Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Poor Have It Way Too Good

When Fox News isn’t bitching about how President Obama has fouled up the economy and caused severe hardship for the American people, they switch over to their completely contrary view that there isn’t really any hardship and that the poor in America are luxuriating in a virtual paradise.

Fox Nation

To hear Fox News tell it, the real problem with America is that the greedy poor have too much and the long-suffering rich have too little. Consequently, the poor should lose benefits that assist them with trivialities like food, housing and education, while the rich should get more tax cuts, subsidies, and relief from regulations that protect everyone’s air, water, and safety.

That’s the position taken today on Fox’s community web site, and truth mangling, Fox Nation. Their article on the state of Americans living in poverty suggests that being poor is like a pleasure cruise with all the amenities included. Their source is an article on CNSNews, a subsidiary of the uber-rightist Media Research Center. The article cites data from a 2011 census report showing that most households living below the poverty live have non-essential extravagances like phones and refrigerators. The presence of these opulent goods is evidence that poor people are enjoying prosperity at the expense of the hard-trodden wealthy.

A deeper look at the details of this alleged abundance reveals that, in most cases, appliances like refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, and air conditioners, come with apartment living and are owned by the landlords, not the tenants. Cell phones and microwaves are inexpensive items that hardly connote wealth. Yet the Fox Nationalists begrudge low-income working people for having access to things like televisions that they might have bought years ago, before the Bush meltdown.

This is typical of the Fox mindset. They regularly report this same fallacy with minor updates. Last April they hosted Robert Rector, a Heritage Foundation analyst, who whined to the addled-brained Fox & Friends crew that the poor “have no hardship whatsoever,” and that poverty measurements are just “an advertising tool for expanding the welfare state and for spreading the wealth by pretending there’s a massive amount of hardship that really doesn’t occur anymore in our society.” Well, I feel better already.

Rector has been spewing that nonsense for more than a decade, and Fox has been helping him to promote it. They generally leave out pertinent facts such as that the people they are disparaging are not the recipients of welfare who they routinely characterize as moochers. They are working people who are struggling to provide for themselves and their families in the face of adversity. And Fox ignores the obvious when they assume that just because you reside in an apartment that has a stove and a laundry room, that you also have enough money to buy groceries, clothes, medicine, and other necessities.

This is a perfect representation of the insensitivity of selfish elitists in the media and the GOP (Greedy One Percent) who recently removed food stamps from a draft of the Farm Bill, but retained the hundreds of millions of dollars that goes to wealthy agribusiness interests. In their world the rich are always unfairly put upon, and the poor are lazy scam artists. It’s a perverse and twisted version of reality that keeps good people down.

BREAKING: Fox News Suddenly Cares About The Poor (Not!)

In an article aimed at criticizing President Obama’s handling of poverty in America, the reality-challenged Fox Nation re-posted a column by Stuart Stevens of the Daily Beast that makes a valid point about the absence of the media on the issue of poverty. Stevens notes that “An economy inflicting this much pain is a national crisis that should dominate discussion as we marshal our collective attention.”

However, the nauseating hypocrisy of Fox News seeps through this reporting and drenches it with a shameful, self-serving, political partisanship. Fox is not known for its advocacy of the downtrodden. To the contrary, they generally regard the poor as lazy moochers sucking at the government teat. They repeatedly air segments by rich anchors and pundits disparaging low-income workers and single mothers who use food stamps to feed their children. For example, Fox has hosted Robert Rector, a researcher from the ultra-rightist Heritage Foundation, on multiple occasions to argue that the poor are actually living luxuriously at the taxpayer’s expense.

Fox News

According to Rector, the “New Poor” are livin’ large in their big homes, chillaxin’ in the AC, and watching cable TV on big screens. Needless to say, Rector’s arguments don’t hold water factually or logically, but that isn’t even the point. Just last December, Rector appeared on Fox & Friends with a crackpot theory that poverty measurements are just “an advertising tool for expanding the welfare state and for spreading the wealth by pretending there’s a massive amount of hardship that really doesn’t occur anymore in our society.” He went further to make the astonishingly ignorant and insensitive claim that the poor “have no hardship whatsoever.” Rector’s ability to make poverty seem like a day at the beach is profoundly delusional.

Here’s the larger point: If characterizations of poverty as presented by Fox are true, then why is Fox now complaining that Obama is at fault for a “plague” of poverty? And why does Fox whine about the lack of media coverage when they themselves have provided coverage that denies the existence (or at least any hardship) of the poor?

