Music Matters
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

FACT CHECK: Clinton's Speech On The Economy, Annotated

Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Cincinnati on Monday.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign event in Cincinnati on Monday.

Hillary Clinton laid out her economic plan on Monday at a rally in Cincinnati. She appeared with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a hero to progressives who has stood up to bank executives and called for lower student debt.

NPR's politics team has annotated Clinton's portion of the speech below. Portions we commented on are in boldface, followed by analysis and fact check in italics.

The speech follows:

Thank you, Cincinnati.

I especially want to thank all the people outside who couldn't get in. Thank you for coming in today.

I am so delighted to be here with my friend and a great leader, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Now, you just saw — you just saw why she is considered so terrific, so formidable, because she tells it like it is.

I am very grateful for that introduction. But more importantly, I want to thank her for fighting every single day for families like hers, families like yours and millions of hard-working Americans who deserve to have more folks on their side.

You know, Elizabeth — Elizabeth and I came of age around the same time.

[True. Although Warren has been on the national stage much less time than Clinton, they are a little less than two years apart in age. Warren was born in June of 1949, Clinton in October of 1947. — Tamara Keith]

And when we were coming up, as you heard her talking about her parents, her brothers, we believed in the American dream. It wasn't always going to be easy. My dad was a small-business man; it was hard work. He got off every single day, went off to work and worked hard, and lots of times my mother and my brother and I would be there to help.

He printed drapery fabrics in a long warehouse with a long table. It was dark and not very pleasant. But it was decent honest work. And he believed and he taught me, that's what you do in America, that is the basic bargain.

You work hard, you do your part, you will get ahead and stay ahead. And we need to make sure that basic bargain is alive and well in 2016.

Elizabeth is leading the fight to liberate millions of Americans from the burden of student debt.

And to make sure — to make sure Washington never again profits off of our students. She and I agree, the federal government should not be making money off of sending our young people to college to get an education.

[The New America Foundation's Jason Delisle, an expert in student loans, pointed out what was wrong with this type of claim when Warren made a similar one in 2013. He wrote that "profits" from subsidized Stafford loans showed up when the Congressional Budget Office used an accounting method called FCRA — a method that the CBO itself has said doesn't correctly account for the risk involved in these loans. When the CBO used a different method called fair-value accounting, the government lost money. The Washington Post's Fact Checker in 2013 likewise gave Warren two out of four Pinocchios for claiming the government had made $51 billion in a year. However, the Fact Checker also listed several places that disagreed, like the left-leaning Center for American Progress and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. — Danielle Kurtzleben]

And no one works harder to make sure Wall Street never, never wrecks Main Street again. She has come up with a lot of great ideas, but here is one that has already made a big difference — it is called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

It has been around for a few years under the leadership of a great leader from Ohio, Richard Cordray, who is leading the charge.

[Warren was originally a favorite to be head of the CFPB, but the Obama administration decided to go with Cordray. The New York Times reported at the time that Warren had failed to win over the president or Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, "in part because of her independent streak and her outspokenness, which at times put her at odds with the administration." — Danielle Kurtzleben

[Warren was tapped by the White House while she was still a professor at Harvard as a special adviser to the president setting up the agency. — Tamara Keith]

It has already — think about this. It has only been around a few years. But it has returned $10.8 billion to 25 million Americans, who have been hurt by illegal financial practices. Now, that is what standing up and fighting to right economic wrongs looks like. And I ...

And I must say, I do just love to see how she gets under Donald Trump's thin skin.

[We can't verify the thickness of Trump's skin, but shortly after the Clinton and Warren joint appearance, he called a correspondent for NBC News to take jabs at Warren. — Tamara Keith]

As Elizabeth — as Elizabeth made clear, Donald Trump proves every day he is not in it for the American people. He's in it only for himself. And Elizabeth reminds us of that every chance she gets because ...

It is really important that voters in Ohio and across America understand this, she exposes him for what he is — temperamentally unfit and unqualified to be president of the United States.

Now, some of the best TV since Elizabeth came to the Senate is actually on C-SPAN.

So whenever you see her pressing a bank executive or a regulator for answers, refusing to let them off the hook, remember she is speaking for every single American who is frustrated and fed up. She is speaking for all of us and we thank her for that.

I am thrilled that Elizabeth could be here with me in this glorious, beautiful building that has been rehabbed and put to new use as a museum. Because we want to make the point together that we must have an economy that works for everyone again, not just those at the top. Not just the rich or the well-connected. Everybody.

Now, one might ask, well, yes that is what we believe, it sounds simple, doesn't it? Honestly, I think it is. It shouldn't be complicated, but there are too many politicians and corporations that don't agree. They don't even seem to get it. But you do and we do.

