Warren — Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said Thursday that Republican rival Donald Trump's proposed elimination of the estate tax would save his family $4 billion during a speech in blue-collar Macomb County that targeted the New York businessman's economic plan.
Trump, who has said he's worth $10 billion, has proposed eliminating the federal estate tax, a 40 percent levy on wealth that exempts the first $5.45 million per individual.
"If you believe that he's as wealthy as he says, that alone would save the Trump family $4 billion," Clinton said in a speech at Futuramic Tool & Engineering in Warren that sought to portray Trump's tax proposals as largely benefiting the super rich. "So they get a $4 billion tax cut and 99.8 percent of Americans would get nothing."
Clinton said the Trump estate taxes could be spent providing a four-year college degree to 47,000 veterans, a year of health care coverage for nearly three million children or federal assistance for state and local law enforcement agencies.
“Just think about what we could do with those $4 billion," Clinton said. “... I think there’s a lot of better ways to spend the money."
Hillary Clinton speaks of jobs, college, water and Donald Trump during a campaign speech at Futuramic Tool & Engineering Company in Warren. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News
Clinton did not mention her proposal to increase the estate tax to 45 percent and reduce the individual exemption to $3.5 million, according to a Tax Foundation analysis.
The former secretary of state said her opponent's tax plan contains a "Trump loophole" to allow wealthy individuals to pay half as much tax as they do now, but she cautioned the true savings for Trump under his own tax plan is not entirely clear.
"Of course, it's hard to say how nice because he refuses to do what every other presidential candidate in decades has done and release his tax returns," she said.
Anticipating Clinton's attacks, the Trump campaign said Clinton's taxation on businesses would hinder an already sluggish economy.
"Clinton’s plans today will short circuit our economy by raising taxes, increasing spending and killing jobs," said Dan Kowalski, deputy national policy director for the Trump campaign, in a statement. "Donald Trump presents a better vision and a new direction — a plan to unleash prosperity, create jobs and increase wages so that all Americans can succeed."
Clinton's 48-minute speech was an invitation-only event before a crowd of about 500 supporters that included Democratic politicians and union leaders.
"I think Donald Trump, he's going to serve the 5 percent bracket," said Masoud Al-Awamleh, 46, of Dearborn, a Democrat-leaning project manager. "His message doesn't resonate with us or for us, with the middle class and lower class. We need a realistic economic plan."
Standing on a stage inside an aerospace manufacturing facility that got its start in the automotive industry 61 years ago, Clinton sought to assure blue-collar workers tempted to support Trump because of his opposition to international trade agreements that have become a hot-button economic issue on the campaign trail this year.
Clinton acknowledged that past trade deals, which she has sporadically supported, have not lived up to their promises and “now ring hollow in many communities across Michigan and our country that have seen factories close and jobs disappear.”
Clinton portrayed Trump as an economic isolationist in a global marketplace.
The answer is not to “rant and rave or cut ourselves off from the world. That would kill even more jobs,” she said. “The answer is to finally make trade work for us, not against us.”
Clinton’s husband, then-President Bill Clinton, in 1993 signed into law the North American Free Trade Agreement, which she now wants to renegotiate. As Secretary of State, Clinton touted potential benefits of the 12-country Trans Pacific Partnership but now opposes the final deal awaiting congressional consideration.
“A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for TPP — and it’s also a vote for NAFTA,” Trump said Monday in Detroit, noting Clinton’s past statements on the deals.
But Clinton, in what she framed as a direct message to workers in Michigan and across the country, promised consistency from the campaign to the Oval Office.
“I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages, including the Trans Pacific Partnership,” she said to loud applause. “I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it after the election, and I’ll oppose it as president.”
Bob King, former president of the United Auto Workers, attended the speech and said he takes Clinton at her word that she wouldn't sign the TPP under any circumstance.
"I think that she has become more informed on the issue, knows how strong the opposition of working Americans is, of the vast majority of Americans," King told The Detroit News before the speech.
But King said Democrats have to apply peer pressure on Clinton to remain opposed to TPP. He likened the pressure to taking away a friend's car keys after they've been drinking.
“I look at it like friends don’t let friends drive drunk, right?” King said.
Clinton's union supporters have been nervous since Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton family friend, told Politico in July that the former secretary of state would support the TPP with changes as president. When a political uproar occurred, McAuliffe's spokesman said the governor was speaking about what he wanted, not Clinton.
