Sunday, January 26, 2014

Major Garrett, Propaganda on Unemployment Benefits

I've written a post to show how the media uses both misinformation (false or inaccurate information that is spread unintentionally) and disinformation (which is intended to mislead).

There is another way the media uses the art of propaganda, by using neither of these examples, but by convoluting their message in reporting on one topic, but then by inserting other non-related information—and having the reader (or viewer) believing that somehow one bit of information is either related, or is the cause of something else (by using subliminal inference to show cause and correlation.)

Major Garrett

Major Garrett was once the "Senior White House Correspondent" for the Fox News Channel before becoming the "Chief White House Correspondent" with CBS News and "Correspondent at Large" with the National Journal.

Earlier this month Garrett wrote an article for the National Journal using subliminal inference with this very long headline:

Long-Term Unemployed See Lives as 'Scary,' 'Nerve-Wracking,' 'Falling Behind.' They Don't See 'Recovery.'

NOTE: The sub-title to Garret's article reads: "Americans out of work six months or more see the Obama recovery as a statistic wrapped in a rumor inside a mirage". This was Major Garrett's clever twist on something Winston Churchill had said in a radio broadcast in October 1939 when speaking about the Russians during World War II—"It's a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma". Now think about Churchill's idiom: "something very mysterious and hidden". Now think about the media's strategy of using subliminal inference.

Judging by the title and sub-title of Major Garret's story, one can assume they are going to read a story about the long-term unemployed, right?

Major Garrett begins his article as a human interest story about the long-term unemployed and extended jobless benefits. A married couple he features in his story is an unemployed woman named Clarissa and her husband Jason, who is receiving disability benefits.

At first it appears to be a heart-felt story about an average couple who were financially struggling. But then, notice how ever so slyly Garrett's story suddenly morphs into an attack on fraud and abuse within the government welfare system.

Jewett and Hallasy also agree on a question now before the Senate: Should Americans who receive Social Security disability benefits (because they can’t work) also receive extended jobless benefits? Their answer is no. Both consider it unfair. Richards is sympathetic, fearing that anyone collecting both benefits—even if doing so is openly contradictory—is probably as economically distressed as she is.

Editor's Note: The husband (Jason) wasn't "double-dipping" government benefits while he was on disability, so why did Major Garrett bring this up in an interview with this couple?

Then Garrett goes on:

A 2010 Government Accountability Office report found that 117,000 Americans collected Social Security disability benefits and unemployment-insurance benefits. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has proposed banning this double-dipping to pay for a three-month extension of jobless benefits. GAO found that benefits paid in 2010 amounted to $856 million ($281 million in disability benefits and $575 million in jobless benefits). Portman’s amendment seeks $5.4 billion in savings over 10 years.

Editor's Note: Garrett mentioned that "117,000 Americans collected Social Security disability benefits and unemployment-insurance benefits". In perspective, that's a tiny number out of 23.9 million who received extended unemployment benefits and 8.9 million who are on disability.

And why isn't there a link in Major Garrett's story to another story about Senator Rob Portman, proposing a ban on this so-called "double-dipping"? Never mind, I just did a Google search and found this:

Portman said he would support extended unemployment benefits, but only if they were paid for with savings elsewhere in the federal budget. He and five other Republican senators put forward an amendment they said would cover the cost of the extra benefits. The GOP amendment would have limited the ability of people to receive Social Security disability. Portman initially wanted to completely bar “double-dipping” from the two federal assistance programs, but he pared it back to address Democratic concerns that it would hurt people who are disabled. The GOP plan was rejected, so Portman voted against extending jobless benefits.

Editor's Note: Just for your information, when Major Garretts says "$5.4 billion in savings over 10 years", that equates to $540 million a year, which is 0.054% of an annual federal budget of $1 trillion a year. But Garrett played up the "big numbers" just like others in the media sometimes do to create "sensational" news (sometimes known as "yellow journalism").

From Media Matters: The New York Times indicated that it will take steps to more accurately present numbers-based stories, a change that will ensure readers are better informed on economic issues. The New York Times Washington Bureau Chief says part of the problem is that the human mind isn't equipped to deal with very large numbers. When people see these numbers they read it as "a lot of money" or "a really big number". One answer is expressing individual budget figures as a percentage of the whole and/or making comparisons. For example, a $10 billion figure might be put in context by comparing it with other costs, like the annual defense and Social Security budgets.

