WASHINGTON (AP) – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 “baby bond” from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home.

Clinton, her party’s front-runner in the 2008 race, made the suggestion during a forum hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus.

The New York senator did not offer any estimate of the total cost of such a program or how she would pay for it. Approximately 4 million babies are born each year in the United States.

Clinton said such an account program would help people get back to the tradition of savings that she remembers as a child, and has become harder to accomplish in the face of rising college and housing costs.

One way of building a stronger economy, she said, is “more savings, starting with the so-called baby bonds idea where every person born in this country would be given that kind of account because we want to make an investment in America’s young people.”

She argued that wealthy people “get to have all kinds of tax incentives to save, but most people can’t afford to do that.”

The proposal was met with enthusiastic applause at an event aimed to encourage young people to excel and engage in politics.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, an Ohio Democrat who attended the event and has already endorsed Clinton. “Every child born in the United States today owes $27,000 on the national debt, why not let them come get $5,000 to grow until they’re 18?”

Blake Zeff, a spokesman for the senator’s campaign, said a baby bonds program “is not a firm policy proposal but an idea under consideration.”

Republican rival Rudy Giuliani criticized the idea, saying on the Sean Hannity radio show that the Clinton campaign is “based on pandering to the point where I think they think the American people are stupid.”

Britain launched a similar program in January 2005, handing out vouchers worth hundreds of dollars each to parents with children born after Sept. 1, 2002.

Earlier this month, Time magazine proposed a $5,000 baby bond program.

AP-ES-09-28-07 2034EDT


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