Clinton: Wages, Early Childhood Education are Federal Tasks

Raising wages through federal action would be a priority for Hillary Clinton should she become president, the Democratic hopeful told Hali Normandeau of Every Child Matters New Hampshire during a WMUR TV taping from its Conversation with the Candidate series (5:40).

“This is at the center of my economic agenda,” Clinton said. “If we don’t figure out how to raise wages, the inequality problem that has only gotten worse over the last decade will explode in our face and undermine the American middle class.”

Clinton said she would raise the federal minimum wage and end its exemption of tipped workers, noting that two-thirds of those are women, “often subjected to harassment in order to get the tips that can help them better support their families, their children.” And she said she hopes more stores might be “incentivized” to follow the example of the New England “Market Basket” phenomenon, where customers of the family-owned grocery store chain stood up for employees to enjoy a share in profits.

Clinton also responded to questions about education, first saying she would convince Congressional Republicans to increase the federal role in early childhood education by educating them and business leaders about research indicating that by age three 80 percent of the brain is developed, as well as research by Nobel Prize-winning economist Dr. James Heckman, who found that for every $1 of investment in a child’s early education, there is a $7 pay-off. Clinton said she would look at substituting federal early childhood funding for less effective efforts, “as an incentive for states…to join the effort to get kids prepared.”

Clinton suggested a range of solutions to students’ higher education debt levels, including refinancing, repayment as a percentage of income and debt forgiveness for some who stay in public service jobs. She said she would work to bring the cost of college down and agreed with President Obama’s proposal to make two years of community college free, comparing it to high school 100 years ago.

“It is a necessary amount of education and skills training,” Clinton said. “We will tackle this and get real relief for people suffering under high debt owed.”

Every Child Matters in the Granite State has been asking questions of presidential hopefuls of both parties during the WMUR series as part of our nonpartisan effort throughout the year to raise the profile of issues affecting children. The series is sponsored in part by Every Child Matters partner in early childhood education efforts, Save the Children Action Network.