From the February 13 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News pushed aside economic reality and Volkswagen's stated position surrounding unionization effort at a Tennessee plant, instead warning that a unionization push may generate too many benefits for workers and hurt the carmaker.
Workers at a Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee are voting this week on whether to unionize with the United Auto Workers (UAW). A final vote on the move is scheduled to take place by February 14, and in advance of the decision, outside conservative activist groups have mobilized a campaign to halt the unionization effort, succeeding in skewing local coverage of the issue.
Now Fox News is joining the union opposition effort. The February 13 edition of Fox & Friends stoked fears that unionization could hurt the U.S. economy and make manufacturing prohibitively expensive, something that Fox Business host Stuart Varney called "a very big issue":
PETER JOHNSON, JR.: What does this sound in terms of the economy, in terms of right to work, in terms of our ability in this country to manufacture in a way that's not too expensive?
VARNEY: Oh, it's a very big issue.
JOHNSON: Yeah. Tell us about that.
VARNEY: A very, very big issue. Foreign carmakers have, I think, 11 plants in more than a dozen states in America. They're nonunion, very successful automobile producers. Now, if the union comes into Volkswagen, do they now have union rules, work rules? Which really hurts the ability of a carmaker to move quickly with a new product. What about wage levels? What about benefits? Do those always go up because of unionization?
Varney purports to be concerned with economic growth and employer's rights, but it is at the expense of the facts.
The reality is that Volkswagen is not opposing the unionization effort in Tennessee.
Fox host Brian Kilmeade is worried. Worried that President Obama's move to increase wages for some federal workers could lead to ... higher wages for workers?
Kilmeade's concern comes as Obama, in response to congressional inaction on raising the minimum wage, pursues executive action that will boost wages for federally contracted workers to a minimum of $10.10 per hour, effective January 1, 2015. The action will only apply to newly contracted workers.
Discussing the president's action on the February 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Kilmeade warned of a "ripple effect" that could occur if other "start demanding raises."
KILMEADE: And how is this going to affect business? Just think about this real quick, if you want to get - elevate everybody's minimum wage to $10.10 from $7 and something else, you have to say to yourself, those people who are making $2 above minimum wage, whatever it was, they're going to go "excuse me, could I have a raise? Because the whole country have a raise?" And then you got to ask every business owner, "can you handle that? Will it affect hiring?" So there's going to be a ripple effect. But the president's trying to show that he's not going to be hamstrung by a legislature that does not get along.
JOHNSON JR.: You're absolutely right, in the wake of bad job creation numbers over the last few days, the President is saying, "I'm for the working man and working woman in this country" although, it really won't have much effect at all. "I'm trying to send a signal," as Brian says, that "I'm the guy, I'm you're guy, I'm for you, let's stop income disparity in this country."
Kilmeade's concern trolling over whether increased wages will "affect hiring" is a canard. Economists say raising the minimum wage will help stimulate the economy while benefiting millions of workers.
In an open letter to Obama and congressional leaders, over 600 economists agreed that an increase would not negatively impact employment and could even have a "small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth." The economists further highlighted the fact that a national minimum wage increase would cause a dramatic "spillover" effect that would boost compensation for millions "as employers adjust their internal wage ladders," and, unlike Fox, noted that this is beneficial to the economy. From the open letter (emphasis added):
This policy would directly provide higher wages for close to 17 million workers by 2016. Furthermore, another 11 million workers whose wages are just above the new minimum would likely see a wage increase through "spillover" effects, as employers adjust their internal wage ladders. The vast majority of employees who would benefit are adults in working families, disproportionately women, who work at least 20 hours a week and depend on these earnings to make ends meet. At a time when persistent high unemployment is putting enormous downward pressure on wages, such a minimum-wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers.
In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.
Economic experts at The Economic Policy Institute have called Obama's executive order "a good first step" toward improving wages for American workers and have repeatedly called on Obama to take this action to "insure that taxpayer funds are not used to create an ever larger workforce that is unable to escape poverty and support a decent standard of living."
Right-wing media jumped to defend businesses' right to game the system and fire employees merely to avoid the obligation of providing them with health insurance.
On February 10 the IRS announced that it would delay the health insurance employer mandate for medium-sized businesses employing between 50 and 99 people until 2016. Smaller businesses -- those with 49 employees or fewer -- are not required to provide all workers with health insurance. To prevent employers from simply firing workers in order to avoid the obligation to provide health coverage in the next couple years, the IRS included a safeguard: If these businesses fire workers, they must show they did so for "bona fide business reasons" in order to be eligible for the delayed mandate.
