The Ten Biggest Lies in America

You’ve heard all of them.
April 13, 2016

This is not a conspiracy theory.  I don’t think “the government”, “mainstream media”, and “corporate America” have teamed up against us.  I do know that spreading these lies benefits many agencies, companies, banks, organizations, and people. Sometimes, they work together, sometimes independently.

Many people who spread these lies believe them.  They don’t know any better because the republicans who control our schools work hard to produce politically, economically, and socially ignorant citizens.  Those citizens get jobs in business, industry, government, and the media.  And many of them vote.

First, let’s define our term.   Fallacies and lies are different.  It’s a fallacy that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a “jury of our peers” when we are charged with a crime.  It does not.  It guarantees an impartial jury.  The legend of the welfare queen is a blatant lie. 

We can distinguish between fallacies and lies by examining their surroundings.  A fallacy can be widely-held, but it does no real damage, and no one profits from it.  A lie travels widely, causes harm, and benefits those who spread it.

So here are the lies, listed in increasing order of significance.

10.  Our Constitution requires a small, limited government, and permits us to overthrow that government at will
It does not.    Any constitution’s purpose is to establish and define the government.  Of course they’re limited, but that doesn’t mean they’re small.  The Pacific Ocean, Milky Way, and Bill Gates’ fortune are all very large.  But they are limited.

The founders clearly stated their six purposes in the Preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to
1. form a more perfect Union,
2. establish Justice,
3. insure domestic Tranquility,
4. provide for the common defense,
5. promote the general Welfare, and
6. secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Those are big things.  They don’t lend themselves to small government.
The Constitution doesn’t contain a single word permitting armed overthrow of the United States government.  In fact, it specifically forbids it in two places.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 gives Congress the power to provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions
Article III, Section 3, Clause 1: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.
Read the Constitution.

9.  Congress Does Little Work for Excessive Pay
Members of Congress work more hours in every week than most Americans ever thought of working. Whether you like them or not, they do show up for work. Yet politically ignorant Americans think that the members aren't working if they're not on the voting floors every minute. That is not the way Congress works.

Working Hours
A professional football player has a full-time job. Yet the players spend only a fraction of their work time on the playing field – about four hours a week. Otherwise, they watch game films; have practices, team meetings, medical treatments, public appearances, and more. All of that comprises their work week. Movie actors appear in a film for about two hours. In order to create those two hours, they read and approve scripts, negotiate contracts, train and research for their roles, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, and then make public appearances to promote their movies. Even when they're not on the game-day playing field or the screen, they're still working.

Congress works that way, too.  You’ve seen news reports of Congressional committee hearings, town hall meetings, interviews, and fundraising events.  Members read and develop legislation, reams of letters, reports, and briefings.  They meet with constituents, lobbyists, bureaucrats, each other, and their staffs. Sometimes, they even meet with the president.  Their phones never stop ringing.  And they are assaulted all day, every day, everywhere they go, by people who only want "one minute" of their time.   That’s where they are when the House and Senate chambers are empty.

When they do break, it's usually around a federal holiday, and can last from a few days to a week or more. But even then, they're still working. While on "break", they meet with constituents in their home districts – in their offices and in town hall meetings. They have staff meetings, phone meetings, and all of the same things they do in Washington.

In even-numbered years, like this one, every House member and one-third of the Senators face re-election campaigns. That adds even more to their schedules, with campaign and fundraising events.
This year, the August recess extends into September because it's a presidential election year, and both parties will hold their national conventions during the recess.

Salaries and Pensions
Since 1992, the 27th Amendment to our Constitution adjusts congressional salaries automatically according to the Consumer Price Index, unless Congress votes not to implement it.  People gripe about their pay because Congress can raise their own salaries. But if it were up to the voters, today's members would still be making the same $6.00 a day that they earned in 1790.  Congress has not accepted its raise since 2009.

Members of Congress do participate in Social Security and do not collect their full paychecks for life after serving only a single term in Congress.  They have exactly the same pension as all other federal employees.  That’s right.  VA hospital nurses, national park rangers, and your mail carrier have the same pension as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.  And they all do pay into that pension.  Like most pensions, it’s financed through a combination of employee and employer contributions. Also like private pension plans, benefits are calculated through a formula that considers both length of service and age at retirement.

