The Wall Street Journal used a positive jobs report to urge Republican lawmakers to block an extension of unemployment benefits, ignoring the ongoing need for extended benefits and the harm that cutting them would have for the ongoing economic recovery.
A December 6 Journal editorial highlighted the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) November jobs report which found that the "jobless rate hit 7% in November" and that "nearly every statistic pointed in a stronger direction." The Journal used the news to push Republican policymakers to reject a proposed extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, concluding that the positive news "underscores that Republicans should hold fast against another expansion of federal jobless benefits," and claiming that jobless benefits have not been shown to have a positive economic effect:
The November report also underscores that Republicans should hold fast against another expansion of federal jobless benefits. Democrats and the White House want to include this in a House-Senate budget despite a cost of as much as $25 billion that would go straight to the deficit.
Their amazing economic rationale is that every $1 in jobless benefits yields $1.80 in higher GDP. This is the famous Keynesian "multiplier" that didn't work in the 2008 or 2009 stimulus binges. The basic argument is that if the government pays more people not to work, then more people will end up working. If you believe that, you probably also think ObamaCare will shrink the deficit.
But despite the positive jobs report, the need to extend unemployment benefits remains high. In a November 7 report, the Economic Policy Institute found that the "ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is 2.9-to-1, as high as the highest the ratio ever got in the early 2000s downturn," [emphasis original] making the extension "[a]bsolutely" necessary." It noted that congressional failure to extend the benefits would have a devastating macroeconomic effects, resulting in the loss of "roughly 310,000 jobs that would be supported by continuing UI benefit extensions through 2014," -- a loss that would increase the overall unemployment rate by around 0.2 percentage points. In an email to The New York Times, JPMorgan Chase chief United States economist Michael Feroli stated that failure to extend UI benefits "could shave 0.4 percentage point off growth in the first quarter next year."
Extending unemployment benefits does not create a disincentive to work, especially during periods of high unemployment. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) called such claims "seriously overblown, especially in the current jobs slump." As the CBPP noted in November, "arguments that emergency UI benefits are an important contributor to today's high unemployment have cause and effect backwards" [emphasis original] and "EUC benefits help create that additional demand and contribute to job creation." The November EPI report similarly disputed claims that extended unemployment benefits encourage unemployment:
In the two most careful studies available on the effects of UI extensions on job search in the Great Recession ... both find a very small increase in the duration of unemployment arising from the extensions, but they find that this is primarily because workers who receive UI benefits are less likely to simply give up looking for work.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board attacked Democrats for passing a filibuster rule change as "radicals" who "view the minority as an inconvenience to be rolled," though the Journal supported the same change in 2005, when it pushed Republicans not to "let a willful minority deny the President's nominees a vote."
On November 22, the Journal editorial board attacked the rule change -- which allows the Senate to confirm judicial nominees with a simple majority vote -- as "Rules For Radicals," and claimed that the Democrats' vote was prodded through by "younger liberals in a hurry" who "view the minority as an inconvenience to be rolled." The Journal falsely claimed that the Senate rule change was "bloody-minded" behavior which would allow Democrats "to pack the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals," but found a "silver lining" in the prospect of Republicans using the change for their benefit in the future:
The silver lining is that the end of the nominee filibuster will work for conservatives too. The next time they hold the Senate and White House, Republicans should employ the same weapon. Democrats are pretending that they are only breaking the filibuster for lower-court nominees, not for the Supreme Court. They can dream on.
The Journal seems to have forgotten the fact that it supported a similar push for filibuster reform in 2005. A May 2005 editorial urged Republicans not to "let a willful minority deny the President's nominees a vote on the Senate floor" (emphasis added):
This will not be the world's greatest deliberative body's greatest moment, and the only thing we know for sure about what will happen next is that the reputation of the Senate will suffer. It's a shame it has come to this. But at this point it would be worse if Republicans let a willful minority deny the President's nominees a vote on the Senate floor.
This is at its core a political fight, and elections ought to mean something. Republicans have gained Senate seats in two consecutive elections in which judicial nominations were among the most important issues, including against the Senate Minority Leader. The one Democrat from a red state who won last year, Ken Salazar of Colorado, did so by promising to oppose judicial filibusters; he now seems to have changed his mind after sipping the Beltway's partisan punch.
