Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality
Expertise from economists was almost completely absent from television news coverage of the economy in the first quarter of 2016, which focused largely on the tax and economic policy platforms of this year’s presidential candidates. Coverage of economic inequality spiked during the period -- tying an all-time high -- driven in part by messaging from candidates on both sides of the aisle, but gender diversity in guests during economic news segments remained low.
Proposed Tax Cuts Have Proved To Not Stimulate Economic Growth, Suggested Return To The Gold Standard Is Simply “Dangerous”
Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) promised that if he was elected, his administration would oversee economic growth in excess of 5 percent a year stemming from reduced regulations, tax cuts for high-income earners and corporations, a balanced federal budget, and a return to the gold standard. Journalists and experts were quick to criticize Cruz’s economic growth target, which exceeds by 1 percentage point a proposal by former Republican candidate Jeb Bush that was roundly mocked as “nonsense” and “impossible” last summer.
On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court “is weighing the fate” of President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration which “could shield roughly 4 million people from deportation” and grant them legal right to work. Right-wing media have spent years misinforming about the legality, and economic impact of the executive actions. Here are the facts.
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Media called Donald Trump's claim that he could eliminate the national debt in eight years by renegotiating trade while still cutting taxes "impossible" and "absolute fabulism" that "insult[s] the intelligence of Americans" because "the math, of course, doesn't add up."
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New York Magazine Blasted The Media For Failing To Hold GOP Accountable For Disastrous Policy Failures In Kansas And Louisiana
CNN will interview the three remaining Republican candidates, along with the two remaining Democrats, during a 3-hour special town hall event. Will CNN hold the GOP hopefuls accountable for proposing tax and economic policies similar to those that have been "thoroughly discredited" when implemented by Republican-led states?
In a critical March 18 post in New York magazine's Daily Intelligencer blog titled "The Republican Party Must Answer for What It Did to Kansas and Louisiana," associate editor Eric Levitz blasted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and GOP front-runner Donald Trump for promising to institute tax cuts and budgetary reforms at a national level that have proven to be disastrous for Republican-led states. After outlining the ways that the so-called "red-state model" turned Kansas and Louisiana into failed "real live experiment[s]" of conservative economic policies, Levitz challenged media organizations to hold Republican candidates accountable for supporting those policies (emphasis added):
Over the course of 12 debates, the Republican presidential candidates were never asked to address the budget problems in Kansas.
When Donald Trump makes a gaffe, reporters confront Republican leaders and demand a response. When the GOP's economic platform decimates two U.S. states, a similar confrontation is in order.
CNN's March 21 prime-time town halls with the remaining Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls present a perfect opportunity for the network to hold GOP leaders accountable for the dramatic failures of the "red-state model" in Kansas and Louisiana, while also pressing them on their own economic policy promises that have been derided as "imaginary," "insane," and "fantasy" in the past:
In the lead up to the October 28 Republican presidential debate, Media Matters called on CNBC's debate moderators to hold candidates accountable for their fantasy tax plans. Right-wing media outlets reacted with outrage when CNBC moderator John Harwood correctly pointed out that Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) tax plan provided more relief for the top 1 percent than for the middle-class. Conservatives attacked the country's leading business and financial news network for its supposed "liberal media bias" and pushed to put conservative personalities in charge of all future debates. In response to those complaints, CNN debunked claims of media bias by comparing questions from CNBC debate to similar questions during Fox News' debates.
With only three Republican presidential candidates still in the race for the nomination, questions remain as to how CNN will respond.
News Outlets Find Glaring Omissions In Kasich's Campaign Rhetoric On Budget, Economy, And Taxes
State and national media outlets took a tough look at Ohio Gov. John Kasich's claims that tax cuts and a balanced budget created jobs and economic recovery in his state. Their findings reveal that the governor, a candidate in the Republican presidential primary, is not telling the whole story.
