Fox Business host Stuart Varney baselessly suggested non-citizens will now be compelled to vote as the "end result" of the Supreme Court's decision that Arizona cannot trump federal election law and make it harder for its citizens to register to vote.
In its 7-2 decision in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council, the Supreme Court rejected Arizona's argument that its state registration law is immune to the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993, an "open and shut" decision authored by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia that was handed down only three months after oral arguments.
Varney, however, responded to the breaking news that the Court had struck down yet another unconstitutional Arizona law by claiming the decision would not only allow non-citizens to vote, they will now go forth and do so. His guest, Fox News senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano, while admitting Arizona has a terrible record at enacting constitutional legislation, added to the misinformation by incorrectly asserting "the states decide what the standards are for voting." From the June 17 edition of Varney & Company:
Fox News is dishonestly misinterpreting news reports to erroneously conclude that IRS officials in Washington, D.C., were involved in the improper scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Several Fox anchors have portrayed details of a congressional interview with Holly Paz, formerly a D.C.-based manager in the IRS tax-exempt unit, as contradicting previous claims from the Obama administration that IRS reviews of conservative tax-exempt applications were not initiated by D.C. officials.
For example, on America's Newsroom, Martha MacCallum said Paz "says that she was in on the plan to give extra scrutiny to conservative groups." On the same program, Stuart Varney said Paz's interview proved that the orders to scrutinize conservative groups "did go higher up the food chain."
Later in the show MacCallum said that there were "compelling reasons" to investigate whether the orders to investigate conservative groups came from the top.
Similarly, America Live host Megyn Kelly said Paz's interview "discredits" claims made by the Obama administration that they were not involved in targeting conservatives.
These claims are based on a misinterpretation of what the IRS did that was improper. In an interview with congressional investigators, transcript of which was released to several news outlets, Paz acknowledged having "reviewed 20 to 30 applications" from politically active groups seeking non-profit. But it was not improper for the IRS to review such applications -- the reason the IRS has been criticized is because they used politically slanted criteria to select conservative, but not progressive, groups to receive that scrutiny. Specifically, the IRS gave additional scrutiny to groups with "tea party," "patriot," and "9/12" in their names.
In her interview, Paz reportedly said she reviewed case files submitted by IRS officials in Cincinnati, Ohio, but that it was the local office that was responsible for selecting those cases for scrutiny. From USA Today:
Paz said liberal groups were mentioned by name, alongside the Tea Party, on an IRS BOLO -- or "be on the lookout" -- list. Screeners in Cincinnati, where all applications for tax-exemptions are processed, used the list to identify sensitive or complex cases that should be sent to specialists in Cincinnati and Washington.
Thus, by the time Paz reviewed the cases in D.C., the improper behavior had already occurred, consistent with the Obama administration claims that the improper behavior was the fault of officials in Cincinnati.
Fox News contradicted a wealth of economic evidence to claim that a near five-year low in weekly jobless claims indicates that the economy has entered a "new normal."
Following the release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' report on initial weekly jobless claims, which showed the number falling by 12,000 to 334,000, Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed that while there was a significant drop in those filing for unemployment benefits, the number was still "relatively high." From Fox News' America's Newsroom:
After co-host Martha MacCallum correctly noted that the number of weekly jobless claims neared a five-year low, Varney insisted that the number was too high and that it indicated the economy is entering a "new normal" of sluggish economic growth.
But Varney's assertions about weekly claims don't match the data. Since 1967 -- the earliest data available -- initial jobless claims have averaged about 363 thousand per week. This week's number is about 30 thousand lower than the historical average - hardly a "relatively high" figure.
The suggestion that this week's numbers show signs of a "new normal" also doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Since peaking in 2009, weekly jobless claims have maintained a consistent downward trend, and the current numbers mirror those experienced in previous decades.
According to a Reuters report, the drop in jobless claims experienced in recent weeks signals a slowdown in layoffs:
Many economists believe growing confidence in America's economic recovery has led U.S. employers to exit a long cycle of elevated layoffs.
The continued insistence that the economy is entering a "new normal" is particularly strange given that in recent weeks, there have been signs that the economy is slowly improving, ranging from a surge in housing prices to a five-year high in consumer confidence.
While economic gains have not been rapid in recent years, Varney and MacCallum failed to note that many economists have pointed to deep and unnecessary spending cuts as holding back growth. Indeed, reductions in government spending have reduced potential GDP growth, and public sector job cuts are holding back labor market gains, a deviation from previous recoveries.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney dismissed the benefits of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a highly effective anti-poverty program, as "corrupt," falsely claiming that it offers excessive benefits to people "who have never paid a dime in their lives," while admitting, "I am being mean to poor people. Frankly, I am."
