July 24, 2006

Hillary Clinton: “It’s the American dream, stupid”

By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

DENVER (Reuters) - New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a
possible White House contender in 2008, said on Monday the Bush
administration had hurt working Americans and Democrats must
offer new ideas to strengthen the middle class.

"Americans are earning less while the costs of a
middle-class life have soared," Clinton told the centrist
Democratic Leadership Council, a group that aided her husband
Bill Clinton's rise to the presidency in 1992 but has clashed
in recent years with the party's more liberal wing.

"A lot of Americans can't work any harder, borrow any more
or save any less," she said in unveiling the group's "American
Dream Initiative," a package of proposals to make college and
home ownership more affordable, help small businesses, improve
retirement savings and expand health insurance coverage.

Clinton said President George W. Bush and Republicans had
"made a mess out of the country's finances." Rewriting her
husband's famous 1992 campaign slogan, "It's the economy,
stupid," she declared: "It's the American dream, stupid."

The yearlong initiative headed by Clinton was designed to
give the party new ideas for midterm elections in November and
for the White House race in 2008.

Clinton said she hoped the agenda would "unite Democrats
and help elect Democrats" in November, when the party must pick
up 15 seats in the House of Representatives and six seats in
the Senate to regain control of Congress.

"This plan will make the basics of life in the middle class
-- health care, education and retirement -- affordable for
those who take responsibility," Clinton said.

"These ideas will make sure every American will get a fair
wage, access to college and home ownership and a path out of
poverty and into the middle class," she said.

Two other possible 2008 presidential contenders, Iowa Gov.
Tom Vilsack and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, also addressed the
conference of 375 elected Democratic officials from 42 states.

"Everybody in the country understands what this
administration has done wrong," Vilsack said. "It is important
now for this country to understand what we need to do that's

Bayh said Democrats needed to reach out to the middle class
if they wanted to reclaim control of Congress.

Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz rejected
the Democratic claims about the economy.

"Only liberal Democrats like Hillary Clinton could attack
an economy that has produced 5.4 million jobs in the last three
years, grew 5.6 percent in the first quarter, increased payroll
employment in 47 states and is the envy of the industrialized
world," he said.

While much of the agenda covers familiar Democratic
territory, it adds some new flourishes. An "American Dream
Grant" would award money to states based on attendance and
graduation from state colleges, while American Dream Accounts
would enhance retirement savings and federally funded $500
"baby bonds" would be issued to each child born in America.

It also includes a commission to evaluate corporate
subsidies and new rules to rein in federal spending.

The agenda is one of several packages of Democratic ideas
floated by party groups and leaders who have yet to rally
around a single party-wide agenda similar to the successful
Republican "Contract with America" in 1994.