Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton promised labor union construction workers $275 billion in new infrastructure spending Monday, adding to a pile of expensive promises she’s making on the campaign trail, with less detail on how she’ll pay for it.
To date Mrs. Clinton has recommended more than $1 trillion in new expenditures she’d oversee as president — but has also vowed not to increase taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000.
Her infrastructure plan calls for $250 billion in new money spent directly on projects over five years, and another $25 billion would go to set up a national Strategic Infrastructure Bank tasked with infusing cash in certain high-priority projects.
“Our roads and bridges are potholed and crumbling. Families endure blackouts because our electric grid fails in extreme weather. Beneath our cities, our pipeline infrastructure — our water, our sewer, you name it — is up to a century or more old. Our airports are a mess. Our ports need improvement. Our rail systems do as well,” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement Monday formally releasing her plan. “I want to use every tool we can to invest in infrastructure and build a stronger, more prosperous future. We’ve got to do this now.”
Her campaign said the proposal is the first phase of a monthslong focus on jobs, with further announcements on boosting federal investments in research and manufacturing planned in the coming weeks.
The Clinton campaign said for every $1 billion in infrastructure investment, 13,000 jobs are created, and every dollar of infrastructure investment leads to an estimated $1.60 increase in GDP the following year and twice that over the subsequent 20 years.
But the plan costs money upfront, and she was vague on how she would pay for it, saying only that she would sweat the money out through business tax reform.
Mrs. Clinton’s spending proposals have drawn criticisms from conservative groups who argue she’s being pulled further to the left by her nearest rival, Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent running in the Democratic presidential primary.
“When it comes to spending, there’s really no difference between Secretary Clinton and self-avowed socialist Bernie Sanders. Both are proposing trillions of dollars for government programs that would send our national debt even higher into the stratosphere — debt that will fall squarely on the backs of future generations,” said Jeff Bechdel, communications director at America Rising, a conservative group. “At the very least, Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders should be honest about how they intend to pay for it all: by hiking taxes on Americans at every income level.”
Mrs. Clinton teased her infrastructure proposal Sunday while collecting the endorsement of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, whose political turnout machine she may need to secure the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, where her chief rival for the presidential nomination, Sen. Bernard Sanders, is making a stiff challenge.
“Get your sledgehammers ready, we’ve got a glass ceiling to demolish,” Mr. Walsh said, introducing Mrs. Clinton to the union members.
Laborers’ International Union (LIUNA), as well as members of the carpenters’ union, turned out for the event, and dubbed their effort to work on behalf of the former secretary of state as “Hard Hats for Hillary.”
So far this election cycle, Mrs. Clinton has said she would spend $350 billion over 10 years to make college more affordable, and has proposed a $10 billion, 10-year initiative to tackle substance abuse and a $60 billion solar panel plan to help fight against climate change. Her childcare proposal may cost at least $200 billion, The Wall Street Journal has estimated.
Mrs. Clinton has recommended a $20 billion plan to expand AmeriCorps, as well as a $30 billion plan to revitalize coal communities. In terms of tax credits, she’s introduced a $20 billion tax credit to companies that share their profits with their workers and $10 billion in tax credits carved out for caregivers.
Mrs. Clinton’s team has also signaled it will make changes to Social Security to help benefit workers who take time off to care for seniors, and is considering an overall tax break on the middle class.
But she’s also vowed not to tap the middle class for the money to fund her plans.
“I’m the only Democrat in this race pledged to raise your income, not your taxes,” she said to the union workers on Sunday.
Conservative groups questioned how she was going to make the math add up.
“Clinton’s campaign spending promises are starting to break the bank. The only way she can pay for this massive spending binge is through either crippling tax increases on the middle class or saddling our children and grandchildren with even more crushing debt burdens,” said economist Stephen Moore in a statement released by FreedomWorks on Monday.
Mrs. Clinton has generally pointed to closing unspecified tax loopholes, reforming the business tax code and increasing taxes on the wealthy as ways to raise the overall amounts needed to fund her reforms.
Her spending promises are overshadowed by Mr. Sanders, who The Wall Street Journal said has proposed $17 trillion in new promises over a decade. It would be the largest government peacetime expenditure in American history.
Mr. Sanders has acknowledged he would have to raise taxes on working-class families but argues it’s a tradeoff Americans are willing to pay for more robust government programs.
Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, has adamantly maintained she will not increase taxes on the working class to fund her proposals.
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