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November 2, 2006
Air America (Intellectually) Bankrupt

If anyone wants to know why Air America can't hack it financially, a read of Jackie Guerra's op-ed piece at ABC News will demonstrate the network's intellectual bankruptcy. Guerra, who hosts the "Workin' It" show on the network, repeats the debunked claim that minorities and the poor are overrepresented in the military:

Serving our country in the military is a great service, one which we all admire and revere, but it's more than that. It's also a job.

And it's a job that many Americans sign up for not only out of a sense of patriotic duty, but also because it often seems the best of few options.

As a Mexican-American from Los Angeles, I find it especially meaningful that Kerry's comments came at Pasadena City College, just a few miles from the high schools of East Los Angeles, where on many campuses, military recruiters outnumber guidance counselors 5-1.

At high schools like these across the country, inner-city and rural students, often from communities of color but almost always poor, do not have many options in George Bush's America.

The former star of WB's "First Time Out" -- which we know because Guerra tells us -- tries to hail John Kerry for his message supporting this contention even as she claims he didn't say it, which is bad enough. However, she is also dead wrong on the facts. If anything, the poor are underrepresented in today's military, as the Heritage Foundation's Tim Kane determined in his extensive analysis last year. Kane reviewed recruiting data for the years 2003-5 and found out that the military attracts mostly middle-class young men and women:

In summary, the additional years of recruit data (2004–2005) sup­port the previous finding that U.S. military recruits are more similar than dissimilar to the American youth population. The slight dif­ferences are that wartime U.S. mil­itary enlistees are better educated, wealthier, and more rural on aver­age than their civilian peers.

Recruits have a higher percent­age of high school graduates and representation from Southern and rural areas. No evidence indicates exploitation of racial minorities (either by race or by race-weighted ZIP code areas). Finally, the distri­bution of household income of recruits is noticeably higher than that of the entire youth population. ...

By assigning each recruit the median 1999 household income for his hometown ZIP code as deter­mined from Census 2000, the mean income for 2004 recruits was $43,122 (in 1999 dollars). For 2005 recruits, it was $43,238 (in 1999 dol­lars). These are increases over the mean incomes for the 1999 cohort ($41,141) and 2003 cohort ($42,822). The national median published in Cen­sus 2000 was $41,994. This indicates that, on aver­age, the 2004 and 2005 recruit populations come from even wealthier areas than their peers who enlisted in 1999 and 2003.

When comparing these wartime recruits (2003– 2005) to the resident population ages 18–24 (as recorded in Census 2000), areas with median household income levels between $35,000 and $79,999 were overrepresented, along with income categories between $85,000 and $94,999. (See Chart 2.) Though the mainstream media continue to portray the war in Iraq as unpopular, this evi­dence suggests that the United States is not sending the poor to die for the interests of the rich.

Guerra wants to pursue the tired stereotype of the military during the draft, a dynamic that disappeared along with compulsory service. During the Vietnam War, college deferments did create a disparity in induction, for an obvious reason: rich and upper-middle-class people could afford to send their young men to college. The disparity caused great resentment (which lingers to this day), and put pressure on the government to end the draft altogether.

As Kane reveals, the policy change made a huge difference in the composition of the military. It not only represents the best of America in terms of the honor and courage of its members, but also represents America demographically.

Guerra misses an important point about the economy with her mindless regurgitation of ancient leftists tropes, too -- the poor do have more choices. Unemployment has hit historic lows, and job creation has exploded over the last three years. She claims that people have few opportunities in "George Bush's America", but the truth is that in many areas, employers have a hard time filling positions for lack of applicants. And that fact can be seen in the underrepresentation of the poor in the military, because if the choices were really that limited and "militry recruiters outnumber guidance counselors by 5-1", we would see a lot more of the poor flooding into the military, and it just isn't happening.

Guerra's entire piece consists of fact-deficient allegations and baseless analysis, and the core of her argument is easily refuted by the specific data. Why does she then insist on denying reality in nationwide opinion pieces? Because that's apparently the Air America business plan -- which explains their financial bankruptcy.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 2, 2006 5:17 AM

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