According to a 2007 Congressional Research Service report:

"Under both CSRS and FERS, Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member's retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary."
Pay and Perquisites of Members of Congress, Including A History of House and Senate Salaries

8.  Nothing is more important than business.
Business should never be regulated. 
Laws and regulations are the rules by which society operates.  Without rules, we have chaos.  America's founding philosophy is that rules are essential and that no one is above the law.

Can you imagine the National Football League permitting two teams, with 22 players and a football, to play a game with no referees or rules at all? Like it or not, nearly every aspect of our lives has rules.  Yet capitalists think they should be exempt.

Some economists claim that any regulation stifles the "free market".  That's true, just as speed limits stifle speeders, and seat belts stifle death.  And it's a good thing.  We’ve seen what happens when we don’t regulate business:

Slavery, sweatshops, and child labor with no workplace health or safety requirements
Long and short-term environmental disasters
Poverty, homelessness, unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, predatory loans, and outright fraud caused by financial institutions
Corporate and business leaders have caused enough poverty, pain, and destruction.
Can you imagine what they could do if we eliminated all regulations?

Government should operate like a business. 
The purpose of business is to make a profit.  The purpose of government is to provide services for the public.  While government should be efficient and economical, profit should never be its motive.  The states of Kansas and Michigan, especially Flint, are perfect examples of what happens when government is run like a business.

Trickle-down economics will save our economy.
The Laffer Curve and trickle-down economics is the notion that large tax cuts for corporations and extremely wealthy people will cause them to create jobs, and those benefits would “trickle down” to working families.  It was soundly discredited decades ago.  We've been cutting those taxes for 35 years now, and it hasn't happened yet.  Exactly when is this miracle going to start? 

Cheneybush brought us the largest tax cuts in history.  According to, its job growth record from 2001 to 2007 was the worst since the Great Depression and those cuts cost us more than seven million jobs from 2007 to 2009.  

Republicans have been cutting taxes for 35 years.  If tax cuts created jobs, we would all have five great jobs by now.   They don't believe any of this stuff.  But they sure want you to fall for it.

They insist that tax cuts generate revenue.  Actually, the cheneybush tax cuts added $1.7 trillion to the national debt.  According to U.S Treasury reports, those cuts generated only one dollar for each ten dollars cut.  They are directly responsible for our current economic situation.

The only way to create jobs is to create demand for goods and services.  We do that by creating a massive infrastructure program, increasing wages, and increasing public assistance benefits.  It’s a very simple concept.  When people have money, they spend it.  And the businesses that provide those goods and services spend their revenue on more goods and services.  That spending creates jobs.  It’s the trickle-UP effect.

7.  Labor Unions Have Outlived Their Usefulness
Some say that unions were necessary a century ago, but are now obsolete.  Actually, labor unions benefit every working person in America every day, whether they belong to a union or not.  You can trace the rise and fall of the American middle class with the rise and fall of labor union membership.  They brought you the eight-hour day, and the five-day week.  They gave you weekends.  We take these things for granted, but none of them existed before the rise of the unions.

Corporatists celebrate when business owners stick together to support their interests, but are outraged when employees want to bargain collectively with their employer for wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Chambers of commerce, business owners' associations, and trade associations. actively promote business interests to the government and the public.  Yet they refuse to acknowledge workers' rights and often break the law to break the unions.  Economics courses and business schools teach that workers' labor is a product to be bought, sold, and treated no better than livestock.  Unions represent the common interests of their members – and all workers – to the business owners, the government, and the public.

According to the AFL-CIO:
Union members earn better wages and benefits than workers who aren’t union members. On average, union workers’ wages are 27 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts.
Unionized workers are 60 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions.
More than 79 percent of union workers have jobs that provide health insurance benefits, but less than half of nonunion workers do. Unions help employers create a more stable, productive workforce—where workers have a say in improving their jobs.
Unions help bring workers out of poverty and into the middle class. In fact, in states where workers don’t have union rights, workers’ incomes are lower.

