George Will promoted a "key issue" of a lobbying group in his Washington Post column just two weeks after giving the keynote address at its conference.
Journalism ethicists have recently raised concerns about Will's ethical practices, and have urged greater transparency and disclosure in his Post columns. Will has been criticized for failing to reveal his connections to Wisconsin's conservative Bradley Foundation, and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a massive political group backed by the industrialist Koch brothers.
Will wrote an August 15 Washington Post column criticizing the "distracting crusade against the minor and sensible business practice called 'inversion,'" in which corporations leave the United States for a country with a lower corporate tax rate. He added that a "sensible corporate tax rate would be zero. This is so because corporations do not pay taxes, they collect them, necessarily passing on the burden as a cost of doing business. And studies suggest that corporations' workers bear a significant portion of the burden."
Will gave the keynote address to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Retail Advocates Summit on July 30 in Washington, D.C. NRF is a trade and lobbying organization that represents "the interests of the retail industry through advocacy, communications and education." The group's annual DC summit brings "retailers who are passionate about policies they believe in can come to Washington to be advocates for change."
The summit listed as one of its "key issues" "Lower business tax rates," writing that "Corporate tax reform would benefit retailers in a number of ways, like allowing companies to make decisions based on business strategies rather than tax implications and increasing investment and job creation by passing along tax reduction to their customers."
NRF states on its website that it "has led the retail industry's push for tax reform and is an original steering committee member of the RATE Coalition, which represents a broad range of industries dedicated to the issue. In the course of dozens of meetings with lawmakers, policy experts and opinion leaders, and through reports and testimony, NRF has emphasized that reform of the existing tax system--not bumper-sticker proposals to abolish the IRS or scrap the tax code--is the proper path to economic prosperity."
The lobbying group posted a July 22 public policy article arguing that inversions are "evidence of the need for the United States to reform its federal tax system" in the form of lower corporate taxes.
Will, who is also a Fox News contributor, is represented by Washington Speakers Bureau, which lists his fee as "$40,001 & up." NRF did not respond to a request for comment.
The Society of Professional Journalists recently updated its Code of Ethics to include new provisions regarding transparency. The group's ethics chair cited Will's AFP disclosure failure as an example of a conflict journalists should attempt to avoid.
From the September 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) responded to guest radio host Erick Erickson's recent remarks that people who work in fast food have "failed at life," calling the statement "degrading" and "out of touch" with hard working Americans.
On the September 4 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson called minimum wage workers failures stating:
If you're a 30 -something year- old person and you're making minimum wage, you've probably failed at life. It's not that life dealt you a bad hand. Life does not deal you cards. It's that you failed at life.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) released a statement on Erickson's "degrading remarks" about fast food workers.
Fast food workers often work 2 to 3 jobs just to put food on the table and to take care of their families. Erick Erickson is clearly out of touch if he thinks this is something to attack. He ought to interview these workers on his radio show - maybe then he will learn what real work is.
Over the last year, the Progressive Caucus has been privileged to stand side by side with Americans from all across the country as they organize and rally for fair wages. We have met thousands of hard working men and women, many of whom work far more than 40 hours per week. Contrary to Erickson's remarks, not one of them has failed at life.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed downplayed the seriousness of food insecurity in the United States, claiming that government research on the topic "isn't about hunger" and dismissing the millions of Americans who faced uncertain access to food last year.
On September 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual report on household food security in the United States, finding that 17.5 million households in the country were food insecure in 2013, meaning that they had "limited or uncertain" access to "nutritionally adequate and safe food."
In response to the USDA report, The Wall Street Journal published a September 3 opinion piece by James Bovard attacking government focus on food insecurity as a measurement of widespread hunger in the United States. Bovard suggested thatmembers of food-insecure households are not legitimately hungry because "widespread hunger" has been "debunked" by another USDA report that found children in low-income households consume more calories on average than those in higher-income households. Bovard cited the higher consumption of calories by children in low-income households as evidence of a "paradoxical relationship between food stamps and food insecurity" and demanded more transparency on what food stamp benefits are being spent on.
But by denying the legitimacy of measuring food insecurity, Bovard erased food insecurity's pervasive impact across the United States. Although hunger and food insecurity are in fact separate issues, as Bovard pointed out, the USDA underscores that they are still "related." According to the USDA, "Food insecurity is a household-level economic and social condition of limited access to food, while hunger is an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity." The USDA began to distinguish between food insecurity and hunger in the department's research due to a "lack of consistent meaning of the word" hunger.
