Fox News' Bill O'Reilly distorted the record of private and public sector contributions to the economy under current and past administrations, arguing that voters in 2014 have to choose between a return to a "robust private business climate" or a "big government philosophy."
On the March 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly opened the show with a Talking Points memo highlighting the importance of the economy as an electoral issue in 2014. O'Reilly took issue with efforts by Democrats and the president to make climate change a priority for American voters, calling on viewers to choose a more business friendly government going forward.
During the segment, the following graphic appeared on screen:
It is curious that O'Reilly never defines precisely what "robust private business climate" he wants to return to. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private sector employment hit a bottom in February 2010. Since reaching that low, the economy has recovered to the tune of more than 8.6 million private sector jobs. The Obama administration has overseen a net creation of nearly 5 million private sector jobs since taking office in January 2009, despite inheriting the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
By contrast, over the tenure of the George W. Bush administration, private employment decreased by a total of about 600,000 jobs. You have to look all the way back to 1999 -- nearly 15 years ago -- during the Clinton administration to see private sector job creation as robust as current levels.
It is also unclear what O'Reilly means when warning viewers about the alleged current "big government philosophy." The Obama administration has experienced unprecedented levels of public sector job loss since 2009. Meanwhile, past presidents -- including Ronald Reagan -- boosted public sector employment when faced with economic downturns. President George W. Bush added more than a million new government workers during his tenure.
Despite mounting evidence that low minimum wages put pressure on government finances through the need for expanded safety net programs, over the past year, evening news programs on four major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS -- have been largely silent about the public cost of low wages.
In recent months, conservative media figures have undermined efforts by labor groups to organize across the United States, demonizing labor unions in the process. These anti-union attacks are largely reliant on myths alleging negative side-effects of union participation.
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.
Despite the success of many female athletes representing the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics, the legislative reform largely responsible for the growth and success of women's sports in the United States -- Title IX -- has been conspicuously absent from media coverage of the games.
The passage of Title IX in 1972 led to an explosion of women's participation in collegiate sports. The law forbids most educational programs which receive federal funding from discriminating against participants based on sex, and specifically requires equal opportunity in athletic programs for men and women. The National Center for Education Statistics found that thanks to Title IX, women's participation in college-level sports has increased dramatically, particularly in the last decade.
The 2014 Winter Olympics provides even more evidence that the law has had a lasting effect on post-collegiate athletics as well. In the women's two-person bobsled, American women achieved history by taking home silver and bronze medals at the same Olympics. Each of the four women medaling in the event -- Elana Meyers, Lauryn Williams, Aja Evans, and Jamie Greubel -- participated in collegiate athletics before adapting to Olympic bobsled competition thanks to Title IX. The other American team competing in the medal round -- Lolo Jones and Jazmine Fenlator -- was also comprised of athletes who participated in college sport programs that likely owe their existence to educational reforms brought about by Title IX.
Furthermore, this year's gold medal match in women's hockey featured the two best teams in the world, the United States and Canada; of the two teams' 42 combined athletes, 36 played collegiate hockey in the United States (Olympic rosters here and here).
In 2012, when the law's 40th anniversary coincided with the Summer Olympics in London, America's athletic successes garnered praise for the law. Numerous outlets reported on the role of Title IX in leveling the playing field for American female athletes. Media outlets like ESPN and Sports Illustrated dedicated airtime and column space about the role of Title IX for American Olympians. The United States national team celebrated the anniversary with a lengthy and informative piece on its official website. The law was celebrated on The New York Times' official London 2012 blog.
But despite continued Olympic achievement for the United States' women's teams in this year's Winter Olympics, Title IX has received little attention from media this time around.
A Media Matters review of current Olympic coverage from three major print outlets -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal -- revealed no substantive mentions of Title IX as it relates to current or former American Olympians since the start of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games on February 7. A further review of transcripts from broadcast evening -- ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS -- and cable evening and primetime -- CNN, Fox News, MSNBC -- news coverage of the 2014 Olympics shows a similar lack of coverage concerning Title IX's role in encouraging and supporting American female athletes.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening (defined as 5 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and network broadcast news (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS) from February 7, 2014 through February 20, 2014. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: olympics or sochi or title nine or title 9 or title ix.
Media Matters conducted Nexis and Factiva (for The Wall Street Journal) searches for print articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post from February 7, 2014 to February 21, 2014, using the search terms: olympics or sochi or title nine or title 9 or title ix.
The following television programs were included in the data: PBS NewsHour, World News with Diane Sawyer, Evening News (CBS), Nightly News with Brian Williams, The Situation Room, Crossfire, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, Piers Morgan Live, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, The Kelly File, The Ed Show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air re-runs, only the first airing was included in data retrieval.
The New York Times improved its standards for budget reporting over the past four months, providing readers with more adequate context to understand the size and scope of federal programs, budget deficits, and policy proposals.
On October 18, 2013, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan issued a statement affirming the paper's commitment to improving its numbers-based reporting. Sullivan's comments came in response to mounting criticism over how print media's reliance on reporting large numbers devoid of context often confuses and unintentionally misleads readers.
Ongoing Media Matters analysis of print media budget reporting standards confirms that the Times has begun to address these concerns, and now leads two other prominent print outlets -- The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal -- in providing context when reporting numbers.
