Monday, August 1, 2011

My Domestic Church: "Analyzing political analysis -Politifact and Bill O'Reilly"

Blogger "Elena" at My Domestic Church ( notices the bias at PolitiFact:
This recent article on Politifact about the Poverty Rate is a good example of its liberal bias.  First of all, they are taking apart a comment made by Bill O'Reilly made on the Fox News Channel.
During the O'Reilly Factor segment, Bill O'Reilly claimed that President Johnson's "Great Society" programs had done little to decrease poverty and used as evidence an increase in the poverty rate from 14 percent in 1965 up to 14.3 percent in the present day.  O'Reilly was off on the first figure--it was 17.3 percent in 1965.

Elena observed:
Politifact says that this assertion that the poverty rate has stayed about the same is false. But on reading the Politifact article I wonder if they didn't actually prove O'Reilly's point:
Politifact says: • He uses the wrong numbers. The poverty rate -- the percentage of Americans whose income is lower than the federally determined poverty line -- was 17.3 percent in 1965, not 14 percent. For 2009, O’Reilly is correct -- the rate was 14.3 percent.

So if you compare the poverty rate in those two years, it has fallen by 3 percentage points, or by about one-sixth its original level. It didn’t stay roughly constant, as O’Reilly claimed.
Well, he really didn't say it was constant. Still if it was 17.3 in 1965 and it is now 14 or so, that's not very good progress to have in over 46 years!
Elena is exactly right that PolitiFact exaggerates O'Reilly's claim.  In fact, as she later points out, the PolitiFact story repeats the error in the conclusion, with "O’Reilly said the Great Society programs did nothing to reduce poverty."

Elena expands on her contention that PolitiFact's findings support O'Reilly's point with another observation:
But I got a good chuckle over this:
The poverty rate has fallen even further if you start counting a few years before the Great Society began. Between 1959 and 1962, the poverty rate ranged between 20 and 22 percent. If you compare that level to 2009, poverty declined by an even steeper rate -- by more than one-third.
So if we say the poverty rate was 22 in 1962 and fell to 17 in 1965, that's a drop of 5 points in three years - so couldn't we surmise that the poverty rate was dropping faster and further before the government programs started to interfere?

Please read the rest here, and remember not to succumb to the error of dismissing information based solely on the source.  Content comes first.


  1. Well, Bryan, you have to look at what the economy was doing in those years. The poverty rate changes and during the 1990s the rate dropped to 11 percent. Rates are also dependent on the percentage of children in the years you're talking about. Here are some statistics for you:

    In the late 1950s, the poverty rate for all Americans was 22.4 percent, or 39.5 million individuals. These numbers declined steadily throughout the 1960s, reaching a low of 11.1 percent, or 22.9 million individuals, in 1973. Over the next decade, the poverty rate fluctuated between 11.1 and 12.6 percent, but it began to rise steadily again in 1980. By 1983, the number of poor individuals had risen to 35.3 million individuals, or 15.2 percent.

    For the next ten years, the poverty rate remained above 12.8 percent, increasing to 15.1 percent, or 39.3 million individuals, by 1993. The rate declined for the remainder of the decade, to 11.3 percent by 2000. From 2000 to 2004 it rose each year to 12.7 in 2004.

    Since the late 1960s, the poverty rate for people over 65 has fallen dramatically. The poverty rate for children has historically been somewhat higher than the overall poverty rate. The poverty rate for people in households headed by single women is significantly higher than the overall poverty rate.

  2. Try to summarize your statistics into a coherent point.


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