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It's about opportunity, stupid: Why Clinton's comments matter

By Jeff Cook-McCormac
July 1, 2014 -- Updated 0514 GMT (1314 HKT)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pictured in October 2012, has become one of the most powerful people in Washington. Here's a look at her life and career through the years: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pictured in October 2012, has become one of the most powerful people in Washington. Here's a look at her life and career through the years:
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Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Photos: Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Photos: Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
Hillary Clinton's career in the spotlight
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jeff Cook-McCormac says that Hillary Clinton's comments about wealth have a deeper impact on America
  • This, he says, might make for good politics, but is ultimately bad for the country
  • Clinton also has come under fire for $225,000 in speaking fees for a Nevada speech

Editor's note: Jeff Cook-McCormac is senior adviser to Each American Dream, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the values of economic freedom, opportunity and the American Dream. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Much is being made of Hillary Clinton's recent remarks about leaving the White House "dead broke" and how she and Bill aren't like those who are "truly well off" despite earning more than $100 million together since 2001. And now she's getting heat for the $225,000 in speaking fees she's getting for a Nevada speech.

Apparently when prescribing a vision for America that divides us along the lines of class and income, the medicine always tastes better when taken by someone else.

But setting politics aside, much should be made of these comments simply because they demonstrate that many of those who rail against economic freedom are out of touch and have a fundamental misunderstanding of how jobs and wealth are created in this country.

Opinion: Petty attacks on Hillary just won't matter

Let's start with the basics. All Americans, regardless of who they are or where they come from, want a good-paying job with more opportunity, choice and control over their economic and personal futures. But this is more than a common desire shared by all Americans. History shows that this time-tested formula is the key to upward mobility and a healthy economy -- in other words, wealth creation.

 Jeff Cook-McCormac
Jeff Cook-McCormac

It must be nice to get paid millions of dollars to write a book about yourself, just as it must be nice to get paid millions of dollars to sink three-pointers in the NBA Playoffs or to star in a Hollywood summer blockbuster. But athletes and entertainers, like the Clintons, are notable exceptions.

Let me be clear -- I'm not criticizing them for their financial success. After all, they all have unique skill sets that few others possess, so the laws of supply and demand apply.

Most American success stories, and the jobs that result, involve hardworking individuals and families who take significant personal and financial risk, work from sunrise to sunset and persevere through good times and bad. This is Main Street success -- the bedrock our country was built on. We all can name countless shining examples of entrepreneurs, inventors and innovators who took those risks, invested in their local companies and created jobs.

These Americans -- these job creators -- are the same people Hillary Clinton calls "truly wealthy." Others, like President Barack Obama, continually attack, criticize and stigmatize the success these individuals achieved through hard work.

This might make for good politics and help distract from the numerous scandals and poor economic outlook reported on the nightly news, but it is a terrible way to treat fellow Americans, especially when the economy continues to struggle and job creation remains weak.

Obama defends Clinton on wealth
Students call for return of speaking fee
The Clintons clean up 'dead broke'

Now Hillary Clinton is no novice, so I suspect her pollsters will inform her that she fumbled the ball on this one, and her advisers will counsel her to shift the discussion back to something like income inequality. It will be good for this country to have an honest discussion about income inequality, but let's address it in a way without demonizing the success and entrepreneurial spirit that helps solidify the backbone of this country.

Too many Americans are suffering and living paycheck-to-paycheck while trying to make ends meet. Family budgets are getting tighter as prices for gas and groceries keep rising. Rather than responding to these harsh realities with the politics of division and distraction and pitting Americans against each other for political gain, Washington should work toward real, commonsense solutions that help create jobs for hardworking families.

We need efficient and more effective programs that won't bankrupt our government and drag down our economy. We need a shift in focus from empty promises, handouts and shallow accusations to education, job training and encouragement toward hard work and entrepreneurship.

In other words, to paraphrase a Democratic operative, "It's about opportunity, stupid."

As America's economy continues to struggle, Main Street success in America, now more than ever, should be encouraged, not attacked.

Strider: Petty attacks on Hillary just won't matter

How Hillary Clinton flubbed the wealth question

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