HIGHTOWER: Cato's Welfare Lies

Figures don't lie, but liars do figure.Take the liars at the Cato Institute, the right-wing think tank in Washington that issued a report last fall in which they "figured" that welfare families typically get $17,500 a year in benefits, with some cities doling out more than $25,000 per family.Hey, juicy deal, huh? The Life of Riley, sign me up!Trouble is though, the Cato report was wrong. Wildly wrong. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities recently went over Cato's figures and found that...well, they lied. The typical welfare family makes not $17,500 but less than $9,000, which is $3,000 below the poverty line...not exactly Fat City.Among Cato's little statistical fibs was its assumption that each welfare family in America receives housing assistance. In fact, three-fourths of them receive no housing subsidy at all. Facts-be-damned though, Cato researchers simply assigned a housing value of more than $2,000 to each of them.The same for WIC benefits, a special food-voucher program to get adequate nutrition to infants and children. Cato assumed that all welfare recipients get WIC vouchers, when in fact 80 percent of them do not. Indeed, most WIC payments go to working mothers not on welfare, whose jobs pay so poorly they have to supplement their children's nutrition.Cato's lies are not harmless, since welfare-bashing politicians from coast-to-coast gleefully grabbed the Institute's report and used it as justification to knock poor people even further down.Everyone agrees that our bureaucratic, nightmarish welfare system needs reform, but reform ought to be based on reality, not on a passel of lies put out by a gang of right-wing eggheaded extremists and self-serving politicians.

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