A trio of Fox Business commentators attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) advocacy for an increased federal minimum wage by wildly mischaracterizing comments she made during a Senate committee hearing. In addition to incorrectly implying that Warren is advocating for a $22 per hour minimum wage, the panelists dismissed the need for any increase in the minimum at all by relying on misinformation and distorted arguments.
At a March 14 hearing on the ties between economic growth and the federal minimum wage, Warren said that if minimum wage had been pegged to productivity as it had increased from 1960 until now, "the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour."
On the March 19 edition of Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney and two guests, Fox Business contributor Charles Payne and Fox Business reporter Sandra Smith, mischaracterized Warren's statement to claim she was advocating for raising the minimum wage to $22 per hour. For instance, Smith claimed that Warren is "fighting for you to make $22 an hour."
Payne also misleadingly suggested Warren's numbers were incorrect by comparing the $22 figure -- which is tied to worker productivity -- to the unrelated metric of inflation.
In fact, as the Huffington Post noted, Warren was not making the case for raising the minimum wage to $22, but was in fact referring to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) that supports her position that an increase in the minimum wage is overdue. According to the CEPR study, "Between the end of World War II and 1968, the minimum wage tracked average productivity growth fairly closely. Since 1968, however, productivity growth has far outpaced the minimum wage. If the minimum wage had continued to move with average productivity after 1968, it would have reached $21.72 per hour in 2012 - a rate well above the average production worker wage."
Payne also claimed that the minimum wage is not meant to support a family and is usually earned by teenagers, saying: "This is a stepping stone. This is not something that -- it was never designed for people to live on, per say." But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just over half of all workers receiving the federal minimum wage in 2011 were aged 25 and above For her part, Smith also repeated the myth that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs, but numerous studies show that's not true.
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre appeared on Fox Business' Varney & Company to falsely claim that a legislative proposal to require a criminal background check on almost every gun sale would create a national gun owner registry and possibly lead to firearm confiscation.
LAPIERRE: It is a huge waste of money. It's going to be selectively enforced. It's going to be abused. And the worst thing, you're creating a registry of all the law-abiding people in the country that own firearms. I know the politicians say, "Hey, we'll never use that list to confiscate." That's a pretty darn tall order to believe a promise from people in this town right now.
The list that LaPierre referenced does not exist and would not be created under a proposal to strengthen the background check system.
In fact, federal law prohibits the creation of a gun owner registry and the proposal to expand background checks would not subject gun buyers to any record-keeping requirements that do not already exist for transactions conducted at a gun store. As gun advocate Dave Kopel explains on the NRA's website, "the Firearms Owners' Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) ... prohibited the creation of a registry of gun owners."
The FBI, which administers the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), destroys identifying information about gun owners within 24 hours in order to comply with this law.
Under current law, licensed firearm dealers are required retain a copy of the ATF Form 4473, the form used to complete the background check, as a sales receipt. Under legislation proposed to improve the background check system, a federally licensed firearms dealer would oversee firearms transactions between private individuals by running a background check on the purchaser. The 4473 form used in that transaction would be kept in the dealer's records, just as records are kept for individuals who buy from the licensed dealer directly. The current legislative proposal would exempt transfers between immediate family members and temporary transfers for hunting or self-defense from the background check requirement.
Conservative media voices have insisted that an increase of the federal minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $9 would harm the economy. However, a wealth of economic evidence disputes the claims that minimum wage hikes are job killers, that the minimum wage is already high, and that it only applies to jobs held by relatively young workers.
Multiple Fox News personalities have suggested the Justice Department's lawsuit against Standard & Poor's is 'political retribution,' either papering over or outright ignoring the facts behind the suit. However, the S&P investigation began well before U.S. credit was downgraded, and a raft of internal emails suggest the company may have knowingly inflated securities ratings.
After ignoring reports that 2012 was the hottest year on record in the U.S., Rush Limbaugh and Fox Business host Stuart Varney tried to push back against well-established evidence of climate change by citing instances of cold weather.
On the January 11 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh said, "Twenty-seven degrees outside San Diego right now, 27 degrees, and they're talking about global warming" :
Similarly, Varney cited examples of "snow in Jerusalem" and "a deep freeze in China and in Europe," then said that "the green is demanding a carbon tax to prevent global warming." Varney added, "Climate's always changing, isn't it?"
Fox Business figures complained that an increased number of children receiving food assistance is evidence that they are part of an "entitlement culture" and attacked President Obama for allowing the food stamp program to expand in order to accommodate more children.
Fox Business' Varney & Co. devoted several segments to reports that one-quarter of children are now enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Fox Business anchor Nicole Petallides claimed that while children should receive meals at public school, "we are raising a group of entitlement nation children. I know as a parent, I go out of my way to teach our children how they have to earn each dollar." Fox News anchor John Stossell agreed, saying that expanding SNAP "encourage[s] the handouts" because "once you give away free stuff, people always want more."
In a later segment, Fox Business contributor Jedediah Bila claimed more children on SNAP is an indication that America "is becoming an entitlement culture" and warned that children receiving food assistance are "going to be entering a job market and in their mind are going to have this sense of entitlement coming along with them." Fox Business contributor Charles Payne agreed, saying people could "grow up and never even tap some of the potential that they have" because "if you make poverty too comfortable, people can't escape it."
Fox News is reporting that gun owners are rushing to buy firearms in light of President Obama's reelection at the same time it promotes the very conspiracies about the president's gun policies triggering those sales.
A December 6 FoxNews.com article on the firearms "buying spree" reports that to gun owners, "Obama's re-election, and the apocalypse -- amount to the same thing" while also credulously quoting the unfounded claim of NRA president David Keene that, "Obama is coming right at us" and his second term will be "an all-out assault on the Second Amendment."
The simultaneous reporting of an uptick in gun sales and promotion of wild-eyed conspiracy theories about Obama's gun policies is commonplace at Fox News, despite the fact that President Obama expanded, rather than restricted, where a gun can be carried during his first term.
On the December 3 edition of Hannity on Fox News, WorldNetDaily columnist Erik Rush discussed the murder-suicide involving NFL player Jovan Belcher, alleging, "Whenever there is a high-profile gun crime the fearmongering begins, the histrionics begin, and all of this stuff really has its genesis in the political left, and particularly the big government political leftists, who want to disarm the public."
Fox host Brian Kilmeade announced on the November 8 edition of Fox & Friends that he doesn't "blame the gougers" who are jacking up prices for gasoline in the wake of superstorm Sandy. But price gouging after a natural disaster not only takes advantage of humanitarian crises, it's also illegal in both New York and New Jersey.
Kilmeade's expression of sympathy for price gougers occurred in a discussion of the difficulties victims of Sandy and the current "nor'easter" face in obtaining gas, which many desperately need for transportation, electricity, and heat. As reported by CBSnews.com:
Six days after a superstorm devastated parts of the northeast, the recovery -- and frustration -- continues.
At least 111 people are known dead. Nearly two million homes and businesses remain without power, down from a peak of over eight million -- most of them in New Jersey and New York.
There's still a scramble for gas and housing as temperatures drop.
Along the coast in Rumson, N.J., an old fashioned iron hand pump is the only way to get gasoline out of its underground tank.
The gas is fueling generators in a town largely without electricity.
One person in line said they were using the gas to power their house, take hot showers, feed their family -- in other words "the real basics like 100 years ago."
In the face of this demand - described by co-host Steve Doocy as "gas-amageddon" - some vendors in possession of gas and gas cans are charging exorbitant prices. This windfall, however, is clearly illegal under both New York and New Jersey law that prohibits such price gouging, a fact unmentioned by Kilmeade. Both the Republican Governor of New Jersey and the Democratic Attorney General of New York have warned that this practice, described by the conservative New York Post as "sleazy," will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.
