Fox News hyped baseless claims from fast food industry sources that the recent fast food protests were nothing but "rent-a-mob[s]" and misleadingly cited national labor statistics to minimize the fast-food workers' apparent need for increased wages.
On the December 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested that there was a "secret ingredient" in the December 5 demonstrations by fast food workers and their advocates in support of minimum wage increases, asking Fox contributor and anti-union activist Mallory Factor to weigh in. Factor claimed "it was rent-a-mob. purely rent-a-mob," and that "these guys were getting $50, $75 in Seattle, for instance" -- claims which he sourced to the National Restaurant Association. Responding to Factor's assertions, Kilmeade did note that the director of the Fast Food Forward campaign, a group that had helped organize the protests, had denied allegations that protesters had been paid, yet then went on to mislead about the economic factors fueling the protests by claiming that only "2 percent of the workforce are minimum-wage workers and only 1.5 percent of them support their families or themselves on that salary."
Kilmeade's claim that only 2 percent of the workforce is paid the minimum wage references national workforce data, and does not reflect the reality of low wages in the fast food industry. In fact, an August 2013 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that about 13 percent of fast food workers make at or below the federal minimum wage, and about "70 percent of fast-food workers fall in the range between the current $7.25 federal minimum wage and the $10.10 level." From CEPR:
A study by researchers from the University of Illinois and the University of California-Berkeley found that 68 percent of fast food workers are the primary wage earners for their families, and CEPR noted that "more than one-fourth" of all fast food workers are responsible for raising at least one child. According to CEPR, 40 percent of fast food workers are over the age of 25, and of the fast food workers that are above age 20, "almost 85 percent have a high school degree or more and over one-third have spent at least some time in college (including about 6 percent who have earned a college diploma)."
Furthermore, Factor's characterization of the fast-food demonstrators as "rent-a-mobs" echoes a discredited anti-labor line of attack that has been pushed by notorious restaurant industry lobbyist Richard Berman and his anti-labor front groups, The Center for Union Facts and ROC Exposed, as well as by Walmart. The fact that Factor only cites a claim from the National Restaurant Association, an industry lobby group, that the protesters were "paid demonstrators" as a source for his "rent-a-mob" claim does not lend his argument much credibility.
Image via Steve Rhodes
The Wall Street Journal used a positive jobs report to urge Republican lawmakers to block an extension of unemployment benefits, ignoring the ongoing need for extended benefits and the harm that cutting them would have for the ongoing economic recovery.
A December 6 Journal editorial highlighted the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) November jobs report which found that the "jobless rate hit 7% in November" and that "nearly every statistic pointed in a stronger direction." The Journal used the news to push Republican policymakers to reject a proposed extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, concluding that the positive news "underscores that Republicans should hold fast against another expansion of federal jobless benefits," and claiming that jobless benefits have not been shown to have a positive economic effect:
The November report also underscores that Republicans should hold fast against another expansion of federal jobless benefits. Democrats and the White House want to include this in a House-Senate budget despite a cost of as much as $25 billion that would go straight to the deficit.
Their amazing economic rationale is that every $1 in jobless benefits yields $1.80 in higher GDP. This is the famous Keynesian "multiplier" that didn't work in the 2008 or 2009 stimulus binges. The basic argument is that if the government pays more people not to work, then more people will end up working. If you believe that, you probably also think ObamaCare will shrink the deficit.
But despite the positive jobs report, the need to extend unemployment benefits remains high. In a November 7 report, the Economic Policy Institute found that the "ratio of unemployed workers to job openings is 2.9-to-1, as high as the highest the ratio ever got in the early 2000s downturn," [emphasis original] making the extension "[a]bsolutely" necessary." It noted that congressional failure to extend the benefits would have a devastating macroeconomic effects, resulting in the loss of "roughly 310,000 jobs that would be supported by continuing UI benefit extensions through 2014," -- a loss that would increase the overall unemployment rate by around 0.2 percentage points. In an email to The New York Times, JPMorgan Chase chief United States economist Michael Feroli stated that failure to extend UI benefits "could shave 0.4 percentage point off growth in the first quarter next year."
Extending unemployment benefits does not create a disincentive to work, especially during periods of high unemployment. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) called such claims "seriously overblown, especially in the current jobs slump." As the CBPP noted in November, "arguments that emergency UI benefits are an important contributor to today's high unemployment have cause and effect backwards" [emphasis original] and "EUC benefits help create that additional demand and contribute to job creation." The November EPI report similarly disputed claims that extended unemployment benefits encourage unemployment:
In the two most careful studies available on the effects of UI extensions on job search in the Great Recession ... both find a very small increase in the duration of unemployment arising from the extensions, but they find that this is primarily because workers who receive UI benefits are less likely to simply give up looking for work.
