WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laid out an ambitious economic plan Monday, aimed at boosting economic growth and middle-class wages.
In a speech at the New School in New York City, Clinton said as president she would be committed to both economic growth and fairness with a focus on raising incomes for middle-class Americans.
“The defining economic challenge of our time is clear. We must raise incomes for hard-working Americans so they can afford a middle-class life," Clinton said.
"We must drive strong and steady income growth that lifts up families and lifts up our country. And that will be my mission from the first day I’m president to the last," she added.
Clinton said she supports raising the minimum wage, will encourage companies to offer profit-sharing with employees and favors tax benefits that favor workers.
She also took shots at some of the Republican presidential contenders for some of their conservative economic views, including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who officially entered the race Monday.
Sanders having an impact
Clinton’s focus on the economy comes as one of her four Democratic challengers, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has drawn enthusiastic crowds by hammering away at income inequality between the wealthy and everyone else.
"The top 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. And my conclusion is that that type of economics is not only immoral, it is not only wrong, it is unsustainable," Sanders said.
Sanders advocates higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans to benefit the poor and the middle class and has crept closer to Clinton in recent public opinion polls in the early contest states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Analysts said Clinton remains the Democratic favorite, but Sanders’ focus on income disparity may force her a bit more to the left.
"I think Hillary Clinton will be the nominee at the end of the day, but we always knew that she would have a challenge from the left,” said John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.
“He will draw her to be more to the left on some issues. And right now that energy on the left is flowing to Bernie Sanders to make him a challenger to Hillary Clinton," Fortier said.
Walker makes it official
Clinton shared the spotlight Monday with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who became the 15th Republican to join the 2016 race with the release of a campaign video.
“America needs new, fresh leadership with big, bold ideas from outside of Washington to actually get things done,” Walker proclaimed in his video announcement.
Walker is considered a top-tier Republican candidate who leads in opinion polls in the early contest state of Iowa.
Most pundits consider the top tier at the moment as Bush, Walker and Rubio.
But the Republican field is closely bunched together and analysts cautioned the standing of the various candidates could change rapidly with the first debate to be held in Cleveland next month.
Despite the hoopla surrounding Walker’s announcement, he and the other Republican contenders have been overshadowed of late by Donald Trump, who announced his presidential campaign last month.
Trump took his campaign's denunciation of illegal immigration to the border state of Arizona on Saturday and received an enthusiastic welcome.
“I respect Mexico greatly as a country. But the problem we have is that their leaders are much smarter, sharper and more cunning than our leaders and they are killing us at the border and they are killing us in trade. They are killing us!” Trump told the crowd.
Trump continues to draw attention and criticism for his sharp attacks against illegal immigrants and recent national polls show he jumped into second place behind former Gov. Bush.