Hillary Clinton photo

Remarks - Modern Progressive Vision: Shared Prosperity

May 29, 2007

Well, Colleen, I can assure you that as President, I will strongly support schools like the Manchester School for Technology. I have for many years because I know how important schools like this are. At this very moment, students in this school may be learning how to wire an office building, or work the machinery that runs our automobiles, or fix the bugs that crash our computers. Every day, students at this school are discovering talents and strengths they never knew they had.

And that is because this school has great leadership. I want to especially thank the Principal. Karen White has led this school in an exemplary fashion, and I know she's worked closely with Governor Lynch to design the plans that will enable the school to be renovated and grow even stronger in the future. I really applaud your leadership, Karen. Because you can't look at the Manchester School of Technology without realizing that it didn't happen by accident. It was built by the people of this state who, even 25 years ago, understood that to compete in today's economy, young people need the skills for today's jobs. That's what we've always done here in America: When our economy changes, we don't panic or give up or wring our hands -- we simply change with it. That's what has happened here at MST. I really applaud you for doing that, because we have to look for examples like this to figure out what we need to do more broadly across our nation.

Now we've done this before. We did the same thing back at the turn of the 20th century. Back then, the American economy was dominated by large corporate monopolies. Corruption was far too common and good government far too rare. Women couldn't vote, and the minimum wage, well, that wasn't heard of and worker rights were completely unimagined. Back then, America was a country filled with haves and have nots -- and not enough people in between.

In response to these excesses, the progressive movement was born. Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, the progressives busted trusts and fought for safe working conditions and fair wages. They created the national park system, and replaced a government rife with cronyism with a merit-based civil service. They understood, as the great progressive President Teddy Roosevelt once said, that “The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.”

Well, today, at the beginning of the 21st century, I think it's time we remembered those lessons. For the first time in history, we have a truly global economy. Workers today think nothing of holding teleconferences with colleagues on three continents at once or e-mailing business partners across the globe. Companies also think nothing of shipping our jobs -- even entire factories -- overseas. Today, competition no longer stops at the water's edge. In fact, for many of our companies, that's where it starts. For example, New Hampshire provides $2 billion worth of exports to 140 countries a year.

At the same time, technology is playing an increasingly important role. It's really revolutionizing how we live and work. We're seeing U.S. telemarketing jobs done in remote locations far, far from our shores. Manufacturing requires fewer jobs as machines replace people both here in America and around the world. In part because India and China have begun to harness the power of technology, they are on their way to becoming economic super powers.

Like it or not, that is the reality of globalization. And it isn't going away. However, if managed properly, globalization may offer the promise of new markets, new growth, and new opportunities for broadly shared prosperity to young people like Colleen.

Unfortunately, we're not managing globalization properly. Instead of working for all of us, globalization is working only for a few of us.

Now, it is working for corporations. Corporate profits have grown an average of 13% a year since 2001, adjusted for inflation. It's working for CEOs who've seen their pay go from 24 times the typical worker's in 1965, to 262 times the typical worker in 2005. And it's working for Americans with incomes at the very top. In 2005, all income gains went to the top 10% of households, while the bottom 90% saw their incomes decline, in spite of the fact that worker productivity has increased for six years.

Now, in past economic expansions, that's not the way it was. In the past, about 75% of net corporate revenues have gone to employee compensation, and only 25% to profits. However, for the past five years, the comparable figures are 41% going to employee compensation and 59% going to profits. Think about this: last year, the share of America's national income going to corporate profits was the highest since 1929 -- while the share going to the salaries of American workers was the lowest.

The inescapable reality is that globalization, modern technology, economic policy, are creating new conditions that threaten our middle class families and make it harder to maintain a middle class lifestyle.

Now, during the second half of the 1990s, productivity growth led to rising incomes across the board.

But over the past six years, while productivity has gone up 18 percent -- that means Americans are working harder than ever and, by most indicators, working harder than anybody else in the rest of the world -- family incomes have gone down $1,300.

