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Fox News Talks A Lot About Inequality And Poverty, But Promotes Policies That Would Make The Problems Worse
In the first quarter of 2016, prime-time and evening weekday news programs on the largest cable and broadcast outlets mentioned poverty during roughly 55 percent of their discussions of economic inequality in the United States. During the same time period, Sunday political talk shows mentioned poverty in only 33 percent of discussions of economic inequality.
NRF Claims Overtime Expansion Will “Demote” Working Americans “To Clock-Punchers”
Right-wing media and Republican politicians blasted the Labor Department’s decision to update and expand overtime protections, clearly taking their cues from the National Retail Federation (NRF) -- a business association known for spreading falsehoods on worker rights. The NRF and its allies are portraying overtime expansion as something that will hurt workers and the economy, ignoring the association’s own report, which found that the change would likely result in new jobs and fewer unpaid hours for retail workers.
The Department of Labor released an update to overtime rules for salaried employees on May 17, raising the minimum annual salary threshold to qualify for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 -- an announcement that was denounced by right-wing media. Conservative outlets claimed the rule was “interfering” with businesses and would result in less flexibility and possibly lower pay, citing the NRF’s 2016 report “Rethinking Overtime” as proof, but they failed to acknowledge that the NRF has consistently opposed better pay for workers, fair scheduling, and collective bargaining rights. Contrary to claims that the expanded overtime will harm the economy, the NRF’s own report found the overtime rule would lead to over 117,100 new part-time jobs.
The Wall Street Journal decried the updated overtime rule in a May 18 editorial, claiming employers will lower salaries as a result. The Journal cited the NRF study, which found that businesses will “shift about a third of salaried retail and restaurant workers to hourly status” and bizarrely pointed to the study’s finding that one in 10 workers on salary will work fewer hours (which are already unpaid) as proof that the rule is not in the best interests of employers or workers. Townhall also pushed the narrative that salaried workers working fewer unpaid hours is a negative, citing NRF’s report.
During NRF’s campaign against overtime expansion, the lobbying group has claimed the new rule is “outrageous” and will force employers “to demote their middle management professionals to clock-punchers.” On the May 18 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, NRF senior vice president David French called the rule “a massive overreach.” Earlier that day on Fox’s America’s Newsroom, correspondent Kevin Corke said the rule will mean “more red tape and fewer advancement opportunities” and falsely claimed that “most of the people impacted by this change will not see any additional pay.” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) echoed NRF’s statement on the May 19 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., claiming the overtime rule imposes “more red tape on job creators, which translates into fewer opportunities for people.” In statements released May 18, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) referred to the overtime rule as “more red tape” while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed it was an “absolute disaster” that will end up “hurt[ing] the very people it alleges to help.”
Despite the coordinated condemnation from conservative media outlets and politicians, overtime expansion is vitally important in a country where 50 percent of full-time workers already work more than 40 hours per week. In an April 21 op-ed in The New York Times, economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich argued that many Americans are unaware that overtime protections have eroded over generations, and he noted that working unpaid overtime limits worker productivity and hiring. Reich also pointed out that the proliferation of unpaid overtime contributes to soaring corporate profits.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that overtime expansion will “reduce excessive hours of unpaid work” while adding at least 120,000 jobs in the retail sector -- the very one the NRF claims to represent. The rule change is also expected to change employer behavior; some employers will hire more workers, while other employers will become more efficient. Employees in many instances work unnecessary hours because company cultures value “how much people work (or seem to)” instead of “the quality of their output,” according to an article by professors Erin Reid and Lakshmi Ramarajan in the June 2016 edition of the Harvard Business Review.
The NRF has a history of pushing a right-wing, anti-worker agenda. The group opposes collective bargaining and fair scheduling, and was an outspoken opponent of increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour when the debate first gained prominence in 2014.
Right-wing media assailed new overtime rules released by the Department of Labor (DOL) on May 17, which expand overtime pay protections to 4.2 million American workers previously exempt from compensation under outdated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new rule updates the minimum salary threshold to qualify for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 per year to $47,476 per year, and pegs the threshold to inflation going forward.
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Conservative economist Stephen Moore lambasted President Obama’s performance on the economy -- claiming the Obama administration accumulated too much debt and generated too little economic growth -- in an op-ed championing Donald Trump’s plan to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations, which will drive up even more debt and is virtually guaranteed not to grow the economy.
