Two things Bill Clinton glossed over yesterday in his #BLM screed

  1. In his red-faced screed against Black Lives Matters protesters yesterday, Bill Clinton bragged about a dramatic decline in black poverty under his administration. What really happened is that the statistics were skewed by all the African American men who were put behind bars thanks to his “tough on crime” policies. Incarcerated individuals “don’t count” which brought up the average for everyone who managed to stay out of jail. As legal scholar and “The New Jim Crow” author Michelle Alexander wrote in “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote” in The Nation:

“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 weren’t 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.”

2. “The Republicans made me do it,” was Clinton’s excuse for his support of the 1994 Crime Bill, which dramatically expanded death penalty eligible crimes and encouraged lengthy ‘mandatory minimum’ sentencing, among other things. Bill Clinton also supported the 100–1 disparity in the treatment of crack versus powder cocaine and championed a federal “three strikes” law.

Agan, from Alexander: “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. All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration, but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed, ‘President Clinton’s tenure was the worst.’”

But Bill and Hillary Clinton, right up until Hillary decided the optics were not optimal, had been grateful recipients of private prison campaign contribution cash. Hillary’s conversion late in 2015 comes after more than 30 years of private prison industry expansion in the U.S.. Until very recently, both Clintons were just fine with there being a profit motive for having more people behind bars, accepting donations from those prison profiteers and then promoting laws and policy that drove up demand for prison beds. In light of that, “the Republicans made me do it” rings more than a little false.