Perhaps the coming showdown will lead to more political bitterness, but we doubt Democrats will be able to follow through on their pledge to shut down the Senate; the public wants other things done. And who knows? If Democrats can't succeed any longer in legislating through the courts, maybe they'll even return to trying to win power the old-fashioned way, through elections.
A January 2005 Journal editorial also said that a move to change the Senate rules would "restore the Founders' intent when they gave the Senate the responsibility of confirming or rejecting a President's judicial picks. The Constitution requires a simple majority vote and says nothing about a super-majority of 60 being needed to stop a filibuster." The paper added: "Whether it's nuked or not, the judicial filibuster deserves to be defeated."
The Journal's current opposition to the rule change further hides the fact that President Obama's nominees have faced a significantly more hostile political environment than any previous administration. While Democrats under President Bush blocked a handful of nominees whom they considered ideologically extreme, Republicans have engaged in an unprecedented effort to obstruct the confirmations of virtually all Obama nominees, including some positions for which they say they will accept no nominee at all. In fact, almost half of all filibusters of presidential nominees in the history of the United States have occurred during Obama's presidency:
Source: Senate Democrats
The language in this post has been updated for clarity.
Fox News claimed the Obamacare rollout has "clearly" been worse for the American people than the government shutdown, because the shutdown's "biggest inconvenience" was a few closed national parks and memorials -- ignoring the shutdown's cuts to domestic violence centers, women and children's food and health care, stalled scientific research, and severe economic losses.
On the November 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox legal analyst Andrew Napolitano held a "pop quiz" to determine "[w]hich was more harmful to your personal freedoms," Obamacare or the government shutdown? Both decided that there was no contest: Doocy proclaimed that Obamacare was "clearly" worse than the "slimdown," and Napolitano agreed that it was "[n]ot even a close call." As evidence, Napolitano pointed out that "the biggest inconvenience" of the government shutdown was "a couple hundred well-intended people trying to get into national parks and monuments and the government had closed them." In contrast, he claimed that Obamacare hurts people by forcing them to buy expensive "high end, one-size-fits-all" health insurance policies.
Fox's faulty comparison ignored the significant impacts of the government shutdown, which harmed the economy and slashed funding to necessary programs for low-income Americans.
Because of the shutdown, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a program that helps provide health care for at-risk babies and "helps new mothers feed themselves and their babies properly," saw its funding slashed, and states that were unable to lend the program local funds were forced to stop accepting enrollees. The shutdown also cut federal funding to at least 2,000 shelters for victims of domestic abuse, workplace safety inspections were halted, federal workers stopped inspecting toxic waste sites, and the CDC stopped monitoring the spread of the flu. National Geographic further reported that the shutdown caused long-term setbacks in scientific research, and The Washington Post detailed how the shutdown's fallout cost low-income workers their economic stability.
The shutdown also did lasting damage to the U.S. economy. Moody's Analytics estimated that the shutdown "cut real GDP by $20 billion, shaving half a percentage point off growth in the fourth quarter," according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report. CRS also noted that "JP Morgan Chase's chief economist was quoted as estimating that the shutdown reduced fourth quarter growth by 0.5 percentage points, with half the reduction attributable to lower government spending and half to 'spillover effects and lost activity' in the rest of the economy." The shutdown also eroded consumer confidence and may have derailed our gradual economic recovery, and economists argue that the shutdown will have lingering effects on the labor market and overall economy for several months.
Napolitano's argument that "5,500,000 innocent Americans were told they don't - they won't have health insurance on January 1st" is also inaccurate. Fox has repeatedly worked to hide the fact that rather than losing coverage outright, most of these consumers are simply being offered new, often better, options because policies will be required to include basic standards of care. Moreover, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, though rocky, has successfully allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to sign up for Medicaid.
Fox News is manufacturing outrage over Obama's decision not to attend the commemoration ceremony for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and baselessly speculating that Obama's resentment over the nation's unfinished business "in bringing the country and its races together" may be the cause. In fact, William Howard Taft is the only sitting president to have ever visited Gettysburg on the anniversary of the address.
Fox News's Brian Kilmeade discussed with Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger whether it is "inappropriate for our president to bypass" the commemoration ceremony of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address during the November 19 edition of Fox & Friends. At one point Kilmeade asked whether Henninger thought Obama was refusing to attend because "after that address and after the Civil War we still weren't a perfect union? We still had to wait for the Civil Rights Act and so many -- the integration of schools, Brown vs. the Board of Education?" Henninger replied, "I think probably that President Obama does think the unfinished business remains unfinished in bringing the country and its races together."
