Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton devoted a large chunk of a major speech on the economy at an aerospace plant in Warren, Mich., to assailing Republican rival Donald Trump's embrace of the "failed theory of trickle-down economics" mixed with his own "outlandish Trumpian ideas."
When it came to her own policies, she broke no new ground, preferring to stick with her existing script. This includes an emphasis on job creation, lower costs for middle-class families, higher taxes on the rich, tougher rules for the financial industry and stronger environmental protection, overlaid with a mantle of fiscal prudence. Here are some key parts of her economic blueprint.
"I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership." This is one issue on which Hillary Clinton has tacked toward the popular anti-free-trade positions of both Bernie Sanders, her opponent in the Democratic primaries, and Donald Trump. As secretary of state, she was involved in the TPP negotiations.
She made no mention of NAFTA, the free-trade pact with Canada and Mexico, but she has previously said it needs to be improved. And she was well aware that the Rust Belt states, such as Michigan, blame NAFTA for the hollowing out of their manufacturing sector.
The TPP was never going to get through an increasingly protectionist Congress anyway, so it is an easy political choice to abandon one of the world's biggest and boldest free-trade initiatives.
NAFTA, which was signed by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, would be much more difficult to undo. Besides, it has been a boon to U.S. consumers and enabled U.S. manufacturers to slash costs and become more competitive. Even tweaking the terms would not be easy, because it would open the door for Mexico and Canada to demand changes of their own. That includes fixing a dispute-settlement mechanism that has enriched private arbitrators and under which the United States has never lost a case.
Personal income taxes
Unlike Mr. Trump, who would slash the number of tax brackets to three from seven, Ms. Clinton wants an additional layer for those at the top of the pyramid. People earning more than $5-million (U.S.) would be hit with a rate of 43.6 per cent, essentially a surcharge tacked onto her top bracket of 39.6 per cent on annual earnings above $415,050. That compares with the highest Trump rate of 33 per cent on everything over $154,000. The Trump plan would give all taxpayers at least some relief. Ms. Clinton would leave rates unchanged for those earning $250,000 or less.
She would earmark the proceeds from the wealth levy for new job-training programs and free university tuition for students from low- and middle-income families.
U.S. presidents can propose whatever fiscal changes they like. But only Congress can make it happen. Still, non-partisan analysts reckon Ms. Clinton's income-tax proposals would carry a price tag of $1.1-trillion to $1.2-trillion over the next decade, which would be largely balanced by higher revenue. It would affect mainly those whose incomes put them in the top 1 per cent of earners. More than 90 per cent of taxpayers, including the entire middle class, would face no increase.
The conservative U.S. Tax Foundation concludes that Ms. Clinton's plan would reduce gross domestic product by 1 per cent in the long term because of the impact of "slightly higher marginal tax rates on capital and labour." But other economists have called it a net positive for the economy.
"We are builders and we need to get back to building." Ms. Clinton says she can create more than 10 million jobs in her first term through hefty infrastructure spending, including the creation of an infrastructure bank to spur private investment, development of renewable power, easier credit for small businesses and other incentives for the private sector.
Presidential candidates might as well pull such predictions out of their hats, because they are meaningless. Without any help from the White House, the economy is likely to add about seven million jobs, assuming it continues expanding at a moderate pace. During Barack Obama's two terms, 9.3 million jobs were added through the end of 2015.
And that period includes the brutal job cuts of his first two years, when the economy was mired in the worst recession since the 1930s, followed by a weak recovery and years of slow growth that still persists.
Ms. Clinton vows "to stand up to China and anyone else who tries to take advantage" of U.S. companies and workers. Her plan includes tripling the number of trade offices to investigate complaints. She says she would not hesitate to retaliate with punitive tariffs. But she warns that Mr. Trump's desire to slap high duties on all Chinese goods would trigger a trade war that would damage the U.S. economy.
She is right to warn about the risks of a trade war, because it would hit U.S. consumers in the pocketbook and likely lead to a recession. While not as vitriolic about China as Mr. Trump, Ms. Clinton joins a parade of U.S. leaders who have harshly criticized that country's unfair trade actions, including a lack of respect for intellectual property rights. Washington has aggressively pursued penalties over unfair trade in steel and a host of other products over the years. So it is not as if this is a new development. And there are signs the Chinese are more concerned about protecting intellectual property as their advanced-technology companies become world leaders.