Working conditions are vital to any union contract.  Our labor unions fought for every workplace health and safety measure that you enjoy today.  And employers fought against every one of them, including workers’ compensation benefits.

Today, our unions still fight to keep these benefits while organized business tries to destroy them – and all working families.  Republithugs and their corporate bosses want to return to the good old days without health and safety protection, but with unrestricted child labor, sweatshops, and robber barons.  Unions created the middle class.  If you want to keep it, then support our unions.

If unions were useless and obsolete, corporations wouldn’t spend billions of dollars trying to get rid of them.  If unions want to survive, they must educate their own members.  We know our schools won't do it.

Labor Unions:  Myths and Facts

6.  The Unemployment Rate
While changing numbers can show a trend in rising or falling unemployment, the rate itself is always wrong.  In June, 1984, Ronald Reagan's White House instructed the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to change the way it measures the unemployment rate. 

We used to count everyone looking for work as unemployed.  Then BLS declared that ONLY people who are actively collecting unemployment checks would be counted.  That's right.  If your benefits have expired, you are not counted as unemployed, no matter how hard you're looking for work.

This stunt cut the reported unemployment rate in half overnight.  But no one found work because of it.  And the BLS still uses this method to calculate the unemployment rate, 32 years later.

Self-employed people, independent contractors, elected officials voted out of office, teachers and school employees on summer break, and those working "under the table" cannot collect benefits, and are never counted.  Children under age 16, retired, unemployable disabled, incarcerated, those just entering the workforce, and people not looking for work are not counted.

People who want full-time jobs, but can’t find them, and those working at jobs below their skill and education levels, are under-employed.  But the BLS counts them as fully employed.

When discussing the subject, Republicans wave a hand in the air and mumble something vague about people who "left the work force".   You know as well as I that unless you somehow acquire independent wealth, you never leave the work force.  You always have to work, somehow, somewhere, in order to survive.
But that doesn’t matter, as long as the numbers look good.

How the Government Measures Unemployment

5.  Most Cops are Good Cops
There is no such thing as a good cop.

Every cop who stops a car for a bogus excuse, and then searches the car without cause or a warrant, is a bad cop. And every cop who sees it and doesn't report it is a bad cop.

Every cop who plants marijuana on kids when called to a house for a teenage drinking party, is a bad cop. And every cop who sees it and doesn't report it is a bad cop.

Every cop who beats, molests, rapes, harasses, shoots, or threatens an innocent civilian for his own entertainment is a bad cop. And every cop who sees it and doesn't report it is a bad cop.

Every cop covers up the crimes of other cops.  Every cop brags about doing it.  That is what makes every cop a bad cop.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 780,000 cops in the U.S. in 2012.  If most of them are "good cops", then at least 390,001 of those "good cops" would be condemning these atrocities.  Where are they? Why aren't they as outraged as the rest of us?  Why haven't we heard from them?  How many "good cops" are there now?

The Fraternal Order of Police is the largest police union in the U.S. According to the FOP website, the union represents 325,000 cops. FOP national president Chuck Canterbury released a statement on the prosecution of the six Baltimore cops who killed Freddie Gray. Part of that statement says: "We can only hope and pray that these officers are afforded due process and that the judicial proceedings going forward will be open and fair." Why doesn't he think that Freddie Gray deserved due process and fair proceedings?

This is not a police training issue.  This is a hiring issue.  At the very least, we must DEMAND that our cops not be criminals.  Nothing will change until we demand that our petty local officials stop hiring jackasses, bullies, crybabies, and sociopaths to be cops.

But we must stand up and say this in public.  When you hire defective people to be cops, you get defective cops.  It's not rocket science.  You can't train the jackass out of people.
The cops will keep getting away with murder as long as you let them get away with it.
There is no such thing as a good cop.

4.  We can eliminate abortions by making them illegal.
No, we can’t.  There will be abortions as long as there are pregnant women.

If you want the smallest possible number of abortions, then you FUND and provide REAL sex education, contraceptive education, birth control, and support services for poor women.
The right to life doesn’t end at the cervix.

