Cable and network TV news devoted more segments to coverage of economic issues during the first half of 2015 compared to the last six months of 2014, an increase driven by heightened public interest in the debate over economic inequality and a flurry of economic policy proposals from nearly two dozen 2016 presidential candidates.
On August 24, major stock markets in the United States opened their trading sessions with significant declines and sustained losses of 3 to 5 percent throughout much of the morning. Fox News used the event to advocate on behalf of numerous failed Republican policy demands, such as major tax cuts for the wealthy and a significant roll back of federal regulations.
ABC's This Week host George Stephanopoulos passed on the opportunity to question Republican presidential candidate Gov. Scott Walker about how his health care plan would harm low-income Americans. Stephanopoulos failed to question Walker on this topic despite mainstream media outlets highlighting the issue in articles detailing Walker's plan.
On August 18, Walker revealed his plan to replace the Affordable Care Act if he is elected president. A key feature of his plan is to issue tax credits based on age rather than income to help Americans purchase health insurance plans, but mainstream media outlets quickly detailed how this change would hurt the ability of low-income Americans to afford robust health insurance coverage.
The Upshot blog from The New York Times explained how Walker's plan is "much less concerned about ensuring health care access for the poor," and "appears to be less generous for many poor Americans":
Governor Walker's plan appears to be less generous for many poor Americans. It would roll back the Medicaid expansion that has provided free insurance to low-income adults. It would distribute tax credits to those with private coverage on the basis of age, not income.
But it means that for people without a lot to spend on insurance, a comprehensive health plan may slip back out of reach. For others, an affordable plan might be so bare-bones that it wouldn't kick in before a major health catastrophe.
Wealthier people, on the other hand, could fare better under this plan, as long as they're healthy. They would get more federal money to buy insurance plans, and they would have the choice of buying cheaper, less comprehensive plans than those offered under Obamacare rules.
Vox highlighted the detrimental impact Walker's plan would have on the poor and demonstrated how an age-based tax credit plan could help the rich while hurting low-income earners of the same age:
For high earners, this might be great. Under Walker's plan, Taylor Swift would get $1,200 to help buy coverage because she's 25, while Obamacare would give her nothing on the grounds that she's superrich. For lower-income people, this is a lousy deal: A 25-year-old earning $17,000 at a low-wage job would get a $1,962 credit under Obamacare.
A world in which Obamacare is repealed, and the Walker plan enacted, is one in which the individual market is friendlier to higher-income, healthy shoppers -- but likely worse for the poor and the sick, both those seeking private coverage and those on Medicaid.
Instead of questioning Walker about this pressing problem with his health care plan, harming the ability of low-income Americans to afford quality health insurance compared to Obamacare, Stephanopoulos only asked him about criticism from an opponent, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), about the cost of his plan and how he would fund it. Watch:
Conservative pundits are hailing Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's proposed plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), while mainstream media and experts are pointing out how the costly proposal would disproportionately harm low-income Americans and those with preexisting conditions.
Four new studies show that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is working to drastically decrease the number of uninsured Americans and has had "virtually no adverse effect on labor force participation, [or] employment," standing in stark contrast to Fox News' long history of stoking fears that the law would "cost a fortune," and inhibit job creation.
Media covering Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio's claim that exceptions to abortion restrictions in the case of rape are not necessary because rape victims can take the morning-after pill to avoid abortion should also note that Rubio repeatedly used his U.S. Senate seat to try to limit access to contraception for women.
During the August 9 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked Rubio about his statement during Fox News' August 6 Republican presidential candidate primary debate that he does not favor exemptions for rape or incest in laws restricting abortion access.
Claiming that the number of abortions that occur after rape is "very small," Rubio stated, "Because of the existence of over-the-counter morning-after [pills] not to mention medical treatment that is now available immediately after the assault that should be widely available to victims, we can bring that number down to zero."
CHUCK TODD: I want to just get this clarification. Will you support legislation that has exceptions, anti-abortion legislation that has exceptions for life of the mother, rape, incest, et cetera?