On March 13, Politico reported on Kasich's Ohio "comeback story" with an article titled "The myth of Ohio's economic miracle." It found that while the governor frequently claims his leadership led to a balanced state budget and better economic growth, Ohio's economic recovery closely coincided with the national rebound initiated by President Obama's stimulus and rescue packages, which were signed into law long before Kasich took office. According to Politico, critics counter that Kasich "benefited from the tailwinds of an improving national economy."
Ohio State University political science professor Vladimir Kogan pointed out that Democratic-led California has outperformed Ohio since Kasich took office in January 2011, and that state-level recoveries are so closely tied to the national economy that the governor "cannot credibly claim that his policies alone are responsible for Ohio's improving economy." Kogan concluded, "Kasich was just lucky enough to be in the right office at the right time." Unemployment rate data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) seem to confirm Kogan's argument: The Ohio job market has been steadily improving since February 2010, 11 months before Kasich took office, and unemploment rates in the state have closely matched national averages since the late 1980s:
Politico also reported that Kasich's touted balanced budget did cut income taxes 10 percent in 2013 and an additional 6.3 percent in 2015, but to pay for it he had to take "billions of federal dollars from Obamacare" and raise regressive "sales and cigarette taxes -- levies that hit the pocketbooks of all Ohioans, especially low-income ones." Cutting personal income taxes while raising sales taxes resulted in a tax cut for corporations and shifted the tax burden onto hardworking Americans (emphasis added):
To be sure, this heavy manufacturing state has rebounded after being hit hard by the recession. But that was part of a national economic recovery and it left behind many Ohioans, especially the low-wage and manufacturing workers who have flocked to Trump in states like Michigan, where Kasich campaigned so long he joked he should pay taxes.
Others say Kasich singled out one data point from Ohio's employment numbers to cast himself as the ultimate job generator, instead of as someone who benefited from the tailwinds of an improving national economy.
And while he cut income tax rates twice and eliminated the state's estate tax, he also raised sales and cigarette taxes -- levies that hit the pocketbooks of all Ohioans, especially low-income ones.
His administration cut income tax rates by 10 percent in 2013 and by another 6.3 percent in 2015 and eliminated the estate tax. However, it paid for those cuts by increasing the sales tax (a move frowned upon by budget experts for disproportionately hitting lower-income people) and doing an end-run around the Republican-dominated state Legislature to expand Medicaid, which resulted in an infusion of billions of federal dollars from Obamacare.
Conservatives universally applauded the slashing of the income tax rates, as did local manufacturers, many of which structure their companies so they file taxes through the personal income, and not the corporate side of the tax code.
A March 14 article by The New York Times also criticized Kasich's claims that he balanced the budget, noting that he had to cut local aid funding so deeply that cities and towns had to propose tax increases of their own, or initiate significant cuts to services. The Times found that "more than 70 cities and villages had lost at least $1 million a year because of Mr. Kasich's actions," which included deep income tax cuts and elimination of the estate tax (a tax instrument that affects only a handful of extremely wealthy families).
This highly critical reporting from The Times and Politico followed a March 9 report from The Wall Street Journal, which found that Kasich's tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations had "shifted $2.2 billion in costs to localities, a decision that continues to dog city and village governments." Shifting costs to cities and towns allowed the governor to claim he balanced the budget, but as conservative economist and former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holt-Eakin put it in an interview with The Journal, Kasich "g[o]t others to do the tough job" of cutting services and raising taxes for him.
The omissions in Kasich's campaign talking points are readily apparent in state-level media coverage of the Ohio economy. On March 9, PolitiFact Ohio rated a Kasich campaign ad as "mostly false" for claiming, "As governor, Kasich delivered the largest tax cut in the nation." PolitiFact argued that other states have actually implemented larger tax cuts than Kasich did after accounting for the size of their economy and population -- such as Republican-led Kansas, which has been devastated by Gov. Sam Brownback's Koch-backed tax cut program. Like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Politico, PolitiFact also noted that Kasich's so-called "tax cut" was actually "more of a tax shift" that "forces local governments to raise taxes in turn."
