Today, while campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia, the former president was interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters who challenged him on his crime bill and welfare reform.
Hillary has tread carefully with these policies, acknowledging that the welfare bill had its shortcomings and that parts of the crime bill were a mistake, and apologizing for calling black children “superpredators.” Today, Bill defended these policies vehemently, condescendingly telling protesters:
I don’t know how you would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old kids hopped up on crack and sent them out on the street to murder other African-American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens… You are defending the people who kill the people whose lives you say matter!
He then went on to defend the low crime and murder rates during his tenure. However, political scientists have found that these laws had only a modest effect on the decrease in crime rates; rather, the drop in crime fit into a general trend that was already occurring. And, as Michelle Alexander has noted, while not all of his own doing, Clinton “presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history,” which disparately impacted black Americans.
On welfare reform, Bill stated, “We left [states] with enough money to take care of all the poor people who couldn’t go to work, on welfare.” But as Sam Adler-Bell and I have noted, studies show that the number of children living in extreme poverty—$2 a day—has risen from 1.4 million to 3.5 million since welfare was gutted. Today it is evident that welfare reform has left the poorest, notably single black mothers and their children, worse off.