Fox News host Bill O'Reilly compared the poverty rate in 1996 with the poverty rate in 2004 to falsely suggest that President Bush has done more to reduce poverty in the United States than President Clinton. O'Reilly cited the statistics in response to claims, which he described as “complete nonsense,” that the Bush administration has neglected impoverished Americans. While O'Reilly is correct that the poverty rate in 1996 was higher than in 2004, he took those numbers out of context to mask a far more significant fact: The poverty rate declined every year of the Clinton presidency and has increased every year under the Bush presidency. Put another way, the poverty rate was higher now than it was when Clinton left office. During the Clinton presidency, the poverty rate fell from 15.1 percent in 1993 to a low of 11.3 percent in 2000; it has risen every year that Bush has been in office, from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 12.7 percent in 2004.
From the September 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: The aftermath of [Hurricane] Katrina has produced a debate over poor Americans. There are about 37 million people living below the poverty line right now. The issue was described this way by Newsweek reporter Evan Thomas, a liberal guy but not alone, who writes, “Liberals will say [the authorities] were indifferent to the plight of poor African-Americans. It is true that Katrina laid bare society's massive neglect of its least fortunate.”
Massive neglect? Let's take a look at that bit of overstatement. Halfway through President Clinton's tenure in office in 1996, the poverty rate was 13.7 percent. Halfway through President Bush's tenure, the rate is 12.7 percent, a full point lower. In 1996, the Clinton budget allotted $191 billion for poverty entitlements. That was 12.2 percent of the budget and a whopping amount of money. That's why Bill Clinton was called the first black president by some. However, the Bush 2006 budget allots a record-shattering $368 billion for poverty entitlements, 14.6 percent of the entire budget, a huge increase over Clinton's spending on poverty entitlements.
Did the elite media mention that? Jesse Jackson mention that? Of course they didn't, because it's much more convenient for Evan Thomas and others to imply America under President Bush has turned its back on the poor, but it's absolute nonsense.
O'Reilly's assertion echoed a similar claim by CNN contributor, talk radio host, and Bush-Cheney '04 campaign adviser Rev. Joe Watkins that the United States has experienced a “reduction” in poverty under President Bush.