In their new book, Who's Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky attempt to gin up fears about stolen elections and widespread voter fraud by making use of cherry-picked story-telling, falsehoods, and baseless allegations.
Now that Mitt Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) -- made infamous by his extreme budget proposal -- as his running mate, some at Fox News are pretending President Obama's plan to reduce the deficit doesn't exist. But President Obama has a plan to reduce the deficit. It's been laid out in significant detail for nearly a year and was widely reported in the media.
On the August 11 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, host Dave Briggs asked, "will the pressure be on [the Obama campaign] to come up with some sort of deficit reduction plan that they have punted on?"
Later on Fox & Friends Saturday, conservative radio host Michael Graham also claimed that the Obama administration doesn't have a plan, saying, "I refuse to debate anyone on the Paul Ryan plan until they tell me the Obama plan. ... there is no plan from the White House."
Again, Obama does have a plan to reduce the deficit. It's a plan that's been lauded for its specifics and includes a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, with an emphasis on near-term stimulus and middle-term deficit reduction -- a hierarchy of priorities that coincides with the advice of economists, who note that unemployment is still the most immediate need to address.
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein bookmarked the deficit provisions for anyone having trouble finding them:
On deficit reduction, Romney's plan "requires spending cuts of approximately $500 billion per year in 2016." He has not released spending cuts that come anywhere close to that goal. He does have some nice words to say about the Ryan budget, but Romney advisers have told the media that their candidate disagrees with large parts of it, including the Medicare cuts.
The comparison to Obama is, again, instructive. Pages 23 through 37 of Obama's budget detail dozens of spending cuts and tell you how much money they'll save. You might not like those spending cuts, or you might want to see more. But at least you know the specifics of the president's plan.
ABC News highlighted some of the provisions in September 2011:
The bulk of the savings in the president's plan come from $1.5 trillion in deficit-reduction through new taxes for high-end earners and $580 billion in cuts to entitlement programs, including $248 billion to Medicare and $72 billion to Medicaid.
Obama also proposed other means to raise taxes, including more than $800 billion by allowing the Bush tax cuts for upper income earners to expire and $300 billion by closing loopholes and eliminating special-interest tax breaks.
In total, the president's plan will claim more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction through entitlement cuts, tax increases and war savings, in particular. The proposal includes $1.2 trillion in savings from the Budget Control Act and $1.1 trillion from drawing down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, conservatives are certainly aware of Obama's budget and its deficit priorities. But if they acknowledge its existence, they'll be forced to compare it to a Romney plan that "defies the rules of math," or a Ryan plan dubbed "the most fraudulent budget in American history."
On the eve of the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer relied on notorious voter fraud huckster Hans von Spakovsky and other dubious sources to continue to distort the debate over voter ID laws. Specifically, Von Spakovsky argued that voter ID laws do not affect minority turnout and suggested that, in fact, the opposite is true. From the article:
Von Spakofsky [sic], a senior legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, says voting in both Georgia and Indiana increased dramatically in the states' presidential primaries and general presidential elections after photo ID laws went into place.
"In Indiana, which the U.S. Supreme Court said has the strictest voter ID law in the country, turnout in the Democratic presidential primary in 2008 quadrupled from the 2004 election when the photo ID law was not in effect," von Spakofsky last year told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "According to Census Bureau surveys, 59.2 percent of the black voting-age population voted in the 2008 election compared to only 53.8 percent in 2004, an increase of over 5 percentage points."
In reality, as Colorlines.com has reported, such a conclusion cannot be drawn:
Von Spakovsky noted that "Georgia had the largest turnout of minority voters in its history," and then drew the conclusion, "As shown by these data ... voter ID requirements can be easily met by almost all voters and do not have a discriminatory or disparate impact on racial minorities." The message sent: Georgia 2008 voter turnout was good; therefore voter ID laws are good.
These are specious conclusions to draw at best because it relies on a non-existent causation or correlation between the implementation of the state's voter ID law and voter turnout without controlling for other factors such as the growth in voting age population and the growth in the number of people registered to vote during the same period.
I spoke with Charles S. Bullock III, the Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia who said that the state's voter ID law "is not a cause" for the increase in minority voter turnout and "that you can't build a case for a causal link" between the implementation of the voter ID law and the increase in minority voter turnout. In fact, voter turnout would have increased in Georgia in the 2008 presidential election with or without the voter ID law for a number of other factors, says Lubbock, including a "gradual increase" in the voting-age population of African Americans, and also the excitement around the possible election of the nation's first black president. But this does not mean that everyone was able to "easily" get an ID card. [...]
