Varney & Co.

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  • 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.

  • Fox Business Makes The German Cinema Standoff All About Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In the middle of an unfolding standoff between police and a gunman at a movie theater in Germany, Fox Business host Stuart Varney repeatedly pivoted to promoting Donald Trump, calling the incident “a plus” for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

    On the June 23 edition of Varney & Co., Varney dedicated two segments to the developing situation, speculating in each that the situation might benefit Trump’s campaign. First, Varney and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley, a Trump apologist,  agreed that the situation -- initially reported as a “mass shooting” -- would “absolutely” benefit the GOP front-runner because he has “emphasized the need for strong national security policy.” 

    Next, Varney asked Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News judicial analyst, what impact the incident might have on U.S. immigration policy. Napolitano responded, “When a crisis like this happens, it should benefit Donald Trump,” because “he portrays himself as the stronger, sterner protector of our shores.” He advised Trump to “express outrage and … determination” to “one up Mrs. Clinton.” Napolitano has a history of pushing conspiracy theories and recently used the horrific mass shooting in Orlando to promote debunked right-wing media myths about gun violence. He is also reportedly a likely Supreme Court nominee, should Trump become president.    

    Trump foreign policy adviser Walid Phares echoed Fox’s promotion of the GOP candidate, saying that if the shooting was “politically motivated terrorism,” it will benefit Trump because it will prove that “terrorism is active in Europe.”

    Varney has track record of inserting praise of Trump’s foreign policy positions into his reporting. On May 19, when an EgyptAir flight crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, the Fox Business host framed the tragedy as “a plus” and “politically good for Donald Trump.” On March 22, he also let Phares erroneously claim the United States doesn’t have a vetting process for Syrian refugees, whom Trump has incorrectly labeled as a threat to national security.  

  • Conservative Opposition To Overtime Pay Brought To You By The National Retail Federation

    NRF Claims Overtime Expansion Will “Demote” Working Americans “To Clock-Punchers”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Right-wing media and Republican politicians blasted the Labor Department’s decision to update and expand overtime protections, clearly taking their cues from the National Retail Federation (NRF) -- a business association known for spreading falsehoods on worker rights. The NRF and its allies are portraying overtime expansion as something that will hurt workers and the economy, ignoring the association’s own report, which found that the change would likely result in new jobs and fewer unpaid hours for retail workers.

    The Department of Labor released an update to overtime rules for salaried employees on May 17, raising the minimum annual salary threshold to qualify for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 -- an announcement that was denounced by right-wing media. Conservative outlets claimed the rule was “interfering” with businesses and would result in less flexibility and possibly lower pay, citing the NRF’s 2016 report “Rethinking Overtime” as proof, but they failed to acknowledge that the NRF has consistently opposed better pay for workers, fair scheduling, and collective bargaining rights. Contrary to claims that the expanded overtime will harm the economy, the NRF’s own report found the overtime rule would lead to over 117,100 new part-time jobs.

    The Wall Street Journal decried the updated overtime rule in a May 18 editorial, claiming employers will lower salaries as a result. The Journal cited the NRF study, which found that businesses will “shift about a third of salaried retail and restaurant workers to hourly status” and bizarrely pointed to the study’s finding that one in 10 workers on salary will work fewer hours (which are already unpaid) as proof that the rule is not in the best interests of employers or workers. Townhall also pushed the narrative that salaried workers working fewer unpaid hours is a negative, citing NRF’s report.

    During NRF’s campaign against overtime expansion, the lobbying group has claimed the new rule is “outrageous” and will force employers “to demote their middle management professionals to clock-punchers.” On the May 18 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, NRF senior vice president David French called the rule “a massive overreach.” Earlier that day on Fox’s America’s Newsroom, correspondent Kevin Corke said the rule will mean “more red tape and fewer advancement opportunities” and falsely claimed that “most of the people impacted by this change will not see any additional pay.” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) echoed NRF’s statement on the May 19 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., claiming the overtime rule imposes “more red tape on job creators, which translates into fewer opportunities for people.” In statements released May 18, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) referred to the overtime rule as “more red tape” while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed it was an “absolute disaster” that will end up “hurt[ing] the very people it alleges to help.”

