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Spike That Email About Welfare And Work; Fact Checkers Say It's Not True

If you've gotten the "Death Spiral" email that's apparently been arriving in many inboxes, here's the verdict from two major, nonpartisan fact checkers:

It is NOT true, as the email claims, that in 11 states there are more people on welfare than there are working.

The debunkers: both PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org.

First, some background:

A Forbes column back in November talked about 11 "death spiral" states that are "danger spots for investors" because of rising taxes, "deteriorating state finances and an exodus of employers." The states: Alabama, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and South Carolina.

"Two factors determine whether a state makes this elite list of fiscal hellholes," Forbes' William Baldwin wrote. "The first is whether it has more takers than makers. A taker is someone who draws money from the government, as an employee, pensioner or welfare recipient. A maker is someone gainfully employed in the private sector."

Baldwin, who tells FactCheck that "what he reported and what the email says 'are not the same thing at all,' " does not claim in his column that the states have more people on welfare than are working. And as PolitiFact points out:

-- Baldwin included people who are working, for state and local governments, in his "takers" column. He also put government pensioners, who can certainly make the case that they worked for their earnings, in the takers column.

-- The only people Baldwin counted as being on welfare are Medicaid recipients.

"None of the 11 states on his list has more Medicaid recipients than workers," FactCheck writes. "Also, none of the states has more recipients [than workers] of other kinds of 'welfare,' such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or food stamps (officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)."

"By either a broad definition of welfare or a narrow one," PolitiFact concludes, experts say it's "false and even 'extreme' " to say that the states have more people on welfare than are working. So, it gives the email its harshest rating: "Pants on Fire!"

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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