more border security, stiffer penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants and a requirement that people learn English before being allowed to seek citizenship.

"Think about this (election) as a hiring decision," she told the crowd. "Who would hire to turn the country around?"

Thursday was the second consecutive day that a Democratic presidential hopeful has visited North Carolina. Sen. Barack Obama visited Wednesday to hold a town hall meeting.

In the close race for the Democratic nomination, North Carolina's 134 delegates are important.

"This is one of the most important elections our country has had in a very long time," Clinton said. "The stakes are huge. The challenges are serious. But the opportunities are unlimited."

Clinton made another appearance Thursday evening at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem. There she made mention of the NCAA East Regional semifinal game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Washington State University.

"I have never felt more pressure in my life," Clinton said. "I know that Carolina plays in about 30 minutes, so I will not be the least bit offended if all of you folks ... have to go see that game."

Clinton said she plans to be "all over the state" in the coming weeks.

Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made stops in Cary and Charlotte last week and plans to visit Greensboro, High Point, Kannapolis, Salisbury and Hickory on Friday.

Chelsea Clinton, the Clintons' daughter, also is scheduled to appear at the North Carolina Young Democrats convention on Saturday at the Sheraton Imperial in Durham.