The Wall Street Journal misleadingly praised the government shutdown, suggesting it could help the economy. In fact, the shutdown has already cost the economy billions and is predicted to harm economic growth even further.
A study of coverage of the recent United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report finds that many mainstream media outlets amplified the marginal viewpoints of those who doubt the role of human activity in warming the planet, even though the report itself reflects that the climate science community is more certain than ever that humans are the major driver of climate change. The media also covered how recent temperature trends have not warmed at as fast a rate as before in nearly half of their IPCC coverage, but this trend does not undermine long-term climate change.
The Wall Street Journal attacked the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) Medicaid expansion by claiming that Medicaid beneficiaries would have better health outcomes with no insurance at all. But the Journal's analysis relies on an inaccurate reading of an Oregon health care study and ignores that Medicaid has been shown to lower rates of depression, reduce financial strain, and benefits low-income children, mothers, and veterans.
A Wall Street Journal article promoted false Republican claims which disputed the devastating effects failure to raise the debt ceiling on October 17 would have on the U.S. economy, despite recent Journal reporting which admitted default could have "cataclysmic" consequences.
In an October 9 article headlined "Obama's Default Scenario Derided," the Journal noted that according to President Obama, "if Congress doesn't raise the country's debt ceiling soon, an economic crisis with skyrocketing interest rates and a crashing stock market could follow," as the U.S. would default on its pre-existing debts -- an understanding of the manufactured impending fiscal crisis which is supported by economists and the Treasury Department.
But rather than confirm this factual assertion, the Journal instead provided a platform for Republicans who baselessly "say they don't believe" default will lead to devastating negative effects and have even "questioned what the word 'default' really means." The Journal hyped Republican claims that the White House could choose to prioritize which payments to make once the deadline hits, and claimed these misleading remarks had credence because the U.S. has never defaulted before, making the potential crisis "unchartered waters."
In reality, the Treasury Department does not have the legal authority to prioritize payments if the debt ceiling is not raised, and economists agree that congressional failure to raise the debt limit could be catastrophic, setting in motion a financial crisis in the United States and around the globe.
The "debt ceiling" was officially breached on May 17 of this year. Since that date, the Treasury has implemented "extraordinary measures" to avoid defaulting on American sovereign debt obligations by shifting funds from various accounts. The New York Times reported that these measures will be exhausted by October 17:
Economists of all political persuasions have warned that a failure to raise the debt ceiling by the Treasury's deadline of Oct. 17 could be catastrophic. The world economy's faith in the safety of Treasury debt would be shaken for years. Interest rates could shoot up, and stock prices worldwide would most likely plummet.
The Journal itself has previously reported the devastating consequences the prospect of default is already having on the worldwide economy. On October 8, the Journal reported that short-term U.S. debt prices had fallen "amid rising investor concern about the prospect of a government-debt default, sending the yield on one-month U.S. Treasury bills to its highest level since the financial crisis." The same day, the Journal reported that China had warned the U.S. of default's "global ramifications," and that banks in the United Kingdom have begun "stockpiling cash" and preparing for "cataclysmic" consequences.
Domestically, money for government employees, the military, Social Security, Medicare, food safety inspections, and more could cease or be delayed, and CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik reported that "if a default happens, there's one analyst who says that the S&P 500 could drop 45 percent."
Furthermore, the claim that the administration could choose to prioritize some payments over others in order to avoid default is false. Tony Fratto, a former Treasury Department assistant secretary and senior George W. Bush White House staffer called payment prioritization "fanciful," and Treasury Department Inspector General Eric M. Thorson reported to Congress that the Treasury had no means or capacity to prioritize certain payments over others. Slate economics blogger Matt Yglesias explained that Treasury has "no more legal authority to prioritize payments than they do to borrow extra money."
The Wall Street Journal editorial board falsely claimed that the Department of Justice is relying on outdated civil rights law in its current lawsuits against the voter suppression of Texas and North Carolina.
Baselessly claiming DOJ's efforts to block redundant and unnecessarily restrictive voter identification laws that discriminate on the basis of race are motivated by politics, the WSJ incorrectly claimed that DOJ was trying to "reverse" the Supreme Court's infamous Shelby County v. Holder decision. From the editorial:
For Eric Holder, American racial history is frozen in the 1960s. The Supreme Court ruled in June that a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is no longer justified due to racial progress, but the U.S. Attorney General has launched a campaign to undo the decision state-by-state. His latest target is North Carolina, which he seems to think is run from the grave by the early version of George Wallace.
The worst argument against such laws is that they must be racially motivated because there is so little evidence of voter fraud. Yet no less that former Justice Stevens said in his opinion in the Indiana case that "flagrant examples of such fraud in other parts of the country have been documented throughout this nation's history by respected historians and journalists, [and] that occasional examples have surfaced in recent years." Anyone who thinks voter fraud doesn't exist hasn't lived in Chicago or Texas, among other places.
It's telling that Mr. Holder prefers to file lawsuits rather than take up the Supreme Court's invitation to modernize the Voting Rights Act for current racial conditions. The Congressional Black Caucus has said it is working on a new formula for preclearance, but such legislative labor doesn't get the headlines that lawsuits against GOP-run states do.
The conservative wing of the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County when it overturned decades of precedent, ignored bipartisan congressional intent, and disregarded the text of the Fifteenth Amendment in order to dismantle the "preclearance" provisions of the VRA. These neutralized provisions - Sections 4 and 5 - required states with an engrained history of racially discriminatory voter suppression to "preclear" any subsequent election changes with DOJ or the courts before implementation.
Shelby County did not directly touch any other component of the VRA.
For example, despite the right-wing's obvious plan to drag this crown jewel of civil rights law back before the Supreme Court in the future, DOJ still has authority under the VRA to attempt to block voter suppression after legislative enactment, if no longer before. In addition to this after-the-fact enforcement powers under Section 2, DOJ also retains the ability to ask a court to once more place a jurisdiction shown to intentionally suppress the vote on the basis of race under the "preclearance" supervision of Section 3, similar but different to the process under Sections 4 and 5.
DOJ is seeking to block voter suppression in Texas and North Carolina using only those sections still intact after Shelby County. Contrary to the WSJ's claims, by litigating under Sections 2 and 3, DOJ is expressly not trying to "reverse" a decision that only affected Sections 4 and 5. It is, rather, making do with what is left of perhaps the nation's greatest civil rights achievement.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board has come out in favor of eliminating aggregate campaign donation limits in federal elections, falsely claiming that the Founders didn't intend such contributions to be closely regulated.
On October 8, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, a case that has been called "the next Citizen's United" because a ruling in favor of the Republican plaintiffs will allow billionaire donors to flood federal elections with even more cash. By disregarding long-established precedent, Citizens United has already made it easier for corporations to indirectly support conservative candidates and redistricting campaigns that have secured seats in Congress for Republicans. McCutcheon could do the same for individual donors contributing to the candidates directly, a possibility for institutional corruption that the Founders specifically warned against when drafting the U.S. Constitution.
But that didn't stop the WSJ from incorrectly claiming barely regulated election donations were what the Founders always had in mind. From the October 6 editorial:
The Supreme Court re-opens for business this week, and one of its first cases is a splendid opportunity to restore the First Amendment as a bulwark of free political speech. The result in McCutcheon v. FEC will likely hang on whether Chief Justice John Roberts has the courage of his constitutional convictions[...]
Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee are challenging limits on the total amount of money a person can contribute to multiple candidates and political parties. In the 2011-2012 election cycle, Mr. McCutcheon donated $1,776 to each of 15 candidates as well as sums to the RNC and other political party committees. Though his donations were all below the legal limits to individual candidates and political parties, he was prevented by the aggregate limits from making the donations he wished.
Donors are currently limited to contributing $5,200 to a candidate for each election cycle ($2,600 each for the primary and general election). But they are barred from exceeding overall ceilings of $48,600 for direct contributions to candidates and $74,600 to non-candidate political committees. So though a contributor might give $1,000 to 48 candidates, further donations violate federal law, even if they are well below the $2,600 threshold per candidate.
The left is already warning [Roberts] in the media, much as they did so successfully last year in advance of his salvaging of ObamaCare. They will denounce a ruling they don't like as "activist" though it would merely restore the First Amendment's central role in protecting free political speech. ... [P]olitical participation is more heavily regulated today than are video games and pornography. That is not what the Founders intended.
The WSJ's editorial board echoes the same arguments as McCutcheon and the Republican National Committee (RNC) - that limits on campaign contributions are a form of unconstitutional censorship of political speech, a radical departure from decades-old campaign finance law. In truth, this argument represents a fundamental misunderstanding of First Amendment law and the original intent of the Founders, something that the conservative justices on the Court say guides their interpretation of the Constitution. Those who call themselves originalists should take note that the Founders never intended the First Amendment to systematically allow a small number of wealthy donors to control American politics.