During Thursday's speech, Clinton said she would appoint a chief trade prosecutor to crack down on unfair practices and triple the number of enforcement officers. When “countries break the rules," she said, "we won’t hesitate to impose targeted tariffs."
The speech in Warren, Clinton's first campaign visit to Macomb County this year, was designed to be a counter punch to the tax-cutting economic proposals Trump touted Monday before members of the Detroit Economic Club.
"Based on what we know about the Trump campaign, he wants America to work the expense of him and his friends," Clinton said.In Detroit on Monday, Trump detailed his plan to slash the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent and scrap the seven-bracket individual income tax system for three new brackets of 12 percent, 25 percent and 33 percent for the highest earners.
Top earners currently contribute 39.6 percent of their paychecks to the federal treasury. Clinton has proposed an extra 4 percent surcharge on income exceeding $5 million.
Detroit News reporters Chad Livengood and Jonathan Oosting examine the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign speech at Futuramic Tool & Engineering Company in Warren on Aug. 11, 2016.
Clinton's speech was held inside an aerospace assembly factory of Futuramic, a past supplier of parts for Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jets. The company is currently working on a rocket project for NASA for a future mission to Mars.
Bill Wilds, a tool builder at Futuramic on hand for the Clinton rally along with fellow employees, said he’s been a Republican for “quite a few years” and intends to vote for Trump this fall.
“He’s got to learn to keep his mouth shut, I think, but I like a lot of his ideas, and I’m curious to see what a non-politician would do,” said Wilds, 56, of Emmett village in St. Clair County.
Clinton is “corrupt and has a hard time with the truth,” he said. “If I was accused of the things she’s been accused of, I think I’d probably be in prison right now.”
Clinton's speech at the Warren facility near 10 Mile Road was her first campaign trip to Macomb County.
U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat who represents southern Oakland and Macomb counties, said he thinks Trump’s potential appeal to blue collar workers will wear off when voters learn more about the Republican nominee’s business dealings and policy positions.
“If Trump were ever elected … I think we would end up with a national right-to-work law,” said Levin, alluding to Trump’s support for state-level laws like Michigan’s that prohibit unions from requiring dues or fees as a condition of employment. “I think when working families really look through his rhetoric, they’re going to see that the reality is you can’t trust him.”
Ahead of the Warren speech, the Clinton campaign was touting a pair of reports from Moody’s Analytics analyzing both candidate’s economic proposals.
A June analysis of Trump’s plan, released before he outlined an expanded agenda Monday in Detroit, projected the New York businessman’s proposals would produce a “lengthy recession” while Clinton’s would result in a “somewhat stronger U.S. economy” than the status quo.
The reports were co-authored by Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi, a Democrat who contributed $2,700 to the Clinton campaign in June 2015 but also worked in 2008 as an adviser to then-Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Zandi also reportedly was a big booster of President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill.
Republicans have noted the economic recovery under Obama has had the lowest growth rate since the late 1940s. They criticized the $800 billion stimulus bill for wasteful spending, including a $535 million loan guarantee to solar start-up firm Solyndra that went bankrupt in 2011, and that Obama didn’t emphasize the stimulus program during his 2012 re-election campaign.
Michigan would gain 321,000 jobs under Clinton’s plans but lose 105,000 under Trump, her campaign said Wednesday, an assumption based on distributing Moody’s national projections evenly among all 50 states in proportion to their populations.
The Clinton campaign said her jobs and spending plans would help improve Michigan roads and bridges, reduce and simplify taxes for small businesses, create good-paying energy jobs and help hard-hit manufacturing communities.
“We will enforce existing trade laws to protect American businesses and workers, and reject trade deals, like the TPP, that do not put U.S job creation first,” the campaign said. “And we’ll make areas like Detroit, Midland, Wayne, Greenville, and Flint eligible for new tax incentives to attract new capital and business.”
Bryce Hecht and Kim Whalen, colleagues at the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth, made the drive together from Saginaw County and were first in line for Clinton’s invite-only event.
Hecht, 18, carried a picture of himself and Clinton from one of her primary campaign events in Flint and was hoping she might sign it in Warren. Whalen, 58, said his younger friend convinced him to vote for Clinton.
“I’m a staunch Republican, but sorry, can’t do it this year,” Whalen said, explaining he has been frustrated by what he called “unacceptable behavior” from Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“I’ve never voted Democratic in my life, but Hillary’s got a lot going for her,” he continued. “This woman walked into the race with knowledge of how the country should be run… It’s time to have a woman president.”