Fact Checking Glenn Beck

Millionaire Glenn Beck has drawn a lot of attention for himself over the past few years.

Since his humble beginning as a radio jockey in Bellingham, Wash., Beck has risen to prominence within the conservative movement as a T.V commentator extraordinaire.

His show attracts millions of viewers across the country, and he uses it as a springboard to promote causes with which he is affiliated – mostly he advocates less taxation and more power for corporate America.

But his fame isn’t solely built on his political platform. His popularity is also partly due to many of  his extremely controversial remarks.

Amongst the highlights are his telling an audience that it took him “about a year to start hating the 9/11 victims’ families,” and the question “[are] we as dumb as Nigerians?”

He also delighted in informing his audience that all illegal immigrants were either “terrorists,” “escaping the law,” or “couldn’t make a living in their own dirt bag country.”

Clearly, the above statements don’t need fact checking. But below, we will discuss more nuanced attacks Beck has launched against us working people, specifically at our unions:

1. Beck and guest discuss “right to work”:


Beck begins this video by telling his audience that “[our] country is changing fundamentally, and it is changing overnight. Progressives and their friends in the government can’t get enough of the unions…”

Right off the bat, Beck is clearly trying to scare his viewers with two implications:

1. Unions are a new (and thus terrifying) phenomenon in America, and 2. that they are fundamentally changing the country.

Of course, unions have been a part of Americans’ lives for nearly 200 years. And the idea that unions are influencing the country anymore today than they have ever done before is absurd on its face.

Unions at one time encompassed 34.8% of the American workforce – today they represent only 12.3%. Whats more, the level of strike activity in this country is at an all time low. In short, the belief that unions are taking the country in any sort of radical direction is baseless.

Continuing his barrage of union disinformation, Beck has brought onto his show Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity, a global warming denying, right-wing front group  funded by Koch Industries.

Phillips first attack began quickly:

“When you look at the numbers, states that are non-unionized, where people have the freedom to choose whether to join a union or not, that’s where prosperity is, and that’s where job growth is… where people have a chance to choose whether or not to join a union, over being forced or coerced into joining a union, prosperity results.”

Phillips here is making the argument that “right to work” states, or states that have made it illegal for unions to negotiate a union shop with employers, are more prosperous than “forced union” states.

He backs this up with a few strange statistics.

First, he pulls up a graph comparing the average job growth of all right to work states to the average job growth of all other states between 1990 and 2006. The graph shows that the average job growth in the average “forced union state” was only 17.2%, and that the average job growth in the average right to work state was a prosperous 39.7%.

It’s a clever graph. It disguises an extremely questionable economic opinion as a fact, and implies that making closed union shops illegal will singlehandedly increase job growth.

But there are many economic policies which will determine the rate of job growth, perhaps least of which is whether or not workers can negotiate a closed shop with their employer.

Amongst these policies are corporate tax rates, corporate subsidies, minimum wages, environmental policies, and many, many issues relating to the infrastructure of different states.

To boil all of these down to one, single issue – closed union shops – especially at a time when union membership in the private sector is at a record low, is just a flat-out distortion.

Next, Phillips makes the incredible claim that people are “voting with their feet,” and migrating to right to work states to avoid unions.

But again, the reasons people migrate are diverse and many, and to imply that the only reason people are migrating to “free states” is to escape unions, without sighting any survey to back up his claim, is more than misleading.

2. Beck defends his fellow millionaires:

In the next video, Beck rushes to the defense of rich Americans, making the ridiculous claim that the top 1% of Americans pay almost 40% of all taxes! Take a look for yourself:

Of course, we all know the top 1% of Americans do not pay 40% of our national budget, as Beck claims. They don’t pay for anything near that. They actually only pay around 37% of income taxes, which in turn only makes up about 45% of our total national revenue.

Next, Beck claims that the bottom 50% of Americans pay for only 3% of our national budget. This, again, is absurd. The bottom 50% of American families pay 3% of the income tax, but not 3% of the national budget.

In an attempt to mislead his viewers, Glenn has intentionally left out the other 55% of tax revenue the U.S. government takes in. Most importantly, he leaves out payroll taxes, which account for much more revenue from the bottom 50% of Americans; Three fourths of American taxpayers, as it turns out, pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes.

For those who don’t know, payroll taxes in the U.S. are taxes employers must with-hold from their workers. The money is then collected for federal income tax, Social Security and Medicare.

Workers pay the tax with a fixed 6.2% and 1.45% of their gross compensation. The taxes pay for Social Security and Medicare, respectively.

The employer also has to pay an additional 6.4% and 1.45% tax, but most economists agree that employers simply reduce wages to compensate for the payments, meaning the worker is taking on the burden of the full tax in the end.

Final Thoughts:

Glenn Beck is liar. Whats more, he’s a rich liar who hates working people who stand up for themselves. He will make up whatever he has to in order to sabotage us and protect his own class.

But Glenn Beck isn’t the problem. FOX News, and most major media outlets in the U.S. share a bias against working class organizations. And that’s to be expected. Reporters and journalists for big media outlets, for the most part, share the same ideology as the politicians and CEO’s they report on.

It’s a seldom acknowledged fact, but a fact nonetheless, that the U.S. media system is dominated by pro-capitalist journalists, much in the same way the Soviet Union’s press was dominated by communists. Where Russia’s government only allowed communist reporters, U.S. media companies only hire capitalist journalists.

Of course, we never talk about it, but that bias affects reporting. It affects the stories they follow, the commentary they offer, and time they invest in reporting. As with most institutions in America, workers don’t get a fair shake in the news.

For more information on fairness in the media, check out media matters, or any of the links under “News Sources” on the right side of this page.

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