RUBIO: Yeah, I'll support any legislation that reduces the number of abortions. So that means a 20 week abortion ban, at five months, a child, you'll recognize it as a human being in an ultrasound image, and I'll support that. That doesn't, obviously, cover the whole gambit, but it reduces the number of abortions. I'll support any legislation that reduces the number of abortions, and there are those that have that exception in it. I've never, what I've never done is said 'I require that it must have or not have exceptions.'
TODD: Why not? Why don't you think there should be a requirement of an exception?
RUBIO: Well a couple points. I think, first of all, the questions that people ask about those two instances are horrifying. A rape is an act of violence; it's a horrifying thing that happens and fortunately the number of abortions in this country that are due to rape are very small, less than one percent of the cases in the world. But they happen, and they're horrifyingly -- and they're tragic, and I recognize that. I also recognize that because of the existence of over-the-counter morning-after [pills] not to mention medical treatment that is now available immediately after the assault that should be widely available to victims, we can bring that number down to zero.
Media should not take Rubio's claim that exceptions for rape in laws restricting abortion access are not necessary due to the existence of over-the-counter emergency contraception at face value. Instead, they should take note of his repeated attempts to allow employers to deny coverage for contraceptives to women by claiming a moral objection in order to put his Meet the Press comment in proper context.
During a 2012 political fight over the scope of Obamacare's contraception mandate -- which requires all insurance plans to cover preventive services including contraception for women -- Rubio co-sponsored The Blunt Amendment, which according to The New York Times would have "let employers and health insurance companies deny coverage for contraceptives and other items they object to on religious or moral grounds." The amendment was defeated 51 to 48.
Rubio also introduced The Religious Freedom And Restoration Act of 2012, which according to the National Women's Law Center, "would [have] take[n] away the right of millions of women to have any insurance coverage for contraception, based on an employer or health plan's religious or moral beliefs -- whether affiliated or not with any religious entity." That bill died in committee.
While Rubio said he does not oppose the use of contraception, in 2014 he signed onto an amicus curiae brief in the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case that "repeatedly equate[ed] contraception and abortion, pointing to emergency contraception and the IUD in particular, which they say can block implantation of a fertilized egg," according to MSNBC.
From the July 25 edition of Washington's NewsChannel 8's Hispanic Agenda:
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Fox hosts Bill O'Reilly and Andrea Tantaros advocated for entirely eliminating Planned Parenthood's federal funding, which helps provide critical women's health services across the U.S., by wildly misrepresenting what the organization spends on abortion and the services they provide.
Congress long ago barred Planned Parenthood from using federal funds for abortion, but the release of two deceptively edited videos -- which attempt to smear the organization's legal practice of allowing women to choose to donate fetal tissues from their abortions to biomedical research -- has nevertheless reanimated anti-choice activists' campaign to defund the nonprofit.
Jumping off of the controversy, O'Reilly stated unequivocally on his July 22 show that "Planned Parenthood should be defunded, period. I don't want my tax dollars going to them."
Fox contributor Juan Williams attempted to push back, explaining that by defunding all of Planned Parenthood, "you're talking about taking away medical access to millions of women." But O'Reilly insisted "It wouldn't take away anything," and Fox host Tantaros agreed:
TANTAROS: I want to jump in on the women's health point because that's actually a crock. Look, you don't have to be pro-life to be horrified by these videos. A number of my pro-choice friends are horrified by these videos, the same way they were horrified by Kermit Gosnell. And look, here's my view on Planned Parenthood. It provides services now, those services are provided under Obamacare. So, we don't really need Planned Parenthood.
O'REILLY: 90 percent of their services are abortion-related.
TANTAROS: But here's my deal, I don't want to pay for it. It's a business, let private funding go to Planned Parenthood, taxpayer dollars should not have to go to crazy towns like San Francisco and to places like Planned Parenthood.
In fact, Obamacare does not guarantee women access to the critical health services Planned Parenthood's 817 clinics across the country provide, nor are "90 percent of their services" abortion related.
The Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies cover preventative women's health care services and prenatal care, and has already saved women over $1 billion dollars on birth control by reducing co-pays and deductibles. The law also established funding to construct health centers to increase access to health care.
