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  • Fox Business panel highlights increase in credit card rejections and delinquencies, fails to mention Trump administration’s gutting of consumer watchdog

    Trump administration has worked overtime to overturn consumer protections around credit

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox Business hosts Stuart Varney and Elizabeth MacDonald recently highlighted a report from the New York Federal Reserve which detailed an upswing in credit card rejection rates and involuntary account closures, calling the report “bad news for the economy,” but failed to mention the Trump administration’s systematic effort to dismantle consumer protections around credit.

    Since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the administration has engaged in an ongoing and methodical effort, through the gutting of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), to scale back regulatory oversight of financial institutions, including credit card companies. That effort includes, for example, the rollback of a CFPB regulation “that would have made it easier for credit card and bank account users to sue companies for issues like overcharging,” as “most consumers would find it too expensive to pursue grievances against financial firms in court.”

    Even though objective observers note that the report “most likely signals that card companies issued debt too freely and to less-trustworthy borrowers,” MacDonald wrote the report off as “another weird kind of non sequitur of a thing popping out in the data.” From the December 6 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): A red flag on the economy, maybe another one, what's going on with credit cards, Liz? Now's your chance.

    ELIZABETH MACDONALD (FOX BUSINESS HOST): So, yeah, sorry, forgive me, I was working another story. We're going to tell you about that in a second. Rejection rates for card applicants came in very high, according to the New York Fed. Also, involuntary bank account closures because of problems with credit card payments, also at five-year highs. So, are lenders bracing for -- another negative for the economy, is it that the lenders are bracing for a slowdown? I mean, interest rates are relatively low, so, for this to be happening, another weird kind of non sequitur of a thing popping out in the data.

    VARNEY: But the credit card stuff is bad news for the economy.

    MACDONALD: Yeah, the credit card thing, it's bad news. People not paying their cards, and they're getting their bank accounts shut down.

    VARNEY: That hurts.

  • Fox continues to praise Trump’s tax cuts and trade policies despite General Motors layoffs

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    General Motors announced plans earlier this week to close five plants in North America, including ones in Maryland, Michigan, and Ohio, and to lay off an estimated 14,000 workers. Fox News personalities reacted to the announcement with surprise and anger, but doubled down on their defenses of President Donald Trump’s tariffs and tax policies despite economists warning that these policies would hurt the workers and the economy.

    Fox hosts were briefly baffled at the news that GM will be closing five of its plants, but hurried to spin the news to absolve Trump of any blame. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade complained that GM “got a huge corporate tax cut” because “the thought was that the American industry would start bringing industry home.” Fox Business host Charles Payne quickly glossed over the impact of Trump’s tariffs before arguing that the layoffs are “not a bad thing” because “this is about demand.” Fox News host Neil Cavuto offered no pushback to Rep. Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) claim that “dramatic tax cuts … are now bringing jobs back to this country.” And Fox Business panelist Lindsey Bell offered the weirdly optimistic justification that GM employees are “being laid off into this robust job market” with “7 million job openings,” making it “a better environment to be laid off in.”

    GM’s plant closures can be attributed to many factors, but it is clear that GOP tax cuts and Trump’s reckless trade wars have played a significant role. Though Trump relentlessly campaigned on saving American jobs, economists warned that the GOP tax plan “encourages even more shifting of operations and jobs overseas”; other experts predicted that Trump's trade policies would also cost American jobs. In June, GM said that Trump’s trade war with China could lead to “less investment, fewer jobs, and lower wages for our employees.” Now, according to NBC News, “GM has estimated those tariffs have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars,” while “Ford - which announced last month it would be making an unspecified number of cuts as part of a ‘redesign’ of the company — says the tariffs have cost the company $1 billion so far.”

    But Fox hosts and guests still used GM’s announcement as an opportunity to double down on their support of Trump’s economic policies. A Fox Business panel pushed for even more tax cuts to passed in the lame duck session before Democrats take control of the House in January. Fox guest Peter Morici claimed that the Trump tariffs “had very little effect on General Motors” and argued that “Mr. Trump has to get a lot tougher on China.” Fox’s Laura Ingraham argued that “until China starts behaving like a global trading partner in a truly free and open market, we shouldn’t be doing any business with China” and asserted, “We should treat them as we treated the Soviet Union.” Ingraham went on to praise Trump’s policies, saying that he is doing “exactly what he should be doing.” On her prime-time show, Fox Business host Trish Regan claimed that Trump “is making the right move” because “he has taken on the Chinese and their tariff system in a way that previous presidents never did.”

