Fox News promoted various falsehoods about poverty and anti-poverty programs, erroneously claiming that government programs cannot and have not reduced poverty levels.
On the September 19 edition of Fox News' America Live, guest host Alisyn Camerota hosted a panel discussion over House Republicans' plan to reduce funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- formerly known as food stamps -- by nearly $40 billion over 10 years.
Camerota introduced the discussion by noting that the Census Bureau recently reported that the national poverty rate in 2012 remained at 15 percent. She then claimed that poverty in America is a problem "that growing government assistance programs cannot fix." Fox Business' anti-food stamp crusader Charles Payne then claimed that poverty rates have remained unchanged since the 1960s, casting doubt over the efficacy of anti-poverty programs. Payne later claimed that people living in poverty have a strong disincentive to work because of government programs.
Virtually every statement made by Camerota, Payne, and subsequently by Wall Street Journal editorial board member Mary Kissel about anti-poverty programs is false.
First, Camerota's claim about government assistance not lifting Americans out of poverty is directly contradicted by the very census report she cites. While it is true that 15 percent of Americans remain in poverty -- unchanged from 2011 -- the fact is that absent government anti-poverty programs, the number of Americans living in poverty would be millions greater. From the annual census report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage:
- If unemployment insurance benefits were excluded from money income, 1.7 million more people would be counted as in poverty in 2012.
- If SNAP benefits were counted as income, 4 million fewer people would be categorized as in poverty in 2012.
- Taking account of the value of the federal earned income tax credit would reduce the number of children classified as in poverty in 2011 by 3.1 million.
Payne's claim that the rate has remained unchanged since the 1960s despite anti-poverty programs also doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Previewing the release of the annual census report, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) anticipated such falsehoods, pointing out that they are "simply not valid or accurate." According to CBPP:
Comparing today's official poverty rate with those of the 1960s yields highly distorted results because the official poverty measure captures so little of the poverty relief that today's safety net now provides.
CBPP also included a chart showing just how effective anti-poverty programs have been at reducing poverty, and how rates would be reduced even further if the census accounted for noncash transfers.
Payne's statement about government assistance discouraging people from working is also dubious, given that he ostensibly cited the findings of a misleading report from the Cato institute that has been thoroughly debunked by economists as overstating benefits from welfare programs.
Fox has ramped up its misleading coverage of anti-poverty programs in recent weeks, going so far as to distribute its incredibly inaccurate special report on SNAP to members of Congress to assist efforts to reduce funding for the program.
From the September 19 edition of Fox's America Live:
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Fox News psychiatrist Keith Ablow used the anniversary of the September 11 attacks to smear President Obama with the accusation that "he hates us," but was elected because Americans suffered from Stockholm Syndrome.
In a discussion on Fox Business' Varney & Co. about the anniversary of the September 11 terror attack, host Stuart Varney asked Ablow whether America's psyche had changed in the twelve years after the attack. Ablow responded that America suffers from a "captive mentality" like Stockholm Syndrome. As evidence, Ablow pointed to the election of Obama, who he claimed "doesn't even like us, he hates us," concluding that "when things get bad enough," America "will elect a patriot" (emphasis added):
ABLOW: Yes, but I hope not irrevocably so. Because I think what it set in motion is a kind of captive mentality. The same kind of thing that happens when a plane is hijacked and people aboard say "You know what? I am starting to think like the people who took this plane over." Why? Because they want to be safe and they want to endear themselves to their adversaries. And I think that the whole Obama apology tour, the election of Barack Obama was a manifestation of us wanting to say, "Look, we are not that bad, don't hurt us. Here is this guy, how bad can we be? He doesn't even like us, he hates us and we are electing him president."
CHARLES PAYNE (Fox Business contributor): When do we come out of this Stockholm Syndrome that you are talking about, when do we escape it?
ABLOW: It's good to be with another psychiatrist. Stockholm Syndrome -- We escape it when things get bad enough from that failed psychological attempt. Right? what is it? It's a form of denial. Bad enough that, just like an alcoholic falling on the pavement, you say, "You know what, oh my God, this didn't work. Trying to dodge and weave around who we are and pretend we're other than that by electing someone friendly to adversaries is not working, hence we will elect a patriot, someone very high on the Constitution and someone who isn't afraid to use power when it's indicated." And then we'll set things right.
Fox's Charles Payne attempted to discredit fast-food workers' planned attempt to organize for union representation and a higher minimum wage by falsely claiming workers are arguing for a sliding scale of extra income.
Neil Cavuto hosted Fox Business contributor Charles Payne on the August 28 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto to discuss protests planned by fast-food workers, who are demanding higher pay and the right to unionize. Payne claimed during the segment that employers don't owe a debt to their employees and mischaracterized the minimum wage increase as a sliding scale of pay:
PAYNE: Listen, I don't begrudge anyone for trying to earn extra money, but what they're essentially saying is that their salary should be doubled from where they are. It doesn't match the skill set. Now, if we start to talk about this -- and listen, it's something that's been echoed all day long with theme of the March on Washington -- that somehow corporations owe a debt to people who work for them. So if Susan has two kids, she gets X amount of income, then she has another child, then the corporation should pay more money specifically because they owe her a debt and she had another kid -- sort of the responsibility or the welfare state that's been such a burden on America is now being thrusted, or attempted to be thrusted on the shoulders of corporate America.
