Fox News used the Senate's recent filibuster reforms to revive the long-debunked myth that the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is a "death panel" that will now be staffed by Obama appointees who won't have to endure Republican obstruction efforts.
Senate Democrats changed rules on November 21 so that "judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote," a changed referred to by critics as the "nuclear option."
On the November 26 edition of Fox's Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee introduced a segment claiming "new fallout from the nuclear option" could allow Obama the power to nominate candidates to "so-called death panels" without GOP input. Chief Congressional correspondent Mike Emanuel explained correctly that the IPAB "is a 15 member panel and its role is to slow the growth in Medicare spending." But Fox's on-screen text referred to the IPAB as "Obama death panels," referencing a right-wing myth that IPAB will have the power to ration health care in America and decide who lives and dies:
The ACA does not allow IPAB to recommend rationing health care. The text of ACA explicitly states that IPAB cannot make "any recommendation to ration health care... or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria." A Politifact analysis reported that IPAB is "forbidden from submitting 'any recommendation to ration health care.'" Washington Post's Glenn Kessler pointed out that the ACA "explicitly says that the recommendations cannot lead to rationing of health care":
During a discussion of the latest jobs report, The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore ignored the prominent role sequestration cuts played in depressing job growth, choosing instead to make the reality-defying claim that sequestration has in fact been a boon to the economy.
On October 22, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly unemployment report for September. According to the report, payrolls rose by 148,000, while the unemployment rate dropped from 7.3 to 7.2 percent. Those positive gains, a welcome change from losses sustained after the financial crisis, nonetheless fell short of expectations that 180,000 to 200,000 jobs would be created in September.
WSJ's Moore reacted to the jobs report during an interview with Fox News host Jenna Lee on Happening Now. He claimed the numbers represented an economy in "stagnation" that is "middling at best" and "kind of limping forward." Lee followed up, asking whether automatic spending cuts known as sequestration were to blame. Moore responded:
MOORE: Well first of all, I think the sequester has been very good for the economy, not bad. When you cut government spending, that frees up resources for private businesses. So the sequester has been, in my opinion, a very positive force and it's bringing down the deficit in spending.
Moore's cheerleading of sequestration while complaining about an under-performing economy is ironic because the slowdown of the recovery has been caused in large part by the sequester, which, according to Yahoo! Finance, is "finally dinging the economy":
Forecasting firm MacroEconomic Advisers has lowered its second-quarter forecast for GDP growth from 1.8% to 1.3%. That's very weak growth that will probably hold back hiring and spending, and depress confidence. "The sequester is expected to slow growth this year, and largely accounts for the weak second-quarter growth and lackluster third-quarter growth," the firm said in a recent report.
Pullbacks in the job market seem likely during the next few months. After five straight months of improvements, small businesses surveyed by the National Federation for Independent Business curtailed hiring in May. The latest jobs report from ADP showed private-sector firms created about 30,000 fewer jobs than expected in May, with companies hiring at a pace too slow to bring down the unemployment rate. Manufacturing activity, which is directly affected by federal spending on defense contractors, has fallen below the level generally considered to be recessionary.
Tony Nash of forecasting firm IHS warned recently on CNBC that the effects of the sequester should build as the year goes on. Even the Federal Reserve mentioned the sequester in its latest "beige book" report on regional economic conditions, citing concerns about defense-industry cutbacks in the Cleveland and Richmond regions.
According to the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, the sequester has impacted job growth throughout the country. CNN recently confirmed an earlier report that the sequester has slowed economic growth. Worse still, an October 2013 report by the Bipartisan Policy Center found that the "full brunt of the [sequester] cuts hasn't hit yet, and if we go down the sequester path for too long, we won't be able to reverse the devastating impacts."
Furthermore, repealing the sequester would stimulate the economy. According to an analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), canceling sequestration would increase the United States' Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $113 billion and generate 900,000 new jobs, which the Economic Policy Institute noted, is "a number akin to 40 percent of the total number of jobs created over the last twelve months."
Moore's ignorance is not new. He previously claimed that sequestration was a "success" free of "negative consequences," a sentiment echoed throughout the right wing media. Instead of spending cuts, Moore would do well to turn his attention to job creation.
Fox News' timeline of the ongoing government shutdown cherry-picked dates to omit congressional Republicans' conception and furtherance of the shutdown over their demand to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act (also known as the ACA or Obamacare).
