Kevin Zieber

Author ››› Kevin Zieber
  • Wall Street Journal Offers Distorted Diagnosis On Employment Picture

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN ZIEBER

    Wall Street Journal op-ed ignored important factors affecting the rate of participation in the American workforce to blame its decline on government programs. The op-ed by economist Richard Vedder left out the fact that the baby boomer generation is beginning to retire in large numbers, a shift that contributes to the decline in workforce participation. 

    Vedder's op-ed blamed government programs that assist the unemployed and people with disabilities for the declining labor-force participation rate, alleging that fewer people are working "due mainly to a variety of public policies that have reduced the incentives to be employed." Though Vedder lists food stamps, extended unemployment benefits, and Social Security disability payments as the primary factors driving down participation in the workforce, these programs actually have a proven stimulative effect on the economy.

    Vedder wrote that "if the government provides food, then the imperative to work is severely reduced." In reality, food stamps have been repeatedly shown to stimulate growth. Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi told Congress in 2008 that food stamps were "the most effective way to prime the economy's pump." Zandi estimated every $1 spent on food stamp payments boosts gross domestic product by $1.73. Food stamp spending is also projected to fall significantly in the coming years, according to data compiled by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

    Vedder then claimed that extended unemployment benefits amount to "pay[ing] people to stay at home," though multiple studies find that unemployment benefits are stimulative, providing needed demand in the economy when growth is slow. The Congressional Budget Office in January 2010 recommended extending unemployment benefits to stimulate the economy:

    Additionally, the Social Security disability payments that Vedder attacks are difficult to obtain. As Media Matters has documented, the Social Security Administration denies over half of the disability claims it receives. Moreover, the average disabled worker receiving those benefits gets less than $14,000 per year, well below the poverty line.

    One of the most glaring omissions in Vedder's op-ed, however, is his failure to mention that a significant reason for the decline in the labor force participation rate is the aging and retiring population. Though the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago wrote that "just under half" of the decline in workforce participation "can be traced to long-running demographic patterns," Vedder chose not to include it.

    The CBPP came to a similar conclusion that labor force participation was significantly impacted by baby boomers beginning to retire:

    Our findings support the conclusions of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and analysts at the Federal Reserve banks of Chicago and Kansas City, who find that an aging population accounts for an important piece of the recent drop in labor force participation.  Those experts generally conclude that about half of the drop in labor force participation since 2007 (the start of the economic downturn), and about a third of the drop since 2000 (when the rate hit its all-time high), stems from an aging population.

  • The Wall Street Journal Ignores GOP Priorities To Accuse Obama Of Demonizing His Opponents

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN ZIEBER

    The Wall Street Journal ignored Republican legislative priorities to claim that President Obama demonized his opponents by saying they are suspicious of Social Security, helping kids in poverty get enough to eat, or providing government funding for medical research. In fact, the Republican budget guru, Rep. Paul Ryan has made proposals to gut Social Security, programs to help feed low-income children, and medical research funding. And the Journal has endorsed many of these proposals.

    During a January 14 press conference, President Obama said:

    [House Republicans] have a particular vision about what government should and should not do. So they are suspicious about government's commitments, for example, to make sure that seniors have decent health care as they get older. They have suspicions about Social Security. They have suspicions about whether government should make sure that kids in poverty are getting enough to eat, or whether we should be spending money on medical research. So they've got a particular view of what government should do and should be.

    A Wall Street Journal editorial responded to that passage by accusing Obama of "attributing to his political opponents only base motives and beliefs they don't come close to holding." The paper dared Obama to "identify by name those who want to repeal Social Security, steal food from orphans and cancel science funding." But it's not hard to find a Republican who advocates the cuts Obama named. One has to look no further than Ryan, the Chairman of the House Budget Committee and the Republicans' 2012 vice presidential nominee.

    In 2010, Paul Ryan released a budget proposal that would have partially privatized Social Security by diverting "large sums from Social Security to private accounts," which would "leave the program facing insolvency in about 30 years," according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Ryan proposed even more drastic cuts to Social Security in 2004 when he sought to divert half of the funds for Social Security into private accounts.