But workers aren't demanding a sliding scale of income. They're organizing for fair representation at work and a single minimum wage increase. As Ezra Klein explained: "most workers have less power to negotiate raises than they did a generation ago":
Fox News hosts mislead viewers and each other by hyping the cost of a White House plan to fund high-speed Wi-Fi for schools while obscuring the plan's small impact on individual taxpayers.
On June 6, the White House unveiled the ConnectED initiative, a plan that would give 99 percent of American students access to "high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless" at school by 2018. The plan would be funded through a minimal tax increase on mobile phone users, which the as The Washington Post reported, "could work out to about $12 in fees for every cellphone user over three years."
Fox News similarly reported on the August 15 edition of Fox & Friends First that the initiative would only cost individual consumers about five dollars per year.
But a few hours later on Fox & Friends, the hosts and contributors seemed unable to accurately report what the predicted cost would be for individuals. Though co-host Gretchen Carlson asked Fox Business contributor Charles Payne to specify how much the initiative would "cost each of us as individuals," Payne claimed the "administration doesn't say" and instead hyped the program's net cost and unspecified higher taxes on the middle class:
PAYNE: The administration doesn't say. There's some estimates say it costs like $6 billion but you know how these estimates are when the government gets involved. We know It's going to be multibillions and billions of dollars. It's going to hit individuals, this brings us to the third point. Middle-class taxes, you know, there won't be middle-class tax hikes, but we know already there have been. These are the kinds of things that are taxes on normal, regular people. This would be a tax on every single person watching the show who didn't get a free phone from the government, they are going to have to chip in.
Later, a Fox News reporter once again explained that the increase would only be about five dollars per year, but Carlson remained confused about the ConnectED program's expected cost to individual consumers, saying in a subsequent segment: "I think it would be about $5 a year, or maybe $5 a billing cycle. I'm not exactly sure. But the entire cost is $4 to $6 billion."
Payne and Carlson both followed the media's common practice of relying on abstract and sensational raw number figures when discussing budgetary issues while either ignoring or misreporting the context that would make those figures relevant to viewers. Economists have noted that focusing on raw numbers rather than budgetary percentages or individual costs in economic reporting is often little more than a scare tactic intended to drum up fears about the economy. And Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research has noted that the reliance on raw numbers also increases the likelihood that outlets will misreport information.
Fox Business is claiming that because 2013 Arctic sea ice extent is unlikely to beat the 2012 record low, melting in the region is "slowing," an idea one climate scientist called "absolutely ridiculous" in the context of a long-term decline.
On Wednesday, Fox Business' Charles Payne launched a segment on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) State of the Climate report by claiming that the agency "has forgotten to mention ... that 2012 was one of the coolest years of the decade," thereby "slowing down the melting of Arctic ice this summer."
This statement was based on a lack of understanding of "regression to the mean" -- or in the case of climate change, regression to the new mean. This and other mathematical concepts seem to give Fox a lot of trouble.
Unfortunately for baby harp seals, Payne is wrong about Arctic sea ice melt "slowing" -- it seems he either didn't grasp the aforementioned idea or didn't read NOAA's report very carefully. The State of the Climate found record low Arctic sea ice extent in 2012 and included this chart illustrating monthly trends compared to the 1979-2000 average:
As Skeptical Science explained, it's unsurprising that 2013 will not likely beat that record low if you consider "regression toward the mean":
[N]ote that neither [of two statistical predictions for 2013 Arctic sea ice extent] predicts that 2013 will break the 2012 record (3.6 million square kilometers). There is a principle in statistics known as "regression toward the mean," which is the phenomenon that if an extreme value of a variable is observed, the next measurement will generally be less extreme, i.e. we should not expect to observe record lows in consecutive years. This is because when extremes are reached and records are broken, a number of different variables generally have to align in the same direction to make this happen.
Fox News ridiculed a rise in group doctor visits as the network claimed that it will become more prevalent with the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But Fox's coverage of this trend ignored reporting that group treatment can be a successful strategy for reducing healthcare costs and improving patients' health.
On the August 18 edition of Fox & Friends, guest host Peter Johnson, Jr. introduced one of the show's regular "Who's Ruining The Economy" segments with the question: "[I]s less one on one time with your doctor going to be the new future under Obamacare?" before welcoming Fox News contributor Charles Payne on to discuss the increasing trend of doctors offering group appointments. After Johnson ridiculed the group doctor visits as "group therapy ... people sitting around in underwear talking about their problems," Payne predicted that it would be one of the "gimmicks" that the ACA would come to rely on to address doctor shortages as health insurance enrollment increases:
PAYNE: And these numbers, I think, are probably underscoring what's gonna really happen. Because you and I know a lot of doctors who are saying you know I want to opt out of this whole thing completely, I'll just take cash. I mean, the best doctors will be able to command cash payments from good patients, or well-off patients. So, the reality is that those numbers are probably going to be significantly higher. And again, the gimmicks will be group therapy. The gimmicks will be, you know what, I can't see you but my nurse has been with me for a long time. She's equally qualified.
