Hillary Clinton blasted Republicans Friday as too timid to stand up to radio talk show hosts and the tea party, saying that leads them to oppose a quasi-government bank that helps small business.
“It is wrong Republicans in Congress are trying to cut off this vital lifeline for small business,” she said during a visit to the Smuttynose Brewery in New Hampshire.
Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, took dead aim also at Republican White House hopefuls.
“It’s wrong that candidates for president who really should know better are jumping on this bandwagon,” Clinton said. “In fact, it seems as though they would rather threaten the livelihoods of those 164,000 jobs than stand up to tea party and talk radio. It’s wrong.”
Clinton made her comments as she toured and then met with small business owners as part of her second trip to the nation’s first primary state since announcing her presidential bid last month.
The Export-Import Bank has become a partisan flashpoint. Authorization for the 70-year-old bank, which guarantees loans for American companies selling products abroad, expires at the end of June. That’s fine with many conservatives, who see the bank as corporate cronyism.
Supporters say the bank is vital if U.S. companies are to compete with foreign firms that routinely get government help. A congressional vote on an extension is expected next month.
Clinton recalled how “as your secretary of state, I went to 112 countries on your behalf” and saw the impact of foreign subsidies to private business.
“The idea we would remove this relatively small but vital source of funding for our businesses to compete is absolutely backwards,” she said. “That’s not what we need to be doing in this very competitive global economy.”
Small business owners have long been considered a largely Republican constituency. They traditionally protest what they see as burdensome regulations, high tax rates and a federal government too cozy with big corporations.
Small business owners also are a potentially valuable political network. Mom-and-pop shops are in every city, often owned by influential local activists.
Touting small business also allows Clinton to recall her upbringing as the daughter of the owner of a small drapery business in their hometown of Park Ridge, Ill., just outside Chicago.
“It put food on the table. It gave us a good solid middle-class home and lifestyle,” she said. “I don’t think it’s old fashioned to say that’s what I want.”
Her plan for small businesses includes assisting them in four ways: cutting red tape, expanding access to capital, simplifying taxes and providing tax relief for small business, and expanding access to new markets.
Clinton also would not commit to backing proposed Trade Promotion Authority, or fast-track, which would make it easier for President Barack Obama to negotiate a trade deal with 12 Asian and Pacific nations. “I’ve been for trade agreements. I’ve been against trade agreements. I’ve voted for some. I’ve voted against others,” the former U.S. senator from New York said. “I want to judge this when I see what exactly is in it.”
She got a warm reception throughout the day Friday as she traveled around the state.
Roberta Ford, a stay-at-home mom from nearby Sandown, stood at the entrance of the brewery holding a bright green sign that said, “Welcome Hillary!” Ford said she supported Clinton because “she’s smart, she listens and the last time we didn’t have a deficit was when a Clinton was in office.”
“She can really turn this country around,” she said.
Later, at the Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, Clinton talked about family but made it clear she wasn’t riding her husband’s coattails.
“I’m not running for my husband’s third term and I’m not running for Barack Obama’s third term,” Clinton said. “I’m running to continue the positive results-oriented policies that both of them worked for.”