But Obama's decision not to attend the Gettysburg commemoration ceremony is typical for a sitting president. President Reagan did not attend the 125th commemoration of the Gettysburg Address - in fact, Reagan never visited Gettysburg during his tenure in office. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton also never visited the battlefield as president, and President George W. Bush toured the site in 2008, but did not speak or attend a commemoration ceremony. In fact, according to Hanover, Pennsylvania's local paper, The Evening Sun, William Howard Taft was the only sitting president to ever visit the site on the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (emphasis added):
According to documents supplied by the Adams County Historical Society, 16 presidents have visited Gettysburg while they were in office -- Lincoln on Nov. 19, 1863; Rutherford B. Hayes on May 30, 1878; Grover Cleveland May 4, 1885; Theodore Roosevelt on May 30, 1904; William H. Taft on Nov. 19, 1909; Woodrow Wilson on July 3, 1913; Warren G. Harding on July 1, 1922; Calvin Coolidge on May 30, 1928; Herbert Hoover on May 30, 1930; Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 30, 1934, and July 3, 1938; Harry S. Truman on July 6, 1946; Dwight D. Eisenhower on Nov. 13, 1955; John F. Kennedy on March 31, 1963; Richard M. Nixon on April 3, 1972; Jimmy Carter on July 6 and Sept. 11, 1978, and George W. Bush on Sept. 6, 2008.
The National Journal's George Condon reported of presidential visits to Gettysburg, "not all went willingly, and all tried to avoid speech comparisons with Lincoln."
Attacking Obama for this type of perceived snub is nothing new. In June 2010, Fox host Gretchen Carlson hyped Obama's supposed "perception problem" because he "did not acknowledge the D-Day anniversary as it passed this year," while ignoring the fact that Obama's D-Day commemorations mirror the Bush administration's; both commemorated D-Day on significant anniversaries but not annually.
In fact, Fox has routinely set up a double standard for Obama, attacking his actions even when they mirror those of previous Republican presidents. Fox News has criticized President Obama for shaking hands with Hugo Chavez, but ignored President Bush's handshake with Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov; scrutinized Obama's church attendance -- while ignoring Bush's infrequent church attendance; and asked whether Obama was "disrespecting the Oval Office," because of a picture showing him with his feet up on the office's desk, though a nearly identical photo shows Bush doing the same thing.
Media fell for another misleading leak from the House Oversight Committee when they hyped allegations that the Obama administration ignored HealthCare.gov security warnings -- though the warnings were for a portion of the site that will not be operational until early 2014.
On November 11, a CBS News report cited selectively leaked partial transcripts from Affordable Care Act (ACA) opponent Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to claim that "the project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security." The network was criticized by Maddow producer Steve Benen when he found that the warnings referenced a function of the health care website that won't be active until early 2014 and has nothing to do with the parts of the website that are currently in use. A Democratic staffer Benen talked to also said that this part of the website "will not submit or share personally identifiable information."
CBS' faulty report aired just days after the network faced widespread criticism and was forced to apologize for failing properly vet an unreliable source that was prominently featured in the network's October 27 60 Minutes report on the Benghazi attack. But CBS wasn't the only outlet to promote misleading claims from the leaked Oversight Committee transcript.
On November 11, The New York Times reported that The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Henry Chao, "[t]he chief digital architect for the federal health insurance marketplace," was "not aware of tests that indicated potential security flaws in the system, which opened to the public on Oct. 1," citing excerpts released by Issa. The same day, FoxNews.com claimed that Obamacare security concerns had been "withheld," but never mentioned that its story was based on a partial transcript. CNN's New Day, and Fox News' America's Newsroom and On The Record with Greta Van Susteren all ran the story on November 12. The Associated Press repeated the claim "Chao was unaware of a memo earlier that month detailing unresolved security issues" as late as November 13 -- after contradictory reports had surfaced.
The media's failure to confirm the suggestions made by partial transcripts from the House Oversight Committee is a significant oversight, considering the committee chairman Darrell Issa's history of releasing misleading material the press.
The Wall Street Journal hid widespread popular support for Obama administration initiatives, including immigration reform, expansion of early childhood education, and increasing the minimum wage.
