Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton warned a group of business leaders that America's "red-ink fiscal policies" will make the country less competitive in the global economy.

"I think a return to fiscal discipline, living within our means is essential for our long-term health," she told a meeting Tuesday of the Economic Club of Chicago.

The New York Democrat, a regular critic of President Bush's economic policies, frequently reminds audiences that her husband left the White House boasting of a budget surplus and that under Bush the country is running record budget deficits.

Clinton said Tuesday that she supports pay-as-you-go budget rules in the Congress where taxes can't be cut or money spent unless there are funds to pay for it. "A very old-fashioned idea but one which I hope we can begin to return to," she said.

"Over the long term ... red-ink fiscal policies will undermine America's competitiveness," she said.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Ann Marie Hauser said in statement Tuesday night that "only Hillary Clinton would try to make lemons out of lemonade."

"Her eagerness to paint a negative picture of the economy despite the creation of five million jobs in three years is indicative of her willingness to manipulate an issue to her favor, without regard to the facts," Hauser said.

Clinton said the nation needs a better energy policy to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, increase technology into alternative energy resources and ultimately create more jobs. She also said that health care reform is "worth wading in again," and that the private sector should demand more accountability from the insurance industry.

Often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2008, Clinton didn't give a hint about whether she would run. When asked if she thought the country would see a woman president, she replied: "I hope so."

Earlier Tuesday, New York's Republican Party chairman suggested the former first lady could perhaps do better creating jobs in Chicago — she grew up in its suburbs — than she has in her adopted state of New York.