    Ryan has also authored budget proposals that would result in large cuts from programs that primarily serve low- and moderate-income taxpayers including food stamps. Ryan's 2012 budget, which the Wall Street Journal supported, plan called for $134 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) benefits. A March 2012 analysis of the plan from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities detailed where the cuts in Ryan's plan would come from:

    The documents also show $166 billion in mandatory cuts in the education, training, employment, and social services portion of the budget (function 500), which, based on the discussion in the Ryan budget documents, would likely come mainly from the mandatory portion of the Pell Grant program for low-income students.

    The report included this chart:

    Paul Ryan's budget would have almost certainly resulted in huge cuts to medical research. Ryan's 2012 proposal included cuts to all non-defense discretionary spending, which includes grant funding for medical and scientific research, that would have reduced spending from 12.5 percent of GDP to a paltry 3.75 percent by 2050, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Reducing the level of spending by that much would essentially mean doing away with all but the most basic functions of government, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

    Since, as CBO notes, "spending for defense alone has not been lower than 3 percent of GDP in any year [since World War II]" and Ryan seeks a high level of defense spending -- he increases defense funding by $228 billion over the next ten years above the pre-sequestration baseline -- the rest of government would largely have to disappear.  That includes everything from veterans' programs to medical and scientific research, highways, education, nearly all programs for low-income families and individuals other than Medicaid, national parks, border patrols, protection of food safety and the water supply, law enforcement, and the like. 

  • Fox Host Debunks The Network's Own Charge Of Obama's Hypocrisy On Guns

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN ZIEBER

    Fox News host Alisyn Camerota deflated the network's bogus attack that past comments from President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden demonstrated hypocrisy on gun rights.

    Biden met with gun rights activists at the White House Thursday to discuss possible courses of action to curb gun violence. Fox & Friends responded to discussion of a comprehensive gun violence prevention program by accusing the White House of hypocrisy, suggesting the White House would renege on past statements and attempt to take away guns.

    To support his charge of hypocrisy, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy cited a 2008 rally in which Biden said: "Barack Obama ain't taking my shotguns, so don't buy that malarkey." He also played the following deceptively cropped 2008 campaign speech by Barack Obama:

    OBAMA (VIDEO CLIP): So I don't want any misunderstanding. When ya'll go home and you're talking to your buddies, and they say, "He wants to take my gun away," you've heard it here, I'm on television so everybody knows it, I believe in the Second Amendment, I believe in people's lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away, I will not take your rifle away, I won't take your handgun away. 

    The charges of hypocrisy are fatally flawed, however, as co-host Alisyn Camerota quickly pointed out. After playing the segments, Camerota asked: "How is that hypocrisy? [Obama is] not talking about taking -- confiscating people's guns." Indeed, the White House has not yet made any concrete proposals and continues to meet with gun violence victims, gun rights advocates, and other stakeholders.

    The hypocrisy charge is even more flawed than Camerota said because a given that part of Obama's 2008 comments were missing from the clip Fox aired. In the full clip, President Obama explicitly says: "There are some common-sense gun safety laws that I believe in. But I am not going to take your guns away." 

  • Fox Pushes Canard That Businesses Are Punishing Workers In Response To Affordable Care Act

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN ZIEBER

    Fox News misrepresented how Darden Restaurants and Denny's are responding to the Affordable Care Act in order to suggest that the Affordable Care Act is harming workers and driving up prices.

    An owner of a number of Wendy's restaurants in Omaha, Nebraska announced that the franchise would cut employees' hours to avoid providing health care for many of its workers. Fox Business host Stuart Varney dishonestly argued that the decision by this one Wendy's franchise owner was part of larger trend, citing moves by Darden Restaurants and Denny's to bolster his claim.

    But Varney's reference to Darden Restaurants and Denny's is wrong. Darden, the owner of the Olive Garden, announced in October that the company would scale back employee hours to avoid having to provide health insurance. Darden subsequently backed off and confirmed it would not move full-time employees to part-time status.

