Fox News continues to hype Trump’s tax cuts amid news of rising federal deficit

Fox & Friends called on “the next president” to cut spending and decrease the deficit 

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Fox News reacted to the White House’s projection of a $1 trillion deficit for the 2019 fiscal year by either not acknowledging the news, dismissing it as unimportant, calling on the next president to “cut spending,” or fearmongering about Democratic presidential candidates’ “socialist” policies. Meanwhile, Fox has continued to push President Donald Trump’s tax cuts as great for the economy, even though they are contributing to the elevated deficit and the network insisted when he proposed them that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. Fox’s coverage is also hypocritical given the way the network covered federal deficits under President Barack Obama. 

On July 15, the White House Office of Management and Budget released its projections that the federal deficit will surpass $1 trillion this year; the only time the deficit has risen to that level in U.S. history was the four-year period following the Great Recession that started in 2007. During the 2016 election campaign, Trump pledged to wipe out the deficit and the entire federal debt. After he became president, he worked with the GOP to pass tax cuts, ignoring projections that they would add $1.9 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade and insisting that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. The Republican tax cut, along with Trump’s proposed spending hikes, “were responsible for 60 percent of this year's budget deficit, according to analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget,” according to Newsweek. A key GOP architect of the bill has even admitted that the tax cuts likely will not pay for themselves. 

While most programs on Fox News have largely ignored the news -- a news report on Special Report with Bret Baier was one exception -- Fox & Friends has been working to provide cover for Trump. On July 18, co-host Brian Kilmeade said, “Someone, the next politician, the next president, has got to … cut spending.” Kilmeade did not mention the tax cuts, nor did he attribute any responsibility to Trump. Fox Business host Charles Payne agreed, pivoting the conversation to Democratic candidates’ policy proposals and “socialism.” He criticized Democrats, saying they are “not talking about spending less” but are “trying to think of innovative ways to spend more.” 

On the July 17 edition of the show, Wall Street Journal editor at large and Fox Business host Gerry Baker said that the deficit is “a very big number,” but he dismissed the deficit as “not something that people need to be terribly worried about.” The segment framed the rising deficit as an issue that has spanned years and multiple presidents, which, though accurate, ignores conservative media's history of fearmongering over the deficit and ignores the direct role that Trump has played, despite warnings about the impact of his policies, especially the tax cut. This coverage differs greatly from the way Fox figures presented rising federal deficits under Obama, when they consistently pushed misleading deficit hysteria to undermine Obama’s economic record.

Since the tax cuts were passed in 2017, Fox has consistently painted them as a win for the middle class and the economy. Fox News went all-in shilling for the tax bill when it was being debated in 2017, including parroting Trump’s false claims that the GOP tax plan would hurt wealthy businessmen. Even when the negative impacts of the tax cut started to show -- such as mass General Motors layoffs, plummeting public support for the law, and the rising federal deficit -- Fox continued to carry the water for the Trump administration, going as far as to insist that repealing the tax cuts would “ruin the economy” and even to call for more tax cuts. 

It’s clear that the 2017 tax cuts have not been paying for themselves and are partially responsible for the rising federal deficit. Still, Fox News has continued to spend the week hyping the tax cuts as a reason voters should choose Trump in 2020. Since July 15, when the news of the federal deficit was first reported, nearly every day has featured segments across multiple programs that point to the tax cuts as one of Trump’s great victories without noting the impact the cuts have had on the federal deficit.