Fox News host and senior vice president Neil Cavuto responded to President Obama's expansion of federally guaranteed overtime pay to 5 million additional American workers by fear-mongering that the regulatory change would lead the United States down a path toward financial ruin similar to Greece while hurting the workers it is meant to protect.
In a June 29 op-ed in The Huffington Post, President Obama announced his plan to update federal overtime regulations in 2016 by increasing the salary threshold at which qualifying employees are legally guaranteed overtime pay. Under current law, salaried employees earning less than $23,660 annually are legally required to be paid time-and-a-half when their position requires that they work in excess of 40 hours per week. Obama's proposal would more than double the income threshold to qualify for overtime -- covering qualifying employees earning up to $50,400 annually, or roughly 40 percent of the salaried workforce. Current overtime standards only extend to about 8 percent of salaried workers.
In response to the president's proposal, Cavuto expressed concern that paying more Americans for the hours they work could contribute to an economic disaster in the United States. On the June 30 edition of Fox's Your World, Cavuto proclaimed that the U.S. was becoming "Greece on steroids," a reference to the disastrous fiscal and financial circumstances that have unraveled the comparatively tiny European economy for more than six years. Cavuto was joined by discredited economist Art Laffer, who lamented the "huge burden on these companies" that will now be required to adequately pay their employees:
Despite Cavuto's dire predictions, economists expect that expanded overtime protections will be a boon for the American workforce.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the majority of the workers who will directly benefit from the overtime change are women, and nearly 30 percent of affected workers are minorities. In an op-ed co-authored with philanthropist Nick Hanauer, economist Robert Reich blasted overtime opponents for warning of "unintended consequences" from stronger wages "without an ounce of empirical data to back it up." They also likened the policy to a "minimum wage hike for the middle class," and explained that it will either boost workers' pay or give them additional leisure time while adding new jobs. Economist Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argued in a blog published by The Washington Post that expanding overtime protections is "a critical labor standard with the potential to boost the paychecks of millions of middle-wage workers."
Fox has a long history of attacking overtime protections, recently complaining that the then-rumored proposal amounted to "left-wing economic engineering" and was "probably going to hurt a lot of other people."
Fox News host Sean Hannity praised Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's "great record as governor" during an exclusive interview following the official launch of Jindal's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Hannity ignored the massive budget deficit created by Jindal's tax cuts, as well as the economic woes his policies have inflicted on constituents in his state.
Fox News turned to a fast food CEO notorious for his opposition to paying employees livable wages during a misleading segment alleging that social safety net programs trap low-income Americans in poverty.
On the June 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy invited CKE Restaurants (Hardee's, Carl's Jr.) CEO Andy Puzder to argue that low-income workers might be wary of higher paying jobs if the salary increase results in a loss of government benefits. Doocy referenced Puzder's June 22 op-ed in The Hill as evidence of the so-called "Welfare Cliff," where employees turn down promotions that could lead to $80,000 salaries because they "don't want to lose the free stuff from the government" (emphasis added):
PUZDER: The policy guys call it the "Welfare Cliff," because you get to a point where if you make a few more dollars you actually lose thousands of dollars in benefits. And, quite honestly, these benefits are essential for some people. They are how they pay their rent; they are how they feed their kids. So, what happens is, we have people who turn down promotions or, if minimum wage goes up, they want fewer hours. They want less hours because they are afraid they'll go over that cliff.
DOOCY: And, it's got to drive you nuts, because you're always looking for good people to run your stores. And, if they would just take the next step, take the next step up the ladder, next thing you know they could be a manager making $80,000, but they don't want to lose the free stuff from the government.
The term "Welfare Cliff" was popularized by Pennsylvania's Republican-appointed Secretary of Public Welfare in a July 2012 report, which claimed a "single mom" could nearly double her net income by taking full advantage of nine distinct anti-poverty programs, but the concept of a trade-off between welfare and work dates back to a flawed Cato Institute study from 1995. One thing all such studies have in common is the base calculation of benefits available to a hypothetical "single mom" with multiple dependent children. Most American workers aren't single moms, most recipients of government benefits don't enroll in every single available program, and the value of federal benefit programs like welfare is less now than it was in years past -- facts that are never acknowledged in right-wing media discussions of anti-poverty programs.
