Fox News' latest report on recipients of government assistance is just a distraction, but there's still a message for lawmakers there.
October 29, 2013

Credit: Media Matters

Beginning with the Fox-trademarked classic dishonest graph and continuing through their entire report, Fox News proves why their viewers are dumber and less informed. This graph is based upon a Census Bureau report released last week which wingers are using to claim that the number of means-tested recipients of benefits from various federal programs outnumber the number of employed people.

The graph is vastly out of proportion in order to suggest that we are a nation of moochers, but what's worse is how Fox reported it. Media Matters reports:

Fox's 108.6 million figure for the number of "people on welfare" comes from a Census Bureau's account (Table 2) of participation in means-tested programs, which include "anyone residing in a household in which one or more people received benefits" in the fourth quarter of 2011, thus including individuals who did not themselves receive government benefits. On the other hand, the "people with a full time job" figure Fox used included only individuals who worked, not individuals residing in a household where at least one person works.Furthermore, many people who receive federal benefits also work. The means-tested programs in the Census Bureau report included Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, which includes strict work requirements. In 2011, 6.4 million households with earnings also participated in food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. And public or subsidized rental housing provides rental assistance to low-income families -- families who have an income which is 50 to 80 percent below the median income for the area.

Fox has a history of displaying error-riddled and deceptive graphics to reinforce conservative attacks on the Obama administration, and has previously had to issue a correction for a dishonest graphic that misrepresented the unemployment rate.

Fox based their report on an article at CNS News which was heavily pushed on Drudge's site this weekend, which was more specific about those receiving government assistance:

Among the 108,592,000 people who fit the Census Bureau’s description of a means-tested benefit recipient in the fourth quarter of 2011 were 82,457,000 people in households receiving Medicaid, 49,073,000 beneficiaries of food stamps, 20,223,000 on Supplemental Security Income, 23,228,000 in the Women, Infants and Children program, 13,433,000 in public or subsidized rental housing, and 5,854,000 in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Also among the 108,592,000 means-tested benefit recipients counted by the Census Bureau were people getting free or reduced-price lunch or breakfast, state-administered supplemental security income and means-tested veterans pensions.


The thrust of their report is to suggest to viewers that our current President is just "handing out goodies" to a nation of moochers (code for black and brown people), but if one were to really look at the statistics honestly, there is a story there that's far more important about income and wealth inequality. After all, many of the people included in those statistics as receiving some form of government assistance are also working, but not earning a living wage. That's the real news.

What might those numbers look like if the minimum wage were increased to something more like reality? That's the question a responsible news organization might report about. But instead, we get the usual Fox News pablum and dishonest graphics about moochers "stealing" our federal tax dollars.

By definition, means testing makes the truth of these statistics that much more devastating, because it confirms that millions upon millions of people in this country who are working still don't earn enough to survive.

We should all be ashamed that in this country people aren't paid enough to live while billionaires feast on their labor. We should all be ashamed that in a country with the wealth of this one, there are people without enough to eat, many of them children. That's news. What Fox served up was a pack of lies disguised as red meat for the austerians who are the very billionaires taking food out of those kids' mouths.

Full segment:

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.