(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) addressed the Chicago Economic Club Tuesday night, taking aim at the soaring budget deficit and tapping into perceived middle-class discontent.
"The stock market is at historic highs, but so are the budget deficits and the national debt," Clinton said. "Profits are up, but so are the costs of health care and energy."
According to the New York Times, "The speech bore all the hallmarks of an opening salvo in the 2008 race." As the Chicago Sun-Times put it, "[S]he sure sounded like a Democratic presidential candidate."
In one of many indirect criticisms of the Bush administration, Sen. Clinton said tax cuts "are not the cure-all for everything that ails the American economy." (Republicans are now pushing to make President Bush's tax cuts permanent.)
On budget deficits, Sen Clinton called for "a return to fiscal discipline, living within our means," and in a pitch to the middle class, she said, "The people who work hard and contribute should feel that they're not just running in place, that they and their children can get ahead."
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Sen. Clinton's recommendations included tax incentives for environmentally friendly businesses; pushing oil companies to develop alternative fuels; raising the minimum wage; and rebuilding the nation's "virtual and physical infrastructure" -- everything from highways and airports to the Internet, the newspaper said.
Even before she spoke, House Speaker Dennis Hastert took Clinton to task for criticizing Republican economic policies.
She simply has no ground to stand on," Hastert said in a press release issued Tuesday afternoon.
According to Hastert, the facts are clear: "Republican tax relief has sparked surging economic growth." Hastert noted that in Illinois alone, the unemployment rate has dropped from 5.6 to 5.0 percent in the last six months. National unemployment stands at 4.7 percent, lower than the averages of the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s, he said.
Hastert said more than 2 million jobs have been created just in the last 12 months, while consumer confidence is strong following 17 straight quarters of economic growth.
"House Republicans understand that making the tax cuts permanent will continue to create new and better jobs. I would imagine that the Chicago Economic Council would like to know if Sen. Clinton will raise taxes or join us in our effort to lower them," Hastert said.
"It's sad to see that Sen. Clinton has resorted to 'pie-in- the-sky' scare tactics to talk down the economy," Hastert added. "Maybe it's time Democratic leaders developed a real agenda instead of their usual tax-and-spend strategy on the economy."
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