    Despite the coordinated condemnation from conservative media outlets and politicians, overtime expansion is vitally important in a country where 50 percent of full-time workers already work more than 40 hours per week. In an April 21 op-ed in The New York Times, economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich argued that many Americans are unaware that overtime protections have eroded over generations, and he noted that working unpaid overtime limits worker productivity and hiring. Reich also pointed out that the proliferation of unpaid overtime contributes to soaring corporate profits.

    The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that overtime expansion will “reduce excessive hours of unpaid work” while adding at least 120,000 jobs in the retail sector -- the very one the NRF claims to represent. The rule change is also expected to change employer behavior; some employers will hire more workers, while other employers will become more efficient. Employees in many instances work unnecessary hours because company cultures value “how much people work (or seem to)” instead of “the quality of their output,” according to an article by professors Erin Reid and Lakshmi Ramarajan in the June 2016 edition of the Harvard Business Review.

    The NRF has a history of pushing a right-wing, anti-worker agenda. The group opposes collective bargaining and fair scheduling, and was an outspoken opponent of increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour when the debate first gained prominence in 2014.

  • Right-Wing Media Assail Expansion Of Overtime Pay Protections To Millions Of Workers

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Right-wing media assailed new overtime rules released by the Department of Labor (DOL) on May 17, which expand overtime pay protections to 4.2 million American workers previously exempt from compensation under outdated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new rule updates the minimum salary threshold to qualify for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 per year to $47,476 per year, and pegs the threshold to inflation going forward.

  • Fox Business Mocks Clinton's Voice In KY Speech, Ignores Her $30 Billion Plan For Coal Country

    Right-Wing Media Have Spent Years Attacking Hillary Clinton For The Sound Of Her Voice

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox Business completely ignored the economic details of policy proposals outlined by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a recent speech in Bowling Green, Kentucky, including a $30 billion plan to revitalize coal country, opting instead to mock the sound of her voice.

    On May 16, Clinton gave a 31 minute speech outlining economic policy goals she intends to achieve as president, according to The Courier-Journal. These goals included “reducing college debt, raising wages of workers, giving equal pay for equal work and improving the Affordable Care Act,” as well as her “$30 billion plan to revitalize coal country.” Clinton’s coal country revitalization plan creates protections for coal miners’ pensions, ensures adequate funding for local public schools, and provides job training and small business assistance for places once dominated by coal -- an industry that has seen economic forces lead to its decline.

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney asked Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS) to listen to Clinton’s voice during the speech and critique it during an interview on the May 17 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co. Varney thought “she used a Southern accent.” Bryant joked that Clinton could join the Blue Collar Comedy Tour if not elected president, and claimed that her supposed “pandering to the crowd” was “a little insulting.” At no point during the discussion did either man reference the policies Clinton actually outlined in her speech.

    Right-wing media have repeatedly attacked Clinton’s voice for nearly a decade while ignoring the substance of her remarks. Attacks against Clinton’s voice by right-wing media ranged from her volume, to her allegedly offensive Southern accent, and her supposed use of “a blackface voice” when addressing an African-American audience. A Fox contributor once suggested that Clinton would “speak with a lisp” if she attended an event hosted by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. These sexist attacks on Clinton’s voice are well documented and attempt to distract from the content of the candidate's positions.

    Watch the full exchange from the May 17 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): One more thing for you, governor. Hillary Clinton was campaigning in Kentucky, and I think she used a Southern accent, and I want you to listen to it and critique it for a second. Roll tape.

    PHIL BRYANT: Do I have to?

    [...]

    VARNEY: Alright, governor, I do have an accent myself. Would you care to critique the accent you just heard?

    BRYANT: You know, if she doesn't get elected president, there may be an opening on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour for her with that accent. We'd have to get her a little better jokes, but of course it's a little insulting to hear that type of thing happen. But, she’s pandering to the crowd, Stuart. Some politicians do it, I won't hold that against her too much, and she needs to work a bit on it and maybe throw a “y'all” in there. But what we want to hear is what she is going to do about appointing Supreme Court judges [sic]. She’s been silent on that issue so far, and I’d like to hear if it’s going to be a Bernie Sanders, or who some of her Supreme Court nominees may be when she gets to be president of the United States.

