The New York Times’s Strained Finances Left Clinton Juggling Necessity and Ideals seeks to explain why “despite choosing a life in government, she [Hillary Clinton] has appeared eager to make money, driven to provide for her family and helping amass a fortune of more than $50 million.” Expressed in less gentile terms, the Times asks: Why does Hillary grub for money in risky ways that jeopardize her life of public service?
The Times has a kind and gentle explanation. It all goes back to Hillary’s strained finances after Bill lost his reelection bid: “At no time did those stresses fall more squarely on Mrs. Clinton’s shoulders than in the difficult two-year period in Arkansas when she and her husband found themselves cast out of office, financially strained and deeply uncertain about the future.”
During this “troubled two years,” Bill and Hillary lived in a modest home furnished with thrift-store decor as both worked for separate law firms, and Hillary arranged child care for the infant Chelsea. As the Times quotes a friend from that period: “Hillary had a couple years of the taste of what it means to be a working mother, without any help, to have to take care of a small baby and care for [her] job.” After years of Ivy League education and a cushy life in the governor’s mansion, Hillary had to suffer through two years as an ordinary person needing to balance the family budget.
The Times fails to mention that from their arrival in Arkansas to their departure for the White House, the Clinton household’s earnings (as cited in the article) placed them in the top 5 percent of US households according to the Census Bureau. The $112,000 house Hillary bought in 1980 – with her own money, the article says – was double the median price of a new home in that year.
The Times reports that Hillary went about wresting the family out of their “strained finances.” with high billing hours, near-miraculous cattle futures speculation, and Whitewater Development business. By the time they left Arkansas for the White House, the Clintons had moved up from the top 5 percent to the much maligned top one percent. Since leaving the White House, the Clintons have been in the top one tenth of one percent.
Never mind the Clintons’ incredible accumulation of wealth in their Arkansas years. As the Times assures us: Their income in 1992 “seemed meager compared with the wealth of his opponents, George Bush and Ross Perot.” See: What counts is not what you have but that the other guy has more.
The Times’s fundamental mistake is to claim that the choice of public service means lower income and wealth. Few enter Congress as wealthy individuals. Few leave without joining the millionaires club. Has the Times not figured this out yet? The Clintons are a living example, if they have not noticed.