In his 1996 State of the Union address, given during his re-election campaign, Clinton declared that the era of big government is over and immediately sought to prove make it by dismantling the federal welfare system known as Aid to families With Dependent Children (afdc). The welfare-reform legislation that he signed—which Hillary Clinton ardently supported then and characterized as a success as recently as 2008—replaced the federal safety net with a block grant to the states, imposed a five-year lifetime limit on welfare assistance, added work requirements, barred undocumented immigrants. They are not just gangs of kids anymorethey are super-predators. —hillary Clinton, speaking in support of the 1994 crime bill. Experts and pundits disagree about the true impact of welfare reform, but one thing seems clear: Extreme poverty doubled.5 million in the decade and a half after the law was passed. What is extreme poverty? Us households are considered to be in extreme poverty if they are surviving on cash incomes of no more than 2 per person per day in any given month.
Because government statistics like poverty and unemployment rates do not include pdf incarcerated people. As Harvard sociologist Bruce western explains: Much of the optimism about declines in racial inequality and the power of the us model of economic growth is misplaced once we account for the invisible poor, behind the walls of Americas prisons and jails. When Clinton left office in 2001, the true jobless rate for young, non-college-educated black men (including those behind bars) was 42 percent. This figure was never reported. Instead, the media claimed that unemployment rates for African Americans had fallen to record lows, neglecting to mention that this miracle was possible only because incarceration rates were now at record highs. Young black men werent looking for work at high rates during the Clinton era because they were now behind bars—out of sight, out of mind, and no longer counted in poverty and unemployment statistics. To make matters worse, the federal safety net for poor families was torn to shreds by the Clinton administration in its effort to end welfare as we know.
But on the campaign trail, she continues to invoke the economy and country that Bill Clinton left behind as a legacy she would continue. So what exactly did the Clinton economy look like for black Americans? Taking a hard look at this recent past is about more than just a choice between two candidates. Its about whether the democratic Party can finally reckon with what its policies have done to African-American communities, and whether it can redeem itself and rightly earn the loyalty of black voters. An oft-repeated myth about the Clinton administration is that although it was overly tough on crime back in the 1990s, at least its policies were good for the economy and for black unemployment rates. The truth is more troubling. As unemployment rates sank to historically low levels for white Americans in the 1990s, the jobless rate among black men in their 20s who didnt have a college degree rose to its highest level ever. This increase in joblessness was propelled by the skyrocketing incarceration rate. Why is this not common knowledge?
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All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration, but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed, President Clintons tenure was the worst. Some might argue that its unfair to judge hillary Clinton for the policies her husband championed years ago. But Hillary wasnt picking out china while she was first lady. She bravely broke the mold and redefined that job in ways no woman ever had before. She not only campaigned for Bill; she also wielded power and significant influence once he was elected, lobbying for legislation and other measures. That record, and her statements from that era, should be scrutinized.
In her support for the 1994 crime bill, for example, she used racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals. They are not just gangs of kids anymore, she said. They are often the kinds of kids that are called super-predators. No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they writers ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel. Both Clintons now express regret over the crime bill, and Hillary says she supports criminal-justice reforms to undo some of the damage that was done by her husbands administration.
Clinton mastered the art of sending mixed cultural messages, appealing to African Americans by belting out Lift every voice and Sing in black churches, while at the same time signaling to poor and working-class whites that he was willing to be tougher on black communities. Clinton was praised for his no-nonsense, pragmatic approach to racial politics. He won the election and appointed a racially diverse cabinet that looked like america. He won re-election four years later, and the American economy rebounded. The democratic Party had been saved.
bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. Clinton did not declare the war on Crime or the war on Drugs—those wars were declared before reagan was elected and long before crack hit the streets—but he escalated it beyond what many conservatives had imagined possible. He supported the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement. Clinton championed the idea of a federal three strikes law in his 1994 State of the Union address and, months later, signed a 30 billion crime bill that created dozens of new federal capital crimes, mandated life sentences for some three-time offenders, and authorized more. The legislation was hailed by mainstream-media outlets as a victory for the democrats, who were able to wrest the crime issue from the republicans and make it their own. When Clinton left office in 2001, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Human Rights Watch reported that in seven states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they were no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level in 1983.
