New polling from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of Americans viewed the Republican Party as favoring the rich, compared to 26 percent who see Republicans as favoring the middle class, and 2 percent who see them as favoring the poor. This huge disparity in public perception of Republican policies is often lost on media outlets that fall for lofty GOP rhetoric claiming to care about low- and middle-income Americans.
The Wall Street Journal lambasted President Obama over a slight projected increase of the federal budget deficit in 2016 while praising budget-busting Republican tax plans that The Journal falsely claimed "would spur [economic] growth" enough to make up for revenue shortfalls.
On January 25, The Wall Street Journal used newly released figures from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to falsely claim the federal deficit was "climbing rapidly again" in President Obama's final year in office and to warn that future deficits would "take off" after the conclusion of his presidency. The Journal highlighted that the annual federal deficit is projected to increase from 2.5 percent of GDP in 2015 to 2.9 percent of GDP in 2016, blaming most of this growth on increased outlays to entitlement programs.
While The Journal blamed President Obama for creating a "fiscal time bomb" for his successor, the paper praised Republican tax plans claiming "the various tax reform plans that Republicans are offering would spur growth" (emphasis added):
Perhaps you've heard President Obama's talking point that the federal budget deficit has fallen by two-thirds on his watch. That overlooks that the deficit first soared on his watch, and then fell thanks largely to the GOP House and modest economic recovery, and that as he leaves office he is going to need one more asterisk: The deficit in 2016 has begun to rise again, in dollars and as a share of the economy. And after he leaves office, it takes off.
As ever, the big spending drivers will be entitlements, which are projected to rise to 15% of the economy from the current 13.1% over 10 years. This is the fiscal time bomb that Mr. Obama will leave his successor, thank you very much.
We realize such unhappy realities are not supposed to intrude on a presidential campaign, and the American public long ago dropped spending and deficits as major concerns. Voters care more about the economy and terrorism, and there's good sense to that. The deficit will never vanish without faster economic growth, and the various tax reform plans that Republicans are offering would spur growth. By all means let's debate growth.
The Journal's core claim, that "the deficit will never vanish without faster economic growth" is debatable, but its decision to endorse "the various tax reform plans that Republicans are offering" as a solution for both economic growth and deficit reduction is absurd.
According to tax policy scores from the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation, all of the tax plans promoted by Republican presidential candidates would vastly increase the budget deficit:
According to this GOP-friendly analysis, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's proposals would reduce expected economic growth and job creation over the next decade but also reduce deficit-accumulation by $191 billion to $498 billion. At the same time, according to the Tax Foundation, GOP candidates would oversee stronger economies while vastly accelerating the growth of the federal deficit. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's tax plan could add as much as $12 trillion to the national debt on top of expected accumulation, while Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) plan only ends up reducing the deficit in a "dynamic revenue estimate" that Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has repeatedly derided as "voodoo economics."
Furthermore, The Journal's claim that faster economic growth resulting from tax cuts is what is needed to reduce the federal deficit is not backed up by sound economic research. On August 25, 2015, Republican-appointed CBO Director Keith Hall said "tax cuts do not pay for themselves," and a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report withdrawn by GOP senators found that lower top income tax rates did not correlate with higher economic growth but did find it "associated with greater income disparities." When economists created a model for creating a top tax rate that would be an "effective tool for social insurance," they found raising rates on the top 1 percent of earners to 90 percent would be appropriate.
Right-wing media outlets repeatedly stoke fears of the federal deficit growing too large. Fox News and other right-wing media outlets are notorious for hyping the federal deficit and The Journal's editorial feeds into this narrative.
With the presidential primary season in full swing, prime-time cable and broadcast evening news coverage of the economy focused on the candidates' policy priorities in the second half of 2015. News coverage of economic inequality fell considerably after hitting an all-time high in the first half of the year.
During the January 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney joined Fox News host Bill O'Reilly in a discussion of Varney's villains of the week, which Varney suggested include Planned Parenthood or alternatively its president, Cecile Richards. Varney based his designation of Cecile Richards as a "villain" on the misleading portrait of the health care provider based on the deceptively-edited videos produced by the anti-choice organization Center For Medical Progress (CMP), named by Media Matters as "Misinformer of the Year." CMP's videos have been debunked by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, which called the effort "a dishonest attempt to make legal, voluntary and potentially lifesaving tissue donations appear nefarious and illegal." Multiple investigations into allegations against Planned Parenthood stemming from videos targeting the organization have found no illegal activity taking place.
Varney concluded the segment by saying the organization should be blocked from receiving public funding, to which O'Reilly agreed. Planned Parenthood affiliates receives public funding from a few different government programs, either from Medicaid reimbursement for services provided or in the form of grants to provide sex education, birth control to low-income patients, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and cancer screenings.
