Fox hosts Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera discussed poverty and “entitlement programs” on The O’Reilly Factor on Thursday. Rivera kicks off the conversation saying his father made around $10,000 a year and to his knowledge never received a stipend from the government. In fact, he says, his father would have considered that shameful, to which O’Reilly agreed. Rivera, born in 1943, I am assuming thinks that $10,000 then is equal to that amount of money now. According to a CPI Inflation calculator, $10,000 a year in 1953 (when Geraldo was 10) would equal $87,489.14 a year in 2013. Hardly a case for being part of the working poor. The Median income for a family in 1953 was $4,233 while the median income in 2011 was $50,700. And we haven’t even mentioned the inflation of prices throughout the years.
Next O’Reilly chimes in about how the government is “flooding them with entitlements’ and how in some states you can make up to $40,000 worth of entitlements. (I wish I knew which states and programs he is speaking of because I have never heard that to be a fact.) He says it is creating a ‘poverty class’ who do not want to work because they get cell phones and TV’s and computers for free. Again, I do not know which programs help people with Tv’s, cable, or computers. (I do know that when some start school there are grants to cover the cost of a laptop tp do their school work.) And once again he bring out the argument that people are paying no federal taxes and yet get a big check at the end of the year. I for one can attest that I do, in fact, pay federal taxes as well as state, city sales, and local taxes. I do get EIC at the end of the year but there is a reason that people who make under a certain amount of money receive that every year. And people who do not work, or who only live on government benefits, do not get EIC. It only comes from income that you get from working.
Next the cover how temporary programs tun into permanent ones because people live so well without having to work. I know people who receive public assistance and when they have the option to work, they do. You cannot get by on Snap benefits, which do not cover the cost for feeding your family for the month, and many programs that help with housing are so far backed up that it takes up to several years to get help from Section 8 or HUD in many areas. One huge problem with the system is that people are punished for returning to work, in many cases. In Ky where the poverty line has no been raised for 13 years if you are a family of 4 and you get a minimum wage job, you lose your benefits. When you lose your snap benefits and medical coverage for your family, $7.25 an hour is not going to be enough to survive on. The poverty level should be raised and assistance should be based on your families needs.
Rivera concluded that “it’s one thing to be poor in India or even Mexico, it’s another thing to be poor, according to these statistics, in the United States” While the part of the country they live in might be great, there are places in the US that resemble a third world country. Children who go to bed at night hungry because the only meal they had that day was their free school lunch.
O’Reilly raises another ‘concern.’ Fathers who stay out of the home ON PURPOSE so that they family can get assistance. This makes little sense to me since the area I live in absent fathers are required to pay a portion of any cash and medical programs the family gets. There is no incentive there for fathers to leave.
Next they take on people who receive Social Security and Disability. They say people get it now for things that didn’t even exist when they were younger. That could be because many diseases have been recognized as such in the last 60 years. Anxiety, mood disorders, and other things that the AMA consider legitimate diseases haven’t just been added so that more people qualify. It takes vey strict criteria for the AMA to categorize a disorder as a disease.
O’Reilly’s attempt to vilify poor Americans as lazy, comfortable, or unwilling to work completely misses the mark on the vast majority of Americans who receive benefits. According to a 2012 report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), 9 out of 10 Americans receiving entitlement benefits were either elderly, seriously disabled, or members of a working household in 2010.
“91 percent of the benefit dollars from entitlement and other mandatory programs went to the elderly (people 65 and over), the seriously disabled, and members of working households. People who are neither elderly nor disabled — and do not live in a working household — received only 9 percent of the benefits.
Moreover, the vast bulk of that 9 percent goes for medical care, unemployment insurance benefits (which individuals must have a significant work history to receive), Social Security survivor benefits for the children and spouses of deceased workers, and Social Security benefits for retirees between ages 62 and 64. Seven out of the 9 percentage points go for one of these four purposes. ”
O’Reilly’s segment on poverty in American also shrugged off a September 3 report which found that income inequality is wider than it has been in almost a century. Rivera acknowledged the report but downplayed its findings, reasoning that government entitlements create a disincentive for the poor to work and “bootstrap themselves.”
Contrary to O’Reilly and Rivera’s claims, the CBPP also notes that the safety net has become more work-based, as the United States has significantly reduced assistance to the jobless poor and increased assistance to low-income working families. Programs like SNAP, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and Medicaid have done much more to promote work over the last 30 years. For example, the EITC has boosted employment among single mothers and has produced large declines in the number of single mothers receiving welfare. Also, it seems as every time a bill is being debated the GOP demands that more and more be taken away from the social safety net. O’reilly and Rivera’s misguided attempts to discuss the issue of poverty just go to show how little they actually do know about the programs and the people they help.
Watch the segment below: