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Why Hillary Clinton is making income inequality a theme of her likely campaign

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

(Read caption) Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Monday, March 23, 2015, in Washington.

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Hillary Rodham Clinton this week gave observers a glimpse of some of her talking points in her expected campaign for the 2016 presidency. At an event Monday organized by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, she discussed income inequality and a need to redevelop America’s cities.

"We need to think hard about what we're going to do now that people are moving back into and staying in cities to make sure that our cities are not just places of economic prosperity and job creation on average," Mrs. Clinton said, the Associated Press reported. "But do it in a way that lifts everybody up to deal with the overriding issues of inequality and lack of mobility.”

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Clinton has been criticized for maintaining strong ties with the New York financial sector and for not addressing the economic problems plaguing many Americans. On Sunday, a piece by The Boston Globe editorial board critiqued her willingness to tackle issues of economic inequality.

“Nothing about her record suggests much gumption for financial reform or tackling the deeply entrenched economic problems that increasingly threaten the American dream,” the Globe asserted.

Urban America is important for many progressive politicians, who often rely on the support of metropolitan voters for their election victories. Clinton is expected to announce a presidential campaign next month, and as April draws nearer, some observers say she will be focusing more heavily on these issues.  

“Her appearance at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, represented another building block for her expected campaign,” wrote Laura Meckler for The Wall Street Journal.

In her seven-minute speech, Clinton called for more partnerships between the private and public sectors and policies to improve social mobility.

"A lot of our cities truly are divided,” she said according to The Wall Street Journal. “They have some of the most dynamic, well-educated, affluent people in the world, and people who are trapped in generational poverty.”

Clinton also used the event on Monday to discuss the work of the Clinton Global Initiative, part of the Clinton family foundation. The foundation has come under fire recently after reports emerged that it accepted funding from foreigners with connections to their governments while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of State.

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She mentioned the CGI program “Job One,” which works with companies to find employment for young people who have never had jobs, and a partnership with unions to encourage energy retrofits.

Following her talk, she remained for more than an hour listening to union and business leaders discuss development in cities such as Detroit and Pittsburgh, solutions for aging infrastructure and public transportation systems, and the potential for tech jobs to create employment opportunities for the country’s urban poor.

Other speakers at the event included two young Democratic politicians: Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio, who has been mentioned as a possible vice-presidential candidate in Clinton’s expected campaign; and Aja Brown, mayor of Compton California.

Republican politicians were quick to express doubt about Clinton’s sincerity. In a written statement, the Republican National Committee called Clinton’s panel discussion “a scripted press event at the far-left Center for American Progress.”

And Michael Short, an RNC spokesman, pointed to some of Clinton’s past comments as proof that she is out of touch with the economically vulnerable.

"What voter out there struggling to make ends meet can relate to someone who spends millions flying around on private jets and thinks leaving the White House with a multi-million dollar book deal counts as being 'dead broke?' " he said, the Associated Press reported.