From the January 8 edition of Fox's The O'Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY: All right, villain number two.
STUART VARNEY: Planned Parenthood.
O'REILLY: The whole thing?
VARNEY: Well if you want to pick on Cecile Richards, who runs the operation, let's do that.
O'REILLY: All right, let's make her the villain.
VARNEY: That's the villain.
O'REILLY: All right, there she is.
VARNEY: Now, Congress, or the Republicans, want to defund Planned Parenthood for one year. Cecile Richards says we don't want that. We're going to bring in Hillary Rodham Clinton. We are going to support her. She has access to $20 million worth of Planned Parenthood funds. OK, got that.
O'REILLY: What does that mean?
VARNEY: They have a pool of money.
O'REILLY: Planned Parenthood.
VARNEY: Yes, to which -- this is not taxpayer money. But that money is now available to Hillary.
O'REILLY: In donations? In the form of donations? Planned Parenthood is going to fund her campaign this election? [CROSSTALK]
VARNEY: Yes, to some degree.
O'REILLY: All right.
VARNEY: Look, my problem with this goes back to those tapes we saw last year.
VARNEY: I thought that was absolutely inhuman when you saw a woman describing how to crush a fetus, to maximize the body parts.
O'REILLY: The harvesting of the organs.
VARNEY: The harvesting, to crush [a] fetus for the best outcome for the money. [CROSSTALK]
O'REILLY: It was terrible and clear-thinking people -- but I'm not sure about the villain thing because Planned Parenthood would support Hillary Clinton no matter what.
VARNEY: But look, Bill, I don't want a dime of my taxpayer money going to support an organization which is --
O'REILLY: But you just said it wasn't.
VARNEY: No. We're trying to defund Planned Parenthood. That's what the Republicans - [CROSSTALK]
O'REILLY: But that's never going to happen because the Democrats in the Senate will block it.
VARNEY: Irrelevant. I don't want a dime of my money going to any organization that does that kind of thing. And I don't care whether you are on the left or the right.
O'REILLY: OK, do you really feel that Ms. Richards in her belief system, which is abortion on demand, selling harvested body parts from dead babies' fetuses, depending on your point of view, do you think that that in itself is villainous?
VARNEY: Yes. It is villainous to expect me to contribute to it and to force me to contribute to it through taxation. That is villainous.
O'REILLY: They say none of that money goes to abortions or to harvesting of organs.
VARNEY: When you saw that tape of the woman saying here's how you crush the fetus - [CROSSTALK]
O'REILLY: It was appalling It was disgusting.
VARNEY: That's absolutely inhuman. Out of bounds.
O'REILLY: Immediately the president should have signed an executive order immediately freezing any tax money in there. That's what he should have done.
VARNEY: In my opinion, yes.
O'REILLY: But of course it's politics associated with Planned Parenthood.
VARNEY: It's villainy.
From the January 8 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Reversing on their past condemnation of the use of a budget procedure called "reconciliation," The Wall Street Journal praised Republicans for using the tactic in their latest attempt to repeal Obamacare. The Journal also bashed, the law falsely claiming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has resulted in "huge" premium increases, and showed little concern for the millions of Americans who would lose healthcare if the law is repealed.
In a January 5 editorial, The Wall Street Journal praised Senate Republicans for narrowly passing legislation that would repeal the ACA via a parliamentary procedure called "reconciliation" -- a Senate budget tactic to avoid filibusters. After praising the GOP's repeal bill, which President Obama has vowed to veto, The Journal went on to attack the health care reform law, falsely claiming that the "law is failing on every level" and creating "huge" increases in health care premiums. From The Journal:
Republicans are now using the special "reconciliation" procedure that allows a budget bill to pass with a simple majority--which can only be used once a year--to get around Harry Reid's bone yard. Kvetchers on the right who say the Congress never does anything should be pleased, unless their griping was merely for political show.
This achievement is all the more notable for traveling through the regular channels of constitutional government, without Armageddon-style confrontations or blowing up century-old Senate rules, as some activists have demanded. The bill passed through patient, unglamorous legislative work, with House and Senate Republicans working together to make policy advances instead of degenerating into infighting and recriminations as usual.
This is what the GOP promised voters in 2014. Fifty-two of the 54 Senate Republicans voted for the bill, which passed 52-47 over unanimous Democratic opposition. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois were the two GOP dissenters.
