WASHINGTON (AP) — Approaching a likely presidential campaign announcement next month, Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that income inequality and wage stagnation are problems that go hand-in-hand and the nation needs creative solutions to bolster job opportunities and living conditions in the cities.
Clinton, at a discussion about urban areas, cited the benefits of partnerships between the private and public sectors and updated policies to improve social mobility. The policy event offered a preview of economic themes she is likely to address in a campaign.
"We need to think hard about what we're going to do now that people are moving back into and staying in cities to make sure that our cities are not just places of economic prosperity and job creation on average," Clinton said. "But do it in a way that lifts everybody up to deal with the overriding issues of inequality and lack of mobility."
Her appearance at the Center for American Progress, a Democratic think tank founded by allies of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, offered no new clues on the timing of her announcement, but plenty of presidential atmospherics. Clinton was joined by Housing Secretary Julian Castro, considered a potential running mate for Clinton by some Democrats, and the heads of a public workers union and teachers union, two of Clinton's most ardent labor allies.
Neera Tanden, a former Hillary Clinton policy adviser, is president of the center and moderated the discussion while the think tank's founder, John Podesta, sat in the front row. Podesta, a former Bill Clinton chief of staff, is expected to take a senior position in Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Clinton later met with President Barack Obama at the White House, where the two discussed "a range of topics," the White House said.
Many Democrats support boosting wages and household income and argue that many families have yet to benefit from an improving job market. Liberals, led most visibly by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, say the party has become too intertwined with Wall Street and needs bold strategies to address inequality.
Republicans say Clinton's message will ring hollow after she spent months earning six-figure fees for speaking engagements and stumbled during last year's book tour, when she said her family was "dead broke" when it left the White House.
"What voter out there struggling to make ends meet can relate to someone who spends millions flying around on private jets and thinks leaving the White House with a multi-million dollar book deal counts as being 'dead broke?'" said Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.
Clinton said economic problems have been acutely felt by young people, with more than 5 million people between the ages of 16 and 24 not in school or employed and in need of job skills and training. She urged leaders to get out of their "ideological bunkers" and said they could learn from the work of one panelist, Mayor Aja Brown of Compton, Calif., on curbing gang violence.
"Don't be surprised if you get a call to come and maybe we'll start not too far from here in a beautiful domed building," Clinton said to laughter, referring to the U.S. Capitol. "Get everybody in the same room and start that conversation that could lead to collaboration and better results for our cities and our country."
Joined at the event by Lee Saunders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, Clinton made no mention of a trade proposal backed by Obama called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Some labor unions worry she might support the initiative, which they see as undermining jobs, environmental standards and worker rights. They call it "NAFTA on steroids" in a reference to the North American trade pact Clinton's husband piloted with Canada and Mexico in the 1990s.
Clinton ended the day at an awards ceremony honoring the legacy of Robin Toner, the first woman to serve as national political correspondent for The New York Times. Toner, who died in December 2008, covered Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign and the Clinton White House.
Hillary Clinton joked that her relationship with the press "has been at times, shall we say, complicated." She quipped that she was all about "new beginnings," including a new grandchild, "another new hairstyle" and a "new email account." She did not take questions from reporters at the event.
It was the final event on her public schedule for the rest of March.
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