A new GOP push to dramatically cut federal spending for summer school lunch programs comes after years of right-wing media misinformation about and attacks against funding for school lunch programs.
On May 19, House Republicans proposed an agriculture budget that would cut the summer lunch program for low-income schoolchildren in urban areas and would require the Agriculture Department to "establish a waiver process for local school districts who have found it too costly to comply with tougher nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs," according to Politico (emphasis added):
In the case of nutrition programs, the House bill seeks to open the door for starchy, white potatoes to be added to the list of qualified vegetables under the WIC supplemental feeding program for pregnant women and their young children. The Agriculture Department would also be required to establish a waiver process for local school districts which have found it too costly to comply with tougher nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast programs.
And in a surprising twist, the bill language specifies that only rural areas are to benefit in the future from funding requested by the administration this year to continue a modest summer demonstration program to help children from low-income households -- both urban and rural -- during those months when school meals are not available.
These proposed cuts echo years of right-wing media attacking the need for summer lunch programs, and school lunch programs in general. As far back as 2010, radio host Rush Limbaugh challenged the Summer Food Service programs, suggesting hungry children from low-income families can "dumpster dive" for food (emphasis added):
LIMBAUGH: I think, you know what we're going to do here, we're going to start a feature on this program: "Where to find food." For young demographics, where to find food. Now that school is out, where to find food. We can have a daily feature on this. And this will take us all the way through the summer. Where to find food. And, of course, the first will be: "Try your house." It's a thing called the refrigerator. You probably already know about it. Try looking there. There are also things in what's called the kitchen of your house called cupboards. And in those cupboards, most likely you're going to find Ding-Dongs, Twinkies, Lays ridgy potato chips, all kinds of dip and maybe a can of corn that you don't want, but it will be there. If that doesn't work, try a Happy Meal at McDonald's. You know where McDonald's is. There's the Dollar Menu at McDonald's and if they don't have Chicken McNuggets, dial 911 and ask for Obama.
There's another place if none of these options work to find food; there's always the neighborhood dumpster. Now, you might find competition with homeless people there, but there are videos that have been produced to show you how to healthfully dine and how to dumpster dive and survive until school kicks back up in August. Can you imagine the benefit we would provide people?
Fox News has also voiced opposition to the summer lunch program and attempted to gin up controversy about the program by baselessly speculating that it was a "come one, come all" invitation for taxpayer-funded meals that ineligible children would exploit. Last year, Fox's Stuart Varney criticized summer lunch programs, ignoring the fact that such programs play an instrumental role in reducing child hunger.
The right-wing media's campaign against school lunches extends beyond summer. Fox and others have previously asked if children should work for school meals and claimed free school meal programs hurt low-income kids, yet ignored their usual lunch stance when it involved students who usually pay for their lunch.
Food insecurity affects millions of children -- 10 percent of households by USDA data-- and reports hold that hunger is on the rise in many U.S. cities. Studies show that child hunger impairs their academic achievement, facts that right-wing media overlook in coverage that provides public cover for harsh GOP cuts.
Fox News has been deriding military investments in alternative fuels as a "wasteful" priority. Yet a new report from the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board cites the need for low carbon fuels and other actions to mitigate manmade climate change as imperative to America's national security.
The network was outraged this week over the Defense Department's investment in biofuels for warships and fighter jets, following a Government Accountability Office report that noted the cost of the alternative jet fuel made from algae.
On the May 10 edition of Cashin' In, host Eric Bolling likened federal investment in low carbon jet fuel to "taxpayer money waste," saying "this is what happens when you force ... government into an industry they have no business being in, i.e. green energy." Bolling cherry-picked the most expensive fuel tested -- made from algae -- as the subject of his ire, as did Fox hosts Bret Baier and Neil Cavuto on May 8, decrying "green" programs like the federal investment as a waste of money.
And on the May 9 broadcast of Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy wondered, "Why is the Department of Defense splurging on things like green fuel," featuring Sean Parnell, a retired U.S. Army Captain and Ranger, to claim that military investments in alternative fuels are "overall indicative of a Department of Defense that just does not have its priorities straight at all."
The Wall Street Journal applauded a court decision invalidating the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net neutrality regulations, spinning the rules as hampering innovation and benefitting only "the giants of Silicon Valley," despite experts who warned of the damaging impact such a ruling might have on the public's access to online content.
A Fox host and Wall Street Journal assistant editor disputed the existence of a multiplier effect with unemployment benefits -- which generates more dollars worth of economic activity than the dollars invested in the program by boosting consumption -- though the effect is well supported by economic research.
Unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed expired at the end of 2013, abruptly cutting off benefits for 1.3 million Americans. Department of Labor estimates show it would cost approximately $25 billion to extend the unemployment insurance for another year, a step President Obama urged Congress to take during a January 7 speech in which he argued that such an extension would not only help people but help the economy and create jobs.
Wall Street Journal assistant editor James Freeman and Fox host Steve Doocy took issue with the idea that unemployment insurance benefits have a net-positive effect on the economy during the January 9 edition of Fox and Friends:
DOOCY: We heard this from the president the other day. Unemployment creates jobs. And?
FREEMAN: Yeah. It's hard to explain that one. The administration argument is that there's something called a multiplier, where when you put $1 of unemployment benefits into the economy it creates $1.80 in economic activity. So if this is true, this would suggest we should all stay home and the country will become wealthier by giving us unemployment benefits.
During the segment, Fox aired an on-screen graphic mocked the notion as "fuzzy math":
But economists agree that the economic benefits of unemployment benefits outweigh the cost. In what's known as the multiplier-effect -- which Freeman dismissed -- recipients of unemployment benefits reliably spend that money. In fact, Moody's chief economist Mark Zandi estimated that each dollar spent on unemployment benefits generates about $1.55 in economic activity. To put it another way, spending $25 billion on unemployment benefits would increase consumer spending and raise by $37.8 billion, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
What's more, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained that benefits for "unemployed workers in hard-pressed communities helps prevent the spread of layoffs and job losses in those communities." EPI emphasized (emphasis original):
We find that continuing the extensions through 2014 would generate spending that would support 310,000 jobs. If this program is discontinued, the economy will lose these jobs.
Fox News' timeline of the ongoing government shutdown cherry-picked dates to omit congressional Republicans' conception and furtherance of the shutdown over their demand to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare).
As the government shutdown loomed and then became a reality, right-wing media figures have called for maintained Republican commitment to keeping the government closed until Democrats agree to significant changes to the Affordable Care Act.
Fox News host Eric Bolling denied that anyone in the United States has ever been deprived of health care. He's wrong -- millions of people have been denied care or have had their insurance coverage rescinded, denied, or altered by insurance companies due to pre-existing conditions, policy loopholes, and various other reasons. Here are just a few examples.
Fox News host Gregg Jarrett used the new round of Congressional hearings on the September 11, 2012, attacks on the US diplomatic facility in Benghazi to push some of the network's favorite Benghazi lies.
This week, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led a new round of hearings into the Benghazi attacks. The committee heard testimony from Retired Admiral Mike Mullen and former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who led the State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) which issued an independent report in December about the attacks.
On the September 19 edition of Happening Now, host Gregg Jarrett and contributor Jonah Goldberg used the hearings to push some of Fox's favorite, long-debunked falsehoods about the attacks and the Obama administration's response.
Jarrett posited that US military forces could have arrived in time to rescue those under attack in Benghazi but had decided not to do so. Both he and Goldberg wondered why Mullen and Pickering had "dismissed" this idea, with Goldberg adding, "That's outrageous that no one was ready to have anybody come rescue any American on 9/11, which is sort of a famous terrorist holiday. And secondly, they didn't know how long this fight was going to take."
But the theory that U.S. forces could have made it in time for a rescue or intervention has been repeatedly debunked. The ARB determined that all "interagency response was timely and appropriate" but there was not sufficient time for "armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference," and the Pentagon has said that fighters could not have been sent to Benghazi because they lacked the refueling tankers that would have been needed to get them there. Additionally, the Pentagon said Special Operations Command Africa instructed a team of Special Forces not to leave for Benghazi because they would be needed to provide security in Tripoli. That second team would not have reached Benghazi before the attacks were concluded. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called out those who claimed more could have been done to rescue those in Benghazi for having a "cartoonish impression of the military."
Jarrett also pushed the myth that a stand down order was issued that night, saying, "The infamous stand down order, we still haven't gotten to the bottom of that, assuming that it even happened."
Yet the head of Special Forces in Tripoli has testified that no such stand down order was ever given, no evidence has ever emerged suggesting such orders were given, and reinforcements actually arrived from Tripoli in time for the second attack on the facility. Even the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee has acknowledged no such order was given.
Jarrett concluded by claiming that "we still don't really know" where President Obama was during the attacks, adding, "presumably he went to bed while Americans were being slaughtered."
This smear flies in the face of testimony from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has stated that Obama was "well-informed" during the attack and that Obama ordered military leaders to do "whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there."
