Transcript #131

Hannity May Lie, But The Actual Economic Data Tells The True Story


Partially hyperlinked to sources.  For all sources, see the data resources page.



Sources you'll hear include: the New York Times, the Nation magazine, McClatchy Newspapers, Harper's Magazine, MSNBC, and the websites of Barack Obama, John McCain, and the Federal Reserve of St. Louis.


A topic like this one is necessarily going to involve a lot of numbers.  Most are in the first half of the podcast.  Trying to memorize them is not an option.  Just let them wash over you so you get the general feel.


One or two will stick in your mind to use in your water cooler debates.


If you're more systematic about these things, you can check out the transcript to write some of the numbers down.


Let's start by listening to that master propagandist, Sean Hannity.


He's speaking to former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, another right-winger.


As you'll hear, even Steele hasn't drunk as much of the Kool-Aid as Hannity:


audio: Hannity

Hannity:  It’s funny, with all the good news out of Iraq, and the war has been a success—we didn’t lose it; the surge has been a success—it didn’t fail.  Obama’s going to make the case the economy’s faltering today—did anyone show him the economic numbers?

Steele:  The ones that just came out.

Hannity:   The unemployment rate in this country has been—and we won’t hear this tonight—has been lower than the average of the last four decades; interest rates low, inflation low; we got out of the Clinton/Gore recession, we got out of the negative impact of 9/11 on the economy.  Is that gonna fly?

Steele:  Well, no, it’s not gonna fly, because it doesn’t make their argument.  And the reality of it is two things.  1)  Yes there are families out there that are struggling, that are in difficult times.  You can’t belittle that, you cannot forget that. 

You couldn't get Hannity to admit that.  Continuing on…


Steele: But at the same time, not every homeowner in America has a subprime mortgage.  Not every worker in America has lost their job.   There’s growth and opportunity that’s still out there.  These guys see the glass as half empty.  We Republicans see it as half full, and I think what you’ll hear next week is talking about that difference. 

Hannity:  Here’s the point—for the Democrats to do well, they’ve got to make the case that the war is lost, the surge has failed, and the economy’s in the tank.  And all the evidence is to the contrary.  Did anyone not tell Barack Obama what’s happening in the country right now?  What’s happening in Iraq?

Steele:  They know what’s happening, but they cannot acknowledge it or don’t want to acknowledge it, because it underlies their argument.

You just heard Hannity throw out a stat: the unemployment rate is lower than the average of the last 4 decades.


Huh? What kind of a phony, made-up stat is that?


Sean, people compare themselves to how they were doing under the last President, not how they're doing compared to an average figure over 4 decades.


On a statistical basis, the proper analysis is to look at what unemployment figure a President inherits, and what he leaves the administration which follows.


Bill Clinton inherited 7.3% from Papa Bush.  At the end of Clinton's term, unemployment had fallen to 4.2%.  Clinton knocked it down significantly.


In direct contrast, you have George W.  He inherits 4.2%, and now it's ballooned up to 5.7%.  Under King George, unemployment has increased by a third.


That's a record Hannity's bragging about?


And that 5.7% stat doesn't even count workers who have given up looking for work.


It counts as fully employed those working part time who want to be working full-time.


And as you'll hear in a minute, it doesn't reflect the fact that many who had solid middle class, often union jobs, have now been forced into far lower-paying service industry jobs.


Finally as far as how people are feeling, former Republican icon Kevin Phillips has a telling point to make.  He's now become something of an economic populist.  According to his recent article in Harper's Magazine, the federal government has for decades been screwing around with the way unemployment is calculated.  The purpose is to come up with a lower figure. 


Yet another reason Hannity's phony, four-decade average stat isn't worth the paper the Republican talking points he got it from, is written on.


Phillips concludes that if the unemployment rate was calculated today the same way it was 25 years ago, today's rate would be between 9 and 12%.


No wonder people are feeling the economy is on the skids.



OK, Hannity also claimed that things are hunky-dory, because interest rates and inflation are low, and that "we got out of" the "Clinton/Gore recession" and the negative impact of 9/11.


Oh yeah, who is "we" Sean.


Maybe you're doing fine, Sean, but the "we" that constitutes the vast majority of Americans, "we" certainly aren't.


Recently the Bush administration released some additional numbers in areas that directly reflect how people are doing.


The stats are in the areas of median income, the number of medically insured, and poverty.


Each stat is subject to right-wing manipulation to imply things are going well.


Let's take a look at each one and set the record straight.


Median income.


Median income is the income level that half the population earns more than, and half the population earns less than.


It now stands at $50,233.


A right-winger may brag to you, that for three years in a row, the median income of Americans has risen.


Sounds terrific, huh?


Not so.


That right-winger would be failing to tell you that even with those three years of gains, the median household income in our country is still slightly less than it was in 2000.


And if you focus on working age households, the median income here is a whopping $2000 below what it was when Bush first took office.


Nice job, George!