Fox News dismissed the economic benefits of long-term unemployment insurance, erroneously characterizing the program as a "crutch" holding back economic growth.
On December 6, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its unemployment report for the month of November. The national unemployment rate edged down from 7.3 to 7 percent, while the economy added a total of 203,000 jobs month-to-month, beating economists' expectations.
On the December 6 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto and Fox Business contributor Charles Payne used the better than expected report to cast doubt on Rep. Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) recent call to extend long-term unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of the year. Cavuto claimed that Pelosi was misguided for "talking up the need for extending jobless benefits and all of that in the face of more jobs" before Payne launched an all-out attack on social safety net programs:
PAYNE: Yeah, you know, it's really interesting as people, as we get more and more people coming off these jobless benefits, what are they doing? They're going back into the job market. What's happening? More jobs are being created. It's the exact opposite of what they're preaching in Washington which is the defeatist attitude. They don't believe in the American economic system. You know, it doesn't need all these crutches, it doesn't need all these aids. Let people come back into the job market, that's a sign of confidence; confidence is what this is all about. That's what will spark a real recovery. Unlimited unemployment benefits, 50 million people on food stamps, that's nutty stuff, you can do the math, you can talk about multiplier effects all you want, that's not what America was built on. This stock market wants people to get off these unemployment benefits after three years and look for a job, because they will eventually find a job and that's better for all of us.
Cavuto and Payne's claim that the strong jobs report indicates that unemployment insurance doesn't have to be extended -- in addition to claiming that allowing the program to expire would help the economy -- is at odds with reality.
Despite recent months of relatively strong job growth, the long-term unemployed -- the same people who are facing benefit cuts when the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program expires later this month -- have seen little gain. According to economist Chad Stone of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, long-term unemployment currently "equals the highest rate achieved in any previous recession since the end of World War II." Stone also noted that when previous emergency unemployment insurance programs expired, the long-term unemployment rate was at far lower levels.
Fox News cited a study by a lobbying group with ties to the fast food industry to push debunked myths on the effects of raising the minimum wage, ignoring a wealth of economic evidence showing that increasing the minimum wage has little to no effect on employment.
On December 5, fast food workers went on strike across the nation to protest for higher pay. The December 5 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto ran a segment covering the protests, with reporter David Lee Miller claiming that "according to one university study, hiking the minimum wage - the federal minimum wage - would cost nearly half a million jobs."
From the December 5 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the December 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The Wall Street Journal editorial board pushed long-debunked myths about the minimum wage, misleadingly criticizing the growing support for increasing the minimum wage as economically destructive.
In a December 5 editorial, the Journal criticized President Obama's support of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, claiming that the move would harm the economy and the job market. After lamenting the passage of a number of recent state-level minimum wage hikes, The editorial concluded:
Our readers are familiar with the mountains of evidence that minimum wages lead to fewer workers hired. Small minimum-wage hikes have small negative employment effects, but raising a worker's cost by 50% or more risks pricing many low-skilled workers out of the job market.
While the Journal claims that there are "mountains of evidence" that support the claim that minimum wage hikes are harmful to the labor market, it never offers any specific proof about their broader impact. If it had actually looked at the "mountains of evidence" concerning minimum wage hikes, a different picture would emerge.
Research conducted by economists Paul Wolfson of Dartmouth and Dale Belman of Michigan State looked at a variety of studies published on the minimum wage since 2000. While some found negative employment effects and some found positive effects, their analysis concluded that across studies, there are no statistically significant negative hiring effects of increasing the minimum wage.
Furthermore, according to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, while "employment responses generally cluster near zero," the effect of a minimum wage hike on employment is "more likely to be positive than negative."
Of course, nowhere in its editorial did the Journal note the positive effect a minimum wage increase would have on workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would increase the wages of about 30 million workers, 88 percent of whom are at least 20 years old.
In addition to the benefit of workers receiving higher wages, a minimum wage increase would also help the economy at large. According to the same EPI study, the increased spending power of workers would increase gross domestic product by about $32 billion and create approximately 140,000 jobs.
Flickr Image Via The All-Nite Images.
This morning, as minimum wage workers in 100 cities around the country went on strike, CNN's New Day, in 90 seconds, demonstrated how to cover issues of poverty.
Watch from 1:10: (Full segment included for context.)
CNN's Alison Kosik deserves credit for reporting the facts about low-wage workers.
Her subject is a 58-year-old man with two college age children who works at Kentucky Fried Chicken, scraping by with a second job at Kennedy Airport -- not a teenager working for spending money -- which is who conservatives claim minimum wage workers are.
"Living on $7.25 -- you cannot do it," he tells Kosik. "You couldn't even pay your apartment, buy food."
She goes on to acknowledge the struggle that fast food workers face in their daily living, pointing out how far their median wages -- even if working full time -- fall below the poverty line for families.
