New research shows that the gap between the rich and poor in the United States in 2012 rose at the fastest rate since 1928. This revelation comes at a time when television and print media outlets largely underreport economic inequality.
According to research from economists at the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris School of Economics, and Oxford University, in 2012, incomes for those in the top 1 percent of earners rose by roughly 20 percent. According to the Associated Press, the share of income captured by the wealthiest was the highest since 1928, a year before the onset of the Great Depression .
The remaining 99 percent of earners, meanwhile, saw a 1 percent increase in income.
The research findings reinforce previous warnings from economists that rising income inequality poses a threat to economic well-being.
While economists have repeatedly shown that income inequality is a real, systemic issue in the American economy, media outlets have largely shirked their duty in reporting the problem over recent months.
A recent Media Matters report on economic inequality coverage in local print outlets found that, of articles with substantial mentions of policies and programs that affect low-income individuals, only 19 percent mentioned structural inequality and poverty.
The lack of coverage of inequality in local print media follows a similar pattern shown in nightly cable and broadcast news. Over the second quarter of 2013, only 9.3 percent of news segments on the economy mentioned inequality and the impact of current policies on low-income households
With news that economic inequality is reaching historical highs, media have a responsibility to bring this to light.
Watchdog.org's Virginia Bureau took a shortsighted view of Medicaid expansion by only accounting for up-front costs while failing to recognize the long-term savings and benefits that expansion brings to Virginians.
A September 10 post explained that the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission -- the group tasked with determining the fate of expansion in Virginia -- is accepting citizen comments online. The piece highlighted the views of the commission's co-chairman Delegate Steve Landes (R), who is an opponent of expansion, and only noted the costs associated with expansion:
"Obviously, we're hearing from a lot of citizens who are opposed, and I think this will just add to that," said Republican Delegate Steve Landes, the commission's co-chairman who has questioned how Virginia can afford expanding a program it's already spending billions on now.
Every Virginian has a stake in the future of Medicaid, Landes said. If the state chooses to expand Medicaid enrollment, as it can under Obamacare, the number of Virginians on Medicaid would soar from roughly 1 million of the state's 8 million people, to about 1.4 million.
In the end, federal funding and state funding still comes from the same place - taxpayers' pockets.
While Watchdog's opposition to Medicaid expansion centers on the costs the state will incur, the post omits numerous ways in which the state will benefit financially, both directly and indirectly, from expansion.
Expanding Medicaid would cover up to an additional 430,000 Virginians who are currently uninsured for only 5.2 percent more than the state would have to pay without the Affordable Care Act. In addition, as a fact sheet on Medicaid expansion in Michigan explained, expanding Medicaid will give previously uninsured patients "access to primary care, lowering costs and improving overall health."
A Colorado newspaper has repeatedly run an anti-Semitic ad depicting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, as a puppet-master who controls a state senator the ad's sponsor is seeking to recall from office for supporting stronger gun laws.
The September 8 and 9 editions of the Pueblo Chieftain featured the half-page advertisement. The group responsible for the ad, Pueblo Freedom and Rights, is credited with starting the campaign to recall the ad's target, State Sen. Angela Giron, over her support for legislation that expanded background checks on gun purchases and imposed a 15-round limit on firearm magazine size. Early voting is underway with the election concluding on September 10.
The depiction of a Jewish leader as a puppet-master is widely acknowledged as anti-Semitic imagery because of its relation to conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the political process or global economy.
The ad apparently is a play on the fact that a group backed by Bloomberg has contributed a substantial amount of money in opposition to the recall effort. The recall elections targeting Giron and Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) have drawn significant outside spending both for and against the recall, including more than $361,000 spent by the National Rifle Association in favor of the recall.
The Chieftain's decision to allow the publication of Pueblo Freedom and Rights' ad follows a call by progressive groups for a local media outlet to disaffiliate from the Chieftain over its coverage of the recall election.
The Ohio branch of the media watchdog organization Media Trackers pushed for the media to cover at least eight conservative myths about Medicaid that either lack crucial context, have been widely debunked, or originate from conservative think tanks with a history of distorting the truth.