Fox News downplayed the immediacy of the upcoming debt ceiling deadline, giving credence to congressional Republicans' plan to use the threat of default as a means of gutting the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On September 25, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to congressional leadership in the House and Senate regarding the state of government finances. Lew specifically emphasized the consequences of failing to lift the federal debt limit by October 17. From the letter:
Treasury now estimates that extraordinary measures will be exhausted no later than October 17. We estimate that, at that point, Treasury would have only approximately $30 billion to meet our country's commitments. This amount would be far short of net expenditures on certain days, which can be as high as $60 billion. If we have insufficient cash on hand, it would be impossible for the United States of America to meet all of its obligations for the first time in our history.
On the September 25 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, host Jenna Lee and Fox Business host Neil Cavuto discussed the upcoming October 17 deadline to raise the debt limit. Cavuto recognized the fact that a failure to lift the debt ceiling would have far more dramatic consequences than a simple government shutdown, but also specifically rebuffed the nature of a firm deadline, claiming:
CAVUTO: Never believe those figures, Jenna, because every Treasury Secretary, be it a Republican or Democratic administration, has always cried panic and always attached a date that is really just made up.
Cavuto outlined the means by which congressional Republicans could use the threat of breaching the debt limit to extract concessions on the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, which could range from delaying to defunding key initiatives of the law. In fact, The Hill reported that Republicans in the House of Representatives plan on tying any increase of the debt limit to a one-year delay of Obamacare. From The Hill:
Moving to the debt ceiling fight, which Republican leaders have long seen as stronger ground, could be a way to convince rank-and-file Republicans to fight their spending and healthcare battles there rather than on a government funding bill.
Cavuto's caution that listeners should "never believe" Treasury Department deadlines, and the claim that these deadlines are "really just made up," directly contradicts the facts presented by Lew.
According to Treasury estimates, the United States government will have merely $30 billion in liquid assets on hand by October 17. By Lew's own admission, this sum, equivalent to roughly 0.75 percent of annual federal outlays, would be insufficient to meet the obligated expenses of certain individual days. Contrary to Cavuto's claims that the government could use flexible accounting to sustain itself for months without a debt limit increase, those so-called "extraordinary measures" have been in place since May 17 and are now at their limit.
If the debt ceiling is not lifted by October 17, the United States government will be unable to finance the payment of its pre-existing expenses through the continued sale of Treasury bonds. This would have all of the effects of a government shutdown -- outlays to certain program beneficiaries, employees, the military, etc. would cease or be delayed -- while also initiating a global financial crisis among corporate and sovereign wealth funds that own or purchase American debt.
According to The New York Times, the Treasury makes more than 80 million individual payments each month, and would miss nearly one-third of those regular payments every day until the debt ceiling was lifted. A $12 billion Social Security payment is due on October 23 and a $6 billion interest payment on public debt is due October 31. These alone would virtually exhaust the Treasury's remaining resources if Congress fails to act.
The notion that Republicans might be able to string a debt limit increase along for months as they negotiate attacks against Obamacare ignores both the economic consequences of a debt default and the political reality in Washington. The last legitimate Republican threat to breach the debt ceiling resulted in the first ever downgrade of the United States Department of Treasury bond rating -- from AAA to AA+. This downgrade marginally increased the cost of future American borrowing and, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, will cost taxpayers an additional $18.9 billion over the coming decade.
Increasing the debt limit does not increase the national debt, but manufacturing a crisis by using the debt limit to leverage political concessions has already cost taxpayers.
No, seriously. Fox News reported that the "power disruptions that were caused by Superstorm Sandy" will become more frequent across the country as a result of climate change, according to a new report from the Department of Energy.
Watch as Fox News -- on the same show that once wondered whether moon volcanoes meant global warming wasn't occurring -- connects "higher temperatures [and] more frequent droughts" to climate change:
Sure, the Fox News reporter felt the need to tack on the inane disclaimer that "there are those that are skeptical of climate change and feel that a lot of the data out there has been sort of bloated a little bit." But this segment is a big step forward for a network that once directed its reporters to cast doubt on the basic fact that the planet has warmed and has misled its audience in 93 percent of its coverage according to an analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The report in question, released July 11, found that our unrestrained greenhouse gas emissions will lead to more power disruptions, and noted that many of these impacts are already being felt -- drought in Texas, wildfires in the Southwest, flooding in the Midwest, and other events connected to climate change have caused blackouts and billions of dollars of damage.
As Fox News has now recognized the economic threat posed by climate change, will the network continue its refrain that the issue should not be a priority?