In other words, as Washington Post's Wonkblog explained, "'It's simply so they don't game the system,' one senior administration official told reporters on a phone call this afternoon. 'They have to certify they're not doing that and not dropping their coverage.'"
Preventing employers from firing workers merely in order to game the system may seem like common sense, but not to conservative media. Outlets like Fox News immediately lambasted the safeguard as "Orwellian," while The Wall Street Journal blamed the health care law for forcing businesses to fire employees:
Either Obamacare is ushering in a worker's paradise, in which case by the White House's own logic exempting businesses from its ministrations is harming employees. Or else the mandate really is leading business to cut back on hiring, hours and shifting workers to part-time as the evidence in the real economy suggests.
On the February 10 edition of Fox's The Kelly File, Fox News' Megyn Kelly scoffed at the idea that employers shouldn't be permitted to fire workers merely to avoid giving them health insurance:
KELLY: That is the government telling you, employers, 'you will not fire a single person, you will not lay off a single person if you want to take advantage of our gift, and you have to certify under penalty of perjury to the IRS that you didn't do that, that no layoff was due to Obamacare.'
Wow, so now, if a small business employer wants to lay off a person under pain of perjury he has to convince people at the IRS that he's not doing it because of Obamacare.
Washington Post columnist and former Republican speechwriter Marc Thiessen erroneously claimed that a recent report shows the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will reduce wages and cause a "$70 billion pay cut" when in fact the report shows that the health care law will result in increased compensation.
On February 4, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its annual 10-year projection of current policy's impact on the budget and economy. The report garnered so much attention following its release that CBO Director Doug Elmendorf was forced to issue a public response refuting misleading allegations that the ACA would erase up to 2.5 million jobs over the next decade.
Having lost the battle to spin the ACA as a job killer, right-wing media have pivoted to a new erroneous claim: Americans will see a "$70 billion pay cut" thanks to the health reform law.
On February 10, Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen published an op-ed claiming that "buried on page 117" of the CBO report was evidence of the ACA depressing American wages. Thiessen spun the report's mention of a "roughly 1 percent reduction in aggregate labor compensation over the 2017-2024 period" to mean that the health care law was taking money out of the pockets of working-class Americans. From The Washington Post:
Obamacare means a 1 percent pay cut for American workers.
How much does that come to? Since wages and salaries were about $6.85 trillion in 2012 and are expected to exceed $7 trillion in 2013 and 2014, a 1 percent reduction in compensation is going to cost American workers at least $70 billion a year in lost wages.
Economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research was quick to note that the next decade will see relative compensation increase as a result of health reform. Had Thiessen included the CBO's actual conclusion in his analysis, he would have found that the CBO projects hours worked to decrease more than relative compensation. From CEPR (emphasis added):
"According to CBO's more detailed analysis, the 1 percent reduction in aggregate compensation that will occur as a result of the ACA corresponds to a reduction of about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent in hours worked. (p 127)"
We checked with Mr. Arithmetic and he pointed out that if hours fall by 1.5 to 2.0 percent, but compensation only falls by 1.0 percent, then compensation per hour rises by 0.5-1.0 percent due to the ACA. In other words, CBO is telling us that for each hour worked, people will be seeing higher, not lower wages. That is the opposite of a pay cut.
In a February 6 New York Times op-ed addressing the CBO's findings, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman arrived at a similar conclusion. Among numerous corrections of right-wing media distortion, Krugman noted that "wages will go up, not down" in response to a marginally and voluntarily diminished supply of labor over the next decade.
This sort of factual analysis is missing from a right-wing media landscape unilaterally aligned against every facet of the ACA. Right-wing media have spent years promoting an array of false claims about the calamitous effects of the health care law, and recent Media Matters research exposed conservative media turning to misrepresentations of the CBO's findings to support claims that the ACA is going to destroy the job market.
A New Hampshire Union Leader editorial attacked the gender pay gap as "complete hooey," ignoring several studies that show a clear discrepancy in wages between men and women while dismissing the benefits of equal pay.
The February 9 editorial criticized New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan's decision to back an equal pay bill being considered by the state legislature, saying the gender wage gap is "complete hooey" and that "no serious scholar believes it." The editorial instead claimed women's' life choices were the biggest reason for the gap:
A 2009 Labor Department study of the issue reached "the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action."
That "multitude of factors" consists largely of life choices -- work hours, number of children, etc. For instance, Bureau of Labor Statistics data on full-time employees show that never-married women earn 95.8 percent of what men earn, but married women with children under 18 earn 76.3 percent.