A New Hampshire Union Leader editorial promoted inaccurate claims regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including an exaggeration of the effects of the ACA on employee benefits, a false claim on rising premium prices, and a warning that Medicaid expansion would shift costs to hospitals, even as the hospital community praised the ACA for being financially beneficial.
Print media regularly overlook issues of structural economic inequality in stories concerning low wages, poverty, or disadvantaged groups at the local level, a lack of coverage that aligns with similar documented trends in national cable news.
A Media Matters analysis of print coverage from 12 major newspapers over the past three months found that economic inequality received inadequate attention. Only 19 percent of print coverage of impoverished and low-income Americans highlighted the widening wealth and income gap in the United States. Of the selected print outlets, The Boston Globe performed the best in its coverage, with 28.6 percent of stories making significant mention of economic inequality. The Denver Post performed the worst, with just 4 percent of stories making significant mention of inequality.
Media coverage of poverty often goes no further than a passive acknowledgement of disadvantaged groups; little attention is paid to the mechanisms that trap Americans in poverty.
Despite the deficiency in media coverage, economists have frequently warned about the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The Economic Policy Institute detailed the effect that a decade of wage stagnation has had on the shrinking middle class and swollen ranks of working poor.
The negative relationship between stagnant wages and growing economic inequality is well-established. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has tracked and categorized this relationship for several years. In 2004 and 2007, CBPP economists noted that the share of economic productivity going to wages and income was at record low levels. By 2010, a CBPP analysis of Congressional Budget Office data revealed how decades of wage stagnation and top-heavy tax cuts drove economic inequality to new heights.
According to the CBO, from 1979 to 2007 the top one percent of income earners have seen their after-tax share of total income rise by more than 120 percent, while the bottom 20 percent of earners have seen that share decline by almost 30 percent. From Mother Jones:
This sort of analysis is missing from the vast majority of mainstream newspapers.
A Columbus Dispatch editorial attacked parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by regurgitating popular myths and misconceptions, including the falsehood that many companies are cutting workers' hours due to the employer mandate, that young and healthy Americans are choosing to not pay for health insurance, and that the role of "navigators" is limited to only assisting with enrollment, despite evidence showing none of these claims are based in fact.
Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain failed to note Colorado voters' overwhelming support for the state's new gun background check law and instead provided a misleading generalization that "Colorado voters oppose the state's stricter new gun-control laws."
In response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and the movie theater mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three gun violence prevention measures into law on March 20. The new laws expand background checks on gun sales, limit magazine capacity to 15 rounds, and impose a $10 fee on background checks. State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) are facing a September 10 recall election over their support for the new measures.
The Chieftain's claim about the popularity of Colorado's new gun laws in the lead story for August 23 was based on a new Quinnipiac University poll that paradoxically found that the majority of voters oppose "the stricter new gun control laws in Colorado" by a 54 to 40 percent margin, but approve -- to varying degrees -- of the specific pieces of gun violence prevention legislation. The August 22 poll found that voters support requiring a background check on every gun sale by an 82 to 16 percent margin and support the limit on magazine capacity by a 49 to 48 percent margin. Quinnipiac did not ask voters about their opinion on the background check fee.
Unlike other major Colorado newspapers, the Chieftain reported on the general opposition to "the stricter new gun control laws" but failed to acknowledge support for the specific measures.
WatchdogVA, an affiliate of the Koch Brothers funded Franklin Center, promoted unsubstantiated fears in asking legislators to weigh several considerations when determining how to expand Medicaid in Virginia, including fears over the federal government's role and a doctor shortage. The conservative blog also recommended block granting or privatizing the program, both of which would have disastrous consequences on Medicaid.
The New York Post's editorial board failed to note a recent District Court decision finding the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program unconstitutional in an editorial defending the program.
The August 23 Post editorial attacked members of the New York City Council who voted to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg's veto of two pieces of legislation that provide more oversight of the stop-and-frisk program. The Post denounced the "attacks by our city's political class on a successful police policy" and applauded mayoral candidate Christine Quinn for noting "that racial profiling is already against the law."