UPDATE (7/12/13): The reporter in this segment, Rick Folbaum, was previously the host of a 2005 special "The Heat Is On: The Case of Global Warming" that did not dispute the science demonstrating manmade climate change. In a preview to the special, Folbaum unequivocally conveyed the threat of climate change:
After months of research and interviews with many experts, I've learned this simple fact: the earth is heating up. And it's happening much faster than ever before. No one can argue with this. The vast majority of the scientific community says we're witnessing a unique and troubling kind of climate change, one where changes that used to occur over centuries are now taking place during the course of a single lifetime.
However, after conservative groups (including several who received funding from ExxonMobil at the time) lashed out at Fox News, the network responded by airing a special that only featured contrarians on the science and threat of global warming.
From the June 25 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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While reporting that weekly jobless claims have fallen to a five year low, Fox News' Jenna Lee said that, "much of the job growth has come from fewer layoffs, not increased hiring, which begs the question whether it is real job growth at all." While Lee implied an inverse relationship between jobless claims and job growth, the U.S. Labor Department's first time unemployment claims report is only an indicator of layoffs, not job growth. In fact, the April jobs report showed that 165,000 jobs were added to the economy and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent - the lowest since December 2008.
On the May 9 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, host Jenna Lee reported on the weekly initial jobless claims report issued by the Labor Department. Lee acknowledged that the numbers were encouraging but then erroneously framed the report as an indicator of slowed job growth, questioning "whether it is real job growth at all."
Lee's question implied an inverse relationship between the job growth and initial jobless claims report, which is a weekly report that tracks the number of Americans who apply for unemployment benefits. Jobless claims don't measure job growth, as Lee implies. The data are only a proxy for layoffs and necessarily do not measure job growth - if someone does not get laid off, that's a job maintained, not created. Contrary to Lee's suggestion, Bloomberg reported that, "Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates."
Lee questioned "whether it is real job growth at all." According to the report that actually tracks job growth, employers added 165,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent -- the lowest it has been since December 2008. Private sector job growth has consistently risen since 2009:
But Fox News recently attacked that report, too. Their coverage was largely negative, despite the fact that economists generally agree that the report shows positive gains in the labor market.
From the March 4 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News host Jenna Lee touted the fact that a proposal by Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer was being considered by House Republicans. Fox has a long history of attempting to influence GOP policies and campaigns.
During the January 18 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee reported on a House Republican plan to increase the debt ceiling through May 1 in order to get the Senate to pass a budget. Lee noted the plan's similarity to a recommendation by Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer in an op-ed published by The Washington Post and Fox News, concluding "That was the idea put forward by Charles Krauthammer, maybe it was in the works already."
Fox News military analyst Jack Keane falsely claimed that President Obama's withdrawal timeline from Afghanistan was based on politics instead of reacting to the state of the conflict. In fact, military leadership has supported Obama's timeline as appropriate given the conditions on the ground.
On the January 2 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, retired Gen. Jack Keane attacked Obama for the planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, claiming: "We made arbitrary withdrawal time schedules in Vietnam as we've done in Afghanistan. Not based on conditions on the ground." From the show:
Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore claimed that enacting spending cuts is the only way to reduce government debt. However, economists argue that focusing on economic growth is a crucial part of reducing deficits.
In an appearance on Fox News' Happening Now, Moore, lamenting the fact that spending cuts were not a primary focus of the January 1 budget deal, claimed that "unless you cut spending...you can't bring that debt down."
While spending cuts could be implemented to address the deficit and debt, they are hardly the only option. Throughout the debate on budget negotiations, numerous economists felt that deficit reduction should be addressed through a balanced approach, with revenue increases offsetting the need for deep spending cuts.
Furthermore, some economists, such as the Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker, argue that focusing on deficit reduction is largely a distraction, especially considering that increased deficits over the past few years "are entirely the result of the economic downturn."
Given this fact, some economists have rightly claimed that economic growth should be a priority when attempting to address deficits. According to former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich:
The deficit is a problem only in proportion to the overall size of the economy. If the economy grows faster than its current 2 percent annualized rate, the deficit shrinks in proportion. Tax receipts grow, and the deficit becomes more manageable.
But if economic growth slows -- as it will, if taxes are raised on the middle class and if government spending is reduced when unemployment is still high -- the deficit becomes larger in proportion. That's the austerity trap Europe finds itself in. We don't want to go there. [The New York Times, 11/7/2012]
Indeed, many economists have argued that cutting spending in a weak economy could negatively impact growth. So while spending cuts may reduce deficits in the short term, they could add to debt in the long run through decreased revenues from lowered economic activity.
