Stuart Varney

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  • Voter Fraud Myths Pushed By Trump Have Long Been Propagated By Right-Wing Media

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CAT DUFFY

    Throughout his campaign, and continuing now as President, Donald Trump has made a series of baseless claims alleging mass voter fraud in order to either preemptively cast doubt on the election results, or to dispute the fact he didn’t win the popular vote. Trump’s allegations, which ranged from “people are going to walk in” and “vote ten times,” to claiming “he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes,” and most recently his decision to ask for “a major investigation into voter fraud” are based on a series of myths that right-wing media have pushed for years -- including the arguments that strict voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, that dead people are voting, and that there is widespread noncitizen voting.

  • Fox News Retools Misleading Jobs Report Spin One Last Time

    Will The Network Continue Its Nitpicking Misinformation Campaign After Trump Takes Office?

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Today marked the release of the final monthly jobs report during President Obama’s time in office, and Fox News wasted no time in spinning the document, which showed consistent job gains, new workforce entries, and sizable year-to-year wage increases, by claiming that it’s “not a great picture of the employment situation.” The network has exploited the monthly jobs report to attack the president since he took office in January 2009, but its campaign of misinformation will likely come to a screeching halt next month.

    On the first Friday of every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases its monthly employment situation summary detailing key indicators of the national labor market from the previous month. The report for December 2016 showed another month of consistent performance from the American economy, with 156,000 new jobs created, a 2.9 percent increase in hourly wages over the previous year, and the unemployment rate remaining “little changed” at 4.7 percent. The December jobs figure came in below some economic forecasts, but the miss was offset by major upward revisions to jobs estimates in October and November. Meanwhile, the slight 0.1-point increase in the unemployment rate was driven mostly by an influx of job seekers entering the labor market last month. According to The Wall Street Journal, December marked the 75th consecutive month of job growth -- the longest streak on record.

    On CNN’s New Day, chief business correspondent Christine Romans outlined the details of what she called “a solid finish to the year.” Romans said the economy created roughly 2.2 million jobs in 2016 and stressed that “altogether for the Obama presidency, it’s a net 11 million new jobs” even though he inherited the Great Recession and took office in a year when “5 million jobs just disappeared”:

    Investment analyst and Bloomberg View columnist Conor Sen argued that the December report “is about as strong of a jobs print as we can get at this point in the cycle.” University of Michigan economist and New York Times columnist Justin Wolfers compared the economy to “the little engine that could,” arguing that after accounting for prevailing economic trends, the December report was “good news.” New York Times senior economic correspondent Neil Irwin noted that the 2.9 percent average hourly wage increase “is the highest of this expansion,” concluding, “Boom.” Economist Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute wrote in a January 6 blog post, “All told, it’s clear that the next president is inheriting an economy much stronger than it was at the start of the previous administration,” a sentiment echoed by MSNBC’s Steve Benen, who said the report stands as yet more evidence that “the president is handing off a healthy economy to his successor (who spent 2016 telling voters the economy is terrible).”

    The generally positive outlook on the economy portrayed by these journalists, economists, and other experts was once again absent at Fox News, which painted the report as another example of the president’s failing policies.

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney slammed the report all morning on Varney & Co., and he invited several guests to claim that the report was proof of a sputtering and “sick” economy. Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade lamented the report as “not a great picture of the employment situation in the country,” ignoring all its positive indicators, while guest and Trump apologist Jeanine Pirro slammed the Obama administration for its supposed failure to advance the economic interests of African-Americans. (Many observers had noted that the December report actually showed the unemployment rate for African-Americans falling to its lowest point since August 2007.) From the January 6 edition of Fox & Friends:

  • Wall Street Journal Virtually Alone In Defending Trump’s Pick For Labor Secretary

    Even Breitbart Opposes Fast-Food CEO Andy Puzder Running The Department Of Labor

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal editorial board stands virtually alone in defense of President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, Andy Puzder, a notoriously anti-worker fast-food CEO and frequent right-wing op-ed contributor to the Journal.

