Pennsylvania's five largest newspapers have generally failed to cover the mounting defections of lawmakers and corporations from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing advocacy group whose membership and model legislation have had significant influence on Pennsylvania government.
The Oklahoman's straight news coverage of the controversial natural gas extraction process of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") has been slanted in favor of the process under the ownership of energy tycoon Philip Anschutz, who acquired the paper in September 2011. The paper's opinion page has been one-sided -- devoid of voices warning readers about the potential health risks and environmental dangers of loosely regulated fracking activities.
On Wednesday, the New Hampshire Union Leader penned a misleading editorial about the tax rates different groups of Americans paid as a percentage of their income. The piece attacked President Obama's call for wealthy Americans to pay more by claiming "the rich and super-rich pay a far higher percentage of their income in taxes than the lower and middle classes do." From the Union Leader:
As you can see, the rich and super-rich pay a far higher percentage of their income in taxes than the lower and middle classes do. On average, people who earn more than $500,000 a year pay more than three times the percentage that people earning less than $100,000 a year pay.
When looking at all federal taxes paid, the richest 20 percent of Americans paid 68.9 percent of them. The richest 1 percent paid 28.1 percent. Despite recent rhetoric from the President, the rich shoulder a much larger share of the federal tax burden than everyone else.
It's quite apparent from the editorial that the Union Leader is leaving out a substantial amount of information about taxation and the rich in America. First of all, from 1983-2009 the top 5% of Americans accounted for 81.7% of the wealth gain in the United States. Despite gaining a bigger piece of the pie, thousands of millionaires and billionaires are paying a smaller share of their incomes in taxes than millions of middle-class Americans; in 2009, for instance, 1,470 of the richest Americans paid no federal income taxes at all.
Tax rates for the wealthiest Americans have been steadily falling over the past 50 years. In 1960 the top marginal income tax rate was 90% while today it is just 35%. However, given the Union Leader's own data, it doesn't seem like many are paying that rate anyway. What is notable from the Union Leader's data is that after the $2 million to $5 million dollar bracket the percentages begin to decrease again -- evidence that many of the wealthiest earners are paying a lower percentage of their income in taxes than those that make less than them.
By only referencing income tax rates, the Union Leader deceptively omits the fact that the middle class shoulders a disproportionately excessive burden when it comes to payroll, excise and state and local taxes. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities points out:
Considering all taxes -- federal, state, and local -- the bottom 20 percent of households pays an average of 16 to 17 percent of their incomes in taxes. The next 20 percent of households pays about 21 percent of income in taxes, on average.
It's disingenuous for the Union Leader to put up income tax numbers and claim the burden on the rich is so onerous. Ultimately the hardship and burden falls on those making the least, not the most. As Jonathan Chait, formerly of The New Republic, explained in an October 2010 column:
It would be nice if nobody had to pay taxes. Given that we do, though, shifting a greater share of the burden onto the rich causes less hardship. (Raise Paris Hilton's taxes by 1 percent and that's one less vacation home for her grandchildren; raise her maid's taxes by 1 percent, and her kids are sweltering because they can't afford air-conditioning.)
The New York Post, the New York-based daily newspaper run by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., has published 21 opinion pieces on the controversial process of natural gas extraction called hydraulic fracturing (or 'fracking') since January 1, 2011.* Many of the op-eds on fracking attack Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) or "enviro-radicals" for not acting faster to cash in on the economic benefits associated with domestic drilling. In addition, the Post almost always fails to acknowledge the health and environmental risks associated with fracking -- when it does, it immediately dismisses the dangers, despite ample evidence to the contrary. For example:
The fact is, fracking has proved not only to be a fundamentally safe undertaking, it has delivered immense economic benefits to localities across America.
New York is the only state in the nation where it is not allowed -- and that needs to change.
The fear-mongering nihilism that has marked the debate so far needs to end - and, at the very least, it's up to Cuomo to accelerate the current review.
Indeed, not only would New York become a major new source of relatively clean energy - natural gas; the move is also sure to spawn a whole new industry for economically sclerotic Upstate, generating thousands of jobs.
That's what's happened elsewhere in the country where fracking is allowed - including, notably, neighboring Pennsylvania, where tens of thousands of workers have found jobs at companies that employ the process.
Alas, in New York, enviro-radicals got then-Gov. David Paterson to ban the process, pending further study.
They claim that fracking can taint drinking water. Hyperbolic media reports and films like the pseudo-documentary "Gaslands" further fueled public fears.
