Fox News downplayed the gravity of income inequality -- proven insurmountable for a majority of the poorest Americans and detrimental to economic growth -- in order to tout a report which found that 20 percent of adults in the U.S. will be among the top 2 percent of earners at some point in their lives.
On December 9, NBC News published an Associated Press report which found that 20 percent of U.S. adults enter the wealthiest 2 percent of earners at some point in their lifetimes [emphasis added]:
Fully 20 percent of U.S. adults become rich for parts of their lives, wielding outsize influence on America's economy and politics. This little-known group may pose the biggest barrier to reducing the nation's income inequality.
Made up largely of older professionals, working married couples and more educated singles, the new rich are those with household income of $250,000 or more at some point during their working lives. That puts them, if sometimes temporarily, in the top 2 percent of earners.
On the December 9 edition of Your World, host Neil Cavuto touted the AP study as "good news" and ignored its negative implications, such as the finding that those in the top 2 percent are "less likely to support public programs, such as food stamps or early public education, to help the disadvantaged":
CAVUTO: You ever want to be in the top 2 percent? Well, you've got a 1 in 5 chance of making it -- it's true, 21 percent of Americans have been there, making the 250,000 bucks or so it takes to be among those rarefied few. That's good news, right? Well, not if you're the mainstream media. It's seen as a problem, not a triumph. To quote the Associated Press, this little-known group may pose the biggest barrier to reducing the nation's income inequality. Biggest barrier, so now, this is a problem?
Fox News contributor Charles Payne dismissed the importance of closing the income gap, saying, "People make it all the time in this country." But findings from a recent Pew report refute Payne's claim, particularly where Americans at bottom of the income ladder are concerned. According to the report, "43 percent of Americans raised at the bottom of the income ladder remain stuck there as adults, and 70 percent never even make it to the middle."
Fox News contributor Monica Crowley later described the administration's efforts to reduce income inequality as "a war on wealth" and "a war on success." However, many economists agree that policies aimed at reducing inequality also spur economic growth. Economist Robert Reich has argued for decades that economic inequality "is bad for everyone," including the very wealthy, because it hinders economic growth. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has also contended that income inequality leads to "less growth and less efficiency."
During their discussion, Cavuto and his guests ignored the harsh realities faced by Americans excluded from the top income bracket. According to another AP report, "4 in 5 American adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least part of their lives." And contrary to Cavuto's optimistic outlook, the U.S. Census Bureau found that the poverty rate increased by 2.7 percent from 2007 to 2012.
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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National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent proposed a compromise that would trade closing the gun show loophole for closing what he deemed "the federal voting loophole," which allows individuals who do not pay federal income tax to vote.
Implementing this plan would involve taking away the vote from a large number of Americans who work but do not owe federal income taxes as well as retirees and some individuals who cannot work because of illness or disability.
In a December 4 column for conspiracy website WND, Nugent -- calling himself a "prospective presidential candidate in 2016" -- framed his proposal as "a Great Compromise" and suggested that he would be willing to risk provoking the ire of gun activists (including his fellow NRA board members) in order to ensure its enactment.
The NRA vehemently opposes closing the gun show loophole -- a term used to describe the fact that many firearms sales at gun shows are conducted without a background check -- even though gun shows have been linked to firearms trafficking operations and terrorist activity. Earlier this year, the gun rights organization repeatedly spread false information about a failed U.S. Senate proposal to require background checks on sales at gun shows and at other commercial venues.
While Nugent wrote that his compromise is "mighty presidential of" him and suggested it "will make both sides of the political spectrum happy," his proposal would involve disenfranchising a substantial number of Americans.
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 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Rush Limbaugh is citing an erroneous report about HIV in Greece to falsely claim that half of all recent infections there were self-inflicted for the purpose of receiving government benefits. In fact, the original report on AIDS and HIV in Greece does not confirm a single instance of a person intentionally infecting himself with HIV.
Limbaugh is surely fascinated by this erroneous report because it fits into the false right-wing narrative that government programs that help the poor encourage laziness and dependency.
Limbaugh read from a post about Greece by the British magazine New Scientist during his November 25 radio show:
After reading from the post, Limbaugh attempted to link LGBT people to diseases by saying, "Is that true? Greece is like the gay capital of the world? You heard that? I just had a note flashed to me that says -- well, I don't know about that."
The magazine reported that Greeks who have HIV receive a monthly benefit of 700 euros, which is currently about $945.
For the statistic that half of all recent infections in Greece were self-inflicted, New Scientist cited a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations.