    The Journal’s editorial board published a defense of Puzder on December 8, praising his opposition to raising the federal minimum wage, expanding Obamacare, and strengthening overtime protections for workers. The editorial board continued that they hoped Puzder would roll back other progressive advances for working-class Americans, including reversing an executive order mandating paid sick leave for federal contractors and undoing the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule requiring investment brokers to act in a client's best interests. From the Journal:

    Donald Trump’s selection of CKE CEO Andy Puzder to lead his Labor Department has incited a tantrum on the left, which is a good sign. The burger maven once told us that he often picked up litter around his restaurants, and departing chief Tom Perez is leaving plenty to clean up.

    [...]

    He is also the rare executive who promotes free markets rather than merely his narrow business interests. Mr. Puzder has expounded in these pages on the unintended consequences of ObamaCare’s mandates and a $15 minimum wage. He’s also detailed how the Obama Administration has contributed to the shrinking labor force and large number of underemployed workers.

    The Journal was one of the few voices to speak in support of Puzder’s nomination for secretary of labor. During a December 9 segment on Fox Business, host Stuart Varney used the controversy surrounding the nomination as “an excuse to run those racy ads” objectifying women, which Puzder’s company has become known for.

    One of the only other defenders of Puzder is Stephen Moore -- a discredited economist, Trump economic adviser, and a former Journal editorial board member -- who, while defending his boss’ pick, attacked Media Matters and “the big unions” for what he called “a loud and libelous campaign” to damage Puzder’s nomination.

    Controversy has been mounting over Puzder’s nomination after initial reporting failed to note the many right-wing media myths he has pushed to support his anti-worker agenda. The New York Times blasted Puzder in an editorial on December 8 titled “Andrew Puzder Is The Wrong Choice For Labor Secretary” for his stances on worker rights, and for Puzder’s companies' -- Carl's Jr. and Hardee’s -- record of labor law violations. From The New York Times:

    Here is the record at those restaurants. When the Obama Labor Department looked at thousands of complaints involving fast-food workers, it found labor law violations in 60 percent of the investigations at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, usually for failure to pay the minimum wage or time and a half for overtime.

    MSNBC’s Morning Joe mocked Puzder on December 9 for his statement to Business Insider that machines are preferable to workers, and co-host Mika Brzezinski reported that opposition to Puzder came from both the left and from the alt-right website Breitbart News, which had been instrumental in helping Trump get elected.

    Puzder has a history supporting anti-worker policies and had claimed that replacing people with machines would be preferable because machines “never take a vacation” or complain when discriminated against. Puzder opposes new overtime rules proposed by the Department of Labor that would extend guaranteed overtime pay to millions of American workers. Puzder has also misleadingly claimed that stronger wages and benefits actually hurt workers, frequently attacking the push to raise the minimum wage, and Obamacare’s health insurance expansion.

    Finally, as Gary Legum pointed out in a column published by Salon, if Puzder is confirmed, he may be the “least qualified labor secretary” since the early 1980s, when the Reagan administration appointed construction magnate Raymond Donovan to the same post.

  • Reports Show Trump May Have Had Little To Do With SoftBank Deal He Took Credit For

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    On December 6, President-elect Donald Trump credited his election victory for spurring Japanese telecommunications and technology giant SoftBank to propose a $50 billion investment in the United States, which he claimed would create as many as 50,000 jobs. Later reporting from The Wall Street Journal and others debunked Trump’s boasts, but not before numerous media outlets amplified his unsubstantiated claims.

  • Right-Wing Media Slam Student Loan Assistance, Calling It A “Con” And A “Bailout”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined a chorus of right-wing outlets in blasting the federal government’s income-based student loan repayment program, calling it a costly “con” meant to “buy millennial votes.” Yet right-wing media are ignoring the benefits of a program that could relieve millions of student borrowers of a portion of their remaining debt and that is still generating a profit.

    Right-wing media lambasted the Department of Education and student borrowers after the Journal reported on November 30 the latest findings from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that the government is on track to forgive $108 billion of $352 billion in student loans as part of federal income-driven repayment plans. The Journal’s editorial board blasted the government on December 1, calling the latest findings proof that the Department of Education’s loan program is a “con” designed to “buy millennial votes.” (The editorial column was the Journal’s second since November 1 lamenting the federal program, which has led to millions of students earning student loan forgiveness.) Earlier that day, Fox News host Jon Scott questioned if the program was a “bailout” for student borrowers. Fox Business host Stuart Varney also called the program “a bailout” on the November 30 edition of Varney & Co., while his guest Steve Costes added that the program is “a shame.”