    When Trump’s tax cut and tariffs were first announced, Fox personalities praised the tax cuts and downplayed the president’s decision to start a trade war with China, despite numerous expert warnings of the detrimental impact of these policies.

    As the tax cuts debate continued in 2017, Kilmeade speculated in August that Democrats were opposed to the cuts because they were afraid that “the economy will grow at such a rate it will be impossible for them to win an election.” In September 2017, Fox host Sean Hannity cheered the tax cut on his radio show, saying that it would lead to wealthy people “spending money and buying boats” which “keeps people working” and “stimulate the economy and build the factories in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.” (Two of the GM factories being closed are in Michigan and Ohio.) In October 2017, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt denied that the GOP tax cuts would mostly benefit the wealthy, arguing that “if you read the tax plan, that’s not at all what it says.” (According to experts, the tax cut “would deliver 80 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent” by 2027.)

    Similarly, on the issue of Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on various imports, many Fox hosts and contributors speculated if they would ever be implemented and downplayed their negative effects. In April, Fox Business host Stuart Varney brushed off concerns over tariffs as “an emotional response to the words ‘trade war.’” Fox & Friends’ Steve Doocy also minimized the effects of Trump’s trade war, claiming “there are no tariffs” and that “it’s all a suggestion, it’s all a negotiation.” Fox contributor Tammy Bruce asserted that Trump’s trade war with China “will, in the end because of his ability to negotiate, work out well.” Hannity confidently claimed that he didn’t “think there’s ever going to be a trade war,” while Outnumbered host Dagen McDowell said that we don’t know if these “tariffs will ever be put in place.” Fox’s Geraldo Rivera likened China’s retaliatory tariffs to “chump change” and expressed confusion about why the market responded “so emotionally.”

    These callous remarks about Trump’s trade war came despite experts’ conclusion that the U.S. “consumers would bear the brunt of the immediate damage,” while “the impact on Chinese consumers, by contrast, would be modest.” A more recent study concluded that due to Trump’s trade policies, “in 2019, each US household would lose the equivalent of $2,357.” But it is clear that Fox cares more about cheering on Trump's irresponsible economic policies than covering their disastrous effects on American workers.

  • After the midterms, Fox previews its strategy for covering economic downturns: Blame Democrats

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News is blaming Democrats for the decline in the stock market, claiming it’s in part because their “tone” is creating a “real negative wave for the market” and that banks are worried they will be needlessly investigated. In reality, experts are pointing to poor performance by retail giant Target and tech companies and to larger factors like President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, Trump’s tax cuts, and rising interest rates. 

    Following months of strong gains, the stock market plunged this week, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping more than 400 points on Monday and more than 600 points on Tuesday. As CNBC reported, “The major U.S. stock indexes fell sharply on Tuesday and turned negative for the year as a decline in Target shares pressured retailers, while the most popular tech shares dropped again.” The report noted stocks also fell “sharply last month amid heightened concerns about rising interest rates, slowing economic growth and global trade tensions.” According to CNN, “Analysts expect a deceleration in 2019 driven by tariffs, the fading impact of the tax cuts and higher borrowing costs caused by the Federal Reserve.” In a report released Monday, Goldman Sachs said that U.S. economic growth could be reduced by half by the end of next year as the effect of the tax cuts wears off. And 35 percent of chief financial officers surveyed “cited trade as their biggest current concern.”

    Fox News, however, has started blaming the sinking stock market on the Democrats winning back the majority in the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections. This trend likely previews how Fox and other right-wing media outlets will cover any negative economic turn for at least the next two years.

    On Fox Business, correspondent Susan Li expressed concern over the “message being signaled to bank executives” if bank CEOs are brought in front of Congress and asked questions about “some of their questionable business practices.” In response, Ron Meyer of MediaDC (the publisher of conservative outlets The Weekly Standard and Washington Examiner) suggested that if incoming House Financial Services Committee chair Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) chooses to investigate bank executives’ financial practices, she will hurt the stock markets.

    Stuart Varney, host of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., claimed that Trump was right when he tweeted before the midterms that “if you want your Stocks to go down, I strongly suggest voting Democrat.” Varney went on to say that with Democrats in charge of the House, the economy will not “get any new stimulus.”

    And on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, co-host Sandra Smith asked Fox Business host Charles Payne if the declining stock market is because of “Democrats winning control of the House.” Payne responded by blaming “the tone of Democrats” for creating a “real negative wave for the market.”