The global labor market may even be depressing wages for skilled and professional jobs. Since 2001, new jobs created in America pay, on average, 21 percent less than the jobs we have lost.

And back in 2000, child poverty was the lowest it had been in 20 years. Since then it has risen by 1.3 million. And today we have 12 million children living in poverty.

Now, given these realities, it's unsurprising we're seeing rising inequality and rising pessimism in our workforce.

Today more than 80 percent of Americans believe that our manufacturing jobs are at risk of being outsourced.

And let's be clear. It's not as if America hasn't been successful economically the past 6 years. But the measure of success doesn't relate what's happening in households across our country, because, while productivity and corporate profits are up, the fruits of that success just hasn't reached many of our families. It's like trickle-down economics, but without the trickle.

As a result, the gap between those who are enjoying the fruits of the modern economy and those who aren't is growing wider.

In 1970, the top 1 percent of households held roughly 9 percent of our nation's income. In 2005, they held 22 percent, the highest level since 1929, a year that isn't exactly one of our best years in American history.

Now, our founders knew that inequality wasn't good for our country. They believed that vast concentrations of wealth were a threat to democracy. They believed America should give everyone, not just the children of the landed gentry, the chance to fulfill their God-given potential.

But today, that ideal is at risk. We are in danger of losing that uniquely American engine of opportunity that has created so much wealth and spread it so widely.

Believe it or not, today in some parts of Europe there is more social mobility than right here in America.

Well, now we haven't heard much from Washington in the past six years about how to solve this growing problem of inequality. In fact, the tax, investment, trade and budget policies of the administration and its allies in Congress have made the problem worse.

I believe people are fed up with the policies of the past six years. So many people I talk to just want to hit the restart button on the 21st century and redo it the right way. And I agree with them.

Now, after all, we started the decade with rising incomes, declining inequality, robust job growth and a surplus in our federal budget. Instead of building on policies that worked, the Washington Republicans reversed them with predictable but intolerable consequences.

I believe that one of the most crucial jobs of the next president is to define a new vision of economic fairness and prosperity for the 21st century, a vision for how we ensure greater opportunity for our next generation, and then to outline a strategy and then to implement it.

Today, I believe we need a new progressive vision for this new century. Now, I consider myself a thoroughly optimistic and modern progressive. I believe we can grow our economy in the face of global competition, and in a way that benefits all Americans.

I believe we can curb the excesses of the marketplace and provide more opportunities for more Americans to succeed.

I believe we can support and promote smart trade policies that truly enforce strong labor and environmental standards.

I believe we can help more workers join unions to improve wages and conditions in our workplaces for jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.

I believe that, just as 20th-century progressives fought corruption with a new civil service, we can restore competence to the front lines of our government and ensure that we never, ever experience another Hurricane Katrina.

In short, I believe that our government can once again work for all Americans. It can promote the great American tradition of opportunity for all and special privileges for none.

Today I want to focus on how we ensure both strong economic growth and economic fairness.

Now, we have seen for more than a century that fairness doesn't just happen. It requires the right government policies. And no one should be surprised, human nature being what it is, people will go as far as they possibly can get away with.

The genius of the American economic in the 20th century was that it helped to counter that tendency for people to push as far as their own interests would take them so that we created a leveler playing field that benefited everyone.

Unfortunately, for the past six years it's as though we've gone back to the era of the robber barons. Year after year the president has handed out massive tax breaks to oil companies, no-bid contracts to Halliburton, tax incentives to corporations shipping jobs overseas, tax cut after tax cut to multimillionaires, while ignoring the needs and aspirations of tens of millions of working families.

And how has he paid for all of this largess? By running up record deficits. He has simply charged it to our national credit card and left our children and grandchildren to pay the bill.

In fact, every baby born today starts like with $29,000 of national debt on his or her tiny shoulders, the largest birth tax in our nation's history.