On the June 5 edition of Fox & Friends, Varney continued his campaign against the EITC, demonizing the program as a "corrupt" effort to redistribute income to "people who have never paid a dime in their lives" [emphasis added]:
VARNEY: Okay, if you work, on the books, you've got a job but you earn very, very little money, you get a check from the government. It is to make up. It's essentially it's a tax credit in the form of a check from the government. We hand out $79 billion every January to these so-called poor people who get a direct check from the taxpayer. That's not complicated. It is corrupt. Because you've got a lot of people who are not reporting off-the-books income but still getting the check.
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): Well why you say so, so the so-called poor people. You're not being mean to poor people today.
VARNEY: I am. I am being mean to poor people. Frankly, I am.
VARNEY: Because this is a direct transfer payment from this group of people who pay taxes--
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Right.
VARNEY: To this group of people who have never paid a dime in their lives but they get a check from the government.
VARNEY: Let's get to the basics here. This is, in my opinion, a corrupt program administered by the IRS. They're giving out money which they should not be giving out--
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): And why is this?
VARNEY: That budget, the IRS budget is $11 billion. They've given out $13 billion by mistake in this one program.
Why put these people -- why put the IRS in charge of policing Obamacare?
Why do that?
The EITC is set up as a tax credit, not a stipend or a subsidy as Varney implied, and the value is based on the earnings of an individual or family and the number of children supported, increasing in value as workers earn more, until a maximum limit is reached. When earnings reach that certain threshold, payments stabilize and then phase out. The credit is "designed to encourage and reward work" for low-income Americans.
Research has shown that the EITC has been successful at promoting employment. As the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco stated in a March 2012 letter, "[t]he EITC unambiguously encourages some people not working to enter the labor market." The National Bureau of Economic Research similarly found that the EITC has a "substantial, positive effect on the employment of families who have used or will use welfare." And the Congressional Budget Office asserted that the EITC has had particular success in improving employment and reducing poverty for low-income single mothers.
Additionally, the program has helped reduce poverty. A February 1 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) report noted that in 2011, the EITC "lifted an estimated 500,000 people out of poverty and reduced the severity of poverty for approximately 10 million poor people." And an April 9 CBPP report found that the EITC's benefits are far-reaching, including potentially improving infant health and helping to improve child academic performance such that the children of recipients are "likelier to attend college, and earn more as adults" than if their parents had not received the tax credit.
Varney has a long history of promoting tax cuts that benefit the rich while pushing to end policies that assist the poor, and has smeared the nation's low-income individuals, going so far as to claim that what low-income people really "lack is the richness of spirit."
Fox News attempted to discredit potential Federal Reserve chair nominee Lawrence Summers by dismissing his concerns about the economic harm caused by austerity measures and his assertions that additional government spending is needed.
Media have reported that President Obama may nominate Lawrence Summers -- former director of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers and former Treasury Secretary under President Clinton -- to replace Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke as head of the Fed.
Fox responded by implying that Summers was not qualified for the post because of his concerns about austerity measures and the decline in government spending, despite the fact that austerity has slowed economic recovery and the lack of government spending has been a drag on the economy.
On June 4, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy dismissed Summers' possible nomination to lead the Fed, claiming that "he thinks cutting spending is a bad idea." His guest, Fox Business host Stuart Varney, citing a recent Washington Post op-ed by Summers, lamented that Summers did not like spending cuts and did not want rapid deficit reduction. Varney concluded that anyone who wants to see U.S. economic revitalization would be "dismayed by the rise and prominence of Larry Summers."
Fox displayed the following text during the segment:
From the May 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News' Stuart Varney portrayed a natural gas automaker as a "green energy failure," even though he pushed the federal government to make transit agencies buy vehicles from the same company only a few months prior.
Vehicle Production Group (VPG), a Michigan-based company that makes wheelchair-accessible vans, recently ceased operations and closed its offices. The company, which had drawn attention for designing the first vehicle specifically for people with disabilities, was awarded a $50 million conditional loan commitment in 2010 to develop vans with natural gas engines as part of the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program.
On Wednesday, Varney depicted the company as "the latest embarrassment for the [Obama administration's] green energy policy" on Fox & Friends:
But Varney did not mention that VPG received its loan under a program that President George W. Bush signed into law, or that the natural gas vehicles it was intended to subsidize are a component of T. Boone Pickens' energy plan, which Fox News personalities have previously supported. Pickens funded and advocated for VPG himself.
Fox News claimed that federal government policy was failing to lower unemployment by citing recent decisions made by the Federal Reserve. However, economists note that Federal Reserve action alone cannot increase employment, and federal spending must be increased to improve the economy.
