Hillary Clinton
Credit: Hillary for Iowa/Wikimedia Commons

It’s hard to argue with the Clinton campaign strategy of focusing on the monster they’re running against. But as we head into the final weeks, I hope Hillary can make a better affirmative case for herself. Her strength is supposed to be policy, but we are almost to election day and she has still not clearly conveyed to most people how should would improve the economy.

In the first part of the first debate, Trump erroneously-but-clearly blamed all economic problems on bad trade deals. Hillary’s response in the course of about a minute was to mention: better infrastructure and manufacturing; more renewable energy; helping small business; raising the minimum wage; and providing equal pay for equal work, profit sharing, earned sick days, family leave, affordable child care and debt free college.

She didn’t dwell on or explain any of the items for more than 5 seconds.  At the end of the debate, if you’d asked me, what do the candidates want to do to improve the economy I could have answered about Trump but not Hillary.

She needs to focus on a couple of things and explain them simply and clearly. My nominees: infrastructure and college loans.  She could frame it in a way that takes the grab-bag and gives it concrete thematic structure.

We need to do three things.  First, we need to create more jobs.  I propose a national drive to repair our crumbling roads and train systems – not by building a beautiful wall on the southern border but by repairing bridges in Ohio and Pennsylvania and trains in New Jersey.

Second, we should raise wages.  We start by raising the minimum wage.  When they did that in X state, it meant Y dollars more in the typical family’s paycheck.  That was enough so Jane Doe could work one job instead of two and spend more time with her family. 

Third, we need to make the paycheck go farther.  We are going to cut middle class taxes. A typical family will get a $X tax cut.   Let me repeat: a typical family will get have $X more to save or spend.  We’re going to reduce college loan costs — so the price tag for most people going to a public school would go from $X  to $Y.  And we’re going to pay for that by taxing the top 1 percent more.

We all made fun of Herman Cain for his 9-9-9 idea in 2012.  Remember that phrase? Me too, and that’s the point.

Steven Waldman

Follow Steven on Twitter @stevenwaldman. Steven Waldman is the president and co-founder of Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. He is the author of Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody, and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom. As senior adviser to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, he was the prime author of the landmark report Information Needs of Communities.