Citing higher calorie consumption among children in low-income households as evidence that debunks child hunger is also misleading. As the Food Research and Action Center points out, food insecure and low-income people are especially vulnerable to obesity, due to "[l]imited resources and lack of access to healthy, affordable foods," which are primary factors in those living in poverty consuming higher-calorie foods. The center says that healthy food is often more expensive and less available than energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods.
From the September 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the August 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the August 26 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the August 21 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News turned to misleading statistics and sensational rhetoric in a renewed attack on government anti-poverty relief programs, federal workers, and public pensions.
On the August 21 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott invited Fox Business contributor Charles Gasparino to discuss concerns regarding the scope and sustainability of government benefit programs. The two falsely portrayed government employment as a "growth industry" and made a confusing comparison between the total number of Americans receiving so-called "welfare" and the population of Russia. Gasparino lamented that more "stigma" is not attached to receiving federal aid or "living in a housing project," before falsely concluding that public pensions face a "huge looming crisis" and are, in essence, "Ponzi schemes":
GASPARINO: I don't think Americans are against handing people a check if they really need it, if they're starving, if they need welfare, if they need a helping hand. But we have a cultural situation in this country where it is more than that, where it is almost acceptable. The stigma is gone about accepting that check.
GASPARINO: We've become the old Soviet Union! If you threw in the state numbers, it would even be bigger. The pension issue that I brought up is one of the huge looming crisis out there. It's essentially a Ponzi scheme.
Scott's initial claim that "nearly 110 million Americans live in households on welfare," is misleading. According to the United States Census Bureau, in the fourth quarter of 2012 roughly 109.6 million Americans resided in a household receiving "one or more means-tested programs." These include housing assistance, disability and survivor benefits, numerous nutritional assistance programs, Medicaid, and forms of "cash assistance." Only 5.4 million individuals lived in homes receiving from the benefit program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly referred to as "welfare."
The portrayal of government employment as a "growth industry" is also false. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, total government employment across local, state, and federal agencies has declined significantly during the Obama administration and over the past seven years. Total government employment was roughly 22.6 million when President Obama took office in 2009, declining to 21.9 million today:
Gasparino's final claim that public employee pensions are "a Ponzi scheme," is incorrect. A February 2011 report by economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) demonstrated that most of the long-term funding shortfall in public pensions is a result of the 2007-2009 economic crisis and the accompanying stock market downturn. Baker concluded that the debate on pensions had been "seriously misrepresented" and that most public pensions appeared "easily manageable" over the long term.
Fox News and Gasparino have a long history of misappropriating terms like "welfare" and relying on sensational comparisons of pensions to "Ponzi schemes," in addition to unsubstantiated correlations between the number of recipients of a government program with completely unrelated population statistics.
From the August 19 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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In The Wall Street Journal, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) disavowed the offensive narrative pushed by conservative media which labels needy Americans as "takers" versus more economically-prosperous "makers." However, Ryan's proposed anti-poverty policies still rely on the right-wing media myth that blames poverty on poor individuals' personal life choices.
Fox News segments on a method of natural gas extraction called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" gave over five times as much airtime to guests touting the benefits of fracking as it did to one guest warning of its risks.
On August 12, Fox News aired three virtually identical segments from correspondent David Lee Miller on fracking that were conspicuously one-sided. The segments compared the economy of Pennsylvania, which has seen a recent boom in fracking, to that of the southern tier of New York, where fracking is currently under a moratorium. The segments' pro-fracking slant is clear from the outset, with Miller stating that the "key reason for the economic disparity" between the two regions is "hydraulic fracking." The segments each featured three guests to tout the benefits of fracking for a total of 21 seconds per segment, against just one guest having four seconds to explain its risks:
The segments' bias is apparent in more than just the numbers; the information presented in support of fracking was in many cases misleading.
In two of the three segments, Miller featured Gabriel Campana, Republican mayor of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, who stated, "They say for every well that's created, there's over 100 jobs." But a study from the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative found that between 2005 and 2012, "less than four new shale-related jobs have been created for each new well," and noted that even industry-funded studies only estimate that each fracking well creates "as high as 31" jobs -- well below Campana's claim of over 100 jobs per well.