It's also important to understand these policies are consistent with the administration's theory about how we should manage our economy: leave it all up to the individual.

That's why they want to privatize Social Security and let individuals bear the risks. It's why their answer to the health care crisis is limited to creating health savings account, which allows the healthiest people to get the best deal, with little concern if the sickest get worse.

They call it the ownership society. But it's really the "on your own" society.

On the other hand, they protect the drug companies from competition, including from their own products coming back across the border from Canada. And they give health care companies a subsidy of more than $1,000 per person to compete with Medicare. That is hardly the free market at work.

As a result, too many of our families are left running in place or falling behind.

Health care premiums have gone up 87 percent since 2000; college costs up 40 percent since the 2000 school year. Gas prices have more than doubled. And I don't need to tell anyone that they're heading even higher today.

Wages and incomes are lagging so much that, after five years of overall growth, there's been a 4 percent increase in the percentage of workers falling below the poverty line, and a 4 percent increase in working families losing their health insurance.

It's like our middle-class and hardworking families are invisible to this president.

If you're a worker who can't organize for fair wages and safe working conditions, you're invisible.

If you're one of the over 45 million Americans who don't have health insurance, you're invisible, too.

If your company has shipped your job overseas and you don't know how to pay your bills, well, you're invisible.

If you drive up to the gas station and have to pay well over $3.20 or $3.30 a gallon to fill up your tank, you're invisible as well.

Well, you're not invisible to me. And we can't restore the American dream unless you're a very visible part of it.

It's time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few and for the few, time to reject the idea of an "on your own" society and to replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity. I prefer a "we're all in it together" society.

Now, there is no greater force for economic growth than free markets, but markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed.

When we get our priorities in order and make the smart investments we need, the markets work well.

Some of you might remember that, while we began the 1990s with record deficits, we ended the decade with a balanced budget, a record surplus, higher wages for the middle class, and 22 million new jobs.

Now, of course, we can't simply recycle the policies that worked in the 1990s. These are different times.

But we can return to many of the principles that guided us then, the principles that have worked time and time again to build our economy, expand opportunity, and offer all Americans the chance to have that American dream which we promised.

Now, I'm the product of this chance. I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America in the middle of the last century.

My father came back from World War II after having served in the Navy, and he worked hard to build his small business. He believed that one should avoid being in debt at all costs, and instilled in me the importance of being responsible with a budget at an early age, a value I still hold dear today.

Like millions of other families, we worked hard, we saved and we invested. And together, our determination and work ethic helped to create the American middle class.

Now that middle class is under assault from global economic forces and wrongheaded economic policies. So I'm proposing a new progressive plan to restore that American dream and to give all Americans the chance to compete and prosper in the global economy.

Here's what I believe we should do.

First, I'm going to work to level the playing field and reduce the special breaks for big corporations. We say this in every campaign. We make a little bit of progress. And then unfortunately, when the Republicans get back in office, they reverse everything we've done and add to the corporate welfare.

Well, I think we're going to have a better shot this time because we're going to make it an issue in this campaign. We're going to ask people who are running for Congress to sign up one way or the other: Are they for corporate welfare, or are they for the average American having a decent shot at the American dream?

And there's a lot we could do right now.

You know, I believe that if we did give Medicare the chance to negotiate with drug companies, we would save $10 billion to $15 billion a year. Why should the drug companies be immune from the process that goes on every day in America, where you bargain for the best deal you can get? And we need to give our government that opportunity to do so.

When Bill was president, he gave it to the V.A., which is one of the reasons why the V.A. has the lowest drug prices in America today. Bargaining really does make a difference.

We also need to require the big oil companies that are making the largest profits in the history of the world to invest in alternative energy themselves or pay into a fund to spur clean energy research and development. And there are many other examples that we could all give about how to zero in on corporate welfare.

Second, let's once and for all get rid of the incentives for American companies to ship jobs and profits overseas. It is one thing for the marketplace to encourage overseas investment. It's another for our own tax code to do so.