Moore claimed in a May 10 op-ed published by USA Today that Donald Trump's tax plan is "designed to supercharge growth" and break with years of supposedly lackluster "Obamanomics." He chided Obama for presiding over "the weakest economic recovery in 75 years" and accumulating "almost $8 trillion" in national debt, even though the annual deficit has actually been decreasing since 2011, the unemployment rate has been cut in half since the president’s first year in office, and the economy has created 14.2 million jobs since the labor market bottomed out in early 2010. From USA Today:
It’s no mystery why. Obamanomics has given us the weakest economic recovery in 75 years. Wages are flat or falling for all but those in the top 10%. And our national debt has risen by almost $8 trillion in seven years.
The Trump tax plan is designed to supercharge growth, much like President Kennedy did in the 1960s and President Reagan did in the boom years of the 1980s with their tax reductions.
The biggest deficit we need to urgently fix is our growth deficit. We must pump up our GDP growth from the anemic 1% rate of Obama’s past six months up to a sustained 4% under Trump. Just 2% faster growth reduces our budget deficit over a decade by more than $5 trillion.
Liberal economists pout that this growth is impossible for America, but that’s what people said in the miserable 1970s. Reagan (and JFK before him) proved that with the right policy incentives that get government off the back of business, a new era of prosperity is just around the corner.
Moore advocated for Trump’s tax plan as an alternative to Obama’s economic record, a plan that even the most generous estimates show will produce larger budget deficits and greater debt accumulation than witnessed during the Obama administration. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) and the conservative Tax Foundation each scored Trump’s tax plan and found that it would explode the deficit by $9 to $12 trillion over the next decade, on top of $9.4 trillion in projected deficits at current spending levels. The Tax Foundation’s analysis further claimed that Trump’s tax plan would boost investment and wage growth while creating up to 5.3 million new jobs, but those figures come from a so-called “dynamic” scoring model that has been criticized for overestimating the stimulative value of tax cuts.
Moore’s claim that Trump’s tax plan would create 4 percent economic growth is reminiscent of claims by failed Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, which experts quickly dismissed as “nonsense” and “wizardry.” According to a September 2014 report from the Brookings Institution, tax cuts do not necessarily create economic growth and they can even discourage growth by undermining economic incentives to invest. A September 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which was suppressed by Senate Republicans, similarly found no correlation between tax cuts and economic growth, but it did caution that tax cuts for high-income individuals “appear to be associated” with rising inequality.
Moore has a long and well-documented history of distorting facts on the economy. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who has spent years documenting Moore's repeated failures in economic policy, recently slammed the right-wing commentator’s "impressive lack of even minimal technical competence."
Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.
Politico reported that Donald Trump is tapping conservative economic pundits Stephen Moore and Larry Kudlow to assist in remaking the presumptive Republican nominee’s tax plan, which has been lambasted as a budget-busting giveaway to high-income earners and corporations. Media should be aware that both Moore and Kudlow have long histories of playing fast and loose with the facts while making outlandish and incorrect claims about the economy.
Media are pointing out Donald Trump’s reversals on his tax and minimum wage policy stances, calling the pivots “a big change” from his positions in the Republican primary election.
Research Shows Economic Difficulties Are Still A Major Concern For Recent Graduates, Especially Women And African-Americans
The Washington Post reported on the economic prospects of the Class of 2016, saying that while the economy has improved, wages are still down for recent graduates, and the mounting debt thrust onto students forces many to take jobs with poor advancement opportunities.
In a May 2 article for The Washington Post’s Grade Point education news blog, reporter Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reported that while hiring continues to improve for recent college graduates, job prospects are still poor, and the increasing debt burden faced by graduates forces them to take jobs -- if they can find one -- that may have no chance of wage growth or career development. The Post highlighted findings from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) showing that nearly seven years after the end of the Great Recession, recent graduates still face many employment hurdles, namely lower pay and higher amounts of student debt.
While the unemployment rate for recent graduates is “only a tenth of a percentage point” above pre-recession levels, the Post wrote, “nearly 13 percent of young college graduates are currently underemployed, compared to 9.6 percent nine years ago.” As wages are still low for recent graduates, student debt burdens continue to climb and the Post reported that it is likely “the average Class of 2016 graduate will leave school with five-figure debt.” The piece said student debt burdens “likely will force graduates to accept jobs without long-term prospects for career or wage growth.” These and other factors spurred EPI to conclude that new graduates likely will earn less in the next decade than those who graduated before the recession.
