Clinton, Trump Differ On How To Create Economic Opportunity In The U.S.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
We hear politicians talk about how they'll create more economic opportunity for Americans. But what exactly can be done? Well, that's a question we've been focusing on this week. We've heard about what might help millennials. We have visited two Ohio cities - one struggling, another doing well, perhaps a model for other communities. It's all part of a project we're working on with member stations called A Nation Engaged. And this morning, we get to two important politicians, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. As NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, they talk about creating economic opportunity in really different ways.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: The notion of the level playing field is fundamental to the way Americans see themselves. And both Trump and Clinton say the country right now is falling short of that goal. Here was Clinton at a speech in Michigan last month.
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HILLARY CLINTON: We need to grow the economy, and we need to make it fairer. The tide is not rising fast enough, and it is certainly not lifting all boats. Since the crash, too many of the gains have gone to the top 1 percent.
ZARROLI: To Mike Schmidt, senior adviser to her campaign, the principle of opportunity for all is suffused throughout Clinton's entire vision of American life.
MIKE SCHMIDT: One of the things she's emphasized throughout this campaign - and really throughout her career - has been this notion that she wants every American to live up to his or her God-given potential because, she says, only then will our country live up to its potential.
ZARROLI: For example, when Clinton talks about spending more money on public transportation, Schmidt says, she's trying to ensure that more Americans have access to the best-paying jobs.
SCHMIDT: It's about using infrastructure investment to unlock opportunity for those who currently aren't seeing enough of it.
ZARROLI: Republicans see dwindling economic opportunity over the past decade as one of Clinton's real vulnerabilities in this year's election. Stephen Moore is senior fellow in economics at the Heritage Foundation and an adviser to the Trump campaign.
STEPHEN MOORE: Hillary's basically saying I'm going to provide four more years of what we've been doing for the last eight years, where we have had 2 percent growth, that's now slowed to 1 percent growth.
ZARROLI: The Trump campaign itself did not respond to an interview request for this story. But Trump himself frequently uses rhetoric about economic opportunity in his speeches. He describes a political and financial elite that has rigged the system in its favor and is indifferent to what he calls the country's forgotten men and women.
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DONALD TRUMP: People who work hard but don't have a voice - I'm running to be their voice.
TRUMP: And to fight and bring prosperity to every part of this country.
ZARROLI: Trump's actual economic platform is less detailed than Clinton's, and much of it centers generally around familiar Republican themes - school choice, less regulation and tax cuts to spur business investment and growth. Again, Stephen Moore.
MOORE: Well, look, I don't think there's any question that Donald Trump has a much more promising economic approach to providing more opportunity in this country. I mean, opportunity means you have a job. Opportunity means you get a good education.
ZARROLI: Like Clinton, Trump has also talked frequently about repairing the country's aging economic infrastructure. In fact, Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal think tank, says Trump actually wants to spend more money on infrastructure than Clinton. But he says, that's at odds with the large tax cuts Trump also proposes.
MARK WEISBROT: If that's true, then the question is - you know, where's he going to get the money? And - which is fine if he wants to borrow it - but then he also complains about the size of the deficit and the debt.
ZARROLI: Weisbrot says neither candidate has adequately addressed what he sees as one of the underpinnings of opportunity, and that is Federal Reserve policy. If the Fed raises rates this year, it will have an impact on employment. Both Clinton and Trump say they want to ensure that all Americans have an equal shot at getting ahead, he says. But without a healthy job market, that amounts to little more than rhetoric.
Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.
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