A November 10 Wall Street Journal article suggested that a recent dip in the president's approval ratings created "new complications for his second-term agenda" and could hinder his efforts to "enlist the public as allies in the push to pass an immigration overhaul, expand access to early-childhood education and raise the minimum wage." The Journal's suggestion ignores that immigration reform, early childhood education, and a minimum wage increase already draw high levels of popular support.
Public support for immigration reform is high. A January Associated Press poll on Americans' view of immigration reform found "major increase in support" for immigration reform efforts following the 2012 election, as "more than 6 in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens." Politico reported on November 7 that recent polling reveals this support has remained strong; a majority of Americans are now "more likely to support a candidate who backs immigration reform," and 73 percent of voters surveyed nationwide would support a pathway to citizenship, "if it includes requirements to cough up penalties, learn English, pass background checks, pay taxes and wait at least 13 years."
The President's immigration proposal includes those provisions, creating a pathway that requires applicants to wait multiple years before obtaining citizenship, pay their taxes and a penalty, learn English, and undergo background checks. A Congressional Budget Office found that the proposal would greatly benefit American workers and the economy over the long term, increasing wages and GDP over the next twenty years.
Studies from the National Bureau Of Economic Research and the Economic Policy Institute have also found that immigration tends to increase average wages for native-born workers over the long term, and UCLA professor and immigration expert Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda found that passing comprehensive immigration reform would add at least $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy over 10 years.
Early Childhood Education
Gallup polling found that 84 percent of Americans believe that investing in early childhood education is either "very important" (61 percent) or somewhat important (23 percent) to America's future, and found that almost two out of three Americans are willing to support preschool programs for children from low-income households with taxes.
Obama has proposed the Preschool for All Initiative, aimed to improve quality and expand access to preschool for low- and moderate-income children, in addition to expanding Head Start, a grant program that funds comprehensive early childhood education programs across the country, which include health, nutrition, and social services.
Studies from Health and Human Services have shown that Head Start programs had significant health benefits for children and parents, and the National Bureau of Economic Research found that many Head Start participants were more likely to complete high school. The National Education Association (NEA) says that early childhood education programs generate a twelve percent return on investment, making it "one of the best investments our country can make," which "yields significant long-term benefits" for students later in life.
A strong majority of Americans support increasing the minimum wage. In July 2013, a poll by Hart Research Associates found that 80 percent of Americans supported President Obama and Senate Democrats' proposal of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10. Among Republicans, 62 percent agreed. Support for such proposals is consistently high. In February 2013, after President Obama pushed for a minimum wage increase to nine dollars during his State of The Union Address, a USA Today/Pew Research Center poll found that 71 percent of Americans supported the plan.
At the ballot box, all of the statewide minimum wage increases that have been proposed since 1998 have passed, including a recent constitutional amendment in New Jersey which voters overwhelmingly supported. Business owners also favor an increase: an April poll by Small Business Majority found that a "67% majority of small business owners agree the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour should increase, and that it should be adjusted annually to keep pace with the cost of living."
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) says that a minimum wage increase to $10.10 would be a "win for workers," positively impacting "nearly one in every five workers in the country." A February 2013 survey of economists conducted by the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business found broad support for President Obama's previous call for raising the minimum wage to $9.00. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has explained that raising the minimum wage has no "discernible impact" on employment, and that wage increases often result in more jobs rather than less.
Fox News has stoked outrage over the plan changes in the individual health insurance market, charging Obama with "government malpractice" and calling him a liar for supposedly not informing people that plans would change. But Fox's hyperbolic attacks ignore the fact that these changes are not only common in the individual market, but also that the administration announced them years ago.
Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.
Fox News obscured Republicans' role in creating a Medicaid coverage gap in the administration's health care expansion to hype one woman's coverage loss as an example of Obama's broken promises.
Fox host Elisabeth Hasselbeck welcomed guest Tammy Fiechtner onto the November 1 Fox & Friends to discuss a letter she received from her insurer explaining that she's being automatically moved to a new insurance plan. Hasselbeck hyped "what's being called the Obamacare coverage gap," saying, despite the letter, that she "hasn't gotten a new plan. In fact, she doesn't have coverage at all." Fiechtner's comments shed more light on her predicament; the new plan she was being moved to had a similar premium, but a higher deductible. Fiechtner then explained that after exploring her options, she found that she would have qualified for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s expansion of the program, but her Republican-led home state of Nebraska chose not to accept the Medicaid expansion (emphasis added):
FIECHTNER: When we went on the website, we found out that we didn't qualify for Obamacare because of how our business structure works. So, we were told that we had to go on Medicaid, which I don't understand why I have to be on Medicaid, but that's where they directed us to. Nebraska did not expand Medicaid, so there will be no help for people like ourselves. So we now are forced to buy a new plan all on own and face these expenses by ourselves.
