Saturday, March 21, 2015

An Open Letter to Bill Maher

Dear Bill,
I’ve been a faithful viewer of your show for the last few years and I usually agree with what you have to say. However, during last night’s show you mentioned (yet again) how well the economy is doing and, as evidence, pointed to the following facts: the unemployment rate is down, the stock market is up, GDP is up, and the deficit is down. These facts may be true but these facts don’t tell the whole story.
Yes, the unemployment rate is down but that’s because a large number of people have stopped looking for work and have dropped out of the labor market. These people are not counted by unemployment statistics.
Furthermore, what kinds of jobs are being created? They are mostly low-wage jobs, part-time jobs and/or temporary/contract/freelance jobs without benefits. They are mostly in the service sector (i.e., low-wage jobs), as this article in The New York Times points out ( The same article also points out that wages only went up 0.1% last month, continuing a pattern in which real wages haven’t budged for decades.1
The GDP has also been discredited as a measure of economic well-being in a number of articles, including this one (
As I write this, New York City’s subway system is scheduled to raise their fare yet again (despite the fact that service has deteriorated to an all-time low2), dealing yet another blow to the middle class. But how would you know that? You live in Los Angeles and probably haven’t used public transportation in decades.
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to see you constantly defending Obama’s economic policies and to see Republicans arguing (however disingenuously) on behalf of the middle class.
I’d be happy to go on your program any time to give the point of view of real people dealing with real struggles, rather than these professional pundits who “live inside the bubble” (as you’re so fond of saying).
Paul Hallasy

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