On Fox & Friends Saturday, Karl Rove understated the debt run up by George W. Bush, asserting that there were only "$2.9 trillion in deficits under eight years of Bush." However, the national debt increased by nearly $4.9 trillion during the eight years Bush was in office. Rove's $2.9 trillion figure apparently refers only to "on-budget" deficits, thereby excluding emergency supplemental spending bills used to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina relief, and any other "off-budget" spending.
Recently, the media have highlighted claims that President Obama's "plate" is too "full," suggested he has "bit off more than he can chew," or otherwise given credence to the accusation that the president has loaded his agenda with unrelated items when he should be focusing on the economy. In many instances, the media have simply run teasers to this effect, reinforcing the idea without challenge; in other cases, they have highlighted the accusation, while also providing responses by the Obama administration.
The Wall Street Journal falsely suggested that a secret ballot election is currently required before workers can form a union, asserting that the Employee Free Choice Act "would allow unions to organize workers without a secret ballot, giving employees the power to organize by simply signing cards agreeing to join." In fact, current law already allows a union that shows it has the support of a majority of workers to represent the workers if their employer voluntarily agrees to recognize the union.
Numerous media outlets have devoted significant coverage to the earmarks contained in the pending omnibus appropriations bill, even though, according to most estimates, earmarks constitute less than 2 percent of the total spending in the bill. In many instances, the media have allowed attacks by Sen. John McCain and other opponents of the omnibus bill to dominate their coverage of the legislation -- at times themselves characterizing the bill as laden with "pork."
In a March 6 news article headline, Bloomberg referred to the "Obama Bear Market," and The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed on the same day with the headline "Obama's Radicalism is Killing the Dow." In fact, the market has been on a decline since October 2007, and, as the Financial Times' Dan McCrum said, "it's the economy which is driving the market down here" and that "what's important is that President Obama doesn't try to address that in the short term. He's quite right that short-term market movements aren't -- shouldn't be driving government policy. What he needs to do is concentrate on fixing the economy, and the market will sort itself out."
The Wall Street Journal reported that Richard Scott, "the former chief executive of HCA Inc," had formed the non-profit organization Conservatives for Patients' Rights as part of a "lobbying campaign to derail or modify" President Obama's health care proposals, but failed to note that Scott resigned from HCA in 1997 amid a federal investigation into the company's Medicare billing, physician recruiting, and home-care practices. HCA eventually pleaded guilty to fraud charges and paid approximately $1.7 billion in fines and penalties.
A Wall Street Journal article reported that as first lady, Hillary Clinton "sparked outrage after embracing Suha Arafat, wife of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, shortly after Mrs. Arafat accused Israel of using poison gas against Palestinians." But the article did not note that Clinton reportedly "condemned Mrs. Arafat hours later, after receiving, she said, an official translation of her remarks."
A Wall Street Journal article mischaracterized a section of H.R. 1, stating: "In a staff report describing the bill, the House said treatments found to be less effective and in some cases more expensive 'will no longer be prescribed.' " However, neither the House discussion draft nor the House bill implements federal requirements banning the use of "treatments found to be less effective and in some cases more expensive." In fact, the section of the bill the article referenced establishes a Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research and calls for funding to "be used to accelerate the development and dissemination of research assessing the comparative effectiveness of health care treatments and strategies."
Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have repeatedly claimed that President Reagan's tax cuts were responsible for ending the recession in the early 1980s, suggesting that tax cuts, and not government spending, would be the best solution to the end the current recession. However, several economists have stated that while fiscal policy had some impact during that period, "[l]ower interest rates after mid-1982 permitted the recovery to begin," according to a 1983 CBO report. By contrast, a reduction in the federal funds interest rate is not available to the Federal Reserve today because the current rate is essentially zero.
A Wall Street Journal editorial falsely suggested that, unlike President Obama, former President Bush never used "a list of reporters preselected to ask questions" when deciding who to call on at presidential press conferences. In fact, Bush also used such a list, as former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters in a March 2003 press briefing.
A New York Times essay by Jason DeParle highlighted a resurgence of the use of the word "welfare" among conservatives, this time to attack President Obama's economy recovery plan. Indeed, while economists agree that provisions in the legislation targeting needy people are among the most economically stimulative, Media Matters documents below the pervasiveness of what DeParle called the "weaponiz[ation]" of the "very word, welfare," in the media, particularly, but not exclusively on Fox News, to denounce the stimulus bill.
In his Wall Street Journal op-ed, Karl Rove wrote of the House-passed economic recovery bill: "And it should not shock Americans that Democratic appropriators would funnel tax dollars to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now." In fact, the recovery bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding; ACORN itself has said that it is ineligible for the funds and has no plans to apply for them.
The Wall Street Journal misleadingly claimed in an editorial that the U.S. corporate tax rate "is higher than in all of Europe." In fact, according to the Government Accountability Office, "Statutory tax rates do not provide a complete measure of the burden that a tax system imposes on business income." Additionally, World Bank and GAO data indicate that the U.S. effective corporate tax rate is lower than 35 percent and lower than several developed -- including some European -- economies.
Echoing a Republican talking point, Rush Limbaugh asserted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that "[t]he average recession will last five to 11 months; the average recovery will last six years. Recessions will end on their own if they're left alone." But Limbaugh's claim misses the point and misrepresents the reason for the stimulus bill. Economists take the position that an economic stimulus package is necessary, both during the recession and after the economy begins to recover.
The Wall Street Journal uncritically reported congressional Republicans' criticism of the proposed economic stimulus bill on the grounds "that much of the money in the package wouldn't be spent until 2011 or later, when a recovery is likely to be already under way." The article did not mention that economists, including Congressional Budget Office director Douglas W. Elmendorf, have said that fiscal stimulus in 2011 or later would be effective in the current economic situation, in which economic output is projected to remain below its potential long after the technical beginning of the recovery.