But that's exactly what is happening. Today, American companies that ship jobs overseas don't have to pay a penny in American taxes on the profits they make abroad unless they bring those profits back to the United States. And, of course, they don't bring them back because they don't want to pay taxes on them.

It's estimated this policy costs us billions of dollars each year in lost tax revenues. Even worse, we actually put companies that want to create jobs here on our shores at a disadvantage to those who ship jobs to tax havens.

Now, when I'm president we're going to reward decisions to create jobs here at home. We will consider eliminating the deduction for the actual costs of moving jobs.

These are decisions that, if there's going to be a level playing field, there should be no advantage given to anyone who takes a job and sends it overseas at the disadvantage of our workforce.

Third, let's reform the governance of our corporations and our financial sector. If you have any doubt about whether corporate governance impacts ordinary Americans, just think back to what happened at Enron, where thousands of workers lost much of their retirement savings.

The way I see it, allowing CEOs to escape with golden parachutes while their companies abandon workers' pensions does not honor our values.

We need to open up CEO compensation to public scrutiny and public challenge and ensure that boards of directors are independent when determining CEO pay. And we need to update our regulations to confront the emerging problems in our sub-prime and private equity markets.

Fourth, let's restore fiscal responsibility to our government. Let's get back to balanced budgets and save Social Security instead of running up our deficits.

You know, people ask me all the time, "Why can't we get tough on China?" Well, the answer is, because China is one of our bankers. We're their debtor. How can we truly enforce trade laws against a country that manipulates it currency and puts us at an unfair advantage when our economic stability depends on China's massive loans to us every single day?

And when the president's irresponsible tax breaks for high-income Americans expire, we will return to the income tax rates for upper- income Americans that we had in the 1990s, rates that were consistent with a balanced budget and economic growth.

For middle-class Americans, who haven't seen their paychecks increase, let's keep the middle-class tax cuts and reform the alternative minimum tax in order to give middle-class Americans the tax relief they deserve to have.

And let's take a hard look at corporate tax reform. It's simply not fair that as corporate profits have skyrocketed, the percentage of taxes paid by corporations have fallen.

It's time we restored the balance and required corporations to pay their fair share. Under the law, after all, they are citizens of the United States, with many of the responsibilities, I would argue, that goes with citizenship.

Fifth, let's recommit ourselves to the idea that every young person in America who wants to should have the opportunity to attend college, and that a 21st-century education starts early in life and continues well into adulthood.

We know that having the most skilled, educated workforce in the world is key to our future success. That starts at the very beginning, with access to universal pre-kindergarten: high-quality learning opportunities for every 4-year-old in America. And I've laid out a proposal that would do exactly that.

We know that pre-kindergarten keeps kids in school longer, keeps them out of trouble, gives them more incentive to be academically interested and that it is a good payoff for our country: For every dollar invested, we get a $7 return.

The alternative is to pay costs in other ways. A startling fact is that some states in our country, when they're planning how many prison beds they need, look at third-grade test scores. And they extrapolate from the number of children who are failing in third-grade reading as to how many prison beds they'll need.

That's a lot more expensive than providing pre- kindergarten to those same children to hopefully keep them out of our prisons.

We also have to do more to raise up the opportunity for young people from middle-class and working families and poor families to be able to go to college.

Seventy-five percent of students at America's elite colleges come from the top 25 percent of the income bracket, just 3 percent from the bottom 25 percent.

We've got to make college affordable again, and that means everything from increasing Pell grants to changing the way college loans are provided and cleaning up the college loan industry from all of the scandals that is besetting it. Because if we don't make college affordable, we are seeing the results: Young people can't go.

The last time I was in Manchester I was talking with some of the teachers from one of the high schools here who told me that many young people were just really confused because they didn't have the money to go to college, and they didn't know what they were going to do. So we've got to do a better job than that.

