A new study reveals how successful government safety net programs are at keeping people out of poverty, delivering an additional blow to the Fox News myth that government assistance cannot improve the lives of low-income individuals.
According to The Washington Post, researchers Christopher Wimer and Liana Fox of the Columbia Population Research Center found that from 1967 to 2012, the safety net reduced the poverty rate from 26 to 16 percent.
Official poverty measures did not take government programs used by low-income Americans into account before 2010, often giving the appearance that poverty rates have remained unchanged over the past 50 years. Wimer and Fox adjusted poverty rates going back to 1967 to take into account additional costs and the effect of safety net programs, revealing the 10-point drop in poverty. Previous research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities suggested that government programs reduce the official poverty rate, but Wimer and Fox found that the safety net has an even greater effect in reducing poverty.
The findings of the study reveal how crucial government anti-poverty programs are, undercutting the right-wing media myth rampant on Fox News that government programs cannot help low-income people.
Fox Business contributor Charles Payne made this point as recently as September, arguing that government assistance has been a waste because poverty numbers have not decreased since the "Great Society" in the 1960s, which implemented many anti-poverty measures.
In a discussion on The O'Reilly Factor, Fox Business' John Stossel recently railed against anti-poverty programs, claiming that government makes poverty "worse with these government programs" and that "we should get rid of most of government and allow poor people to become rich."
Indeed, the belief that government assistance cannot help low-income individuals is somewhat of a theme in the right-wing media, with figures continually questioning the efficacy of safety net programs.
The study also found that absent government safety net programs, 29 percent of Americans would be in poverty today -- an increase since 1967. These findings show that while the economy has grown tremendously in the past few decades, the gains have not reached those at the bottom.
The study reinforces previous research about the nature of growing income inequality in America. However, it is unlikely that voices in right-wing media will take notice of the findings as a problem, especially considering previous calls to reduce inequality have been met with staunch opposition and accusations of implementing a communist agenda.
While Fox News may continue to dismiss government assistance as wasteful, it doesn't change the fact that it plays a critical role in reducing poverty and inequality.
Yesterday the world mourned the death of Nelson Mandela. In a moving speech, President Obama described the former South African president as a man who through "fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others... transformed South Africa -- and moved all of us." Obama also noted that his first political action was inspired by Mandela -- a protest against South Africa's brutal apartheid regime in the late 1970s, part of a wave of progressive activism that would sweep the country over the next decade and compel the United States to enact economic sanctions against South Africa's government.
American conservatives have a far more complicated history with Mandela, as many of the movement's most prominent figures spent the decade leading up to his release from prison opposing actions geared toward ending South Africa's brutal apartheid regime. In 1986 President Reagan vetoed a bill that would have imposed economic sanctions on South Africa unless it met five conditions, including Mandela's release. Congress overrode that veto. Washington Post columnist George Will derided calls for sanctions and divestment in a 1985 column: "Clearly some of the current campaigning against South Africa is a fad, a moral Hula Hoop, fun for a while."
On the very day Mandela was freed in 1990, conservative icon William Buckley warned that "the release of Mandela, for all we know, may one day be likened to the arrival of Lenin at the Finland Station in 1917" (referring to Lenin's return to Russia from exile and the ensuing Bolshevik seizure of power) and mocked South African opponents of apartheid for their concern with "the question of one-man, one-vote," which he claimed "has not yet hit the United States, whose Senate guarantees most unequal treatment."
American conservatives of the era recognized the brutal repression of black South Africans by the whites, but ultimately determined that ending that system was less important that preserving South Africa as an ally in the Cold War. They pointed to Mandela's ties to South Africa's Communist Party and his history of violent activism and warned of dire results if he were freed and the apartheid government overthrown. (In his statement at the opening of the 1964 trial that ended in his imprisonment, Mandela explained that his African National Congress worked with communists toward the common goal of "the removal of white supremacy." He compared this to the United States and Great Britain allying with the Soviet Union during World War II).
Ronald Reagan neatly summed up the conservative position on South Africa and apartheid in a March 1981 interview with Walter Cronkite:
In an interview with CBS News, Reagan said the United States should still be concerned about South Africa's policy of racial separatism, called apartheid. But he suggested that as long as a "sincere and honest" effort was being made to achieve racial harmony, the United States should not be critical.
