A philosophy I’ve always lived by is if you see or hear something that sounds too good to be true (depending on what side you’re on), then you really need to investigate it further because it’s most likely not true. I see this all the time in media, especially with websites and blogs that care more about “shocking” headlines or ridiculously over-the-top sensationalized stories than they do about producing quality, honest information. The Internet is filled with memes and articles claiming all sorts of nonsense that’s either flat-out untrue or outrageously misrepresented.
Two of the most popular things you’ll often see some people do are distort statistical information or take quotes completely out of context. Politicians are notorious for doing both. They’ll take eight words out of a 30 minute speech to claim the person they’re attacking said something that they really didn’t, or they’ll look at a huge collection of statistical information and handpick what they want to use to try to push whatever point it is that they’re trying to make.
That’s exactly what Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) did when he went on national television during an interview on CNN claiming that “92 million Americans aren’t working.”
If I were a conservative who hated President Obama and I heard such a claim, that’s definitely something I would want to hear. That’s exactly why Cruz said it in the first place – it fits the narrative Republicans continue to try to push against President Obama. It’s essentially just a desperation move against a president who’s presiding over an economy that continues to churn out record economic growth every single month.
The only problem with Cruz’s claim is that it’s not true. Well, at least not in the context for which he was trying to use this stat.
You see, Cruz’s 92 million number is fairly accurate – as long as you count school-aged Americans and senior citizens.
Cruz said that “92 million Americans aren’t working.” Once you strip out senior citizens and school-age Americans, the number is less than half that. The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate it Mostly False.
Cruz’s statement is as close as you can get to lying while still being able to hang on to a sliver of “technical truth.” In reality, it’s still really just a blatant lie. When you go to such lengths to mislead people based on information that you know is inaccurate, that’s clearly deliberate.
But for anyone to believe that 92 million Americans who want to work aren’t actually looking for work is absurd to begin with.
We have a population around 315 million people with about 20-25 million under 18 and around 28-35 million over 65. So only assuming that ages 18-65 would be actively looking for work, that leaves us around 250 million Americans. Meaning that, according to Cruz’s numbers, of those 250 million Americans aged 18-65, 37 percent are simply not looking for work. In other words, Cruz is trying to say that more than 1 in 3 Americans aged 18-65 is unemployed and not even trying to get a job.
And anyone who would honestly believe such nonsense is an idiot.
But, sadly, I’m sure most conservatives who heard Cruz’s claim believed every word of it. When it comes to Republicans it’s not really about whether or not something is actually factual, it’s just about whether or not it’s something they want to hear.