    In the case of Denny's, John Metz, the owner of dozens of Denny's restaurants, announced a plan to institute a five percent surcharge to all his customers' checks but later did not go through with his plan. After Metz announced his plan, Denny's chief executive John Miller contacted him to express that the surcharge was "inconsistent with our values."  Miller told the Huffington Post in an email that he was disappointed "that [Metz's] comments have been interpreted as the company's position." Miller added:

    "Unfortunately, the comments of this franchisee, who represents less than 1 percent of our system and who owns restaurants in other concepts, has been portrayed as reflective of the entire Denny's brand," Miller said. "I am confident his perspective is not shared by the company or hundreds of franchisees/small business owners who make up the majority of the Denny's community. Specifically, his comments suggesting that guests might reduce the customary tip provided to their server as an offset to his proposed surcharge are inconsistent with our values and approach to business throughout our brand."

    Metz did not go through with the 5 percent surcharge.

    These fast food restaurants have rescinded their plans to cut hours or increase prices, in part as a result of strong negative public reaction. In addition, a study conducted by the Urban Institute found that the health care law would have a "negligible impact" on most business' costs and could save money for small businesses employing 100 or fewer workers.

  • Fox Regular Baselessly Claims That Closing The Gun Show Loophole Would Ban Private Sale Of Firearms

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN ZIEBER

    Regular Fox News guest Kate Obenshain criticized the Obama administration's reported forthcoming push to require background checks for all potential gun buyers, claiming it would keep her from selling a gun to her neighbor. In fact, it would only prevent such sales if the purchaser was not legally permitted to own the weapon.

    The Washington Post has reported that a working group led by Vice President Biden is considering measures to prevent gun violence. Neither the White House nor the working group has proposed any legislation banning private sales altogether as Obenshain suggested on Fox & Friends when she said that banning "individuals from being able to sell guns to other individuals" is what "closing the gun show loophole is about."

    Instead, the Post reported that the White House is considering requiring every would-be gun purchaser to submit to a background check when they try to buy a firearm; federal law currently requires such a check only if the gun is bought from a licensed firearms dealer. These background checks determine whether or not the intended buyer is legally allowed to own a gun, or is banned from gun ownership due to mental health or a criminal record. Several states already have universal background checks to prevent gun sales to felons and other prohibited purchasers while still allowing the private sale of firearms, provided the buyer undergoes a background check.

    In the absence of a universal background check requirement, private sellers at gun shows have proven to be a source of weapons trafficked to Mexican drug cartels. According to a 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms singled out private sellers at gun shows as a source of guns used by drug cartels:

    In addition to these firearms that are successfully traced back to a retail dealer, some ATF officials told us, based on information from their operations and investigations, many seized guns also come from private sales at gun shows, though it is impossible to know this exact number due to the lack of records kept for such purchases. 

    Though more recent figures are unavailable, a 1997 study from the Department of Justice found that private gun sales outside of stores also make up an estimated 40 percent of all firearm sales.

    Moreover, Obenshain is at odds with the overwhelming majority of NRA members and gun owners who support universal background checks. A poll conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns in July found that 74 percent of NRA members and 87 percent of non-NRA gun owners support "requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun."

  • Fox's Distorted Picture Of How Planned Parenthood Spends Federal Funds

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN ZIEBER

    Fox News misrepresented how Planned Parenthood uses the federal funds it receives, falsely suggesting the organization spends hundreds of millions of federal dollars on abortions. In fact, Planned Parenthood's federal dollars go to other critical women's health services and the organization spends a small percentage of its overall budget on providing abortions.

    Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy discussed Planned Parenthood's newly-released 2011-12 annual report and focused on the $542 million the organization received from the federal government during the twelve months covered by the report. Doocy asserted that the $542 million constituted "a lot of abortions."

    In fact, Congress has barred Planned Parenthood from using federal funds for abortion service. The federal funds Planned Parenthood receives are strictly required by law to fund only family planning services, not abortion. Later during the segment, frequent Fox News guest host Laura Ingraham acknowledged that Planned Parenthood segregates its federal funds and does not use any of it on abortion, but she dismissed this fact, claiming that the money is fungible and Planned Parenthood makes about "400-something million off of the abortion procedure."

