Amid reports of rising poverty, two Fox News contributors claimed that anti-poverty programs have done nothing to alleviate poverty. In fact, federal government programs such as food stamps, Social Security, and other measures created or boosted by the stimulus billhave kept millions out of poverty and lowered the poverty rate.
From the July 23 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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.
From the July 21 edition of Fox News' Cavuto on Business:
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Mike Huckabee appeared on Fox & Friends on Tuesday morning to attack President Obama over a plan to allow states to apply for waivers from welfare work requirements. But in 2005, as governor of Arkansas, Huckabee endorsed federal legislation that would have created even more expansive state waivers than the ones being implemented by the Obama administration, signing a letter that promoted "increased waiver authority" as a means "of moving recipients from welfare to work." The attacks from the right-wing media mirror attacks from GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who also endorsed Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF) waivers as governor of Massachusetts in 2005.
In a recent rule change, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed granting states more flexibility in how they implement TANF programs by granting them waivers from requirements that require benefit recipients to document work-related activities in order to qualify for the program. Although the rule change was reportedly requested by Republican governors from Utah and Nevada, the right-wing media reacted by accusing the Obama administration of "gut[ting]" the "Clinton welfare work requirement." Fox News host Huckabee appeared on the July 17 edition of Fox & Friends to perpetuate the attack, claiming:
HUCKABEE: A lot of people thought [TANF work requirements] would just cause all kinds of trouble. Well, the opposite happened. More than half of the people that had been on welfare got off and went on payrolls from welfare rolls. It was successful. The unemployment rate went down, the poverty rate went down, and now the Obama administration, through what I believe to be an illegal executive order and a change of the rule, is trying to make it so that they redefine what work means.
Huckabee went on to claim that the Obama administration was issuing the rule change "to make people dependent upon the government that they want to keep in power so they will continue to get benefits."
But Huckabee was not always opposed to TANF waivers. As the Washington Post reported, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius pointed out recently that Mike Huckabee, as governor of Arkansas, "specifically endorsed Senate legislation, which would have allowed many states to receive waivers far broader than we are allowing now." In a 2005 letter to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Huckabee, along with several other governors, endorsed a TANF reauthorization bill that would have created "[i]ncreased waiver authority" and granted states more flexibility. From the letter:
From the July 18 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox & Friends criticized changes to the federal welfare program with deceptive talking points that were identical to a Republican senator's press.
The Fox & Friends co-hosts' target was a recent rule change issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Conservative media last week decried the change and claimed it "guts" TANF's work requirement. Today, Fox & Friends went farther and claimed that the change will allow welfare recipients to get "paid to exercise and read -- even get a massage." Here's how co-host Steve Doocy introduced the segment:
DOOCY: Meanwhile, imagine getting paid to exercise and read -- even get a massage. Well, under new welfare reform waivers, you may be able to do just that. Last week, President Obama announced the White House will now issue waivers to federal work requirements laid out in the 1996 Temporary Assistance Program. The new waivers still will allow states to qualify such activities as work.
Co-host Gretchen Carlson later read aloud a list of activities that she claimed would "qualify as work" thanks to the rule change:
Fox & Friends didn't name a source for these claims. However, a quick Google search reveals an identical list on a press release from GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT):
Hatch's press release specifies that these were activities that a few states defined as "federal work activity" in 2005. This is true, although it lacks context -- "bed rest" and "personal care activities," for example, had to be included as part of a welfare recipient's "recovery from a medical problem."
Hatch's press release then claims that even though those work requirements were tightened in 2005, the Obama administration's new rule change "opens the door to allowing states to count 'bed rest' as a work activity."
But in running with criticism identical to that levied by Hatch, Fox & Friends left out critical information.
In response to requests from Republican-led states, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it will consider allowing states to create more efficient ways to report on the work requirement for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The conservative media have responded by falsely claiming that this is the "end of welfare reform" and that it "guts" the work requirement.
From the July 13 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Right-wing blogger Jim Hoft expressed outrage Friday that an Ohio county is distributing air conditioners for needy families to bring relief from record-high summer temperatures.
Hoft is criticizing this program despite including in his post the fact that the funds used for the air conditioners are not new, but are left over from money already allocated to the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). He also includes the information that the air conditioners are only available to the poor, the elderly, and those with chronic respiratory illnesses.
From Hoft's Gateway Pundit blog:
Fox's Steve Doocy today complained that congressional Republicans are "demonized" over attempts to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - formerly known as food stamps - "a little bit." But the GOP has attempted to cut SNAP several times and put essential benefits for millions of low-income families at risk as a result.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed "there are times when people do need help, but some have suggested 'I'm sure there's some scamming going on out there.' " Doocy went on to point out that "the number of people who are on food stamps has dramatically increased" and complained "remember, we told a story, I think, about two weeks ago about how a Republican senator was trying to just scale it back just a little bit. And he was demonized. You can't touch the food stamp money they said."
