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What Penn And Teller Taught Me About FOX Business

Reported by Ellen - January 8, 2009 -


Entertainers Penn and Teller put on a great show. As part of that show they (well, Penn Gilette actually) tells the audience about how certain magic tricks are done and warns us to watch out for the misdirection. Little did I realize how useful this lesson would be in viewing the articles on foxbusiness.com

FOX Business' Brian Sullivan recently blogged about the government retirement (stimulus) plan.

First Sullivan sounds an alarm:

"Get ready for bigger government. Much bigger."

Okay, red meat for most Fox Followers. Get the attention focused on what you want the audience to see.

Then build it.
"President-Elect Barack Obama today give his weekly radio address. It was primarily aimed at the economy (and strangely silent on Israel/Gaza) and again discussed the massive government growth plan that is coming down the pike."

Make a snarky comment about the war in the Middle East. Brian, Obama isn't President yet and he's made a number of comments about how the country only has one President at a time. President Bush has made his position on the war quite clear.

Why is it that the Republican Plan was an "Economic Stimulus" and the Democratic Plan "Massive Government Growth"?

The quote from Sen Obama:

And we must restore fiscal responsibility and make the tough choices so that as the economy recovers, the deficit starts to come down. That is how we will achieve the number one goal of my plan—which is to create three million new jobs, more than eighty percent of them in the private sector.

And then Sullivan makes the switch.

"Three million new jobs, with 80% of them in the private sector. That means 20% of them - or 600,000 - will not be in the private sector. 600,000 more government employees."

Notice how the "MORE than eighty percent in the private sector" disappears? And surprise! Sullivan states:

"The Federal government permits retirement with benefits as early as the age of 50 for certain jobs so long as there is 25 years of service. Generous pensions and benefits are already contributing to the fiscal crises hitting states such as California. If the President-Elect wants to add 600,000 people to the government payroll, it would be wise to enact private-sector retirement thinking. The American taxpayer is already frustrated by Uncle Sam’s hand in the pocket."

Sure the Federal Government permits retirement at age 50. For Air-Traffic Controllers, Fire Fighters, and Law-Enforcement. How this is relevant to economic stimulus and/or infrastructure repair is unclear. But it sure sounds good, because:

Sullivan applies it to ALL THE WORKERS ALLEGEDLY TO BE HIRED UNDER THE ECONOMIC STIMULUS. Hiring 600,000 federally-funded police may be a good idea. I personally don't see that we need 600,000 more air traffic controllers. I don't see where fire fighting is a federal issue outside national parks, but, I'll go along. By the way, anyone hired in 2009 can't retire after 25 years until 2034.

Sullivan made a quick comparison to some mythically perfect "private sector"...

And then Brian took his bow, having produced the specter of massive federal retirement spending for the shock and amazement of all.

Thanks to Penn and Teller, we know how he did it.