On Fox's Special Report with Bret Baier, Miller's fracking segment replaced Campana with Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (the segment was otherwise almost exactly the same) to claim that "the quality of life has tremendously increased for particularly the people in this region." The people in that region might disagree. Fracking processes have harmed over 200 privately owned bodies of water in the Pennsylvania since 2008, and the process still threatens drinking water in the region. Eugene DePasquale, auditor general of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection likened regulation of the fracking industry in his state to "trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20-foot garden hose."
NPR called the town of Dimock, Pennsylvania "'Ground Zero' in the fight over fracking" after dozens of families noticed high levels of natural gas contamination in their drinking water. In 2009, fifteen Dimock families filed a federal lawsuit against Cabot Oil and Gas due to drinking water contamination, including a methane build up in one resident's well that caused an explosion. Fracking sites present other safety concerns; in February a well operated by Chevron exploded killing one worker and injuring another.
Other pro-fracking guests highlighted by Fox were a New York dairy farmer who thinks fracking is vital for his farm's "economic security," and a New York county executive who stated fracking would give the state "a substantial increase in the number of jobs, a substantial increase in the investment." The sole critic was ecologist Sandra Steingraber, who was given four seconds of airtime to state that "fracking brings temporary riches to a few and permanent ruin to many."
A "fair and balanced" segment might have noted that more New Yorkers oppose hydraulic fracturing in the state than support it, or that lax fracking industry oversight has not only led to polluted water but has left "a toll of badly injured or killed workers" and poses very real risks to the southern tier of New York.
UPDATE: Keith Ablow defended his remarks on August 13 in an interview with Politico, saying it was "hypocrisy" for Michelle Obama to act as a "role model" on diet when she "has not been consistently a picture of fitness."
A member of Fox News' "Medical A-Team" argued that Michelle Obama is not a credible voice on school nutrition because "she needs to drop a few" pounds.
First Lady Michelle Obama has made fighting childhood obesity a cornerstone of her time in the White House. Recently, she's faced backlash from conservatives seeking to put an end to one of Obama's victories: federal school lunch standards that emphasize healthy eating.
The hosts of Fox News' Outnumbered continued this fight on August 12, when Dr. Keith Ablow, a prominent member of the network's "Medical A-Team," claimed that Obama cannot be taken seriously on the issue of nutrition because she "needs to lose a few" pounds. Ablow's female co-hosts expressed surprise and quickly changed the subject.
KENNEDY: We don't need the federal government applying -- projecting -- these standards upon us. And Michelle Obama is so, like, the duchess when she speaks.
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE: She's kind of annoying that way.
KENNEDY: She is.
ABLOW: And how well could she be eating? She needs to drop a few.
ABLOW: I'm telling you, let's be honest --
HARRIS FAULKNER: You did not say that --
ABLOW: We're taking nutrition advice from who? Who are we taking nutrition advice from?
The First Lady has long been the target of offensive personal attacks from the right, and Ablow is no stranger to sexist rhetoric himself, well-known for his anti-LGBT commentary and analysis that is often unsupported by the medical field at large.
Update: Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean later tweeted at Ablow, saying "please keep your comments about women 'dropping a few' to yourself. Sincerely, all women."
From the August 8 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Heritage Foundation chief economist Stephen Moore grossly exaggerated the cost of providing unaccompanied minors access to American public education to stoke fears that the costs might hurt local communities.
On the August 7 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto invited conservative economist Stephen Moore to discuss the purportedly high cost of allowing roughly 50,000 unaccompanied minors access to public schools around the country. Citing his own calculations, Moore claimed that the cost of educating these immigrant children could reach $1 billion annually, adding that "it's unfair to put these costs on the backs of local residents ":
Moore's calculation is problematic for a number of reasons.
According to research from the Heritage Foundation, Moore's current employer, the cost of educating a single undocumented immigrant child is roughly $12,300 per year. Therefore, the cost of educating the roughly 50,000 recent undocumented minors in the U.S. would actually be roughly $615 million per year, according to Heritage's estimates.
Furthermore, Moore's fear mongering over the purported $1 billion price tag ignores the size and scope of the American economy. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the current dollar value of the American economy in the second quarter of 2014 was $17.3 trillion. In other words, the cost to educate these children would be less than 0.006 percent of the value of the economy as a whole. Hardly cause for alarm.
Moore's sloppy calculations have gotten him into trouble in the past, as he employs a façade of "economics" to disguise his conservative political agenda.