Fox's Bill O'Reilly and John Stossel forwarded the notion that government assistance does not lift Americans out of poverty, a claim directly contradicted by evidence.
On the September 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host O'Reilly and Fox Business' Stossel discussed persistent and rising income inequality in the U.S. During the segment, Stossel and O'Reilly railed against government anti-poverty measures, with Stossel claiming that government makes “poverty worse with these programs” and that “we should get rid of most of government and allow poor people to become rich.”
Stossel's claim about government programs not lifting Americans out of poverty is directly contradicted by evidence released hours before he made the claim.
On September 17, the Census Bureau released its annual report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for 2012. While the report showed the poverty rate remained unchanged from 2011, it also highlighted the effectiveness of government anti-poverty programs.
According to the report, if government noncash payments -- such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits -- were taken into account when calculating the poverty rate, millions of Americans would be lifted above the official poverty threshold. From the report:
- If unemployment insurance benefits were excluded from money income, 1.7 million more people would be counted as in poverty in 2012.
- If SNAP benefits were counted as income, 4 million fewer people would be categorized as in poverty in 2012.
- Taking account of the value of the federal earned income tax credit would reduce the number of children classified as in poverty in 2011 by 3.1 million.
Furthermore, as Sharon Parrott, vice president for budget policy and economic opportunity at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, notes, those who weren't lifted out of poverty by SNAP benefits -- also known as food stamps -- were made significantly less poor. The data from the latest Census report reaffirms SNAP as one of the most effective anti-poverty programs.
Fox's misleading campaign against anti-poverty programs -- particularly SNAP -- comes at a critical time. House Republicans plan to decrease funding for the program by nearly $40 billion over ten years, resulting in at least 3.8 million adults and children losing food assistance. The network has even inserted itself into the legislative push against SNAP, distributing its wildly inaccurate documentary on the program to Republican members of congress.