But the law does not guarantee that there are clinics accessible to provide women these health services. Some local pharmacies may stock prescription birth control, for example, but they aren't equipped to perform pap smears, conduct exams for breast cancer, or provide treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
That kind of critical women's health care is provided at the hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics. According to their most recent annual report, from October 2012 to September 2013 their clinics performed almost 900,000 pap tests and breast exams, over 3.5 million birth control information and service requests, and nearly 4.5 million tests and treatments for STIs.
The same report (once again) confirmed that only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services were abortion-related.
As Vox's Sarah Kliff recently explained, Planned Parenthood receives "more than $500 million annually in government funding, mostly through Medicaid and grants," and that money is crucial to helping them provide this health care to millions of American women. "Because Planned Parenthood is such a large provider in this space," Kliff writes, "it's hard to see other clinics stepping in to fill the gap that [defunding] would leave."
Anti-choice attempts to shutter women's health clinics -- including Planned Parenthood centers -- around the country have already created a massive health crisis in states like Texas, where 13 million women live but currently only have access to a handful of clinics.
Fox has repeatedly hyped this most recent deceptive campaign against Planned Parenthood, with the network devoting 10 full segments in just one day to hyping the video's false claims.
Fox host Sean Hannity allowed Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to walk back comments he made during a 2013 New York Times interview in which Kasich expressed his concern "about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor" emanating from his own party.
On the July 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity interviewed newly-declared Republican presidential candidate John Kasich at Ohio State University. Kasich used the softball interview to rehabilitate his conservative credentials while quietly disavowing his previous comments about the draconian agenda of GOP policymakers on Capitol Hill. When asked whether or not he truly believed "Republicans are waging war" on the poor, Kasich deflected the question by saying, "I don't know where that came from." Both then impugned the credibility of The New York Times while Kasich outlined the ways he plans to help poor and struggling Americans as president, including repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA):
HANNITY: Let me ask you, in the lead up to this, a lot of articles were written -- "Is John Kasich conservative enough?" Now, you were quoted in The New York Times as saying about your party, the Republican Party, that it's waging "a war on the poor." When you accepted Medicaid expansion, you went out there and you talked about St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he's not gonna ask me if I decreased the size of government but whether I helped the poor. Do you really believe Republicans are waging war on--
KASICH: No, no, but look, I don't know where that came from, but here's what I will tell you--
HANNITY: The New York Times.
KASICH: Yeah but, I-- Okay, well then it has to be true, okay? But here's the thing--
HANNITY: How dare I quote a New York paper.
In fact, during an interview with a New York Times reporter following his October 22, 2013 decision to accept Medicaid expansion in the state of Ohio under the ACA , Kasich expressed his concern that "there seems to be a war on the poor" coming from Republican ranks, including the stigma that low-income Americans are "shiftless and lazy":
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In his grand Statehouse office beneath a bust of Lincoln, Gov. John R. Kasich let loose on fellow Republicans in Washington.
"I'm concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor," he said, sitting at the head of a burnished table as members of his cabinet lingered after a meeting. "That if you're poor, somehow you're shiftless and lazy."
But few have gone further than Mr. Kasich in critiquing his party's views on poverty programs, and last week he circumvented his own Republican legislature and its Tea Party wing by using a little-known state board to expand Medicaid to 275,000 poor Ohioans under President Obama's health care law.
Kasich's remarks were widely reported at the time by numerous reputable news outlets, including New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman. A November 1, 2013 column by Salon editor-at-large Joan Walsh pointed out the hypocrisy of Kasich lamenting his party's "war on the poor" while he simultaneously pushed an initiative to cut food assistance for up to 130,000 Ohio residents. Kasich's supposed willingness to take on the GOP's backwards anti-poverty agenda is often pointed to as an indication of his seriousness as a president candidate.
Fox's decision to let Kasich disavow his "war on the poor" comment is interesting, particularly in light of recent criticism from Heritage Foundation economist and Fox News contributor Stephen Moore that the governor's stance on poverty is "not an answer that conservatives are very persuaded by." Moore's intuition may be right. Kasich is a distant 11th -place contender in the Real Clear Politics polling average of the 16 declared Republican candidates. Kasich is also far behind in the crucial Fox News Primary and is in desperate need of positive exposure on the network.
