Like Donald Trump earlier this week, Hillary Clinton went to Michigan to convince middle-class voters that her economic plan would bring them better jobs, higher wages and an economic vitality that even eight years after the recession eludes so many.
But that’s where the similarities ended.
The Democratic presidential nominee didn’t talk of ending government regulation, reducing corporate taxes or throwing out trade agrements, as Trump did on Monday.
Instead, in a speech that was just as much a rebuttal of Trump’s proposals as a look at her plans, Clinton spoke as a traditional Democrat, highlighting how government could help, from creating jobs and infrastructure programs and instituting paid family leave to making public colleges tuition free for the middle class and expanding Social Security.
Unfortunately, neither candidate addressed affordable housing, a major need in our region.
Amid the endless sideshows of this presidential campaign, it was refreshing to have a week in which both candidates addressed the same substantive topic.
The differences between Clinton and Trump are stark and significant.
Clinton focused on that contrast, as she went point by point over Trump’s proposals. She argued his tax cuts would benefit the wealthy, while doing little for the middle class; that his plans to cut regulations would hurt the environment and help insurance companies and Wall Street; and that his plans on trade would lead to an isolationist United States.
There was little new in Clinton’s speech, as the tenets of her economic plan haven’t changed much over the course of the last year.
Yet, there’s much to applaud in her vision, including plans to help families, raise the minimum wage, although less than in New York State, and tax multi-millionaires and corporations that move their headquarters abroad.
But we are left with the same criticism of Clinton that we had of Trump earlier this week: Without details of how she would pay for her programs, it’s hard to judge her plans and we have too many questions. How would paid family leave work, and which businesses would it apply to? Where would the money come from for infrastructure investments and to encourage manufacturers to make their products in the United States? How would she get any of it through Congress?
The shadow of Sen. Bernie Sanders hung over Clinton’s economic vision. She has moved to the left on many policy proposals, in some cases doing about-faces, as with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which, in a complete break with President Barack Obama, she said she opposes and will continue to oppose, despite having been for it when serving in the administration.
Overall, trade was a small part of her economic pitch, and it clearly was raised to speak to Trump supporters and those who embraced Sanders’ position on the issue.
Clinton tried to paint herself as the candidate who came from middle-class roots and would help the middle class as president. But so much about how she’d make it all happen remains a question mark.