Clinton proposes $5,000 "baby bonds"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Friday proposed giving every baby born in the United States $5,000 to start an account to use for paying for college.

Democratic Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks at the 30th annual Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa, September 16, 2007. Clinton proposed on Friday giving every baby born in the United States $5,000 to start an account to use for paying for college. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Clinton made the comment at a forum sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus as she and Democratic rival Barack Obama competed for support from black voters a day after leading Republican presidential candidates skipped a debate on minority issues.

“I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so when that young person turns 18, if they have finished high school, they will be able to access it to go to college,” Clinton said.

Clinton, a senator from New York, offered no details on how to pay for the program. The $5,000 “baby bonds” would accrue interest over time.

A Clinton spokesman, Phil Singer, said the “baby bonds” were “not a firm policy proposal, but an idea under consideration.”

The plan was denounced by the Republican National Committee as the latest Clinton proposal that ignores fiscal responsibility. RNC Communications Director Danny Diaz said Clinton’s “budget-busting proposals” totaled $615 billion dollars in new spending so far.

“If enacted into law, Hillary Clinton’s reckless spending proposals would result in devastating tax hikes on hard-working

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families and grow the size of government at a massive rate,” Diaz said.

Obama, a senator from Illinois, spoke to Howard University’s 2007 convocation ceremony and outlined a plan aimed at addressing what he called disparities in the U.S. justice system.

In his speech, Obama pledged to rid President George W. Bush’s Justice Department of “ideologues and political cronies,” and put in lawyers who will prosecute civil rights violations, employment discrimination and hate crimes.

Civil rights protests were staged in Jena, Louisiana, this month in the case of the “Jena 6” -- six teenagers charged in an assault on a white schoolmate at Jena High School.

The attack came amid tensions after an incident in which white students hung nooses from a schoolyard tree, a threatening gesture in a region of the country where blacks were sometimes lynched by whites after the Civil War.

Tens of thousands of black Americans marched in the town and the Jena 6 became a symbol for wider concerns about discrimination against young black males by the U.S. criminal justice system.

“It reminds us of the fact that we have a system that locks away too many young, first-time, nonviolent offenders for the better part of their lives, a decision that’s not made by a judge in a courtroom, but by politicians in Washington,” Obama said.

On Thursday, Republican candidates Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson skipped a debate at historically black Morgan State University in Maryland.