Coverage of the economy on weeknight television news shows during the last six months of 2014 continued to focus heavily on policies meant to boost job creation and economic growth, but discussions overwhelmingly lacked input from actual economists. Additionally, a Media Matters analysis uncovered a relative decline in the number of segments promoting the conservative media myths that Obamacare and increasing the minimum wage hurt the labor market.
The Washington Post's Fact Checker debunked the claim that net neutrality protections could cost American consumers $15 billion in additional taxes and fees -- a favorite conservative argument against net neutrality and one parroted by multiple media outlets -- concluding the estimate contains "significant factual error[s] and/or obvious contradictions."
Conservative media outlets amplified a misleading study from the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, which claimed that "all net employment growth has gone to immigrants" between November 2007 and November 2014. But data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that job growth among the native-born has far outpaced job growth among immigrants during the economic recovery.
Conservative media figures hid statements from President Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio condemning violent protests. Instead, they misleadingly suggested the politicians were to blame for December 20 murder of two New York City police officers by a gunman, who was reportedly retaliating against the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of police.
Fox News is moving the goalposts on how President Obama should respond to terrorist attacks, complaining that the White House's statement on a deadly attack on a Pakistani school did not mention "the Taliban." The network had previously attacked Obama for not using the words "terrorist" and "terrorism," two words that appear in the president's statement.
On the December 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, correspondent Ainsley Earhardt reported on the global reaction to a deadly attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan carried out by members of the terrorist group Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan. Earhardt highlighted that the president's statement did not mention the Taliban:
EARHARDT: Brand new information about one of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan's history: Pakistani Taliban insurgents storming an army school in Peshawar, killing more than 140 people, most of those young school children. Leaders across the globe condemning those brutal attacks, but the White House not mentioning the Taliban, at all. President Obama's statement reads this, quote "by targeting students and teachers in this heinous attack, terrorists have once against shown their depravity."
Similarly, on-screen text during the December 17 edition of Fox & Friends First declared Obama's response was "Not A Full Statement" because the president did not mention the Taliban:
Media coverage of an omnibus spending bill that rolled back key financial services regulations ignored the amount of money the financial services industry spent helping elect members of Congress in 2014. In fact, the industry lobbying to eliminate the regulation spent $436 million on federal candidates during the midterm elections.
The multimedia financial services company The Motley Fool joined a chorus of media outlets uncritically promoting the misleading claim that reclassifying broadband Internet services as a public utility could amount to a multi-billion dollar tax on the internet.
In a December 6 blog suggesting net neutrality policies could "raise your internet bill," the Motley Fool joined the Wall Street Journal and others in hyping the misleading findings of a policy brief on Internet reclassification performed by economists Robert Litan of the Brookings Institution and Hal Singer of the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI). The brief, titled "Outdated Regulations Will Make Consumers Pay More For Broadband," concluded that reclassifying the Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act would create "more than $15 billion" in new annual fees to be passed on to consumers and stifle telecommunications innovation:
We have calculated that the average annual increase in state and local fees levied on U.S. wireline and wireless broadband subscribers will be $67 and $72, respectively. And the annual increase in federal fees per household will be roughly $17. When you add it all up, reclassification could add a whopping $15 billion in new user fees on top of the planned $1.5 billion extra to fund the E-Rate program. The higher fees would come on top of the adverse impact on consumers of less investment and slower innovation that would result from reclassification.
According to the nonpartisan open Internet advocacy group Free Press, PPI's claim that Internet reclassification would amount to more than $15 billion in new local, state, and federal taxes is an unlikely "worst-case scenario" that fails to account for how net neutrality works in practice. The multi-billion dollar estimate ignores the fact that reclassification of the Internet as an interstate telecommunications public utility would remove it from most in-state forms of taxation. Correcting this methodological error would reduce allegedly burdensome fees associated with net neutrality reclassification by nearly 75 percent, to roughly $4 billion.
Further regulatory decisions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), coupled with legislation from Congress, "could take additional steps to remove or limit any future taxes or fees," according to Free Press. For instance, FCC fees associated with the Universal Service Fund (USF) could be suspended if the FCC deems the fees to be contrary to the USF mission of subsidizing the expansion of telecommunications to under-served communities. Furthermore, a simple congressional renewal of the Internet Tax Freedom Act could guarantee against local, state, or federal governments imposing "Internet-specific taxes."
Net neutrality is the status quo by which the Internet operates. Establishing and codifying the neutrality that has always existed is an important step to ensure free markets and fair competition for consumers and content producers.
Sunday morning political talk shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox devoted just 30 seconds of coverage to net neutrality the week after President Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission to require Internet service providers to treat all content equally. Those same programs dedicated nearly 17 minutes to helping scandalize comments made by Jonathan Gruber, an economist who helped estimate the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The Washington Post has promoted the conservative myth that corporate taxes in the United States are among the highest in the world while pushing the claim that tax rates should be further reduced as part of a so-called "reform" of the tax code.
Fox News misleadingly claimed that a Republican Senate majority could be a "big plus" for the stock market and generate economic growth of 3 percent to 4 percent, but hid the reality that growth has already topped those levels.
On the November 3 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum warned that the midterm elections could have a "big impact on your money" and argued that despite recent stock market growth, "we could be seeing an even bigger rally if the GOP takes the Senate." Fox Business host Stuart Varney agreed, attributing the stock market rally of the past two weeks to the fact that "Republicans look more and more likely to take the Senate," and predicting that policies produced by a Republican-led Senate could set the economy on a path toward "3 to 4 percent" growth "instead of 2 percent." MacCallum and Varney claimed that 4 percent growth is something the economy has not seen in "a long time":
In reality, the American economy has grown by an average of 4.1 percent in the last six months -- while the Senate remained under Democratic control. The second and third quarters of 2014 had the strongest back-to-back growth rates the U.S. has seen since 2003, with respective growth rates of 4.6 percent and 3.5 percent. In fact, growth rates have topped Varney's arbitrary "3 to 4 percent" threshold during four of the past five quarters.
As Bloomberg News' Dave Weigel noted, Varney's speculation also ignores the Dow Jones industrial average's gain of more than 4,000 points since the 2012 election. The Dow is up more than 9,000 points since President Obama was first inaugurated in January 2009.