Mr. O gets to expound: It was a typical night in the neighborhood—or in “the no-spin zone.”
Last Monday evening, Mr. O began his eponymous cable news show with this acid-laced bit of analysis:
O’REILLY (4/23/12): Caution! You are about to enter the No Spin Zone. The Factor begins right now.O’Reilly presented a crazy-quilt pattern of statistical claims, all of which seemed to show that President Obama’s “liberal spending policies and overall belief that the feds should provide is costing the nation an enormous amount of money with no end in sight.”
Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight.
Is the entitlement society strangling the U.S. economy? That is the subject of this evening's “Talking Points Memo.”
We are about to give you some amazing stats about America becoming a welfare state. We'll start with the overall picture. During the last two years, '09 and '10, the feds have spent more than a $1 trillion on programs to help poor Americans. Most of that money goes to what is called means-tested entitlements. That's direct assistance, Medicaid, food stamp, child care and nutrition, checks to needy family, things like that. The recession, of course, driving some of that assistance.
But since 1970, means-tested entitlements in America have increased—Ready?—an unbelievable 5500 percent. Right now an astounding 150 million Americans live in households that receive some kind of government assistance. It's almost half the population.
“Social justice,” the primary reason the USA is changing into an entitlement country, much like the western European nations.
Politicians in both parties understand that giving money away means votes. Also there is no question that both the feds and the states have loosened standards under which Americans receive entitlements. Since President Obama has been in office, federal welfare spending is up about 41 percent. Food stamps, up about 135 percent since 2007, from 30 billion to 72 billion a year. Disability payments, up 116 percent from a decade ago. More than three million American workers have signed up for disability since President Obama took office.
So you can see the president's liberal spending policies and overall belief that the feds should provide is costing the nation an enormous amount of money with no end in sight. So, you telling me that all of a sudden Americans need more disabilities? No. It's because claiming a disability is worth a shot in the current political climate.
Now here is the most important part of the memo. Those who advocate cutting entitlements or making it more difficult to receive them will be immediately branded as bad people. Just for telling you this, I'll be labeled a horrible guy.
But consider this: What's worse? A bad economy for all Americans, which we have? A $16 trillion debt that is damaging the dollar worldwide, which we have? Or a responsible entitlement agenda that gets spending under control? Which is worse?
All sane people know safety nets are needed. Poor families must be helped. There are children involved. But when the standards for getting entitlement money are so lax that the system becomes easy to game, you know you have a problem. And we do.
And that's the memo. Now, for the “Top Story” tonight, reaction. Joining us from Washington, Fox News analyst Mary Katherine Ham and Juan Williams.
But uh-oh! One of O’Reilly’s statistical comparisons dated to 1970. Another dated to 2007; one dated to an undisclosed year from “a decade ago.” On his web site, O’Reilly makes no attempt to source his “amazing,” “unbelievable” statistical claims or to defend his sweeping pronouncements, in which this welter of alleged jumps in entitlement spending were confusingly laid at Obama’s door.
Assuming O’Reilly’s "unbelievable" statistical claims are accurate, to what extent do those changes reflect policy changes by Obama? In his memo, O’Reilly made no attempt to sort out this blindingly obvious question. And in certain major ways, Obama’s doesn’t seem to be the prime or sole mover of the changes against which Mr. O railed. One example: “Food stamp” participation increased by 63 percent under President Bush, although it has continued to rise in the past three years. For Politifact’s explanation and analysis, click here.
O’Reilly’s jumbled, crazy-quilt “memo” seemed to have been composed on acid, but four million people were watching that night; this is where bullshit comes from. And please note: “Press critics” for our major news orgs routinely accept such miserable work from major broadcasters like Mr. O. Last Monday, the New York Times’ David Carr pretended to watch-dog NBC News for its coverage of the Trayvon Martin killing. But this was a standard Potemkin effort, a point we will revisit before the week is done.
The press corps likes to pretend that it watch-dogs itself. For the most part, this is an act of deception by a deeply permissive guild. No one has ever watch-dogged the ridiculous work that often emits from Mr. O’s program. And now, gazes are being averted from the gruesome misconduct of MSNBC hosts and guests.
In the past six weeks, MSNBC has invented a boatload of bogus “facts” about the killing of Martin. “Press reporters” have steered away from this inexcusable conduct, just as they have always done with the work that is done by Fox News.
Carr pretended to be on the case. This was Potemkin press criticism, the kind of such work most commonly found within the mainstream press.