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Evan Horowitz | Quick Study

What’s Hillary Clinton really trying to do with the economy?

Hillary  Clinton soke at a campaign event in New York on Monday.
Hillary Clinton soke at a campaign event in New York on Monday.Seth Wenig/AP

In a major campaign address Monday morning, Hillary Clinton laid out her plans to make the economy more fair, including by raising the minimum wage, creating more affordable child care, and boosting the incomes of “everyday Americans.”

Clinton was direct in her critique of Republican rivals, particularly Jeb Bush’s controversial comment that Americans need to work more. But she was silent about her closest Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, whose dogged attacks on the burdens of inequality and the excesses of Wall Street have attracted an unexpectedly large and passionate following.

What did Clinton propose?

Clinton’s remarks were fairly wide-ranging, covering everything from early education to Washington budget battles.

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At each step, however, she came back to the challenges facing “hard-working Americans” — middle-class families and low-income workers whose wages have been stuck in place for decades.

Clinton proposed a range of policies to shift the economic landscape and give more power to workers. That includes raising the minimum wage, encouraging companies to share profits with employees, and providing more worker training.

She also emphasized the particular struggles of working women, like unequal pay, poor parental leave policies, and the limited (often expensive) options for high-quality child care.

“Women who want to work,” she said, “should be able to do so without worrying every day about how they’re going to take care of their children or what will happen if a family member gets sick.” (Obviously, these kinds of challenges can affect men too but in the United States women bear the greater burden of family responsibilities.)

How do Clinton’s plans compare to Republican proposals?

With 15 candidates now vying for the Republican nomination, it’s hard to compare Clinton’s proposals with everything out there. But she did speak directly about Jeb Bush’s call for 4 percent growth, as well as his comments last week that to achieve such growth Americans would have to work more.

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“You may have heard Governor Bush say last week that Americans just need to work longer hours. Well, he must not have met very many American workers.”

Yet, despite the jab, Clinton is also calling for Americans to work more. For instance, during her speech she lamented that too many women were leaving the workforce — and she and offered several strategies to bring them back. Separately, she talked about the number of young African-Americans and Latinos cut off from work, and suggested that getting them into jobs would put them on a path to the middle class.

How do Clinton’s proposals compare to Bernie Sanders?

On the Democratic side, Clinton’s closest challenger is Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has managed to attract a large, progressive following and whose poll numbers have been slowly ticking up.

On most every issue, Sanders is more truculent and more worker-friendly than Clinton. He doesn’t just call for an increase in the minimum wage but for a real living wage. And where Clinton talks about how to get companies to share their profits with workers, Sanders celebrates worker co-ops, where workers actually own more businesses.

Even if she can’t outflank Sanders, Clinton’s remarks did seem designed to peel off some support. She spent a fair bit of time castigating Wall Street for its obsession with short-term gains as well as some of the execrable scandals of recent years.

What she didn’t do was lay out a plan to address these problems — unlike Sanders, who wants to break up the big financial institutions. But perhaps Clinton is merely hoping to convince anti-Wall Street voters that she shares their concerns and that the issue is at least on her radar.

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How important is this speech?

It’s hardly a make-or-break moment in the 2016 presidential campaign, but here’s one reason to take note of what Hillary Clinton said this morning: Someday in the future, she may change her mind.

As the campaign goes on, the pool of opponents will shrink, the economy will continue to change, and Clinton herself will face new challenges. Any of those things could cause her to rethink her positions. And it’s important to know when and how candidates shift.

After all, being president isn’t just about what you believe, it’s also about how you respond to an ever-changing world.


Evan Horowitz digs through data to find information that illuminates the policy issues facing Massachusetts and the United States. He can be reached at evan.horowitz@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHorowitz