The right-wing media is promoting a study by the conservative policy group Heritage Foundation which claims immigration reform will cost $6.3 trillion dollars and damage the economy. This claim has been repeatedly debunked, even by conservatives, and is a revision of a 2007 study that utilized "fatally flawed" methodology.
Conservative media's Charlotte Allen recently wrote an extensive cover piece for The Weekly Standard that relies on discredited right-wing activists Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams to attack the Department of Justice's renewed focus on properly enforcing the Voting Rights Act. But while conservative media typically advances these sources and their debunked myths, it is disturbing that mainstream coverage of the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder is relying on von Spakovsky and not disclosing his highly unreliable background.
Allen, responsible for a piece dubbed "The Stupidest Thing Anyone Has Written About Sandy Hook" by lamenting in National Review Online that no men or "huskier 12-year-old boys" were available to protect the "feminized" victims of the Newtown massacre, takes on the "politiciz[ed]" DOJ under President Obama in her story for the The Weekly Standard. In the article, Allen manages to repeat most of von Spakovsky's and Adams' stale misinformation of years past, ranging from the non-scandalous New Black Panther fiasco and non-existent Fast and Furious conspiracy, to DOJ's "belligerent stances" on enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. Allen also successfully writes over 6,500 words on the alleged "politicizing" of DOJ without divulging von Spakovsky and Adams were poster children for such conduct when they worked for the DOJ under George W. Bush, disparages U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder because his "people" are not black enough to claim civil rights history, and finally undermines her main thesis by admitting that - under any presidency - DOJ follows the policy preferences of the White House.
Ultimately, however, that Allen uses the collected works of von Spakovsky and Adams is unsurprising. What is troublesome is that mainstream outlets are also publishing the opinions of von Spakovsky and Adams as the "conservative" perspectives on Shelby without disclosing their extremist background.
Described as the crown jewel of civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act has been the target of right-wing misinformation for decades, and a parallel legal assault against its constitutionality will be argued before the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder on February 27. The VRA, enacted to stem voter suppression on the basis of race in the South, contains a provision within it - Section 5 - which identifies the worst historical offenders and requires that election changes in those jurisdictions pass federal review. The current legal challenges to the VRA focus on Section 5, and are the continuation of the same discredited claims lodged against this anti-discrimination law since its inception.
Despite the overwhelming consensus among climate experts that human activity is contributing to rising global temperatures, 66 percent of Americans incorrectly believe there is "a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening." The conservative media has fueled this confusion by distorting scientific research, hyping faux-scandals, and giving voice to groups funded by industries that have a financial interest in blocking action on climate change. Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets have shied away from the "controversy" over climate change and have failed to press U.S. policymakers on how they will address this global threat. When climate change is discussed, mainstream outlets sometimes strive for a false balance that elevates marginal voices and enables them to sow doubt about the science even in the face of mounting evidence.
Here, Media Matters looks at how conservative media outlets give industry-funded "experts" a platform, creating a polarized misunderstanding of climate science.
The Economist has called the libertarian Heartland Institute "the world's most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change." Every year, Heartland hosts an "International Conference on Climate Change," bringing together a small group of contrarians (mostly non-scientists) who deny that manmade climate change is a serious problem. To promote its most recent conference, Heartland launched a short-lived billboard campaign associating acceptance of climate science with "murderers, tyrants, and madmen" including Ted Kaczynski, Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Facing backlash from corporate donors and even some of its own staff, Heartland removed the billboard, but refused to apologize for the "experiment."
Heartland does not disclose its donors, but internal documents obtained in February reveal that Heartland received $25,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation in 2011 and anticipated $200,000 in additional funding in 2012. Charles Koch is CEO and co-owner of Koch Industries, a corporation with major oil interests. Along with his brother David Koch, he has donated millions to groups that spread climate misinformation. Heartland also receives funding from some corporations with a financial interest in confusing the public on climate science. ExxonMobil contributed over $600,000 to Heartland between 1998 and 2006, but has since pledged to stop funding groups that cast doubt on climate change.
Despite their industry ties and lack of scientific expertise, Heartland Institute fellows are often given a media platform to promote their marginal views on climate change. Most visible is James Taylor, a lawyer with no climate science background who heads Heartland's environmental initiative. Taylor dismisses "alarmist propaganda that global warming is a human-caused problem that needs to be addressed," and suggests that taking action to reduce emissions could cause a return to the "the Little Ice Age and the Black Death." But that hasn't stopped Forbes from publishing his weekly column, which he uses to spout climate misinformation and accuse scientists of "doctoring" temperature data to fabricate a warming trend. It also hasn't stopped Fox News from promoting his misinformation.
Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman rebutted the right-wing talking point claiming the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. He's right: Studies have concluded that U.S. rates are similar to other countries, and the Congressional Research Service has found that a reduction in corporate taxes would have a limited impact on growth.