Then she turns to Columbia University Professor Dorian Warren, who studies "inequality and American politics" to explain that workers are not taking these jobs by choice, but because they are "desperate."
Kosik concludes that 6 out of 10 jobs expected to be created in the next decade in fast-growth industries pay low wages, demonstrating the magnitude of the issue.
In contrast, this is how a certain "fair and balanced" network covers workers seeking higher wages:
From the December 4 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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From the December 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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As the Detroit bankruptcy moves forward, Fox News personalities have been quick to blame worker unions and political corruption for the city's unfunded pension liabilities. This discourse ignores the forces actually undermining Detroit's financial solvency: the dramatic reduction of the city's population and taxbase since its post-war peak.
In 2013, broadcast evening news programs have largely ignored the need for the economy to return to full employment, instead placing overwhelming focus on debt and deficit reduction.
From the December 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Right-wing media have repeatedly blocked efforts to help the economy return to full employment in recent years, instead placing undue focus on policies that would hinder economic growth and job creation.
In a December 2 post on The New York Times' Economix blog, Center on Budget and Policies Priorities Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein outlined a number of policies that would help the economy return to full employment, roughly defined as when all who are able and want to work are employed. Bernstein's policy prescriptions derive from his recently released book, Getting Back to Full Employment, coauthored with economist Dean Baker.
Bernstein's myriad recommendations, as he notes, have been repeatedly stymied by the current "political environment." Many of the policies he recommends -- particularly those related to fiscal policy -- have been given extra derailment by the right-wing media, who vehemently oppose efforts that would return the U.S. economy to full employment.
The primary reason Bernstein cites to explain why the economy has been operating below full employment is the implementation of austerity measures that have drastically reduced the deficit in the past few years. According to Bernstein, the policy of cutting deficits in a time of high unemployment has held back the economy from reaching its full potential.
Of course, in the past few years, right-wing media have championed every effort to reduce deficits and derided any policies that would potentially increase them, even if the result was faster economic and jobs growth.
For example, in the third quarter of 2013, Fox News placed overwhelming focus on deficit reduction, mentioning its supposed need as the country's top economic priority instead of economic growth. Indeed, calling for deficit reduction has become a theme at the network, even while other news outlets place more emphasis on the need for economic growth.
Right-wing media's focus on deficits as economic priorities has not only impeded efforts to increase employment through increased government spending -- an idea endorsed by economists -- but has also crowded out any discussion of pro-growth economic policy.
Bernstein states that one of the best paths to full employment is directly targeting unemployed people through things like subsidized jobs programs. According to Bernstein, government should be involved in directly creating jobs as "employer of last resort," adding that "just as the Fed's powers must be invoked when credit markets fail, so must the government's when labor markets fail to create the quantity of jobs necessary to employ American labor resources (or 'people,' if you prefer)."
In the past few years, right-wing media have not only railed against enacting policies that would create jobs indirectly -- such as canceling sequestration -- but also against direct employment efforts.
In 2011 when President Obama introduced the American Jobs Act, a bill that would directly increase employment through investment and jobs training programs for the unemployed, right-wing media were quick to run attacks against the legislation. Fox News erroneously characterized the bill as "another failed stimulus plan" and falsely claimed that economists considered it "nonsense." And even though the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - commonly known as the stimulus -- unequivocally created up to millions of jobs, Fox still continues to characterize the bill as a failure.
Bernstein notes that one of the greatest direct employment efforts of the past few years was utilizing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund to places hundreds of thousands of low-income individuals in temporary jobs. Of course, TANF -- commonly referred to as welfare -- has become right-wing media's favorite boogeyman, with false claims about its effectiveness and necessity trumpeted regularly on Fox News.
Bernstein's final recommendation focuses on the need for greater infrastructure investment, noting that it would increase long-term economic output and productivity. He also notes that given current low borrowing rates, increased investment through deficit spending would produce minimal negative side effects.
Right-wing media have long opposed infrastructure investment and have ramped up efforts to block additional investment in recent months. Conservative media figures repeatedly dismiss calls for additional investment, erroneously claiming that current investment levels are adequate despite the fact that spending on infrastructure is at historic lows. In a more direct and egregious attack on infrastructure spending, The Wall Street Journal editorial board recently claimed that it could not spur economic growth despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
While Bernstein includes additional recommendations on how to achieve full employment that get little play in national media debates, it is clear that right-wing media have played a role in ensuring that the economy does not achieve this goal anytime soon.
The Columbus Dispatch claimed that unemployment insurance [UI] benefits create a disincentive to work to attack President Obama's recent call to extend them into 2014. However, multiple economists have found that unemployment benefits are not disincentives to work during economic downturns, and that not extending them will hurt the economy and result in job loss.