From the January 28 edition of Fox News' Republican Presidential Primary Debate:
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Student loan debt in America has reached a staggering $1.3 trillion, surpassing even credit card debt. But right-wing media figures have criticized efforts to combat student loan debt by pushing misinformation and blaming students for pursuing higher education.
Conservative media have labeled higher education as a "privilege" and suggested students ought to choose fictional cheaper colleges. Some outlets have even defended schools that take advantage of students and leave them with significant debt. But research shows college matters now more than ever, and the cost to attend is rising across the board. The student debt crisis is especially damaging for poor students and students of color, who more frequently attend cheaper open-access and community colleges and are still forced to borrow in higher numbers to pay for their education.
Blaming students for the student loan debt crisis ignores the facts and distracts from finding real solutions to America's skyrocketing student debt burden.
From the January 27 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper:
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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.
From the January 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Economists from the University of California, Davis published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal debunking the popular right-wing media myth that an influx of low-skilled refugees would necessarily result in decreased wages and job opportunities for American workers.
On January 18, University of California, Davis economist Giovanni Peri and doctoral candidate Vasil Yasenov published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal discussing their recent study on the wage and employment disruption created when a large influx of Cuban refugees arrived in South Florida in 1980. Their work, published in December 2015 by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), updated prior research on the migration and confirmed that the sudden arrival of 125,000 Cuban refugees did not correlate with decreased wages or employment activity for American workers in the local community.
Right-wing media have created many myths about immigration, but perhaps the most pervasive is the misleading claim that new immigrants take jobs away from American workers. Economists have debunked the claim many times, but it remains a prevalent talking point in many conservative outlets.
Peri and Yasenov argued that an influx of new immigrants "stimulates productivity and growth in the economy" and pointed to the experience of Cuban refugees in the 1980s as a model for what to expect from Syrian refugee arrivals today. From The Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):
A well-known episode took place after April 20, 1980, when Fidel Castro opened the port of Mariel, enabling anyone to freely leave the island. More than 125,000 Cubans fled to the U.S. until the Mariel boatlift, as it was called, ended in September. More than half of these refugees settled in Miami. Most were low-skill--which meant that the supply of workers without a high-school diploma in the city increased between 12% and 15%.
Economist David Card analyzed how the wages and employment rate of native workers in Miami changed from 1979 (before the inflow) to 1981-82 (after the inflow). His influential study, published in 1990, compared Miami with Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and Tampa-St. Petersburg, a control group of cities with similar demographic and labor-market characteristics during the 1970s.
The results were striking: The 1979-1981 wage and employment changes in Miami were not much different than in the other cities. The evidence, he concluded, was that a sudden increase in the supply of low-skill workers had no significant negative effect on native laborers with similar schooling levels.
Our results--released as National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 21801 on Dec. 15--confirm Mr. Card's original study. There is no evidence that Miami's low-skill workers experienced wage or employment decline relative to those in our control group of cities in 1980, 1981 or 1982. We also analyzed different subgroups--males, females, Hispanics and non-Hispanics--and did not find any significant wage effect in Miami after 1979.
This result suggests that the common belief that more immigrant workers depress native workers' wages or employment is not a good representation of what happens. Earlier research by one of us has shown that native workers do not suffer the negative impact of arriving immigrants because they take different jobs. Moreover, their arrival stimulates productivity and growth in the economy.
Miami's experience after the Mariel boatlift suggests that an influx of refugees from Syria to the U.S. would have no significant economic impact on American workers.
From the January 15 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Economists and veteran journalists slammed Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network anchor and senior vice president Neil Cavuto for framing a question in the January 14 Republican presidential debate in a way that implied President Obama was to blame for the financial crisis he inherited from the Bush administration. American financial markets peaked on October 9-10, 2007 before steadily declining as the economy slipped into recession, more than 16 months before President Obama's inauguration.
In his final State of the Union address on January 12, President Obama mentioned Speaker Paul Ryan's renewed interest in tackling poverty. Ryan's poverty focus was most recently in the spotlight a few days earlier at the January 9 Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity, which he co-hosted with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). But time and time again, Ryan's expressed commitment to alleviating poverty has turned out to be just rhetoric -- including proposals that would actually hurt Americans in poverty -- and media have let him get away with it.