Reagan then asked: "Can we abandon a country that has stood by us in every war we have ever fought, a country that is strategically essential to the free world in its production of minerals that we all must have?" [Associated Press, March 23, 1981, via Nexis]
Since Mandela's passing, conservatives in the media have grappled with their movement's actions in light of the fruits his leadership bore. Here's how they're responding, in ways ranging from repugnant to laudatory:
Some conservative hardliners are convinced that they were right about Mandela all along. "Don't Mourn For Mandela" is the headline of Joseph Farah's December 6 column, in which the WND editor highlights Mandela's communist ties and use of violence, writing:
Apartheid was inarguably an evil and unjustifiable system. But so is the system Mandela's revolution brought about - one in which anti-white racism is so strong today that a prominent genocide watchdog group has labeled the current situation a "precursor" to the deliberate, systematic elimination of the race.
In other words, the world has been sold a bill of goods about Mandela. He wasn't the saintly character portrayed by Morgan Freeman. He wasn't someone fighting for racial equality. He was the leader of a violent, Communist revolution that has nearly succeeded in all of its grisly horror.
Farah concludes that someone needs to highlight these "inconvenient truths" because "the Mandela mythology is as dangerous as the terror he and his followers perpetrated on so many innocent victims - white and black."
Similarly, PJ Media's David Swindle headlined his piece on Mandela, "Communist Icon Nelson Mandela Dead at 95." In a post at his Gateway Pundit site, popular conservative blogger Jim Hoft marked Mandela's passing by posting a picture of Mandela with Fidel Castro and highlighting a tweet from a "Communist Party" Twitter account mourning his death.
From the December 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the December 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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GOP candidates are training to better talk about women and women's issues following the disastrous 2012 elections -- but this new rebranding effort will be difficult, given conservative media's toxic rhetoric on women.
Politico reported on December 5 that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is meeting with congressional Republicans and their aides to "teach them what to say -- or not to say -- on the trail, especially when their boss is running against a woman":
While GOP party leaders have talked repeatedly of trying to "rebrand" the party after the 2012 election losses, the latest effort shows they're not entirely confident the job is done.
So they're getting out in front of the next campaign season, heading off gaffes before they're ever uttered and risk repeating the 2012 season, when a handful of comments let Democrats paint the entire Republican Party as anti-woman.
Akin dropped the phrase "legitimate rape" during the 2012 Missouri Senate race, costing himself a good shot at winning his own race and touching off Democratic charges of a GOP "War on Women" that dogged Republicans in campaigns across the country.
This new phase in the GOP's attempt to rebrand the party comes months after the Republican National Committee's (RNC) March 18 post-mortem of the 2012 election, which warned the party was "increasingly marginalizing itself" by alienating women, Hispanics, African Americans, and younger voters.
As Media Matters noted at the time, the rebranding effort always faced a significant obstacle: conservative media. Right-wing talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh played a significant role in popularizing the very brand of Republican politics the party leadership now understands is toxic -- and they are unlikely to change their rhetoric on women just because the RNC and NRCC suggest it.
After all, Limbaugh is the man who launched 46 personal attacks on Sandra Fluke in 2012, including calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute" for testifying in favor of affordable contraception, and little has changed since then. Just in the month of November, Limbaugh compared filibuster reform in the Senate to "allow[ing] women to be raped"; suggested that women in the military synchronize their menstrual cycles so they'd be "ready to be banshees"; read from a misogynistic parody site mocking marital rape; claimed ads promoting Obamacare's coverage of birth control told young women "if you like being a prostitute, then have at it"; and claimed Democrats are turning women "into nothing but abortion machines."
Limbaugh is not alone. Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto has mocked efforts to combat the immense problem of sexual assault in the military, and claimed "female sexual freedom" led to a "war on men." Fox News' Bill O'Reilly attempted to tie the "War on Christmas" to "unfettered abortion." Conservative blogger and Fox contributor Erick Erickson has called Texas Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis "abortion Barbie" and attempted to smear her campaign by suggesting she was mentally unfit for office. And a Fox Business host recently asked if there is "something about the female brain that is a deterrent" to women working as tech executives.
That's just a few of the most recent examples. The list goes on.
If the NRCC is concerned about Republicans being labeled "anti-women," Todd Akin and his "legitimate rape" comments are perhaps the least of their concerns. Conservative media's daily drumbeat of demeaning attacks on women could do more damage to the party's efforts than any single gaffe.
After all, the GOP rebranding effort also included a call for greater Latino outreach, to which conservative media responded with increased anti-immigrant demagoguery and a full-throated effort to destroy immigration reform. At the moment, it seems the conservative media is successfully thwarting the Republican "rebrand" -- leaving the GOP right back where they were in November 2012.
From the December 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a Scottsdale, AZ-based legal group committed to rolling back the rights of women and LGBT people on the grounds of "religious liberty." The organization has played a leading role in combatting marriage equality and non-discrimination policies in the U.S. while working internationally to criminalize homosexuality. Despite its rabid anti-LGBT extremism, ADF receives reliably friendly treatment from Fox News.