Fox Continues Smear Campaign Against "Obamaphone" Program
Fox Business host Stuart Varney continued Fox News' smear campaign against the Reagan-era affordable telephone service program for low-income Americans known as Lifeline, which conservatives derisively refer to as "Obamaphones," with a segment attacking a proposed expansion to allow the subsidy to be used toward the purchase of mobile data or broadband Internet.
On the March 10 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., Stuart Varney and conservative journalist Jillian Melchior derided the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) proposal to expand the use of the Lifeline telecommunications subsidy for low-income households to include mobile data and broadband Internet. Varney lambasted the program as "ridiculous," while Melchior referred to the proposed subsidy providing qualifying families with access to the Internet as "insane." Melchior also described Lifeline as "one of the worst programs" in the government.
Contrary to Fox's extreme rhetoric, expanding the $9.25-per-month Lifeline subsidy to include its use for the purchase of broadband for low-income Americans is an important step toward alleviating poverty. According to a May 28 report from The New York Times, when the Lifeline program expansion was first floated, the proposed change would have represented the "strongest recognition yet" from the FCC "that high-speed Internet access is as essential to economic well-being as good transportation and telephone service." Citing research from Pew, The Times highlighted how low-income and minority communities lag far behind the rest of the country in broadband access.
In an exclusive March 9 interview with The Verge, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler mentioned the importance of giving low-income families "access to 21st century networks" by expanding Lifeline. Wheeler also argued in a March 8 blog post with FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn that "Internet access has become a pre-requisite for full participation in our economy and our society." On March 1, 17 public interest groups joined six broadband providers by signing a joint letter of support urging the FCC to go ahead with the expansion, stating that providing Internet access to needy families will help increase access to job training, employment opportunities, and education services. On February 29, Education Week reported on how the expansion could positively affect education by reducing the so-called "homework gap" faced by children in low-income households. According to Education Week, "70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires Internet access" but almost 5 million low-income households with children lack reliable, high-speed connections at home, which creates an additional obstacle for millions of "already disadvantaged students."
Fox News and its right-wing media allies have a long history of shaming the poor by complaining that vital anti-poverty programs are actually "trapping people" in poverty and hyping isolated instances of fraud or abuse to disparage successful anti-poverty programs. The mythical "Obamaphone" program has become one of Fox's favorite targets. In 2012, the network promoted a video of an Obama supporter praising her so-called "Obamaphone" as proof that Democrats "bribe people" to vote for them. Fox's misleading portrayals of the poor and of so-called "Obamaphones" even garnered a mocking response from President Obama during a May 12 summit on poverty. The president's biting criticism didn't stop Fox from returning to its "Obamaphone" myth-making just weeks later, when Fox Business host Charles Payne used a May 29 appearance on Fox & Friends to attack the very same Lifeline expansion proposal that Varney and Melchior attacked again today.
See the full segment from Varney & Co. below:
STUART VARNEY (HOST): Do you remember the Obamaphone program? Cell phones for the poor, subsidized by you from a tax on your phone bill? Remember that? Still around. Now we hear that program could expand to Internet service. Joining us now, Heat Street political editor Jillian Melchior. Jillian, welcome back.
JILLIAN MELCHIOR: Thank you.
MELCHIOR: It's insane.
VARNEY: I mean, it was insane. Free phones were ridiculous, now free Internet?
MELCHIOR: Yes, the FCC wants to expand this program. They are probably going to get their way when the vote comes down on March 31. They want to expand it to include Wi-Fi, and already the GOP commissioners are saying that this is insanity, that this is a program riddled with waste, fraud, and abuse. And we're not going to cut it back, we're going to grow it.
MELCHIOR: FCC wants to grow the program budget to $2.25 billion a year, that's up from $1.5 billion. Saying they think --
VARNEY: Wait a second, $1.5 billion to $2.25 billion?
