MediaWatch: March 1992

Vol. Six No. 3

Wrong on Dependency


NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, a former aide to Mario Cuomo, appeared on C-SPAN's January 31 Journalists' Roundtable to comment on President Bush's State of the Union address: "The one part that troubled me more than anything is when he began to suggest that welfare was a narcotic, that people were somehow addicted, and we had to break those bonds."

Russert asserted: "The fact is less than ten percent of the people on welfare are on for longer than a year. Then, two paragraphs later, the President said 'Why are we so divided in this country along the lines of race?' And I said, Mr. President, because you just reinforced a stereotype which would play to that."

On the February 5 CBS Evening News, reporter Bob McNamara seconded Russert, suggesting that "most of the four and a half million families on welfare stay with the system less than eighteen months."

Wrong, says Heritage Foundation analyst Robert Rector, who told MediaWatch that Russert and McNamara aren't considering recipients who regularly go on and off Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). According to the House Ways and Means Committee's "Green Book" of income statistics (a favorite liberal source), if you factor in repeat recipients, only 30 percent stay on less than two years. In fact, 72 percent of women on AFDC spend more than seven years on the dole.

If one was to consider only current AFDC beneficiaries, a mere seven percent will stay on less than two years. None of these scenarios comes close to McNamara's "most people" or Russert's "less than ten percent."