Why you bragging, Hannity?


And the worsening seems to be accelerating.


Bush's own Labor Department recently said that so-called rank-and-file employees, who constitute the vast majority of the work force, they earned 3.1% less this July than last July.


That's the "biggest year-over-year decline since November 1990." 


And who was president then?


George's Daddy.


Does screwing workers run in the family, perhaps?


Yeah, the right-wing family.


So while the economy has been expanding, what you see is that


Working households helped bake a bigger economic pie but ended up with thinner slices



You want to hear another right-wing distortion quickly disposed of?


Stay tuned!





Here's another critically important number you can throw in the face of your friendly local right-winger.


It's the number of uninsured Americans.


The Bushians may brag that the number of Americans who don't have health care insurance went down over a million in 2007.


But you know why the number went down?


Because more Americans enrolled in government health programs like Medicaid!


The number of people in private health insurance plans declined.


So much for free-market solutions.


And, again, as with unemployment, Bush leaves us worse off than when he took office.


There are now over 7 million more uninsured people than when Bush came to Washington.


That's almost deliberate.  Remember when Bush vetoed a children's health insurance program? It would have given millions more children health care coverage.


You can check out podcast 107 about that.


Would it surprise you to learn that one of the reddest of states, Bush's home, Texas, has the worst situation, with almost one-quarter of all residents uninsured?


And it also shouldn't really surprise you, that the two states with the best record, the lowest rate of uninsured, 8.3%, are those bluest of blue states, Massachusetts and Hawaii.


Right-wingers should hang their heads in shame.



Finally, the last number.


What about poverty?


How's the Bush administration doing on that front?


How do right-wing policies compare to progressive efforts in this realm?


In 2007 the poverty rate didn't budge.  It stayed the same at 12.5%.


When Bush took office, the poverty rate was 11.3%.


Since the right-wing retook the federal government, 5.7 million more Americans have fallen below the poverty line.


Nearly 1 in 5 US children lives in poverty.  In what is usually called the richest nation on earth.  How scandalous is that?


An abomination if you're a progressive.


But completely off your radar screen if you're a right-winger.


The only time right-wingers think of the poor is when the poor are thrust in their face.


Like during Katrina.


Remember Barbara Bush's memorable comment:


audio: Barbara Bush

[S]o many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, this is, this is working very well for them.

The poor are a perverse afterthought to the right.


The right-wing's anti-poverty program is stadium relief operations during a hurricane.


Now let me debunk for you one of the right's biggest lies you'll be told, about the supposed failure of the War on Poverty.


In 1964, when Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty, the poverty rate in America was 19%.  It was cut down to 11.1% by 1973. 


Not only that, but the lives of untold thousands of infants were saved:


Infant mortality among the poor, which had barely declined between 1950 and 1965, fell by one-third in the decade after 1965 as a result of the expansion of federal medical and nutritional programs

There was all this success, despite the fact that the war on poverty was never even fully funded, because the Vietnam war ate up our national treasure.


Any similarities to the present day are purely coincidental.


Poverty hasn't declined since that time, because the issue of poverty fell off the national agenda.



Coming back to the present economic situation, make sure you mention to whatever right-winger you're having the pleasure of conversing with, make sure to mention, that most experts agree, the 2007 figures you've heard here, won't even be the worst.




Experts cautioned that the report…did not take into account the economic downturn that began late last year, and therefore it probably presents a rosier picture than the current economic reality.   (source)

Here's another:


What makes the news particularly bleak is that last year was probably the best year of the economic expansion that started at the end of 2001. Surveying the wreckage since then, it appears all but certain that this year’s census data will be worse.   (source)

So there you have the numbers.  Unemployment, uninsured, wages, poverty -- all worse than when Bush came into office.  And likely to worsen even further.


A record Sean Hannity no doubt will continue to lie and brag about.



Let's move from statistics to analysis.


You may be wondering, what are the causes of this economic distress, which will likely deepen?


Factors would include


a weak labor movement, globalization, technological change and a slowdown in educational attainment.

The right-wing is on the wrong side of all of them.  But no time to discuss these all here right now.


I want to focus here on labor.


Worker productivity is a measure of goods or services produced per unit of labor.


In other words, how much bang for every buck paid to a worker, is the company getting?


Check this out:


From the end of World War II until the early 70's, productivity and the minimum wage rose together.


As the companies did better, workers were paid more.


But since the mid-70's, which would be mostly rule by right-wing economically-oriented policy, productivity continued to rise, but the minimum wage and average worker wages fell.


Because the labor movement was crippled by an assault from the right.


Why? To produce the result the right wants:


You have more product being produced by more poorly paid workers.  So domestic corporate profits more than tripled.


Robert Greenstein is the Executive Director of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.  His conclusion is:


Never before on record has poverty been higher and median income for working-age households lower at the end of a multi-year economic expansion than at the beginning. The new data add to the mounting evidence that the gains from the 2001-2007 expansion were concentrated among high-income Americans.

