Responding to the conservative nonsense of family members on Facebook

A close family member of mine liked the following graphic on Facebook, and, now, as a result, the rest of my night is going to be spent debunking or otherwise providing context for these “facts” as put forward by an organization called RightChange. [According to their website, RightChange, the organization responsible for this graphic, “has grown into a national movement with over 642,000 supporters.” Sounds like a pretty solid grassroots organization, right? Well, I still haven’t found recent data, but, in 2008, $2.7 million of their $3.8 million budget was provided by one man – Fred Eshelman, the CEO of a large pharmaceutical research firm by the name of Pharmaceutical Product Development. What’s more, the organization has a history of telling untruths. Oh, and if you’re wondering what Eshelman may have against the federal government, here’s some footage of him testifying before a House Subcommittee concerning the fraudulent clinical trials of a drug on which his company worked.]

So, here are my rough thoughts on what I’d like to share with this relative of mine. If I’ve left anything pertinent out, please let me know.

One… According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current unemployment rate is 8.3%. What this doesn’t say, however, is that the unemployment rate has been dropping somewhat steadily since October 2009, when it was 10%. As others have noted, Obama’s stimulus programs didn’t impact unemployment to the degree that we were told that they would, but, given the fact that he had inherited an imploding housing market and a financial crisis the likes of which we hadn’t seen since the Great Depression, I think it’s remarkable that we seem to be moving in the right direction, albeit slowly. What’s more, it’s probably worth noting that Romney isn’t offering much when it comes to ideas as to how we stimulate job creation, and reverse this trend.

Two… The “one in three Americans is on welfare” claim seems high, and I can’t find any justification for it online, but I’ll acknowledge that we have a lot of people in this country who require assistance. Not quite two years ago, USA Today ran an article on the growing number of people seeking government aid. Among their findings were the following: the number of Americans on food stamps had doubled since the beginning of the recession in December 2007, and, over that same period, 17% more people enrolled in Medicaid. (And these numbers have clearly grown over the past two years.) There’s no doubt that more people are availing themselves of government anti-poverty programs. It’s also worth noting, however, that these numbers were trending upward since the Clinton administration. In fact, according to CNN, average participation in the food stamp program increased by 63% during Bush’s eight years in office. And, again, I’d like to know what Romney would do differently. Would he stop the food stamp program? My sense is that providing people with limited access to food is more cost effective than dealing with the problems that would arise in a nation full of starving people, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. And, lest anyone think these folks are currently living high on the hog, the average food stamp recipient, as of March 2012, is receiving approximately $133.14 per month in assistance. [note: 46.4 million Americans currently receive food stamps.]

Three… Yes, the debt is growing, but, believe it or not, Obama has increased government spending less than any President since Eisenhower. And the following graphic is from Forbes, by the way, and not some commie blog, like this one… Oh, and if you want to assign blame, here’s something from the Washington Post. “George W. Bush’s major policies increased the debt by more than $5 trillion during his presidency. Obama has increased the debt by less than $1 trillion.” (If you follow that link, there’s a graphic that lays it all out very clearly.)

Four… It’s true that there’s no budget, but that’s not because the President hasn’t submitted one. He has. His budget just hasn’t been accepted by Congress.

Five… The graphic says “Democratic Majority” across the top, implying that the following failures are their fault. The only problem is, there isn’t a Democratic majority. Anyone who observes politics, even casually, knows that this isn’t a period in American history in which one party has had free rein to impose its agenda. If anything, our current era will be remembered as one of unprecedented obstructionism, during which the House, controlled by a Republican majority, did everything in its power not to give the Obama administration what could be perceived as legislative “victories,” even if the bills in question were good for the American people, and were first proposed by Republicans.

Six… This family member of mine who is apparently so outraged by the number of people receiving federal aid, happens to be on Medicaid.

I could go on, but I’m tired. My main point is, these are complicated issues, and deserve more attention than Mr. Eshelman, and the “grassroots” organization which owns, are willing to give them. And I don’t say this as a fan of the President, who thinks that he can do no wrong. Clearly, he deserves much of the blame for where we are today. I just think it’s disingenuous to suggest that these things were the work of a “Democratic Majority” on an America-hating rampage. The truth is, the economic collapse was a long time coming, and it likely had much more to do with financial deregulation, and anti-labor legislation passed years ago than it did with Barack Obama. Sadly, though, Eshelman and company aren’t interested in getting at the truth. They’re just interested in getting a slightly more business-friendly man in office, and they’re willing to twist the facts, and cherry pick their statistics in order to see that accomplished.

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  1. Andrew Jason Clock
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    Today, I refrained from making a snarky comment about some right wing nonsense and instead chose to unsubscribe from that person’s status updates (one thing I’ll give FB credit for. Genius.) I have better things to do than try to debunk this guy’s misguided beliefs. But I would have (a) asked what Paul Ryan would have to sat about Romney Care (b) Didn’t Jesus teach to help the poor and sick, not extort the sick and make them poor?