However, the WHO report is incorrect. The WHO's source for this figure is a 2011 study in the British medical journal The Lancet. Here is what the Lancet study actually says:
An authoritative report described accounts of deliberate self-infection by a few individuals to obtain access to benefits of €700 per month and faster admission onto drug substitution programmes. These programmes offer access to synthetic opioids and can have waiting lists of 3 years or more in urban areas. [emphasis added]
Somehow, the "few individuals" mentioned by The Lancet became "half of new HIV infections" in the WHO report.
Furthermore, the "authoritative report" cited by The Lancet says:
An additional factor the committee believed worth considering is the well-founded suspicion that some problem users are intentionally infected with HIV, because of the benefit they are entitled to (approximately € 1,400 every two months), and also because they are granted "exceptional admission" to the Substitution Programme. It is well-known that the Substitution Programme has a long waiting list and that the waiting time can be over 3-4 years. Drug users with a severe chronic condition jump the queue and are admitted in a short period of time. [emphasis added]
So, the original source for this claim merely says that there is a "well-founded suspicion" that "some problem users" of IV drugs had intentionally infected themselves. A "suspicion" is not the same thing as a documented occurrence, let alone "half" of all recent infections.
WHO posted a correction to its study on November 26, explaining that the claim that "about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits" was the result of an editing error:
In September 2013, WHO/Europe published "Review of social determinants and the health divide in the WHO European Region". The report incorrectly states that, in Greece: "HIV rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission on to drug substitution programmes".
This statement is the consequence of an error in the editing of the report.
Fox News claimed the Obamacare rollout has "clearly" been worse for the American people than the government shutdown, because the shutdown's "biggest inconvenience" was a few closed national parks and memorials -- ignoring the shutdown's cuts to domestic violence centers, women and children's food and health care, stalled scientific research, and severe economic losses.
On the November 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox legal analyst Andrew Napolitano held a "pop quiz" to determine "[w]hich was more harmful to your personal freedoms," Obamacare or the government shutdown? Both decided that there was no contest: Doocy proclaimed that Obamacare was "clearly" worse than the "slimdown," and Napolitano agreed that it was "[n]ot even a close call." As evidence, Napolitano pointed out that "the biggest inconvenience" of the government shutdown was "a couple hundred well-intended people trying to get into national parks and monuments and the government had closed them." In contrast, he claimed that Obamacare hurts people by forcing them to buy expensive "high end, one-size-fits-all" health insurance policies.
Fox's faulty comparison ignored the significant impacts of the government shutdown, which harmed the economy and slashed funding to necessary programs for low-income Americans.
Because of the shutdown, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a program that helps provide health care for at-risk babies and "helps new mothers feed themselves and their babies properly," saw its funding slashed, and states that were unable to lend the program local funds were forced to stop accepting enrollees. The shutdown also cut federal funding to at least 2,000 shelters for victims of domestic abuse, workplace safety inspections were halted, federal workers stopped inspecting toxic waste sites, and the CDC stopped monitoring the spread of the flu. National Geographic further reported that the shutdown caused long-term setbacks in scientific research, and The Washington Post detailed how the shutdown's fallout cost low-income workers their economic stability.
The shutdown also did lasting damage to the U.S. economy. Moody's Analytics estimated that the shutdown "cut real GDP by $20 billion, shaving half a percentage point off growth in the fourth quarter," according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report. CRS also noted that "JP Morgan Chase's chief economist was quoted as estimating that the shutdown reduced fourth quarter growth by 0.5 percentage points, with half the reduction attributable to lower government spending and half to 'spillover effects and lost activity' in the rest of the economy." The shutdown also eroded consumer confidence and may have derailed our gradual economic recovery, and economists argue that the shutdown will have lingering effects on the labor market and overall economy for several months.
Napolitano's argument that "5,500,000 innocent Americans were told they don't - they won't have health insurance on January 1st" is also inaccurate. Fox has repeatedly worked to hide the fact that rather than losing coverage outright, most of these consumers are simply being offered new, often better, options because policies will be required to include basic standards of care. Moreover, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, though rocky, has successfully allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to sign up for Medicaid.
Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer attacked attempts to reduce income equality as only exacerbating economic growth and unemployment. But leading economists have supported government efforts to address inequality, calling it a paramount issue facing the country.
On the November 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly and Krauthammer met ostensibly to discuss rising economic inequality in the United States. Their conversation, however, quickly devolved into standard attacks against the efficacy of policies aimed at reducing inequality and building economic security. Citing a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), O'Reilly highlighted the "astounding" income gains of the top 1 percent of earners from 1979 to 2007 before turning to blame President Obama for failing to address growing inequality during his administration. Krauthammer joined the chorus, blaming President Obama's expressed concern with reducing economic inequality for actually driving unequal economic growth during his time in office [emphasis added]:
O'REILLY: President Obama promotes income equality, but during his time in office the rich are getting richer and the median income for working Americans has actually gone down. Joining us now from Washington, Charles Krauthammer. So why is this happening?