EPI also found that prospects for recent graduates are bleaker for women and African-Americans, a point Media Matters has also highlighted. According to the Post, the national average unemployment rate for college graduates is 5.6 percent, nearly double the 9.4 percent unemployment rate EPI found for black college graduates. Since 2000, the gender gap for recent graduates has widened; female graduates today make 6.8 percent less than their counterparts did in 2000 compared to male college graduates, who now earn 8 percent more than male graduates did 16 years ago.
From The Washington Post:
If the last few years are any indication, the average Class of 2016 graduate will leave school with five-figure debt. That albatross likely will force graduates to accept jobs without long-term prospects for career or wage growth, according to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute. Analysts at the think tank say that despite the rosy overall employment picture, graduates actually face a tougher labor market than they would have before the 2008 recession. Degree-holders, they say, still contend with elevated levels of unemployment and underemployment, and a large share are neither employed nor pursuing advanced degrees — in other words, they are idling.
“Although there have been small improvements, there is still a lot that’s problematic about this economy for young college grads,” said Teresa Kroeger, a research assistant at EPI who co-authored the study. “Wages are still performing poorly. And we see still disparities between genders and racial groups.”
Analysts at EPI say unemployment for young black college graduates hovers at 9.4 percent, higher than the peak unemployment rate for young white college grads during the recession. And gender wage inequality has grown, with male college grads earning 8 percent more this year than in 2000, while young women with degrees earned 6.8 percent less than in 2000.
Perhaps the most troubling prediction from the institute posits that newly minted grads as a whole likely will earn less and have more spells of unemployment during the next 10 to 15 years than if they had graduated before the downturn.
On the April 29 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney joined co-hosts Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, and Steve Doocy for a segment slamming President Obama’s record on the economy. The segment was a response to Obama’s recent interview with The New York Times, during which the president discussed how markedly the economy has improved since 2008 and what he hopes will be his economic legacy. The segment seemed to unwittingly mirror the right-wing playbook for downplaying positive economic gains during Democratic administrations by relying on false conservative talking points to dismiss economic growth and tout failed tax policies:
The segment opened with Kilmeade and Varney making the false claim that Obama is “the only U.S. president who could not deliver a single year of three percent growth.” It is not clear why Fox News is fixated on growing the economy at an average rate of three percent annually. Regardless, Kilmeade’s claim that Obama is “the only” president not to clear that bar is false.
According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which only has consistent annual data from 1930 to the present, Republican president Herbert Hoover didn’t just fail to hit three percent growth, he failed to hit zero percent growth. The economy contracted at a rate of -8.5 percent in 1930, -6.4 percent in 1931, a staggering -12.9 percent in 1932, and -1.3 percent in 1933. The contraction in 1933 may have been greater, had Franklin Delano Roosevelt not replaced Hoover in the White House in March of that year, initiating substantial government stimulus projects known as the New Deal. Reliable GDP estimates prior to 1930 are difficult to find, but those data that are available show four consecutive Republican presidents overseeing economic growth of less than 2 percent from 1871 to 1885. Over the course of the next 45 years the economy swung wildly between boom and bust cycles, including several deep depressions, before the Great Depression and FDR’s subsequent creation of oversight mechanisms that work to maintain relative economic stability.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney is supposed to be a serious voice for analysis and expertise at the network, but Varney is a serial minformer, who creates confusion on economic issues.
In November 2014, Varney predicted
In the past week, Varney has attacked impoverished children for soaking up too many government benefits and watched idly as an economist easily debunked conservative demands for more tax cuts and deregulation to spur the economy. Since the start of the year Varney has been an unceasing source of misinformation on the minimum wage, has misled on the funding structures of public-sector unions, has lamented a proposal to pay people for the hours they work, and has attacked “ridiculous” anti-poverty programs that help struggling families and save taxpayers money.
In an April 28 blog post, Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman explained how Republicans mislead the American public about the health of the economy by ignoring positive economic trends. The focus of Waldman’s comparison was the “objective reality” of progress and areas for improvement specified by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the “laughable fantasy” of “an absolute (economic) nightmare” outlined by Republican front-runner Donald Trump, but it could have just as easily been any of the personalities at Fox News. This April 29 Fox & Friends segment that mislead on GDP is one very good example.