Sixth, for those who don't attend four-year colleges and those in the workforce who need to update their skills, let's provide more support for schools like this and for community colleges that prepare people for good, high-paying jobs.

And let's provide wage insurance for our workers so that if you lose your job because of our trade policies, you can get the training and support you need for a new and better job.

There are a lot of jobs in our country that are going begging because we don't have the people with the skills to be able to fill those jobs.

Two examples.

We will need 35,000 automotive mechanics every year from now until 2010.

Automotive Retailing Today reports that we have 37,000 vacancies for mechanics right now. These jobs pay salaries up to $70,000 a year. And employers are aggressively recruiting talented high school graduates to fill these positions.

I met recently with the Machinist union. They were telling me the same thing about Airline Mechanics. They have hundreds of good jobs they can't fill. It's not just that we can't fill these jobs; it's that we've come to a point in our society where, frankly, we don't have the respect that that these jobs should demand.

This is something I feel very strongly about. We have sent a message to our young people that if you don't go to college and you don't have a high paying job---something like a basketball player or an entertainer, or maybe someone in a corporation---that you're thought less of in America. We have to stop this. Our country cannot run without the people who do the skills that are taught in this school.

And it is time we begin to reverse the attitude that I think for too long has prevailed, which is why I'm so pleased that Governor Lynch will be adding to the money available through the state for technology and other kinds of advanced degree learning that can give young people a belief that doing these jobs is important.

As Senator, I championed Regional Skills Alliances that support employers in the same geographic region and industry. They support employers who pool their resources and broaden opportunities so that employees can get the training they need in today's economy. I think we need more programs like this. And when I'm President, we're going to create more programs like this so that our workers will have the skills they need for the jobs they deserve.

Those 1,200 people who come at night: That's what they're doing. They're trying to get additional skills that will enable them to fill jobs that already exist in this region.

And we're going to create more jobs and more regional skills alliances when I'm president.

Seventh, let's ensure that people who work hard every day can support their families and save for the future. I do not believe anyone who works full-time in America should draw a wage that puts that person below the poverty line. If you are a full time worker you should make more than poverty.

Now that we've finally reach the minimum wage, let's expand and simplify the Earned Income Tax Credit so no one working full time lives in poverty.

Let's also finally overhaul our unemployment insurance program. Today's unemployment benefits aren't even enough to keep an average family above the poverty line. And many workers in today's economy -- including part time and self-employed workers -- are still ineligible for unemployment insurance.

Our unemployment system has hardly changed at all over the last 70 years, and yet we know a lot of employers don't want to give people full time jobs. They only give them part time jobs so they don't have to pay for benefits. So when someone is laid off or loses that part time job, under our existing system even though it was all they could get, they're not eligible for unemployment insurance help. So I'm hoping that we can do a better job by looking at our unemployment system and bringing it into the modern age.

I think we also have to have a modern attitude toward unions. We know that unionized workers make 30% more than workers who aren't in unions. But today, just 7% of our workplace in the private sector is unionized.

We need to give workers more of the benefits that come with union membership. Let's pass the Employee Free Choice Act to make sure our unions can organize for fair wages and safe working conditions. Let's appoint people to the Department of Labor who are truly pro-labor. That would be an unusual idea, don't you think?

Unions played a critical role in building the middle class, and I don't think it's a coincidence that as union membership has dropped, middle class incomes have stagnated. So this is not an either-or choice; we can have both. Some people say, well, if you have more unionization that would make America uncompetitive, but there are other countries in the global economy that pay wages equal to or higher than ours, and many jobs that are important to the economy in those countries demand a really good living wage for a middle class family. Their lower-paid workers are paid more than our lower-paid workers, but their higher paid workers are paid less. So there's less of a gap between our lower paid workers and our highest paid workers which means that there's more money for those wage increases in the middle.

That's what worked for America until relatively recently, and that's what we have to persuade people is good for America again.