A new Media Matters report on the "single issue syndrome" found that Spanish-language Sunday shows continue to devote considerable attention to immigration at the apparent expense of issues equally important to the Latino community. In addition, although Latinos make up more than 17 percent of the U.S. population, only 4 percent of guests on English-language Sunday shows between January 4 and May 3, 2015 were Hispanic - a drop of 42 percent from their 2014 appearances over a similar time period.
Tampa Bay Fox television station WTVT left out the fact that Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led legislature refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its story about an ailing young boy whose family might have to struggle to pay for health care as a result of reductions in federal Low-Income Pool (LIP) funding, even though experts say that expanded Medicaid would cover many such people at risk.
In a July 13 report, WTVT - which is owned and operated by parent company 21st Century Fox -- profiled a seriously ill young boy whose medical care could be jeopardized by reductions in federal LIP funding - money provided by state and federal resources "to support health care providers that provide uncompensated care to Florida residents who are uninsured or underinsured." While the report noted that federal matching funds for LIP would be phased out in the near future, it made no mention of the fact that expanding Medicaid in Florida -- which the state legislature and Gov. Scott has rejected -- would protect many families and individuals affected by LIP funding reductions:
Experts agree that expanding Medicaid could solve many of the problems created by reduced LIP funding. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, reductions in LIP funding are a result of the ACA's "creation of an explicit pathway for Medicaid coverage for adults with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty line, which changed CMS's (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) criteria for approving state plans to fund uncompensated care." As Politifact Florida reported, the two programs are not directly connected, but Gov. Scott's acceptance of the Medicaid expansion funds could mean continued health care coverage for many who currently benefit from LIP funding (emphasis added):
The LIP started in 2005 and was renewed until 2013. But when it came time to negotiate another extension for 2014 and beyond, Florida upped the funding request to a whopping $4.5 billion to expand the program. This was after the state refused some $51 billion in Medicaid expansion money over 10 years under the Affordable Care Act, to expand that program to anyone making up to about 133 percent of the poverty level, as the Obama administration wanted. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 ruled states had a choice whether to take the money or not.
In many ways, LIP isn't associated with Medicaid expansion, [Joan] Alker said, given that LIP started while Jeb Bush was governor and George W. Bush was president. But an expanded Medicaid would cover many of those patients, or use preventive care to keep them out of the hospital to begin with, she said.
Washington and Lee University professor Timothy Jost added that money for the Medicaid expansion was guaranteed by law in the Affordable Care Act, something not true about the program that created LIP, which is doled out as discretionary spending. (Jost supports the health care law.)
Of course, it's technically possible the federal government could change the law to do away with whatever program they like, including Medicaid. But that would require both houses of Congress and the president to agree on the terms, something "that isn't likely to happen anytime soon," Jost said.
Now Florida faces a tough set of choices: Find a new source of LIP funding, end the program altogether or negotiate with CMS to either revamp the program or get another extension, possibly for as short as one month. Florida also could decide to cover those patients by expanding Medicaid.
Right-wing media outlets are hyping disclosures that health insurance premium rates could "skyrocket" for some plans in 2016 as proof of the Affordable Care Act's failure as a national policy, ignoring the fact that these reported rates are skewed and not final, and that previous "rate shock" predictions have fallen flat.
From the July 13 edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Sean Hannity Show:
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Fox News is on the defensive after Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush said making Americans "work longer hours" was a central facet of his economic growth plan, claiming that Bush meant to say that the "Obama economy" is forcing Americans into part-time work. However, Fox's reasoning is based on faulty data and imaginary links between hours worked, productivity, and wages.
Since 2010, Fox News' hosts and analysts have kept up a steady drumbeat of dire warnings that the United States is on a road to financial and economic ruin and could meet the same fate as Greece if it doesn't implement draconian cuts to social safety net programs as a way to cut the debt and deficit. But Greece, which pursued such cuts, accelerated its economic deterioration, while the United States has rejected extreme austerity measures and enjoyed six years of continuous economic recovery.