Fox Laments Poverty Rise, But Attacks Anti-Poverty Policies

Fox's Steve Doocy lamented a report that poverty is rising, calling it “heartbreaking” that “so many people are at the end of the food chain.” But, Doocy and other Fox figures regularly attack policies with a proven record of assuaging poverty.

Fox & Friends hosted Fox Business's Stuart Varney to discuss a recent AP article that projected the poverty rate to be higher than any time since 1965. Doocy found the report “heartbreaking,” lamenting the fact that “so many people are at the end of the food chain” and saying America “is supposed to be the place where everybody has a chance, and unfortunately, given the state of things, we don't.”

But while Doocy's concern about rising poverty levels is reasonable, it is difficult to rectify with Fox's consistent assaults on efforts proven to lift people out of poverty or keep them from falling into poverty.

For example, Fox routinely attacks the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a program proven to keep millions out of poverty. Varney has called SNAP a "feel good" program used by Democrats to "buy votes." However, according to an April 2012 Department of Agriculture study the increase in SNAP benefits authorized in the stimulus:

  • Reduced the depth of child poverty by 20.9 percent and the severity of child poverty by 27.5 percent.
  • Ensured that the depth and severity of poverty in the overall population increased only slightly from their 2008 levels despite worsening economic conditions.

Fox has also attacked unemployment insurance, another program proven to alleviate poverty. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade argued that “maybe” eliminating “unemployment benefits will get people to sober up” and get jobs. Contrary to Kilmeade's assertion, unemployment insurance does not keep people from finding work. Unemployment insurance also keeps millions out of poverty. A 2010 Center for Budget and Policy Priorities report found that unemployment insurance “kept 3.3 million Americans out of poverty in 2009.” From the report:

In other words, there were 43.6 million Americans whose families were below the poverty line in 2009, according to the official poverty statistics, which count jobless benefits as part of families' income. But if you don't count jobless benefits, 46.9 million Americans were poor.

Fox has even attacked the Earned Income Tax Credit, which benefits working low-income families, making the program the one tax cut Fox does not support. Along with the payroll tax cut, these policies primarily benefit struggling Americans.

Varney has attacked the EITC, calling it a "welfare scheme" and "one of the most corrupt systems there is." However, the CBPP found that, like unemployment insurance, the EITC helped effectively alleviate poverty. In fact, in 2012 alone, "“the EITC lifted about 6.3 million people out of poverty, including about 3.3 million children. The number of children living in poverty would have been one-quarter higher without the EITC.” 

Like their opposition to the EITC, Fox has attacked extensions of the payroll tax cut, and like the EITC, the extension of payroll tax cuts kept people out of poverty. In fact a December 2, 2011 CBPP blog post, using 2010 Census Bureau data, estimated that the extension of 2011's payroll tax holiday would keep “roughly 1.1. million low-income workers and their family members above the poverty line.”

Fox & Friends correctly acknowledges the challenges against which many Americans now struggle. Unfortunately, Fox News  attacks nearly every measure proven to make that struggle just a bit easier.