By Puzder's own admission, the company he runs does not pay anywhere near the amount he and Doocy claim is attainable if workers were willing to work their way off of welfare. According to a March 2014 op-ed by Puzder in The Wall Street Journal, employees at CKE-run restaurants can earn "a management-level salary starting around $36,000 and going as high as $65,000," with an average of "around $45,000" per year.
According to the most-recently available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average food service employee nationwide makes just $19,110 annually, or roughly $9.19 per hour. According to a 2013 study from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the overwhelming majority of fast food employees (89.1 percent) make less than $9 per hour and face significant "barriers to upward mobility" in the profession.
Several media outlets parroted Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's economic message after he claimed his administration would oversee 4 percent economic growth and the creation of up to 19 million new jobs. But economists argue that his goals are unrealistic, and question the impact any single president can have on "decades-long trends."
Fox News renewed its attacks against federal overtime protections ahead of a rumored announcement that the Department of Labor will extend guaranteed overtime to qualifying employees earning up to $52,000 annually.
Throughout the day on June 10, Fox News and Fox Business personalities derided an expected proposal from the Labor Department that would expand guaranteed overtime pay to millions of American workers who currently work uncompensated hours. During a news update on Fox Business' Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, contributor Cheryl Casone said the rule was being called "frankly, a job killer." On Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney complained that President Obama was attempting to lift wages "by fiat," and claimed that the overtime rule would harm "the assistant managers of this world, who will no longer become assistant managers." On Cavuto: Coast to Coast, host Neil Cavuto quoted Rep. Tim Walberg's (R-MI) opposition to overtime protections, adding that "you can't fathom" why the Labor Department would act to expand overtime.
On Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott was joined by reporter Kevin Cirilli of The Hill and Weekly Standard editor Daniel Halper to discuss political and economic repercussions of such a regulatory change. Halper blasted the administration for engaging in supposed "left-wing economic engineering" before concluding that the rule change might "end up hurting the average worker":
HALPER: You have to give it to President Obama, he promised to govern with a pen and the phone, and he is. He's coming through. He's going around Congress ... the problem with this left-wing economic engineering is that it might not work, right? It might help some people, but it's probably going to hurt a lot of other people. Why should an employer, for instance, increase the hours of its current employees, give a lot of overtime, if it will cost them a lot more?
The employer, their bottom line, is to worry about their bottom line -- to worry about making money. And if this costs them too much money, well they're just going to find a way around it. And it's going to end up hurting the average worker and laborer. And, it's not going to achieve its stated goal, no matter how noble it may be.
In fact, economists believe expanding overtime protections to include more salaried employees is vital to long-term economic recovery. Under current federal guidelines, salaried employees are only guaranteed overtime pay if they earn up to $23,660 per year. Raising the threshold to $52,000 would expand overtime protections to at least 6.1 million additional American workers, and bring the policy roughly in line with federal standards last witnessed in 1975, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Economist Jared Bernstein of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities predicted that the rule might actually boost job creation by encouraging employers to hire more part-time help.
Fox has a long history of opposing overtime protections while ignoring any economic benefits. The network attacked the administration in March 2014 when President Obama initially requested that the Labor Department review its standards. Despite admitting that they did not know what the administration would propose, Fox personalities called the regulatory change a job killer and complained that it amounted to "forced income redistribution." Fox figures worried that paying people for the hours that they actually work "undercuts work ethic" and created a "disincentive to stand out." Fox host Bill O'Reilly surmised that the president "may be actually hurting" workers by extending overtime protections, while Fox's Jon Scott wondered if the proposal was just an election-year distraction.
Fox News helped 2016 presidential candidate Rick Perry (R) and likely candidate Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) defend their state's discriminatory voting restrictions and whitewash their poor records on voting rights.
Conservative media are promoting a deceptively edited video from a Republican opposition research firm that purports to show Hillary Clinton coldly demanding that a supporter "go to the end of the line," to allege that Clinton is out of touch with voters. But even as the dishonest attack made its way to Fox News, network contributor Guy Benson admitted the full context of the video "casts [Clinton] ... in a far less damaging light."
Fox News continued its crusade against the Reagan-era affordable telephone service program for low-income Americans, which the network derisively refers to as "Obamaphones," with a misleading segment suggesting that the program has "runaway costs" and traps low-income Americans in poverty.
On May 28, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler published a proposal to amend and modernize the Lifeline program, which currently provides landline and cellular phone subsidies to qualifying low-income Americans. Wheeler's proposal would expand the user-funded program to include broadband internet services, which he called "essential communications services in the 21st Century."