And for the past, now more than a year, I have been traveling across our country meeting people who have told me their wages haven't budged, even though they see executives who give themselves big bonuses.

[She has been traveling a ton, holding small intimate (though often open to the press) discussions with voters, that have been criticized for being too staged and too wonky. But Clinton and her team stand by this approach as playing to her strengths, allowing her to hear from people about their lives and helping her to set policy priorities. — Tamara Keith]

And you ask yourself, well, wait a minute, why did the richest Americans and the biggest corporations get away with manipulating the tax code so they pay lower rates than you do? That's a good question.

It doesn't make any sense, it doesn't make moral sense, economic sense, historic sense, and you know what else doesn't make sense? When leaders in Congress give more tax breaks to hedge fund millionaires instead of making investments in manufacturing clean energy and education that will actually create more good jobs.

It doesn't make sense when corporations stash their profits overseas or send them to influential shareholders, instead of making long-term investments in raising wages, training and research. Or when governors and legislatures use every trick in the book to weaken unions and make it harder for Americans to organize themselves for better wages and benefits.

You know what I'm talking about. Well, you have heard of right-to-work laws. Well, they are wrong for workers and they're wrong for America. None of this is right, my friends. But this election is a chance for us to make it right for the future, for our kids and our grandkids.

[Last year, just over 11 percent of America's workforce was unionized. That's down from about 20 percent in 1983. Economists cite workers' declining bargaining power as one factor in sluggish wage growth. — Scott Horsley]

Let's make it right. Let's make it right for hard-working Americans like Stan Hall in Cleveland who owns a small trucking company. It is a nonstop struggle for him to compete against the bigger guys. But if we keep our economy growing and make sure small businesses like Stan's get the right support, we can give more people the chance to succeed under that American basic bargain.

Let's make it right for young people. Like Erica Roitblad in West Lake. She dreamed her whole life of going to Ohio University in Athens.

But the housing crash in 2008 wiped out her parents' savings and their small business. So to get her college degree at a public university, Erica wound up $100,000 in debt. We cannot let this student debt crisis continue; we have got to give hard-working students and families relief.

[Politicians concerned about student debt love to quote six-figure student debt totals like this one. Those are troubling, but they are far from the norm. According to the College Board, only about 4 percent of student loan borrowers have balances of over $100,000, while a plurality — 39 percent — have balances under $10,000. And debtors with the lowest balances tend to default more often than the biggest borrowers, according to one recent New York Fed analysis. — Danielle Kurtzleben]

And you know what Erica is doing now? She is volunteering for our campaign and working to elect Democrats across Ohio.

Stan is volunteering with us, too, because he — like so many people across Ohio and across the country — knows that we are fighting for a better future.

I got into this race because I wanted to even the odds for people who have the odds stacked against them.

[We can't judge the cause, but since the very first day of her 2016 campaign, Clinton has been talking about this theme: "I think it's fair to say that, as you look across the country, the deck is still stacked in favor of those who are already at the top," Clinton said in her very first remarks of the campaign. "And there's something wrong with that." — Tamara Keith]

And this is not a time for half measures. To build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top, we have to go big and bold. So ...

We need to take — we need to take that frustration, the fear, the anxiety, and yes, the anger, and after we have vented it, we need to work together to achieve the kind of changes that will give everybody in this country a better shot.

So, let's set five ambitious goals for our economy. Let's break through the dysfunction in Washington, and make the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.

Let's do what we need to do to invest in infrastructure like President Eisenhower did with the Interstate Highway System.

That is when Republicans used to believe in building America and putting Americans to work. That is what we are going to do again.

Let's set the goal of making college debt-free for everyone, like Erica.

And let's provide debt relief — let's provide debt relief as soon as we can, as soon as we start to work, Elizabeth. We'll take the day off for the inauguration, and then the Senate, the Congress, the White House, we're going to get to work to give students and their families relief from this debt.

[Some question whether refinancing student loan debt, as Clinton has proposed, will really help those who are most at need. It is more likely, they say, to help people with high debt and high earnings rather than those with lower debt totals and no degree to show for it. — Tamara Keith]

Now, we have got more work to do, so let's set the goal of rewriting the rules, so more companies share profits with their employees, not just their executives.

Instead of shipping profits and jobs overseas. We have got the greatest country and the greatest economy in the world — let's start acting like it, and let's make it clear that the companies have to be part of that greatness.

And let's set the goal of making sure that Wall Street and the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.

Now, there are a couple of ways of doing this. I have been proposing a number of them, something called the Buffett rule, after Warren Buffett. No millionaire should pay a lower tax rate than somebody working for him, like his secretary.

