How Much Do You Really Know About The Clintons?

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Listen, I have been trying to tell people this for years, but maybe if I say it in my Kanye West voice folks might hear me. Basically, *in my Kanye West voice* the Clintons do not care about Black people.

I know, I know. They were the first Black family until we got a real Black family in the White House. Yes, I know Bill Clinton can play the saxophone and he even once appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show. And yes, I get it, they are from the South and loves some collard greens and cornbread. But the truth of the matter is that when it comes to their track record on actual policies, particularly ones that have impacted the lives of the global Black community, the Clintons are just as white as a Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip sandwich.

As reported by Zaid Jilani in a post for Alternet entitled, “The Tragic End of the Woman Bill Clinton Exploited As Poster Child for Gutting Welfare“:

We are approaching the 20th anniversary of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act—also called “welfare reform”—which was passed by President Clinton working with the Republican-controlled Congress. This welfare reform law changed the terms of federal aid to the poor. Among other things, the law replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The new TANF program placed a strict time limit on how long the federal government will provide assistance to individual poor families and added various work requirements for recipients. The goal was to “end welfare as we know it,” which Clinton campaigned on in 1992.

The law was bitterly resisted by progressives, who argued it was effectively ending a safety net that had existed for poor families since the New Deal era. Several Clinton appointees actually quit the administration over welfare reform’s passage. But the outrage from the left not only failed to stop the passage of the law, it has proved incapable of changing the political culture enough to have the law reversed. In 2008, Sen. Hillary Clinton defended and strongly endorsed her husband’s welfare reform while on the campaign trail. “Welfare should have been a temporary waystation for people who needed immediate assistance,” she said. “It should not be considered an anti-poverty program. It simply did not work.” But for one woman, welfare reforms only made things worse. That woman was standing behind President Clinton when he signed the bill into law.

The woman in question is Lillie Harden, and during the early ’90s, she was Bill Clinton’s poster child for welfare reform. At the time, Harden, who was personally invited by Clinton to the welfare reform bill signing ceremony, had just gotten off of public assistance and found herself a job at a supermarket. As reported by Jilani, she became welfare reform’s biggest cheerleader. Harden told Clinton that the best part of being off of welfare was “When my boy goes to school and they say what does your mama do for a living, he can give an answer.”

It was undoubtedly a moment made out of Hallmark cards, mass produced by those in welfare-to-work programs. But then everyone moved on. Harden was never heard from again, until a book was published, which told a different story about Harden’s fate. As reported by Alternet:

Harden had a stroke in 2002 and wanted me to ferry a message back to Clinton, asking if he could help her get on Medicaid. She had received it on welfare, but had been rejected now, and she couldn’t afford her $450 monthly bill for prescription drugs. More sad than bitter, she said of her work: “It didn’t pay off in the end.”

Jilani writes that Alternet recently tried to reach out to Harden. Unfortunately, the news site discovered that she passed away last year at the age of 59. While the news site doesn’t say for sure if the lack of access to critical health care she once had been eligible for under the old system led to her early demise, it is safe to assume that the inability to afford her medications definitely exacerbated her illness.

The fate of Harden, as well as the thousands of others who struggle under the new system of public assistance, is only part of Bill Clinton’s untold legacy. Let’s for a moment talk about the weakening of the Glass-Steagall Act, which was put into place in the 1930s after the first Stock Market Crash to keep banks from engaging too much in securities activities. But as told by The Guardian, which reported a few years ago on newly disclosed documents in Clinton’s presidential library, the deregulation of the Act, which included allowing banks and investment banks to merge, was aggressively pushed by advisers to Bill Clinton.

The deregulation ultimately happened in 1999 when Congress, with Clinton’s support, passed the Financial Services Modernization Act. According to The Guardian, it unleashed “a wave of Wall Street consolidation that was later blamed for forcing taxpayers to spend billions bailing out the enlarged banks after the sub-prime mortgage crisis.” This mortgage crisis would not only almost bankrupt the nation, but would push Black unemployment into double digits, nearly twice the number of white unemployment.

Thanks, first Black President Clinton.

But the Clinton’s problematic relations with the global Black community don’t just end there. It was in 1997 that Clinton forced Haiti to drop tariffs on imported, subsidized U.S. rice. This cleared the way for the United States, particularly Clinton’s home state of Arkansas, to dump cheap rice in the developing country and make it difficult for small-scale farmers to compete in their own local markets. According to this article in the Foreign Policy, entitled “Subsidizing Starvation,” “The policy wiped out Haitian rice farming and seriously damaged Haiti’s ability to be self-sufficient.” Clinton would later apologize for the policy, calling it a “devil’s bargain.”

Not long after wreaking havoc on Haiti’s economy, the U.S. government, led by Clinton, tried to pretty much do the same thing in Africa and the Caribbean when briefly instituting sanctions against the EU for allegedly giving trade preferences to banana producers in former European colonies. The EU previously had an agreement with its former colonies to promote trade among its European countries as a form of reparations. However, after Carl Linder, former CEO of Chiquita Banana, made a generous donation to the National Democratic Party, things changed. Linder not only got an invite to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom at the White House, but Clinton also supported his efforts, along with other multinational banana companies efforts, to repeal the EU agreement by filing a complaint against the EU with the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S. won the petition, and the EU was instructed to alter its rules in favor of the big conglomerates. The results would have a devastating effect on local banana farmers throughout the global Black Diaspora.

And then there is the Clintons’ current scandal in Haiti involving Hilary Clinton’s brother being added to the advisory board for a gold mining company. If you didn’t know, Bill Clinton is the current ambassador to Haiti, a role he took on shortly after the earthquake. And according to the Washington Post, “both Rodham and the chief executive of Delaware-based VCS Mining said they were introduced at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative — an offshoot of the Clinton Foundation that critics have long alleged invites a blurring of its charitable mission with the business interests of Bill and Hillary Clinton and their corporate donors.”

Now I am bringing all of this up because Hilary Clinton is running for office again. And while I won’t tell you all not to vote for her, I will say that folks better make her work hard for that vote, not just give it away because they are Democrats and allegedly the first Black family.

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