Yet, in its zeal to defend the stop-and-frisk program, the Post forgot to mention a recent decision by District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin which found the New York Police Department's implementation of stop-and-frisk unconstitutional and ordered an independent monitor to oversee the NYPD going forward. Judge Scheindlin found that the "City adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling" without reasonable suspicion in their stop-and-frisk policy and went on to explain:
I also conclude that the City's highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting "the right people" is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the United States Constitution. One NYPD official has even suggested that it is permissible to stop racially defined groups just to instill fear in them that they are subject to being stopped at any time for any reason -- in the hope that this fear will deter them from carrying guns in the streets. The goal of deterring crime is laudable, but this method of doing so is unconstitutional.
In addition to being found unconstitutional in its current practice, the program is highly ineffective. The NYPD has touted stop-and-frisk's success in recovering guns, but according to the NYCLU, while the number of stops has increased dramatically almost every year in the last decade, the number of guns recovered has barely gone up. In each year since 2003, fewer than 0.5 percent of stops produced a gun. The program's ability to deter crime is also highly suspect as many cities without the program or that utilize a less constitutionally questionable version have had lower violent crimes rates than New York.
The Post has been notoriously supportive of stop-and-frisk and against the constitutional safeguards in this bill, but even the more ardent supporters of stop-and-frisk have begun to change their opinion after evaluating the facts surrounding the program.
NRA News promoted an ad targeting Colorado Senate President John Morse, who is facing a recall election over his support for stronger gun laws, that baselessly suggested Morse used taxpayer money for haircuts and golf outings. The allegations in the ad stem from a 2011 ethics complaint filed against Morse that was unanimously dismissed by a bipartisan ethics panel, a fact the ad does not disclose.
The ad features Laura Carno, the founder of pro-recall group I Am Created Equal, claiming that Morse "charged us for days when you got your hair cut and when you went golfing" while a graphic stated, "Tell John Morse Don't Golf And Get Haircuts On Our Dime." From the August 21 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, the media arm of the National Rifle Association:
CARNO: Senator Morse, the ethics investigation against you wasn't trivial. When you reimburse yourself with our money, it should be for work you do on our behalf. But Senator Morse, you charged us for days when you got your hair cut and when you went golfing. We didn't elect you to be king, Senator Morse. Every dollar you spend comes out of our pockets. And Senator Morse we don't want to pay for your haircuts and golf games.
Tellingly the ad featured a quote from an April 12, 2011, Associated Press article, ignoring that the article was about the complaint being dismissed:
A New Hampshire Union Leader editorial attacked Planned Parenthood for receiving "navigator grants" to help Americans enroll in health insurance, claiming the organization's "core business includes abortion-on-demand" and quoted a source questioning whether the group should receive these funds. In fact, more than 90 percent of Planned Parenthood's work is in preventative care, and the organization meets the qualifications for the grant money.
The Richmond Times Dispatch editorial board attacked progressive groups for appearing hypocritical in their defense of the Affordable Care Act birth control mandate while decrying Virginia's sodomy law. However, this represents a faulty comparison as birth control is legal and has definitive medical purposes while the state's sodomy law has been found unconstitutional and provides no medical benefit.
In the August 15 editorial, the Times Dispatch discussed recent activities by NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and ProgressVA criticizing comments made by Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that allies should be willing to "go to jail" to fight against the federal mandate for contraception. The Times also noted ProgressVA's criticism of Cuccinelli's continued defense of the state's anti-sodomy law. The editorial goes on to accuse the progressive groups of hypocrisy, saying they want to "keep government in the bedroom" by supporting a law subsidizing birth control but "out of the bedroom" by not supporting the sodomy law:
So the AG is supposed to help keep government in the bedroom by supporting a law subsidizing birth control, but keep government out of the bedroom by not supporting the sodomy law. All clear?
Cuccinelli's stance is just as muddled. He can't very well say he is simply fulfilling a duty by defending one law while he urges individuals to break another one.
