The Real Trouble with Clinton’s “Dead Broke” Claim

Undeclared-yet-probable presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton found herself in hot water recently after declaring that her and husband Bill were “dead broke” at the end of his presidential term. While pundits have jumped to cry, “OMG SHE’S LYING!!!” that’s not my objection to her claim. From my perspective, I doubt that Clinton thought she was lying, but that does illustrate just how little she understands about what it means to be “dead broke.”

Although her family may have had outstanding debts at that moment, they were arguably some of the most famous people in the world and started cashing in on six-figure speaking engagements quickly. Moreover, lenders still gave the couple money to purchase a nearly $3 million home because of their future earning potential. In other words, the Clintons may have technically been in debt, but they never had to stress about how they would pay for frivolities, let alone necessities, and they certainly never lived a day where they weren’t actively leading the life of members of the 1%.

Her comment was not an isolated incident, either. This past weekend, while trying to do damage control for her earlier comment, Clinton literally laughed off the notion that the public would perceive her to be rich, saying, “We pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names.”

Just because Clinton doesn’t qualify for the most extreme tax brackets possible doesn’t alter her status of being squarely in the 1%. In what fantasy world is someone with a multi-million net worth not “truly well off”? More importantly, how can someone who is tasked with representing the interests of 50 million Americans who live below the poverty line truly be of help when she’s so out of touch about financial matters to start?

Clinton may not want to “name names” of fellow rich politicians, but it’s a worthwhile exercise: Mitt Romney (who famously suggested that poor people borrow money from their parents, as if that’s an option for families in poverty), John McCain, John Kerry, George W. Bush, and Al Gore. Not coincidentally, they’ve all been presidential candidates. In that sense, it’s not fair to single out Clinton as an unprecedentedly rich candidate. Our elections are generally races between the very rich and the even richer.

Political parties generally enlist wealthy candidates, in part, for practical reasons. They can afford to run expensive campaigns, plus they have rich friends and colleagues who can assist. Another reason is America’s skewed method for measuring success. A person’s success is almost entirely determined by how much money he or she has accumulated, as if to say that people who haven’t capitalized on the capitalist system are failures.

We’ve noticed the wealth gap widening in this country, and it’s no mystery why: our elected officials are at the top and make decisions that continue to benefit their colleagues at the top. For crying out loud, more than half of the people in U.S. Congress are millionaires – it’s no wonder social benefits are so frequently cut. In addition to believing they’ve earned and are entitled to their own status, these legislators can’t even begin to empathize with the hardships poor Americans face on a daily basis.

No matter how well-intentioned Clinton is about helping Americans living in poverty, someone who buys a $3 million home while calling herself “dead broke” does not seem to grasp how fortunate she is and always has been. Meaningful reform for the poor is implausible at the hands of the rich people we select to take office. Addressing inequality in the United States begins when we start to choose a different type of candidate.

Photo Credit: marcn

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Jason R.
Jason R.10 months ago

Here's the real story of the Clintons fortune. it comes from their foundation the bush's helped them set up. It came on the backs of the compassionate people that gave to tsunami and earthquake survivors.

After $800 million was donated to the Haitian people, after the earthquake, CNN announced that Bill Clinton paid out 15% (mandatory). Presto! Bill Clinton is a 100 millionaire! $11 million for the daughter's wedding? No problem. Pat himself on his back? They all do!
I had a dream/nightmare, all morning about Clinton and leaving the Haitian people to fend for themselves. He did that and no one says a damned word.
I am! It's time Foundation rules get changed so that only honest, compassionate people run them. 60/40! 60% to the cause, 40% to administrative costs is plenty. Change the law now! Stop these bastards!

Ros G.

Thanks for the article.......I read somewhere.......where Queen Elizabeth 2...was down to her last million pounds.......don't know who to feel more sorry for......but one thing I do know no matter how bad things get for Betty or Hillary.....they won't end up on the streets, like common just have to look at the "who's who" of bankrupts..even jail provides them with a better lifestyle..the the ordinary "joe blow"...

Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Pendragon11 months ago

Anteater A - Jill Ellen Stein (born May 14, 1950) is an American physician specializing in internal medicine, and was the nominee of the Green Party for President of the United States in the 2012 election. Stein was a candidate for Governor of Massachusetts in the 2002 and the 2010 gubernatorial elections.
Stein is a resident of Lexington, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Harvard College (1973) and the Harvard Medical School (1979).
Stein was endorsed for President in 2012 by Noam Chomsky, a linguist, author and activist, and by Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and war correspondent, among others.
Anything else you need to know, you can google her :)

Dandelion G.
Dandelion G.11 months ago

Meaningful reform for the poor is implausible at the hands of the rich people we select to take office. Addressing inequality in the United States begins when we start to choose a different type of candidate.

This is how the article ended and I agree.

The base salary for all members of the U.S. House and Senate is $174,000 per year, plus benefits. However the median of all Congress members' average net worth was slightly more than $1 million as of 2012.

While certainly not mega millions or billionaires this is the median worth. With books they can write, speaking engagements, and a host of other ways to make money they are not hurting.

They do an injustice to those who truly are broke, sleeping on skid row, in cars, sofa surfing, or lining up for a bed in a shelter. That is dead broke and I hardly think that is what will happen to any of them. Many others are barely paying their rents and each month is a new challenge to meet expenses even for the most humble of dwelling let alone being able to buy a $4 million dollar house.

Yes out of touch and when they think of doing things to help those who are broke if they compare these apples with the oranges is no wonder we don't have a true policy for dealing with poverty. She isn't the only one out of touch in DC.

Charmaine C.
Charmaine C.about a year ago

Thanks for a good article. Poverty definitely means different things to different people. I don't think we have any poor royalty or poor politicians in the UK either. Like the States, people here are judged by what they own.

Maria Teresa Schollhorn
Maria Teresa Schollhornabout a year ago

Thank you.

Charlotte S.
Charlotte S.about a year ago

Most of the rich believe they can never be rich enough and that if they're a dollar poorer then some other rich person they're broke.

Doesn't matter what their political leanings are. The rich think pretty much the same thing. I got mine and the reason you don't have as much is your own fault.

Alan Lambert
Alan` Lambertabout a year ago

Yeah, "dead broke" doesn't mean $1.6 million in legal bills that you'll pay back in 6 months after buying a $4 million house in the Hamptons and an office building in Harlem.

Frank Hanline
Frank Hanlineabout a year ago

Idiot. If I could, I'd vote Warren and Franklin for President/VP in no particular order

However, I realize that any movement to sanity, aka Progressive, must be done in steps. Hillary is the best chance to keep the GOP away from the White House

However Hillary is so freaking out of touch, she'd better get back to reality, soon

Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F.about a year ago