The Times was less likely than other selected outlets to rely on raw numbers for budget reporting from October 19, 2013 -- the day after Sullivan's statement -- to February 14, 2014. The paper was also more likely than the other newspapers analyzed to provide relevant context. Furthermore, the Times was the most likely to present figures in percentage terms relative to the size of the budget or the size of the economy.*
These results show a deviation from past practices. Media Matters research through the first half of 2013 revealed that the Times relied on out-of-context raw numbers for nearly 67 percent of its reporting concerning the federal budget, the debt and deficit, and spending programs. This reflected roughly the average style of reporting among the three outlets examined.
Despite recent improvement, the paper still relies on out-of-context figures for a majority of its coverage. Sullivan acknowledged in her October 18 statement that "[i]t won't be easy to make these changes happen consistently" across the newspaper's entire staff, but that change is coming "and the sooner, the better."
Hopefully other major outlets follow suit.
Image via Flickr user Frank Sheehan using a Creative Commons License.
CNN's Carol Costello shot down conservative talking points disparaging the minimum wage, correctly noting that raising it would increase incomes and decrease poverty.
On February 18, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released estimates of the economic impacts of proposals to lift the minimum wage to $9.00 and $10.10, respectively. Among the report's summary conclusions was the revelation that the $10.10 option would raise the wages of 16.5 million workers while lifting up to 900,000 Americans out of poverty. Ignoring these positive side-effects, conservative media have focused heavily on estimates that increasing the minimum wage to such levels could reduce full-time employment by approximately 0.3 percent, the equivalent of roughly 500,000 positions.
On the February 19 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Costello was joined by Wall Street Journal editorial board member and Heritage Foundation chief economist Stephen Moore to discuss the CBO report. Moore, a prominent right-wing media figure, rehearsed standard talking points about the alleged disastrous impacts of increasing the minimum wage for low-skilled and entry-level workers.
Despite Moore's efforts, Costello checked his spin at every turn, continually pointing to the positive impacts of increasing the minimum wage.
Costello's strong reporting highlights the important role of media in sifting through misinformation to present unbiased results. While the median estimate of a $10.10 per hour minimum wage was decreased full-time employment, the CBO's projection also concludes that job loss could be "very slight" -- a fact highlighted by Costello. She also noted the positive income effects of increasing the federal minimum wage -- effects that are being ignored in media coverage of the CBO report -- and argued that many Americans would accept marginal job loss in exchange for lifting hundreds of thousands more out of poverty.
Costello's coverage of the minimum wage hopefully reflects a mainstream media trend of actually analyzing policy news, rather than allowing right-wing media to spin the narrative.
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.
Fox wants to know whether the stimulus package signed by President Obama caused a recession.
In recognition of the five-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- commonly known as the stimulus -- Fox Business' Varney & Co. framed a segment around the question of whether it caused a recession.
Fox is just asking, and here is the answer in one simple chart. The most recent recession started in December 2007, over a year before the stimulus bill was signed into law. Since its passage in February 2009, the American economy experienced an immediate positive turn, culminating in more than four years of steady, gradual economic growth.
Fox's disregard for facts in its frantic push to disparage the president and his policies is nothing new, but the basic failure to understand that the economy has been recovering for the past five years marks a new low.
Washington Post columnist and former Republican speechwriter Marc Thiessen erroneously claimed that a recent report shows the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will reduce wages and cause a "$70 billion pay cut" when in fact the report shows that the health care law will result in increased compensation.
On February 4, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its annual 10-year projection of current policy's impact on the budget and economy. The report garnered so much attention following its release that CBO Director Doug Elmendorf was forced to issue a public response refuting misleading allegations that the ACA would erase up to 2.5 million jobs over the next decade.
Having lost the battle to spin the ACA as a job killer, right-wing media have pivoted to a new erroneous claim: Americans will see a "$70 billion pay cut" thanks to the health reform law.
On February 10, Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen published an op-ed claiming that "buried on page 117" of the CBO report was evidence of the ACA depressing American wages. Thiessen spun the report's mention of a "roughly 1 percent reduction in aggregate labor compensation over the 2017-2024 period" to mean that the health care law was taking money out of the pockets of working-class Americans. From The Washington Post:
Obamacare means a 1 percent pay cut for American workers.
How much does that come to? Since wages and salaries were about $6.85 trillion in 2012 and are expected to exceed $7 trillion in 2013 and 2014, a 1 percent reduction in compensation is going to cost American workers at least $70 billion a year in lost wages.
Economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research was quick to note that the next decade will see relative compensation increase as a result of health reform. Had Thiessen included the CBO's actual conclusion in his analysis, he would have found that the CBO projects hours worked to decrease more than relative compensation. From CEPR (emphasis added):
"According to CBO's more detailed analysis, the 1 percent reduction in aggregate compensation that will occur as a result of the ACA corresponds to a reduction of about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent in hours worked. (p 127)"
We checked with Mr. Arithmetic and he pointed out that if hours fall by 1.5 to 2.0 percent, but compensation only falls by 1.0 percent, then compensation per hour rises by 0.5-1.0 percent due to the ACA. In other words, CBO is telling us that for each hour worked, people will be seeing higher, not lower wages. That is the opposite of a pay cut.
In a February 6 New York Times op-ed addressing the CBO's findings, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman arrived at a similar conclusion. Among numerous corrections of right-wing media distortion, Krugman noted that "wages will go up, not down" in response to a marginally and voluntarily diminished supply of labor over the next decade.
This sort of factual analysis is missing from a right-wing media landscape unilaterally aligned against every facet of the ACA. Right-wing media have spent years promoting an array of false claims about the calamitous effects of the health care law, and recent Media Matters research exposed conservative media turning to misrepresentations of the CBO's findings to support claims that the ACA is going to destroy the job market.