Yes, there have been fracking accidents -- but no lasting damage, and no harm has been done to water supplies.
Contrary to the Post's assertions, there have been a host of environmental problems associated with fracking. Wyoming is dealing with both groundwater contamination and air pollution, Ohio and Oklahoma have seen earthquakes potentially associated with fracking, and groundwater contamination has affected wells in Pennsylvania and other areas around fracking wells.
The Post also gets its facts wrong when it comes to states that have banned fracking. In Feburary, New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie imposed a one-year ban on the practice in New Jersey, stating, "Potential environmental concerns with fracking in our state must be studied and weighed carefully against the potential benefits of increasing access to natural gas in New Jersey."
As Media Matters has previously noted, in their fervor to promote fracking, the Post has even gone so far as to hide the industry funding of fracking studies in their editorials.
* The Media Matters analysis was conducted by doing a Nexis search for the terms "hydraulic fracturing" or "fracking" and analyzing the number of times one or both of those terms was used in an opinion piece published by the Post.
CORRECTION: Media Matters has identified a serious error that resulted in the omission of several Charlotte Observer columns and articles discussing municipal broadband during the time of this debate. We cannot support our earlier conclusion that the Charlotte Observer did not inform its readers on the issue of North Carolina's "digital divide" over the past two years. Media Matters prides itself on a long history of accuracy in its media studies, and we apologize for the error.
Starting in 2008 seven states -- Louisiana, South Dakota, Kentucky, New Mexico, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Texas -- passed measures or promoted policies that would change the education curriculums in their states to begin teaching "different perspectives" in environmental science instruction. The major newspapers in each of these states gave varying coverage to the issue with some not even covering the issue at all. In addition a Media Matters investigation shows that, despite the appearance that these state proposals and model legislation by the conservative organization the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), not once did these newspapers mention ALEC or their model legislation in their coverage.
Last week the New York Post penned an op-ed attacking a proposal by NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-64) that would raise NY's minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour. The editorial repeated debunked myths that raising the minimum wage would increase unemployment, increase the cost of products and services, and lower economic activity. Contrary to the Post's assertions, there has been little to no negative correlation between minimum wage and unemployment, and in some cases it's been shown that increasing the minimum wage would actually help create economic activity.
Over the past two years the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has benefited millions of Americans nationwide. Despite the successes of the law, South Carolina's The Post and Courier has attacked the ACA more than 27 times in its editorials over the past 2 years -- often regurgitating false conservative talking points. Contrary to the misrepresentations of the editorial board, South Carolinians have seen many direct benefits from the law already and will continue to do so. A few of the Post and Courier's myths are highlighted below.
Within the last 7 days, the Denver Post has published two opinion pieces on voter ID laws, specifically arguing for why Colorado needs one. Both pieces rehash common myths about voter ID laws, including the popular conservative argument that the number of citizens without an ID card is too small to be significant and the false equivalency that because you need identification to do a multitude of other things, such as "travel by air" or "operate a motor vehicle," then it's reasonable that you should need one to vote. From this morning's Denver Post editorial:
The case has been made that voter ID laws could disenfranchise a significant number of eligible voters, disproportionately harming minorities, seniors and low-income voters.
Those were among the arguments made by 16 Democratic U.S. senators, including Colorado's Michael Bennet, who last summer asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to examine voter ID laws in various states. [...]
A 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case involving a voter ID law in Indiana, a state that also does not fall into the higher-scrutiny category, made it clear there wasn't anything inherently discriminatory about requiring voters to present a photo ID before casting a ballot. [...]
So long as it is paired with administrative adjustments to help those voters who want to get an ID, we think it would be a positive step toward ensuring those who show up at the polls are who they say they are. There's nothing wrong with that.
Despite the Supreme Court decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board that is cited by the editorial board, these laws are restrictive to voters. A study of new voter ID laws passed last year alone show that another 5 million citizens will be impacted in the upcoming election -- especially the elderly and communities of color.
The Denver Post's editorial board claims there is nothing wrong with voter ID laws, "so long as it is paired with administrative adjustments" to help voters acquire ID cards; the board is essentially agreeing to impose a burden on people who wouldn't have been previously burdened -- all to stop a non-existent problem. As the Brennan Center for Justice found in its 2007 study of voter fraud, the allegations of widespread voter fraud "do not pan out." Even prominent voices in favor of voter ID laws, such as Hans Van Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, have previously admitted that there is not "massive fraud" in elections.