I'll say.


Here are two of my favorite killer stats:


Since Reagan took office, the share of income earned by the richest 1% of Americans has more than doubled.


And at the very very top, you now see a situation where the 400 richest American families have more wealth, than the bottom 57 million families.


400 have more than 57,000,000.


So what can be done?


Stick around to hear some progressive solutions.






You want solutions, I got solutions.


A progressive agenda to make sure economic growth benefits all Americans would include goals such as:


--strengthening labor unions

--increasing the minimum wage

--increasing investment in public education,

--guaranteeing affordable health care

--making the tax system more progressive


I'm going to focus for a minute on labor unions and the minimum wage.  They are key to understanding why gains in productivity by workers haven't been matched by gains in income of workers.


The entire purpose of the minimum wage law passed under FDR was to set wages at the


minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency and general well-being of workers

A reasonable goal.  So of course right-wingers oppose minimum wage laws.


When Democrats re-took control of Congress in 2006, they said one of their goals in the first 100 days was to increase the minimum wage.  Republicans had refused to raise it for 10 years.  Democrats succeeded.


So just recently the second stage of the minimum wage increase  passed by Democrats in 2007 took effect.


The best way to stimulate the economy is to put money into the hands of those who will spend it in ways that do stimulate the economy.


Minimum wage workers don’t put raises into predatory lending, commodity speculation or offshore tax havens. They recycle their needed raises back into local businesses and the economy through increased spending.

Huge majorities of Americans have consistently supported increases in the minimum wage.


Yet right-wingers have opposed the minimum wage from the git-go.


Listen to these two short clips of Franklin Delano Roosevelt speaking to the 1936 Democratic Convention:


audio: FDR

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the Government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the Government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.

Well, progressives like FDR and you and I take the opposite view.


audio: FDR

Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.

For more of this speech, it's quite, quite breathtaking, see podcast 110.


Rhetoric like this, plus actions to match, are why present-day right-wingers like Rush Limbaugh so hate FDR:


audio: Rush Limbaugh

Roosevelt is dead.  His policies may live on, but we're in the process of doing something about that as well.

Don't you find it obscene?


Hannity is about to sign a contract under which he'll make in one a year what the average American worker would take 10 lifetimes to earn.


Limbaugh already has a contract that is twice as rich as that!


Yet they want their taxes reduced.


And oppose increases in the minimum wage.



As to unions, right-wing policy is vehemently anti-union.


A multi-billion dollar industry has developed to fight unionization.


That's because stronger unions would be able to win higher wages and allow the benefits of an expanding economy to be shared more fairly.



On the strengthening unions and fighting poverty fronts, you should know that the differences between Obama and McCain exemplify the progressive vs. right-wing split.


Here are the facts:


McCain doesn't even have poverty listed as an issue on his website.


Obama does, and among the many things he proposes are two perfectly related to what we've discussed:


More progressive taxation -- by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and increasing taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year.


And, raising the minimum wage: to $9.50 an hour by 2011, automatically indexed to inflation.   Right-wingers will be apoplectic.


We progressives can push Obama towards a living wage level.


As far as strengthening labor, Obama is a co-sponsor of labor's most important present goal, the Employee Free Choice Act.  It allows card certification for establishing a union.  Obama also supports legislation which would reverse some of the anti-union actions of Bush's National Labor Relations Board.


And Obama isn't going to staff the Department of Labor with anti-labor officials.


There's more on Obama's website.



Hey, you know how progressive I am.  Obama may not yet be anywhere near progressive enough, but he's clearly on our side of the ledger.  Grass roots progressive agititation can and will be used to push him further.  Like LBJ was pushed.  And FDR for that matter.


But Obama has to be elected first.


So won't you please let me close on this cautionary note.


Remember FDR said that right-wingers have "granted that the Government could protect the citizen in his right to vote"?


Right-winger's publicly state that, but behind the scenes, they work for the opposite result.


Listen to Paul Weyrich, a longtime Republican strategy guru.  He was speaking to Christian activists many years ago:


audio: Weyrich

Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome — good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.

Remember, right-wing uber-icon Ronald Reagan opposed the 1965 Voting Rights Act.


Nowadays, Republicans use more hidden means to suppress the vote.  Like vote caging, purging of voter rolls, and electronic voting machine fraud.  They use these methods to suppress the voting ability of those groups who traditionally favor Democrats, especially minorities.


Check out podcasts 64 and 99 about these right-wing efforts.


So our task as progressives in this '08 election certainly includes being fully armed with Blast The Right and other ammo to take on the right-wing in debate.


And it must also include safeguarding the vote.


You can check out for how to do so. They have a voter protection toolkit you can download. 


You can also contact your local Democratic Party or Obama campaign office and ask how you can help with the vote.  You may be asked to be a poll watcher on election day.  You get the idea.


The right can and will do anything to prevent a progressive win this November.


You and I have to make sure they fail.


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