Clearly the answer is that Fox couldn’t care less about the poor or about the the coverage that poverty receives in the media. They only care about exploiting every opportunity to criticize the President whether there is any merit in the arguments or not. And that’s how they can muster the audacity to feign concern for the poor whom they don’t think are suffering any hardship whatsoever. It’s a cynical and repulsive perversion of journalism at which Fox excels. It’s also a heartless exploitation of fellow citizens who have fallen on hard times, which Fox advances for the benefit of the Greedy One Percent who don’t want to hear about the poor anyway.

Dishonesty In Politics And In Media by Bill O’Reilly

No one can compound stupidity like The Fester, Bill O’Reilly. Last week he assailed John Edwards for his remarks about homeless veterans. O’Reilly, without making any attempt to ascertain the facts, claimed that Edwards “had no clue” and that, if there were any homeless vets, there weren’t very many.

The proof of the veteran’s plight was so easily attainable that O’Reilly had to concede that the problem did indeed exist. But being O’Reilly, that didn’t mean conceding that he was wrong or apologizing. To the contrary, after embarrassing himself with comments that he admits are immature, he demanded an apology from Edwards, the guy whos was right in the first place. His reasoning was based on an element of the debate that he had to invent.

O’Reilly: “Certainly there are homeless veterans, but it’s not because of the economy. It’s mostly because of addiction and mental illness, something politicians can do little about.”

However, Edwards never claimed that the economy was to blame. He only raised the issue of homeless vets to bring attention to the situation and to assert that America can do better. He was looking for solutions, not blame. But even O’Reilly’s made-up excuse exposes his dishonesty and/or stupidity. First of all, if government can do so little about addiction and mental illness, why do they invest so much in programs for precisely that? Secondly, according to experts, mental illness is only one of the contributors to homelessness:

“Mental illness, financial troubles and difficulty in finding affordable housing are generally accepted as the three primary causes of homelessness among veterans, and in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, the first has raised particular concern.

Iraq veterans are less likely to have substance abuse problems but more likely to suffer mental illness, particularly post-traumatic stress, according to the Veterans Administration. And that stress by itself can trigger substance abuse. “

So O’Reilly was wrong about the problem’s severity, he was wrong about Edwards’ positions, and he was wrong about the causes. And sadly, O’Reilly seems only to be concerned about veterans if they are having financial difficulties. If the problem is psychological or drug related, then to Hell with them. But even on the financial front O’Reilly can’t help but deceive and distort. He claims that amongst those living below the poverty line…

“Ninety-seven percent have a color TV, 78 percent a DVD player, 80 percent an air conditioner, 73 percent a car or truck, 63 percent cable or satellite TV, and 43 percent of poor households in the USA own the home they are living in.”

That nonsense was lifted from the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector who for years has been peddling the notion that America’s poor are living large on the taxpayer’s dime. O’Reilly and Rector are using faulty analysis and outright falsehoods to attempt to reincarnate Ronald Reagan’s fictional welfare queens. On August 27, 2007 Rector wrote an article that included the statistics above and arrived at this conclusion:

“Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.”

Rector has been shoveling this garbage for some time and he even plagiarizes himself because the exact same paragraph appears in a nearly identical article he wrote for the Heritage Foundation three years earlier on September 15, 2004. But Rector has bigger problems than self-plagiarism or propagandistic redundancy. His analysis must be purposely deceitful, as it is so far off from even the sources he cites. The tip off was the 97% of the poor who supposedly have a color TV. In fact, that is the percentage of ALL Americans with a TV (does anyone have a black and white TV?).

The statement that “the typical American defined as poor by the government has…” all of the items Rector lists is profoundly ignorant. The survey says only that these items are owned in these percentages, not that all of the poor own all of the items. So some may have a car, and others may have an air conditioner, etc.

The actual stats, according to the Department of Energy study Rector himself footnoted, are 40% have a color TV, 32% a VCR/DVD player, 27% an air conditioner, 27% a car or truck, 26 percent cable or satellite TV, and 13% own their home. That’s a long ways from the lies O’Reilly and Rector are spewing.

On some level though, you have to admire O’Reilly for having the audacity to be so monumentally wrong and still maintain his air of pompous superiority. His ability to acknowledge that Edwards was right but that he, O’Reilly, wasn’t wrong is classically egomaniacal. And using this occasion to expand on his lies about homeless vets and the poor overall perfectly embodies the meaning of the title of his screed: Dishonesty In Politics And In Media by Bill O’Reilly.