    Federal student loan borrowers have multiple repayment plan options, including income-based plans that require borrowers to pay back loans based on a percentage of their income for a certain number of years, after which the remainder is eligible to be forgiven. The GAO’s findings were for the hypothetical cost in loan principal forgiveness for the 5.3 million borrowers who signed up for income-based repayment plans for loans issued over a 22-year period, between 1995 to 2017. These borrowers will likely see an average of $21 forgiven for every $100 in loans received. Despite right-wing media complaining about the cost of borrower relief for those on income-based payment plans, the GAO found that the Department of Education still nets a profit on student loans.

    The reason the government still makes a profit even after loan forgiveness is because many federal student loans have an interest rate at 6.8 percent -- a figure that is much higher than inflation or the 1 percent interest rate banks receive from the Federal Reserve. The 6.8 percent interest rate is so high that the GAO’s hypothetical borrower would pay almost double the original principal of their loan if the income-based plan had no cutoff date for forgiveness:

    Student loan debt is a leading concern among young people, with The Atlantic finding nearly 30 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 “cited paying off student loans as their biggest financial challenge.” According to Fortune, “there is little doubt that many Millennials are struggling financially” after a survey by PwC found that 79 percent of the 42 percent of millennials that have student loans struggle to pay those loans. Evidence shows student debt can impact personal wealth, delay homeownership affect personal decisions to marry or start a family, and that it has “cripple[d] retail sales growth.” The financial stress of student loans has a “devastating toll” on borrowers’ mental health, according to Complex, which cited findings by researchers that “student loans were associated with poorer psychological functioning.”

    While right-wing media push many myths about student debt, student concerns are valid; according to a November 21 op-ed published by Investopedia, Americans with student loan debt have “a challenging road ahead of them in the present and the future” due to workers being unable to save for retirement. The op-ed, which was authored by a financial adviser, even questioned whether people with student loans "will be able to retire” at all. The increasing debt burden can even hinder career advancement as graduates can be forced to take jobs that may have no chance of wage growth or career development so they can make debt payments on time.

    Conservative media have labeled higher education as a "privilege" and suggested students ought to choose fictional cheaper colleges. Some outlets have even defended schools that take advantage of students and leave them with significant debt. But research shows college matters now more than ever, and the cost to attend is rising across the board. The student debt crisis is especially damaging for poor students and students of color, who more frequently attend cheaper open-access and community colleges and are still forced to borrow in higher numbers to pay for their education.

    Blaming students for the student loan debt crisis ignores the facts and distracts from finding real solutions to America's skyrocketing student debt burden.

  • Fox Spent All Morning Lying About The Jobs Report To Boost Trump

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Both Fox News Channel and Fox Business dedicated significant portions of their morning programing to misleadingly portraying the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) employment report for October 2016 as an "underwhelming" and "lukewarm" sign for the health of the American economy. While Fox was portraying this supposed economic weakness as a boon for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's election hopes, credible media outlets and economic experts were reporting that the jobs report actually showed a national economy that has been steadily improving over the past seven years.

  • Right-Wing Media Attempt Last-Ditch Effort To Smear Raising The Minimum Wage In Four States

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    As four states appear poised to pass ballot initiatives to raise their minimum wages, right-wing media are launching an eleventh hour smear campaign falsely claiming that a wage increase will kill jobs and hurt workers.

    On November 8, voters will decide in four states -- Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington -- whether or not to raise their state’s minimum wages. While none of the states go as high as $15 per hour, three are pushing for $12 per hour with Washington proposing a $13.50 hourly wage by 2020. If all four states raise their minimum wages it would boost pay for over 2 million workers. As Thinkprogress reported, recent polling shows all four states are on track to approve these initiatives, with Arizona seeing 58.4 percent support, Colorado 55 percent, Maine 57 percent, and Washington 58 percent.

