Thursday morning, Glenn Kessler, so-called “fact checker” for the Washington Post, gave three Pinocchios to Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for his claim in a chart that “Total Welfare Spending Equates To $168 Per Day For Every Household In Poverty.”
What was wrong with the chart?
As it turns out, nothing. But that didn’t stop hack Kessler from assigning Sessions to the liar category on the chart.
Sessions based his chart on the fact that there are 80 welfare programs under the federal budget. He assigns to that list means-tested programs like Medicaid. “Medicaid is a federal program that is intended to provide health-care services to people who are poor or near-poor,” one of Sessions’ aides told Kessler. That is obviously true. The basic definition of a welfare program is a program that is means-tested.
But according to Kessler, Medicaid shouldn’t count as a welfare program. Why? Kessler writes, “health-care spending is different from food stamps or the earned income tax credit in that such aid generally does not add to a family’s income level; instead, such assistance helps pays for bills that are the direct result of how sick or disabled a patient.” But this is nonsense. Sessions didn’t say that the welfare is actual cash paid out. He said that welfare spending equates to a certain amount of cash payout. Kessler has to deliberately misread Sessions’ chart to reach his conclusion. But that’s Kessler’s specialty.
The spin continues from Kessler, who says that Sessions’ chart implies that $168 goes to poor families. The chart does no such thing. It says that if the amount of welfare spending were divvied up evenly among those beneath the poverty line, it would amount to $168 per day. And that’s the idea behind welfare, of course – to help those beneath the poverty line. The fact that government doesn’t actually divvy the cash up that way is a testament to Sessions’ main point: government wastes cash.
Here’s the real problem for Kessler: when the chart was released, it was accompanied by an explanation that stated all of this. According to Sessions’ staff, “almost 110 million Americans received some form of means-tested welfare in 2011 .… [if] the $1 trillion spent on federal welfare programs [were] converted into cash and divided exclusively among the 16.8 million households who lived beneath the federal poverty line last year, the government would be able to mail each of those households an annual check for $60,000 …. this figure underscores the fragmented, inefficient nature of welfare in this country.”
Kessler makes one decent point with regard to comparisons between $168 per day and median income (he points out that median income does not include employer provided health care benefits). But that is his lone bright spot in this partisan “fact check.” As it turns out, the fact checkers of the left remain leftists first, and fact checkers second.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).