Doocy is significantly downplaying efforts to cut the program. Congressional Republicans have tried over and over to slash the program, including plans to slash billions from the program which experts have noted would take benefits away from millions of low-income families.
Fox News and its counter-parts in right-wing media pounced on Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett for pointing out that Fox News has a long history of using "class warfare" to attack President Obama. But despite the attacks from the right-wing media, Jarrett is right that Fox has a long history of resorting to charges of "class warfare" to attack President Obama while waging war itself against struggling Americans.
During a July 1 appearance at the Aspen Ideas Festival, former Time editor Walter Issacson asked Jarrett about the notion held by "so many business men and others" that Obama is "attacking the rich, attacking people who make a profit, people who make jobs." Jarrett responded by noting that the class warfare narrative may be emanating from a "particular" network, one that isn't CNN and presumably not MSNBC.
Fox News, and other right wing media outlets attacked Jarrett's comments. Fox News host Greta Van Susteren in a July 6 tweet and blog post asked, "is she drinking?" Fox Nation and Breitbart.com, both highlighted Jarrett's comments. Newsbusters, a conservative media blog, in a July 6 post went a step further, accusing Jarrett of "reflexively bash[ing] Fox News" and "relentlessly shovel[ing] all the Obama talking points."
But despite the right-wing media's complaints, Fox News has made itself the home of "class warfare," both in their willingness to use the label to attack President Obama, and in their attacks on both the poor and policies designed to alleviate poverty.
A USA Today editorial is downplaying poverty and food insecurity in America, and using Fox News talking points to justify a push to cut vital and effective anti-poverty programs.
In June the Senate voted to reduce spending on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, by $4.5 billion. Conservatives in the House are pushing for deeper cuts to the program, despite the fact that food stamps reduced the poverty rate by 8 percent during the depths of the recession.
In championing those cuts, USA Today offered a shockingly uninformed dismissal of the problem of food insecurity -- a term researchers say is more accurate than hunger. Pointing to increased use of food stamps in recent years, the editors opined:
These numbers are not driven by a rise in hunger. Indeed they have come about at a time when Americans -- particularly those on the lower-income rungs -- are struggling with obesity.
This analysis is nonsense. As Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger told The New York Times: "Hunger and obesity are often flip sides to the same malnutrition coin." The Food Research and Action Center explains: "food insecure and low-income people are especially vulnerable to obesity due to the additional risk factors associated with poverty." Minnesota Public Radio further detailed the interaction between food insecurity and obesity in a January 27, 2012, report:
Recent research from the University of Minnesota finds parents who struggle to get enough food eat fewer fruits and vegetables and drink more sugar-sweetened beverages than other parents. That is largely due to poor access, said Mary Story, a dietician in the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health.
"What we know is that fruits and vegetables cost more, whole grains cost more," Story said. "And many low-income people live in neighborhoods or communities that lack access to a supermarket."
USA Today's apparent ignorance of the connection between obesity and food insecurity casts doubt on its call to "nudge the numbers back toward where they were in the mid-'90s."
But their embrace of Fox News' bullying tactics underscores the pernicious aspect of the campaign to demonize and cut food stamps.
After detailing efforts over the past decade to expand SNAP eligibility, the editorial argued:
Adding to the growth, the Agriculture Department has begun advertising the program more aggressively, and it has removed many of its inconveniences (and its stigmas at the cash register) by replacing coupons with cards that look and function much like debit cards.
This type of poverty-shaming has been a constant drum beat on the right. In June, New York Post columnist and Fox News regular Michael Goodwin discussed increased SNAP enrollment and lamented: "The sense of shame is gone." Goodwin's commentary echoed other Fox figures who have castigated SNAP beneficiaries for lacking an appropriate level of shame.
Perhaps tomorrow USA Today will explain how easy it is to feed a family on a diet of rice and beans.
Right-wing media are attacking a program designed to increase awareness of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) among the elderly, saying they hope the effort "come[s] to a quick end." But SNAP outreach programs have been crafted and employed by previous administrations, hunger is increasing among all groups, including the elderly, and the elderly are under enrolled in SNAP.
Fox News attacked the food stamp program for its increasing enrollment and costs, accused the program of facilitating fraud, and expressed astonishment that states are rewarded for increasing enrollment. However, enrollment in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased due to the recession; there are only about 1 percent of cases that are found to be fraudulent, and the state awards for enrollment date back to the Bush administration.