Let's review: Ryan has repeatedly proposed drastic benefit cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would leave millions of Americans without the help they need to put food on the table for their families. Experts have slammed his past budget plans as gateways to creating "more poverty and less opportunity." His tax proposals would give more spending power to the wealthiest than they would the middle class and working poor. And his opposition to providing a living wage, affordable health care, and federal paid family leave to all Americans (except himself) flies in the face of expanding opportunity for parents and their children.
That hasn't kept the Beltway press from doting on Ryan's supposed anti-poverty plans, giving him and other right-wing political and media figures room for a fact-free, rhetoric-heavy, "populist" rebrand of the Republican Party just in time for 2016.
The Kemp Foundation's so-called "poverty forum" was filled with feel-good calls from Republican presidential hopefuls to "lift people up" and out of poverty, embrace Americans' right to "rise up," and exhortations about our country's "moral imperative" to create opportunity for all.
To American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, it was just the reboot conservatives needed in an election year where Republicans' commitment to American economic security is under heightened scrutiny.
Many in the media fell for this image reboot hook, line, and sinker. Soon after the five-hour event, headline after headline credited Speaker Ryan for bringing a "dose of Kemp optimism" to the 2016 cycle and turning the race toward "a forgotten issue." Others cast the congressman as a "star" for "deftly prodd[ing] GOP presidential candidates" on their plans.
But scratch beneath the glossy surface of Saturday's rosy, revivalist rhetoric and you'll find nothing but age-old right-wing media myths about the face of the American poor, along with supposed policy "solutions" that would throw millions of Americans back into poverty.
At the center of the forum was a portrait of America's poor that comes straight from the Fox News and Rush Limbaugh playbook -- a portrait that is completely unrepresentative of the actual realities of poverty in America today. Ryan, Scott, and the GOP candidates in attendance consistently conflated poverty with dependency, drug addiction, temptation to engage in criminal behavior, a lack of moral conviction, and an unwillingness to work.
These discussions echo the poor-shaming and vitriolic rhetoric that have become emblematic of right-wing media's discussion of the poor. Channeling countless Fox hosts' flawed assumptions that the poor are work-averse, the candidates called for more work requirements as a means to lift up those "who are completely dependent on government."
What these demonizing portrayals ignore, however, is the truth. The working poor, the elderly, and the disabled make up 91 percent of safety net and social insurance beneficiaries.
There was also no shortage of single-motherhood-shaming and fearmongering about out-of-wedlock births, especially from former Fox News employees and current presidential candidates former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and Ben Carson. Huckabee's Fox-honed habit of smearing unwed mothers reared its head as he promoted marriage as a key to eradicating poverty, despite the fact that there are more married parents living in poverty than never-married parents.
No questions were asked -- even from MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who interviewed the event moderators and organizers -- about what candidates would do about marital poverty.
In addition to irresponsibly misrepresenting the poor, the summit's participants also dangerously distorted the impact of programs created during the "War on Poverty."
Despite their presidential aspirations, many of the candidates rejected the idea that the federal government should play an active role in alleviating poverty in America. Some, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, falsely suggested that these programs -- which have actually kept millions out of poverty -- have only given Americans "the choice of earning more money on the couch than getting a job." This off-hand dismissal of federal programs' success has also been a go-to tactic among right-wing media for years.
In reality, the social safety net has lifted millions of people out of poverty. In 2014, Social Security, the Earned Income Tax Credit, SNAP, and federal housing subsidies together protected more than 40 million Americans from poverty. But that didn't keep many speakers at the Kemp Forum from unfairly labeling such programs -- including SNAP and other nutritional assistance programs -- as failures.
The candidates also uniformly opposed raising the federal minimum wage, despite consistently demanding that more well-paying jobs be created. This counterintuitive stance is based on easily debunked fearmongering -- straight from the right-wing media noise machine -- that raising the minimum wage would kill jobs. In fact, study after study has shown that raising minimum wages has a positive or neutral impact on the job market and employment overall.
The evidence is clear that Speaker Ryan and his conservative colleagues haven't changed their positions on poverty -- they are simply rebranding tired and ineffective policies in an effort to convince voters that their party "cares" about the poor.
Media planning to give this effort more airtime should remember that the right's new talking points on this issue are only part of the story. They must also look at the reality of their policies -- which history has shown would turn the War on Poverty into a war on the poor.