While the editorial correctly points out that Cuccinelli, who is running for Virginia governor, has a "muddled" stance on this issue, it is an unfair characterization for the editorial to claim the progressive groups are also being inconsistent.
First, birth control has many purposes that have nothing to do with the "bedroom." A study by the Guttmacher Institute found in 2011 that 1.5 million women use oral contraceptives solely for noncontraceptive purposes. In fact, many of these women use oral contraceptives to treat issues such as migraines and acne or to reduce cramps and menstrual pain:
The study--based on U.S government data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG)--revealed that after pregnancy prevention (86%), the most common reasons women use the pill include reducing cramps or menstrual pain (31%); menstrual regulation, which for some women may help prevent migraines and other painful "side effects" of menstruation (28%); treatment of acne (14%); and treatment of endometriosis (4%). Additionally, it found that some 762,000 women who have never had sex use the pill, and they do so almost exclusively (99%) for noncontraceptive reasons.
The "ethics complaint" against Colorado State Sen. Angela Giron reported on by The Pueblo Chieftain and Colorado ABC affiliate KRDO was never accepted by the Colorado Secretary of State for review, as revealed in an open records request by a local government watchdog group.
Reacting to media coverage of the complaint -- which alleged that Giron's listing of her state email address on her campaign website constituted a violation of ethics rules -- Colorado Ethics Watch director Luis Toro told Media Matters in an August 6 interview that the allegation was "extremely thin" before predicting that it would be "almost certainly dismissed as frivolous." Toro also questioned why the complaint did not appear on the Secretary of State website, noting that it is standard procedure for even a frivolous complaint to be posted and then referred for adjudication.
Giron is facing recall over her support of legislation to expand background checks on gun sales and limit firearm magazine capacity to 15 rounds.
According to emails obtained by CEW on August 15, an employee from the Secretary of State's Election Division responded to the ethics charge with instructions on how to file a campaign finance complaint. An internal email between Secretary of State employees indicated confusion over the complaint with one staffer emailing another, "Not sure if this is meant to be a campaign finance complaint under the $50 rule." This is likely because the complaintaint's allegation centered on Giron's conduct as a candidate meaning it would be properly characterized as a campaign finance violation rather than an ethics complaint.
[Colorado Ethics Watch, accessed 8/16/13, personal email address redacted]
A spokesperson for the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, the NRA-backed group behind an effort to recall two Colorado Democratic state senators over their votes for stronger gun laws, baselessly claimed on NRA News that the campaign of recall-targeted Senate President John Morse was plotting to commit "massive amounts of voter fraud including ballots possibly even being mailed in from Chicago."
Reacting to an August 12 court decision which will necessitate that the recall election be conducted with polling centers instead of solely through mail-in ballots, BFDF spokesperson Jennifer Kerns said the change could stymie what she described as a plot by Chicago-based groups hired by Morse's campaign to commit voter fraud by sending in fraudulent ballots from out of state. From the August 13 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News:
KERNS: The state of Colorado, in keeping with its crazy election year tradition, the state of Colorado passed a very controversial same day voter registration bill that completely changed the election laws in the state of Colorado and turned this election into an all mail ballot election.
Well we've been bracing ourselves for massive amounts of voter fraud including ballots possibly even being mailed in from Chicago. As you know, John Morse and his campaign, as they say follow the money in politics, he has hired -- even his own political consulting firms are from Chicago. They represent the Chicago Federation of Labor, the AFL-CIO and AFSCME, some of the hardest players in politics. So we've been bracing ourselves for an all mail-in ballot situation where you could potentially have ballots coming in from people out of the state.
Kerns added, "I think it's much harder for the Democrats to cheat if they have to do it in person. They have to spend their time and treasure busing people in to try to commit fraud."
The registration fraud scenario described by Kerns -- where out of district or state individuals would use Colorado's same day voter registration law to obtain mail-in ballots -- has circulated in state conservative media, but is in fact based on a misreading of Colorado's new election laws.