True story: Billo's rant went on so long I wasn't sure what part of it to clip. This is about 8 minutes in.
Worse yet, where on earth did he get his numbers? In his Talking Points Memo segment, he claims that "means-tested entitlements" have risen 5,500 percent since 1970. Wow, what does that even mean?
The tactic is obvious. This is the ZOMG, we're helping people who need it! ZOMG, ZOMG scare tactic. I mean just think. Claims have risen "five thousand five hundred percent" in 42 years! Be afraid, Billo viewers, be very, very afraid. Of course, the punch line is that it's all President Obama's fault and anyone who wants to cut these lifelines will be viewed as a bad person.
His numbers just seem like argle-bargle nonsense to me. He claims there are about 150 million people receiving some form of direct federal assistance. I can't get there, no matter how I turn the numbers. Here's his Talking Points Memo segment with a lot of really strange and trumped-up claims.
Now here's what I get with the caveat that I'm not sure what programs he's counting in his "entitlement society" claim:
- Social Security Retirement recipients and beneficiariesas of April, 2012: 38.9 million
- Social Security Survivors' recipients: 6.3 million
- Social Security Disability recipients, including children and spouses: 10.8 million
- SNAP recipients as of January, 2012: 21.1 million households covering 46.4 million people, including people displaced by natural disasters
- TANF (Welfare) Recipients as of December, 2011: 4.7 million (Note: the number of applicants declined steadily throughout 2011)
- Unemployment Insurance (UI): Number of claims through December 2011: 5.5 million with 1.1 million exhausting their benefits
Not allowing for overlap or for flow from one program to the next by the same family, this adds up to about 113 million in a worst-case scenario. But here's how it really works. When the unemployment benefits run out, families turn to food stamps, since eating is one of those things that really has to happen no matter whether one is rich or poor. For older workers who are unemployed for a long time, one strategy is to apply for Social Security disability after the benefits run out. It doesn't often work, because the definition of disability is draconian and doesn't cover temporary disabilities. It must prevent the worker from performing the work they are trained to do, last at least one year or be expected to end in death. In addition, the worker must be adjudged to be ineligible for retraining for other work due to their disability. It isn't simple and it isn't easy to qualify.
Bill O'Reilly's rant will resonate with all of those out there who sniff righteously and believe they are above ever being in need. The truth is, we're all one illness away from being disabled. We're all one layoff away from being aged out of the workforce too early to qualify for much of anything, and far too many of us are in that position right now.
Here is the truth O'Reilly's rant disguises: It is shameful that so many of our resources are in the hands of a very few, leaving so many deeply in need. This is the legacy of conservative governance. The top one percent lives lavishly, riding their dressage horses and paying lip service to those who really do know what it's like to struggle while they shame those in need. As their offshore bank accounts and fat-cat brokerage accounts grow exponentially, the rest of the country struggles to keep their homes, their savings, and their dignity.
His rant hides the fact that O'Reilly and his ilk are the ones who forced these families into having to rely upon the government for assistance. Laid bare, it's a cynical effort to take food out of the mouths of children and toss more families on the street.