Also, why wasn't there a link in Major Garrett's story to the Government Accountability Office's report that he referred to? Never mind, I found it myself (again), by doing another Google search (Doesn't Garrett do any research at all, or is he just another media celebrity in his own mind who only repeats what others tell him?)

Then Major Garrett goes on in his story:

[Senator] Portman’s not alone. President Obama’s 2014 budget sought $1 billion in savings over 10 years by reducing disability and jobless-benefit double-dipping. This appears to be the place where serious negotiations—instead of mindless and heartless procedural snarling—could begin on a three-month extension of extended jobless benefits. Jewett, Hallasy, Richards, and 1.5 million Americans who have lost their extended jobless benefits deserve no less.

Editor's Note: Why is Major Garrett tying Social Security disability to the current debate about extending jobless benefits? This is classic subliminal inference. And where in Garrett's story is there a link to a specific mention in Obama's 2014 budget about reducing disability and jobless-benefits by "double-dipping"? There's no confirmation anywhere. Are we just supposed to believe everything that an ex-Fox News reporter tells?

What follows is from the full GAO report, including the graphic.

double dipping

From the GAO: Under certain circumstances, individuals may be eligible for concurrent cash benefit payments due to differences in DI and UI eligibility requirements. Specifically, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of a disability involves work that does not rise to the level of substantial gainful activity (SGA). In 2010, a monthly income of $1,000 or more for a non-blind beneficiary generally demonstrated SGA.

In contrast, the Department of Labor allows states' determination of "able and available for work" eligibility criteria for UI benefits to include work that does not rise to the level of SGA.

Therefore, some individuals may have a disability under federal law but still be eligible for UI under state law because they are able and available for work that does not rise to the level of SGA. Although DI and UI generally provide separate services to separate populations—and thus are not overlapping programs —the concurrent cash benefit payments for individuals eligible for both programs are an overlapping benefit when both replace lost earnings.

While SSA must reduce DI benefits for individuals receiving certain other government disability benefits, such as worker’s compensation, no federal law authorizes an automatic reduction or elimination of overlapping DI and UI benefits. As a result, neither SSA nor DOL has any processes to identify these overlapping payments. Reducing or eliminating overlapping or improper payments could offer substantial savings, though actual savings are difficult to estimate because the potential costs of establishing mechanisms to do so are not readily available.

But in his very sneaky (deceptive and misleading) way, Major Garrett just had to mention this "double-dipping" in his story about extending unemployment benefits—as if a great portion of those jobless benefits would be going to lazy cheaters in the form of waste, fraud and abuse (subliminal inference).

And why didn't Major Garrett tell his readers that these overlapping benefits only accounted for 1% of all beneficiaries (there are much higher incident rates of employee theft by "hard-working Americans" in the private sector).

If Major Garrett had wanted to do a separate piece about government waste, fine (I did). But why imply that unemployment benefits could be potentially "wasteful" if Garrett truly wanted to help Clarissa and her husband Jason. Why drag them into a discussion about government waste or fraud? (subliminal inference).

Major Garrett wanted his readers to believe that there was a BIG problem with this "double-dipping" thing, and that it was URGENT that we correct this pressing situation sooner, rather than later (The Senator and the President are getting right on it!)

In his fake "human interest" story, Major Garrett implied that, no matter how miserable that wife and husband were, maybe we taxpayers should better take a closer look at this all this waste in the welfare system (before we dole out anymore taxpayer money for fraud). That was exactly the point Garrett was trying to make—and his story was not meant at all to tell of the horrible plight of the long-term unemployed in America.

After Major Garrett's article ran in the National Journal, the right-wing CBS News ran his story the very next day.

Photo below: Major Garrett escorts former Miss California Carrie Prejean to the White House Correspondents Dinner (to party with the top 1%), a year before she married Oakland Raiders quarterback Kyle Boller.

Propaganda reporter

1 comment:

  1. I hope you noticed my comment under that article where I took him to task for doing exactly what you said.