  • Fox Business Pushes Four Lies About Smart Guns In 45 Seconds

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A brief segment on Fox Business Network about President Obama’s push to develop smart gun technology included falsehoods about Obama’s plan, the availability and reliability of smart guns, and law enforcement’s position on the issue.

    On April 29, President Obama announced a plan for the Defense Department (DOD), Homeland Security Department (DHS), and Justice Department (DOJ) to assist in the development of technology that allows only the authorized user of a firearm to fire it. As Obama explained, the purpose of the initiative is “identifying the requirements that smart guns would have to meet in order for law enforcement to purchase and use them effectively - and keep themselves and the public safer in the process.”

    During the May 3 broadcast of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich offered a litany of falsehoods to attack the Obama administration’s announcement:

    1. Varney opened the segment by claiming Obama “might use executive orders to push for smart guns.”

      In fact, Obama’s announcement was an update on his administration’s January announcement of executive actions, not orders. Conservative media frequently mislabel executive actions -- where, in this case, federal agencies are operating within their respective purviews to help expedite the development of technology – by terming them executive orders in an attempt to make claims about supposed Obama administration overreach.

    2. Calling smart guns “actually very dumb,” Pavlich claimed that “there are a lot of federal law enforcement agencies, and local police departments, and sheriff’s departments that are pushing back.”

      First, several federal executive departments that administer law enforcement agencies – DOJ, DOD, and DHS -- are involved in carrying out the administration’s plan, not opposing it.

      There has been only one high-profile law enforcement group that has been outspoken on Obama’s plan, and that group has a major conflict of interest. The head of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Jim Pasco, was quoted in several news outlets criticizing Obama’s plan, without the disclosure that the FOP’s charity has received large amounts of money from the National Shooting Sporting Foundation, a gun industry trade group that often attacks smart gun technology. A 2010 investigation by The Washington Post identified several instances where the interests of clients at Pasco’s lobbying business aligned with positions subsequently taken by FOP.

    3. Pavlich claimed that “smart gun technology has been on the market for years now.”

      While smart gun technology has been in development for years, smart guns are not yet available for purchase by the general public in America, except for in rare instances. This is because gun dealers largely refuse to stock the first market-ready smart gun, the Armatix iP1, a semi-automatic handgun that uses radio-frequency identification technology. In 2014, a Maryland gun dealer was the subject of death threats and harassment from gun rights activists after the dealer announced his intention to sell the iP1. He later canceled his plan to sell the firearm. A similar incident occurred in California when a gun store attempted to sell the iP1.

    4. Pavlich claimed smart gun technology is “not reliable” and “when you’re talking about a life-or-death self-defense situation, people just aren’t going to go there and risk it with the smart gun technology.”

      Pavlich’s claim echoes a frequent attack from the National Rifle Association, which often makes false claims about the reliability of smart gun technology. Smart guns have to meet certain reliability benchmarks to be sold. For example, to be sold in California, the iP1 had to be able to fire 600 rounds with a malfunction rate of less than 1 percent.

      Obama’s announcement on smart guns also said the DOD would continue to allow manufacturers to use a testing facility in Maryland to improve reliability.​ According to a leading developer of the technology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the next generation of smart guns will have an operational failure rate “comparable to mechanical failure rate in many consumer side-arms.”

    From the May 3 broadcast of Varney & Co.:

    STUART VARNEY: President Obama, he might use executive orders to push for smart guns. What do you make of this?

    KATIE PAVLICH: Well, the problem with smart guns is they’re actually very dumb. And there are a lot of federal law enforcement agencies, and local police departments, and sheriff’s departments that are pushing back on President Obama’s idea that smart guns should be used, not only just in law enforcement, but across the country. The fact is that smart gun technology has been on the market for years now and people don’t buy them because they are not reliable. The president’s argument is that, look you have to be able to have guns that can only be fired by their owners, but when you’re talking about a life-or-death self-defense situation, people just aren’t going to go there and risk it with the smart gun technology.