MELCHIOR: $2.25 billion. Yes, and they want to sign up as many as 5 million totally new beneficiaries for this. So this is growing a program, and it's one of the worst programs in government
Right-Wing Economic Policy Darlings Larry Kudlow And Stephen Moore Are Regular Contributors To National Review
National Review senior editor Jonah Goldberg berated two right-wing economic policy figureheads -- Stephen Moore and Larry Kudlow -- for what Goldberg saw as their abandonment of conservative principles by supporting Donald Trump's presidential candidacy. Both men have written extensively for National Review Online (NRO) promoting the conservative movement's economic agenda, with Kudlow acting as a contributing editor for the publication.
The right-wing media civil war was on full display on March 9 when Goldberg attacked Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore and CNBC senior contributor Larry Kudlow for endorsing Trump, despite the Republican front-runner's lack of apparent conservative policy bona fides. Goldberg argued that Moore and Kudlow had abandoned conservative purity by endorsing "winning at any cost," and that Trump's policies are a "populist deformation of conservatism." Goldberg's decision to target Moore and Kudlow for their embrace of Trump is particularly interesting given how much the two men have contributed to National Review and National Review Online over the years.
Moore's regular publication history with the outlet dates back to 2003, when he was an ardent champion of the Bush administration's tax cuts, and picked up steam in 2014 when he used NRO to promote Republican talking points on tax and regulatory policy, the federal budget and deficit, and the minimum wage. Kudlow's ties to the outlet where he serves as both a contributing editor (in print) and a columnist and economics editor (online) are even more extensive, dating to 1999.
Goldberg may be targeting Moore and Kudlow for apostasy now, but they have been boosting Trump for some time now -- weeks in the case of Moore, and months for Kudlow. Moore praised Trump in a February 11 column for The American Spectator, suggesting he could "expand the Republican base to include independents and union Democratic voters" and claimed that "Trump is the anti-Obama in every way ... . Trump emanates love for America and pledged to 'make America great again.'" CNBC contributer James Pethokoukis also listed Moore as part of Trump's "council of wise men" on February 22. Goldberg wrote that Kudlow "has moved markedly in Trump's direction" on policy, and Kudlow also expressed his support for Trump's tax plan in September when it was released.
In January, the National Review launched a conservative war on Trump with a dedicated "Against Trump" issue, referring to him as a "philosophically unmoored political opportunist." Goldberg's March 9 article berating Moore and Kudlow is just another barrage in the right-wing media civil war over Trump (emphasis added):
In 2009, then-senator Jim DeMint declared he'd rather have 30 reliable conservatives in the Senate than 60 unreliable ones. Ted Cruz launched his presidential campaign on the premise that deviation from pure conservatism cost Republicans the 2012 election. The only way to win was to refuse to compromise and instead give voters a clear choice. Many of the right's most vocal ideological enforcers cheered him on.
Until Trump started winning. Suddenly, the emphasis wasn't on winning through purer conservatism but on winning at any cost.
Consider Larry Kudlow and Stephen Moore. In August, the two legendarily libertarian-minded economists attacked Trump, focusing on what they called Trump's "Fortress America platform." His trade policies threaten the global economic order, they warned. "We can't help wondering whether the recent panic in world financial markets is in part a result of the Trump assault on free trade," they mused. As for Trump's immigration policies, they could "hardly be further from the Reagan vision of America as a 'shining city on a hill.'"
Months later, as Trump rose in the polls, Kudlow and Moore joined the ranks of Trump's biggest boosters -- and not because Trump changed his views. On the contrary, Kudlow has moved markedly in Trump's direction. He now argues that the borders must be sealed and all visas canceled. He also thinks we have to crack down on China.
Instead of converting voters to conservatism, Trump is succeeding at converting conservatives to statism on everything from health care and entitlements to trade.