Reconciliation is the process where the U.S. Senate can vote on budget amendments with a simple majority of 51 votes, and a senator cannot object to force a 60-vote threshold to move forward as is the case with all other bills and amendments. The Journal referred to Republicans using this tactic to attempt to gut Obamacare as a so-called "achievement" that traveled "through the regular channels of constitutional government, without Armageddon-style confrontations." But The Journal failed to mention that in the past its editorial board held the opposite view on the use of reconciliation to make changes to health care. The Journal also did not explain that perhaps the reason no "Armageddon-style confrontations" occurred is because the bill will be vetoed by the president and Republicans could only muster 52 votes in support of repeal, far below the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. The bill is dead on arrival, as was the case the previous 60 times congressional Republicans passed symbolic repeal votes.
In 2010, when the bill that would become the Affordable Care Act was being considered, The Journal was loudly opposed to Senate Democrats using reconciliation to pass legislation that conservatives were derisively calling "Obamacare." The Journal called passing Obamacare via reconciliation "an abuse of the traditional Senate process" and claimed "we have entered a political wonderland." Journal editorial board member Daniel Henninger even wrote a column proclaiming "reconciliation could damage the institution of the Senate for years."
The Journal's January 5 editorial was not only a flip-flop on reconciliation, it was laden with inaccuracies about the law, some of which ignored The Wall Street Journal's own reporting. The one specific issue the paper wished to focus on as a so-called "failure" was the myth that premium increases have been unexpectedly "huge" since the law took effect and are set to spike in 2016. On the contrary, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently noted, premium costs and subsidies came in under expectations in 2014 and 2015. Typical health insurance premiums for 2016 are predicted to have a higher rate increase than the past two years, but The Journal failed to point out that much of this increase was not only expected, it will be covered by insurance subsidies.
After accounting for available subsidies, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the average national premium rate increase from 2015 to 2016 will be 3.6 percent. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is predicting slower-than-expected premium growth, and has revised its numbers to show federal spending on premiums will be 20 percent less than previously projected:
Furthermore, The Journal also failed to mention that insurance customers are free to choose new plans and providers every year, some of which may prove more cost effective than others. Charles Gaba of ACASignups.net pointed out that because individuals can change insurers, it is important to shop around and that those who do so may see smaller increases for 2016.
In yet another flip-flop, The Journal falsely claimed that no one ever "argued that a new entitlement couldn't reduce the uninsured rate." In fact, The Journal made such claims in an October 25, 2015 editorial hyping fears that supposedly low insurance enrollment for 2016 meant health care reform "won't survive." Such enrollment fears from The Journal were later debunked and research showed enrollment numbers had been adjusted because more Americans stayed on employer-provided insurance than originally anticipated.
In spite of its previous remarks against using reconciliation, its attempts to delegitimize enrollment numbers, and the fact that expected insurance premium costs have been revised downward, The Wall Street Journal still celebrated the latest, fruitless Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare, which if successful could strip health care coverage from at least 17 million Americans.
On January 9, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will host a presidential candidate forum in Columbia, South Carolina focused on poverty. As media outlets prepare to cover the event, will they remember that despite Ryan's gentler language, he has a history of promoting budget and fiscal policies that would harm Americans struggling with poverty?
From the January 4 edition of Bloomberg's With All Due Respect:
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From the December 23 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello:
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Conservative media lambasted House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) after the passage of a year-end budget package, calling it "an absolute betrayal" and saying that "Paul Ryan" is "already a disaster" for delivering "wins" to President Obama in a move that will "boost the candidacy of the Republican establishment's preferred contenders."
New enrollment for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) marketplace exchanges is ahead of schedule through the first six weeks of open enrollment this year, a strong rebuke to continued right-wing predictions that low enrollment and the closure of a few health insurance cooperatives would prove the law is a failure.
On December 9, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the latest figures on health insurance enrollments through Healthcare.gov. CMS reported over 1 million new customers have signed up for health insurance and that 1.8 million more renewed their plans through the exchange marketplace during the first half of this year's enrollment period. According to The Hill, CMS had only targeted 900,000 new insurance customers for the entire 2016 enrollment period, which ends on January 31. CMS administrator Andy Slavitt told The Hill "I'm a pretty conservative guy, and I'm encouraged by the start we've had."
According to The New York Times, interest in enrollment is high with six more weeks to go before the sign-up period ends and "call centers have been deluged with requests from others eager to enroll." While not everyone who signs up will ultimately decide to pay their premiums and receive coverage, early reports indicate that the health insurance marketplaces established by the ACA are on-target to meet their coverage expansion goals by the end of the year.
