by: Jill Richardson
Thu Mar 25, 2010 at 05:00:00 AM PDT
Bill Clinton realized a decade or so too late that he messed up by prioritizing Arkansas rice farmers over Haitians. In a stunning and wonderful apology, Clinton said:
It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake... I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else.
Wow. Just so you can connect all of the dots here, recall that Clinton is from Arkansas and Arkansas is the top rice producing state in the U.S. During his time in office, Clinton imposed neoliberal economic reforms on Haiti, flooding their markets with cheap U.S. rice. This put Haitian farmers out of business, sending many of them to Port-au-Prince. In a stroke of irony, many out of work farmers were starving... not because there was no food but because they could not afford it. I'll be honest that I'm thrilled Clinton's now come face to face with Haiti's crushing poverty in a big way, because he seems to truly understand what he did as President and why it was not good. Let's hope he also understands that this is not a phenomenon limited to Haiti:
"A combination of food aid, but also cheap imports have ... resulted in a lack of investment in Haitian farming, and that has to be reversed," U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes told The Associated Press. "That's a global phenomenon, but Haiti's a prime example. I think this is where we should start."
So now that Clinton gets it, let's hope he shares his newfound wisdom with his wife... and her boss. The bipartisan Clinton-Bush team is now promising that the U.S. will help create Haitian jobs. I sincerely hope that their plan is not to increase imports of Haitian goods to the U.S. so that they can create more jobs in sweatshops, but I fear that might be the case.