[PolitiFact looked into this claim about Warren Buffett and his secretary in 2011 when the so-called Buffett rule was in the news. It found that it was quite possible for Buffett to pay lower taxes than his secretary, if his secretary earns a relatively high income compared with others in that occupation. Buffett would pay most of his taxes at the comparatively lower capital-gains rate, which is 15 percent for long-term investments and 20 percent for short-term investments. — Tamara Keith]

The people — the people who have profited the most, even since the Great Recession, are people who now need to give back. This country has given so much to all of us, and everybody should share the burden.

So, I have made a pledge. I will not raise taxes on the middle class, but we are going to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

And don't you think it is about time that we put American families first? We are not living in the '50s or '60s anymore. We have got to catch up to how Americans actually live and work in the 21st century.

I have met so many stressed-out young parents. I have met so many stressed-out middle-aged and older folks, young parents, because they are trying to balance what should be the joy of their lives, like our new grandson is for us and our granddaughter.

I remember — I was talking to Elizabeth on the phone when she was visiting her family, her grandchildren, and we talked about all this important stuff and what we have to do and then she said, well, I got to go because I have to go buy my granddaughter some sparkly shoes.

There is no greater joy. But to see young parents struggling so hard, and to see older people taking care of their parents. We've got work to do. We shouldn't make it so difficult to do your job at home and to do the job that puts food on the table and a roof over your head.

Let me just say a word about rewriting the rules. You know, there are a lot of businesses thriving right here in Ohio who see their employees the right way. They see them as assets to invest in, not costs to cut.

But unfortunately, there are too many who take the opposite view and their behavior contributes to stagnant wages and lower economic growth. That's why, as president, I will work to reward companies that share profits with their employees, on top of paying a good wage. Because if they can do it for their executives, they sure can do it for their workers.

And we will encourage companies to invest in worker training and to build high-quality apprenticeship programs where you earn while you learn, and we will strengthen unions, because they are the bedrock of a strong middle class in America.

[Union membership has undergone a heavy decline over the past 60 years. It hit a high of 34.8 percent of wage and salary workers in 1954, according to a 2004 Congressional Research Service report. As of 2015, 11.1 percent of wage and salary workers were union members. — Danielle Kurtzleben]

Unions helped bring back the auto industry in Ohio and they will help bring back America from coast to coast. So here is our message.

Here is our message to every corporate boardroom: Do the right thing, by your employees and your country, and we will stand by you. But cheat your employees, exploit your customers, pollute our environment, or rip off taxpayers and we will hold you accountable.

Because when companies take taxpayer dollars with one hand and give out pink slips with the other and ship hundreds of jobs overseas, we are going to make them pay back those tax benefits and we are going to take that money and reinvest it in workers and communities and we are going to slap an exit tax on companies that move their headquarters overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

We will defend American jobs and American workers by saying no to bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership ...

[Clinton promoted the TPP while she was secretary of state, famously saying it set the "gold standard" for trade agreements. But in October 2015, she said she didn't support TPP and that it didn't meet her "high bar" for the deal. — Danielle Kurtzleben]

... and unfair trade practices like when China dumps cheap steel in our markets or uses weak rules of origin to undercut our carmakers. I am going to appoint a trade prosecutor who will report to the president so we are going to end the abuse of our market, our workers, our people.

And you know what? We are going to compete and win in the global economy by not letting anybody take advantage of our workers — not China, not Wall Street, not anyone. And we are going to defend and strengthen the tough rules to rein in Wall Street that were put in place after the crash. When corporations paid fines for breaking the law, those fines should cut into executives' bonuses.

And if laws are violated individuals, not just corporations, should be held accountable.

And I will veto — I will veto any effort to weaken protections for consumers. And while we're at it, we are going to finally make Wall Street, big corporations, and the superwealthy do more that's not only fair in terms of paying taxes, but which is right. Because we can use that money to make these big, bold investments that help us build a stronger economy for decades to come.

And you know what? That is not only good for families and workers, that is good for companies, for businesses.

We are a 70 percent consumption economy, my friends.

[True — personal consumption expenditures make up around 69 percent of GDP. That has climbed by about 10 percentage points since the late 1960s. (Wonky aside: Those expenditures include a few things you don't directly spend your own money on, like employer-paid health insurance.) That implies that more money in people's pockets would do a lot to drive growth. However, as the St. Louis Fed found in 2012, higher investment spending — another component of GDP that involves things like businesses buying new equipment — is associated with higher growth. — Danielle Kurtzleben]

That means the more money that you have in your pocket that you can spend, the better that is for the economy. And the way things are for right now, people are afraid, they are holding back. We have got to liberate the American consumer by protecting and helping the American worker.

