How to Fix Terrible Journalism

by Harijan

This week, I read a Newsweek article about a solution to ending poverty.

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How to Fix Poverty: Write Every Family a Basic Income Check is a very catch title. I even like the picture of a lady with shopping carts. That is sooooo much warehouse space for soooo little food. But what does the picture symbolize? Also, wasn’t this article about getting rid of food stamp programs and just giving people straight cash? So… why a sympathetic picture towards something the writer would consider inefficient?

The writer has a brilliant solution to the problem of welfare: The US government receives $1.8 trillion dollars to be used for welfare programs. Instead of using those tax dollars on food stamps, the money should be given as a $15,000 “thank you for being a US citizen” prize to every household.

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The US government spends $1 trillion dollars on welfare of the food stamp variety??? Every year?

When I read this, I could not believe that governments could be so inefficient to waste soooo much money on pieces of paper that could be exchanged for food. I cannot believe that money went to food stamps because a trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) is enough money to buy 200 billion hamburgers (assuming hamburger+tax at $5). Those 200 billion hamburgers is enough to feed all of US for an entire year.

It possibly couldn’t be all of that money was going into food stamps.

So where was the money really going to? Let’s take a look at the link on “$1 trillion on welfare”. It refers to a 2012 publication by the libertarian think tank, the CATO institute, The American Welfare State: How We Spend Nearly $1 Trillion a Year Fighting Poverty—And Fail. You can access the pdf article here.

Major boring stuff. Lots of policy words. But what do we have on Page 4?

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Food stamps (SNAP) represents only 7% of that trillion dollars. More than 30% of that money actually goes to providing healthcare for people who couldn’t afford healthcare by other means.

That’s right. The “welfare of the food stamp variety” money actually goes to things like tax credits (read: citizen’s dividend already), education (Pell Grants), and most importantly healthcare (SCHIP and Medicaid at a whopping 230 billion dollars). There is no way we can cut out these programs for reasons too numerous and too obvious. That is crazy talk. Just plain facepalm.

I am wondering how the author, a Harvard graduate, of the Newsweek article could claim that the US government is spending $1 trillion dollars on food stamps. In reality, most of that money is being given back to the US citizens in forms of education grants, tax credits, and health insurance. Less than 10% of the money is being spent on food stamps!

I am wondering how the Newsweek editorial staff did not check the validity of the very definition of the word welfare as “food stamp-like programs”?

This is terrible journalism with a complete lack of due diligence on the part of Newsweek. This is misinformation at its worst. The article should be retracted before more readers are duped into thinking that ending programs like Medicaid and Medicare is the solution to the problem of poverty in the US.


I have no solution to fixing terrible journalism. The title was crafted in the spirit of the original article I’m tying to ridicule.