Suggesting that “often I felt that my new friends and I lived not only in different regions but in different truths,” Hochschild decides to have her research assistant fact-check the most popular ones.
Hochschild noticed how Louisianans tended to selectively interpret data and select egregious examples to fit their existing political orientation.
Contrary to many Louisianans’ assumptions, welfare only makes up about eight percent of the federal budget and its funding is declining fast. Among the “poorest 20 percent of Americans,” 37% of income comes from the government and the rest from work. The poor also cannot universally access welfare, especially in places like Louisiana, where only four in a hundred poor people get TANF benefits (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Black and white fertility rates are nearly equal.
Louisianans tended to assume that welfare recipients collect federal money instead of working, but this evidence suggests otherwise. While they believed that welfare was expanding rapidly under Obama (and it did briefly after the Recession), it was actually declining for the most part. And many subscribed to the racist stereotype that black people end up on welfare because they have too many children, but there is no evidence for this either.
Fewer than 17% of Americans work for any level of government, and they make less than people in the private sector, not more.
Hochschild’s interviewees often saw the federal government as a bloated excuse for lazy public servants to collect a paycheck and guessed that around 40% of Americans worked for the federal government alone.
Hochschild cites five studies suggesting that environmental protection laws seem to have little or no impact on jobs—one study found that regulations create more jobs, and about twice as many people are laid off for “disaster or safety” reasons as are laid off because of government regulations. Companies flock to areas with high levels of municipal spending rather than those who provide tax incentives, and there is little evidence that the tax exemptions Louisiana gave oil companies affected investment or jobs numbers at all. And between 20-35% of the oil industry’s revenue “leaks” out of Louisiana into other states and countries.
Louisianans adamantly believed that they had to choose between saving their jobs and saving their environment through regulation. However, virtually nobody loses a job due to government regulations, and “high road” public sector spending strategies are better at spurring long-term investment than Bobby Jindal’s austerity measures. Ultimately, the notion of a trade-off between jobs and the environment is a convenient belief for oil companies whose riskier projects regulation would stop.
Finally, the economy does not do better under Republican presidents. Compared to Democrats, they have overseen accelerated inequality, slower growth in the stock market and the economy as a whole, higher unemployment, and larger increases in the national debt.
Republicans tend to think an unregulated free market is the best for them as well as the economy as a whole, but every indicator actually points to the opposite.