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Clinton Stings Trump On Economy: 'We Can't Let Him Bankrupt America'

Hillary Clinton criticized Donald Trump's economic platform at an event in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday.
J.D. Pooley
Getty Images
Hillary Clinton criticized Donald Trump's economic platform at an event in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday.

Hillary Clinton delivered a stinging indictment Tuesday of both Donald Trump's business record and his economic policy prescriptions, an early effort to undermine what the business mogul has billed as one of his chief qualifications for the White House.

"We can't let him bankrupt America like we are one of his failed casinos," Clinton told supporters at an alternative high school in Columbus, Ohio. "We can't let him roll the dice with our children's futures."

The Clinton campaign also debuted a new website, "Art of the Steal," that highlights serious questions about Trump's business record, many of which have been raised in recent news accounts. Both the New York Times and Washington Post have documented how the public company controlling Trump's Atlantic City casinos went bankrupt, shortchanging vendors, investors and lenders while still making lavish payouts to Trump himself.

"Over the years, he intentionally ran up huge amounts of debt on his companies and then he defaulted," Clinton said Tuesday. "Hundreds of people lost their jobs. Shareholders were wiped out. Contractors — many of them small businesses — took heavy losses. Many went bust. But Donald Trump? He came out fine."

Separately, USA Today reports thousands of contractors and employees have sued Trump, accusing the billionaire businessman of failing to pay them what they're owed. "The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump's sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years," the paper said. "Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether."

"In America we don't begrudge people being successful," Clinton said. "But we know they shouldn't do it by destroying other people's dreams."

Trump told USA Today the complaints represent a small fraction of his suppliers and employees, and he insists he routinely pays what he owes.

The Clinton website calls Trump "a below-average successful businessman who got rich by hurting a lot of people. He's Mitt Romney but bad at his job."

Clinton also took aim at Trump's economic platform, which includes deep tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy, increased spending on the military and veterans, and new restrictions on both trade and immigration.

Clinton argues that Trump's policies would explode the deficit and put the federal government's rock-solid credit at risk.

"Maybe Donald feels differently because he made a fortune filing bankruptcies and stiffing his creditors," she said. "But the United States of America doesn't do business Trump's way."

An independent analysis released this week by Moody's Analytics concludes that if Trump's policies were fully implemented, they would drive the U.S. economy into a lengthy recession, with 3.5 million fewer jobs at the end of his four-year term and a substantially larger federal debt and deficit. The authors acknowledge that Trump's policies would very likely be watered down through the legislative process. But even accounting for such compromise, they warn, "The upshot of Mr. Trump's economic policy positions under almost any scenario is that the U.S. economy will be more isolated and diminished." (The lead author of the Moody's report, Mark Zandi, has contributed the maximum $2,700 to the Clinton campaign, which Trump pointed out in a statement.)

Clinton plans to follow up with another speech on Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C., where she will spell out her own economic platform.

Not one to take criticism sitting down, Trump responded live on Twitter during Clinton's speech:

And Trump is expected to fire back again with his own speech in New York City Wednesday. Trump tweeted that he plans to discuss "the failed policies and bad judgment of Crooked Hillary Clinton."

Trump has been particularly critical of Clinton's past support for trade deals including the North American Free Trade Agreement, which her husband signed, and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Clinton originally backed as secretary of state. She has since come out against the 12-country trade pact, saying it doesn't go far enough to protect American workers.

Opposition to trade agreements and immigration has been a cornerstone of Trump's economic platform, leading Moody's to conclude that "Mr. Trump's economic proposals will result in a more isolated U.S. economy." The analysts acknowledge that globalization has both positive and negative effects for American workers. On balance, though, Moody's says immigration and trade contribute "substantially" to U.S. growth. "Pulling back from globalization, as Mr. Trump is proposing, will thus diminish the nation's growth prospects."

Both candidates had planned to deliver versions of these speeches a week ago but adjusted their schedules in response to the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Fla.

Trump's campaign has struggled in recent days. New campaign finance filings show him trailing far behind Clinton in fundraising, with just $1.3 million in the bank as of June 1, compared with Clinton's $42 million. On Monday, Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.

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Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.