The mania for false equivalence and the pox-on-both-houses reflex among media types are in full effect now that government operations have shut down and people are looking for someone to blame. It's so strong, in fact, that reporters and pundits who recognize the hopeless and irresponsible intransigence of congressional Republicans nonetheless lay an equal (or perhaps greater) measure of blame at the feet of the president for failing to wheedle and cajole people who won't be wheedled or cajoled. It makes little sense, but sacrifices must be made when trying to force objectivity or, in the case of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, frantically deflect blame from the GOP.
Just this morning, during a segment on who to blame for the government shut down, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield hotly objected to Democratic strategist Paul Begala's accusation of false equivalence, arguing that she was just as hard on Democrats as she was on Republicans -- which was precisely Begala's point:
But what of this argument that Obama could end this stand-off with the Republicans in Congress and get the government back up and running if he would just try to compromise? It's a bad argument on the merits, since Republicans aren't actually seeking a compromise: they're trying to force Obama into giving ground while they give up nothing, as they already support funding the government. But even if Obama did try to negotiate, that's no guarantee the House Republicans would respond rationally. We know this because the one of the last times Obama negotiated with Republicans during a fiscal crisis, the so-called "fiscal cliff," he offered real concessions and compromises and John Boehner and the House Republicans still refused to work with him.
Appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe just days before the looming deadline for a federal government shutdown, Politico's Mike Allen was assessing the politics of the controversy and predicting which Beltway players would get tagged with the blame for the intentional legislative debacle. Despite the fact that Republicans were refusing to fund the government if the White House balked at the demand to essentially repeal its 2010 health care law, Allen suggested President Obama would be the real political loser.
Why Obama? Because he's more famous than the GOP congressional leaders whose actions are causing the impasse.
"A lot of people in the country don't know John Boehner. There's no one in the world who doesn't know Barack Obama," Allen explained. "So when Washington is not working, it's going off the rails in a very visible way, a way that is vivid and touches people, that's not good ultimately for the president."
That's an awfully tenuous path to blame Obama for the Republicans' proudly obstructionist strategy to stop funding the government.
Yet so it goes within portions of the Beltway press corps who are straining to include Democrats in the shutdown blame game; to make sure "both sides" are targeted for tsk-tsk scoldings about "Washington dysfunction," and that the Republicans' truly radical nature remains casually ignored. This media act is getting old. And this media act may be emboldening the Republicans' extreme behavior.
Note that unlike the government shutdowns during the Clinton administration, this one was not prompted by a budgetary disagreement between the two parties. It was provoked by the GOP's unheard of demand that in order to vote for government spending they agree is necessary, the White House had to strip away funding for its health care law. Also note that the looming showdown over the debt ceiling represents another orchestrated crisis in which the GOP is making unprecedented demands on the president in exchange for their votes for a policy they say they support. Both cases illustrate the folly of trying to blame the White House for failing to engage with Republicans, who have embraced a path of purposefully unsolvable confrontations.
What's been clear for years is that the press clings to its preferred storyline: When Republicans obstruct Obama's agenda, the president's to blame for not changing the GOP's unprecedented behavior. In other words, "both sides" are to blame for the GOP's radical actions and the epic gridlock it produces.
The media lesson for Republicans? There's very little political downside to pushing extremism if the press is going to give the party a pass.
Media figures have attempted to place blame equally on Republicans and Democrats for a possible government shutdown. Congressional experts, however, overwhelmingly blame the GOP's extreme stance, and polling shows a lack of support for House Republicans' agenda.
Let's stipulate that there isn't actually a disagreement between Republicans and Democrats over whether to fund the government beyond 11:59:59 p.m. on September 30. Both sides want government operations to continue, which is why both sides have put forward spending bills to pay for government operations. The sticking point is the Republican insistence that government funding be paired with delays or outright defunding of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), which has been the law for three years now and survived both a Supreme Court challenge and a presidential election.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board, taking measure of this toxic political dynamic, recognizes that congressional Republicans, led (in both houses) by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), are pursuing a strategy that is unlikely to succeed, politically dangerous, and contrary to the will of American voters. And yet, they lay an equal measure of blame for the looming shutdown on President Obama, explaining that it's the president's fault for not negotiating with the GOP.
From the Journal's September 30 editorial, headline "An Obama-Cruz Shutdown":
We've criticized GOP Senator Ted Cruz for his strategy to make defunding ObamaCare a requirement of funding the rest of government. He and his allies know that Mr. Obama can never agree to that, and even millions of Americans who oppose ObamaCare don't agree with his shutdown ultimatum. It risks political damage for the House and Senate GOP in 2014 even as Mr. Cruz builds his email list for 2016.
Yet it takes two to tangle, and Mr. Obama is as much to blame for the partisan pileup as Mr. Cruz. This is a President who is eager to negotiate with dubiously elected Iranian mullahs but can't abide compromise with duly elected leaders of Congress. He refuses to negotiate at all over an increase in the federal debt limit, claiming this has never happened. Like so much that Mr. Obama says, he knows this is false. His own staff suggested the spending sequester during the 2011 debt debate, and Democratic Congresses have used the debt limit to extract concessions from Republican Presidents.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed by a photographer and blogger attacked the credibility of a major report on the state of climate change by distorting the caution and breadth of research that undergirds the work of the group preparing to release it, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The op-ed, published Wednesday under Donna Laframboise's byline, suggested a 2010 review of the procedures for IPCC reports was an indication that the media should not listen to the panel when it says that "'science' has spoken." Laframboise noted that one respondent to a questionnaire included in the review said that some of the 450 lead authors, 800 contributing authors and more than 2,500 reviewers have "insufficient scientific competence." However, she did not mention that the IPCC itself asked the InterAcademy Council (IAC) to carry out the review, or that the IAC stated that it was "pleased that so many of our report's recommendations were adopted" by the organization for its upcoming report. Furthermore, the IAC said the IPCC's recommendations "are well supported by the scientific evidence."
While Laframboise went on to criticize the IPCC for occasionally relying on non-peer-reviewed sources, a standard bugbear, the same review defended that practice, stating that doing otherwise "would require the IPCC to ignore some valuable information" and that the review procedures for such literature were "adequate." The IAC review found that 84 percent of the references cited in the primary scientific assessment report of the IPCC were peer-reviewed scientific literature.
Laframboise also alleged that five authors (out of hundreds) from the last report had conflicts of interest because they had written reports or were employed by environmental groups. She offered no evidence that those authors' scientific credentials are in any way deficient, and neglected to concede the point that some lead authors have also been connected to oil companies or other fossil fuel interests. Laframboise did not mention that one of the IPCC guidelines taken on after the IAC review was a conflict of interest policy covering "all individuals directly involved in the preparation of IPCC reports," including authors and review editors.
The Wall Street Journal debunked several of what it labeled "myths" about renewable energy on Monday. But the paper itself has promoted several of these myths in the past, obscuring the promising growth of renewable energy as prices rapidly decline.
According to Wall Street Journal reporter Keith Johnson, "[o]ld ideas die hard" when it comes to renewable energy. He went on to debunk "six myths about renewable energy" that he said stemmed from "outdated facts and assumptions." Three of these myths, as follows, have been pushed by the Wall Street Journal:
The Wall Street Journal has called the potential of wind and solar power "trivial" in an editorial and has published an op-ed by Jay Lehr of the Heartland Institute that claimed "[p]hysical limitations will keep this energy source a niche provider of U.S. electricity needs."
But as Johnson reported, the scale of the U.S. electricity supply is so great that our current renewable energy mix, which has accounted for 14 percent of U.S. electricity production so far this year (mostly from hydropower), is greater than some countries' total electricity capacity -- far from trivial.
And as this Wall Street Journal chart shows, renewable sources are on a rapid upward trend, particularly from wind power:
The Wall Street Journal pushed the false notion that unions are irrelevant and workers have no interest in joining them, all while ignoring the impact an anti-union state law has had on membership numbers.
On September 18, the WSJ editorial board continued its pretense that union membership decline is due to the unpopularity of collective bargaining, as opposed to the impact of Republican anti-labor legislation. From the September 18 editorial:
One of 2011's biggest political stories was the conflagration in Wisconsin over Governor Scott Walker's plans to reform the state's relationship with public employee unions. Two years later the fires have ebbed. Reason? Many union members are deciding there's little point in belonging to a union.
Witness the city of Kenosha. This month the Kenosha Education Association was decertified after it missed a deadline in the certification process, eliminating its ability to bargain for wages. That was the latest in a series of similar decisions by teachers-union members to jettison union representation. In 2011 and 2012, some 13% of 207 Wisconsin school districts and 39 municipal and state units were decertified.