Eighth, let's ensure everyone the most fundamental benefit there is -- quality, affordable health care. Now, we know that this is going to be challenging but if we could spend more than $500 billion to fund the war in Iraq, we can surely make the basic investments to ensure that every American can see a doctor when he or she needs to.

Ninth and finally, let's make the investments we need to create the millions of good jobs necessary to lift up all of our families. To preserve and expand the middle class in an open, global economy, we have to have a source of good new jobs every five to eight years. Telecom did that during the ‘90s. In this decade, that means an all out commitment to a clean, independent energy future.

I'll be talking a lot more about investing in alternative energy and energy efficiency. Because we know that alternative energy isn't just good for our national security, and we know that it's imperative for our environment and to tackle global warming -- but it is also good for our economy. By working to break our addiction to foreign oil and investing in clean energy technology, we can create good new jobs right here in America.

When I was up in Berlin, they were hoping that we could take those old paper and pulp mills and turn them into energy creators by using wood. So instead of using wood for the purposes that it's been harvested in New Hampshire for hundreds of years, you would use it for creating energy. Well, these are the kinds of new jobs that we need to be looking for across our country.

I also believe we have to invest in 21st century infrastructure we need to compete. I also believe we have to invest in 21st-century infrastructure to compete. Let's set a goal of putting high-speed Internet access through broadband or wireless within the reach of every single American so that people throughout this state and every other one will be able to participate in the global economy.

In New York, as a senator, I've done a lot of work trying to work with chambers of commerce and others to create zones for access to high-speed Internet, because it was difficult to attract jobs to the Adirondacks or to other areas of rural New York without having that. We haven't had much help from the federal government, but I've been introducing legislation every since I arrived in the Senate to do just that. Just as we had a railroad system that connected our country, an electrification system, an interstate highway system, an airport system, we have to have a broadband system

I also am not giving up on manufacturing. I believe we can still have a vibrant manufacturing base, with the right policies. It provides an immediate laboratory for innovation and a challenging feedback loop for engineers, designers and dreamers. It's an invaluable training ground for a new generation of entrepreneurs and leaders. That's why I helped to start the Senate Manufacturing Caucus, where I've worked to develop a manufacturing strategy that will be suitable with the challenges of the 21st century.

I also founded a group called New Jobs for New York, a unique non-profit that harnesses the ingenuity, entrepreneurship and hard work of New Yorkers. And I want to do that across our country. You know, we've been able to show companies in New York they didn't need to leave our country in order to get qualified people to do the work. We also commissioned a study which proved the cost of moving jobs to other countries is a lot greater than people actually understand or realize.

So there's a lot we can do to give us a source of new jobs and to have an innovation agenda that will make us competitive going forward. We can't do it if we just accept the Republican policies or if we just believe America's best days are over.

You know, a lot of people around the world are writing America off. They do believe our best days are behind us. I could not disagree more. I believe America can rebound from these last six years. I believe we can restore fairness and ensure that all share in our prosperity. I believe we can reduce the deficit and restore fiscal responsibility and give people the education and opportunities they need to fulfill their God-given potentials.

I'm running for president because I believe if we set big goals and we work together to achieve them, we can restore the American dream today and for the next generation. The core ideals of a 21st-century progressivism are simple. The foundation of a strong economy is the investments we make in each other: in education, health care, clean energy and new technologies. Greatness comes from policies that promote prosperity and ensure we all share in it.

Now, living up to these ideals and changing the political makeup will not be easy. But I'm absolutely confident we can do it. And I would just close by thinking of that great Granite Stater Daniel Webster. He said it years ago when he urged us to "develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests and see whether we also, in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered."

I'm confident we have the discipline, the determination and the drive that we will not be the first generation in American history to leave our country worse off than when we found it. But we will continue, as every generation has before, to create much that is worthy to be remembered. We will restore fairness and responsibility to our economy, rebuild our middle class and rise to the challenges of this new global century.

Thank you all very much.

Hillary Clinton, Remarks - Modern Progressive Vision: Shared Prosperity Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/277553

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