Tuesday at Kirkwood Community College in Monticello IA, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, now a candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, struck a populist chord in her first campaign appearance.
“Something is wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here over the last two days.”
Partial transcript as follows:
I want to tell you a little bit about why I’m here today. I think we all know that Americans have come back from some pretty tough economic times. and our economy and our country are much better off because American families have basically done whatever it took to make it work.
But I think it’s fair to say that as you look across the country, the deck is still stacked in favor of those already at the top, and there’s something wrong with that. There’s something wrong when CEOs make 300 times more than the typical worker. There’s something wrong when American workers keep getting more productive as they have, and as I just saw a few minutes ago, is very possible because of education and skills training, but that productivity is not matched in their paychecks. And there’s something wrong when hedge fund managers pay lower tax rates than nurses or the truckers that I saw on I-80 as I was driving here over the last two days. And there’s something wrong when students and families have to go deeply into debt to be able to get the education and skills they need in order to make the best of their own lives.
I looked at the figures, and the average Iowa graduate from a four-year college comes out with nearly $30,000 in debt, and that’s I think the ninth highest debt load in the country, and people are struggling. I met earlier today with a young student who is piecing together work and loans, knowing full well he’s going to come out owing a lot of money. So we’ve got to figure out in our country how to get back on the right track. And I’m running for president because I think that Americans and their families need a champion, and I want to be that champion. I want to stand up and fight for people so that they cannot just get by, but they can get ahead and stay ahead.
And a lot of people in the last few days have asked me, well, why do you want to do this? And what motivates you? I thought a lot about it and i guess the short answer is I’ve been fighting for children and families my entire adult life, probably because of my mother’s example. She had a really difficult childhood, was mistreated and neglected, but she never gave up. She had to basically be on her own at the age of 14 and kept going. My father, who was a small businessman and believed you had to work hard to make your way and do whatever you had to do to be successful and provided a good living for our family. And then I was thinking too about the lessons I learned from my church. You’re supposed to give back. You’re supposed to do what you can to help others. and that’s what I tried to do and we’ll have more time to talk about that as we go forward.
When I got out of law school, I worked for the children’s defense fund. One of the projects there was literally going door to door. This was back in the ’70s. Kids with disabilities were basically being shut out of our schools, and thanks to your great former senator, that’s no longer the case. But I was knocking on doors saying, is there anybody school age not in school—and finding blind kids and deaf kids and kids in wheelchairs just left out. And I was able in Arkansas to work to try to improve education and give more kids chances who really deserve them. As first lady, to fight for health care reform and keep fighting until we got health care insurance for kids. And then as senator, dealing with the problems that face New York after 9/11, and trying to help people get whatever they needed—the victim’s families and first responders—and it was an incredible honor to do that. Then as secretary of state standing up for our country. When I look at where we are as a country, I’m just so absolutely convinced that there isn’t anybody anywhere who can out compete us with better values, who can do more to provide more people the chance to live up to their own god given potential. But we can’t take that for granted.
And so I want to be the champion who goes to bat for Americans in four big areas, four big fights I think we have to take on because there are those who don’t agree with what I think we should be doing and there are powerful forces. We need to build the economy of tomorrow, not yesterday. We need to strengthen families and communities, because that’s where it all starts. We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all. even if that takes a constitutional amendment. And we need to protect our country from the threats that we see and ones that are on the horizon.
I’m here in Iowa to begin a conversation about how we do that and to hear from people about what’s on your minds and what the challenges you see are. and I’m going to work hard to meet as many people… I’ll be rolling out ideas and policies—what I think will work. But i want it to be informed by what’s actually working, and to build on what works going forward. And to stand up against those who have a different vision of our country, a different one than I grew up and different one that I think is best for everybody.
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN