Fox News is providing ample, uncritical airtime to hype Representative Paul Ryan's (R-WI) report on the alleged ineffectiveness of government anti-poverty programs, despite condemnation from numerous economists that the report is misleading and inaccurate.
Coverage of Social Security in three major national print outlets relied on reporting figures in raw numbers devoid of relevant context -- such as previous years' figures -- that could provide a more accurate picture of the program's finances. These findings, calculated since July 2013, are consistent with a previous Media Matters analysis of print media's coverage of Social Security.
Recent profiles of successful individuals illustrate how the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- formerly known as "food stamps" -- helps disadvantaged people achieve success, delivering a blow to common right-wing narratives about the program cultivating laziness among recipients.
On February 19, social networking giant Facebook purchased WhatsApp -- a messaging application for smartphones -- for $19 billion. The move made WhatsApp Inc. co-founder Jan Koum a billionaire overnight, with a projected net worth of $6.8 billion.
WhatsApp co-founder, Jan Koum, 37, was born in Ukraine. He arrived in the U.S. when he was just 16 years old and his family struggled. They lived on food stamps, venture capitalist Jim Goetz revealed in a blog post.
In fact, Koum's family picked up their food stamps only a couple of blocks away from WhatsApp's offices in Mountain View, Calif., reports Wired's David Rowan.
Koum is not the only prominent person making headlines who has relied on SNAP at some point in their life. On the February 17 edition of MSNBC's NOW, host Alex Wagner profiled Olympic speed skater Emily Scott. In June 2013, Scott, who had been working at a medical supply company while training 8 hours per day in preparation for Sochi, was forced to apply for food stamps when her monthly Olympic stipend was cut to just $600. As Wagner noted, Scott is the second ranked American speed skater and will compete in the speed skating quarterfinals on February 21.
The success of these two individuals -- one now a billionaire and the other competing in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics -- helps dispel common myths about food stamp recipients.
In recent years, right-wing media have rushed to demonize food stamp recipients, often portraying them as lazy, dependent, or unwilling to work. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has even gone so far as to suggest that children facing hunger should dumpster dive as an alternative to government assistance.
This distorted depiction of the program's beneficiaries culminated in a wildly misleading Fox News report on Jason Greenslate, "a California surfer and aspiring musician." In the report, Fox described Greenslate as "the new face of food stamps," a blatant attempt to portray his lifestyle as characteristic of all food stamp recipients.
Of course, right-wing media's view of those that rely on food stamps is out of touch with reality -- most food stamp recipients stay on the program for short periods of time, 41 percent of them live in a house with earnings, and a majority of recipients are either children or elderly. Furthermore, the program keeps millions out of poverty every year.
On the heels of the Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp, the Huffington Post profiled a number of prominent people who have had to rely on food stamps, ranging from musician Bruce Springsteen to right-wing media darling Dr. Ben Carson.
Hopefully these SNAP success stories making headlines will push right-wing media to tone down the toxic and inaccurate rhetoric about the program and its recipients.
Image via Hubert Burda Media under a Creative Commons License
Three major national print outlets were more likely to report economic figures in terms of raw numbers devoid of relevant and necessary context, such as previous years' numbers or monthly figures that would give readers an accurate depiction of the economy. These findings, calculated since halfway through 2013, are consistent with a previous Media Matters analysis of print media.
In the years since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- commonly referred to as the stimulus -- right-wing media outlets have engaged in a steady campaign of misinformation to claim that it didn't help the economy.
February 17 marked the five-year anniversary of the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a multi-billion economic stimulus package designed to spur economic growth and job creation during the Great Recession. The legislation increased infrastructure investments and implemented a variety of tax cuts for individuals and businesses, totaling approximately $831 billion over the 2009-2019 period.
Ever since the stimulus was signed into law, right-wing media figures have repeatedly pushed misinformation about its structure and alleged ill-effects. From forwarding false claims about the bill providing tax breaks for undocumented workers to baselessly linking it to Operation Fast and Furious, no myth has been too outrageous in the campaign to disparage the stimulus and President Obama.
The most frequently pushed myth about the stimulus, of course, is that it failed to increase economic growth or create jobs. The erroneous notion that the stimulus"failed" has appeared repeatedly in the right-wing media over the past five years, often being brought up to stymie any potential increases in government spending and investment.
The idea that increased government spending in the stimulus did not help the economy is patently false, and easily disproved by economists.
A 2010 Wall Street Journal poll of economists revealed that a majority of economists agree that the stimulus boosted growth, and according to a May 2012 Congressional Budget Office report, the stimulus created the equivalent of between 900,000 and 4.7 million jobs in 2010 and between 600,000 and 3.6 million jobs in 2011. Furthermore, a February 2013 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities illustrates how GDP growth would have been slower had the stimulus not been enacted:
Despite the facts, multiple outlets -- including Fox News and the Wall Street Journal -- are using the five-year anniversary of the stimulus' implementation to push the same tired myths. On February 18, one Fox host even went so far as to wonder whether or not it caused a recession, ignoring the fact that the economy has been growing steadily since the stimulus was implemented.
If recent history is any indication, right-wing media are unlikely to stop their campaign of misinformation around the bill, particularly if additional spending measures -- a policy recommended by economists -- are implemented.
Right-wing media outlets are falsely claiming that workers voluntarily reducing hours due to provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is evidence that the law is harmful to the economy, ignoring economists' opinions about its role in reducing economic insecurity.
Right-wing media figures are baselessly stoking fears about calls to reduce inequality and expand opportunity to low-income Americans, claiming that these efforts are evidence of persecution of the rich and class warfare.
Fox Business' Charles Payne falsely claimed that the 16-day government shutdown helped increase economic growth, despite direct evidence to the contrary.
On January 30, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis released its report on gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2013. According to the report, the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.2 percent, down from 4.1 percent growth in the third quarter. Despite GDP growth falling, a number of economists agreed that the number was impressive.
Discussing the report on Fox News' America's Newsroom that day, Payne asserted that the 16-day government shutdown -- which occurred in the fourth quarter of 2013 -- helped spur economic growth:
PAYNE: Our economy has gotten so much traction since the government shutdown, which the mass media has said is an evil awful thing and it hurt us, well, during that period, more jobs were created, during that period, the stock market was up and we continue to see, as government gets out of the way, the private sector comes in.
Payne is completely incorrect.
While it's true that the GDP report showed a relatively strong increase, it is important to note how much better it would have been absent the government shutdown. According to MSNBC's Steve Benen:
The congressional Republicans' government shutdown, for example, shaved about 0.3% from the overall total. That's a difference, in other words, between 3.2% growth and 3.5% growth. It's still not clear exactly why GOP lawmakers did this, or what they hoped to accomplish, but there's evidence now that the gambit took a toll on the economy.
And despite Payne's claim that the shutdown helped job growth, Jason Furman, head of the Council of Economic Advisers, previously claimed that it reduced private sector employment by 120,000 jobs in October, 2013.
Furthermore, while Payne claimed that less government spending helped grow the economy, evidence suggests otherwise. Absent government spending cuts, economists estimate GDP in the fourth quarter would have risen an additional 0.9 percentage points.
Image via DJHEAVYD using a Creative Commons License.
Fox News' Neil Cavuto pushed the myth that minimum wage increases harm the economy, claiming that the president's call to raise the minimum wage was at odds with his push to extend unemployment insurance. However, both of these measures work in the direction of creating jobs and increasing economic growth, particularly in a sluggish economy.
On January 28, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address, during which he advocated extending emergency unemployment compensation benefits -- which lapsed in late 2013 -- and increasing the minimum wage to $10.10.
On the January 29 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto was joined by Jamie Richardson, vice president of White Castle government relations, and Jerry Storch, former CEO of Toys"R"Us, to discuss the president's call to increase the minimum wage. After Richardson and Storch both expressed their opposition to minimum wage increases, Cavuto implied that the president was giving conflicting messages on the state of the economy, saying "if the economy is so bad that it warrants extending unemployment benefits for the umpteenth time, then surely it warrants going slow on increasing the minimum wage."
Cavuto's implication that because the economy requires restoring unemployment benefits, the minimum wage shouldn't be increased is simply groundless. The fact is that both measures act to increase jobs and grow the economy.
Fox News is misleadingly touting the results of a recent poll to falsely claim that a majority of Americans don't care about inequality and believe that government should do nothing to reduce it.
On the January 23 edition of Fox & Friends, hosts Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck discussed the recent policy pivot by Republicans and Democrats toward addressing income inequality. During the segment, the results of Fox News poll in which respondents were asked to prioritize pressing economic issues were displayed on screen:
Doocy used the results of the poll to claim that Americans are unconcerned about rising income inequality:
DOOCY: This is what you're concerned about. Forty percent of you are worried most about jobs and unemployment. About the same number worried about the deficit and how much the government spends. Meanwhile, you wind up with "income inequality" at only 12 percent.
Later that day on America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley returned to the poll, claiming that the results also showed most Americans do not want the government to take action to reduce income inequality. During the segment, the following graphic ran on the screen:
Fox, and the poll they cite, are creating a false choice between reducing income inequality, creating jobs, and addressing the deficit.
Numerous economists, including Jared Bernstein, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman have argued that rising inequality is bad for the economy and creates a drag on economic growth. Furthermore, in their recent book, "Getting Back to Full Employment," Bernstein and economist Dean Baker outlined proposals that could create jobs while lifting wages and reducing reliance on government safety net programs, thereby positively impacting job creation while reducing some pressure from the federal budget. In the view of many prominent economists, Americans do not have to choose between jobs, deficit reduction, or reducing economic inequality; sensible policies can be implemented to address each issue.
Additionally, while MacCallum suggested that few Americans want government action to reduce inequality, the actual poll shows that participants were never asked about inequality. Instead of being asked "How do you feel about income inequality" as Fox showed on air, the actual question in the poll was "How do you feel about the fact that some people make a lot more money than others?"
Differences in individual earnings, which the poll asked about, and structural inequality -- the idea that a small share of earners at the top capture nearly all income gains -- are not the same thing.
When Americans are asked directly about whether or not government should do anything to mitigate income inequality, the results are quite different from what Fox claims. According to a January 23 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center and USA Today, 69 percent of Americans believe that government should do "a lot" or "some" to reduce inequality.
Furthermore, a majority of respondents -- 54 percent -- support raising taxes on the wealthy and expanding programs for the poor in order to help close the income gap.
Media Matters research shows that Fox, along with other right-wing media outlets, consistently misrepresents the issue of economic inequality. These skewed poll results are just the latest in a long line of examples.