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Clinton Explains How Her Economic Plan Differs From Trump's Ideas


Let's sample an economic speech by Hillary Clinton. The Democratic presidential nominee spoke in Michigan yesterday. She talked of a state making a comeback. She promoted advanced manufacturing, and, like Donald Trump in Michigan this week, she added a helping of protectionism. Just as we did for Trump's economic speech, we brought in two economists to listen with us. One is Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum. He previously worked budget issues for Congress and for the 2008 presidential candidate John McCain. Good morning.

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: Welcome to our studios here in Washington. And back with us again, in Los Angeles this time, Southern California, Culver City, Calif., Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a former adviser to President Obama. Welcome back, Jared.


INSKEEP: So Hillary Clinton speaking yesterday - she's at a place called Futuramic Tool & Engineering in Warren, Mich., a former auto parts plant, now makes parts for the aerospace industry. Let's listen.


HILLARY CLINTON: I saw the two halves of an F-35 nose cone waiting to be put together. I talked with some of the workers about the absolute perfection that is required to do this work. And what I believe with all my heart is that what's happening here can happen in so many places if we put our minds to it, if we support advanced manufacturing, if we are the kind of country that, once again, understands how important it is to build things. We are builders, and we need to get back to building.

INSKEEP: OK, she's promoting American manufacturing. Trump also says he wants to bring back American manufacturing jobs like steel jobs. So, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, what's the difference here?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I didn't see big differences. I was actually quite struck by that. One of the things I didn't like about Mr. Trump's speech was a sort of call for a 21st-century leader that built the economy of 1965, and this seemed very much the same, this sort of anachronistic vision that we - we're just going to make things out of steel and that's what the world is. That's not what the U.S. economy is, and this intense focus on the things that we make ignores the fact that we have, you know, the Googles and the Facebooks and the Amazons and the global brands that only the United States can create that are very different than that.

INSKEEP: People making stuff that's not made of steel, that's what you're saying.


INSKEEP: Jared Bernstein.

BERNSTEIN: Well, I think it's important to recognize that Hillary Clinton wasn't just talking about manufacturing. She was talking about advanced manufacturing, and I agree with Doug. That's definitely a minority share of the economy. You go back enough years, 30 percent of the workforce worked in manufacturing. Now it's probably around 10 percent, but that's an awfully important 10 percent. And I actually think that for the U.S. to make a play for advanced manufacturing is a very smart move. And, in fact, it exists at the intersection of making things, which is still important. In fact, in the manufacturing sector is where we do a ton of our R&D but also innovation in technology. The intersection of those two sectors is advanced manufacturing, and we really should be trying to do more there.

INSKEEP: Well, let's be clear here, though. Trump is saying what's important - he believes in steel jobs, for example. Clinton is saying what's important - she believes in advanced manufacturing, you're saying. But let's talk about what they would actually do. I think people understand Trump's broad approach to manufacturing. He says he wants tariff walls. He wants to beat up other nations over their currency. Do either of you feel you understand Hillary Clinton's broader approach to promoting manufacturing as she sees it?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I certainly don't. The speech itself is pretty incoherent on this point. It's this, you know, I'm also going to be protectionist. I'm never going to touch the TPP. I promised on it as a candidate, not after elected, not as president. But we can compete with anyone. We shouldn't be afraid to compete with anyone and sort of a call-out for open competition and global trade. So I don't know where she is and exactly what she's going to do.

INSKEEP: Is there a contradiction there - we can compete with anyone but we're not going to go for so much free trade?

BERNSTEIN: Well, I don't see it that way, and, in fact, I do think there's more coherence there. There is basically two things she talked about and then another that she didn't say much about but that is in her agenda, which is, again, in the manufacturing space. Hillary Clinton has a set of ideas and a $10 billion investment in manufacturing innovation, including these research hubs that have proven to be useful. I wouldn't at all call currency policy protectionism. In fact, I'd call it the opposite. There are countries out there that manage or manipulate their currency to make their exports to us cheaper and our exports to them more expensive. And Hillary Clinton talks about taking a stand against that. And I think that's the opposite of protectionism, and I think that actually promotes a competitiveness of our manufacturers that - the absence of which has hurt us and has led to very large and damaging trade deficits, so I think she's coherent on that.

INSKEEP: Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think that we've had the tools to deal with currency manipulation...

BERNSTEIN: But had we used them, Doug?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Jared would get out the the stick and beat people on the street pretty hard on this. I don't - I don't think that's the root...

BERNSTEIN: I'm a man of peace.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: ...Of any of our trade deficits. You know, in the end, the TPP is about securing a footprint in the Pacific Rim, a strategic play against China, and to portray it as something that's about currency manipulation I think is too simple.

BERNSTEIN: No, in fact, I mean, my point is that it's not about currency manipulation. In other words, there is no chapter in the TPP that would enforce rules against currency manipulation, and that's actually one of the problems with the TPP. And absent that it's not going to be nearly as effective.