As The New York Times reported, the ACA was "written to require all Americans to have health coverage" and "about 30 million uninsured Americans were to have become eligible for financial help" through subsidies for lower-income earners and the Medicaid expansion. According to the Times, the Supreme Court's 2012 decision to allow states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion left millions of low-income consumers without financial help in acquiring insurance:
But the Supreme Court's ruling on the health care law last year, while upholding it, allowed states to choose whether to expand Medicaid. Those that opted not to leave about eight million uninsured people who live in poverty ($19,530 for a family of three) without any assistance at all.
Hasselbeck's attempt to lay the blame for Fiechtner's situation on President Obama papers over Republicans' role in sabotaging access to affordable health insurance. As Politico reported in a November 1 story headlined "The Obamacare sabotage campaign," there is "a strong factual basis" for the charge that "calculated sabotage by Republicans at every step" has undermined key points of the law -- including the Medicaid expansion -- and has seriously damaged the overall rollout (emphasis added):
The Wall Street Journal provided a platform for the Employment Policies Institute, a lobbying group with ties to the fast food industry, to push misleading claims about the effects of minimum wage increases -- but the Journal failed to disclose the group's connections.
On October 28, the Journal posted an op-ed from Michael Saltsman that dismissed low-wage workers' recent push for a minimum wage increase and claimed the "vast majority of people earning the minimum wage aren't working at large corporations with 1,000 or more employees." Saltsman used this claim to suggest that small businesses would be hurt if forced to "bear the brunt" of increases in the minimum wage -- a common right-wing media myth that has been repeatedly undermined by economic data. The Journal's disclaimer identified Saltsman simply as the "research director at the Employment Policies Institute."
But the Journal's disclaimer doesn't mention that Saltsman's employer is a front group for corporate lobbyist Richard Berman, who lobbies for, among others, the restaurant industry. In 2007, CBS noted that Berman "takes a certain pride, even joy, in the nickname 'Dr. Evil,' " and reported:
His real name is Rick Berman, a Washington lobbyist and arch-enemy of other lobbyists and do-gooders who would have government control--and even ban-a myriad of products they claim are killing us, products like caffeine, salt, fast food and the oil they fry it in. He's against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, animal rights activists, food watchdog groups and unions of every kind.
He has come up with a clever system of non-profit educational entities. Companies can make charitable donations to these groups, which have names like Center for Consumer Freedom and Center for Union Facts. They are neutral sounding but "educating," with a particular point of view, all perfectly legal.
Berman and his staff of young crusaders attack the nanny culture by combing through watchdog and government reports, seeking inconsistencies, overstatements, seizing on the one fact here or there that might discredit the research. And Berman says he's rarely disappointed.
"He's a one-man goon squad for any company that's willing to hire him," says Dr. Michael Jacobson, who heads the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a healthy food advocacy group. Jacobson has been the point man in the "food wars" for decades.
Who are the companies that support Berman?
"The food industry, the beverage industry, alcoholic beverage industry, the restaurant industry's a major supporter. He doesn't disclose the names of his funders," Jacobson says.
Saltsman's claims are just another example of the Employment Policies Institute's track record of using misleading studies to claim that minimum wage increases would hurt the economy without providing real evidence. From the Center for Media and Democracy:
In 1995, EPI lashed out at Princeton University professors David Card and Alan Krueger, after they published a survey of fast-food restaurants which found no loss in the number of jobs in New Jersey after implementing an increase in the state's minimum wage. Berman accused Card and Krueger of using bad data, citing contrary figures that his own institute had collected from some of the same restaurants. But whereas Card and Krueger had surveyed 410 restaurants, Berman's outfit only collected data from 71 restaurants and has refused to make its data publicly available so that other researchers can assess whether it "cherry-picked" restaurants to create a sample that would support its predetermined conclusions.
The Wall Street Journal has a responsibility to disclose the Employment Policies Institute's corporate lobbying ties when providing a platform for such commentary.