The Increase in Georgia's minority voter turnout was due to large increases in voter registration and the excitement around the Obama campaign, despite the voter ID law, but not because of it.
With facts and statistics staring down the New York Post's attempted defenses of the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk agenda, the Post has been forced to resort to purely emotional appeals in their attempt to maintain public support for the policy.
Over the past few months, the New York Post has published several news pieces dedicated to interrogating the friends and family members of recent New York City shooting victims. Each story features someone emotionally close to the case speculating about whether ramping up the New York Police Department's controversial "stop-and-frisk" policy could have saved their loved ones' lives. Meanwhile, the Post's editorial page has been littered with hyperbole and graphic imagery -- fear mongering designed to scare readers into believing that ending stop-and-frisk will result in "more blood in the streets."
Several recent interviews in the news section of the New York Post have followed the above theme. Given the unconditional support for stop-and-frisk expressed by the Post's editors over past months, it's difficult to view these stories as anything more than an effort to exploit the raw emotions of their subjects in order to push the paper's political objectives in a "straight news" format. One example, from the New York Post on July 19, was an interview with a mother whose teenage son was shot and killed in July:
The grieving mother of a 15-year-old student who was shot in the head and died last week told The Post police should stop and frisk every person on the streets in order to stem increasing gun violence.
"My son is gone because of an illegal gun on the street," said Natasha Christopher, whose eldest son, Akeal, died on his birthday.
"If they had frisked the person who killed my son, it would have been one less gun on the streets. I'm for it," she declared.
Over the past few months, the New York Post editorial page has defended the New York Police Department's controversial stop-and-frisk policy with myths and imbalanced coverage.
On Sunday, the Denver Post published an op-ed about climate change by Americans For Prosperity's Sean Paige, but did not disclose AFP's close ties to the Koch brothers -- fossil fuel magnates who benefit financially from convincing the public that our consumption of fossil fuels is a harmless indulgence with no ill effects. The companion counter-argument by children's author and astronomer Jeffrey Bennett tellingly noted "Despite any debate you may hear in politics or the media, there is no scientific doubt that global warming is tilting the odds the wrong way."
In his op-ed, Paige suggests that we are simply experiencing "natural" "climate fluctuation" and argues that the specter of "climate change" is "the ultimate all-purpose excuse" to evade responsibility for disaster or increase regulations.
Deriding Americans concerned about climate change is nothing new for AFP. Nor is it surprising, if one knows that AFP was founded and bankrolled by David and Charles Koch, whose Koch Industries is a major player in fossil fuel markets. The Denver Post's failure to explain what AFP is, which speaks to Paige's potential agenda and the trustworthiness of his claims, is a significant breach of the duties it owes to its readership.
Furthermore, in providing Paige and AFP such a prominent platform, the Post has contributed to an unfortunate national trend in failed media coverage of the wildfires in the West - ignoring or diminishing how climate change increases the risk of fire there. Paige's column dismisses the effects of climate change as a "cop-out," and completely ignores significant research indicating climate change has contributed to warmer and drier conditions. A study by the U.S. Global Change Research Program sums it up:
Wildfires in the United States are already increasing due to warming. In the West, there has been a nearly fourfold increase in large wildfires in recent decades, with greater fire frequency, longer fire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. This increase is strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and earlier spring snowmelt, which have caused drying of soils and vegetation.
Chick-fil-A is now confirming in no uncertain terms that the company maintains an anti-LGBT philosophy -- a stance supported in practical terms by the company's history of donations to anti-gay groups.
Although his company's policies seemed to indicate otherwise, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy previously claimed that the company is not anti-gay -- "not anti-anybody." Cathy, who on Monday foreshadowed his public comments in a blog post titled "Thought For The Week: Become A Part Of The Story," cleared up any confusion by denouncing marriage equality and its advocates in interviews published in Baptist Press and on The Ken Coleman Show over the past two days. From OnTopMag.com (emphasis added):
Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy has described gay marriage supporters as "arrogant" for going against God on marriage.
In an interview on the Ken Coleman Show, Cathy defended his company's support of groups opposed to marriage equality.
"I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,'" Cathy said. "And I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."
On Wednesday, The Hill turned an undiscriminating spotlight on a new Republican effort to, as The Hill put it, "block the EPA from using drones." From the article:
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and 11 other House members introduced a bill Tuesday that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from conducting aerial drone surveillance of farms to enforce the Clean Water Act, or using any other overhead surveillance.