The legislation would disallow pay secrecy policies that keep employees from discussing their pay with co-workers, making it easier for women to ensure they are being paid equally. Currently, employers are required to pay equal wages to men and women but can prevent employee discussion of compensation. As the National Women's Law Center explained last month, pay secrecy policies "can keep women in the dark about their pay, making pay discrimination nearly impossible to detect." States like Vermont, New Jersey, and New Mexico have recently enacted this type of legislation, strengthening women's and workers' rights in their states.
From the February 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Two major Tennessee newspapers are aiding opposition to unionization efforts at a Volkswagen plant in the state by hiding the facts about union support and outside conservative influences.
This week workers at the Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee will vote on whether to become unionized under the United Automobile Workers (UAW) umbrella. A majority of the plant's workers have reportedly signed support cards backing a union, and while Volkswagen is not opposing the effort, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and outside conservative activist groups have mobilized a campaign to prevent the vote from succeeding.
Leading the charge is anti-tax activist Grover Norquist. The Center for Worker Freedom, a lobbying arm of Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, has rented at least 13 billboards around Chattanooga and booked commercials on local radio stations, publicly demonizing unions and the UAW.
And by omitting critical context in their coverage of the union vote, two prominent Tennessee newspapers are aiding these antiunion efforts.
This month the Chattanooga Times Free Press' devoted at least 25 posts to the looming unionization vote. But not one of those reports acknowledged that unionization enjoys majority support among the Volkswagen workers, including a February 9 article titled "UAW supporter sees victory in vote." The Times Free Press' only mention of Volkswagen worker support of unions was buried in the 13th paragraph of a broad February 2 report on unions in the South.
Similarly, The Knoxville News-Sentinel conspicuously avoided recognizing right-wing group's ties to the union opposition -- a feat, considering most of the paper's coverage this month leading up to the vote has focused on critics of the effort to unionize. In its one post acknowledging that the Center for Worker Freedom is behind recent anti-UAW ads, reprinted from the Times Free Press, the News-Sentinel chose not to include CWF's affiliation with Americans For Tax Reform or UAW's statement in response to critics, language included in the original post.
Such omissions are particularly notable given the crude nature of the conservative activist's advertisements. The Detroit Free Press wrote:
One shows Detroit's crumbling Packard Plant ruins that have been shuttered for 55 years. The copy reads: "Detroit. Brought to you by the UAW."
Another has a red X through the second word of United Auto Workers, with a crudely lettered Obama just beneath it. Beneath it in small print it reads: "The UAW spends millions to elect liberal politicans including Barack Obama." -- workerfreedom.org. (Note: Politicians is misspelled on the billboard.)
Labor experts have noted that it's unusual for a third party to be the main opposition to a private plant unionizing -- typically that role is played by the company itself, as The New York Times detailed:
'It's unusual how national groups have really gotten interested in this,' said Daniel B. Cornfield, a labor expert at Vanderbilt University. 'It seems that both the business community and labor are seeing what's happening at VW as a pivotal moment in the Southern automotive business and labor history.'
With Volkswagen taking a neutral stance on the effort, groups like CWF are picking up the baton for fear that if the UAW succeeds, other plants will follow suit. Thus "antiunion activists have been streaming into the city of 171,000 and organizing a campaign intent on keeping the UAW from gaining ground in the South," Wall Street Journal explained. But when local media hide that intent, it benefits only the lobbying groups, not local workers.
Broadcast evening news programs devoted zero coverage to Senate Republicans' harmful block on extending long-term unemployment benefits. The failed measure received only minimal attention from national media throughout the day.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called out the media's disastrous reporting on the employment impact of Obamacare.
On February 4, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its 10-year economic projections, including an estimate of how the Affordable Care Act will impact the job market, an estimate that set off a storm of reaction. The CBO projected that the Affordable Care Act will allow workers to choose to work less hours because they will be able to maintain health insurance coverage outside of employment. Instead of reporting on the CBO's actual findings, media outlets seized on this information to falsely claim that the ACA would cost the economy millions of lost jobs.
Appearing on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, economist Paul Krugman called the misleading reporting "media malpractice":
In a February 6 New York Times column, Krugman explained that the misreporting of the CBO's projections is part of a "campaign against health reform" that has "grabbed hold of any and every argument it could find against insuring the uninsured, with truth and logic never entering into the matter":
Why was this unhelpful? Because politicians and, I'm sorry to say, all too many news organizations immediately seized on the 2 million number and utterly misrepresented its meaning. For example, Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, quickly posted this on his Twitter account: "Under Obamacare, millions of hardworking Americans will lose their jobs and those who keep them will see their hours and wages reduced."
So was Mr. Cantor being dishonest? Or was he just ignorant of the policy basics and unwilling to actually read the report before trumpeting his misrepresentation of what it said? It doesn't matter -- because even if it was ignorance, it was willful ignorance. Remember, the campaign against health reform has, at every stage, grabbed hold of any and every argument it could find against insuring the uninsured, with truth and logic never entering into the matter.