    In an attempt to dissuade voters from approving these popular initiatives, Michael Saltsman, the research director of the business front group Employment Policies Institute, attempted to push false claims about the minimum wage in The Wall Street Journal on November 3. Saltsman cherry-picked from a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report to claim a proposed federal minimum wage increase “would cost the country a half-million jobs” and he pointed to a study by researchers at the University of Washington on Seattle’s phase-in of a $15 per-hour wage to claim the city had seen a loss of employment.

    Saltsman failed to mention that the CBO report also found a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour in 2016 would have boosted net income by $2 billion, raised wages for more than 16 million workers, and lifted 900,000 Americans out of poverty. Furthermore, the CBO’s director at the time, Douglas Elmendorf, made clear in testimony before Congress in March of 2014 that while the CBO considers a wide range of effects on employment, it did not analyze potential job growth from the greater consumer demand created by higher incomes as a result of raising the minimum wage.

    Saltsman also did not mention that the study by researchers at the University of Washington ultimately found the Seattle economy saw a “boom in job growth” over the 18 months studied. And when researchers attempted to predict what potential job growth might look like for Seattle without raising wages, researchers found the city created 99 percent as many new jobs with a wage increase than it might have without.

    The last minute campaign against raising the minimum wage was also pushed on Fox Business’ Varney & Co. on November 4. Fox host Stuart Varney proclaimed the far-right view that “I just don’t think you should legislate wages period” and guest Anthony Scaramucci claimed raising wages is “a real problem for the youth and this is the reason why you've got [a] 60 percent increase in African-American unemployment in the inner cities.” Scaramucci’s opposition to the minimum wage matches the stance once espoused by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, for whom he serves as a prominent fundraiser. Trump claimed during the GOP primary that “wages [are] too high” when asked to offer his opinion on raising the minimum wage.

    This last-ditch effort follows an October 28 report from the conservative American Action Forum (AAF) that claimed raising wages in these four states would cost 290,000 jobs. The AAF claim was picked up by both the The Washington Examiner and The Washington Free Beacon. But AAF based its models on a 2015 study by economists Jonathan Meer and Jeremy West that did not actually predict hard job losses. According to the August 2015 study by Meer and West, raising the minimum wage could lead to a reduction in potential job growth but would not lead to "an immediate drop in relative employment levels."

    Counter to right-wing media claims that raising the minimum wage hurts workers, researchers at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center found states that raised the minimum wage saw stronger low-wage earnings gains than states that did not raise wages. The right-wing media myth that raising the minimum wage kills jobs has been debunked by studies that found increasing the minimum wage to have a negligible effect on low-wage employment. Researchers at Cornell University found that over the past 20 years, raising the regular and tipped minimum wage for workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries has "not had large or reliable effects" on the number of people working in those industries. Researchers at the University of California, in a March 2015 report for Los Angeles on how a $15.25 minimum wage would affect that metro area, actually found “employment changes" would be "quite small when compared to projected job growth of 2.5 percent a year in the city," and it estimated that the cumulative effect would be an increase of “5,262 jobs by 2019 at the county level.”

    Right-wing media have a history of attacking the minimum wage, giving business executives a platform to push myths about the minimum wage and bemoan the labor victories of workers. Despite the onslaught of misinformation about minimum wages, a majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage and appear to be rejecting right-wing media myths.

  • Right-Wing Media Revive Year-Old Story To Baselessly Claim Obama Lied About Clinton's Private Server

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Several right-wing media outlets have breathlessly scandalized a stolen email released by WikiLeaks showing President Obama received emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state. These outlets claim the email proves Obama lied when he claimed to have learned about her private email server from news reports about it, even though the White House clarified over a year ago that while the president knew her email address, he did not know about the server.

  • Right-Wing Media Ignore Role Of Subsidies, Claim Insurance Premium Increases Are A “Death Spiral” For Obamacare 

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Reports that benchmark health insurance premiums will increase by an average of 25 percent from 2016 to 2017 for plans purchased on Healthcare.gov marketplace exchanges have prompted right-wing media outlets to claim the price hike is proof of “the collapse” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and evidence of a so-called Obamacare “death spiral.” In reality, the majority of individual insurance customers will be insulated from cost increases due to proportional increases in the health care subsidies, and these premium increases are still in line with anticipated health care costs initially predicted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).