‘No One Died Of Hunger During The Great Depression’ Claims Fox Commentator (VIDEO)

Image courtesy of the Colorado Observer

Image courtesy of the Colorado Observer

Proving once again that Fox News commentators aren’t qualified to speak in public, John Stossel makes some ridiculous and historically inaccurate comments on Fox & Friends” May 30th.

Stirring the pot once again on the national debt, Stossel and ‘friends’ discuss different ways to bring it down. One suggestion? Get rid of the Department of Agriculture. His exact, exasperated, ‘jeez-people-why-didn’t-you-think-of-this-yourselves’ words?

“Agriculture? Farmers do that, you don’t need bureaucrats!”

“Farmers do that,” you say? Let’s take a look at what the U.S. Department of Agriculture really does. On the USDA website is readily available a list of all the programs under their care. Disaster assistance and insurance for farmers and ranchers are two of the programs offered. SNAP (also known colloquially as “food stamps”) and WIC (or Women, Infants, and Children) are another two very well-known programs upon which millions of Americans depend every day. Various environmental programs such as wildfire prevention are also controlled by the USDA. And of course, let us not forget food security. The USDA is tasked with ensuring the safety of the nation’s food supply, arguably the one thing most vulnerable to terrorist attack.

But get rid of it, let the farmers handle all that, says Stossel.

Another suggested cut? The Commerce Department. What does Stossel have to say about this department?

“Commerce just happens.”

It just happens, people. Why bother with the Commerce Department? NOAA, for one. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our national ‘weather people,’ are under the Department of Commerce. Since they are the ones who let people know when they may be facing severe, life-threatening weather, they are kind of important. The Census Bureau also happens to be under the Commerce Department, and since much of our federal budget is based on Census data, this is also pretty important. And what about that essential aspect of commerce–innovation? The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is under the direction of the Department of Commerce as well.

But the gem of the clip comes towards the end when, speaking of government benefits, Stossel employs two of Fox News’ favorite tactics in one thought–lies and the phrase “welfare state”:

“When people are needy, you want them helped. But think about the Depression. That was before there was any welfare state at all. How many people starved? No one.”

I’m sure I don’t have to point out the inaccuracy here. Of course, Stossel didn’t have a choice but to correct his ‘mistake’ later on his blog, where it was spun to minimize the obvious misinformation presented on the show. Stossel acknowledges that historians note there were deaths due to starvation numbering in the hundreds in New York City alone. However, he goes on to cite a PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) article from 2009 entitled “Life and death during the Great Depression.” From the article, Stossel cites the following:

Population health did not decline and indeed generally improved during the 4 years of the Great Depression, 1930–1933, with mortality decreasing for almost all ages, and life expectancy increasing by several years[…]

However, had Stossel bothered to read the article beyond the abstract (something he would have learned to do had he not “daydreamed through half [his] classes at Princeton”), he would have noted the most likely reasons behind this statement. First, the study averaged the entire population, not just one part, meaning that those who were still economically sound during the Great Depression were grouped with those who were worst off. Second, because the times of economic prosperity are associated with “increases in smoking and alcohol consumption, reductions in sleep, and increases in work stress related to overtime and faster and more strenuous labor” as well as “increases in atmospheric pollution, which has well-documented short-term effects on cardiovascular and respiratory mortality,” it is only reasonable that during an economic downturn there would be reverses to these conditions.

Therefore, it is not that “hunger was rare enough that health generally improved,” as he claims, but rather that health gets worse in a good economy.

Of course, ignoring facts is par for the course when it comes to Faux News.

Here’s the video: