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Kevin D. Williamson

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  • Right-Wing Media: Low-Income Americans Are Inheriting Too Much, Working Too Little

    Right-Wing Media Take BLS Study Out Of Context

    Blog ››› ››› BRIAN POWELL

    A new right-wing media narrative is brandishing out-of-context statistics on inherited wealth to argue that lower-income Americans are disproportionately benefiting from inherited wealth transfers, unlike the wealthiest Americans who earn their wealth with hard work.

    As a national dialogue heats up over the problem of global and domestic income inequality, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and others are rushing to the defense of the wealthiest Americans by claiming that low-income Americans simply don't work as hard as their wealthy peers. As evidence, the conservative outlets are pointing to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study showing top income brackets inherit a smaller percentage of their wealth than do lower income Americans, a finding that, according to National Review's Kevin Williamson, proves that rich Americans "work more -- a lot more."

    The January 22 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends hosted Williamson to discuss his theory, and co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck introduced his segment by saying, "It's easy to assume that the rich inherit their money without earning it. But in reality, under 15 percent of top income earners inherit their wealth, while more than 40 percent of lower income earners inherit theirs." Fellow co-host Brian Kilmeade added, "So how does the rich really make their money? ... By hard work! That's the conclusion. Wealthy households tend to have four times the amount of full-time workers than poorer households."

    Rush Limbaugh read from the National Review post on the January 21 edition of his radio show, stating that "The middle class and the poor, a greater percentage of their assets come from inheritance than from working, rich Americans. The country would be far better off if more people actually lived the way the top 20 percent do. If they actually worked like the top 20 percent do."

    Ignoring the fact that Limbaugh, Friends, and National Review are attacking a straw man -- they never identify anyone who is arguing that wealthy Americans don't work hard -- their argument omits an important statistic from the BLS study they cite: The average value of  "wealth transfers" (of which inheritances are a large percentage) to low-income Americans versus those to wealthier Americans.

    BLS did indeed find that among the households in the highest income brackets, transfers accounted for only 12.6 percent of net worth. What Fox and the like omit is the fact that the average value of wealth transfers received by the top 1 percent of U.S. households was a whopping $1,045,200 in 2007. That's twenty-five times the average value of inheritances for households in the lowest income bracket, whose average inheritance was $42,000 the same year. For lower-income earners, 42 grand is a large chunk of their total wealth. But the average wealth of households in the top 1 percent isaround $16,439,400 -- so a million dollar inheritance is not as impactful.

  • Memo To Right-Wing Media: Gabby Giffords And Newtown Families Are Not Props

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The argument by conservative media that former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and other survivors of gun violence who supported a failed Senate compromise to expand background checks on firearms sales are "props" of the Obama administration is both hypocritically partisan and logically flawed.

    Right-wing media are unable to acknowledge that President Obama's gun violence prevention agenda mirrors the priorities of gun violence survivors, who are not mere "props," to pass stronger gun laws. As Greg Sargent of The Washington Post notes, "the families want to stand with the President at events for a fairly obvious reason: Obama is fighting for the same things they want":

    All of this aside, the "props" line is actually an insult to the families, posing as a defense of them. It implies that the families, in lobbying on these issues, are not thinking for themselves. In reality, the families want to stand with the President at events for a fairly obvious reason: Obama is fighting for the same things they want. Indeed, one of the family members, Mark Barden, who lost his son Daniel in the shooting, voluntarily stood with the president at the White House yesterday as Obama reacted to news of the Senate vote, and thanked Obama for his leadership. Needless to say, if Barden felt like he was being exploited or used as a prop, he wouldn't be thanking the president. [emphasis in original]

    Logical flaws aside, those who would call Newtown families and other gun violence survivors "props" fail to acknowledge that presidents routinely evoke the experiences of victims in advocating for policies that would prevent future tragedies.

    In 1991, former President Ronald Reagan evoked his own experience of being shot by a would-be assassin, as well as the experiences of others wounded in the 1981 attack in order to advocate for background checks on gun sales. In a New York Times op-ed Reagan wrote about his press secretary, Jim Brady, who was grievously wounded in the attack by a man who acquired a gun despite a lengthy history of serious mental illness. Brady would go on to lend his name to the legislation -- the Brady bill -- that mandated a background check for gun sales conducted by licensed dealers:

  • National Review Online Calls Giffords 'Childish' For Promoting Gun Safety Legislation

    Blog ››› ››› LAURA SANTHANAM

    The National Review Online took a swipe at former Rep. Gabby Giffords, calling her criticism of Senate inaction on gun legislation "childish."

    In an NRO post, Kevin D. Williamson attacked Giffords for criticizing the Senate after it failed to pass gun-safety legislation. Williamson called Giffords' New York Times op-ed "childish" and  argued that being "shot in the head by a lunatic" does not mean that her policy positions on the recently defeated Toomey-Manchin gun control legislation should receive special consideration. From the National Review's blog, the Corner:

    While Ms. Giffords certainly has my sympathy for the violence she suffered, it should be noted that being shot in the head by a lunatic does not give one any special grace to pronounce upon public-policy questions, nor does it give one moral license to call people "cowards" for holding public-policy views at variance with one's own. Her childish display in the New York Times is an embarrassment.

    In her op-ed, Giffords criticized Congress for cowering to the gun lobby interests, saying the fear imposed on the Senate by the National Rifle Association could not compare to the fear of the school children of Sandy Hook Elementary and the victims and survivors when gunman Jared L. Loughner shot Giffords, killed six people and wounded 13 others. Since then, Giffords has undergone physical therapy and lobbied for stronger gun control measures, including more rigid background checks. On Wednesday, the proposed Toomey-Manchin legislation failed to gain enough support in the Senate and was voted down 54-46.

    Williamson's blog was posted next to an advertisement for the National Rifle Association:

    NRO screenshot

  • Fox News' Sarah Palin for Republican National Committee chair?

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    So says National Review Online blogger Kevin D. Williamson in a post titled "An Idea for the RNC: Dump Steele, Hire Palin."

    Re: Steele and the RNC: Allow me to chime in with my usual observation on this subject: This is a job for Sarah Palin. Palin would be a much better RNC chairman than presidential candidate or freelance kingmaker. She'd raise tons of money and help recruit good candidates, i.e., she'd excel at doing the things Steele should have been doing instead of appointing himself Republican pundit-at-large.

    A Chairman Palin would help set the right tone for the Republican party without having to get herself entangled in the minutiae of policy-development, which has not been her forte. Sure, she'd be polarizing, but so is Barack Obama, and these are polarized times. And it's one thing to have a polarizing party chairman, another to have a polarizing candidate.

    I guess the upside of hiring Palin is the idea that if she were given a four-year gig as chair it wouldn't matter if she ended up doing poorly because she'd be gone in about two years anyway. Also, her first order of business could be formalizing Fox News' role as the communications arm of the party -- after all, she's already on network's payroll.