World and Nation

Facing Recession, Clinton and Obama Push Populist Projects

Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y, and Barack Obama, D-Ill., intensified their populist appeals on Monday, responding to widespread economic anxiety and pushing the Democratic Party further from the business-friendly posture once championed by Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton, speaking on the eve of the Wisconsin primary but looking forward to primaries in Ohio and Texas on March 4, issued a 12-page compendium of her economic policies that emphasizes programs aiding families stressed by high oil prices, home foreclosures, costly student loans and soaring health care premiums.

In public appearances here and in her economic booklet, she took aim at hedge fund managers, oil company profits, drug company subsidies and trade agreements that she says encourage companies to export jobs.

Clinton told an audience that the Wisconsin primary and subsequent contests were “a chance for all of you here to help take our country back.”

“We need tax breaks for the middle class, not for the wealthy and the well-connected,” she said Monday morning at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis. “We’re going to rein in the special interests and get the $55 billion in giveaways and subsidies they’ve gotten under Republicans back into your pockets.”

Clinton referred to the “two oilmen in the White House” and repeated her call for a windfall-profits tax on the oil industry to finance a $50 billion program to develop alternate energy sources and create “green jobs.”

Campaigning in Ohio before flying to Wisconsin for an election-eve rally, Obama said the wealthy had “made out like bandits” under the Bush administration and called for an end to tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

“In the last year alone,” Obama said, “93 plants have closed in this state. And yet, year after year, politicians in Washington sign trade agreements that are riddled with perks for big corporations but have absolutely no protections for American workers. It’s bad for our economy; it’s bad for our country.”

The two candidates’ tone was driven in part by the prospect of a recession, which has in recent weeks shifted the focus of the presidential contest from war and terrorism to concerns much closer to home: jobs, foreclosures, energy and health care costs.