Women who can't get sex education and birth control CAN get abortions.
Rich women will travel to places where abortion is legal, safe, and available.
Poor women will use coat hangers.  Or vacuum cleaner hoses.  Or they will douche with bleach.  Ammonia.  Drain cleaner.  

Or gasoline.  Whatever works.
That is how poor women get abortions. 
That is how they die.

Republicans want to kill poor people.
Stop helping them.

3. The Welfare Queen
Many Americans believe that the "welfare rolls" overflow with lazy parasites, exploiting public generosity.  Actually, the average monthly participation in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (TANF, or basic “welfare”) was only 3,030,871 in 2015. That's an average of 965 people for each of the 3,141 counties in the United States each month. The 718,252 adult recipients compose slightly more than two-tenths of one percent of the U.S. population at any given time. *

They claim that "welfare queens" give birth to many children just to get more money. In fact, the average family size is less than 2 ½ people.  That’s usually one mother and one or two children.  There were 2,312,619 children in those families in the average month.

TANF and SNAP (Food Stamp) rolls are very fluid.  Most families collect benefits for only a few months at a time.  They move in and out of poverty as their circumstances change.  Most adult SNAP recipients do work, and nearly all adult TANF recipients have a work history.  All states require able-bodied adult recipients to work, search for work, or be enrolled in job training courses in order to obtain benefits.

That brings us to my favorite myth – that families collect welfare benefits for their entire lives, and for multiple generations.  That is not, and has never been, true.  Families headed by able-bodied adults can collect TANF benefits for only 60 months –a total of five years – in their lifetimes.  Yes, really.
Nationwide, only about two percent of TANF families reach that limit and lose their benefits each year. *

Applicants must verify every single piece of information on the TANF application.  They must produce identification, Social Security cards for every household member, rent receipts, utility bills, bank records, employment records, and every other record you can imagine.  

Every segment of society includes some drug addicts and criminals.  But they are far fewer in our social service system than anywhere else.  To date, 15 states have instituted drug testing for TANF and SNAP participants.  Every one of them has found that testing costs far more than it saves.  But so many of our neighbors delight in pronouncing that anyone who needs help is morally inferior.  

Illegal immigrants do not receive TANF or SNAP.  In fact, most legal immigrants can't get it until they reside in the U.S. for at least five years.   98.6 percent of recipients are American citizens.

In federal fiscal year 2009, the states spent a total of $13,022,958,260 of federal funds on cash, childcare, and transportation assistance to TANF recipients. That's a whopping $7,541.68 per family – for the entire year – or $628.47 per month.

According to White House reports, in 2012, a taxpayer who earned $50,000 per year paid $43.78 per year in taxes to support SNAP and TANF.  That taxpayer paid more than $4,000 per year to support corporate welfare programs.   Yeah.  You know.  Sports stadiums for billionaires who own teams.   But we don’t drug test them.

Public assistance programs benefit the US economy because they put cash into people’s hands.  People use that cash to pay rent and utilities, and to buy food, clothing, toiletries, and other necessities that would ordinarily go without.  And that creates jobs for the businesses that produce those goods and services.  Although no retailer is required to participate in SNAP, more than 246,000 stores, farmers' markets, direct marketing farmers, homeless meal providers, treatment centers, and group homes accepted SNAP in 2012. They wouldn't participate if they weren't making a profit.

No state is required to participate in these programs, but they all do because they know it benefits their own economies.  They enable low-income people to rise from poverty and maintain their health so that they can participate in school and work.

People who believe in or profit from these myths propose punishments for anyone who dares to ask for help.  They want to require drug tests and sterilization, forbid them from voting, and control how they spend their money.  And most of them have the audacity to call themselves "christian".  

*   US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Family Assistance
TANF Cash Benefits Have Fallen by More Than 20 Percent in Most States and Continue to Erode

Food Stamp Program: Myths, Facts, and History
The Food Stamp Program Benefits the US Economy and Creates Jobs

Welfare in America: Myths and Facts
Everything you think you know about welfare is wrong.