All of the major broadcast and cable networks in the U.S. suspended their programming on January 12 to air President Obama's last State of the Union address. All except Univisión and Telemundo, which instead aired their regularly scheduled telenovelas.
Univisión and Telemundo, respectively the largest and second largest Spanish-language networks in the United States, are among the most trusted sources of information for the growing Hispanic community.
Instead of giving the presidential address primetime coverage, Univisión aired the telenovela Pasión y poder, and Telemundo aired Bajo el mismo cielo, opting to live-stream the address online. NBC Universo -- an NBC Universal-owned Spanish-language Telemundo affiliate -- did broadcast the speech, but the channel is only accessible to cable-TV viewers.
According to recent census data, Hispanics are now the largest minority in the United States: Latinos constitute a little over 17 percent of the United States population. In 2016, over 26 million Latinos will be eligible to vote for the next president. Though the Latino voting bloc is becoming increasingly important, engaging them politically remains a challenge, as they repeatedly lag behind other demographics in voter turnout.
Univisión and Telemundo did a disservice to the community they serve by not broadcasting the president's State of the Union speech, which largely focused on issues that Latinos prioritize. Contrary to common media misconceptions, Latinos are not single-issue voters. In fact, evidence consistently shows that Latino voters are most concerned about jobs and the economy, healthcare, education and immigration, all of which received significant mentions during President Obama's address.
Telemundo and Univisión's lack of coverage did not go unnoticed. The Daily Show tweeted "If you're not into #SOTU, here are some other programming choices" with a graphic reading "Bored? Other things that are on TV right now." The graphic showed that, unlike ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News, Univisión wasn't broadcasting the State of the Union. Instead, Pasión y poder is listed.
California State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-33), who has championed immigrant rights in the California legislature, also criticized the lack of coverage in a statement to Media Matters:
It is very disappointing that neither Telemundo nor Univision aired the President's State of the Union address on live TV. Are Novelas, which perpetuate sexism, racism, homophobia and classism, more important than the civic engagement and education of our community? This is a blatant missed opportunity and disservice to Latinos during such a crucial presidential election year. This is simply unacceptable and I call on the executives at all major Spanish-language broadcast outlets to do the community a service and carry this important address in years to come!
A new study from researchers at Cornell University found that, over the past 20 years, raising the regular and tipped minimum wage for workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries "have not had large or reliable effects" on the number of people working in the industry. The research stands as yet another piece of evidence debunking restaurant industry claims -- frequently promoted by right-wing media -- that local, state, and federal wage increases harm businesses and weaken the job market.
On January 12, the food and nightlife news site Eater highlighted a December 2015 study from Cornell University's Center for Hospitality Research, which investigated the effect raising the minimum wage has had on business and employment activity in the restaurant industry. The study's authors -- social scientist Michael Lynn, and economist Christopher Boone -- looked at 20 years of data and "confirm[ed] previous findings" that "the relatively modest mandated increases in employees' regular and tipped minimum wages in the past twenty years have not had" large, negative effects on restaurants or jobs in the industry. Eater explained:
The duo's hard data suggests, not shockingly, that when restaurant owners pass expenditures, reasonably, on to customers, the sun tends to rise the next day. To put it less glibly, the sheer number of restaurants and restaurant employees did not fall over time in parts of the country that legislated minimum wage increases.
Numerous studies on raising the minimum wage have found that legislated increases have a negligible effect on employment numbers. In spite of continued academic work showing little to no effect on employment, right-wing media have repeatedly pushed the myth that raising the minimum wage hurts businesses and destroys jobs. These media outlets often parrot the anti-minimum wage talking points of restaurant industry lobbyists without disclosing their conflicts of interest. Media Matters has debunked the myth that the minimum wage kills jobs many times, and specifically highlighted media's misguided fixation on the alleged negative effects of Seattle's decision to institute a $15 minimum wage.