On the May 29 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Tucker Carlson and Fox Business host Charles Payne attacked the broadband proposal and claimed that the Lifeline telephone service system was "radically expanded" during the Obama administration leading to so-called "runaway costs" and fraud.
Payne, who tweeted prior to his appearance that the Lifeline program was tantamount to "further enslavement of the 'poor'," complained on-air that the subsidy was "yet another program that's going to make it really hard for people to get off the sofa" through "the transfer of wealth from the middle class to people of a little bit lower class." Finally, Payne insisted that the expansion of broadband access to low-income Americans delivers the message to "the people who are on the lower levels of the economic rung, we are actually saying to them 'you can't make it but we'll feather the nest a little bit more'":
PAYNE: I think the moral aspect of this is when we're trying to get people into society, you know, out of wherever they live and into the sort of economic spirit, the economic ladder if you will, it's tough. You take a pay cut.
PAYNE: You have all of these benefits and if you add them all up. All of them are at 150 percent above poverty, 130 percent above poverty. Obamacare subsidies, 400 percent above poverty! That keeps a lot of people insulated. So here's the thing. Are you really helping someone by making it more difficult for them to go into the workforce? Are you incentivizing them or disincentivizing them? It's pretty clear what's happening here.
CNN uncritically advanced presidential candidate Rand Paul's contention that he is "a different kind of Republican" who wants to protect the environment -- ignoring Paul's long track record of voting against environmental protections and denying the science of climate change.
In a May 26 article about Sen. Paul's (R-KY) new book, "Taking a Stand," CNN.com echoed Paul's claim in the book that he is a "tree hugger" who "want[s] our regulatory bodies to protect both our land and water." CNN.com further reported that Paul, who is trying to distinguish himself from a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates, invoked past conservationist Republican presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln while expressing surprise that the GOP has "been branded as a party that doesn't like the environment."
Fox News was quick to criticize President Obama for emphasizing how climate change is a core threat to national security, arguing the president should have focused instead on foreign terrorist organizations during his Coast Guard Academy commencement speech. In fact, the Coast Guard will be at the forefront of the nation's response to the significant challenges afoot due to the earth's changing climate.
Obama spoke at length about the national security threats presented by climate change during his May 20 commencement address at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. The president highlighted how "climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict" around the world, citing severe droughts in the Middle East and North Africa that have contributed to the rise of extremist groups, rising sea levels and increasingly powerful storms sparking humanitarian crises, and the impact of Arctic sea ice reduction on international maritime rivalries.
Fox News roundly mocked the address, charging that Obama "seems to have utterly lost his way" on national security issues. Others disapproved of the Coast Guard Academy as the setting for his climate remarks, suggesting it reflected poorly on Obama's priorities and management of the resources of the U.S. military.
But the Coast Guard is perhaps the most appropriate of the five armed service branches to focus future planning efforts on combating the effects of a changing climate. As the president stated, "the threat of a changing climate cuts to the very core" of the Coast Guard's mission.
The breakup of Arctic sea ice presents new challenges for the Coast Guard. Shortly before retiring from the service, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp discussed how climate change affects the Coast Guard's mission in an interview with Defense News:
Part of our maritime governance is to make sure that ships and cargo get safely in and out of our ports. So if the water rises, how does that affect our aid navigation system? How does that affect dredging with the Army Corps of Engineers? These are marine safety type issues.
In July 2014, Papp was appointed as U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic Region for the express purpose of advising American strategy with regard to climate change in the world's northern oceans.
Sea level rise, another direct result of climate change, is occurring faster than previously predicted and threatens low-lying areas of the United States and neighboring countries. According to the United Nations, sea level rise could be up to four times more pronounced in island nations, many of which dot the Caribbean Sea and are likely destinations for Coast Guard humanitarian relief operations.
Climate change exacerbates the impact of extreme weather events and has been shown to supercharge hurricane systems that target the Atlantic seaboard and Gulf coast every year. When these storms destroy communities and threaten American lives, the Coast Guard is among the first responders on-scene to rescue and care for stranded victims. The Coast Guard's "dangerous and exhausting" rescue missions proved to be a lonely silver lining during the Bush administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina.
Despite Fox News' protests, the Coast Guard is "on the front lines of climate change and national security."