Fox neglected to mention that group doctor visits have been shown to be effective at improving doctors' efficiency and the standard of care that some patients receive.
As Johnson noted, group appointments have been on the rise in recent years. In 2005, just 5.7 percent of family physicians offered group sessions, but by 2010, the number had more than doubled to 12.7 percent. Dr. Edward Noffsinger, a physician who advises others on how to implement group appointments, says that patients have highlighted the advantages of the joint care. "Patients like the diversity of issues discussed," he told Kaiser Health News, adding, "they like getting 2 hours with their doctor." Patients may also learn more in a group setting, Kaiser Health News reported: "[d]octors say patients may learn more from each other than they do from physicians."
Research has shown that group appointments can improve the quality of care that patients receive. NPR highlighted an Italian trial of more than 800 type 2 diabetes patients which found that those randomly assigned to participate in group appointments for period of four years "had lower blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass indexes." And according to Time, "[a]bout 85% of patients who try shared medical appointments don't go back to individual visits for everything from diabetes care to weight loss, physicals and skin cancer issues." Time also noted that "[w]hile group visits cost about the same as individual ones, if patients receive more information and are better able to improve and protect their health, they are less likely to develop serious medical conditions that require expensive care later on."
In an effort to downplay the necessity of increasing the minimum wage, right-wing media figures have forwarded the notion that minimum wage jobs are primarily for teenagers and are a "stepping stone" to higher paying future employment. However, the prospects for upward mobility among minimum wage workers remain grim.
As Congress considers legislation promoting energy efficiency, Media Matters examines the facts behind such efforts. Contrary to persistent myths in the media, increasing energy efficiency of appliances and buildings is a cost-effective way to benefit the environment and economy, and has historically enjoyed bipartisan support.
As fast food workers in 7 cities walked the picket line fighting for better wages and working conditions the conservative media turned its focus towards a solution to help lift up our working men and women out of poverty -- mock them.
To respond to the day long strike, Fox trotted out Richard Berman, failing to identify him as a highly paid consultant to the food and beverage industry. He proceeded to threaten fast food workers, claiming if they demanded incomes allowing them to live above the poverty line, the only solution would be to replace them with iPads.
On Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox Business's Charles Payne claimed that the striking workers' demand for a living wage was akin to rewarding "mediocrity."
From an air conditioned studio in Rockefeller Center, the handsomely compensated Fox contributor asserted that a wage of $15 per hour earned spending countless hours on your feet without a break, in front of a hot stove, serving hundreds of customers, would be "cursing" those workers, ridding them of the impetus to "get better," "go to college," or "improve" their lot in life.
At the luxurious wage of $15 per hour minimum wage workers would spend their days "play[ing] video games" and "hav[ing] large families."
Payne, who has a long history of suggesting that the poor live in comfort, that our social safety net keeps people in poverty, and that there needs to be more "stigma" surrounding food stamps, represents the conservative id surrounding the issue of poverty.
While 4 in 5 Americans will "struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives," the right believes the solution to all of their problems is scorn.
From the July 29 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the July 27 edition of Fox News' Cavuto on Business:
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Conservative media figures have criticized President Obama's focus on immigration reform, saying that the top priority should be the economy and jobs. In fact, immigration reform is an economic issue: studies show that it would boost economic output and lower unemployment.
From the July 13 edition of Fox News' Cavuto On Business:
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Fox News disregarded economic evidence to claim that legislation providing a living wage in Washington, D.C. would deprive the city of jobs and keep workers in poverty, and defended Walmart after the company declared it would nix plans for locating new stores in Washington should the living wage bill pass.
The Washington, D.C. City Council recently proposed and passed legislation that would require retail outlets with a parent company yielding $1 billion or more in annual revenue to pay a living wage of $12.50 per hour to workers. In a July 9 op-ed in the Washington Post, regional general manager for Walmart U.S. Alex Barron claimed that the legislation would require the company to cancel plans to build three new stores in the district and potentially jeopardize the survival of three existing locations.
On the July 10 edition of Your World, Fox Business personalities Charles Payne and Elizabeth MacDonald quickly came to Walmart's defense. MacDonald claimed, "Walmart brings economic development time and again, we've seen that, they bring other stores that create jobs in the area."
Payne responded by claiming that the City Council was doing a disservice to the poor, and that implementing the living wage legislation would deprive them of job opportunities.
MacDonald's and Payne's assertions about Walmart's positive economic influence are in direct contrast to evidence.
A study conducted by economists David Neumark, Junfu Zhang, and Stephen Cicarella directly disproves MacDonald's theory that Walmart brings new jobs to areas in which stores are located. The authors found that counties with Walmart locations witness a net reduction in retail employment:
The employment results indicate that a Wal-Mart store opening reduces county-level retail employment by about 150 workers, implying that each Wal-Mart worker replaces approximately 1.4 retail workers.