These positive early reports on enrollment numbers offer a stark contrast to right-wing media claims that enrollments this year would falter and that the law is failing to meet expectations. In November, several conservative outlets latched on to stories about the planned closure of a few health insurance cooperatives as proof that the president's signature health care reform law was in a "death spiral" and on the verge of collapse. In October, The Wall Street Journal responded to sharply revised 2016 enrollment estimates by claiming that Obamacare "won't survive." The Journal ignored that part of the government's estimate adjustment was the result of more people than expected staying on employer-sponsored health care plans as the uninsured rate fell to a record low of 11.4 percent. The Journal then used their dire predictions about Obamacare to push floundering Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's plan to repeal the law.
This is not the first time right-wing media have made false claims about the ACA or grim predictions of the law being a failure. During the 2014 enrollment period, Media Matters chronicled so-called health care "truthers" who suggested that participation numbers were too high and may have been made up. Fox's Sean Hannity claimed that the Obama administration was "cooking the books on this thing," and that millions of applications for enrollment had "appeared out of thin air," while other Fox personalities claimed insurance signups "magically" hit their enrollment goals. Right-wing media held so deeply to this false enrollment conspiracy that they confusingly declared victory and impugned Media Matters when, in late 2014, CMS announced that a minor accounting error for exchange-approved dental plans had overstated the number of enrollees by just under 6 percent.
For two consecutive years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has published an estimate of how many workers will choose to leave the workforce or reduce their work hours as a result of certain protections and subsidies created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As was the case last year, conservative media has incorrectly reported that the CBO was projecting potential job losses stemming from Obamacare.
Large portions of the federal government will shut down on December 11, unless the Republican-led Congress passes a long-term budget or short-term spending resolution to prevent a lapse in spending authority. In 2013, in the midst of a 16-day federal government shutdown that cost the American economy up to 120,000 jobs and $24 billion, major media outlets often neglected to report the toll Republican-led congressional gridlock took on American workers and families and misleadingly placed equal blame for the debacle at the feet of the Democratic Party and Obama administration.
Al Jazeera America highlighted attempts by Republican members of Congress to use an omnibus spending bill meant to avert a government shutdown as a means of defunding a watchdog government agency dedicated to protecting consumers from fraudulent and predatory lending.
Host John Seigenthaler and correspondent Libby Casey discussed congressional Republican attempts to use spending legislation intended to avoid a federal government shutdown on December 11 as a means of gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). As Casey reported, Democrats are defending the organization's role in protecting American consumers, and support a spending resolution that does not include so-called "policy riders." From the December 7 edition of Al Jazeera America's News:
Later in the segment, Seigenthaler was joined by consumer advocate Alexis Goldstein to discuss the important role CFPB plays as "the only federal regulator that is tasked with protecting consumers from financial abuse":
Conservative politicians are not alone in their attacks on the CFPB. The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal recently attacked what it called an "outrageous regulatory campaign" by the agency which seeks to curb a widespread practice wherein some consumers are charged higher interest rates or assessed extra fees when purchasing automobiles based on their race.
The USA Today editorial board denounced Republican candidates' "reckless" tax plans and "iffy economics" that would cost trillions of dollars, "wreck budgets," and reverse the current trend of a shrinking deficit.
The tax plans proposed by many of the Republican presidential candidates have been scrutinized for the negative effects they would have on the national debt and overall economic growth. Although some media outlets have mischaracterized Republican tax proposals as "populist," they in fact disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans.
In a November 11 editorial, USA Today's editorial board lambasted the GOP tax plans and highlighted the disconnect between the idea of Republicans as "the party of fiscal responsibility" and the reality that some of their tax plans would reduce the federal revenue by trillions of dollars. The editorial explained how "[s]tudies and real-world experiments" reveal that the tax-cuts Republicans champion "don't reliably spur growth, but they surely wreck budgets." Moreover, the board noted that Republican "proposals would reverse" the trend of a falling federal deficit under President Obama. From the editorial:
If Republicans are the party of fiscal responsibility, as opposed to those big-spending Democrats, you wouldn't know it from the GOP candidates' reckless tax-cut proposals. Donald Trump's plan would reduce federal revenue by a staggering $10 trillion over 10 years, Marco Rubio's by $2.4 trillion and Jeb Bush's by $1.6 trillion, according to analyses by the non-partisan Tax Foundation.
One of the scariest moments in Tuesday's GOP presidential debate came when Ted Cruz suggested his proposal was more responsible because it would cost only about three-quarters of a trillion dollars over 10 years.
Even worse, these numbers depend on the economic growth the candidates claim their plans will create. Studies and real-world experiments show that big tax cuts don't reliably spur growth, but they surely wreck budgets.
Candidates always claim they'll offset revenue losses with spending cuts, yet that promise rarely gets fully detailed, much less fulfilled.
Ironically, the candidates are proposing these plans when the federal deficit is falling, a trend their proposals would reverse.