Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks about her new book "Hard Choices" on Friday, June 20, 2014, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Updated: June 24, 2014 4:39PM
I am completely in favor of Hillary Clinton’s amassing vast amounts of money. Her desire to do so is very American.
Though our early colonists came here in search of religious freedom, they also believed that God had given them two hands so they could grab all they could with them. (As Native Americans would soon learn.)
Hillary’s desire to be wealthy is well within the American mainstream. Her ability to achieve that wealth, however, is not. She is probably America’s leading political celebrity (it’s either Hillary or her husband), and that gives her incredible advantages when it comes to making dough.
When she announced for president, on Jan. 20, 2007, she did it via her website and in a video, sitting on a comfy couch and saying, “I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America.”
Today, however, she lives in an upper-class family in two very expensive houses on America’s East Coast. One is a five-bedroom home in Chappaqua, New York, purchased for $1.7 million in 1999. The other is a seven-bedroom home purchased for $2.8 million in 2000 in a swank section of Washington, D.C., near the British Embassy. Both were purchased while the Clintons were still living in the White House.
True, the Clintons had to get a mortgage for their second home, but they were able to cough up $855,000 in cash to secure that mortgage.
As to their first home, which Hillary needed to be in New York so she could run for the Senate from there, the Clintons put up $350,000 in cash, and their good friend Terry McAuliffe, now the governor of Virginia, put up $1.35 million in cash to secure a mortgage for them.
Good for the Clintons. Neither was born into wealth. They both held low-paying jobs at one time. And they both moved up the ladder of success. That is the American dream. (As for having rich friends, well, we should all be so lucky.)
But you can’t be wealthy and then poor-mouth. Not if you want to be president.
When ABC’s Diane Sawyer recently questioned Hillary about the $5 million she had amassed by giving speeches and the $100 million Bill was now worth, Hillary nodded and said: “You have no reason to remember, but we came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education. It was not easy.”
But “dead broke” people don’t have $350,000 in cash to secure one mortgage and $855,000 in cash to secure another. About 50 million Americans live below the poverty line. Forty-seven million of them need food stamps. They know what dead broke looks like, and it doesn’t look like the Clintons.
PolitiFact rated Hillary’s “dead broke” claim as “mostly false.”
OK, big deal. Better to make your mistakes early than late. But you have to stop making them.
On Saturday, The Guardian published an interview with Hillary Clinton, in which she was asked how she will convince voters she is not part of America’s “glaring income inequality” problem given her “huge personal wealth.”
“They don’t see me as part of the problem,” Clinton said, “because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well-off, not to name names; and we’ve done it through dint of hard work.” She said that, according to The Guardian, with a “burst of laughter.”
I don’t see what’s so funny. Hillary Clinton has a problem here. It is time for her to fess up and admit she is indeed “truly well-off.” It is nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe she did it through the “dint of hard work,” and maybe she did it because political celebrities get dollars thrown at them.
But there is a real problem in this country: Most people no longer have the ability to move up the ladder. According to a recent study based on Internal Revenue Service figures, “in 2012, the gap between the richest 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent was the widest it’s been since the 1920s. Incomes of the wealthiest 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent, whereas the income of the remaining 99 percent rose 1 percent in comparison.”
Nobody expects Hillary to be poor. Most presidential candidates are well-off.
John F. Kennedy didn’t get elected by convincing people he was an average American. He got elected by convincing people he cared about average Americans.
Hillary needs to try that.