  2. Edward
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Even though it’s true, at some point, we need to stop saying that Obama inherited this mess. People just tune you out when you say that.

  3. Knox
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    In all seriousness, does anyone know what Romney’s plan is to deal with unemployment? I’m assuming he’s not going to propose putting people to work on infrastructure programs (like Obama did with his stimulus program). Is his only idea that we cut taxes on the wealthy, roll back regulations and hope for the best?

  4. Terri Eagen-Torkko
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    “Free rein” rather than “free reign.”

  5. Murf
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    There has been many times recently that I wish Facebook had a politics filter both for the right AND left wing nuts. But if someone is going to unsubscribe from someone, why not just go balls out and unfriend?

    As for the unemployment statistics, I take that with a huge grain of salt because a) it’s a government agency working the database and b) there are a plethora of people that fall in the ‘no man’s land’ area of having their unemployment benefits run out and yet not employed. If they were to take an accurate count some how to include those people, it would be very disturbing.

    Much like with the recent city council vote, I don’t like either candidate (maybe I should go with what a Facebook quiz results were and go Green party) but it should make for some great televised debates!

  6. Thom Elliott
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    It is a fruitless endevor to attempt to refute or debunk what is only supposed to stir up some of the most ill informed people since the medieval era. Imagine the near total lack of context for this information, imagine what mental duldrums which would be required to let Fox News or conservative talk radio wash over you, try to keep in mind that these people do not read books. Just like in the medieval era, knowledge was changed from that which is aquired by pondering phenomena and coming to wisdom by means of thought, to being what can recited from authority. The more in line with scripture, doctrinal and dogmatic; the more knowledge. Today in our godless, worldless world scripture is modernist propaganda.

  7. tyler w
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    It’s always been so odd to me that we pick on welfare recipients as the root of our issues with America. It’s crazy that we honestly think that the poor and disadvantaged are somehow holding us back, really. The mess we are in is all the fault of the poor really how many government leaders and businesses owners or doctors are poor……none. the just are not any at all.

  8. Posted August 14, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    There are hardly enough hours in the day to respond to the nasty conservative nonsense we’re assaulted with at almost every turn of our public lives.

    But then, that’s their strategy. Make enough noise to drown out actual discussion of the issues. Hate and destroy those who disagree with you.

    Ever since Palin dropped in, the political noise level has risen exponentially. It’s kind of like a wild pig in it’s death throes. Kicking, screaming, thrashing about, gnashing of teeth, foaming at the mouth. To me this is evidence of the last gasps of the conservative far right. All the noise and rending of flesh is part of the death of the hard right movement in our country.

    The demographics are against them. The slow incoming tide of the change in the politics, inclusion and respect for all racial, social and cultural minorities, gay marriage, women’s health, hell, all people’s health, increaded, not decreased education opportunity (which conservatives like Santorum hate) greater personal freedom vs hate, intimidation and fear. To me all these things, the noise, the constant thrashing, the pounding bordering on physical violence against those who disagree with you with screaming, name calling and intimidation are all evidence of the beginning of the end of the dangerous so called (neo) “Conservative” political movement that sprung out of the Right’s fear of change.

    I’m getting up there in years and I’ve never seen anything like this politically. I like to think positively, and there is nothing more positive politically to see this destructive movement crawl back under the rock from which it came.

  9. Megan
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    I don’t blame Obama for where we are and he DID inherit a mess. I will fully admit that we are not where we all hoped we would be, but I don’t blame Obama for that. If memory serves, the administration was on track, passing things that were good for America until Nov 2010 and the Republicans took over the House and nothing has been passed since. They can’t even pass the Violence Against Women Act!!! WTH? It’s against WOMEN, not white, heterosexual, European Background only women!! Assholes.

  10. Dan
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Interesting read on the perspective of those receiving aid, and why they hate “welfare queens”

    “Those who don the veil of opulence may imagine themselves to be fantastically wealthy movie stars or extremely successful business entrepreneurs. They vote and set policies according to this fantasy. “If I were such and such a wealthy person,” they ask, “how would I feel about giving X percentage of my income, or Y real dollars per year, to pay for services that I will never see nor use?” We see this repeatedly in our tax policy discussions, and we have just seen the latest instance of it in the Tax Policy Center’s comparison of President Obama’s tax plan versus Mitt Romney’s tax plan. “He’s asking you to pay more so that people like him can pay less,” Obama said last week, “so that people like me pay less.””

  11. The Real Real McCoy
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    “What this doesn’t say, however, is that the unemployment rate has been dropping somewhat steadily since October 2009, when it was 10%”

    Unemployment is dropping because labor participation is at an all time low.

    Food stamp numbers per household (much harder to manipulate than per individual) up another 4+ percent YOY. That’s a MILLION more households on foodstamps in a year.

    Not that it really matters. Obama is running this thing into the ground and Romney wants to break it into pieces and sell it off. Not looking good any way you slice it.

  12. The Real Real McCoy
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink


    “I don’t like either candidate (maybe I should go with what a Facebook quiz results were and go Green party)”

    That’s a great suggestion. If only people had the balls to actually vote for the person who they think most fits their views.

