Right-Wing Media Champion Rubio's Debunked Claim That Welders Earn More Than Philosophers

Media fact-checkers dismantled Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) claim during the fourth Republican presidential debate that “welders earn more money than philosophers” while conservative media championed the false assertion as part of Rubio's so-called mixture of “substance with soaring rhetoric.”

Marco Rubio Claims “Welders Make More Money Than Philosophers” In Fourth GOP Debate

Rubio Asserts “Welders Make More Money Than Philosophers.” During Fox Business' November 10 Republican presidential primary debate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) deflected a question about whether or not he would support increasing the federal minimum wage, using the opportunity to swipe at college students who, like Rubio has, study liberal arts (sic):

Rubio delivered possibly the sharpest articulation of the Republican approach to addressing the stagnant wage and low growth problems plaguing the economy and earned one of the bigger applause lines of the night early in the debate.

“For the life of me, I don't know why we have stigmatized vocational education,” Rubio said. “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.” (Welders do not, however, earn more than philsophers.) [Politico11/11/15]

Media Fact-Checkers Dismantle Rubio's Assertion

CNN's Christine Romans: “Marco Rubio Is Wrong On This.” On the November 11 edition of CNN's New Day, Christine Romans dismantled Rubio's “false” claim that welders earn more than philosophers by comparing wages for welders, philosophers, and those who majored in philosophy in college:

CHRISTINE ROMANS: Now,there is a real argument about more vocational training and a focus on that, but on this claim in particular this is what we found: turns out philosophers make more money than welders. That's right. The median salary for philosophy professors is almost $64,000. The median salary for welders is about $37,400.

If you look just at just philosophy majors, the gap gets even bigger. Just philosophy majors make more than philosophy professors.

So the final there, false, actually. Marco Rubio is wrong on this. [CNN, New Day11/11/15]

Washington Post: “This Was A Great Line ... But It's Totally Off Base.” A Washington Post fact-check of the GOP debate pointed out that Rubio's claim is “totally off base,” according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale.com:

This was a great line by Rubio, well delivered, but it's totally off base.

The median wage of welders is $37,420, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median wage for philosophy teachers is $63,630, according to BLS.

In fact, the average first-year salary for college graduate with a bachelor's degree in philosophy is $42,200 -- with a mid-career average of $85,000, according to Payscale.com. For college professors, the median salary is $89,913, with the top 10 percent having a salary near $200,000.

By contrast, the top 10 percent salary for welders is only about $58,590, BLS says. [The Washington Post11/11/15]

New York Times: College Graduates In A Field Like Philosophy “Typically [Earn] Substantially More Than A Welder.” A fact-check from The New York Times explained that Rubio deceptively used data to compare mid-career wages for welders to starting salaries for recent graduates who studied philosophy. The Times pointed out that mid-career philosophers earn more than welders as “they advance beyond the entry-level point of their career”:

The average annual salary of “welders, cutters, solderers, cutters and brazers” was $40,040 in 2014, according to data from the United States Labor Department. That is basically the same as the median starting salary of newly graduated philosophy majors, which was $39,900, according to data from PayScale Inc.

But that compares new college graduates at the start of their careers to welders at all stages of their careers. The median midcareer pay for philosophy majors was $81,200, according to PayScale. In the Labor Department data, postsecondary philosophy and religion teachers earned $71,350.

In other words, a college graduate, even in a field that is not commercially oriented like philosophy, typically earns substantially more than a welder by the time they advance beyond the entry-level point of their career. [The New York Times11/10/15]

AP: “Rubio Is Wrong To Suggest That Studying Philosophy Is A Waste Of Money And Time.” In a November 11 fact-check of the debate, the Associated Press wrote that Rubio's claim is false and that “knowing Plato and getting a college degree still pays off”:

Rubio is arguing that the U.S. has failed to invest in vocational training -- a point also stressed by President Barack Obama's now-defunct jobs council. But Rubio is wrong to suggest that studying philosophy is a waste of money and time.

