Clinton did it for politics.
This is not the message the Clinton campaign puts out today, wishing history would rewrite itself. But Clinton cannot wish it away.
Daniel Denvir in Salon writes:
[E]xamine Hillary Clinton’s comments defending welfare reform, assembled by [Christopher Massie at Buzzfeed], in the late 1990s and early 2000s: Clinton wrote that 'too many of those on welfare had known nothing but dependency all their lives.' She suggested that women recipients were 'sitting around the house doing nothing.' She described the 'move from welfare to work' as 'the transition from dependency to dignity.' Or a 'substitute dignity for dependence.' Put more simply, she stated, 'these people are no longer deadbeats—they’re actually out there being productive.'
In sum, she has frequently validated a pathologization of poor black women that has often served as a pretext for Republican assaults on the social safety net. She has not repudiated these remarks.
Sanders fought against Clinton's appeals to prejudice in the late 1990s. Notes Salon's Denvir:
In the 1990s, for what it’s worth, Sanders condemned welfare reform efforts as combining 'an assault on the poor, women and children, minorities, and immigrants,' and 'the grand slam of scapegoating legislation' that 'appeals to the frustrations and ignorance of the American people along a wide spectrum of prejudices.'
This pathologization of poor black women, (in defiance of the reality of single white women and white veterans who used the 'Food Stamp' program to feed children most frequently), is the same toxic politics that Tommy Thompson used contemporaneously with Clinton, later inherited by Scott Walker who took it to absurd depths.
Notes Mark Karlin in BuzzFlash in 2008, Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund "had this to say about the 'welfare reform bill' and Hillary Clinton" in an interview with Amy Goodman in 2007:
[W]hen many people are pronouncing welfare reform a great success, you know, we’ve got growing child poverty, we have more children in poverty and in extreme poverty over the last six years than we had earlier in the year. When an economy is down, and the real test of welfare reform is what happens to the poor when the economy is not booming. Well, the poor are suffering, the gap between rich and poor widening. We have what I consider one of—a growing national catastrophe of what we call the cradle-to-prison pipeline. A black boy today has a one-in-three chance of going to prison in his lifetime, a black girl a one-in-seventeen chance. A Latino boy who’s born in 2001 has a one-in-six chance of going to prison. We are seeing more and more children go into our child welfare systems, go dropping out of school, going into juvenile justice detention facilities. Many children are sitting up—15,000, according to a recent congressional GAO study—are sitting up in juvenile institutions solely because their parents could not get mental health and health care in their community. This is an abomination.
It isn't just divide-and-conquer poor people-bashing that led the Clintons, Tommy Thompson,Walker and Ryan to rise to positions of politcal power.
Clinton, as Bill Clinton has admitted earlier this year, used 'anti-crime' legislation to create the largest population behind bars in world history, (Cohen, Brennen Center; Loury, Boston Review).
Clinton's federal drive to imprison minorities was matched by ALEC legislation on the state level, in Wisconsin led by then State Rep. Scott Walker (R-Wauwatosa, (1993-2002)) and Gov. Tommy Thompson (1987-2001) to make Wisconsin into a state "leviathan," as Glenn Loury terms mass incarceration, stocking prisons (private and public), making the imprisoned' lives a "living hell," as Thompson campaigned in an infamous political TV spot. (Mal Contends) (Mal Contends) (Adelman, Valparaiso University Law Review) and (ALEC Exposed, PRWatch). [Note: Can't source Thompson's 'living hell' campaign spot with a link or year, but spot played heavily across state in a Thompson reelection campaign. Spot featured Thompson working out on a weight machine as he crowed about his tough-on-crime measures. I recall watching the spot repeatedly in the Madison market, wondering vaguely if Wisconsin were insane or stupid for electing Thompson over and over in the midterms.]
Notes Glenn Loury:
This growth in punitiveness was accompanied by a shift in thinking about the basic purpose of criminal justice. In the 1970s, the sociologist David Garland argues, the corrections system was commonly seen as a way to prepare offenders to rejoin society. Since then, the focus has shifted from rehabilitation to punishment and stayed there.In 2013, Wisconsin led the nation in concentrating black men behind bars as Walker's and Clinton's racial politics bore its rotten fruit, (Corley, NPR) (O'Hear, Marquette Law School).
Clinton's early support among blacks is ironic today, and likely to diminish fast.
Matt Taibbi makes the case for Barry Sanders in Rolling Stone, noting, "Sanders is a clear outlier in a generation that has forgotten what it means to be a public servant. The Times remarks upon his "grumpy demeanor." But Bernie is grumpy because he's thinking about vets who need surgeries, guest workers who've had their wages ripped off, kids without access to dentists or some other godforsaken problem that most of us normal people can care about for maybe a few minutes on a good day, but Bernie worries about more or less all the time."
As for Clinton, it's not just low-income women and blacks she would sell out if she were president, with Paul Ryan as House Speaker.
The elderly who rely on Social Security and Medicare are next, and if you don''t believe that, in the words of Mike Lofgren, a 28-year veteran as a Republican Congressional staffer, "I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté," (Truthout).
Meanwhile, Scott Walker is trying to outdo himself in punishing the poor.