A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state affiliate of the NEA, said recently, "It seems like the majority of our affiliates in the state aren't seeking recertification, so I don't think the [Kenosha union] is an outlier or unique."
That's a remarkable repudiation of union representation in a state long considered a stronghold. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that since Mr. Walker's union reforms became law, state unions have lost tens of thousands of members, as workers opt to drop out of the union.
But the teachers union in Kenosha (the KEA) was not decertified because the majority of the teachers decided to "jettison" the union. In fact, the union says there was no recertification election at all and "[t]he union exists with or without a recertification vote."
The Wall Street Journal editorial board suggested that the decline in union membership over the last 30 years is due to lack of employee interest, but ignored the impact of aggressively anti-labor "right-to-work" laws and a string of pro-business Supreme Court decisions.
The WSJ claimed that the overall decrease in union membership is indicative of the irrelevance of unionism in the modern workplace. From the September 16 editorial:
The promise of joining a union has always been that it will deliver better pay, benefits and job security. That proposition long ago stopped being true for most workers, and now even the AFL-CIO is tacitly admitting its loss of relevance in the private American workplace. At last week's annual convention in Los Angeles, labor delegates voted to expand AFL-CIO membership, inviting even non-union members to join their flagging consortium.
[A]s dues-paying membership declines, the AFL-CIO is essentially trying to attract the equivalent of donations from the larger public. Send in whatever "dues" payments the AFL-CIO requires for membership, and in return you get--what exactly? At least if you donate during one of those PBS pledge drives, you get a tote bag and maybe a CD of Yanni at the Acropolis. It isn't clear what non-union members will get for their cash, other than the pleasure of knowing they've helped AFL-CIO chief Rich Trumka stay in a better class of hotel. Will he throw in a T-shirt?
What the WSJ neglects to mention is a series of anti-union and pro-business Supreme Court decisions over the last 20 years that have drastically reduced union organizers' ability to communicate directly with workers, provided extra protection to employers who try to aggressively prevent unionization in the workplace, and have obstructed access to justice for victims of labor law abuses. These decisions have eroded unions' ability to engage in meaningful communication with potential members, protect themselves from illegal labor practices, and have generally contributed to the reduction in membership numbers.
The Wall Street Journal promoted Republican revisionist history portraying previous debt ceiling negotiations as bipartisan, ignoring the Republican obstructionism that led to the 2011 debt ceiling crisis.
If Congress is unable to raise the U.S. debt ceiling -- which allows Congress to pay for past spending -- much of the government will shut down by October 1, and by mid-October, the Treasury Department will lose the ability to pay its debts, thereby hurting the economy. Divisions among House Republicans have stalled efforts to pass the necessary legislation, with many insisting on significant cuts to government spending and delaying President Obama's health care law.
On September 12, the Journal reported Speaker of the House John Boehner's response to the administration's refusal to negotiate on these "nonstarter" proposals, claiming it was a departure from "decades" of previous negotiations that found "bipartisan solutions":
Congress faces a deadline in mid-October to pass legislation that would raise the debt limit. Mr. Obama has said he would refuse to negotiate with Republicans on terms for raising the borrowing limit and that Congress must allow the Treasury to pay for spending already approved by lawmakers.
But Mr. Boehner (R., Ohio) told reporters Thursday that stance was a departure from numerous precedents, in which the White House and Congress agreed to budget changes in exchange for a debt-limit increase.
"For decades, the White House, the Congress have used the debt limit to find bipartisan solutions on the deficit and the debt," Mr. Boehner said, alluding to deficit-reduction deals passed under former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, among others. "So, President Obama is going to have to deal with this, as well."
The Journal failed to note that Boehner's rosy painting of history hid the unprecedented crisis of August 2011 caused by Republican obstructionism. Raising the debt ceiling had been a routine procedure until then, when Republicans held the economy hostage by threatening not to support any increase without equal amounts of spending cuts. Economists at the time cautioned that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be catastrophic for the U.S. and world economies, and a June 2011 letter to congressional leaders signed by 235 prominent economists warned:
Failure to increase the debt limit sufficiently to accommodate existing U.S. laws and obligations also could undermine trust in the full faith and credit of the United States government, with potentially grave long-term consequences. This loss of trust could translate into higher interest rates not only for the federal government, but also for U.S. businesses and consumers, causing all to pay higher prices for credit. Economic growth and jobs would suffer as a result.
Obama ultimately signed a bill that averted the crisis, ending the "bitter partisan stalemate that had threatened to plunge the nation into default and destabilize the world economy."