Think about it. We had the nonexistent death panels. We had false claims that the Affordable Care Act will cause the deficit to balloon. We had supposed horror stories about ordinary Americans facing huge rate increases, stories that collapsed under scrutiny. And now we have a fairly innocuous technical estimate misrepresented as a tale of massive economic damage.
Meanwhile, the reality is that American health reform -- flawed and incomplete though it is -- is making steady progress. No, millions of Americans won't lose their jobs, but tens of millions will gain the security of knowing that they can get and afford the health care they need.
Right-wing media outlets are falsely claiming that workers voluntarily reducing hours due to provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is evidence that the law is harmful to the economy, ignoring economists' opinions about its role in reducing economic insecurity.
After the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released new estimates of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) impact on labor markets, the Associated Press' Julie Pace claimed there were "two different ways" to characterize the report: the Republican characterization, and the White House's position. But there's a major problem with Pace's false balance -- only the White House's position is backed up by the facts.
On February 4, the non-partisan CBO released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the years 2014 to 2024. One section of the report projected that the number of full-time-equivalent workers would decline by about 2 million over the next three years due to the impact of the ACA. Conservative media quickly declared that the report showed 2 million jobs would be destroyed.
During a panel discussion on the February 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report, guest host Shannon Bream asked Julie Pace, the Associated Press (AP) White House correspondent, to spell out the details of the new CBO report and what the White House said about it. Pace explained:
PACE: Basically what you have is two different ways of characterizing this report. If you talk to Republicans, they say there are going to be nearly 2.5 million jobs that are going to be lost over a decade because of the Affordable Care Act. If you talk to the White House, there are going to be 2.5 million people who are going to have a choice to leave full-time employment.
Pace included the Republican talking point in an apparent attempt to balance the White House's statements, but the idea that "there are going to be nearly 2.5 million jobs that are going to be lost" is simply not true. As the Los Angeles Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning business columnist Michael Hiltzik explained (emphasis original):
The CBO projects that the [Affordable Care] act will reduce the supply of labor, not the availability of jobs. There's a big difference. In fact, it suggests that aggregate demand for labor (that is, the number of jobs) will increase, not decrease; but that many workers or would-be workers will be prompted by the ACA to leave the labor force, many of them voluntarily.
As economist Dean Baker points out, this is, in fact, a beneficial effect of the law, and a sign that it will achieve an important goal. It helps "older workers with serious health conditions who are working now because this is the only way to get health insurance. And (one for the family-values crowd) many young mothers who return to work earlier than they would like because they need health insurance. This is a huge plus."
The ACA will reduce the total hours worked by about 1.5% to 2% in 2017 to 2024, the CBO forecasts, "almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor -- given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive." That translates into about 2.5 million full-time equivalents by 2024 -- not the number of workers, because some will reduce their number of hours worked rather than leaving the workforce entirely.
From the February 4 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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Right-wing media figures rushed to claim the Affordable Care Act will destroy 2 million jobs, citing a new Congressional Budget Office report, but that's not what the report found -- the CBO report projected that the law will give workers the freedom to voluntarily reduce their employment after gaining health insurance.
The CBO released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the years 2014 to 2024 on February 4, which projected in part that the number of full-time workers would decline by about 2 million by 2017. Right-wing media quickly pounced on the report to distort the CBO's projections about the ACA's effect on future employment.
In a post on her Washington Post blog, Jennifer Rubin claimed the report "confirms what critics have been saying all along: Obamacare is killing jobs and squelching growth." On Fox, America's News HQ co-host Alisyn Camerota claimed "a bombshell new CBO report" found that "Obamacare will be much worse for the economy than previously predicted," and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs added it is "another round of devastating numbers for all Americans because the result of this is there will be fewer jobs":
The CBO makes it clear that the decrease in workers is not due to jobs being lost -- rather, the ACA will allow workers to choose to work less. The projected change is in the supply of labor, not the demand for labor, and thus the CBO noted that the decrease would not lead to a corresponding increase in unemployment or underemployment (emphasis added):
The reduction in CBO's projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024. Although CBO projects that total employment (and compensation) will increase over the coming decade, that increase will be smaller than it would have been in the absence of the ACA. The decline in fulltime-equivalent employment stemming from the ACA will consist of some people not being employed at all and other people working fewer hours; however, CBO has not tried to quantify those two components of the overall effect. The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses' demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).
Right-wing media figures are baselessly stoking fears about calls to reduce inequality and expand opportunity to low-income Americans, claiming that these efforts are evidence of persecution of the rich and class warfare.