PayScale, a firm that analyzes compensation, put the median mid-career income for philosophy majors at $81,200 in 2008, with welders making $26,002 to $63,698.

And Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce said in a 2014 analysis that median incomes were $68,000 for people with an advanced degree in philosophy or religious studies.

So knowing Plato and getting a college degree still pays off. [Associated Press, 11/11/15]

Vox: “Philosophy Majors Do Considerably Better Than” Welders. A November 10 fact-check of Rubio's comments from Vox Executive Editor Matt Yglesias, a former philosophy major, pointed out that not only do “philosophy majors do considerably better than” welders when it comes to wages, but also “the basic skills you learn studying philosophy -- reading, writing, and arguing clearly -- are broadly useful in a wide range of fields”:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of a welder is just over $37,420 a year. As you can see, philosophy majors do considerably better than that.


Obviously there are not a huge number of people employed as full-time professional philosophers, but the basic skills you learn studying philosophy -- reading, writing, and arguing clearly -- are broadly useful in a wide range of fields.

We can also look at the earnings of welders versus the earnings of actual teachers of philosophy and we see the same result -- philosophy comes out ahead: Chart from Vox[Vox, 11/10/15]

Conservative Media Nonetheless Promote Rubio's False Claim As Part Of His Supposedly Strong Performance

Fox's Brian Kilmeade Attempted To Reinforce Rubio's False Claim. On the November 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Rubio about his comments on welders and philosophers from the debate. After allowing Rubio to push his claim unchallenged, Kilmeade praised the assertion saying “Plato would have been so much more successful if he had just welded and stopped yapping about his philosophy”:

BRIAN KILMEADE (HOST): Now I want to talk about something else -- welding. You said we need welders, that welders get paid more than philosophers. We're getting too many people with philosophy degrees. Here's your tweet. 'The Google trend, searches for welding classes are spiking 1300%.' Are you happy to be behind the welders today?

MARCO RUBIO: Well, look, it's not just welders. Machinists, airplane mechanics, car technicians, these are good paying jobs. For the life of me I don't know why we stopped teaching Americans to do that kind of work, to work with their hands. These are good paying jobs. We can be teaching kids to do that when they're 16 or 17 years of age. And there's a shortage of people. You go around the country as I do, to these manufacturing facilities, they can't find qualified workers. We should be training more young Americans to take on vocational careers, good paying jobs.

KILMEADE: Plato would have been so much more successful if he had just welded and stopped yapping about his philosophy. Senator --

RUBIO: Well, if you can find a philosopher that can weld, that's pretty good.

KILMEADE: That's great. Senator, I'm off to do some research. Senator Marco Rubio, thanks so much. The day after. [Fox News, Fox & Friends11/11/15]

The Daily Caller: Rubio “Matched Substance With Soaring Rhetoric.” A November 11 article from The Daily Caller claimed that Rubio “is the single most talented politician in the Republican field and ... he performed marvelously” in the fourth GOP debate. The article cited Rubio's false declaration about the wages of welders and philosophers as one of his strongest moments, saying “he matched substance with soaring rhetoric”:

Rubio is the single most talented politician in the Republican field and, like past debates, he performed marvelously.

Like he always does, he matched substance with soaring rhetoric.

“For the life of me I don't know why we stigmatize vocational education,” Rubio said at the beginning of the debate, explaining how to raise wages in the country by using one of his best lines from his stump speech. “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders than philosophers. If we do this, we will be able to increase wages for millions of Americans. We will be able to leave everyone better off without making anyone worse off.” [The Daily Caller, 11/11/15]

Townhall Picks Rubio's Comments On Welders And Philosophers As One Of The Top Quotes From The Debate. In a November 10 post, Townhall pointed out what they believed were the top 10 quotes from the Fox Business Network GOP presidential primary debate. One of the quotes they picked was from Rubio's misleading claim that“we need more welders and less philosophers.” [Townhall, 11/10/15]