In a bizarre rejoinder to Breitbart’s report revealing that Michigan has more food stamp recipients than students, Washington Post blogger Philip Bump published an article Tuesday that, despite its best attempts, ended up supporting and confirming Breitbart’s original reporting—even as it revealed Bump’s own ignorance.
First, some brief background. Last week, Michigan introduced drug testing for some welfare recipients. Moreover, three brothers in Michigan pleaded guilty for their roles in a food stamp fraud scheme that cost taxpayers at least $1,278,700. On the heels of these recent news developments, Breitbart published a straightforward report presenting state and federal statistics that reveal Michigan’s food stamp recipients outnumber the state’s public school K-12 students.
The Washington Post’s measured response: a piece titled “Michigan Liberals Are Terrible, According to a Made-Up Metric Under Which 22 Other States Are Also Terrible.”
The author of the piece, Philip Bump, tweeted his story thusly:
Breitbart has the scoop on how MI is a terrible state run by Dems (according to a metric under which 23 states fail). http://t.co/gYDnCpVThP
— Philip Bump (@pbump) December 30, 2014
Despite Bump’s assertion, Michigan is not “run by Dems.” At all. The state’s governor is a Republican, and its state House and Senate are both under GOP control. How someone writing for the Washington Post remains clueless about such facts sure beats us.
Bump then begins his piece by noting that our report generated a “provocative headline” and was featured on the Drudge Report:
The appeal of the story lies in the state at issue—Michigan—which through its largest city has become shorthand in certain circles for the worst example of liberal governance. The only problem with this particular story is that 22 other states suffer from the same fate under this manufactured metric—including a number of ones with decidedly non-liberal leadership.
However, the Breitbart report was a news story, devoid of editorializing, and made no mention of liberals, Detroit, or Democrats. Why would it? Once again, Bump appears embarrassingly unaware that Michigan is a state under Republican control. Moreover, as Breitbart readers are well aware, we frequently and aggressively challenge establishment Republicans.
After blasting the “manufactured metric” of food stamp recipients-to-students, oddly, Bump applies that very methodology to the remaining states. Far from refuting Breitbart’s original report, the Post confirmed our Michigan calculation.
Bump even had the Washington Post’s graphics folks work up a neat color graph proudly displaying the national results, which in no way challenge our Michigan metric.
“In 27 states, the number of kids enrolled in K-12 outnumbers the individuals on SNAP. In 23 states, plus DC, it doesn’t,” writes Bump. “In other words, it’s close to 50/50—a coin toss—which is what you’d expect from a metric that, if you think about it, doesn’t really mean much of anything.”
If the metric “doesn’t really mean much of anything,” why crunch the numbers for all 50 states? The likely answer is that, as Bump concedes, such statistics paint a painfully clear picture of a state’s trajectory, one that generates “provocative headlines.” But if the Post’s goal was to neutralize the narrative power of memes derived from Breitbart’s food stamp-to-student ratio, the effort backfired big time.
Indeed, with the Post’s nifty map in hand, one can already envision political wordsmiths of all stripes crafting peerless talking points: “Our state deserves a governor who fights for a future where the number of citizens in poverty no longer eclipses the number of children in our schools!”
Far from killing our food stamps-to-students metric, unwittingly, the Washington Post elevated it.
Still, after running a nationwide, 50-state calculation using the food stamp recipient-to-students methodology, Bump doubled down on why such a metric is meaningless: “If your point is that too many people are on food stamps, fine. But the idea that Michigan is at all exceptional in that regard is flawed—and the correlation to the number of schoolchildren in the state doesn’t mean much of anything.”
How anyone could believe it “doesn’t mean much of anything” for a state to have more people who can’t feed themselves than children in schools is heartless and illogical.
Indeed, only someone who thinks Michigan is “run by Dems” could write such pablum.