Mike Rosen, an opinion writer for the Post, also weighed in on voter ID laws in a column from last Thursday. From the Denver Post:
Across the nation, Americans are routinely required to show a photo ID when they travel by air; operate a motor vehicle; buy alcohol at a liquor store, restaurant, bar or sporting event; write a check at a grocery store; get a job; rent a car; apply for a passport; make a credit card purchase; apply for a loan; get a marriage license; adopt a pet; open an account or cash a check at a bank; get medical care; fill a drug prescription; pick up tickets at the will-call window of a baseball park or theater; rent an apartment; close on a house; or get a hotel room, to mention just a few. [...]
How tough is it, really, to get a photo ID? There are 200 million licensed drivers in the U.S. with photo IDs. Non-drivers can secure general-purpose photo IDs at government offices. Obtaining one is much easier than a driver's license; there's no written exam or road test.
And why would anyone want to suffer the inconveniences of going without a photo ID? Only a racist or political spinmeister could claim that blacks lack the common sense to accomplish this simple task. And you can be sure that anywhere photo ID laws are passed, Democratic community organizers would be out in force getting their core voters qualified. Yes, illegal immigrants and other lawbreakers might have trouble getting a valid photo ID, but why should that bother you, unless you're a Democrat who assumes most of those people would vote for your party?
Despite Rosen's assertion that it can't be that "tough" to get a photo ID, a 2006 study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that as many as 13 million people don't have ready access to citizenship documents. Without citizenship documents, getting an ID becomes problematic and potentially expensive.
Rosen also seems to disregard the fact that identification requirements for travel, purchasing alcohol, filling a prescription, etc. are fundamentally different from voting, since the former are not constitutionally protected rights. As ACLU South Carolina executive director Victoria Middleton explained in a William & Mary Election Law Society post:
Photo IDs are required for many activities these days, from boarding a plane to purchasing a six-pack of beer. When asked if it was unreasonable to ask an individual to present an ID to vote, Middleton said, "It's not a constitutional right to buy Sudafed or become a frequent flier." She continued, "People fought and died to win the right to vote."
Today, Media Matters for America published a report on Fox News' coverage of immigration issues starting with the passage of Arizona's SB 1070 in April 2010 through Alabama's crackdown in June 2011. The results are unsurprising: Fox overwhelmingly hosted guests and ran segments that were disparaging to immigrants and looked positively upon harsh enforcement tactics. While individuals brought on to discuss immigration qualified as "anti-immigrant" more than 60 percent of the time, one show stood out for its persistent one-sidedness. In the 4 p.m. hour, Your World With Neil Cavuto hosted 77 guests, with 84 percent having an anti-immigrant slant.
Cavuto's two most frequent guests were Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce, who appeared five times, and Arizona State Rep. John Kavanagh, who appeared seven times. Both Republican lawmakers were major players in the passage of SB 1070. While providing Pearce and Kavanagh with a platform to broadcast their views, Cavuto consistently let their anti-immigrant rhetoric go unchallenged.
Pearce is notorious for making inflammatory statements about immigrants. For example, in 2005, Pearce was caught circulating an email from a white separatist organization and soliciting donations from anti-immigrant and nativist hate groups. After the passage of SB 1070, Pearce compared immigrants to "cow[s] with mad cow disease" and called a Latina opponent an "idiot" during a CNN interview. Cavuto never mentioned Pearce's dubious record on the air.
Similarly, Cavuto allowed anti-immigration rhetoric to trump facts in his interviews with John Kavanagh. In a July 30, 2011, segment, Kavanagh responded to the possible policy changes outlined in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) memo by invoking Willie Horton, the convicted murder who was featured in a racially tinged 1988 campaign ad against Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis:
KAVANAGH: Clearly, the circulation of this memo creates three possible scenarios. One is that President Obama is actually going to legalize 12 to 20 million people here. This would be a political earthquake 7.0. And I don't think he`s going to do that.
Not only would it confirm the people's fears that he's power-crazy, but, in addition, he would purchase personally several million Willie Hortons, because any one of these people he legalized who later commits a rape or a murder or gets drunk and mows down a family, he's going to own that crime. So, I don`t think he would go that far.
Later in the interview, Kavanagh received no pushback when he falsely characterized comprehensive immigration reform as "blanket amnesty."
Over the same period, Kavanagh appeared only once on MSNBC -- alongside a pro-immigrant guest to dispute his claims -- and did not appear on CNN. Pearce appeared three times on MSNBC and 10 times on CNN.