Jill Frey never caught President Bill Clinton's attention -
even when she stood on a chair for a better look at him Tuesday.
But she said the "Middle Class Bill of Rights" that Clinton
promoted Tuesday in Galesburg looked straight into her heart.
The White House chose this northwestern Illinois rail and
manufacturing center as a backdrop, saying its people typify the
target of Clinton's plan: middle-class Americans who need help to
help themselves keep up with the shifting economy.
Indeed, Frey, 28, recently completed a two-year financial
struggle to gain an associate's degree from Carl Sandburg College
in Galesburg. Her reward: escape from a dead-end $17,000-a-year
retail job into a medical radiology job that starts at $20,000 and
eventually may double or triple that.
"I think what he said was just great," Frey said. "It's exactly
what I wanted to hear." Pregnant with her first child, she said she
is naturally interested in the future of education.
Battling to win back middle-class voters who deserted Democrats
in November, Clinton said his plan was intended to keep the
American dream alive in the face of more than a decade of income
stagnation or slippage for average wage-earners.
"Every American who works hard and obeys the law should be able
to get ahead in this new world," he told a cheering noontime
audience of about 1,500 people in the Sandburg College gymnasium.
The audience included dozens of striking workers who have been off
their jobs for months.
Clinton's plan would:
Set up an income-tax deduction of up to $10,000 for educational
expenses after high school. It would promote college and vocational
training, just as the deduction for mortgage interest promotes
homeownership, the president said.
Allow a $500 tax credit for each child younger than 13 in
families earning $75,000 or less a year.
Revise tax rules to allow money removed early from an
Individual Retirement Account to be used tax-free for educational
expenses, health insurance, purchase of a first home or care of an
elderly parent, and to expand eligibility for tax-deductible IRAs.
Streamline more than 50 confusing job-training programs into a
simple system that would give qualifying students a $2,000 voucher
for each two years of training. The cost would be $3.5 billion.
Mindful of the new Republican legislative majority that remains
to be convinced, Clinton cast this as a nonpartisan rescue rope
that meets demand for self-responsibility. …