In a fiery speech that sharply criticized her opponent’s economic vision for the US, Hillary Clinton said Donald Trump’s proposals will only benefit the rich, while destroying the economy in tandem.
Speaking before hundreds of union workers and supporters on Thursday, Clinton positioned her plan as a boon for the middle class, with a pledge to curry support in Congress for the largest investment in “good-paying jobs” since the second world war by rebuilding infrastructure across the nation.
“We will put Americans to work, building and modernizing our roads, our bridges, our tunnels, our railways, our ports, our airports,” she said. “We are way overdue for this, my friends. We are living off the investments that were made by our parents’ and grandparents’ generations.”
Trump’s plan, by contrast, doesn’t offer any “credible solutions to the very real economic challenges we face”, she said.
“He would give trillions in tax cuts to corporations … that would explode our national debt and eventually lead to massive cuts in priorities like education, healthcare and environmental protection,” Clinton said.
Clinton’s campaign said her plan would add more than 10m jobs across the US. It would include employment opportunities for outgoing prison inmates and youth, as well as billions of dollars for infrastructure projects. Despite embracing a more upbeat view of the nation’s outlook compared to her opponent, Clinton noted that income inequality has continued to increase in recent years.
“It is just too hard to get ahead today,” she said. “But there are commonsense things that your government can do that would give Americans more opportunities to succeed. Why don’t we do it? Because powerful special interests and the tendency to put ideology ahead of political progress have led to gridlock in Congress.”
Clinton’s 50-minute speech in south-east Michigan followed an economic policy rollout on Monday by her opponent – whose remarks in Detroit were interrupted more than a dozen times by protesters. Trump’s subdued speech (by his standards) took repeated shots at Clinton, in particular by saying her “failed” economic agenda is indicative of problems in Detroit, which emerged from municipal bankruptcy just under two years ago.
“It would allow him to pay less than half the current tax rate in income for many of his companies,” she said. “He’d pay a lower rate than millions of middle class families.” One analyst, she noted, said Trump’s plan would be a “really nice deal – for Donald Trump”.The former secretary of state vehemently pushed back against Trump on Thursday, saying his plan is a rehashed playbook of trickle-down economics, and will only benefit millionaires and billionaires. In particular, she dubbed one aspect of her opponent’s plan as the “Trump loophole”: a proposal to slash income taxes for corporations by more than half.
Trump’s proposal to eliminate the estate tax, which applies to estates larger than $5.45m for individuals, would also shore up his family’s finances, Clinton said.
“That alone would save the Trump family $4bn,” she claimed. “It would do nothing for 99.8% of Americans. So they’d get a $4bn tax cut, and 99.8% of Americans would get nothing. Just think of what we could do with those four billion.”
The Democratic nominee’s speech didn’t highlight new significant economic proposals, instead taking aim at Trump’s pledge for immense deregulation, including a temporary moratorium on federal agency rules. She said Trump’s plan would eliminate regulations that “stop polluters from poisoning the air our children breathe, and the water we drink”. In Michigan, the city of Flint has been reeling from a two-year water contamination crisis, an issue Clinton has repeatedly highlighted on the campaign trail this year.
“Now there is a myth out there that he will stick it to the rich and powerful because, somehow, he’s really on the side of the little guy,” she said. “Don’t believe it. Not when he pledges to rip up basic rules that hold corporations accountable.”
She also hit back on Trump’s intense criticism to US trade deals supported by Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton.
“That would end up killing even more jobs; the answer is to finally make trade work for us, not against us,” she said. “So my message to every worker in Michigan and across America is this: I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”“It is too often that past trade deals have been sold to the American people with rosy scenarios that did not pan out,” she said. But the answer, she added, isn’t to “rant or rave and cut ourselves off from the world”.
Clinton’s trade remarks were, perhaps, the latest in a move to appeal to progressives who remain skeptical of her policy stances, following the exit of Senator Bernie Sanders from the Democratic presidential race. In public, Clinton’s support for the TPP has wavered since last fall, when she broke from the Obama administration and came out against the 12-country deal. Still, last month, Clinton ally and Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe said he believes the candidate will support TPP, albeit with some changes.
Political observers viewed the stop in Macomb County – famous for producing so-called “Reagan Democrats”, who propelled the former president’s candidacy in the 1980s – as a sign of Clinton mounting the beginnings of a competitive campaign in Michigan.
Clinton showed signs of weakness in the primary, when Sanders dramatically wonby a nail-biting 1.5%. But local officials believe that, despite an expected close race in Michigan, Clinton has turned a corner.
Ed Bruley, chairman of the Macomb County Democratic party, told the Detroit News that Clinton was “outworked in the primary but she’s making the right moves now” by focusing on the middle class and economic policies.
“I think it’s going to be close. I don’t think it’s a walk-away,” he told the newspaper of the Clinton-Trump race in Macomb County. “But I think Clinton is doing the right stuff. By coming here, she’s demonstrating that she’s committed.” Clinton opened up a near double-digit lead on Trump in recent state polls.
Clinton’s state campaign shouldn’t relax a moment, though, said Michigan’s former Democratic governor James Blanchard.
“I once won an election by 70% and I didn’t know I was going to do that until the day after. I once lost an election by a quarter of a point and everyone told me I was going to win by 20. So you really have to be careful on polls,” Blanchard said.
The former governor and US congressman said the close primary race in Michigan with Sanders was a “good wake-up call” for the Clinton campaign.
“They didn’t really spend any time here,” Blanchard said. “I think the polls, again the polls showed a big lead. And the truth is the exit polls showed Hillary won with the Democrats by 15 points, but lost the independents.”
Former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm is also working for the state campaign, and this week former Republican governor William Milliken endorsed Clinton.
Clinton’s speech on Thursday was held in the city of Warren at Futuramic Tool & Engineering, a manufacturing facility for the automotive and aerospace industries. Clinton highlighted aspects, she said, that “makes Michigan great”.
“In Detroit, we’ve got new businesses opening,” she said, adding: “The auto industry just had its best year ever. Over in Ann Arbor high-tech firms are thriving.” At the Futuramic facility, she said, “you are on the frontlines of what I believe will be a true engineering renaissance in America”.
Roughly 500 union workers and others attended the invite-only speech. About a dozen Trump supporters gathered outside, carrying signs that read: “Hillary for Prison” and “I’m not ready for the next war”.
Matt Vanderwest, a 50-year-old operating engineer and lifelong Democrat from western Michigan, said Tuesday’s speech was the first political event he has ever attended.
“This election is a pretty crucial one to be involved in,” he said. In the primary election, Vanderwest said he supported Sanders “for a while”, but has since transferred over to Clinton. The decision was simple, he said.
“The other side, I don’t believe, is for the middle class,” he said. “They say they are, but they aren’t.”
Willie Dubas, also an operating engineer from nearby Livingston County, agreed.
“Both the candidates talk about the middle class, but only one is going to look out for the interests for people like us,” Dubas, 38, said. “The other one talks about it to get the vote.
“I think everything he says is unnerving,” Dubas said of Trump. “Whatever subject he’s talking about seems to have that effect on me.”