    If you believe that gay marriage is a right, oppose eternal war, oppose the TSA, believe in the Bill of Rights, oppose secret prisons in Gitmo and Bagram and still vote for Obama? You are the very definition of a wasted vote.

  13. anonymous
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Murph is right about the unemployment statistics. They paint things as rosier than they actually are, as people who have given up looking for work are not counted. It’s my understanding that the way things are calculated has remained fairly consistent over the past decade or so, though. So, I think the unemployment numbers referenced above do give a relatively good way to gauge how things are going.

  14. Gratia Karmes
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Most of us have had similar discussions with various friends and relatives. What should be a reasonable discussion turns nasty because the facts simply aren’t relevant to their point of view. Brilliant analysis and rebuttal above, but I would “refudiate” your last point: President Obama is very business friendly, especially if you are a small business owner. What he isn’t is “Rich guy friendly”, a la Bush/Romney, but even that isn’t the main cause of the right wing vitriol. He is black, (or not quite as white as they prefer) and that’s a big problem for them.

  15. Oliva
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    There’s a really good radio show with the authors of THE BETRAYAL OF THE AMERICAN DREAM from 7 August on WHYY’s “Radio Times”:

    The final caller sputters and blubbers about these authors prescribing a solution that would cripple ambition, but as he gets more worked up, his anger and true message come out–the belief that some Americans have ambition and that policies designed to lift all boats only hamper this noblest quality. There’s a clear insinuation that only a special few have true ambition and work hard and so they should be rewarded by low tax rates–that low tax rates foster ambition. This belief is so deep-down in some people, and it’s bundled with a bunch of unsavory other beliefs. But reality belies it every minute of every day . . . as some of the hardest-working people also struggle the most. And empirical evidence shows that we prosper, in multiple ways–good schools, safe bridges, more milk of human kindness available–when we have greater financial equality and make it a priority to contribute to the greater good. The long-ingrained fictional narratives about American individualism and “I did it myself” are stubborn and depressing but have a kind of magical way of revving up droopy, defensive egos.

    I keep thinking, in this time of casino magnate and bad-hearted billionaire rule, of a church sign on the way to ocean in NC from many years ago: “Some people are so poor–all they have is money.”

    How did we get to this sickening point when bravery, dexterity, artistic beauty, kindness, such precious things, got so far down on the ladder of what makes a good and fulfilling life and got replaced by who has the most money. How chintzy is money as a measure of value.

  16. MarkH
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    When you say “family” member, you really mean Clementine, right?

    We all knew she would rebel. We didn’t think it’d be this soon.

  17. Mr. Y
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    A friend told me today that white people can’t, by virtue of their whiteness, be on welfare. Unlike black people, they collect from assistance programs that they’ve paid into. I had been unaware of the distinction.

  18. Posted August 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Hey, I’m glad you’re keeping up the good fight. I was trying to come up with a coherent response here, but honestly, I was just too pissed off by the right-wing shit machine.

  19. Eel
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Horshak is dead.

  20. Posted August 14, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Y, your friend is a racist.

  21. Oliva
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Re. Mark’s comment “And I don’t say this as a fan of the President, who thinks that he can do no wrong. Clearly, he deserves much of the blame for where we are today,” I’d say “some of the blame.” Provoking defensiveness in those who support Obama’s reelection is a reliable way to shift the argument, confuse, madden, frustrate–engineered by the people with the money and agendas who tell untrue stories and facts to gullible, uneasy people. Their resort to blaming Obama for things deeply in motion when he took office or long-term structurally screwed-up situations and systems–the fury so crazily piled on and out of proportion and even too personal, too creepily racist–is depressing, given the complexity of what’s been going on the past 30 years, 120 years, 400 years–and past almost 4 years (it’s important, no matter how much plenty of people will try to shame others from making the point, to give proper weight to the pact made by Republicans to block Obama’s efforts and have “him” fail, at our expense).

    Also, from a good blog post at Washington Monthly:

    the Romney campaign is reviving the single oldest tactic of southern reactionaries: race-baiting white working class voters to distract them from the many issues on which this segment of the electorate is naturally unsympathetic to policies that reinforce economic and social privilege . . .

    So it’s a familiar tactic, but what makes it novel is that it is not being narrow-cast into North Carolina or Virginia or northern and western Florida or Missouri, but broadcast everywhere . . .

    I should hope that any fair-minded Republicans . . . or “neutral” MSM observers, regardless of what they think about the two campaigns generally, would bury this particular blast from the disreputable past in an avalanche of denunciation. If not, then progressives owe it to the country to raise hell about it until it stops or is repudiated by voters.

    –Ed Kilgore,

  22. John Galt
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    What’s the matter with AMERICAN beer, Obama?!

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  1. […] a family member of mine who had shared a purposefully misleading political graphic on Facebook, and how I responded. The piece, which incorrectly attributed $5 billion of the nation’s debt to the […]

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