The Clinton Presidency Revisited (A Response to Elijah)

As I work on the second installment of my three part series defending the Clinton administration, I thought I’d first correct a few errors from Elijah’s response to my piece.

First, the death penalty. Elijah rightly notes the disproportionate and discriminatory impact the death penalty has on African Americans. It’s also true that the 1994 Crime Bill created 60 new death penalty offenses. However, he conveniently omits the fact that only three people have been executed by the Federal Government since the Crime Bill passed. The hundreds of black people have been executed by the government is the fault of state government policies, not the Clintons’ crime bill.

I also believe Elijah is also a little misleading about Clinton’s support of the death penalty. From the same debate that Elijah pulls the Sander’s quote, Clinton says, “I do [support the death penalty] for very limited, particularly heinous crimes believe it is an appropriate punishment, but I deeply disagree with the way that too many states are still implementing it.” In fact, Clinton has some personal experience with the unjust implementation of capital punishment. Way back in 1976 as a young lawyer in Arkansas she successfully defended a mentally disabled black man from the death penalty.



Second, some points about Welfare spending. Elijah has some interesting points to make about the distribution of Welfare spending. But when you read the actual article cited instead of the press release, you find a long section called “Caveats and Concerns.”

Here we find that the author omits Medicaid spending from total Welfare spending because it’s difficult to calculate on a per capita basis. This isn’t a minor omission–Medicaid accounts for more than 50% of total U.S welfare spending. More importantly, the inclusion of Medicaid would change the picture Elijah paints since Medicaid has been significantly expanded under the Clinton Administration.

Most of the Medicaid expansion in the 1990s took the form of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, an effort led by no other than Hillary Clinton herself.

Screenshot 2016-03-13 20.49.39

As the above chart from the nonpartisan CBO shows, 10 million more people enrolled in Medicaid during the Clinton administration as spending tripled. Since the CHIP was targeted at the children of poor families, the increased health care benefits would significantly increase the total amount of welfare assistance for single mother families, likely eliminating the supposed reduction Moffit calculates.


Third, Elijah includes this disturbing statistic: “welfare covered 75% of those living in poverty, but 14 years after welfare reform in 2009, during the worst recession since the Great Depression, only 27% of the impoverished were covered.” Welfare spending is meant to assist the poor. It’s alarming to think that Welfare assists less than a third of the American poor. Fortunately, it’s utterly untrue.

The statistic he cites only cover one program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), not all of welfare. TANF is one of the many welfare programs that the U.S that provides government assistance to the poor, and it’s also the only Welfare program that saw a decrease in spending since the 1990s.  I couldn’t easily find a statistic about the proportion of the poor covered by all the U.S Welfare programs, but again, overall welfare spending has increased dramatically. Furthermore, many provisions were increased during the recession:

The federal government expanded many of the major transfer programs significantly during the Great Recession. Benefit levels for the Food Stamp program were raised, and eligibility requirements were relaxed; EITC amounts were increased for large families; additional funds were provided for the TANF program; amounts for the CTC were increased; income and payroll tax rates were temporarily reduced; and one-time extra benefits were given to Social Security retirement and SSI recipients. An additional major legislative change involved the UI program, for which the potential duration of benefits was increased, benefit levels were raised, and states were encouraged to broaden the bases for eligibility.


While I haven’t considered every negative statistic Elijah highlighted in his post, I think I’ve covered the most heinous and demonstrated them to be greatly exaggerated or plainly untrue.

Now, as I said in my original piece on the Clinton Presidency, “there are many aspects of his presidency that aren’t defensible on the merits.” And no one’s denying that black people can’t, as Elijah says, “critically examine the Clinton Presidency.”

However, any fair-minded critical examination of the Clinton Presidency isn’t going to find it all that horrible. It seems clear that most Americans are voting for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders not because Clinton has “mastered racial pandering” but because it is perfectly reasonable to look back on the Clinton years and find them positive.

When you go out looking for bad things about the Clinton presidency, you’re going to find some. But that’s also true for any President. Overall evaluations need to compare both the positive and negative sides of the ledger. People have a right to come to their own conclusions, but Sanders supporters shouldn’t be surprised that most people look back at the Clinton years foundly.



2 thoughts on “The Clinton Presidency Revisited (A Response to Elijah)

  1. my professor said although medicaid spending increased its because of two things:
    1. healthcare costs rose
    2. increase in the number of senior citizens (dual eligibility) (Also a lot of people on medicaid are seniors)


  2. Means tested programs targeted for the poor are different from social insurance programs, the other acronyms,that are primarily for the middle class


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