The Cornell study, published in the December 2015 edition of Cornell Hospitality Reports, is in line with previous findings that modest minimum wage increases have had little negative effect on employment in the restaurant industry. According the Cornell study, and prior research, businesses pass costs on to consumers by modestly raising prices, which does not appear to result in a decrease in demand. The Cornell study also concluded "[t]here is strong evidence that increases in the minimum wage reduce turnover" and that "the restaurant industry should support rather than oppose reasonable increases in the minimum wage":
The U.S. restaurant industry has consistently opposed increases in the regular and tipped minimum wages on the grounds that such increases would require restaurants to reduce staffing, raise prices to offset reduced revenue, or both. Either reaction is thought to reduce customer satisfaction and demand, along with restaurant profitability and even survival. To the contrary, however, the results of this study confirm previous findings, namely, that the relatively modest mandated increases in employees ' regular and tipped minimum wages in the past twenty years have not had large or reliable effects on the number of restaurant establishments or restaurant industry employment levels, although those increases have raised restaurant industry wages overall. Even when restaurants have raised prices in response to wage increases, those price increases do not appear to have decreased demand or profitability enough to sizably or reliably decrease either the number of restaurant establishments or the number of their employees. Although minimum wage increases almost certainly necessitate changes in restaurant prices or operations, those changes do not appear to dramatically affect overall demand or industry size. Furthermore, there is strong evidence that increases in the minimum wage reduce turnover, and good reason to believe that it may increase employee productivity as well. While prospective large increases in minimum wage mandates may have more noticeable effects, the evidence suggests that the restaurant industry should accept reasonable, modest increases in the minimum wage.
There is strong evidence that increases in the minimum wage reduce turnover, as mentioned previously. While no study has tested our belief that increasing the minimum wage will increase employee happiness and productivity as well, our reasoning is theoretically sound and consistent with more general research on compensation effects. Moreover, the research reviewed and reported here suggests that the industry has little to lose by acting on this belief. Thus, we contend that the restaurant industry should support rather than oppose reasonable increases in the minimum wage.
A Fox Business panel discussing the January 13 Powerball drawing, which could be worth up to $1.5 billion, briefly went off message after one of the network's business analysts advised viewers against buying a ticket by correctly noting "your chances [of winning] are nothing."
On the January 12 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., business reporter Gerri Willis interrupted guest host Charles Payne's monologue on the record-breaking Powerball jackpot by repeatedly saying "don't buy the lottery ticket." Willis explained that she advises her own mother against spending money on the lottery "every week" and reiterated that "your chances [of winning] are nothing" if you do purchase a Powerball entry. Payne repeatedly asked Willis to reconsider her position on playing Powerball, saying, "a buck, you can't put a buck on this thing? A buck? You can't put 2 bucks on this?":
Payne's passionate defense of buying Powerball tickets echoes an earlier segment from Fox News. On the January 9 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, co-hosts Anna Kooiman and Clayton Morris were joined by supposed lottery "expert" Richard Lustig to discuss the still-growing Powerball prize pool. The segment claimed to offer viewers "proven strategies" to win the lottery, including advice like "buy as many tickets as you can afford" and "never miss a draw":
The January 9 segment was circulated widely on Twitter and derided by several media outlets. Business Insider called it "literally the worst piece of advice about the lottery ever given," explaining that "your likelihood of winning is still incredibly low, even if you buy a bunch of tickets." ThinkProgress Economic Policy Editor Bryce Covert took to Twitter to advise her followers against buying lottery tickets, including the Fox & Friends Saturday segment in a long piece of research explaining how state-sponsored lotteries are essentially "a regressive tax on the poor."
The odds of purchasing a ticket with the winning combination to Wednesday's Powerball drawing are approximately 1 in 292.2 million. The odds of being struck by lightning in a lifetime are 24,000 times greater than that.
Contrary to Fox's previous guidance, you cannot meaningfully increase your odds of winning by purchasing extra tickets or playing every week. Your odds of winning any single drawing never change -- they are always 1 in 292.2 million. And buying enough two-dollar tickets to give yourself winning odds is preposterously expensive -- purchasing $1 million worth of tickets would give you just a 0.17 percent chance of hitting the jackpot, whereas approximately $292 million worth of tickets would still put your winning odds at no better than a coin flip.
While discussing a Supreme Court case focused on union fees, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade falsely claimed that public employees were "forced to join unions" and to pay fees that went directly "to political causes." Not only can public employees opt out of joining a union, but the reduced fees that non-members pay, known as agency fees, are used by the union to collectively bargain on behalf of all the employees of a workplace -- including non-members -- and are distinctly not permitted for use toward a union's outside political activity.