Bold Media's Carrie Sheffield Teams Up With Paul Ryan To Push False Claim That Cutting Assistance Helps The Poor
During a March 3 interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Bold Media's editorial director Carrie Sheffield sat with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to promote their joint effort to spin cuts to federal anti-poverty assistance programs as a tool to help hardworking Americans escape poverty. However, the myth that these programs are harming the poor stems from a long-term right-wing media campaign against social safety programs and disregards experts who explain that these programs are actually helping to alleviate poverty.
Paul Ryan Gets Credit For Talking About Poverty, Despite Harmful Policies
A February 29 Washington Post Wonkblog post credited House Speaker Paul Ryan for his focus on poverty but failed to acknowledge the negative impact his "brutal" proposals would actually have on the poor. Headlined "Most Republicans care deeply about the poor," the piece said Ryan "has been striving since the last presidential election to make poverty the GOP's next issue," and noted that the speaker "takes the project so seriously that he cited it as one of his reasons for sitting out the 2016 race." Highlighting the sham Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity held in January, The Post claimed that the "tone" adopted by the Republican officials in attendance, which included several presidential candidates, was compassionate and inclusive." From The Washington Post (emphasis added):
Last month, six GOP presidential candidates met in South Carolina to discuss something of a lapsed issue for the Republican Party: helping the poor. The Jan. 9 forum, co-hosted by House Speaker Paul Ryan, played out like a hallucination of the primary season party leaders had hoped for. The tone was compassionate and inclusive. People debated, in depth, real policies. And Donald Trump was nowhere to be seen.
For Paul Ryan, the moment was a minor triumph. Ryan has been striving since the last presidential election to make poverty the GOP's next big issue. As RNC chairman Reince Priebus argued in 2013, the party's long-term success depends on shedding its image as the "party of the rich," of the "narrow-minded" and the "out of touch." A campaign to combat poverty using Republican principles could jumpstart that transformation.
Ryan takes the project so seriously that he cited it as one of his reasons for sitting out the 2016 race. "I wanted to make sure this got away from presidential politics," he told Yahoo News's Jon Ward last March. "I wanted to make sure that this got some distance from being seen as some personal ambitious project for a politician."
The Post did link to another Wonkblog entry that called out Ryan as someone who "misunderstands or glosses over some crucial points about the causes of poverty and what's needed to alleviate it." However, the overall post gives an impression that Ryan is proposing policies that would assist the poor, which isn't the case. Ryan's policies have been called "backward-looking" for attempting to look at poverty in the same way policy makers tackled the issue in the 1990s. These ideas to combat poverty assumed people need incentives to work and failed to consider that, in today's economy, many low-income Americans may not be able to find a stable job that pays well. The Post also neglected to mention that Republican proposals are not serious about addressing lagging economic mobility or growing inequality because "being serious about the problem will require doing the one thing that Republicans hate: government spending."
The media should be wary of Ryan's interest in poverty and look beyond the softened rhetoric of Republican lawmakers. If enacted, his budget proposals would create "more poverty and less opportunity," according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Ryan's 2014 budget proposal would have cut Pell Grants for college students by $125 billion over a decade and even decreased food assistance for those in poverty -- assistance that is only $1.40 per person per meal. In addition to his draconian 2014 budget, Ryan also produced a separate proposal to reform federal anti-poverty programs based on the right-wing media myth that low-income Americans "want to be poor." Economist Robert Reich referred to the "guiding principle" of Ryan's 2012 budget proposal as "reward the rich and cut off the help to anyone who needs it."
The Washington Post has been ensnared by Ryan's poverty PR before, claiming Ryan had new ideas for "an anti-poverty program" that would "rival his budgetary Roadmap for America's future in scope and ambition." Multiple news outlets have fallen for the conservative ploy that Ryan's plans would assist the poor, or have ignored glaring issues with Ryan's stance opposing paid family leave while simultaneously saying he would accept the speaker position only if he gets sufficient time to spend with his family.