Fox News is again highlighting a misleading chart to distort the debate over welfare reform and to amplify Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's inaccurate message that President Obama is “dismantling” welfare reform. In fact, Obama simply gave states the flexibility they asked for in overseeing the welfare program.
Hemmer stated: “If you take a look at the chart, the number has been rising steadily since 2009.”
But the chart's scale is deceptively skewed. The chart's y-axis is 94,000,000, not 0 -- as graphs are conventionally delineated. Here's what a more realistic chart would look like when drawn to scale:
Since Fox's chart provides no actual numbers, the increase can only be roughly approximated, but an increase of 96 million to 108 million is an increase of less than 12 percent.
The Weekly Standard posted a blog highlighting a similar chart from Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, showing that in the middle of 2011, more than 100 million Americans were “residing in a household in which at least once person received” some form of government aid, which the chart called “some form of federal welfare.”
But what Fox did not bother to explain is that more people received government aid between 2009 and 2011 because of the recession. As has been pointed out before, increased enrollment in federal aid programs such as food stamps came about because millions of people lost their jobs or saw their incomes shrink during the recession. And these programs have kept millions of Americans out of poverty.
This is simply the latest in a long line of dishonest charts aired by Fox News. Fox recently aired a badly distorted chart to exaggerate the increase of the expiring Bush tax cuts for the rich. Fox has also in the past aired misleading graphics on gas taxes and statistics about unemployment, among other subjects.
Researchers Emily Arrowood and Remington Shepard contributed to this post.