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Clinton Says Economy 'Isn't Working for Everybody'

By Karl Vick
CITY OF COMMERCE, Calif., Jan. 11 -- Sen. Hillary Clinton on Friday brought the slumping economy into the center of her presidential campaign, proposing a $70 billion stimulus package aimed at forestalling a recession by suspending foreclosures on subprime home loans and helping millions of households pay heating bills.

In a speech laced with facts but premised on emotion, Clinton said the proposal was rooted in the experience of voters, whose economic concerns have become the focus of her campaign since her come-from-behind victory in New Hampshire Tuesday.

"I hear all of the voices of America. And one particular question that I hear a lot about today is: What's happening with the economy? Where are we?" the New York Democrat told a handpicked crowd at an electrical union training facility in this Los Angeles County municipality.

"You know, this economy may be working for some people, but it sure isn't working for everybody. And part of what we've got to decide is whether we're just going to allow this economy to slip into recession."

Clinton said she would inject federal money into an economy shaken by defaults of high-risk, sub-prime loans. Her proposal calls for $30 billion to states and localities, $25 billion to help 37 million families pay heating bills, $10 billion to extend unemployment insurance and $5 billion to encourage energy efficient technologies.

"You know, the economists can argue about it," Clinton said of whether the country is headed for a recession. "Some say, yes, it's going there. Some say, not yet. Some say, oh, no. But the statistics are one thing, the stories are something altogether different."

"It doesn't matter what you're told," Clinton said later. "It's what you feel, what you feel deep down."

The invited audience included Franz Triarte, 48, who said he just lost his job in customer service at Verizon. "Downsizing," he said he was told.

"She's facing the real issue here, the real issues that we have," said Triarte, a native of Bolivia. "It seems like we're going into recession. It's a result of how poorly the economy was handled."

Standing nearby was Billy Tostado, 42, a City of Commerce city employee who on Friday mornings is usually out painting over graffiti. But he and his co-workers -- "we're about ten strong" -- were happy to be at the Clinton event.

"Our conversations in our break room are about her," he said. "I would say she's got about 90 percent of my vote right now."

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers training facility highlighted the candidates' emphasis on "green collar" jobs and energy efficiency. Bank after bank of solar panels lined the roofs of the complex, which specializes in instruction on installing photovolataic.

"We're not going to make progress on a lot of these tough issues until we realize we've got to get these two oil men out of the White House," Clinton said, to the most abrupt cheer of the morning.

After the speech, Clinton had two beef tacos at the King Taco on Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in East L.A., flanked by a covey of leading California Latino pols: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, House Speaker Fabian Nunez, and U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, whose district includes the palace of scrumptiousness.

Ahead of her speech in Los Angeles, Clinton focused much of her pitch at two Las Vegas events Thursday on kitchen-table, bread-and-butter issues. She trumpeted her plan for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and a five-year freeze in interest rates on adjustable rate mortgages, a key issue in Las Vegas -- home to the highest foreclosure rate in the nation's subprime lending crisis.

By Washington Post editors  |  January 11, 2008; 8:18 PM ET
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