Reacting to the May 2 weekly jobless claims report, Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney dismissed the 18,000 drop in initial claims to the lowest level in five years, stating that "it's a better number, but it's still not a good number." Varney went on to claim that the Federal Reserve's recent decision to continue its bond buying program was not producing expected drops in unemployment, claiming "unemployment rates are not falling the way they should when you're printing all this money." From America's Newsroom:
While Varney was quick to dismiss the government's role in strengthening the labor market by citing the Federal Reserve and the effect of current monetary policy on job creation, he completely ignored the fact that decreases in government spending have negatively impacted the economy, overlooking statements made by the Federal Reserve and the warnings of experts.
In the statement released by the Federal Reserve on May 1 outlining its future decisions regarding monetary policy, the board specifically cited that "fiscal policy is restraining economic growth."
Indeed, many analysts have been claiming that actions by the Fed are not enough to bolster economic growth, and that increased government spending -- that is, expansionary fiscal policy -- is necessary to improve current conditions.
In The Washington Post's Wonkblog, Roosevelt Institute fellow Mike Konczal explained how actions taken by the Federal Reserve have failed to counteract the negative effects of decreased government spending:
But the most important lesson to draw is that fiscal policy is incredibly important at this moment. In normal times, the broader effect of government spending, or the fiscal multiplier, is low because the central bank can offset it. But these are not normal times. It's not clear why the Federal Reserve's actions haven't balanced out fiscal austerity. But since they haven't, we should be even more confident that, as the IMF put it, "fiscal multipliers are currently high in many advanced economies."
The main point here is that while the Federal Reserve is attempting to spur economic gains through monetary policy, it simply can't do enough to counteract recent contractions in government spending. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich echoed Konczal, stating "easy money from the Fed can't get the economy out of first gear when the rest of government is in reverse."
By only focusing monetary policy as the government's way to bolster employment and economic growth, Fox is only telling half the story -- the negative effects of decreased government spending are far too damaging to be mitigated elsewhere -- and continuing its trend of downplaying positive economic news.
From the April 29 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News glossed over an important aspect in its reporting on lower than expected GDP growth -- the government contribution to GDP has been negative in the majority of recent reports.
Following the April 26 release of first quarter GDP growth estimates, Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney dismissed the 2.5 percent increase as "not good numbers," claiming that the increase was not indicative of a robust recovery. From Fox News' America's Newsroom:
Varney provided a laundry list of reasons why GDP growth has failed to live up to expectations, including recent federal and state tax increases and, notably, cuts from sequestration - a reversal from previous right-wing assertions that sequestration was too small to harm the economy. Varney failed to explain, however, that too little government spending has been holding back economic growth, as indicated by many of quarterly reports from the past two years.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis provides data on individual contributions to GDP, including government spending's contribution. When the government's contribution to GDP growth is separated from total growth, it becomes apparent that it has been a drag on the economy for much of the past two years.
In the previous 13 quarters, government spending has only added to GDP growth twice - once in the second quarter of 2010, and again in the third quarter of 2012.
This observation has been recognized by others, causing The Washington Post's Ezra Klein to boldly state that "government is hurting the economy - by spending too little." Of course, any recognition of this fact from Fox News would require the network to abandon its longtime stance that increased government spending can only hurt the economy.
From the April 26 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News selectively edited comments by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to accuse him of exaggerating the effects of automatic budget cuts that began March 1. Fox's excerpt of Reid's call to end the cuts left out his description of specific impacts and ignored widespread media reporting that supports his statements.
Due to the across-the-board spending cuts, the National Institute of Health (NIH) will be forced reduce its budget by $1.5 billion and expects to award 1,000 fewer grants in 2013. Because approximately three-fifths, or $40.8 billion, of all university research funding in 2011 came from the federal government, this loss will be disruptive. Some disruptions have already begun.
On April 25, Fox & Friends aired a short clip from Sen. Reid's April 24 remarks to the Senate that called for an end to the arbitrary budget cuts. Although Reid prefaced the aired comments with a broader description of the impact that the mandatory budget cuts may have on education and the economy, Fox Business host Stuart Varney and Fox News host Steve Doocy chose to focus on just three sentences, accusing Reid of "desperate" exaggeration. Doocy claimed that Reid "essentially is saying Republicans want to kill people."
Fox's short excerpt of Reid's testimony omitted context in which Reid detailed specific examples of how the budget cuts may curb medical research. Here is a larger excerpt of Reid's statement [what Fox aired is bolded]:
Nationwide these across-the-board cuts will cost 750,000 jobs. They will cost us investments in education that keep America competitive. They will cost millions of seniors, children, veterans and needy families the safety net that keeps them from descending into poverty.
