“This auditorium has a rich tradition of bringing people together to exchange views and ideas, which is critical to addressing important social and economic issues,” New School President David Van Zandt told a capacity crowd at The Auditorium at 66 West 12th Street. “Though The New School doesn’t endorse any candidate, we do welcome opportunities to hear proposals and insights from distinguished political leaders.”
On this particular occasion, the “distinguished political leader” was none other than Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton. Taking the stage to a boisterous standing ovation inside The New School’s historic auditorium Monday, the former senator and secretary of state detailed her fiscal agenda in the first major policy speech of her presidential campaign.
Backed by American flags and watched over by Secret Service personnel, Clinton laid out her vision for a stronger, fairer and longer-term economic growth. She launched into her campaign speech with what she sees as the country’s “defining economic challenge”: raising wages for everyday Americans.
“As the shadow of crisis recedes and longer-term challenges come into focus, I believe we have to build a growth and fairness economy. You can’t have one without the other,” Clinton said.
In her sweeping hour-long speech, Clinton outlined a suite of policy proposals meant to “lift up” middle- and working-class families: a minimum wage increase, a reduction in health care costs, guaranteed paid sick and family leave, universal preschool for four-year-olds, investments in clean energy, immigration reform, job training, and “breaking down barriers” for women—particularly women of color—to participate in the workforce.
“We can’t afford to leave talent on the sidelines,” Clinton said, framing the issue as both a moral and economic one. “When we leave people out or write them off, we not only shortchange them and their dreams, we shortchange our country and our future.”
Clinton also zeroed in on what she sees as many of the roadblocks to prosperity. Setting her sights on Wall Street, she promised to rein in the “excessive risks” of big banks while making stock markets “work for everyday investors.” She also drew attention to financial institutions that, despite facing felony charges for their crimes, “get off with limited consequences.”
“This is wrong, and on my watch it will change,” she said.
Neither did Clinton spare her opponents across the aisle. She blamed the Republican policy of “trickle-down economics,” an approach that “explodes the national debt, concentrates wealth even more, and does practically nothing to help hard-working Americans.”
“Twice now in the past 20 years, a Democratic president has had to come in and clean up the mess left behind,” Clinton said, drawing a mix of cheers and laughter.
Still, despite the tough talk, Clinton struck an overall optimistic tone. She encouraged everyone from across the political spectrum to move past the “poisonous partisan gridlock” and “focus on the long-term needs of our country.” In Clinton’s eyes, those needs are clear: fair wages and economic opportunity.
“I want every child in our country, not just the granddaughter of a former senator and secretary of state,” Clinton said, referring to herself, “to live up to their God-given potential.”