The “47%” Comment of 2014


Hillary Rodham Clinton says her family was “dead broke” after her husband Bill’s presidency.

In an interview with ABC News airing Monday, the former secretary of state and possible presidential contender said the couple emerged from the White House saddled with legal fees and debt. Clinton said they struggled to finance “mortgages, for houses” and daughter Chelsea’s education.

Financial disclosures showed that the family in 2001 owed millions of dollars in legal bills stemming from Bill Clinton’s time in the White House.

Let us list all of the ways in which the Clintons had an advantage over most people who are “dead broke”:

  • After leaving the White House, Bill Clinton received–and continues to receive–a yearly pension for having served two terms as president of the United States. (See Table II of this document for the total appropriations in pension and benefits given to Bill Clinton since he left office in 2001; note that this goes beyond a mere pension. Table I lists the former president as receiving $201,000 in pension payments.)
  • Hillary Clinton became a United States senator, and received a six-figure income of her own.
  • Bill Clinton spoke for a fee in just about any and every venue that would have him, and made more money than you and I would ever know what to do with. And he made it quickly. Hillary Clinton followed suit when she left the State Department in 2013.
  • As the ultimate power couple, Bill and Hillary Clinton had every expectation that they would make lots and lots (and lots) of money once their time in the White House ended, and as demonstrated above, that expectation was met–and then some.
  • The Clintons had wealthy friends who were generous with their money.

It is nice to see that the Washington Post decided to call shenanigans on this story:

Certainly, the Clintons accrued an enormous amount in legal fees toward the end of the 1990s, but is Clinton’s tacit suggestion that the family was scraping by accurate?

Well, not exactly. Clinton left the White House to head to the Capitol as New York’s junior senator in 2000, meaning that she had to file annual disclosures of how much she and her husband earned, owned, and owed. We took a look at those filings, via Open Secrets. And this is what the Clinton’s wealth looked like for the first four years after they left office in early 2001.

[. . .]

. . . it is technically true the Clintons left office in debt. But, a year later, the couple’s assets had soared. And, as was reported at the time, the Clintons’ debt was entirely gone by the end of 2004 — well before Hillary Clinton left the Senate and well before she left her position as secretary of state. Nor was that income entirely from speaking fees; Clinton’s memoir Living History earned the couple a great deal of income, including $2.8 million reported in her 2001 financial disclosure.

What’s more, there are perks that come with being a former president. According to an April report from the Congressional Research Service, Bill Clinton has received nearly $16 million in pensions and benefits from the federal government since leaving office. That includes $944,000 in fiscal year 2014 for office space, staff, and a pension.

If you were wondering, it was also not as though Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 bid for the presidency thrust the couple back into debt. For her 2009 disclosure, filed because of her appointment to lead the Department of State, the Clintons’ assets were worth somewhere between $10 million and $50 million.

They did, however, have up to $65,000 in credit card debt. Clinton made $200,000-plus for individual speeches in 2013, after she left the State Department. So that credit card debt probably didn’t stick around long.

We should all have such troubles.

I remember Bill Clinton giving an interview while still in the White House stating that when he left, he would give paid speeches to secure his family’s financial future so that if anything were to happen to him, his wife and his daughter would not hurt for money. That’s fine and honorable, and I have nothing against people getting rich legally and legitimately. But for Hillary Clinton to claim that her family was just getting by financially, when her family’s financial prospects were nothing but blindingly bright is too much to take, and it certainly serves to define down what a real money crunch is like, and how it affects families that have never had the privilege and advantage of having lived in the White House.

So, it appears clear that Hillary Clinton lacks the common touch. And as Mitt Romney can tell her, being seen as lacking the common touch can be fatal for the political prospects of anyone seeking the White House.

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