Fox News relied on dubious arguments from a conservative group with a history of ethical problems to cast doubt on how the Obama administration is implementing government regulations related to the health care reform law.
In a segment titled "Regulation Nation," anchor Jenna Lee claimed that the health care law's new regulations are on the "fast track" because the public hasn't been afforded enough time to offer input on them before their passage. Correspondent Shannon Bream added that this was in contrast to a 1993 executive order from former President Clinton, which required a minimum of 60 days for comment.
Bream based her reporting on the work of right-wing group Americans for Limited Government, which has a history of ethical problems that include fraud and financial disclosure issues. The group has also been accused of engaging in character attacks.
In fact, the Obama administration has complied with regulatory rules. Moreover, despite Bream's assertion that comment periods should last at least 60 days, there is no required minimum period.
Federal Register guidelines state that "in general, agencies will specify a comment period ranging from 30 to 60 days," but they may also use shorter periods "when that can be justified." Clinton's 1993 executive order recommended that a comment period last at least 60 days "in most cases."
An executive order President Obama signed in January 2011 improving regulation and regulatory review reaffirmed Clinton's order, reading:
To the extent feasible and permitted by law, each agency shall afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment through the Internet on any proposed regulation, with a comment period that should generally be at least 60 days.
Bream ended the segment by claiming that "there have been nearly 6,000 federal regulations proposed just in the last 90 days."
According to the government's regulation website, regulations.gov, there have been 5,803 new postings in the last 90 days. However, more than 4,000 of those are "notices," which include updates to previous regulations, scheduled hearings, grant applications, and meeting announcements. Less than 1,500 are listed as new regulations and rules.
Fox previously used the term "Regulation Nation" to launch a weeklong attack on federal regulations just as the Republican Party announced its push for repealing regulations. Fox also has a history of attacking health care reform.
Fox News is hyping a petition that calls for Congress to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, on the grounds that global warming is a "hoax." But while hyping 15,000 signatures gathered by a group that is in the business of misleading the public on climate science, Fox ignored that over 3 million comments have been submitted in favor of EPA's greenhouse gas regulations.
Fox News uncritically repeated the conservative Heartland Institute's declaration that the extensive science behind manmade climate change is just a "hoax." The group's petition, which is being promoted by Republican Senator James Inhofe, tries to cast doubt on everything from the basic physics of the greenhouse effect to the fact that Arctic sea ice has hit record lows and sea levels are rising. Based on that misinformation, the petition argues that the EPA should allow businesses to continue spewing huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the air at no cost to the polluters.
Fox News did not give any background on the Heartland Institute, which has received significant industry funding and came under fire earlier this year for a billboard campaign associating acceptance of climate science with murderers. Heartland took down the billboard, but refused to apologize for its "experiment."
During a Fox News panel discussion on how women helped reelect President Obama, host Jenna Lee wondered what obstacles the Republican Party needed to overcome to win a sizeable share of the female vote. Yet apart from saying that "we heard a lot about" the "alleged war on women," Lee did not touch on the party's attacks on women's rights, including the GOP's expansive legislative efforts to restrict those rights, or the party's dismissal of wage equality.
On Happening Now, Lee hosted three women to talk about the Republican Party's gender gap and how Republicans can "do a better job of winning the female vote." Lee noted that Obama beat Republican Mitt Romney by 11 points among women and went on to ask guest Sabrina Schaeffer how Republicans can "fight the battle of the alleged war on women" if they avoid talking about gender politics.
Schaeffer, the executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, said that Republicans should talk to women about how they can expand women's liberty, which "is not a war on women." Guest Wendi Biondi, who attended the second presidential debate, added: "I cannot stand that term 'war on women.' "
Despite Lee's reference to a "war on women," not once did she note that the Republican Party has launched a wide-ranging assault on women's rights -- nor did she discuss recent inflammatory comments by two GOP lawmakers that resulted in their election-night losses.
During an interview with local St. Louis TV station KTVI, Republican Congressman Todd Akin claimed that it's "really rare" for women subjected to "legitimate rape" to become pregnant. Likewise, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock suggested that pregnancies resulting from rape are "something that God intended to happen."
This rhetoric is reflected in actual policies pushed by Republicans.
From the November 4 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ:
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