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Detroit — Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said Monday that Donald Trump’s economic policies would run up the national debt, set off trade wars and trigger a stock market crash.

She was referring in part to the Republican presidential front-runner’s call for slapping a 35 percent tariff on Ford Motor Co.’s Mexican-built vehicles because the Dearborn automaker has moved some of its small car production south of the border.

“What little we know of his economic policies would be running up our debt, starting trade wars, letting Wall Street run wild — all of that could cause another crash and devastate working families and our country,” Clinton said in a speech at the Service Employees International Union’s national convention at Cobo Center. “Trump economics is a recipe for lower wages, fewer jobs, more debt.”

Speaking before a friendly organized labor crowd of more than 3,600 registered convention attendees, Clinton took aim at her likely Republican opponent for the White House and called into question the billionaire’s business skills.

“He could bankrupt America like he’s bankrupted his companies,” said the former secretary of state, referring to Trump’s four business bankruptcies. “I mean ask yourself: How could anybody lose money running a casino? Really.”

The last criticism echoed a line of attack U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida used unsuccessfully against Trump earlier in the GOP primary campaign.

Clinton said Trump is not a typical “anti-worker, anti-union Republican.”

“A lot of Republicans themselves say Donald Trump is a disaster waiting to happen to America,” she said.

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The former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state acknowledged the White House creates a bully pulpit for fostering change in America.

“But the last thing we need is a bully in the pulpit,” she said.

A Trump spokeswoman declined to comment on Clinton’s remarks.

Clinton’s critique came on the same day that Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. said the nation’s political discourse has “reached a new low” and defended the automaker against Trump’s attacks by saying “we’re about as American as you can get.”

Clinton is trying to solidify her support in the Democratic Party’s base while U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont continues to wage his uphill campaign to defeat her and gain concessions at the July 25-28 national convention in Philadelphia.

“The only thing standing between Donald Trump and the Oval Office is all of us,” Clinton told a cheering crowd of unionized low-wage health care, fast food, custodial and office workers.

While Trump was Clinton’s main target, she vowed to pursue policies that increase the $7.25 federal minimum wage, boost taxpayer-funded child care programs and give workers more time off for medical leave and raising newborn babies.

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Clinton said she supports subsidies that would ensure no American household spends more than 10 percent of its income on child care.

“And let’s give child care workers a raise,” Clinton said. “Right now, dog trainers are paid more than child care workers.”

Clinton took the comparison of dog trainers with child care workers further.

“You know, look, I believe in training dogs,” Clinton said. “But you don’t raise your dog and send your dog to kindergarten, do you? You don’t dream of sending your dog to college, do you? You don’t worry about whether your dog is going to be exposed to dangerous influences because you can’t afford quality child care, do you? This is crazy.”

Sanders gets a mention

Clinton made a brief mention of Sanders during her 32-minute remarks, offering an olive branch to Sanders’ ardent supporters who argue that Clinton is too closely aligned with powerful interest groups and Wall Street banks.

“I applaud Sen. Sanders and his supporters for challenging us — we are going to get unaccountable money out of politics, we are going to take on the crisis of income inequality,” she said. “And we are going to unify the Democratic Party and stop Donald Trump.”

Clinton narrowly lost Michigan’s March 8 Democratic primary to Sanders. Trump won the Republican primary.

During the run-up to Michigan’s primary, Clinton campaigned on the Flint water crisis, with Sanders following suit. On Monday, Clinton did not mention Flint during her speech in Detroit.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, said Clinton’s Monday speech reflects her “continued struggles” in a drawn-out primary against Sanders.

“No amount of rhetoric to a friendly audience in Michigan today is going to change the fact that Michiganders don’t want Hillary Clinton as our commander in chief,” McDaniel said in a Monday statement. “We want, need and deserve better than a third Obama term.”

Nationally, Clinton leads Sanders by 271 pledged delegates. When super delegates are included, Clinton is 90 delegates short of winning the nomination.

Run-up to final primaries

Clinton’s speech in Detroit came two weeks before the final group of Democratic presidential primaries on June 7. This includes California’s primary, which democratic socialist Sanders has staked out as his last chance of denying Clinton the nomination outright.

Vernita Randall, an SEIU union organizer from Los Angeles, attended the international convention Monday and said Clinton, the former U.S. senator from New York, is more prepared to work with a Republican Congress than Sanders.

“Bernie does have some good points, but because we’re so polarized, I think we need somebody who can be a centrist and reach across the lines and have a conversation to work together,” said Randall, who organizes health care industry unions.

Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU, introduced Clinton and pledged the union’s support in helping her defeat Trump.

“We are going to use every ounce of this union’s energy to ensure that she is next president of the United States,” Henry said.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3661

Twitter: @ChadLivengood

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