And we're going to make more things in America. We're going to ensure we have the most competitive auto and auto parts industries in the world.

And when we invest in infrastructure, we are not just going to invest in roads and bridges and tunnels and ports and transit and water systems; we are going to connect every home to high-speed broadband so they can get into the global marketplace.

And we are going to fight climate change by making America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.

And I want to complement your mayor, Mayor [John] Cranley, who is here; your state [representative], Alicia Reece. Cincinnati is already one of the biggest cities in the country to run 100 percent on clean energies.


And I will tell you what, Mayor, I hope you don't mind if I go around the country saying, if you can do it in Cincinnati, you can do it anywhere. That is what we need across America.

And while we are at it, we're going to raise the national minimum wage — $7.25 an hour is a poverty wage. Workers deserve better. They deserve a living wage and a job with dignity. Families deserve real support, like quality affordable child care, paid family leave and equal pay for women.

Now, I know when I talk about these things, Donald Trump says, I am playing the woman card. Well, I will tell you what, if fighting for families is playing the woman card, deal me in.

So — do I have to say now, in order to achieve these goals, we have to go after and end the political dysfunction that is holding our country and economy back.

So, let's overturn Citizens United and get unaccountable money out of politics.

Let's shut off the revolving door in Washington, and make sure the foxes aren't guarding the henhouse.

And — and let's learn how to listen to each other and work together again. I am determined to break through the gridlock, to get things done for working families.

I know Democrats and Republicans can work together. I know it, because I have done it. I worked with Republicans and Democrats to create the Children's Health Insurance Program, which today insures 8 million kids. I worked with Republicans and Democrats to bring jobs back to upstate New York and to help New York City heal and rebuild after the 9/11 attacks.

I proudly served as secretary of state and I did not just represent Democrats, I represented all Americans, because you know what ...

We are all on the same team. It is time we start acting like it. There is no limit to what we can achieve if we do.

Now, I confess, I confess, it is true, I can be a little wonky. But I have this old-fashioned idea. If you're running for president, you should say what you want to do and how you will get it done.

So now, now that you have heard some of my plans for the economy, ask yourself, what are Donald Trump's plans?

Well, best I can tell he has no credible strategy for creating jobs and maybe we shouldn't expect better from someone whose most famous words are "you're fired."

Now, he rails against other countries, doesn't he? He says he's for our workers, but Trump's own products are made in a lot of countries that aren't named America.

Trump's suits were made in Mexico. He could've had them made in Brooklyn [or] Ohio. Trump Furniture is made in Turkey, instead of Cleveland. Trump Barware is made in Slovenia, instead of Toledo.

So how does that all fit into his talk about America first? But that is just the start. This is a man who plays coy with white supremacists and mocks people with disabilities, who talks about banning an entire religion from entering our country, who advocates getting rid of gun-free zones in schools, letting more countries have nuclear weapons, defaulting on our national debt, turning back the clock on marriage equality — and just like Elizabeth, I could go on and on.

This is someone whose reaction to the horrific mass shooting in Orlando was to publicly congratulate himself. And on Friday, when Britain voted to leave the European Union, he crowed from his golf course about how the disruption could end up creating higher profits for that golf course, even though, within 24 hours, Americans lost $100 billion from our 401(k)'s. He tried to turn a global economics challenge into a infomercial.

[We've reached out to the Clinton campaign for a source on that number, and it has yet to respond. However, markets have started to rebound from their Brexit losses. The economic effects of Brexit in the U.S. will go beyond retirement accounts — they won't be disastrous, but it could mean somewhat slower GDP growth and/or that the Fed waits to raise interest rates. — Danielle Kurtzleben]

Imagine Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office the next time America faces a crisis.

Imagine him being in charge when your jobs and savings are at stake. Imagine him trying to figure out what to do in case of an emergency. So it is no wonder, is it, that risk analysts listed Donald Trump, a Donald Trump presidency, as one of the top threats facing the global economy, ahead of terrorism.

Well, we are not going to let Donald Trump bankrupt America the way he bankrupted his casinos.

We need to write — we need to write a new chapter in the American dream and it can't be Chapter 11.

If you believe that Donald Trump is wrong for America and our best days are ahead of us, please, join us in this campaign. We are stronger together, we are stronger when we grow together, when we lift each other up, when our economy is working for everyone, not just those at the top.

Let's get to work, Ohio. Let's knock on doors and register voters. Let's send Ted Strickland to the Senate with Sherrod Brown. Let's send Alicia Reece back to Columbus. Let's get more strong progressive leaders like Sen. Warren in Washington and statehouses.

This November, let's take our country in the right direction with confidence and optimism. That is what we can do together. Thank you, Ohio, and God bless you.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

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.
Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.