Established as the Alliance Defense Fund in 1994, ADF's founders include such religious right leaders as Focus on the Family's James C. Dobson and Campus Crusade for Christ's Bill Bright. According to ADF's website, the organization changed its name to Alliance Defending Freedom in 2012 to highlight its "enduring mission to gain justice for those whose faith has been unconstitutionally denied in the areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family."
Headed by President, CEO, and General Counsel Alan Sears, staffed by more than 40 attorneys, and boasting an annual budget in excess of $30 million, ADF bills itself as "a servant ministry building an alliance to keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel by transforming the legal system." As part of its effort to remake the American legal system along quasi-theocratic lines, ADF has:
ADF's relentless legal campaign against LGBT equality led the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to describe the organization as "virulently anti-gay." SPLC proved instrumental in exposing an aspect of ADF's work that the organization chooses not to tout on its website - its international work to criminalize homosexuality.
From the December 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News' Bill O'Reilly kicked off his annual obsession with the War on Christmas by blessing the Alliance Defending Freedom organization, an extremist anti-gay group O'Reilly credited with helping him save the holiday.
O'Reilly has become infamous for his annual fight against the so-called War on Christmas, a manufactured issue that O'Reilly has covered more than actual, ongoing wars for the past two years. He promised to continue the annual battle on the December 2 edition of his Fox program, decrying how the efforts of "secular groups" have resulted in "Happy Holidays syndrome" and wondering, "why are we allowing anti-Christmas madness?" O'Reilly went on to applaud the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) for its help in the fight:
O'REILLY: So once again this year, I will keep an eye on the situation. Helping me is the Alliance Defending Freedom organization based in Scottsdale, Arizona. They have been very successful in defending traditional rights in the courts. Therefore I say to them, 'God bless you, each and every one,' with apologies to Dickens.
O'Reilly then hosted ADF's senior vice president, Doug Napier, to discuss the organization's legal battles, which Napier described as a fight for Christians' "right to enjoy the season without the interference of a few bah humbug bullies." O'Reilly repeatedly allowed Napier to hype the ADF and its website, and the two men praised one another for their War on Christmas efforts:
NAPIER: And what we have to do -- and you're doing a great job, Bill, of getting the information out to the American public -- Alliance Defending Freedom sent out 13,000 letters to school districts to tell the truth about Christmas. Armed with the truth, Christmas can come back in, and the bah humbug folks can go out.
O'REILLY: It's good to let people know that your organization will defend them gratis, pro bono, if they are harassed by these other people.
What O'Reilly omitted from his praise of the ADF for "defending traditional rights" is that the group is "virulently anti-gay," as the Southern Poverty Law Center put it. ADF has fought against gay rights at every turn and linked homosexuality to pedophilia, even currently working internationally to criminalize homosexuality.
From the December 2 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News host Bill O'Reilly typified conservative media's absurd arguments on border enforcement, claiming that President Obama is not committed to addressing the issue because he can't stop immigrants from coming into the United States illegally in the first place. O'Reilly also dismissed the Senate immigration bill's border surge provisions, arguing that "money doesn't stop drug smuggling or people smuggling."
Discussing President Obama's November 25 immigration speech, O'Reilly speculated about the chances of passing immigration legislation, saying: "The problem here is that nobody believes President Obama will secure the border. They believe he'll give the pathway to citizenship but nobody believes he's gonna stop more people from coming in to follow the same pathway."
When contributor Juan Williams noted that the Senate-passed immigration bill includes substantial funding for border enforcement measures, O'Reilly replied:
O'REILLY: Money doesn't stop drug smuggling or people smuggling. You've got to have the will to do it and that will has to be imparted and you've got to put commanders down there, people who are really, really committed to stopping the chaos on the Southern border, and nobody, Juan, nobody believes the president of the United States is committed to do that.
O'Reilly went on to repeat Fox News' talking point that Obama's speech was an attempt to "deflect" from the problems with the Affordable Care Act's rollout. Guest Mary Katharine Ham agreed, saying that "the timing is interesting." She went on to promote the discredited conservative myth that Obama could have passed comprehensive immigration reform early in his first term if he had "made it a first priority" when "he had 60 senators." She continued: "But he put it off because he liked using it as a cudgel before the 2012 elections."
O'Reilly's point that Obama isn't serious about border enforcement because he's unable to prevent immigrants from crossing into the U.S. illegally or from overstaying their visas is absurd. There are a host of reasons that prompt illegal crossings, which can range from economic to family reunification.
