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Five Preposterous, Persistent Conservative Myths

Paul Buchheit

With the mainstream media in the hands of the mostly conservative wealthy, it's difficult for average Americans to learn the truth about critical issues. The following five conservative claims are examples of mythical beliefs that fall apart in the presence of inconvenient facts:

1. Entitlements are the Problem

Beyond the fact that we're 'entitled' to Social Security and Medicare because we pay for them, these two government-run programs have been largely self-sustaining while supporting the needs of millions of Americans.

Medicare is much less costly than private health care. Social Security, which functions with a surplus, would not be in danger of a long-term shortfall if the richest 10% (those making over the $106,800 cutoff) paid their full share.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently reported that 91% of entitlements go to the elderly or disabled, or to members of working households needing supplemental assistance. Only 9% of entitlement dollars go to non-working but employable individuals, and most of that is for medical care, unemployment, and survivor benefits.

2. Charter Schools are the Answer

Free-market adherents have a lot of people believing that the public school system needs to be 'saved' by charter schools. That belief is not supported by the facts. A Stanford University study "reveals in unmistakable terms that, in the aggregate, charter students are not faring as well as their traditional public school counterparts."

A Department of Education study found that "On average, charter middle schools that hold lotteries are neither more nor less successful than traditional public schools in improving student achievement, behavior, and school progress."

Charter schools also take money away from the public system. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District loses nearly $7,000 in state money for each student who transfers to a charter. In Florida, the entire $55 million budgeted in 2011 for school maintenance went to charters. Governors in several states plan to direct money to schools that serve upper-middle-income families.

Furthermore, charter school teachers have fewer years of experience and a higher turnover rate, and according to one study were less likely to be certified.

Perhaps most damning are studies by the University of Colorado and UCLA which found that some charter schools segregate students by race and income. Said researcher Gary Miron of Western Michigan University, "Parents are selecting schools where their child will experience less diversity."

3. Corporate Taxes Are Too High

This one is easy. The facts can be found in U.S. Office of Management (OMB) figures, which show a gradual drop over the years in Corporate Income Tax as a Share of GDP, from 4% in the 1960s to 2% in the 1990s to 1.3% in 2010. That's one-third of what it used to be.

Also coming from the OMB is the percent of Total Tax Revenue derived from corporate taxes. The corporate share has dropped from about 20% in the 1960s to under 9% in 2010.

Finally, in a U.S. Treasury report of global competitiveness, it is revealed that U.S. corporations paid only 13.4% of their profits in taxes between 2000 and 2005, compared to the OECD average of 16.1%. A similar PayUpNow.org analysis of 100 of the largest U.S. companies found that less than 10% of pre-tax profits in 2010 were paid in non-deferred U.S. federal income taxes.

Corporate tax avoidance is rampant at the state level, too. A new study by Citizens for Tax Justice, which evaluated 265 large companies, determined that an average of 3% was paid in state taxes, less than half the average state tax rate of 6.2%.

4. Jim Crow is Dead

Even though white Americans are the nation's most frequent drug users and dealers, the people in jail for these offenses are overwhelmingly black. In some states, African Americans make up 80-90% of all drug offenders sent to prison.

As a nation, we lead the world in rates of imprisonment, and drug offenses have accounted for two-thirds of the increase in federal inmates.

Once drug users are in prison, they're stigmatized for life. As stated by Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow": "Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color "criminals" and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind...Once you're labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination - employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, and exclusion from jury service - are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow."

5. Poverty Is Declining Everywhere

There's something disturbing about World Bank researchers using mathematical functions to determine who's living in poverty. But free-market fanatic The Economist liked the results, proclaiming that "poverty is declining everywhere."

That's easy to say when the World Bank gets to set its own poverty threshold, at $1.25 per day. The organization admits there was little change in the number of people living below $2 per day between 1981 and 2008. And almost half the world lives on less than $3 a day.

Another fact is that the rapid growth of China accounts for most of the global poverty changes. China is where hundreds of millions of starry-eyed young people went from zero income on the farms to a few dollars a day under oppressive factory working conditions. The GDP may show a decline in poverty, but a "quality of life" index wouldn't make that mistake.

6 and 7. Evolution and global warming don't exist.

These are just too preposterous for words.

Progressive activists continue to work toward the day when poverty is down everywhere, and minorities receive equal treatment, and education is properly funded, and tax subsidies rather than entitlements are minimized. But that day is being delayed by make-believe messages from the American conservative.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at) youdeservefacts.org.

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