Reality need not apply: Fox continues to deny aid to poor is stimulative

Fox News hosts and contributors have recently dismissed estimates of food stamp programs' stimulative effect on the economy as “some strange multiplier effect study,” “liberal math” and a “complicated economic multiplier theory.” In fact, economists agree that food stamps are one of “the most effective ways to prime the economy's pump.”

Malkin, Gingrich and Varney all dismiss economic theory to continue attacking food stamps

Malkin falsely claims “the only thing that these programs stimulate, of course, is a bigger government.” On the October 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy stated that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of food stamps: “It is the biggest bang for the buck when you do food stamps and unemployment insurance.” Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin replied by saying she would “like to know which economist [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] is talking to. Of course, she's promoting some strange multiplier effect study to argue this.” Malkin concluded by falsely claiming “the only thing that these programs stimulate, of course, is bigger government.”

Varney dismisses economic consensus regarding stimulative nature of food stamps as a “complicated economic multiplier theory.” Earlier on Fox & Friends, Fox Business Network anchor Stuart Varney dismissed Pelosi's statement as “the complicated economic multiplier theory that they're bringing in here.” Varney claimed “the evidence that's before us” showing that a high proportion of the unemployed are on food stamps and unemployment is still high shows “it would seem you don't get bigger bang for the buck.”

Varney hosts Santorum to attack food stamps and claim that “the numbers are phony.” On the October 7 edition of Fox Business Network's Varney & Company, contributor Tracy Byrnes attributed Pelosi's claim to “the health care calculator that they use...the keys are not working correctly if she's thinking this is the best bang for our buck.” Fox News contributor Rick Santorum then stated of Pelosi's claim: “So if that's the case, why don't we turn the whole economy over to the government have them pay out all of this money and have a great multiplier effect. It doesn't work and in fact there have been studies done show just the opposite.” Santorum further claimed “I don't know where she's getting the funny numbers, the calculator is not working as Tracy said, but the numbers are phony.”

Gingrich: “I don't understand how liberal math turns one dollar into $1.79.” On the October 6 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich said:

I carry around a bumper sticker that says two plus two equals four, so I'd be very curious how a dollar given to somebody becomes $1.79. And I think if we could get that to work at the U.S. Treasury, so if people gave the treasury $1,000, it became $1,790, we could pay off the federal debt and never worry about spending or anything. Somehow, I don't understand how liberal math turns one dollar into $1.79.

Economists widely acknowledge stimulative nature of food stamps

Elmendorf: “Nutrition assistance” would “have a significant impact on GDP.” In January 27, 2009, written testimony before the House Budget Committee, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf stated that "[t]ransfers to persons (for example, unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance) would ... have a significant impact on GDP." He added: “Because a large amount of such spending can occur quickly, transfers would have a significant impact on GDP by early 2010. Transfers also include refundable tax credits, which have an impact similar to that of a temporary tax cut.”

Zandi: "[E]xtending food stamps are the most effective ways to prime the economy's pump." In his July 24, 2008, written testimony before the House Committee on Small Business, economist Mark Zandi, who advised John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, stated that “extending food stamps are [sic] the most effective ways to prime the economy's pump.” Zandi further explained: “People who receive these benefits are very hard-pressed and will spend any financial aid they receive within a few weeks. These programs are also already operating, and a benefit increase can be quickly delivered to recipients.” Zandi included with his testimony a table stating that a “Temporary Increase in Food Stamps” had the highest “Fiscal Economic Bank for the Buck” of any other potential stimulus provision he analyzed, providing a $1.73 increase in real GDP for every dollar spent.

Attack is the latest in Fox's ongoing assault on aid to poor and unemployed

Fox regularly ignores economic consensus to attack unemployment insurance. As Media Matters has noted, Fox regularly ignores economic consensus and analysis to baselessly attack unemployment insurance. For example:

  • On February 22, Hannity falsely suggested the Federal Reserve said unemployment benefit extension increased unemployment.
  • During the May 15 edition of Fox News' Bulls & Bears, host Brenda Buttner claimed Americans were “turning down good paying jobs to stay on unemployment. I wish I were kidding.” During the tease, the on-screen graphic said “Cut off freeloaders?”
  • On July 2, Fox & Friends guest host Alisyn Camerota didn't understand the “logic” behind Pelosi's claim that unemployment insurance “injects demand into the economy” and “is a job creator.” Guest co-host Clayton Morris said that “would love to know what economists say that.” Co-host Dave Briggs claimed there were a “few holes in that logic to say the least.”
  • On the July 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade hosted Partnership Staffing Inc. CEO Bill Auchmoody, who claimed that unemployment benefits prevent unemployed workers from searching for jobs. During the segment, Kilmeade played Pelosi's comments and asked Auchmoody to comment. Auchmoody stated: “I don't know how an unemployment check creates jobs. You know, businesses create jobs. The economy and the government getting out of the way, in my opinion, helps create jobs.” Kilmeade concluded the interview by telling Auchmoody that “maybe” the elimination of “unemployment benefits will get people to sober up and take some of your offers.”
  • On the August 10 edition of Glenn Beck, Beck said “Nancy Pelosi actually made the point that unemployment payment stimulate [sic] the economy.” After playing the clip, Beck suggested Pelosi was wrong that unemployment insurance creates jobs by saying “have you ever worked for a guy who was saying 'hang on just a second, I'm going to pay you out of my unemployment check.”
  • On the August 31 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney cited a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Harvard economics professor and Hoover Institute senior fellow Robert Barro to claim that, in Varney's words, “If we had not extended unemployment benefits to 99 weeks from the standard 26 weeks, [Barro] says, unemployment would be at 6.8%, not the 9.5%.” According to Varney, Barro argued that “you extend benefits like this and it discourages people from going out to look for work especially, you know, the start of the benefit period because it's nearly two years.”
  • On the September 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Stuart Varney attacked the unemployed by falsely claiming that rises in disability were due to the unemployed committing fraud. In fact, what led to the increase in claims from 2008 to 2009 was legislation that President Bush signed into law in 2008, which changed the ways that the requirements for being disabled could be interpreted. The growth in the program was expected and is the result of intentional changes to policy which make it easier to qualify.
  • During the September 29 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked “when will the government turn off government spending and extend tax cuts to stimulate the private sector.” Carlson was referring to a program that "directly paid the salaries of unemployed people so they could get jobs in government, at nonprofit organizations and at many small businesses.