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In practice, however, he capitulated entirely to the right-wing backlash against the civil-rights movement and embraced former president Ronald reagans agenda on race, crime, welfare, and taxes—ultimately doing more harm to black communities than reagan ever did. We should have seen it coming. Back then, Clinton was the standard-bearer for the new Democrats, a group that firmly believed the only way to win back the millions of white voters in the south who had defected to the republican Party was to adopt essay the right-wing narrative that black communities. Reagan had won the presidency by dog-whistling to poor and working-class whites with coded racial appeals: railing against welfare queens and criminal predators and condemning big government. Clinton aimed to win them back, vowing that he would never permit any republican to be perceived as tougher on crime than. Just weeks before the critical New Hampshire primary, clinton proved his toughness by flying back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky ray rector, a mentally essay impaired black man who had so little conception of what was about to happen to him that. After the execution, Clinton remarked, i can be nicked a lot, but no one can say im soft on crime. As president, bill Clinton mastered the art of sending mixed cultural messages.
Did they help usher in a new era of hope and prosperity for neighborhoods devastated by deindustrialization, globalization, and the disappearance of work? when Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, urban black communities across America were suffering from economic collapse. Hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs had vanished as factories moved overseas in search of cheaper labor, a new plantation. Globalization and deindustrialization affected workers of all colors but hit African Americans particularly hard. Unemployment rates among young black men had quadrupled as the rate of industrial employment plummeted. Crime rates spiked in inner-city communities that had been dependent on factory jobs, while hopelessness, despair, and crack addiction swept neighborhoods that had once been solidly working-class. Millions of black folks—many of whom had fled Jim Crow resume segregation in the south with the hope of obtaining decent work in Northern factories—were suddenly trapped in racially segregated, jobless ghettos. On the campaign trail, bill Clinton made the economy his top priority and argued persuasively that conservatives were using race to divide the nation and divert attention from the failed economy.
allure that Hillary led Obama among black voters until he started winning caucuses and primaries. Now Hillary is running again. This time shes facing a democratic socialist who promises a political revolution that will bring universal healthcare, a living wage, an end to rampant Wall Street greed, and the dismantling of the vast prison state—many of the same goals that Martin Luther King. Championed at the end of his life. Even so, black folks are sticking with the Clinton brand. What have the Clintons done to earn such devotion? Did they take extreme political risks to defend the rights of African Americans? Did they courageously stand up to right-wing demagoguery about black communities?
And it seems were eager to get played. The love desk affair between black folks and the Clintons has been going on for a long time. It began back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president. He threw on some shades and played the saxophone. The Arsenio hall Show. It seems silly in retrospect, but many of us fell for that. At a time when a popular slogan was Its a black thing, you wouldnt understand, bill Clinton seemed to get. When Toni morrison dubbed him our first black president, we nodded our heads. We had our boy in the White house.
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Hillary and Bill Clinton in 1992. Hillary Clinton loves black people. And black people love hillary—or so it seems. Black politicians have lined up in droves to endorse her, eager to prove their loyalty to the twist Clintons in the hopes that their faithfulness will be remembered and rewarded. Black pastors are opening their church doors, and the Clintons are making themselves comfortably at home once again, engaging effortlessly in all the usual rituals associated with courting the black vote, a pursuit that typically begins and ends with Democratic politicians making black people feel. Doing something concrete to improve the conditions under which most black people live is generally not required. Hillary is looking to gain momentum on the campaign trail as the primaries move out of Iowa and New Hampshire and into states like south Carolina, where large pockets of black voters can be found. According to some polls, she leads Bernie sanders by as much as 60 percent among African Americans. It seems that we—black people—are her winning card, one that Hillary is eager to play.