September 29, 2007 in Nation/World

College fund comment met with quick criticism

Richard Sisk New York Daily News
Associated Press photo

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at a Congressional Black Caucus forum Friday.
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday proposed giving every newborn a $5,000 bond for college or a new home when they grow up – a gift for critics looking for new ways to slam her as a big spender.

“I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time,” Clinton said to applause at a Congressional Black Caucus forum.

“When that young person turns 18, if they have finished high school, they will be able to access it to go to college, or maybe they will be able to make that down payment on their first home.”

Clinton’s campaign, blindsided by the senator’s seemingly off-the-cuff “baby bond” pitch to a friendly audience, quickly tried to qualify her remarks. The baby bonanza “is not a firm policy proposal but an idea under consideration,” a Clinton spokesman said.

Republicans eagerly lined up to tee off on the plan as a government giveaway program typical of the tax-and-spend liberal policies they contend Clinton would pursue as president.

“Who’s going to pay for it? Norman Hsu?” quipped an aide to presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., referring to the tainted, one-time fugitive fundraiser whose contributions Clinton recently had to return.

Rudy Giuliani dismissed the idea as standard fare for Clinton’s “chicken-in-every-pot campaign … based on pandering to the point where I think they think the American people are stupid.”

Clinton gave no cost estimates, but the baby-bond plan is similar to one put forward in a Time magazine report last month that would have the federal government invest $5,000 for every newborn for higher education.

The proposal would cost about $20 billion a year if $5,000 went to all of the 4 million babies born each year in the U.S., Time calculated. The Republican National Committee increased that estimate to $80 billion for the four years of a Clinton first term.

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