WASHINGTON — 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.
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.
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 President Barack 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.
After an evening event, she has nothing more on her public schedule the rest of March.
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