    Ingraham's fungibility argument makes little sense, however, because abortion services make up a very small part of the services the organization provides. According to Planned Parenthood's latest annual report, abortion services made up a mere three percent of the services performed in 2011:

    Furthermore, Ingraham's claim that Planned Parenthood makes $400 million from abortions is completely incorrect. According to its annual report, the organization actually received $311.5 million from non-governmental sources for the health care services it provided in 2011-12. According to Politifact, anti-abortion activists generally claim that Planned Parenthood receives far less than $400 million for abortion services, and even if their claims are correct, Planned Parenthood receives only 13 percent of its total revenue from abortion services.

  • Fox's Ed Henry Hides The Danger Of Another Debt Ceiling Fight

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN ZIEBER

    Fox News correspondent Ed Henry concealed the fact that the debt ceiling battle last July damaged the economy. Economic experts agree that the Republicans' brinkmanship during the previous fight over the debt ceiling cost the economy significantly and that another fight over the borrowing limit could be even more costly.

    In a segment on the House of Representatives' vote to choose a Speaker of the House, Henry reported that the president signaled he would not debate the debt ceiling because "he believes a year and a half ago when they had that last debate about lifting the nation's debt ceiling it was detrimental to the economy." Although Henry presented this as Obama's opinion, the Government Accountability Office estimated that "delays in raising the debt limit in 2011 led to an increase in Treasury's borrowing costs of about $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2011."

    Henry went on to report that Republicans including Senator Mitch McConnell felt the debt ceiling was one of the only mechanisms the Republicans had to force more spending cuts without noting the economic damage the last debt ceiling debate actually caused.

    Following the last debt ceiling fight, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S.'s credit rating and released a statement citing "political brinksmanship" and the threat of default as "political bargaining chips" among its reasons for the downgrade. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that "the ten-year cost to taxpayers caused by the delay in raising the debt limit will amount to $18.9 billion."

    Moody's Analytics, another credit rating agency, warned last June that a downgrade was possible if the debt ceiling was not raised and Congress came close to default.

    Not only was the previous debt ceiling fight costly and unnecessary, but economic experts say that a similar standoff would be even more costly. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote that "the damage from the U.S. government defaulting on its obligations, even briefly, would be serious and lasting." The Washington Post's Ezra Klein warned that by holding up an increase in the debt ceiling to exact spending cuts, the GOP is threatening a "congressionally induced global financial crisis."

    Henry's report failed to note any of the real damage to the economy caused by the last walk to the brink of default. Fox News loudly supported the previous GOP attempt to use the debt ceiling to reap spending cuts, encouraging a default if necessary. 

  • Fox & Friends 2012: A Year Of Low Lights


    Another year of Fox & Friends saw co-hosts Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy, and Brian Kilmeade preside over broadcasts replete with errors, gaffes, and downright falsehoods. Here are some of the show's more glaring low lights.

    Fox & Friends Mocked U.S. Olympic Team Headgear

    During the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, Fox & Friends criticized the U.S. Olympic team's Opening Ceremony uniforms. The red, white, and blue uniforms, designed by American company Ralph Lauren, were topped by navy berets with red and white stripes.

    Fox & Friends mocked this sartorial decision, with Doocy asking: "Should the American team be wearing a beret? Why not a baseball cap? Why not a cowboy hat like when we went to Calgary."

    In fact, berets have been a part of U.S. military attire "unofficially as early as 1954" and as part of the official uniform as early as 1961. Ten years before, the 2002 U.S. Olympic team had worn powder blue berets during the Winter Games.

    Fox & Friends Pretended Obama Met With A Pirate Instead of Netanyahu

    In honor of "Talk Like A Pirate Day," the Obama campaign Twitter account posted a photo of President Obama in the Oval Office with a man dressed as a pirate.

    Fox & Friends, jumping on the Drudge Report's misinformation about the photo, accused Obama of meeting with the pirate while ignoring to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he was in the country. But Netanyahu did not meet with Obama when he was in the United States because of a scheduling conflict.

    Moreover, the Obama pirate picture has been available on the White House's flickr account at least since May 8, 2009. CBS reported on the photo on May 12, 2009, less than two months after Netanyahu formed a government.

    Though the show did not issue a correction, Fox & Friends' twitter account and Doocy's twitter account later noted that the picture was from 2009.