INSKEEP: Let me stop you there, and just note - Jared Bernstein, the former Obama adviser, is talking about currency manipulation, sounding a little Trumpish (ph) there actually. I want to play a little bit of - and I know you don't entirely endorse that, but Trump is also talking about...

BERNSTEIN: Even a broken - even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: There you go. There you go. Let's listen to Hillary Clinton about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and free trade more broadly. On this program yesterday, a Michigan Democratic congresswoman said she was telling Clinton be strong on this. Be sure to emphasize you're against it. Now, let's listen to the speech.


CLINTON: My message to every worker in Michigan and across America is this - I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


CLINTON: I oppose it now. I'll oppose it after the election, and I'll oppose it as president.

INSKEEP: Which means, Jared Bernstein, a big gap with your former boss, President Obama.

BERNSTEIN: I thought she was going to start - I oppose it in a box. I oppose it with a fox.


BERNSTEIN: Yes, that's right.

INSKEEP: Would you, could you, do free trade? No, no, go on, please.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: (Laughter).

BERNSTEIN: No, that's - that's precisely right. That's a real break point with with President Obama and, frankly, with her husband as well, who promoted numerous free trade agreements...


BERNSTEIN: ...Most notably NAFTA, yes. And, you know, I think what - if you actually dig in - I've actually read these trade agreements, which not a lot of people can say, and I've even worked on some of them. And I think the problem is that they don't have workers at their core. They tend to have corporate interests at their core. So I think what Hillary Clinton was just saying is correct, and it doesn't mean that we should try to stop or restrain globalization. One of the problems I have with the Trump agenda is it tries to kind of put that toothpaste back in the tube. It ain't going back in. But reshaping it so that workers as opposed to corporate interests are at the heart of these trade agreements, that's actually worth pursuing.

INSKEEP: Douglas Holtz-Eakin, is this right? I mean, the TPP is about intellectual property rights and things like that the corporations care about.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think the TPP is a step forward for the United States. No agreement is perfect because it's something you hammer out among many countries, and no one gets everything they want.

INSKEEP: Are you feeling lonely given that both presidential candidates are now against this policy?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I have the - I have the virtue of having the facts on my side...

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

HOLTZ-EAKIN: ...And the candidates were wrong on this. The candidates are wrong that NAFTA's been bad for the United States. The candidates are wrong that it needs to be reopened and renegotiated. If you wanted to negotiate it, you would do it through the TPP. All the signatories to NAFTA are in the TPP, so you fix your trade rules in that fashion. The TPP has things like the very first rules for digital goods in international trade. What does the United States invent and do like no one else? Digital products.

INSKEEP: I'm imagining Jared Bernstein disagrees with that, but I want to move on, if you'll forgive me, Jared, because...

BERNSTEIN: That's fine.

INSKEEP: ...I want to do one more thing. Hillary Clinton...

BERNSTEIN: I will at least say one thing, though, Steve.

INSKEEP: Ten seconds.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: We're moving on, Jared. Jared, moving on.

INSKEEP: I'm going to give him 10 seconds. Go ahead.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: (Laughter).

BERNSTEIN: The problem with the TPP is it has actually protectionist measures in it because I actually agree with Doug on the free trade part. But the protectionist measures, expanding patents on biologics and intellectual property, that's not free trade.

INSKEEP: OK, got to stop there. We are seeking to find one more point here by Hillary Clinton. She wants Republican as well as Democratic support and says she is getting it. Let's listen to that.


CLINTON: Even conservative experts say Trump's agenda will pull our economy back into recession. And according to an independent analysis by a former economic adviser to Senator John McCain, if you add up all of Trump's ideas, from cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations to starting a trade war with China to deporting millions of hardworking immigrants, the result would be a loss of 3.4 million jobs.

INSKEEP: OK. The NPR fact checkers dinged her a little bit on this. She's referring there to Mark Zandi, who did advise John McCain - so Republican-sounding - but also advised President Obama, not a stretch that he might favor Hillary Clinton's economic plans. But, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, you're shaking your head there. You advised John McCain. Is there anything - and you've got about 20 seconds here, you're the last word - anything for a Republican to love in Clinton's economic plans?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: There's not a lot there. I mean, the fundamental problem for the U.S. economy is growth, and this is not an agenda that's going to improve growth. And that's very disappointing. It's not a destructive agenda, but the great mystery is why would you double down on what we've done for eight years and expect better results?

INSKEEP: Douglas Holtz-Eakin...

BERNSTEIN: Doug, can I just say...

INSKEEP: ...At the American Action Forum, thanks very much. And Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, I'm sorry I got to stop you this time...

BERNSTEIN: No, that's OK, sorry.

INSKEEP: ...But thanks very much, really appreciate it.

BERNSTEIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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