Most of the headlines are focused on the hours the sequester has cost travelers in airports across the nation. The frustration and the economic effects of those delays should not be minimized. But the sequester could also cost this country - and humankind - a cure for AIDS or Parkinson's disease or cancer.
These arbitrary cuts have decimated funding for medical researchers seeking cures for diabetes, epilepsy and hundreds of other dangerous and debilitating diseases. The National Institutes of Health has delayed or halted vital scientific projects and reduced the number of grants it awards to research scientists. Thousands of researchers will lose their jobs in the next few months. And projects that can't go on without adequate staffing will be cancelled altogether.
At Ohio State University, grants for cancer research and infectious disease control have been axed. At the University of Cincinnati - which is at the forefront in research on strokes, a leading cause of death in the United States - scientists are bracing for similar cuts. Vanderbilt University and the University of Kentucky are accepting fewer science graduate students because of funding reductions. At Wright State University, scientists researching pregnancy-related disorders such as preeclampsia will lose their jobs. Boston University has laid off lab scientists, and research laboratories in San Francisco have instituted hiring freezes and delayed the launch of important studies. And grants to some of Harvard University's most successful research scientists were not renewed because of the sequester.
This kind of research saves lives. These scientists are looking for the next successful treatment for Alzheimer's disease or the next drug to treat high cholesterol. But they might never get the chance to complete their groundbreaking work or make their life-saving discoveries because of these short-sighted cuts.
We have seen the devastating impacts of these arbitrary budget cuts. Now it's time to stop them.
News reports confirm the cuts to medical research highlighted in Reid's statement.
Media outlets including NPR and Fox News are targeting federal disability benefits programs through a campaign deceptively portraying these programs as wasteful and unsustainable. In reality, these programs have low fraud rates and help the rising number of Americans with severe disabilities survive when they are unable to work.
Fox News figures accused the Obama administration of trying to "maximize" sequestration pain on the American people through the Federal Aviation Administration's furloughs of air traffic controllers, despite the fact that federal agencies are required by law to cut their programs evenly.
On April 22, the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration forced the F.A.A. to begin furloughs for air traffic controllers. The unpaid leaves delayed more than 1,200 flights that day, according to the F.A.A.
Although the legislation provides little to no room for agencies to decide how to implement the budget cuts, Fox figures used the furloughs to argue that the administration is trying to inflict maximum pain from sequestration. On his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity claimed that administration is furloughing air traffic controllers "because they want to maximize the amount of pain that you the American people are feeling."
In fact, as a New York Times editorial explained, "the sequester law is clear in requiring the F.A.A. and most other agencies to cut their programs by an even amount." This provision prevents agencies from deciding how and where to implement the budget cuts:
As it happens, the sequester law is clear in requiring the F.A.A. and most other agencies to cut their programs by an even amount. That law was foisted on the public after Republicans demanded spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in 2011. Since then, the party has rejected every offer to replace the sequester with a more sensible mix of cuts and revenue increases.
As Forbes explained, the F.A.A. and other federal agencies "have little or no discretion to target spending cuts":
The across-the-board nature of the spending cuts has been well-noted. Federal agencies have little or no discretion to target spending cuts by, say, getting rid of obsolete or poorly-run programs. They have to cut them all, the good ones and the bad ones alike. They can't lay off poorly performing workers, they must furlough everyone.
But the fact that the legislation prevents the Obama administration from targeting the cuts has not prevented Fox figures from parroting Hannity's claim.
In the wake of the Boston bombings, Fox host Sean Hannity revived his false narrative that Obama is soft on terrorism because he failed to characterize "jihad" as inherently violent in a 2010 speech. In fact, Obama's approach has been praised, and former President George W. Bush made similar statements about the nature of "jihad."
On the April 23 edition of his Fox News show, Hannity claimed that after the Boston terror attack, President Obama is still unwilling to "engage in a war on radical Islam." After playing a November 7, 2010, clip of Obama answering a question in Mumbai, India, about jihad, explaining that "the phrase 'jihad' has a lot of meanings within Islam and is subject to a lot of different interpretations," Hannity responded: "There are not really many interpretations -- that's spin. Jihad equals holy war." From the show:
But Obama's interpretation of jihad is no different from the definition used by the Bush administration that preceded him. The 2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, issued by the Bush administration's National Security Council, stated, "Terrorists distort the idea of jihad into a call for violence and murder against those they regard as apostates or unbelievers." And in an October 2005 speech, Bush said that "extremists distort the idea of jihad into a call for terrorist murder against anyone who does not share their radical vision, including Muslims from other traditions, who they regard as heretics." He continued: