Varney & Co.

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  • VIDEO: What Right-Wing Media Get Wrong About The Unemployment Rate

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN KERR & DAYANITA RAMESH

    Right-wing media personalities have long claimed that the economy is worse off than it is in reality by citing inappropriate figures to distort the full picture. They claim that the “real” unemployment rate is much higher than the figure reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and they often point to the labor force participation rate as the main indicator of how healthy job growth is.

    Donald Trump has claimed that the unemployment rate is as high as 42 percent, saying “these are the real unemployment numbers – the 5 percent figure is one of the biggest hoaxes in modern politics.” PolitiFact gave that claim a rating of “Pants on Fire,” its worst possible verdict, but right-wing media have repeatedly enabled this lie by claiming that as many as 94 million Americans are "not in the labor force," failing to note that this 94 million includes: students, retirees, stay-at-home parents, and those institutionalized in mental health or penal facilities. As of August 2016, the official unemployment rate is 4.9 percent, down from a peak of 10 percent in October 2009 following the financial crisis.

    Conservative pundits like to cite the labor force participation rate, which is the percentage of the population that is in the labor force, as proof that the economy is in decline. They use this rate because it is downward trending while the unemployment rate has been steadily improving for nearly six years. The reason the labor force participation rate is on the decline though, is because "baby boomers" are retiring en masse; in fact, roughly 10,000 people reach retirement age every day. Labor force participation peaked during the Clinton administration, and President Obama inherited an economy in the midst of a deep recession from President Bush. The idea that Obama is to blame for an imaginary economic decline is just misinformation.

    Many economists agree that the employment to population ratio is a better measure of economic health -- as it represents the number of jobs available as a proportion of the total population -- and the ratio has been gradually improving since the end of the recession.

    These types of myths are harmful. CNN Money recently highlighted a study from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University which found that while the unemployment rate is only 4.9 percent, 57 percent of Americans “believe it is a lot higher” because the “general public has ‘extremely little factual knowledge’ about the job market and labor force.” The article also noted how “Donald Trump has tapped into this confusion” by “repeatedly call[ing] the official unemployment rate a ‘joke’ and even a ‘hoax.’”

  • Fox Business Cherry-Picks Economic Data To Accuse Obama Of "Cherry-Picking" Economic Data​

    Panelists Ignore The Entire Bush Administration And Great Recession

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    A Fox Business panel attempting to downplay the latest round of positive economic indicators devolved into self-parody. The host and guests misleadingly framed median income data to omit the economic calamities of the Bush administration while accusing President Obama of “cherry-picking the time frame” and “playing with the numbers” related to other examples of economic improvement.

    On the September 14 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney and guests Elizabeth MacDonald and Tammy Bruce slammed President Obama for defending his economic legacy during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania. The segment began with Varney and MacDonald lamenting that new median household income data released yesterday by the Census Bureau is “still below the peak back in 1999,” with MacDonald mockingly adding, “You’re nearly [as] rich as you were 17 years ago.”

    Varney complained that Obama was “cherry-picking” data to claim his administration has created nearly 15 million net new jobs, and MacDonald added, “He’s not factoring in 2009, … so he’s playing with the numbers.” MacDonald further claimed that a “majority of net new jobs” during the Obama administration have been in “low-paying fast-food or health sector” industries. Bruce concluded the segment by lamenting the administration’s so-called “spin” and “theater” while citing evidence from outside sources that she claimed contradicts the significant increase in median household income from 2014 to 2015.

    The complaint that Obama is “not factoring in 2009” is particularly telling, given that the segment began with Varney and MacDonald ignoring all of the reasons that median incomes remained lower in 2015 than at their 1999 peak. What happened between 1999 and 2015 to cause this income stagnation? The answer is simple: two recessions, both of which occurred during the Bush administration and neither of which was Obama’s fault. From the Census report:

    Contrary to Varney’s claim, President Obama was not “cherry-picking” data to prop up his economic legacy. Even Fox’s complaint about shifting the “time frame” on net job creation carries little weight. CNNMoney explained last January that the president is basing his calculation on net jobs created since the low point of his presidency. He does not include 2009, because the economy the president inherited that year was rocked by recession and “it took time for the administration’s policies to take effect.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Obama administration has overseen the creation of 15.1 million private sector jobs since that indicator bottomed out in February 2010 and 10.9 million private sector jobs overall since he took office in January 2009.

    The Census report showed major improvements in the poverty rate and the health care insurance rate and revealed broadly shared income gains across all racial and ethnic groups and by workers at every level of income. The gender wage gap narrowed slightly, with women earning roughly 80 percent as much as men in 2015, up from 79 percent the year before. The Census deemed that increase not to be “statistically significant,” and more work remains to be done to achieve equal pay, but the latest data still reveal the narrowest pay gap in history. Meanwhile, the year-to-year median income increase of 5.2 percent represented “the largest single-year increase since record-keeping began in 1967,” according to The New York Times.

    Fox News and Fox Business have a long history of cherry-picking data to frame the Obama administration and progressive economic policies in the worst possible light. The economy continues to improve despite their protests.

    View the full segment from Varney & Co. here:

  • Fox Business Invites On A Deplorable Hate Group Leader To Defend The "Basket Of Deplorables"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIN FITZGERALD

    Fox Business’ Stuart Varney hosted Tony Perkins, a leader of a hate group who tried to make homosexuality punishable by death, on the September 12 episode of his show, Varney & Co., to discuss Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s comment that half of her Republican counterpart’s supporters can be put “into what I call the basket of deplorables.”

    Perkins is the leader of the Family Research Council (FRC), an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated an anti-LGBT “hate group” due to its known propagation of extreme falsehoods about LGBT people. Over the last year, Perkins and Republican nominee Donald Trump have developed a cozy relationship, which ultimately led to Perkins’ official endorsement of Trump in June. Perkins has been outspoken about his belief that he can shape and mold Trump’s ideologies to become more in line with FRC’s extremism. FRC also plans and hosts the Values Voter Summit, a gathering of anti-LGBT, anti-choice evangelical extremists where Trump spoke over the weekend.

    Perkins used his platform on Varney’s show to try to flip the “deplorables” point -- in which Clinton was noting the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” views of many Trump supporters -- and attack the Clinton Foundation for receiving donations from countries where “those that are considered deplorable” can receive the death penalty. But Varney failed to note that Perkins is himself one of the driving forces behind such laws; he and his group have lobbied to criminalize homosexuality internationally, and they supported a bill in Uganda that would have made same-sex relations punishable by life in prison or death. The Fox Business interview also omits any mention of the millions Trump made from conducting business in Saudi Arabia -- one of the countries to which Perkins was alluding -- despite Trump’s attempts to smear the Clinton Foundation for accepting Saudi donations.

    From the September 12 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): Tony Perkins is with us -- he's the Family Research Council president. You just heard Donald Trump say that that could have been a huge political mistake. What say you, Tony?

    TONY PERKINS: Well, I think he's right. I mean, I think this shows that the Hillary Clinton campaign is really kind of almost a political basket case. Look, look at the contrast here. Donald Trump has actually been appealing to Bernie Sanders' voters, inviting those who voted in the Democratic ticket to come over and support him. She's insulting those who were on the right by calling them "deplorables." Look, this is also, I think, very insightful, Stuart, cause I think when you look at the countries that have provided money to the Clinton Foundation, when you use the term "deplorable," I think that's an interesting term. When you look at deplorable, many of those countries actually imprison and execute those those that are considered deplorable. I mean, is this some kind of subtle message she's sending?

    VARNEY: Well, I have to admit, Tony, that earlier this morning I had a leading Democrat on the program, and I almost lost my temper -- frankly, I think I did. I made it almost personal, because in my family there are three races, five nationalities and two religions. That's all my family. And I don't like being called a xenophobe, a racist, whatever. I don't like that. I really object to that, and I think a lot of people feel the same way that I do. I don't like this, and I'm not going to have it.

    PERKINS: No, I think you're absolutely right. But I think it shows how narrow-minded, isolated the liberal-progressive wing of the Democratic Party has become where they feel like they can insult anyone, silence anyone who does not agree with their progressive agenda. But, again, I think people need to take note, and I think people are taking note that may not be a Donald Trump supporter, may not even be a typical Republican voter: But when she starts talking about people she disagrees with as a basket of deplorables, and considering, again, the people she's been associated with through the Clinton Foundation, how they treat people who are considered deplorables, this could speak volumes about what she has in mind for those she disagrees with.

  • Trump Adviser Can’t Decide If Candidate Is “Too Specific” Or Intentionally Vague

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Just a week after the Associated Press quoted Stephen Moore, an economic adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying Trump’s policy proposals are actually designed to be vague, Moore proclaimed that Trump’s economic plan is the “most detailed” plan from any candidate in decades and may even be “too specific.”

    During the September 9 episode of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney asked Moore to respond to a September 4 Washington Post editorial titled “Donald Trump’s bet: We are all chumps.” In it, the paper slammed the GOP candidate for his lack of accountability, his penchant for lying, and his refusal to share “basic information” with voters such as medical records, tax returns, and “serious policy proposals.” After opening the segment by suggesting that Trump had “surely released a detailed economic plan, amongst other detailed plans,” Varney ceded the discussion to Moore, who claimed that the Trump campaign has “put forward the most detailed economic plan, I think, of any candidate in 40 years.” Moore went on to claim that Trump’s plan may be “too specific,” and that Trump has “an extremely detailed plan” available to the public on the campaign’s website. From Varney & Co.:

    STEPHEN MOORE: But, back to this idea that there's no detailed plan, because I never really answered your question about that. We've put forward the most detailed economic plan, I think, of any candidate in 40 years. I mean, we've got a very detailed tax plan.

    You look at his website about how we're going to replace Obamacare, you look at his energy plan -- the media didn't pay any attention to that. We're going to drill for resources, we’re going to put coal miners back into the jobs they lost. I mean, this is a very, very -- in fact, I would say, a lot of our political people say we're being too specific, we're giving too many targets for the, for our opponents to shoot at. Because we have an extremely detailed plan, and anybody who wants to look at it, go to the website, and you're going to see -- you know, compare that with what Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton has come out with. I mean, Hillary is all bluster. She doesn't have any plan at all.

    Moore’s bizarre claim that Trump’s economic plan is “very detailed” and potentially even “too specific” comes just days after an August 29 article from the Associated Press (AP) quoted Moore claiming that Trump’s plans are supposed to be “visionary stuff” and have been left intentionally vague to avoid “a big debate” over small details. From the AP:

    But Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who has worked with Trump to shape his tax and economic plans, says the vagueness on Trump's economic policies was by design.

    "We want to talk about the big visionary stuff. We don't want to have a big debate about this loophole, that loophole," he said. "This is a campaign, it's not a write-up of a tax bill in the Ways and Means Committee."

    Contrary to Moore’s claim that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “doesn’t have any plan at all,” the same AP article found that while Trump had “just seven policy proposals on his website, totaling just over 9,000 words,” Clinton’s campaign site outlined 38 specific issues and contained 65 policy papers totaling 112,735 words. CNN’s Reliable Sources examined the AP’s exposé on Trump’s lack of policy specifics on September 4, and host Brian Stelter even tweeted about the sharp difference.

  • Four Ways Media Attack Organized Labor

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    As Labor Day approaches, Media Matters looks back at how media have attacked organized labor over the past year. In the midst of several important battles for labor unions in 2016, media have often pushed misleading information about union membership and fees, attempted to delegitimize the votes of union members, uncritically cited and elevated voices from anti-union dark-money groups without proper disclosure, and claimed that teachers unions’ activism shows that educators do not care about what’s best for their students.

  • Chris Christie’s Minimum Wage Veto Was Based On Right-Wing Media Myths

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    New Jersey governor and Trump campaign adviser Chris Christie held a press conference on August 30 to announce he would veto a bill passed by the state legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. During the press conference Christie attacked efforts to raise the minimum wage, citing right-wing media myths that raising wages would hurt businesses and lead to job automation.

  • Fox Business Guest Completely Dismantles Any Economic Case For Trump’s Presidency

    Robert Powell: “The Reality Is Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    During an appearance on Fox Business, former Economist editor Robert Powell dispelled claims from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign that the candidate’s tax and economic policy proposals would generate at least five consecutive years of economic growth in excess of 4 percent annually.

    Powell, who is now the global risk briefing manager for the Economist Intelligence Unit, a forecasting and advisory business operated by The Economist, was interviewed on the August 24 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co. Host Stuart Varney opened the segment by asking for a response to Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore’s guarantee earlier this week that the massive tax cuts proposed by the Republican nominee would generate sustained economic growth far outpacing anything witnessed in the United States since 1966. Along the way, Powell poked holes in the arguments in favor of the budget-busting supply-side tax cuts Trump and other Republicans have advocated for years as a silver bullet solution to economic malaise.

    Powell mocked Moore’s guarantee, noting that “the reality is money doesn’t grow on trees,” and slammed Trump’s tax plan for promising to add trillions of dollars to the debt -- far more than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s proposal might. He undermined Varney’s unsubstantiated claim that cutting taxes will kickstart economic expansion, and reminded the Fox Business audience that President Reagan actually had to raise taxes to regain revenue lost to early tax cuts. Powell noted that to make up for built-in revenue losses, the rate of economic expansion would actually have to hit 10 percent or more -- which is not a “feasible” rate of growth. Most importantly, he questioned why Varney and his Fox Business cohort are gripped with so much economic anxiety when “unemployment is 4.9 percent” and the American economy is doing “relatively well” and is “a star performer” when compared with other developed countries around the world. From Varney & Co.:

    Powell mentioned during the interview that The Economist does not believe either Trump’s or Clinton’s plan can meet Moore’s arbitrary growth threshold, stating that “we’re perfectly reasonable, and we don’t think Hillary Clinton will deliver 4 percent growth either.” But Powell did argue that Trump’s position on taxes and economic policy is “less responsible” than his Democratic opponent’s.

    Trump’s inherent lack of responsibility is why the Economist Intelligence Unit’s global risk forecast for September 2016 ranks Trump being elected president as a threat to the global economy that is as big as “the rising threat of jihadi terrorism” and “a clash of arms in the South China Sea,” the site of a territorial dispute between China and other neighboring countries, including U.S.-allied Taiwan:

    One of the things that went unsaid during the interview was how absurd it was for Varney to accept Trump’s 4 percent growth target in the first place. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the United States has not witnessed five consecutive years of growth in excess of 4 percent in five decades. When failed Republican candidate Jeb Bush first promoted the target in June 2015, experts slammed it as “impossible” and “nonsense.” Since then, arbitrary targets of 4 or 5 percent growth have been adopted by other GOP hopefuls, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and now Trump. For its part, Fox News has consistently fixated on setting arbitrary growth targets for the American economy in excess of 3 percent, which it claims is proof of a failed economic recovery under President Obama.

  • Fox Business Host Gets Visibly Angry After Guest Debunks His Defense Of The Super Wealthy

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney tried to undermine a guest during a segment lamenting the Democratic Party’s supposed “move to socialism,” but his right-wing rhetoric couldn’t hold up to criticism.

    On July 14, Varney invited Occidental College political scientist Caroline Heldman -- a self-described socialist and strong supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) presidential campaign -- to discuss Sanders’ impact on progressive politics. After a cordial start, the conversation quickly devolved as the host began shouting over his guest when she said that “there hasn’t been a radical shift to the left” in the Democratic Party. Varney became increasingly irate after Heldman argued that “Bernie Sanders isn’t even a socialist, he’s just a New Deal Democrat.” Several minutes of increasingly tense exchanges followed, during which Varney talked down to his guest, claimed that her position on taxation was “totally immoral” and “unconstitutional,” and labeled her opinions “nonsense.” He eventually turned the rest of the segment over to a Republican strategist and lobbyist who attacked Heldman after her appearance was over and she could no longer defend herself:

    This was not Heldman’s first run-in with a rude and overzealous Fox host armed with little more than contempt and partisan talking points. In April 2010, Heldman went after Fox News host Bill O’Reilly for courting “racial fearmongering” in his attacks against progressive policies. In April 2011, Fox host Eric Bolling brushed off her advocacy for expanded worker rights as “a part of our American fabric” with a thoughtless and sexist nickname: “Dr. McHottie.” A few months later, in December 2011, Heldman slammed Bolling for promoting baseless fears about in-person voter fraud. And in a March 2013 appearance on MSNBC’s Politics Nation, Heldman remarked that she had “never met a group of people who is so upset that the economy is rebounding than the folks over at Fox.”

    As for Varney’s attempt at a substantive critique of Heldman, he claimed at the end of the segment that she could not identify an example of high taxation coinciding with increased economic growth. She had provided that example, the economic boom of the 1990s under President Bill Clinton, when higher taxes did not stymie economic growth. Varney also claimed that the wealthy pay too high a share of income taxes in this country, seemingly citing a Wall Street Journal article from 2015 that says the top 20 percent of earners contribute 84 percent of income tax revenue. But many economists have argued for higher tax rates; Dirk Krueger and Fabian Kindermann even said the “optimal” tax rates for the top 1 percent of U.S. earners could be as high as 90 percent.