Hillary Clinton — Global Economic Strategist?

What are Hillary Rodham Clinton's views on the United States’ competitiveness?

March 19, 2004

What are Hillary Rodham Clinton's views on the United States' competitiveness?

Hillary Clinton was one of the most politically active first ladies ever when her husband Bill Clinton served as U.S. President from 1993 to 2001. She is now the junior U.S. senator from New York and is frequently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008 or beyond. Our Read My Lips highlights Mrs. Clinton’s opinions on the current U.S. job crisis — and what to do about it.

How do you judge the legacy of your husband’s presidency?

“I’m very proud of the fact that during the 1990s, we did create a lot of millionaires and multi-millionaires. But equally important, we lifted more people out of poverty — so it truly was a win-win.”

To what degree does the rest of the world depend on the U.S. consumer?

“You know, if the average American woman stopped buying, the entire global economy would fall apart.”

Does the Bush Administration lack the skills and ideas to improve the U.S. job market?

“Team America is not on the playing field — because we don’t have leadership that is really calling us to be as creative and competitive as possible. And one that has a fatalistic kind of attitude with its one-size-fits-all answers to every economic problem, which are huge tax cuts for wealthy people.”

Why is it important to think positive despite the gloomy jobs outlook?

“If we ever believed in this country that we did not have a positive future awaiting us — that we could not, by dint of hard work, get ourselves into a better economic position than where we had started — we would undermine the very foundation of this nation.”

Is the United States up to the challenge?

“We’re capable of doing better, we have the tools that we need. All we lack is the will. We can out-compete anybody.”

Yet, do the other nations play fair?

"Many foreign governments and companies basically use some very old methods to block their competition from American workers. Fixing exchange rates, dumping products, banning our goods on the slightest pretext is not the way we should be thinking about a global, free market."

Is the United States ready to stand up for its workers?

"A lot of these tactics that they have used are no longer going to be tolerated."

What is your earliest experience with advancing U.S. competitiveness?

“I remember as a young child in elementary school, having my teacher tell me that I had to study math and science, because President Eisenhower said we had to compete with the Russians.”

Which nation in particular is responsible for the declining U.S. fortunes?

“I don’t fault anyone for competing with us. I fault us for not being smart enough to know how to compete effectively.”

What irks you the most about the U.S. debate on jobs?

“What I regret deeply in the current climate is the air of fatalism — of defeatism — that I hear all too often.”

How would you try to turn the tide?

"We need a manufacturing research agency. It should be pursuing technology where risk — and returns — are very high."

What needs to be done to enhance the skills of the U.S. labor force?

"We have talked for some time about a national skills corporation. I still think, if we put all the job training under one roof, we would have a better chance of figuring out what we need — and respond to the changing requirements of the work force."

What else do you worry about?

“We don’t know whether comparative advantage of classical economics is dead — or just on life support.”

This Read My Lips feature is based on a speech given by U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton gave at the Center for American Progress, on March 3, 2004. For the text of the whole speech, click here.