The actor who plays a transgender character on the Fox television series Glee responded to criticism from Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who warned that allowing "dopey kids" to watch a transgender character on television might encourage them to experiment with homosexuality.
In April 2012, O'Reilly criticized Glee for introducing a transgender character - Wade "Unique" Adams - struggling with her gender identity in high school. According to O'Reilly, the presence of a transgender character on television might convince "dopey kids to identify as gay or transgender" (emphasis added):
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly distorted a provision of the Affordable Care Act known as risk corridors, falsely claiming the law subsidizes insurance companies if they don't make a profit under the new health care system.
On the November 19 edition of Fox's The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly hosted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to discuss Rubio's Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he described risk corridors as a "bailout for Obamacare." During the segment, O'Reilly adopted Rubio's attack, claiming that "one of the little-known parts of Obamacare is an option for the feds to reimburse private health insurance companies if they are not making enough money under the affordable health care law. In effect, the feds would subsidize private insurance companies if they don't make profit from Obamacare." Rubio described the provision by claiming "any shortfalls that may happen as a result of the law, that they are going to come in and make up for it. And according to the rule the way they've written it, it could be any amount":
But risk corridors are not a bailout. The provision is a way of stabilizing the insurance market by protecting insurers who cover higher-risk individuals by transferring costs from insurance plans that cover healthier people. A Health Affairs policy brief explained that risk corridors are "particularly useful in a period of transition, such as is likely to be the case in 2014 when many sicker people and those with preexisting health conditions will be buying coverage through insurance exchanges for the first time":
Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer attacked attempts to reduce income equality as only exacerbating economic growth and unemployment. But leading economists have supported government efforts to address inequality, calling it a paramount issue facing the country.
On the November 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly and Krauthammer met ostensibly to discuss rising economic inequality in the United States. Their conversation, however, quickly devolved into standard attacks against the efficacy of policies aimed at reducing inequality and building economic security. Citing a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), O'Reilly highlighted the "astounding" income gains of the top 1 percent of earners from 1979 to 2007 before turning to blame President Obama for failing to address growing inequality during his administration. Krauthammer joined the chorus, blaming President Obama's expressed concern with reducing economic inequality for actually driving unequal economic growth during his time in office [emphasis added]:
O'REILLY: President Obama promotes income equality, but during his time in office the rich are getting richer and the median income for working Americans has actually gone down. Joining us now from Washington, Charles Krauthammer. So why is this happening?
KRAUTHAMMER: It's happening because there is low economic growth. It's what Kennedy said; a rising economic tide lifts all boats. If you're obsessed with equality, as they are in Europe, what you end up with is chronic unemployment.
Krauthammer's claim that efforts to reduce economic inequality have an adverse effect on the economy is patently false. Economist Robert Reich has argued for decades that economic inequality "is bad for everyone," including the very wealthy, because it reduces economic growth potential.
Reich is not alone among noted economists championing policies that reduce inequality as a means to spur economic growth.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller recently told the Associated Press that "rising inequality in the United States and elsewhere in the world" is "[t]he most important problem that we are facing today." Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman agrees; reducing economic inequality should be a primary policy goal in the United States. In a column titled "Rich Man's Recovery", Krugman argued that the continued concentration of wealth among the very wealthy "undermine[s] all the values that define America." Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz encouraged politicians to address economic inequality in 2013 as a means of unleashing a robust and sustainable economic recovery. Recently, Stiglitz has stated that "inequality is a choice."
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly continued a pattern of transphobic commentary when he said that bringing a 12-year old boy to Hooters was comparable to allowing transgender students to use appropriate locker rooms or restrooms -- a right that O'Reilly believes will be exploited by mischievous adolescents who want to spy on the opposite sex -- noting the difference between bringing a 12 year old to Hooters and allowing a "guy who thinks he's a girl" into a women's locker room is that Hooters has chicken wings.
On the November 12 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, the eponymous host opened a segment with a story about a middle school football coach who made the controversial decision to bring his 12-15 year old players to a Hooters restaurant to celebrate a win. When liberal contributor Alan Colmes expressed opposition to bringing children of that age to Hooters, O'Reilly inexplicably began comparing the Hooters trip to allowing transgendered students into the locker rooms and school bathrooms that comport with their gender identity.
O'Reilly was incredulous after Colmes rejected the comparison, saying, "The transsexual in the locker room, in the bathroom, and all of that, you're fine with that. But you won't take the kid to Hooters." He then prescribed his "way to deal with" transgendered students, saying, "The way to deal with it is basically, look, if you're born a boy you stay in the boys locker room," but once "you're an adult you can go where you want."