Roughly 45 minutes into Fox News' "special" investigation into the Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or "food stamps," per the outdated parlance), host Bret Baier posed a question that gets right to the heart of what Fox News specifically, and conservatives generally, are trying to accomplish with regard to public attitudes toward social welfare programs. "Shouldn't there be at least some stigma?" Baier asked, referring to people who accept SNAP benefits. Baier's just-asking-questions lament about the lack of stigmatization was all part of Fox News' slipshod and flagrant piece of agitprop intended to shame the needy and promote public resentment of the government safety net.
Everything about Baier's special, "The Great Food Stamp Binge" -- from the title to its absurd focus on a thoroughly unlikable miscreant named Jason Greenslate who proudly abuses SNAP benefits -- was designed to provoke hostility to the idea of nutritional assistance programs. Greenslate, a California musician who refuses to work and spends his monthly SNAP benefits on sushi and lobsters, is an anomaly in a program that has proven to be both efficient and effective. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "fewer than 2 percent of SNAP benefits are issued to households that do not meet all of the program's eligibility requirements." The USDA estimates that just one cent of every dollar of SNAP benefits is lost to "trafficking," a type of fraud. "About three out of four SNAP households included a child, a person age 60 or older, or a disabled person," per the Congressional Budget Office.
Greenslate, who is in no way representative of the typical SNAP recipient, was the subject of two separate segments, totaling nearly nine minutes, of Fox News' hour-long special. Baier proclaimed him "the new face of food stamps."
Greenslate is "the new face of food stamps" for no other reason than Fox News wants him to be. Baier offered no data to back up this assertion, and no fact-driven justification for even including Greenslate in the report. But this freeloading oaf is an easy-to-hate villain, someone the viewer can immediately dislike and a convenient punching bag for small-government agitators. Near the program's close, Fox News reporter John Roberts, interviewing Greenslate, attempted to shame him -- and every other recipient of SNAP benefits. "It used to be that, you know, that if somebody was on food stamps it's like 'hey, they're on food stamps, you know... loser,'" said Roberts.
As Congress considers legislation promoting energy efficiency, Media Matters examines the facts behind such efforts. Contrary to persistent myths in the media, increasing energy efficiency of appliances and buildings is a cost-effective way to benefit the environment and economy, and has historically enjoyed bipartisan support.
Late Friday, after the Heritage Foundation reportedly considered seeking the counsel of an outside PR firm to deal with damage to their brand, researcher Jason Richwine, who coauthored the deeply flawed immigration report pushed by the right-wing think tank, resigned his position.
His error seemingly had nothing to do with the poor quality of that document, exemplified by the bipartisan, panideological critiques of the study, as his coauthor Robert Rector is seemingly still employed at Heritage.
Richwine's offense seems to have taken place in 2009 when he offered up a doctoral dissertation arguing, as The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews wrote, that due to the "deep-set differentials in intelligence between races," Richwine wrote that Hispanic immigrants may never "reach IQ parity with whites." His interest in the linkage between race and IQ was not unknown. Richwine also spoke about that linkage on a 2008 panel at the American Enterprise Institute promoting Mark Krikorian's book The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. It was on this panel Richwine proclaimed "Race is different in all sorts of ways, and probably the most important way is in IQ."
The year of his dissertation defense his work was cited in a New York Times "Idea of the Day" column focusing on Robert Putnam's controversial finding that "ethnic diversity isn't an unqualified good."
There is no plausible way Heritage was unaware of Richwine's beliefs when they hired him, as he has made no attempts to obscure them. Heritage distanced itself from the dissertation after it came to public light, but it's completely unimaginable for a recent Ph.D to be hired by a major think tank without inquiry into such a crucial facet of their past research. These views are flawed -- they are misguided -- they are not grounded in research -- but they were not a secret.
And why should they be? The Bell Curve author and AEI scholar Charles Murray has made a successful career at conservative think tanks evangelizing the flawed notion that differences in IQ among racial groups should drive public policy decisions, ignoring the underlying reasons for the disparity and dismissing research demonstrating IQ and outcome are not linked.
Murray stood up for his ideological protégé following the latter's resignation, tweeting "Thank God I was working for Chris DeMuth and AEI, not Jim DeMint and Heritage, when The Bell Curve was published. Integrity. Loyalty. Balls."