KRAUTHAMMER: It's happening because there is low economic growth. It's what Kennedy said; a rising economic tide lifts all boats. If you're obsessed with equality, as they are in Europe, what you end up with is chronic unemployment.
Krauthammer's claim that efforts to reduce economic inequality have an adverse effect on the economy is patently false. Economist Robert Reich has argued for decades that economic inequality "is bad for everyone," including the very wealthy, because it reduces economic growth potential.
Reich is not alone among noted economists championing policies that reduce inequality as a means to spur economic growth.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller recently told the Associated Press that "rising inequality in the United States and elsewhere in the world" is "[t]he most important problem that we are facing today." Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman agrees; reducing economic inequality should be a primary policy goal in the United States. In a column titled "Rich Man's Recovery", Krugman argued that the continued concentration of wealth among the very wealthy "undermine[s] all the values that define America." Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz encouraged politicians to address economic inequality in 2013 as a means of unleashing a robust and sustainable economic recovery. Recently, Stiglitz has stated that "inequality is a choice."
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a year out from not being elected vice president, has "an ambitious new project," according to the Washington Post. Ryan wants to steer "Republicans away from the angry, nativist inclinations of the tea party movement and toward the more inclusive vision of his mentor, the late Jack Kemp." As part of that mission, the Post notes, Ryan "has been quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods" to "talk to ex-convicts and recovering addicts about the means of their salvation." And his staff has been bouncing around "center-right think tanks" for some new ideas to include in "an anti-poverty program to rival his budgetary Roadmap for America's future in scope and ambition."
All this is well and good, until you read on a bit into the Post piece and try and pick out a few of the "new ideas" Ryan wants to bring to his war on the war on poverty. His vision emphasizes "volunteerism and encouraging work through existing federal programs, including the tax code." One of the ideas floated by a think tank staffer advising Ryan's team is to give "poor parents vouchers or tax credits to invest in their kids' educations." And all of this is to be done, of course, while slashing spending on anti-poverty programs and cutting taxes for the well-off. In other words: he wants to repackage the same old Paul Ryan agenda, brushed with a fine patina of compassionate conservatism. It's all glitz and PR, and the Post ate it up.
Fox News pushed myths about the economic impact of raising the minimum wage as New Jersey voters decide whether to increase it.
A ballot measure in the November 5 election would, if it passes, increase New Jersey's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 and change the state constitution to tie future increases to inflation. According to The Washington Post, public opinion polls show an overwhelming majority of voters support the measure.
But the morning of the election, Fox & Friends misled New Jersey residents about the increase in wages. Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed the measure would reduce employment in the state and increase poverty:
NAPOLITANO: The minimum wage is something that the government uses to force employers to pay low-end employees more than they're worth, and it actually results in putting people out of work. When the minimum wage goes up and employers are forced to pay entry-level people more than they're worth, they'll hire few[er] of them. So the president says nobody who works full-time should be below the poverty line, he's actually going to put more full-time people into, below the poverty line, because he's going to kick them out of work. And if your and my fellow voters in New Jersey pass this, and it looks like they will, that's going to result in more unemployment.
Napolitano ended by confirming he was voting against the measure. He also called it "very dangerous" to enshrine automatic minimum wage increases in the constitution, but as the Post reported, four other states have already done this.
Numerous studies have shown that minimum wage increases have little to no effect on jobs, and may even increase hiring. In fact, after New Jersey enacted a minimum wage increase in 1990, economists David Carr and Alan Kreuger surveyed restaurants in south Jersey and Pennsylvania and found the number of jobs grew. Research also shows minimum wage increases improve the economic performance of small businesses, and the Economic Policy Institute predicts that nationwide minimum wage increases could grow the economy.
In July, Media Matters found that the vast majority of Fox News segments on the minimum wage included the myth that increasing the minimum wage would cause job losses.
Right-wing media are using the firing of fictional cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants to attack the social safety net and those who rely on it.
The New York Post reported on October 30 that in an upcoming episode of the Nickelodeon cartoon, SpongeBob is fired from his job working in the underwater fast food restaurant "the Krusty Krab" after his boss discovers he can save a whole nickel by eliminating SpongeBob from the payroll.
The Post used the cartoon's plot development to attack people who rely on government assistance, referring to individuals who rely on food stamps as "mooching off the social services" and applauding SpongeBob for instead quickly returning to "gainful employment":
So what's a hardworking sea sponge to do?
Lest he sit around idly, mooching off the social services of Bikini Bottom, a depressed SpongeBob sets out to return to gainful employment wherever he can find it.
