Hillary Clinton struck a populist tone as she outlined her economic plan to supporters at the N.C. State Fairgrounds on Wednesday afternoon, saying it would create millions of jobs and make “Wall Street, corporations and the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes.”
The presumptive Democratic nominee for president called for debt-free tuition for all students at public universities. Her wide-ranging plan includes infrastructure and clean-energy spending, making it easier for unions to bargain collectively, and changes that encourage companies to share profits with employees and discourage them from sending jobs overseas.
Clinton’s mentions of paid family leave and raising the minimum wage drew cheers and applause.
“We’re stronger when our economy works for everyone, not just those at the top,” she said.
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Measures of success will be how much incomes rise, how many children are lifted out of poverty and how many Americans can find good jobs, she said.
“Every American willing to work hard should be able to find a job that pays enough to support a family,” she said.
Clinton’s first rally in North Carolina since the March primary drew about 2,000 people to the fairgrounds, according to her campaign.
While most of the speech emphasized policy goals, Clinton took a few jabs at her Republican counterpart, Donald Trump, whom she faulted for a lack of ideas.
“Compare what I am proposing to what we hear from Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed king of debt,” Clinton said. “No credible plans for rebuilding our infrastructure, apart from his wall. No real plan for creating jobs.”
Trump and Clinton have been slinging pointed barbs this week. At a speech in New York earlier Wednesday, Trump called Clinton “a world-class liar.”
Clinton also criticized North Carolina Republican leaders for not paying adequate teacher salaries.
“Thanks to leaders like Jim Hunt, North Carolina was a leading state when it came to education,” Clinton said. “Now, unfortunately, thanks to your governor (Pat McCrory) and the legislature, the average teacher salary can barely support a family. ... We should support our teachers, not scapegoat them.”
North Carolina Republicans held a news conference ahead of the rally, saying the Tar Heel State has been a leader in raising teacher pay since the GOP took over full control of state government in 2013 for the first time in more than a century.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said North Carolina has “put more money back into the pockets of the taxpayers,” in contrast to federal policies that he said Clinton would continue.
“I think what you’re going to see from Hillary Clinton based on her recent speeches, based on her desire to increase spending by the federal government by another $1.3 trillion on top of the $20 trillion of debt we already have with no plan to pay for that, I think the contrast you’re going to see (with Trump) is somebody who is a businessman who understands how to impact the bottom line the right way, how to put people to work in America.”
McCrory’s campaign pounced on the pro-union parts of Clinton’s speech – accusing her in a statement of calling for “empowering labor union bosses.”
Clinton’s ideas for improving education and debt-free college hit home with Sandi Shover, a middle school English teacher from Sanford who attended the rally with her four children and her mother.
Shover said she sees the results of children with underdeveloped language skills passing through the grades. She also worries about getting her own children through college. Her two oldest sons are 15 and 14.
“She has it right on education,” Shover said.
Hope Noar of Cary was one of the Clinton supporters who traveled to the Exposition Center. Noar said she has been an enthusiastic supporter since 2008, when Clinton first ran for president.
“I love everything about her,” said Noar, 71. “I love what she stands for. I love the fact that she’s determined, she’s going to get things done. She’s not just a bunch of talk.”
Shouting from a corner of the fairgrounds Exposition Center briefly competed with Clinton. One woman leaving the building held up a sign “Hillary – Education or deportations?”
Hunt, a four-term governor, and Durham public school teacher Alicia Wilkerson introduced Clinton.
“We need a champion who will have people’s backs and bring people together,” Hunt said.
Wilkerson’s children benefited from the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which offers subsidized health coverage to uninsured children whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford private coverage.
Clinton used the SCHIP program, which she advocated for as first lady, as an example of her ability to work with R
epublicans. One of her goals is breaking Washington gridlock, she said.
“It may be difficult to imagine all this getting done,” Clinton said. “If I didn’t think progress was possible, I wouldn’t be standing here.”