Every liberal in America who is mad at President Obama should have watched Bill O’Reilly’s show on Wednesday. Not only was his opening “Talking Points” segment a shallow, misleading, disgusting look at welfare in America, it was a sad example of how Fox “News” is the prime mastermind of the so-called class war that it accuses Democrats of waging.
The segment began with a lie:
As just about everybody knows, America is broke.
The government owes more than 14 trillion dollars. So, spending has to be cut, possibly including some welfare payments to the poor.
In 2002 the poverty rate in America was about 12%. In 2009 it was about 14%, up two points despite—despite—more than $4 trillion in welfare spending over that period.
O’Reilly then shows this graph:
“That’s the redistribution of income,” O’Reilly says, helpfully.
He then says something remarkably strange, even for him:
Welfare spending is 15%—15%—of the entire federal budget. But that is deceiving because Medicare and Social Security account for 33% of all spending. If you take those mandated expenses out of the equation, then welfare payments account for 22% of the total budget and that’s a big number.
Why would O’Reilly exclude Social Security and Medicare from “the equation”? Obviously to make the welfare number look worse, which he thinks makes his class war offensive more devastating.
But the class warfare was just heating up. He then quoted a Republican Rasmussen poll that purported to show that Americans think there are “too many people” on welfare:
And a graphic that raised, of course, the “illegal immigrant” issue:
Noting that most of those “illegals” were children, he then said,
The democratic party in general does not want to cut government assistance programs to the poor or even to illegal aliens. The basic philosophy of President Obama’s party is to redistribute income, as we said, to those who do not have very much regardless of their status.
A fair system would hold those receiving government assistance accountable. That is, if they turn things around in their lives, they would have to pay back a portion of what they received. And they would actively have to look for work, if they don’t, the benefits cease.
President Clinton signed the Welfare Reform Act in 1996, and that slowed the “entitlement industry” down a bit, but over the past few years it has picked up steam again. The feds must—must—impose discipline here and in every other federal spending situation.
No mention of why the “entitlement industry“—notice how he conflated welfare with Social Security and Medicaid?—might have grown or “picked up steam” ”over the past few years.” No mention, that is, of the Bush years and the Great Recession he bequeathed to America as one of his parting gifts, which caused many Americans to scramble for help from their government.
Now, match that horrific and sickeningly graceless O’Reilly segment with what is going on in Florida. The governor, Rick Scott, a multi-million dollar Medicare cheat, signed a law that required welfare recipients—who receive a stunningly low $134 in average monthly benefits—to undergo annual drug tests—which cost $30 each— (we had the same thing proposed in Missouri) in order to collect benefits. (Some claim that Scott benefits from the forced drug testing.)
Scott argued that ,”studies show that people that [sic] are on welfare are higher users of drugs than people not on welfare.” But the preliminary data from the new drug testing contradicts that claim. From Tampa Bay Online:
TALLAHASSEE – Since the state began testing welfare applicants for drugs in July, about 2 percent have tested positive, preliminary data shows.
Two percent. The problem is that, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the number of “illicit drug” users in the entire population of the state of Florida happens to be around 8%. Whoops.
The ACLU, which is threatening a lawsuit, says that the measly “apparent” savings associated with the program— the benefit cuts for those who test positive minus the cost of drug testing—has yet to be determined because administrative costs have not yet been calculated.
Derek Newton, a spokesman for the ACLU in Florida, said this:
This is just punishing people for being poor, which is one of our main points. We’re not testing the population at-large that receives government money; we’re not testing people on scholarships, or state contractors. So why these people? It’s obvious– because they’re poor.
Yes, it is obvious, but only to those who have eyes that are willing to see. But Bill O’Reilly, Governor Scott, Fox “News,” and the entire conservative movement’s leadership are blind to the truth—no, actually they are trying to blind others to the truth.
As a final example: On Tuesday morning I watched Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom,” which follows the incomparably dumb Fox and Friends. “America’s Newsroom” is supposed to be straight news on the Republican News Network. If you believe that, I have a FEMA trailer to sell ya.
In any case, the guest host, Gregg Jarrett, said near the beginning of a segment on Warren Buffett’s recent argument that the super rich weren’t taxed enough that, “I did a little digging and here’s what I came up with…“ In other words, the news host was about to take on Warren Buffett.
What he came up with were a series of graphics, two of which were quite deceptive:
As you can see, Mr. Jarrett tried to make the point that the very wealthy were paying more than their fair share of taxes and, as he told his sycophantic guest, Stephen Moore, “more Americans are paying nothing [his emphasis].” The problem was that his chart didn’t let viewers know that he was only talking about federal income taxes. A very different picture develops when all taxes are included.
Thus, we know that Jarrett’s overall claim is grossly false, as Citizens for Tax Justice pointed out and I wrote about a couple of weeks ago:
As the chart demonstrates, the total tax burden—which includes not just income taxes—but payroll taxes and gas taxes and sales taxes and so on, is only slightly progressive, in terms of the tax burden as a percentage of income.
The truth is that the rich earn most of the income and thus pay a majority of the taxes in America. But it’s simply not the case, as Mr. Jarrett tried to claim, that “more Americans are paying nothing.”
So, yes, we have a class war in America. Conservatives started it just after the New Deal was born, and finally succeeded in taking real ground in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan, and have steadily taken a greater share of the country’s wealth ever since.
And now, after gaining so much ground, after decimating the middle class, they are hungry for more and have declared war on the poor.