Jarrett's lies are only a drop in the ocean of the Benghazi falsehoods Fox has pushed for the last year.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board rushed to the defense of recent Republican efforts to sabotage the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by intimidating officials, known as navigators, tasked with informing customers about health care options.
Under the ACA, a health care "Navigator" program was created to train counselors to help Americans understand new health care services available to them. The effort is modeled after an existing Medicare program that guides recipients through their available benefits. Navigators were scheduled to begin enrolling participants in insurance coverage on October 1, but Republican members of Congress recently seized upon the program as an opportunity to slow down the implementation of the ACA. On August 29, GOP members of the House sent a letter to approximately 60 percent of the nation's health care navigators, demanding thousands of pages of documentation and giving the officials a two-week deadline to comply. Rather than investigating the Navigator program nation-wide, the Republicans appeared to specifically target states where delays in the program could cause the greatest problems. As Salon explained:
All of the navigator grant recipients are based in states with federally facilitated exchanges and states partnering with the feds to stand up their marketplaces. Salon's analysis reveals that among these states, Republicans directed their inquiries to organizations in states with the largest uninsured populations.
Now, Republicans could easily respond that they targeted organizations in these states because they wanted to protect as many uninsured people as they can. But that would be another way of saying they hope their inquiry slows the enrollment process as much as possible. If the goal was to establish best practices for navigators, sending 50 organizations in states with large uninsured populations on the same wild goose chase is an odd way to go about it.
Think Progress noted that the Republican tactic "is reminiscent of the kind of practices Republicans had condemned over the summer, after news broke that the IRS subjected certain groups applying for 501 C4 nonprofit tax status to long, intrusive, questionnaires about their filings."
The WSJ editorial board defended the GOP's letter in a September 5 editorial, even mocking critics who think the targeted requests for documents are unreasonable:
With ObamaCare scheduled to launch on October 1, Democrats seem more than a little anxious about their ability to execute. That's the only fathomable explanation for their nervous breakdown over a routine House inquiry.
Prepare the fainting couches. HHS has responded by calling the GOP requests "a blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate groups who will be working to inform Americans about" the glories of national health care. Norm Ornstein, the American Enterprise Institute's house liberal, claims this is "another effort at sabotage" because the navigators won't be in the field while they're responding to the letters. Best of all, Henry Waxman claims to be shocked. The Democratic investigations specialist says the letters are "an abuse of your oversight authority," and he would know.
All of this outrage is part of the liberal alibi that Republicans are responsible if ObamaCare stumbles. But if the handsomely financed navigators can't spare an hour or two to comply with a congressional investigation, then the law must be in bigger trouble than Democrats care to admit.
The Navigator program has frequently been subjected to right-wing media attacks. Fox News' Megyn Kelly and Chris Stirewalt have baselessly speculated that the program might allow "unions and community advocacy groups" to steal patients' personal information, and Fox contributor Michelle Malkin once alleged the navigators would be "another Obama threat to American's privacy" based on what she called Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' "sordid snooping history."
Despite evidence to the contrary, Fox Business anchor Melissa Francis claimed on Fox's Your World With Neil Cavuto that federal student aid spurs universities to increase tuition and that going to a top-tier university isn't worth incurring the debt it entails.
On August 20, Cavuto asked, "The more aid you give, the more excuse [universities] can have to ratchet up the tuition, right?" Francis agreed, saying that "it just gets absorbed right into the price." Francis then said, "It's like any time you print money. It causes inflation." Later in the segment, Francis referenced a recent study by Demos to assert that student loan debt may be costlier than it seems, claiming, "Down the road that costs them $200,000 worth of wealth, because as you're paying off those loans that's money you're not investing in the market, that's a house you're not buying, that's money you're not putting in your 401k."
Cavuto and Francis cited growing federal student assistance as a reason for increasing tuition costs. The vast majority of studies, however, have held that growing federal aid is not responsible for increasing tuition rates. President Obama also recently signed a new law that lowers student loan interest rates and is embarking on a bus tour to call for more action on college affordability.
Francis also claimed that for some, vocational schools may be a better financial choice in the long run than universities, because the cost of the education is not as great. But Francis ignored the fact that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in most cases those with higher education will make more money and are less likely to be unemployed.
Similar claims about federal Pell Grants have been made by the Wall Street Journal, and Fox News has repeatedly attacked federal student aid by suggesting that enrollment in fictitious 'cheaper' colleges or forgoing college entirely are solutions for those struggling with the costs of college.