Fox News host and presidential debate moderator Chris Wallace falsely blamed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) -- commonly referred to as “the stimulus” -- for creating a historically sluggish economic recovery, a frequent charge from right-wing media outlets that bears no resemblance to reality.
During a line of questioning designed to undermine Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Wallace alleged that Clinton’s economic agenda closely resembles “the Obama stimulus plan in 2009,” which he falsely claimed was responsible for “the slowest GDP [gross domestic product] growth since 1949”:
CHRIS WALLACE: I want to pursue your plan, because in many ways it is similar to the Obama stimulus plan in 2009, which has led to the slowest GDP growth since 1949.
DONALD TRUMP: Correct.
CHRIS WALLACE. Thank you, sir. You told me, in July, when we spoke that the problem is that President Obama didn't get to do enough in what he was trying to do with the stimulus. So is your plan basically more, even more of the Obama stimulus?
Right-wing media outlets, including Fox News, have long charged that the 2009 stimulus package was costly and ineffective, and they regularly promote the fantasy that the roughly $800 billion rescue package actually hurt the American economy. Fox News has portrayed the very concept of stimulating the economy through targeted government investments as a “distraction,” Fox host Bill O’Reilly has falsely claimed that food stamps have no economic value, and Fox anchor Megyn Kelly has been derisively referring to the rescue package as “the so-called stimulus” for years.
Contrary to Wallace’s misleading talking point, economists like Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman generally believe that the stimulus package was too small and too focused on tax cuts instead of targeted spending. (Tax cuts actually don’t stimulate the economy very effectively.) In a July 2014 New York Times column, economist Justin Wolfers noted that 36 of 37 economists surveyed by the University of Chicago’s Initiative on Global Markets agreed that the stimulus was directly responsible for lowering the unemployment rate, and 25 agreed that the economic benefits of the law exceeded its costs.
Wallace’s willingness to use the debate stage as a forum to promote right-wing misinformation was one of the primary reasons that Media Matters questioned the decision to include him as a moderator.