Politics

Fired, Drowning in Debt, Low Wages and Two Jobs...

Democrats Use Personal Stories to Highlight Policy Changes

California delegates hold Hillary signs along with a few TPP and band tracking signs at the Democratic National Convention. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A young woman who was fired for asking her boss why she made less than her male colleague.  

A North Carolina teacher drowning in student debt.  

A Michigan home care worker frustrated with her low hourly wage.  

And a Ohio woman working two jobs trying to help her family make ends meet.   

Those four individuals took the stage Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to tell their stories and highlight Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's economic agenda.

The economic agenda

Clinton has promised to fight for policies that will promote equal pay, reduce student student debt and increase the minimum wage.  

[ Full Coverage of the Democratic Convention ]  

Instead of broad, sweeping pronouncements, like Republicans did at their convention in Cleveland last week, Democrats chose to highlight the granular details of the problems they're trying to solve. But the stories were brief and the speakers didn't specify how a Clinton presidency would help them, just that it would.  

Jensen Walcott and her friend Jake Reed were hired to work the same job at a pizza shop, but when she learned that Reed would be making 25 cents an hour more than her, she asked her boss about the discrepancy.   

"Instead of fixing it she fired me and Jake for talking about our wages," Walcott said. "I may have lost my job but I am glad I stood up for myself. And I’m glad that Jake stood with me too."  

Dave Wills, the North Carolina teacher, talked about how he is unable to put money and savings or make car repairs because of his tens of thousands of dollars of student debt.   

[ The Latest From the Democratic Convention: Day 4 ]  

"None of us are looking for guaranteed success — just a fair chance at it," he said. "That’s why I’m so proud to support Hillary Clinton.  She’s going to make college debt-free for all, and help millions of people like me with existing debt save thousands of dollars. I don’t know her.  But, it feels like she knows me."

Making the ends meet

Beth Mathias of Ohio spoke about holding two jobs and her husband working the night shift so they could make ends meet.   

"We work hard and yet it feels like the world is against us," she said. "We don’t want a hand out. We want a hand to help us up."  

Henrietta Ivey, the Michigan home health care worker, talked about her efforts to fight for increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour.   

Having individuals share their personal experiences was an approach that Democrats have used throughout the convention to call attention to the different issues on which they are campaigning. Earlier in the week, victims of gun violence and their relatives , mothers whose sons were killed by police , and immigrants told their stories.   

Republicans, too, arranged their convention around different themes, but the only one they really stuck to was national security. On the night they set aside to talk about the economy and job creation, Republicans spent much of the time bashing Clinton.   

[ GOP Stays Keen on Slamming Clinton ]  

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump uses his convention speech to decry the state of America, including an economy that he said has worsened since President Obama took office.   

"I thought that the general tenor of the GOP convention is that things are going badly and that it’s basically the entire fault of the Obama administration," said Gary Burtless, a labor economist at Brookings.  

[ Trump's Coronation Completes GOP's Transformation ]  

While not exactly accurate, that message has resonated with people who feel their economic circumstances since Obama took office in January 2009, he said.   

The economy was sinking very fast at that point, and things turned around quickly in the first seven months Obama was in in office, Burtless said.   

"It’s just that the economic progress once the economy began rebounding has been really slow," he explained.   

When President Barack Obama took office, the unemployment rate was at 10 percent. Since then, it has steadily fallen to just under 5 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both are at historically high levels.

Many still dissatisfied

Still, many Americans remain dissatisfied with their own financial situation, if not the overall U.S. economy.   

The Obama administration say the president and his advisers rescued the U.S. economy from the brink of a second Great Depression. Electing Clinton, they say, would allow the steady growth and declining unemployment to continue.  

If you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills, if you're really concerned about pocketbook issues and seeing the economy grow, and creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close," Obama said in his convention speech Wednesday night.  

“We have succeeded both in strengthening the U.S. financial system and presiding over the recovery and expansion of the U.S. economy,”  

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that under Obama, businesses have created nearly 15 million new jobs and family wealth has grown by $30 trillion, exceeding pre-crisis levels.   

"We have succeeded both in making the financial system more stable, even as our economy has essentially become the envy of the world.”  

But Republicans are not impressed. Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said the national economy has not grown more than 3 percent since the beginning of Obama’s administration.

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