The paleoconservative mindset is no longer as central to the conservative movement as it once was. Yet Pat Buchanan's removal from his permanent post on the couch in the MSNBC greenroom has not excised these ideas from the conservative movement.
Richwine's resignation allows him to become a scapegoat for an ideology that is still perfectly acceptable inside the conservative movement and the right-wing media. If Richwine's focus on the IQs of Hispanic populations is unacceptable, then so is Charles Murray's focus on the African American community. So are those of the godfather of the entire anti-immigrant movement John Tanton, who "wrote a paper titled The Case for Passive Eugenics."
Rush Limbaugh defended Richwine's racial tests on his program, proclaiming: "So, now it's trash the messenger time." He went on to say "You're not suppose to bring that kind of stuff up. You're not supposed to talk about it. It's not politically correct, even if it's true. You're not supposed to bring it up."
Michelle Malkin attacked those who dare point to the fundamentally racist nature of Richwine's dissertation. writing at Townhall.com: "The smug dismissal of Richwine's credentials and scholarship is to be expected by liberal hacks and clown operatives."
Richwine resigned after doing the job he was hired to do and for views his employer must have known him to hold. He was the most junior member of the group of conservative researchers who have spent their careers producing questionable studies about race. And because he was the lowest in the hierarchy he was the easiest to cast aside.
Charles Murray is right. This move lacked integrity, for that would require a widespread condemnation of the flawed racial theories peddled in the conservative movement and the "respected" think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute that allow them to flourish. I doubt that is forthcoming, making Heritage's decision to accept Jason Richwine's resignation an act of craven political cowardice.
UPDATE: Slate's David Weigel reports that Jason Richwine has resigned from Heritage.
The Heritage Foundation is reportedly considering hiring a public relations firm to manage the fallout over the disastrous launch of its shoddy, heavily criticized immigration report. Compounding problems for the right-wing think tank was the revelation that the co-author of its report has argued that Hispanic immigrants are undesirable because they allegedly have lower IQs than white Americans. The media shouldn't be fooled: no amount of PR money can hide that one of Heritage's lead immigration analysts holds deeply offensive racial views, and has also tied himself and Heritage to a network of extremist and nativist anti-immigrant groups.
The Washington Post's Dylan Matthews reported this week that Jason Richwine, who co-authored Heritage's recently released immigration report, wrote in a 2009 dissertation that Hispanic immigrants have a lower IQ than white Americans, and the "prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against."
Richwine's offensive remarks about IQ and immigrants are part of a troubling anti-Hispanic immigrant pattern throughout his relatively short think tank career.
As numerous members of the conservative movement flee from the Heritage Foundation's flawed immigration study, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh has maintained a stalwart defense of the organization.
Not a surprise considering Rush Limbaugh's syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks, is the single largest independent contractor to the Heritage Foundation according to their latest 990 filing with the IRS, receiving $2,236,555 from the think tank.
With advertisers fleeing his show, and as a result radio companies suffering major losses, the fiscal sponsorship of the conservative movement is now fiscally critical. A "very high ranking" official at Cumulus, the owner of Rush and Sean Hannity's flagship station WABC, told Radio Ink, "Forty-eight of the top 50 network advertisers have 'excluded Rush and Hannity' orders. Every major national ad agency has the same dictate."
Without wingnut welfare, which has also included sponsorships from FreedomWorks, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity's shows would not be financially viable.
The financial relationship between the conservative movement and its radio hosts has existed for years -- Heritage has been a major sponsor of Premiere Radio talent, specifically Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, according to a 2011 report by Ken Vogel of Politico -- however with Limbaugh and Hannity's recent well publicized problems attracting sponsorship to their programs the role of the conservative movement is not rightwing radios key sponsor. (Vogel also tweeted about Heritage's 990 disclosure.)
Now with Heritage under attack from many on the right including the libertarian Cato Institute for a widely panned and publicized study of the costs of the Gang of Eight immigration proposal is it any surprise where Limbaugh came down in this conservative kerfuffle?
Limbaugh defended the Heritage study when it first came under attack.
Then later this week, he began a segment by promoting the think tanks website, telling listeners if they "go to the Heritage Foundation website . . . they were giving you the report free" as if this were a benefit and not standard for ideological organizations to want their work shared broadly with the public.
