Hillary Clinton pitches tax changes, infrastructure investment in Detroit area speech

Hillary Clinton pushed back at GOP rival Donald Trump’s depiction of the American economy as weak, saying U.S. workers aren’t afraid of competition and the nation is in fact home to “old-fashioned hard work and cutting-edge innovation.” Photo credit: Bloomberg

UPDATED: 8/11/16 3:20 pm ET – new story

DETROIT — Hillary Clinton cast a distinct tone from her Republican rival for president, highlighting Detroit’s post-bankruptcy momentum and painting herself as the candidate of income fairness and middle-class workers.

The Democratic nominee told an invite-only crowd of 500 on Thursday at Futuramic Tool & Engineering in Warren that she planned to create jobs by investing in public infrastructure, offer new tax credits to encourage corporate profit-sharing and paid apprenticeships and crack down on companies that move profits offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Clinton pushed back at Trump’s depiction of the American economy as weak, saying American workers aren’t afraid of competition and the nation is in fact home to “old-fashioned hard work and cutting-edge innovation.” She also criticized his position on trade deals — Trump has said the U.S. would withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement if a better deal can’t be negotiated — as coming from a place of fear, rather than strength.

“We have the most dynamic, productive workforce in the world, bar none,” Clinton said. “We have the most innovative businesses, the top colleges, universities, community colleges (and) training programs in the world.”

Clinton, like Trump, offered few specific details about her new tax plans or the cost of her proposed programs.

Under the plan presented Thursday, Clinton would:

• Pass “the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II” by investing in public infrastructure, including roads, bridges, railways and airports. She also said she would encourage the private sector to contribute funding that in turn could leverage $250 billion for infrastructure projects.

• Encourage small business growth by cutting government red tape, expanding their ability to access credit through community banks and credit unions and by simplifying the process to file taxes. Trump, she said, “has made a career out of stiffing small businesses.”

• Offer tax credits for companies to create paid apprenticeships and called for stronger union training programs to boost employment in the skilled trades as an alternative to steering students toward four-year degrees.

• Create a “chief trade prosecutor” and triple the number of enforcement officers, along with adding more tariffs, to go after countries that break trade rules. She vocally opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership — Trump called for the U.S. to withdraw — by saying: “I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages.”

• Institute an “exit tax” for companies that choose to move overseas, force companies to return tax credits they received if they choose to leave the U.S., add a tax on multimillionaires’ income and eliminate the carried interest deduction.

• Expand access to a child care tax credit and affordable child care for families while limiting the cost to a share of household income.

Clinton reiterated her plan to make college tuition-free and debt-free for students, though she did not offer specifics on how that program would be funded. Trump made no mention of higher education and skilled trades training during his Detroit address.

Winning independents

Clinton’s campaign stepped up efforts to win over Republicans and independents, launching a group that aims to use a wave of nearly 50 recent endorsements of Clinton by high-profile Republicans and independents to persuade voters to cross party lines.

Former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard, who is backing Clinton, told reporters prior to her address that he believes “Hillary Republicans” have replaced “Reagan Democrats” as a voting bloc that will help drum up support for Clinton’s candidacy. 

The label is in part a reference to former Republican Gov. William Milliken’s endorsement of Clinton this week. Many of them, Blanchard said, are concerned about national security or Trump’s temperament.

“Hillary will be a president for everyone,” he said.

Yet about a two dozen protesters milled about outside, carrying Trump campaign signs and homemade banners reading “Homeland Enemy: Democrat$” and “Hillary 4 Prison.” Unlike Trump’s address Monday at Cobo Center in Detroit, Clinton’s was not interrupted by protesters inside.

The candidates’ visits to Southeast Michigan follow two months of positive U.S. employment data. About 292,000 jobs were added in June, with 255,000 more jobs added in July — bringing the total to near 1.3 million new jobs in the first seven months of 2016. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9 percent, but rising wages also occurred, leading to more economic growth and revised expectations for another strong year in the U.S. economy.

Crain’s Detroit Business reporters Bill Shea and Dustin Walsh contributed to this report.

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