WARREN, Mich. — Hillary Clinton cast the presidential election Thursday as a choice between policies that would lift up American workers and those that would mostly help the very rich, attacking Donald Trump for advancing an agenda that “only benefits millionaires like himself.”
In a rebuttal to Trump’s economic speech in Detroit Monday, the Democratic presidential nominee offered a bullish assessment for the prospects of the middle class if she is in the White House – and accused Trump of peddling pessimism and misleading voters with claims that he’s “on the side of the little guy.”
“Donald Trump wants America to work for him and his friends, at the expense of everyone else,” Clinton said. “He’s offered no credible plans to address what working families are up against today.”
Appearing in a largely blue-collar area outside Detroit, Clinton broke little new ground on policy proposals but highlighted her plans to invest in jobs and infrastructure in a manner calculated to appeal to white working-class voters who have been Trump’s strongest constituency, among others.
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“I want to invest in our veterans, our kids, and our police officers and so much more,” she said. “You can then draw your conclusions for about our values.”
Clinton touted previously released proposals to make public college tuition-free for families making up to $125,000 a year, prod companies to increase profit-sharing opportunities and raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
She also attacked Trump on his signature economic issue, a promise to renegotiate the terms of trade with China and other countries. Clinton acknowledged that past trade deals had often been sold with “rosy scenarios,” and she repeated her opposition to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership with several Pacific Rim countries, vowing: “I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president.”
But Clinton criticized Trump’s approach on trade.
“He may talk a big game on trade, but his approach is based on fear, not strength,” she said, adding a reference moments later to Olympic athletes: “If Team USA was as fearful as Trump, Michael Phelps and Simone Biles would be cowering in the locker room. Instead, they’re winning gold medals. America isn’t afraid to compete.”
Trump’s campaign responded to the speech with a flurry of press releases highlighting Clinton’s support of some past trade deals and claiming she would “100% enact the TPP if she gets the chance.” One release was headlined with a peculiar pejorative, coming from a Republican nominee, calling Clinton a “trickle-down globalist.”
The site of Clinton’s speech, at a Macomb County company that expanded its auto supply business into the defense and aerospace industries, was selected with electoral politics in mind. The jurisdiction has sided with the Democratic nominee four times and the Republican nominee four times during the past eight presidential elections. It is key to Trump’s chance of carrying Michigan in November.
Clinton praised the company that hosted her for being “on the front lines of what we hope will be a true manufacturing renaissance.”
Trump is trying to appeal to Rust Belt states that have traditionally gone Democratic, in part based on his promise to curb trade deals and immigration.
In her remarks, Clinton chided Trump’s companies for making clothing and other products overseas and unveiled a new web site that lists companies making similar products in the United States.
She also zeroed in on a Trump proposal to dramatically reduce taxes on “pass-through” businesses, which do not pay corporate income taxes but whose owners are taxed at individual rates on their share of profits.
Such entities are the most common structure for small businesses – which would benefit from Trump’s plan – but they are also heavily utilized by the scores of companies that make up the Trump Organization. Clinton argued that the real estate mogul is attempting to give himself “a back-door tax cut” and characterize his proposal as the “Trump Loophole.”
“It would allow him to pay less than half the current tax rate on income from many of his companies,” Clinton said. “He’d pay a lower rate than millions of middle-class families.”
Clinton also took aim at a provision in Trump’s economic plan that repeals the estate tax, another measure she says would benefit his family personally. Earlier this week in Florida, Clinton branded that provision as Trump’s “friends-and-families discount.”
More broadly, Clinton argued Thursday that Trump’s economic plan is weighted too heavily toward helping the wealthy and corporations and that it would “balloon the national debt.” She drew laughter and applause for accusing Trump of offering an “even more extreme version of the failed theory of trickle-down economics, with the addition of his own unique Trumpian spin – outlandish ideas that even many Republicans reject.”
Aides said Clinton’s speech Thursday was not designed to unveil new initiatives but to provide a sharp contrast between the agendas of the two presidential contenders. Clinton delivered an address in June in North Carolina, another battleground state, where she laid out her economic agenda heading into the fall election.
In a speech to the National Association of Homebuilders in Florida on Wednesday ahead of Clinton’s address, Trump promised a “massive cut in taxes” and “a massive cut in regulations,” echoing proposals in his speech on Monday.
In the speech, Trump proposed a new set of individual income tax rates higher than he previously suggested, but he also promised to bring rates lower than they were even during the George W. Bush administration. He also promised to boost federal infrastructure spending and said that would allow working families to deduct child care-costs from their federal income taxes.
Clinton was greeted here Thursday at Futuramic Tool & Engineering Company by a couple of dozen Trump supporters marching outside the manufacturing facility carrying signs, including one that read, “Hillary for Prison.”
Before her speech, Clinton toured the manufacturing site here. After focusing for about half a century on supplying the automotive industry, company officials say they began to diversity around 2000; about 95 percent of their work now is for the aerospace industry.
Clinton also highlighted the company’s longstanding partnership with a community college here to help train students in the fields of technology and manufacturing through an apprenticeship program – a model she has touted on the campaign trail.
“Here’s something neither party talks about enough: A four-year degree shouldn’t be the only path to a good job,” Clinton said in her speech. “You should be able to learn a skill, practice a trade, and make a good living doing it.”
Clinton arrived in Michigan on Wednesday night and attended a fundraiser in Birmingham, a suburb of Detroit. Donors paid $25,000 each to attend, according to a Clinton aide. They were entertained by legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin.
Proceeds were to benefit the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint venture of the Clinton campaign, Democratic National Committee and Democratic state parties.