"Unemployment has been at or above 8 percent for 30 consecutive months. Is conducting flyovers of family farms across the country really the best use of taxpayer money?" Capito asked on Tuesday.
In fact, flyovers are exactly that -- a cost-saving measure, as the Washington Post reported last week:
This is the part that's true: for more than a decade, EPA inspectors have flown over farmland in small private planes -- the traditional kind of aircraft, with people inside them. The inspectors are looking for clean-water violations, like dirty runoff or manure dumped into a stream.
The EPA says the flights are legal under a 1986 Supreme Court decision. And they're cheap: an on-the-ground inspection might cost $10,000, but it costs just $1,000 to $2,500 to survey the same farm by air.
An agency spokesman said these flights are not happening more frequently now than in the past.
What's worse, the Hill story also ignores the fact that the GOP bill is designed in part to solve a problem that has never existed. Despite the manufactured outrage by Republicans, the EPA has never used drones, and the right-wing myth that the agency was "spying" on farmers with unmanned vehicles has been roundly debunked for some time.
In a June 19 Detroit Free Press opinion piece, guest writer Gary Wolfram advocated for the privatization of Michigan's prison system. The Free Press editors provided a rather innocuous description of Wolfram's credentials: "Gary Wolfram is the William Simon Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Hillsdale College." An honest description of Wolfram, however, would also note that he is an adjunct scholar at the right-wing Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the "largest conservative state-level policy think-tank in the nation." While the Free Press has in the past identified Mackinac connections to their contributors, Wolfram's affiliation appears to have been overlooked.
Accurately describing Wolfram's credentials is vital to a reader's ability to judge whether Wolfram's opinions are academically objective and trustworthy or tainted by an agenda and background that should temper expectations of accuracy. Here, the latter is certainly the case -- the Mackinac Center has been described as "tied at the hip with the Republican Party establishment," and its donors include the hyper-conservative Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. Mackinac was integral to Michigan's controversial Public Act 4, which "lets the governor name appointees to take over financially troubled cities." (In fact, the Republican governor appointed a former Mackinac scholar to one of these "emergency manager" positions in Pontiac, MI.)
Mackinac Center research is often of low quality and because of this it should be treated with considerable skepticism by the public, policy makers and political leaders. Indeed, much of the work of the Mackinac Center may have cause more confusion than clarity in the public discussion of the issues that it has addressed by systematically ignoring evidence that does not agree with its proposed solutions.
On the issue of prison privatization specifically, the Mackinac Center has been pushing a privatization agenda for years, hand in hand with ALEC and the private incarceration industry. Mother Jones highlighted some of Mackinac's conflicts of interest (emphasis added):
A cause underlying much of the [Mackinac Center's] work is privatization. Its scholars have called for privatizing Amtrak, prisons, and even the state's flagship university, the University of Michigan. The center publishes the Michigan Privatization Report, and offers how-tos on privatizing school districts and suggests local contractors available for hire to replace existing public services.
The Mackinac Center is also connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the private organization that allows corporations and lobbyists to craft legislation for use at the state level. For instance, as NPR reported last fall, Arizona's draconian immigration bill was based on a "model bill" written by private industry, including the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's leading private prisons company that operates corrections facilities around the country.
In other words, Wolfram is part of an extensive network of right-wing ideologues pushing an agenda for the benefit of their private industry funders. But as far as the Free Press readers know, Wolfram is just a professor of economics and public policy at a small, local college.
As anti-immigrant legislation has flooded state houses from coast to coast over the past two years -- culminating most notably with the Supreme Court's review of Arizona's controversial SB 1070 -- the nation's print media have given voice to the anti-immigrant special interest groups cheerleading (and in some cases orchestrating) these initiatives. Many of these groups have ties to white nationalist organizations and racists, and at least one has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. These extremist ties have not prevented the nation's most respected newspapers, as well as the Associated Press and Reuters, from citing the institutions as authorities on the immigration debate.
In fact, a Media Matters analysis of news coverage since SB 1070's introduction in January 2010 has discovered that the nation's top five newspapers (New York Times, L.A. Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post), the Associated Press, and Reuters have cited these groups over 250 times. Over that period, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia, among other states, have introduced strict immigration bills that -- by their introduction alone -- have been met with a measure of success.
If print media plays a part in shaping public opinion, isn't it fair to ask whether the normalization of these extremist groups in the pages of America's daily papers has advantaged the ability of anti-immigrant measures to reach fruition?
For details on the methodology and other information in the Media Matters report, click here.