Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said the U.S. economy has replaced Iraq as the nation’s top concern and the government must take quick action to avoid a lengthy recession.
“We don’t have time to wait,” the New York senator said in an interview with Bloomberg Television from Las Vegas, where she is campaigning before the state’s party caucuses in three days. “We’ve got to get the president and Congress working together to take the fiscal steps that hopefully will eliminate some of the pain.”
Clinton’s campaign said yesterday she will spend the “next several weeks” addressing the subject. She and the other candidates are facing more than two dozen primaries and caucuses over the next three weeks, including states such as Florida and California that have been hit hard by the housing market slump.
Voters “are feeling incredible anxiety,” Clinton said.
Clinton, 60, proposed a $70 billion stimulus package on Jan. 11, including assistance for some taxpayers to compensate for rising energy costs and to help avoid foreclosures on homes. It includes a $40 billion tax rebate for middle-income families if the economy continues to decline.
She said today the government should invest money in so-called “green-collar jobs,” such as those involved in alternative energy production and conservation, to reduce the U.S. dependency on foreign oil. “I want to start funding the jobs of the future,” she said.
Sales at U.S. retailers unexpectedly fell in December and the unemployment rate rose to 5 percent, the highest in two years. Clinton’s competitors in the Democratic race, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, also have released proposals intended to stave off a recession.
On Jan. 13, Obama unveiled a $75 billion plan, including a $250 tax cut for most Americans and $10 billion to help homeowners facing foreclosures. He plans an economic forum today in Van Nuys, Calif.
Edwards last month called on Congress to approve a $25 billion package of investments in clean energy, job training and unemployment benefits, and another $75 billion in the event of a recession.
The economy has become a major issue on the Republican side as well. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney used the issue to win the Michigan primary yesterday over Arizona Sen. John McCain. Michigan’s unemployment rate of 7.4 percent leads the nation.
Clinton also repeated her call for greater transparency for investments by overseas sovereign wealth funds that are putting capital into U.S. financial institutions. Disclosure and oversight is needed to make sure such investments don’t run counter to U.S. interests.
“I don’t have any problem with these funds, as long as they are transparent, as long as there are international rules as to how they function,” she said in the interview. “This is a new challenge we face.”
Clinton also took aim at Obama for comments he made to the Reno Gazette-Journal and at last night’s debate in Las Vegas that he doesn’t see himself acting as the government’s “operating officer” if he wins the presidency.
Clinton said she was “taken aback” by Obama’s comments.
“It’s important that we have a president who understands that you have to run the government,” she said. Americans “want a president who they believe gets up every single day and works for them. That requires a president who is hands-on.”