In Waldman’s piece, he hit Trump for pretending tax cuts are the solution to economic growth -- they are actually a proven failure. Varney often repeats this same tax cut talking point at Fox. When Earhardt asked on Fox & Friends “what is the reason for these bad numbers” on the economy, Varney slammed “massive regulation, constant government borrowing” and “overspending to raise the debt” -- exactly the talking points for which Waldman hit Trump the day before.
New Research Shows The Gender Pay Gap Is Widening For College Graduates
The Washington Post highlighted new research demonstrating that pay disparities between men and women “start earlier in their careers than frequently assumed and have significantly widened” among college graduates in the past year. The research debunks a claim frequently promoted by right-wing media outlets that the obvious pay discrimination faced by millions of American women is the result of their personal and professional choices.
In an April 28 post for The Washington Post's Wonkblog, reporter Danielle Paquette highlighted research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and American Association of University Women (AAUW) demonstrating that pay disparities between men and women start as soon as students graduate from college, persist regardless of chosen career fields, and are actually worse for college graduates than for women with only a high school education. The research stands as yet more evidence against the misleading claim frequently pushed by conservative media outlets that the gender pay gap, if it exists at all, is actually the fault of women who pursue less lucrative professions and forgo career opportunities to have children and raise a family.
From The Washington Post (emphasis added):
Pay disparities between men and women start earlier in their careers than frequently assumed and have significantly widened for young workers in the past year, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute.
Paychecks for young female college graduates are about 79 percent as large as those of their male peers, the think tank found -- a serious drop from 84 percent last year.
The sudden change follows a more gradual shift. In 2000, women ages 21 to 24 with college degrees earned 92 percent of their male counterparts’ wages on average, which was unchanged from 1990.
Regardless of their education, young women typically earn less money than young men in the United States. Female high-school graduates, ages 21 to 24, now earn an average of 92 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.
Some have argued that the wage gap, at any stage of a woman’s life, starts with her choices. Women are more likely than men to scale back at work when they start a family, for instance. (Employers are also more likely to reward fathers and penalize mothers.) But EPI's data shows that the gender wage gap cracks open right after college graduation, well before decisions like maternity leave can affect women’s earnings.
A 2015 AAUW report of workers one year out of college found considerable pay differences between men and women in the same career fields.
Women who majored in business, for example, earned an average of $38,000, while men bagged just more than $45,000. In engineering, computer and information sciences fields, young female graduates earned between 77 and 88 percent of what their male colleagues made.
Across all fields, after controlling for major, occupation and grade-point average, the report found women still earned 7 percent less than men.
Stuart Varney: "It Is Legitimate To Use The Word Recession" Despite Seven Consecutive Quarters Of Economic Growth
Fox Business host Stuart Varney misleadingly used the Commerce Department's most recent economic growth estimat
On the April 28 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Varney used the Commerce Department’s quarterly GDP rep
The last recession, which the National Bureau of Economic Research defines as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months,” began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, first quarter economic growth has typically lagged behind growth for the rest of the year since the economy emerged from the Bush-era Great Recession:
Varney’s warning that a recession may be imminent does not match expert analysis. On April 28, The Washington Post reported that “most analysts say that the United States faces little risk of recession.” Reuters reported
Varney is a serial misinformer on the economy, repeatedly attempting to spin data to claim President Obama’s economic policies have failed, even though the president’s economic legacy of the last seven years shows the unemployment rate has been cut in half, annual deficits have gone down, GDP has grown, and the United States enjoyed the third-longest stock market upswing in its history. Varney’s spin on economic data has gone so far that on December 4 -- in response to a strong November jobs report that beat most economists' expectations -- he managed to conclude that the pace of job creation was "mediocre," and on January 8 he downplayed the December jobs report as merely "modest" even though it was arguably the strongest jobs report of 2015.
A Guide To The Funders Behind A Tangled Network Of Advocacy, Research, Media, And Profiteering That’s Taking Over Public Education
Media Matters outlines the many overlapping connections in an echo chamber of education privatization advocacy groups, think tanks, and media outlets that are increasingly funded by a handful of conservative billionaires and for-profit education companies -- often without proper disclosure.