From the New York law:
During any abnormal disruption of the market for consumer goods and services vital and necessary for the health, safety and welfare of consumers, no party within the chain of distribution of such consumer goods or services or both shall sell or offer to sell any such goods or services or both for an amount which represents an unconscionably excessive price.
From the New Jersey law:
It shall be an unlawful practice for any person to sell or offer to sell during a state of emergency or within 30 days of the termination of a state of emergency, in the area for which the state of emergency has been declared, any merchandise which is consumed or used as a direct result of an emergency or which is consumed or used to preserve, protect, or sustain the life, health, safety or comfort of persons or their property for a price that constitutes an excessive price increase.
Kilmeade is not the only Fox personality offering sympathy for those who are engaging in illegal price gouging at the expense of victims of this natural disaster. Fox contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano took the same extreme "free market" stance on Fox Business' Varney & Co, and announced that as a "practicality," he "doesn't believe in any government regulation of the economy." As reported by Fox Insider:
[Fox's] Stuart [Varney] believes if the stations were allowed to charge what they wanted, there would be a revolution, and Judge Napolitano thinks that is the practical way to go. "If buyers were willing to pay what they agreed to pay, there would be enough gas to go around," said Napolitano.
"The free market can allocate resources better than the government can," according to the judge, and gas station owners should be able to charge what they want.
From the November 5 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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From the November 1 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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Fox figures claim that many federal disability benefit payments are fraudulent because the number of people in the program has increased under the Obama administration. In fact, improper payments of disability benefits are minimal and experts agree the higher levels of disability benefits are a direct result of the recession.
From the October 25 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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Following the first presidential debate, Fox has enthusiastically echoed Mitt Romney's call to end public funding for Sesame Street and other public broadcasting. Fox's attacks on public broadcasting have focused on criticism of Big Bird.
Fox News is seizing on high gas prices in California to push for opening up new areas, including the California coast, to drilling, ignoring the real factors driving up prices at the pump. But experts say increasing U.S. production will have no impact on gas prices, and that the only way to protect against price spikes is to reduce consumption.
Gas prices in California hit near-record highs this week as a result of supply disruptions at several key refineries in the state as well as the shutdown of a contaminated pipeline. Fox & Friends devoted an entire segment to the California price spike this morning without once mentioning these factors. Instead, Fox's Charles Gasparino blamed President Obama for implementing "policies that discourage drilling." While Gasparino acknowledged that "some of this is out of [Obama's] control," he said the President should know that "we could have lower gas prices, lower oil prices if you start drilling."
Later on Varney & Co., Fox Business' Charles Payne blamed California policies, saying: "They won't take advantage of natural resources, they won't allow drilling, it's just economic suicide."
Local media are misrepresenting the solutions to the price spike as well. An OC Register editorial claimed that drilling off the coast of California would drive down prices:
Gasoline prices in reached a record high in California this week, making us wonder if it might be time to revisit energy policies in the state. Determining what causes the rise and fall of gas prices isn't easy - there are whole industries devoted to it. However, there are a few things that certainly don't help and ought to be corrected.
Let's begin with supply. California artificially constricts fuel supplies by banning oil drilling along the coast. The Federal Energy Information Administration estimated in June 2011 that there were some 15.4 billion barrels in the Monterey Formation off the coast of California. "If the EIA estimate is reasonably close to the mark, the Monterey Formation would be in a class with oil fields in Saudi Arabia," wrote Tom Gray for City Journal. To put that in perspective, that's roughly quadruple the estimated reserves in North Dakota's Bakken shale formation. By Gray's count, those barrels would be worth about $1.5 trillion in today's prices, and prices are expected to rise.
But because the price of oil is dictated by the global market, expanding U.S. production would not protect against price spikes. A recent analysis by the Associated Press found "[n]o statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump."
Fox Business host Stuart Varney argued that cutting the federal subsidy to public broadcasting would not harm programming, because "Big Bird would still be around." In fact, cutting funding to public broadcasting would put many public broadcast stations in peril and do almost nothing to stem the tide of federal debt.