Fact Checking Hillary Clinton’s Economic Speech

August 11, 2016, 8:49 PM UTC
Hillary Clinton Delivers Speech On US Economy In Warren, Michigan
Photograph by Bill Pugliano —Getty Images

Hillary Clinton gave a major economic speech in Michigan Thursday, ripping into Donald Trump’s own economic proposals and contrasting it with her own vision. Speaking at Futuramic Tool & Engineering, a manufacturing facility, Clinton spoke of the need for combining robust public sector investment with increased government spending on job creation.

“Even conservative experts say Trump’s agenda will pull our economy into recession,” she said.

Here we fact check three key assertions Clinton made.

1. Her position on free trade

Clinton quote: “The answer is to finally make trade work for us, not against us. so my message to every worker in Michigan and across America is this: I will stop any trade deal or kills jobs or holds down wages, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I oppose it now, I will oppose it after the election and as president.”

Fact check: Since the primary season Clinton has been criticized, by members of her own party as well as Trump, as supporting free trade deals that were good for big corporations—but not for average workers. In her speech today, Clinton said she opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and she attempted to lay some of the blame on corporate America for going against the spirit of agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying they moved manufacturing out of the U.S. instead of exporting to other countries.

In terms of her actual record on free trade, however, Clinton is a mixed bag. She supported NAFTA when her husband was president, but later said it was a mistake. Politifact, a non-partisan fact checking site, notes that while in the Senate, Clinton voted for six trade deals, voted against two, and missed the votes for two other deals for which she later said she supported. As for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), she is on the record opposing it now—but she supported it as Secretary of State.



2. On Trump’s proposed childcare tax deduction

Clinton quote: “Now [Trump] said he wants to exclude childcare payments from taxation. because it is transparently denied for rich people.”

Fact check: Of all the proposals Trump put forward in his economic address three days ago, eliminating taxes on money spent for childcare would seem to be the one with the broadest appeal. After all, it doesn’t just please conservatives who want to see government shrunk and taxes cut, it also has the potential to win over working parents who struggle to pay for childcare.

But, as the New York Times notes, Trump’s proposal is to create a federal tax deduction rather than a federal tax credit, meaning it would reduce your taxable income. So Clinton is correct that this deduction would primarily benefit affluent families. Many lower-income Americans, though, don’t pay federal income tax or pay very little in federal income taxes, so reducing their taxable income won’t help them much. Expanding the tax credit, such as the Child and Dependent Care, which covers qualifying expenses up to $3,000 for one child or dependent, would enable taxpayers to get the money—even if they pay nothing in tax. Trump’s advisors claim that the deduction won’t apply to super wealthy, but it also seems unlikely to actually benefit the lower-middle class either.

3. On Trump’s trade plan

Clinton quote: “Even conservative experts say Trump’s agenda will pull our economy back into a recession. [According to] analysis by a former economic adviser to [Republican Senator] John McCain, you add up all of the ideas from cutting taxes to starting a trade war with china to deporting millions of hard-working millions, the result would be a loss of 3.4 million jobs.”

Fact Check: The John McCain advisor that Clinton cites is Mark Zandi, who is a Moody’s chief economist. Clinton’s assertion is factually correct— Zandi did come to that conclusion in a paper. And he also was an adviser to McCain, when he was the Republican presidential nominee. But she left out a key fact: Zandi is a Democrat and supports both Clinton and President Obama, according to Politifact.

(For more, read Hillary Clinton Claims Trump’s Policies Will Kill 3.4 million jobs. Is She Right?)

Trump’s aides have said that the paper Zandi published is faulty, but the Moody’s economist has stood by his work, telling the New York Times that “This is my job. I have clients that ask, ‘What do these economic policies mean for me?’ — in all kinds of industries, in all walks of life.”

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