No spoilers -- but it's safe to say that our hero doesn't end up on food stamps, as his patty-making skills turn out to be in high demand.
Fox News parroted the Post's attack, with Fox & Friends' Heather Nauert claiming that "the harsh economic climate has hit the underwater community," but "instead of mooching off social services at Bikini Bottom, that's the town, SpongeBob sets out to return to the work force."
Previously, Fox News repeatedly criticized a SpongeBob SquarePants book and video about manmade global warming, claiming the program based on scientific evidence was "pushing a global warming agenda" and "indoctrinating children."
Right-wing media have a long history of attacking the social safety net. Recently, Fox attacked low-wage workers in the fast food industry who have to rely on necessary federal benefit programs because they earn below subsistence wages.
Cable and broadcast nightly news programs have remained completely silent on pending automatic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- formerly known as food stamps -- which will have negative impacts on the economy and low-income groups.
Fox News used a dishonest graphic that inflated a comparison between the number of people receiving federal benefits to those working full-time by 500 percent to misleadingly imply more people receive government benefits than work.
The October 28 edition of Fox & Friends aired a graphic which purported to compare the number of people who received means-tested federal benefits to the number of people with full-time jobs in 2011. However, the chart used a truncated y-axis, and showed the number of people on welfare -- 108.6 million -- as approximately five times greater than 101.7 million, the number of people with full-time employment.
Moreover, Fox's comparison of the two figures compares apples to oranges.
Fox's 108.6 million figure for the number of "people on welfare" comes from a Census Bureau's account (Table 2) of participation in means-tested programs, which include "anyone residing in a household in which one or more people received benefits" in the fourth quarter of 2011, thus including individuals who did not themselves receive government benefits. On the other hand, the "people with a full time job" figure Fox used included only individuals who worked, not individuals residing in a household where at least one person works.
Furthermore, many people who receive federal benefits also work. The means-tested programs in the Census Bureau report included Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, which includes strict work requirements. In 2011, 6.4 million households with earnings also participated in food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. And public or subsidized rental housing provides rental assistance to low-income families -- families who have an income which is 50 to 80 percent below the median income for the area.
Fox has a history of displaying error-riddled and deceptive graphics to reinforce conservative attacks on the Obama administration, and has previously had to issue a correction for a dishonest graphic that misrepresented the unemployment rate.
But Fox seems to have not learned from its past mistakes, and ignored the facts to misleadingly attack federal benefit programs, with Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asking "is the number one occupation in this entitlement nation now, welfare?" while Fox Business host Stuart Varney baselessly suggested that President Obama personally encouraged "handouts" as a means of "buying votes."
Watch the full segment:
Fox Business' Charles Payne questioned the need for fast food workers to rely on federal assistance, absurdly citing aggregate earnings of workers and ignoring the fact that many in the industry earn below subsistent wages.
On the October 25 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., guest host Charles Payne and Fox contributor Elizabeth MacDonald discussed a recently released audio recording from the advocacy group LowPayIsNotOK.org. In the recording, a long-time McDonald's employee is directed by a "McResources" representative to seek out federal benefit programs to augment her inadequate take-home income. MacDonald cited a statement from McDonald's disavowing the call before Payne launched into a slander-filled tirade against a stereotyped generalization of low-wage, fast food employees:
PAYNE: There is a lot of unfortunate parts of the story. If you want to create a society where these jobs -- $8 jobs go for $15. Then what you're saying to people is like, okay, "don't improve your life. Don't finish high school. Don't go to college. Don't, you know what, have three or four kids out of wedlock. Don't put yourself in a predicament where this is your only option. In fact, keep doing what you're doing, smoke weed all day if you want. Doesn't matter. You'll get rewarded because in this society Mickey D's has got the money. They owe it to you." And I think that's a work mentality.
Payne concluded his screed by referencing the aggregate wages of fast food employees nationwide to support his claim that they don't actually need taxpayer-subsidized assistance programs:
PAYNE: By the way, people should know. They say it's between $3 to $7 billion that fast food workers get in care from the government. In the same time though, these fast food workers make between $41 and $46 billion. So who is subsidizing who?
While Payne is quick to dismiss that workers need these programs, absurdly citing aggregate earnings of fast food workers, facts show that they are indeed essential.
According to a recently released study by economists at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign titled "Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast Food Industry," "annual earnings in the fast food industry are well below the income need for self-sufficiency," and after accounting for limited work hours, the median annual earnings of a fast food worker stands at just $11,056 -- below the federal poverty threshold for an individual. Couple those low earnings with the fact that workers in the industry are twice as likely to be in households with total income below the poverty line, and it becomes clear that reliance on federal programs is necessary.
Indeed, fast food workers are overwhelmingly more reliant on public assistance programs than other segments of the workforce.