Right-wing media outlets have advanced a number of myths regarding automatic across-the-board spending cuts -- commonly called the sequester -- in order to hide the facts behind an inherently harmful economic policy.
Conservative media voices have insisted that an increase of the federal minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $9 would harm the economy. However, a wealth of economic evidence disputes the claims that minimum wage hikes are job killers, that the minimum wage is already high, and that it only applies to jobs held by relatively young workers.
Right-wing media figures have responded to immigration reform by invoking the oft-repeated conservative argument that legalizing immigrants will enlarge the "welfare state." In fact, the announced immigration reform proposal would prevent newly legalized immigrants from receiving federal benefits for an extended period of time; moreover, immigrants in general are less likely to receive welfare benefits.
Media coverage of the debt ceiling frequently claims that raising the limit without simultaneous spending cuts would give President Obama a "blank check," repeating a pattern of promoting this false narrative -- or failing to correct it -- that occurred during the unprecedented brinkmanship of 2011. The phrase implies that the debt ceiling governs additional spending desired by the White House, when in fact it is a restriction on the executive branch's ability to borrow money to pay for spending measures already enacted by Congress.
Fox News promoted a proposal by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to eliminate the state income tax and increase sales tax by a corresponding amount, saying that with such a plan, "everybody wins." In fact, the plan would seriously harm middle and lower income tax voters while providing little or no benefit to the economy.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto and Fox guest Stephen Moore agreed that President Obama is wrong to suggest that federal spending growth is driven by health care costs, when in fact Obama is right. Health care spending is the only category of federal spending projected to grow substantially over the next two decades, and government health insurance is actually more efficient than private sector insurance. And the president's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains provisions that aims to contain and reduce national health care costs.
CNN guest and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore misrepresented House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's comments on taxes, falsely claiming that she said "we've got to tax the middle class." In fact, Pelosi said that while tax increases for upper-income Americans are "not off the table," she does not want to bring in more revenue "at the expense of the middle class."
CNN's Erin Burnett Outfront played a clip of Pelosi appearing Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation and saying that tax increases for upper-income earners are "not off the table" in future spending negotiations. Moore then claimed that "we've only had this tax increase on the rich for what, 72 hours, and already people like Nancy Pelosi are saying, well, we've got to tax the middle class."
However, the full context of Pelosi's remarks reveal that Pelosi, during her appearance on Face the Nation, clearly stated that she is not interested in raising taxes on the middle class:
BOB SCHIEFFER (host): People who are listening to you this morning are going to say she's talking about more taxes, she's talking about bringing in more, in one way or another, by increasing taxes.
PELOSI: One thing I'm not talking about is bringing in more at the expense of the middle class, at the expense of the middle class. That is not something -- and that was what we were fighting all along in this because, to the extent that you diminished the tax cut, the tax change at the high end, you would have to claw down into the middle class to get more revenue.
SCHIEFFER: Are you then saying to the upper classes, get ready, you're going to have to pay some more, this is not the end of it?
PELOSI: Well, I'm saying that's not off the table.
SCHIEFFER: That's not off the table?
PELOSI: That's not off the table. But not in terms of tax rates but in terms of other considerations.
SCHIEFFER: You're talking about deductions and other things.
PELOSI: And the rest.
SCHIEFFER: What would be some of the things that you think, on the upper-income people, what kind of deductions are you talking about?
PELOSI: As I said, I'm not going into particulars.
SCHIEFFER: You're not going into --
PELOSI: Put it all -- put it all on the table and see what is working.
She concluded that any further tax increases should "not ... reach down to the middle class."
In an effort to push for federal spending cuts, right-wing media figures have repeatedly claimed that the U.S. is on the path to becoming Greece, which is facing a severe debt crisis. However, the comparison between the two countries is wholly misleading, and sharp spending cuts in Greece have exacerbated the country's economic contraction.
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.
Conservative media figures have long insisted that top marginal income tax rates effectively target small businesses. This "zombie lie" has sprung up throughout President Obama's first term as an argument against Democratic proposals to renew the Bush-era rates only for middle- and low-income Americans. Despite continual efforts by experts to debunk this claim, media figures continue to repeat these lies in the 2012 edition of the fight over high-income tax rates.
Fox News' Special Report falsely suggested that the recent growth of the food stamp program was due to President Obama's 2009 economic stimulus, asserting that the bill "eviscerated" work requirements for food stamps. In fact, most of the growth in the program was due to economic factors, primarily the recession, and 46 states had received work requirement waivers before Obama took office.
In an effort to discredit President Obama's plan to increase taxes on the wealthy, conservative media outlets have pushed a number of myths to suggest that a large number of Americans will be negatively affected. In reality, only a small percentage of taxpayers would be affected by Obama's proposals.
From the October 24 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Following the first presidential debate, Fox has enthusiastically echoed Mitt Romney's call to end public funding for Sesame Street and other public broadcasting. Fox's attacks on public broadcasting have focused on criticism of Big Bird.
Fox News regular Stephen Moore, a Wall Street Journal editorial board member, today argued in favor of Mitt Romney's stated plan to end federal funding for PBS, by claiming that Sesame Street character Big Bird "has made more money than a lot of Wall Street firms." In fact, records show that the show's production company loses money annually.
As a Slate article explained in January, "Sesame Street and its production company the Sesame Workshop do make a lot of money from product licensing, but not nearly enough to cover expenses." Indeed, according to the company's most recent available federal tax returns, Sesame Workshop lost $6 million in 2010: Total revenue that year was about $133 million, but expenses added up to more than $139 million.
Though that may seem like a significant figure for a children's program, Sesame Street is a "relative bargain" compared to other TV shows. As Slate noted, "The production budget for Sesame Street domestically is about $16 or $17 million per year, which produces about 26 episodes." This works out to less than a million dollars per episode, whereas "a cable show like The Walking Dead can cost $3 million per episode," reported Slate.
According to a recent audit of the program, the remaining revenue Sesame Workshop gains is spent on expenses such as "education, research and outreach," "Sesame Street in schools," and content distribution.
The New York Times reported that to make up for the losses, PBS hopes prime-time hits like Downton Abbey and Sherlock, which attract significantly more donations, will in turn help "finance other programs like 'Sesame Street.'"
But on Fox News' Your World, Moore cheered Romney's decision to end PBS' federal funding, saying that "Big Bird is big enterprise in fact." He went on to argue that "people who listen to it, and watch it, and like the programming, they should pay for it," adding:
MOORE: My feeling is look, if people like Warren Buffet and people like, you know, people like Ted Turner feel that this is such an important programing, why shouldn't they pay for it?
In fact, people who think the programming is important and want to keep it on-air already do pay for it.