Yesterday Heritage released an "Index of Dependence on Government" report. Fox and others in the conservative media trumpeted the report. But even a quick look at Heritage's report reveals its true intent: a thinly-veiled attempt to discredit important government programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
The report suggests that times were better when, rather than relying on a government-provided social safety net, Americans of limited means had to hope for "support provided by families, churches, and other civil society groups." Here is what the Heritage report has to say about Social Security and similar government programs:
Financial help for those in need has also changed profoundly. Local, community-based charitable organizations once provided the majority of aid, resulting in a personal relationship between those who received assistance and those who provided it. Today, Social Security and other government programs provide much or all of the income to low-income and indigent households. Nearly all the financial support that was once provided to temporarily unemployed workers by unions, mutual-aid societies, and local charities is now provided by federal income, food, and health programs.
This shift from local, community-based, mutual-aid assistance to anonymous government payments has clearly altered the relationship between the receiver and the provider of the assistance. In the past, a person in need depended on help from people and organizations in his or her local community. The community representatives were generally aware of the person's needs and tailored the assistance to meet those needs within the community's budgetary constraints. Today, housing and other needs are addressed by government employees to whom the person in need is a complete stranger, and who have few or no ties to the community in which the needy person lives.
Both cases of aid involve a dependent relationship. However, support provided by families, churches, and other civil society groups aims to restore a person to full flourishing and personal responsibility, and, ultimately, to be able to aid another person in turn. This kind of reciprocal expectation does not characterize the dependent relationship with the political system.
And it's nostalgia for the good old days is just as strong when it comes to Medicare. The report says: "Regardless of whether the medical and financial results are better today, the relationship between the people who receive health care assistance and those who pay for it has changed fundamentally. Few would dispute that this change has affected the total cost of health care, and the relationships among patients, doctors, and hospitals, negatively."
But how good were the good old days? Poverty was far more prevalent among the elderly back in those days. With the implementation of Social Security and subsequent increases in Social Security expenditures, elderly poverty experienced precipitous declines, falling from 35 percent in 1960 to 10 percent in 1995. In other words, back in the good old days, more than a third of the elderly were poor. Now it's down to less than one in 10.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama said that his administration "will take every possible action to safely develop" America's reserves of natural gas, and that the "development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy." The next day, in Las Vegas, the president talked about "an America where more cars and trucks are running on domestic natural gas than on foreign oil. Think about an America where our companies are leading the world in developing natural gas technology and creating a generation of new energy jobs; where our natural gas resources are helping make our manufacturers more competitive for decades."
So Obama supports the development of natural gas. And conservatives think they have figured out the reason why: George Soros.
Lachlan Markay, of the Heritage Foundation, wrote yesterday:
George Soros, a billionaire investor and major backer of President Obama, stands to reap a windfall from legislation promoting natural gas-powered vehicles. The White House unveiled a proposal on Thursday that would do just that.
One company that stands to benefit handsomely from the president's proposal is Westport Innovations. The company converts diesel engines to be fueled by natural gas. Wall Street analysts predicted a boom for the company if the NAT GAS Act were passed.
If Westport reaps the predicted windfall, one of the chief beneficiaries will be George Soros, a major Obama donor and supporter. Soros's hedge fund holds 3,160,063 company shares (as of its last SEC filing).
Hot Air's Tina Korbe credited Markay for uncovering "a potentially key motivation for the president's recent proposal to offer incentives to companies to buy and use trucks powered by natural gas." Korbe added with an air of wildly unsupported certainty that this is an example of "the president's perpetual crony capitalism."
The Daily Caller also got in on the fun:
President Barack Obama, at a Las Vegas UPS facility Thursday, pitched a plan to boost the American use of natural gas, a plan that would not only benefit long-time natural gas proponent billionaire T. Boone Pickens, but also long-time Obama supporter, billionaire investor and progressive philanthropist George Soros.
So did the president craft a national energy policy based largely on how it would benefit George Soros' investment portfolio? It certainly seems likely, assuming you've been conditioned to believe that Soros is secretly pulling the strings at the White House, in which case the mere fact of Soros' connection to the natural gas industry is evidence enough to convict.
You just have to disregard the fact that the many millions of dollars in political donations made by the oil and gas industry and the natural gas pipeline industry -- which would also stand to benefit handsomely from expanded use of natural gas vehicles -- have overwhelmingly gone to Republicans. There's also the inconvenient presence of billionaire T. Boone Pickens. who cut checks to George W. Bush, funded the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, and, as noted by the Daily Caller, would make some serious bank with accelerated development of natural gas.
So if Obama's goal was to line the already well-lined pockets of one of his prominent supporters, he's also throwing vast sums at the people and industries who have bitterly opposed him and are likely to continue doing so in the future.
But hey, it's a conspiracy! It doesn't need logic, it just needs selectively reported facts and the thinnest patina of plausibility.
(Full disclosure: Soros has donated to Media Matters)
As many faith leaders have recognized, climate change presents a massive ethical challenge since those least responsible for global warming are among the most vulnerable to its consequences, including water scarcity, climate-sensitive diseases, and sea level rise. Yet in response to the recent international climate talks, conservative media outlets are mocking developing countries for seeking adaptation assistance, saying they just want to "cash in" on "climate gold."
Right-wing media have hyped a study published by conservative groups American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Heritage Foundation that claims "public-school teachers are not underpaid in wages by private-sector standards, and they may even be overpaid." But many other studies have shown that public school teachers are paid relatively less than comparable workers, that their wages have been declining for decades, that U.S. teachers are paid less than their counterparts in most other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, and that low teacher pay hurts recruitment and retention.