We should all be as ‘dead broke’ as the Clintons

My ridiculing of Hillary Clinton’s attempt to say she could empathize with the plight of all the people who are struggling economically and claim solidarity with them by saying that when she and Bill Clinton left the White House they were ‘dead broke’, led to some pushback by some in the comments who claimed that they were in fact poor at that time because of all the legal bills they racked up defending themselves while in office.

As I pointed out in the comments, she is now worth an estimated $21.5 million. Her husband is worth an estimated $80 million.

But we know that the Clintons are experts at parsing words so that they say one thing while giving a different impression (readers may recall Bill’s famous argument that whether he was truthful or not depended on the meaning of the word ‘is’) so let us look narrowly at the very moment that they left the White House.

The disclosure forms that politicians fill out only require them to give broad ranges of their assets and liabilities but using that the Clintons were in debt to the tune of at least $500,000 when Bill left the presidency in January 2001. That looks like her claim is vindicated. But those forms do not require people to include homes they use for personal purposes and in 1999 they bought a home for $1.7 million and in December 2000 they bought another home for $2.85 million, putting a down payment of $855,000. These two homes were bought while they were supposedly being bankrupted by legal bills

How could they be broke and still get banks to finance such expensive homes, with the mortgage for the second being almost $2.0 million? Easy. Because banks look at future earnings potential and knew that the Clintons could make a ton of money once they left office. You can be sure that she is grateful to Citibank for giving them the mortgage.

And of course they did make a lot of money after they left office so that they now have a combined worth of over $100 million. They got a lot of their money by giving talks to some of the worst elements in the financial world at $200,000 per speech so you can be sure that if she becomes president, Wall Street will be very happy. That’s how an oligarchic system works.


  1. smrnda says

    I do not understand why people can just admit to being privileged. It doesn’t mean you have to be callous towards people with less, just that you aren’t really one of them.

  2. Matt Penfold says

    It is not on the same scale, but a few years ago a British journalist called Rosie Miller claimed that she was poor. This was despite both she and her husband working in well paid jobs, and owning over a dozen flats which they rented out. They also had a home in London, and a place in Paris.

    I am glad to say she was very roundly mocked.

  3. colnago80 says

    But those forms do not require people to include homes they use for personal purposes and in 1999 they bought a home for $1.7 million and in December 2000 they bought another home for $2.85 million, putting a down payment of $855,000.

    I am aware that she bought a house in New York State, just north of the
    Tappen Zee Bridge when she decided to run for the Senate from that state. Where was the 2nd house located? By the way, I would be willing to bet that the 1/2 million figure for lawyer’s fees is very low. The parents of the lacrosse players racked up over a million dollars in lawyers fees. Per chance was the 1999 house sold when they purchased the 2000 house, which I assume is the one in New York State?

  4. says

    If you want to read a great big dump of contempt for the Clintons, I highly recommend Christopher Hitchens’ “Nobody left to lie to” — it’s star trekkian prime invective.

    Hillary “dodging sniper fire in Kosovo” Clinton has only the barest acquaintance with the truth -- and only when it’s to her benefit or convenience. I was listening to NPR and she was pumping her book in a pre-arranged softball interview with some panting NPR journalist who was falling all over the place in their enthusiasm to rim-job a real live american oligarch.

    If Hilary was broke it was because she offshored all her money into a completely controlled charity, or some similar Clintonesque financial dodge.

  5. says

    (Not that she’s any worse than the rest of the assholes that run for office in this fucked up country. Perhaps she’s better. It’s like electing Vladimir Putin: you know what you’re gonna get.)

  6. lorn says

    Given the time the houses where financed the transactions were seen as investments, investments undertaken with borrowed money in an attempt to make enough money to pay for a legal defenses to counter the many accusations and investigations. There was a lot of doubt as to their ability to raise enough money to keep a political career and legal defense going at the same time. Which is why the right arrayed their media and legal abuse the way they did.

    Yes, I would also like to be that poor, but given my much more modest academic accomplishment and resume I can’t fault the Clintons for their financial success or blame anyone for my relative poverty. While I have few illusions about their eligibility for sainthood, politics ain’t bean bag and sharp elbows are pretty much a requirement if you want to survive, the arc of their careers is from modest means and working their way up from the bottom through hard work. Now that they have established their reputations as political brand, agent, and service provider they have every right to sell their time and efforts for whatever the market will bear. The simple, and unfortunate, political fact is that to run and gain office you need money, and the least regulated money is personal money. $100 million isn’t a whole lot given that the last presidential cycle was close to a billion dollars spent of both sides. If anything the more of their own money they use the less beholding to big money interests they will be.

  7. Mano Singham says


    The issue is not they made money. It is crying poor when she knew full well that they were planning to clean up big time.

  8. Jockaira says

    Rich people are never really “broke”, they’re just on a hiatus between fortunes. With a little help from their oligargarchical newtwork, the hiatus is sometimes not even noticed.

  9. richardrobinson says

    Poverty and being broke are about access to cash, not net worth. If you had to spend money right now, consequences be damned, how much could you spend.
    When you’re broke, the answer to that is zero dollars. You become poor when that isn’t likely to change any time soon. The Clintons were never in this position. There was always someone who would have been happy to lend them cash.
    I spent most of the last decade with a negative net worth. I had students debts to pay off, and then I made a terrible and expensive financial decision. But, except for a few months immediately after graduating, I was never broke and I was never poor. Through almost that entire period, I had access, in an emergency, to thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. For the Clintons, that was likely a thousand times higher.
    So, no, the Clintons were never broke and they were never poor.

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