The “Currently Isn’t Working” Fallacy, The 1% Myth, and Misleading Statistics

On a recent episode of Stossel, Neil Sroka; the communications director for Democracy for America came on the show. He is an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders, and his ideals of democratic socialism.

Here’s a transcript of a portion I’d like to discuss. I’m not going to type out the entire interview, but since this was the first real question, there was indeed nothing preceding it that would leave you missing any context.

John Stossel - Fox Business Network
John Stossel – Fox Business Network

Stossel: Now socialism generally means that the government owns the means of production. Do you want that?

Sroka: Well, I think there is [sic] some antiquated views about what socialism is. I don’t think anyone’s calling for, you know, state ownership of the gas station down the street. But what we are saying is, is [sic] that the current system that we have right now isn’t working. Uh, you know, when over 40 million Americans are still living in poverty at the same time that, you know, a millionaire and billionaire class is trying to essentially own all political discourse in this country, that [sic] that’s problematic. And that’s what we have to work together to dismantle.

John did a pretty good job of debating the issues with Neil, I don’t need to belabor those further here.

But one thing that is often repeated that wasn’t addressed in the interview, is a claim by many on the left (and the right for that matter); the notion that whatever “it” is in America, “it” somehow isn’t working or is broken.

The United States of America is the single most powerful nation in the world—by a wide margin. Not just in military force, but in economic force.

Misleading Statistics
Misleading Statistics

Neil argued that there are over 40 million people (It’s 45 million, in fact) under poverty in America, but that number is a bit misleading.

Neil isn’t ignorant when he uses that number, it’s such a large number, it sounds horrible—giving it quite the shocking impact.

It convinces people, with actual facts (albeit misleading ones), that there is a massive problem. But the reality is, it’s only about 15% of the American populous, or approximately one out of seven people, as shown in this census bureau report. Which means 85%, or nearly 255 million, are in fact, NOT at the poverty level. Also quite factual, but significantly less shocking when thought of in that light.

While I feel for such people (I am almost one of them, so I really do feel for them), they are at the bottom 15%, and aren’t even close to the majority. Poverty is always a problem for people, and I don’t deny that. But America doesn’t have a poverty problem, I’d argue that the large majority of people under poverty have a personal problem—they’re not doing what is needed to get themselves out of poverty.

Still not convinced? Think about this. Imagine a random seven people you might meet on any given day. Then consider whether you think at least one of them, on average, is not really putting forth the kind of effort needed to be successful enough in life to be above the poverty level. I genuinely don’t feel like that’s a stretch by any measure.

People also love to point at “money buying elections” as part of the problem, but Obama spent less than Mitt Romney in 2012, yet he still won quite resoundingly.

In 2007, Obama didn’t start with a lot of money when he initially ran for president either. Hillary was the one with all the money behind her at the onset of that election cycle.

Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Socialists like Sanders like to create a cause-and-effect argument between money spent, and elections won, as if the money came first and drove the election results.

But it’s also entirely possible that instead; the money follows the person with the best ideas, and is therefore the effect versus the cause, which seems to be the case with Obama versus Clinton in 2007; assuming we can agree Obama is more charismatic and interesting than Hillary Clinton, and I think we can.

Stating that the system is broken and doesn’t work, appeals to people who are driven to have more, by exploiting the human tendency for confirmation bias. Americans know subconsciously that America is a strong and powerful economic nation. But many of these socialist supporters are unhappy with their own lives because of whatever their shortcomings might be, and it hurts to think of yourself as worse than average in any way.

So when someone points out that the system is broken, it gives such people a way to argue that their own inadequacies aren’t their problem after all; society, corporations, or rich people are actually to blame—just ask that guy.

Everything in the world is capable of improvement, and America is no exception. But if you’re an American, you should be incredibly thankful for what you have. As much as socialists like to talk about the poor 99% in America suffering the top 1%, if you’re an American making over $32, 400, when looking at the rest of the world, you are indeed part of the 1% yourself.

So unless those of you in that $30k bracket or higher, who are behind socialists like Bernie, are ready to give up 80-90% of your salary to the rest of the world as many socialists suggest the richest 1% in American be forced to give to the rest of us Americans, you are indeed, quite the hypocrite—congratulations and #FeelTheBern.



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