2.  America Values Education
If that was true, the other lies wouldn’t exist, because Americans would know how to change those situations.  Countless studies show that American kids lag far behind the rest of the world in reading, math, and science.  And no one even bothers to research their knowledge of social studies or the arts.

We fund our schools through the one method that ensures their inequality – property taxes.  By declaring that rich people will have rich schools, and poor people will have poor schools, we guarantee inferior education for the poor.  And education always tops the list when we must cut expenses.

But money is not the only problem.  Radical conservatives are America’s Boko Haram.  We claim to value education, and then we insert roadblock after roadblock to obstruct school success.  We create useless programs with fancy names.  We let Texas, of all places, control the content of history books.  And those books contain lies.  We don’t teach grammar, spelling, math, or reading properly.  We refuse to teach anything that makes anyone uncomfortable.  We baby our kids.  They live down to our expectations.  Yet we can’t figure out why they don’t learn. 

We push all students to enter traditional four-year college programs, even though they aren’t a good fit for everyone.  And then we demand that our kids spend the rest of their lives repaying those exorbitant loans at immoral interest rates.  We demean every other type of education – trade school, union apprenticeships, community colleges, military training, etc.  Yet those options consistently provide good quality education and training that leads to good jobs and productive lives.

And people can’t fix these problems, because they don’t know how, because the schools don’t teach them how.

1.  Lobbying is a Corrupt Activity and Should Be Illegal
Lobbying is not what the politicians and media tell you it is.
"Giving buckets of money to legislators" is not lobbying.
Lobbying is the act of trying to convince elected officials to support or oppose legislation and policies that you care about.

Lobbying is the ONLY thing that can restore our democracy.  Our schools are supposed to teach this stuff, but they don't want you to know that YOU have the power to influence your government.

Every victory that occurs is the direct result of lobbying.  Nothing moves in government unless someone pushes it.  Legislators listen to corporate lobbyists BECAUSE THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES DOING THE TALKING.  If you want your representatives to listen to you, then START TALKING TO THEM.

If the 99% would do more lobbying, the 1% would have less power.
Everyone can do it.  And it doesn't cost a dime.

PLEASE talk to the people in your life, especially the young people of voting age.
Teach them how to protect themselves.  Each one teach one.

Learn when, where, why, and how to lobby.

And More
There are plenty of other lies – Executive orders are unconstitutional, our troops fight for our freedom, atheism is a religion, only teenagers work minimum wage jobs, Republicans want to abolish the U.S. Postal Service, widespread gun use makes us safe, and more.  Popular topics come and go, but radical conservatives will always try to obstruct social justice.

Why Does This Matter?
A lot of people benefit from spreading these lies.  They’ve convinced most Americans that:

  • Congress doesn’t want or need to hear from them.
  • If we stifle business in any way, all of our jobs will disappear.
  • You have no recourse but to submit to their will.
  • There’s nothing wrong with the economy; if you’re unemployed, there’s something wrong with you.
  • If a cop kills you, it’s your own fault.
  • They don’t have to pay taxes, but you do.
  • They have the right to interfere in your private life at any time, in any way, they please.
  • Anyone who asks for help is a lazy, stupid, immoral criminal.
  • We all have the right to berate, chastise, and denigrate those who do ask for help.
  • They want us to hate and fear education and educated people.
  • And they tell us that the very thing that can change all of these conditions is corrupt and must be banned.

Corporations make $trillions$ by selling guns, ammunition, drug testing equipment, prison space, and more.  They save $trillions$ more by not paying taxes and living wages, by operating irresponsibly, and because too few of us fight back.  We all suffer because our country, our home, is much less than what it can be, much less than we deserve, much less than what our founders intended.

What Happens Next?
We fight back.  Think about how these lies affect you and your family.  Stop watching stupid stuff on TV.  Share this information with everyone.  Learn how to lobby.   Vote.  Attend school board meetings and city council meetings.  Read.  Learn.  Speak up.   Teach your kids.
Read Community Matters to learn how your government works, how it’s supposed to work, and how to influence it.

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Patricia A. O'Malley

Social Policy & Programs Consulting

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