Rush then proceeded to defend an author of the study, who was roundly criticized for a college thesis that suggested immigration policy decisions should be based on racial IQ disparities.
Most notable was a throwaway line in which Limbaugh attacked dynamic scoring, saying it "doesn't quite wash." Kevin Drum points out that the wonky methodology is "critical to the conservative movement because it's the way they can claim that tax cuts produce higher tax revenue."
Limbaugh, in defense of his sponsor, was willing to toss aside the underpinning of thirty years of conservative arguments on the economic benefits of tax cuts.
We won't know, until the organization's 2012 990s are filed later this year, how much the organization spent to bolster right-wing talk radio in the wake of the advertiser boycott, but listening to the frequent on-air promotion of the Heritage Foundation, it is unlikely this significant level of support waned. And why not? They are clearly getting what they paid for.
A co-author of the Heritage Foundation's new immigration report, which right-wing media have hyped despite even conservative criticism about its methodology, has long promoted inflammatory theories about the relationship between race and IQ in Hispanic immigrants, an unsurprising fact given his ties to extremist anti-immigrant organizations.
Dylan Matthews of The Washington Post's Wonkblog reported that Jason Richwine, a co-author of the Heritage report, asserts in his 2009 doctoral dissertation titled "IQ and Immigration Policy" that "there are deep-set differentials in intelligence between races." Matthews wrote [emphasis added]:
While it's clear he thinks it is partly due to genetics -- "the totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ" -- he argues the most important thing is that the differences in group IQs are persistent, for whatever reason. He writes, "No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against."
Matthews also included Richwine's dissertation abstract, which forwards the idea that the U.S. should not only select its immigrant pool based on IQ, but that immigrants and their future generations are not apt to obtain his desired level of intelligence [emphasis added]:
The statistical construct known as IQ can reliably estimate general mental ability, or intelligence. The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.
His dissertation, however, was not the first time Richwine promoted these offensive claims. In July 2008, while Richwine was a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, he said in a panel discussion of the book The New Case Against Immigration, broadcast on C-SPAN, that "races differ in all sorts of ways, and probably the most important way is in IQ":
The argument that immigrants themselves are no different from the ones that came 100 years ago I think is, is quite wrong, and I think that the major difference here is ethnicity -- or race, if you will. I think that race is important for two main reasons. One is that human beings as a species are a naturally tribal group of people. We have inside, outside, groups. We have families, for one example, where, you know, family comes first in virtually every society. And we tend to be very attuned to even small, trivial differences between groups. I don't mean to suggest I think this is a good thing, I wish we could be more universalist, but the reality is that we're not going to be that way, and we shouldn't be basing policy on that either.
The second reason I think race is important is that there are real differences between groups, not just trivial ones that we happen to notice more than we should. Races differ in all sorts of ways, and probably the most important way is in IQ. Decades of psychometric testing has indicated that at least in America, you have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, and then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks. These are real differences. They're not going to go away tomorrow, and for that reason, we have to address them in our immigration discussions and our debates.
Richwine's anti-immigrant language is reminiscent of that used by the Pioneer Fund, which the Southern Poverty Law Center designates as a hate group that "funds studies of race and intelligence, as well as eugenics, the 'science' of breeding superior human beings that was discredited by various Nazi atrocities." The Pioneer Fund supports the notoriously anti-immigrant and fellow SPLC hate-group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), founded by nativist John Tanton who publishes The Social Contract Press. Richwine spoke at a 2010 event for The Social Contract Press on the "myth of immigrant crime," and, according to the group, argued that "immigrant and illegal alien crime is higher than crime committed by other demographic groups." After joining the Heritage Foundation's Domestic Policy Studies Department in January 2012, Richwine spoke at a Social Contract writing workshop last September about the "connection between culture and immigration" as part of a weekend event hosted by anti-immigrant and white nationalist organizations.
UPDATE: The Heritage Foundation issued a statement to BuzzFeed about Richwine's 2009 dissertation:
"This is not a work product of The Heritage Foundation. Its findings in no way reflect the positions of The Heritage Foundation," Heritage VP of Communications Mike Gonzalez told BuzzFeed in a statement. "Nor do the findings affect the conclusions of our study on the cost of amnesty to the U.S. taxpayer."
This post has been updated for clarity.
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."