Hillary Clinton’s book tour has been a minefield. A lot of the attention has been negative. She caught flak on the usual litany of subjects: Benghazi, her calculating political personality and various personal shifts on issues both real and imagined.
The most troubling item for many progressives supporters has been her (and Bill’s) obscene profiteering from public speaking engagements. The Clintons are said to have raked in well over $100 million since he left office. They are certainly not the first high-profile public servants to have made millions in retirement from corporate appearances. Soon the Obamas will probably be on this gravy train.
Hillary Clinton is a presumptive candidate for president, however. Her $200,000 chats come as President Obama has often lamented the growing chasm between haves and have-nots in America. Inequality is a serious public policy issue for everybody below the top 1 percent where the Clintons reside. They might have once been “broke” as Ms. Clinton asserts, but they are quite flush now.
Conventional wisdom has it that the Democrats own the issue of reducing burgeoning inequality and forcing the favored 1 percent into paying their fair share of taxes. The reality is Clinton cannot purport to represent these avowed Democratic ideals while she is profiting off of fame she acquired while she and her husband were public servants. Her inability to accept criticism on this issue has been startling to many progressives.
Happily there is a straightforward solution. Hillary Clinton should sequester $1 million in income per year plus an amount calculated to pay her annual taxes. Then she should donate all of the rest of her income to charities and foundations with tax-exempt status. No more than 50 percent of her donations should be directed toward the Bill Clinton Foundation. At least half should go to Habitat for Humanity or other efforts not directly championed by the Clintons.
Most Americans will have great difficulty understanding how Hillary Clinton could have trouble scraping by on a paltry million a year. Several good causes could greatly benefit from her rainmaking prowess. Bill Clinton’s foundation would be one of them.
More importantly she could personally demonstrate her commitment to helping end inequality in America. Other Democrat fat cats could follow suit in adherence to longstanding party ideals. They could make a substantive move toward creating a real difference between them and the Republicans. As it stands now, the Clinton money-making machine often looks more Republican than progressive even in spite of Bill Clinton’s solid global work.
Republicans might even join Hillary Clinton in a rare display of bipartisan cooperation. Their congressional conference could help Democrats pass a federal minimum wage of at least $10 per hour. This would be a baby step toward reducing inequality for the poorest workers among us.
Democrats and Republicans alike need to become more sensitive to the inequality that infects America. Hillary Clinton should lead us in this national reform by walking the walk. Talk is cheap, and the Republicans don’t even offer that!
William C. Crawford is a progressive writer and photographer in Winston-Salem.