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Trump-appointed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai has chosen to reduce participation in an Obama-era expansion of a Reagan-era telecommunications subsidy for low-income Americans. The program, known as “Lifeline,” had become a regular target of right-wing media attacks and conspiracy theories, which labeled it as “Obamaphones” that were distributed in low-income communities to buy votes.
According to a February 3 report from The Washington Post, Pai announced that the commission was reversing a decision made last year to allow additional companies to apply a federal subsidy of $9.25 per month for qualifying households seeking assistance in acquiring internet access. From the Post:
Regulators are telling nine companies they won't be allowed to participate in a federal program meant to help them provide affordable Internet access to low-income consumers — weeks after those companies had been given the green light.
The move, announced Friday by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, reverses a decision by his Democratic predecessor, Tom Wheeler, and undercuts the companies' ability to provide low-cost Internet access to poorer Americans. In a statement, Pai called the initial decisions a form of “midnight regulation.”
The program, known as Lifeline, provides registered households with a $9.25-a-month credit, which can then be used to buy home Internet service. As many as 13 million Americans may be eligible for Lifeline but do not have broadband service at home, the FCC has found.
Until last year, Lifeline recipients could only apply their federal benefit toward landline and mobile voice service. Significant changes to the program under Wheeler let beneficiaries, for the first time, use their credits to purchase broadband. The expansion was opposed by Pai and other Republican officials, who argued that the measure did not do enough to rein in potential costs or to control waste, fraud and abuse. (Democrats claimed that recent reforms to the program had helped cut down on the latter.)
The FCC initially announced the expansion of the subsidy program in March of last year, after then-chairman Tom Wheeler and commissioner Mignon Clyburn successfully argued that "Internet access has become a pre-requisite for full participation in our economy and our society." For their efforts to expand telecommunications access to low-income communities, the FCC was derided by Fox News, which had already spent years building a cottage industry out of bashing the subsidy program they had dishonestly dubbed “Obamaphones.”
In 2012, Fox News began pushing the conspiracy theory that President Obama was using the Lifeline program to distribute free phones in black communities in exchange for votes based on an out-of-context video of a single overzealous Obama supporter. The so-called “Obamaphones” program became such a frequent target on Fox News that Obama brought it up in May 2015 as an example of how Fox’s fearmongering coverage of poverty stokes animosity toward the poor. During one particularly tone deaf instance, Fox contributor Charles Payne claimed the phone subsidy program was tantamount to “further enslavement of the poor” just weeks after Obama had harangued the network’s over-the-top rhetoric. When the FCC decided to further expand the program in 2016 to keep up with changing technologies -- it was established under Reagan to cover landlines, expanded by President Bush to cover cell phones, and expanded under Obama to cover internet services -- the pump had already been primed for outrage.
Great Job With That Stephen Moore Hire, CNN
Discredited right-wing economic pundit Stephen Moore used his first appearance on CNN since joining the network as its “senior economics analyst” to put a negative spin on the Obama-era economic recovery while squirming out of questions about lies that President Donald Trump, whom he advised during the campaign, turned into routine campaign talking points.
During the February 3 edition of CNN’s Wolf, host Wolf Blitzer invited Moore to offer his perspective on Trump’s sudden acceptance of job creation and unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which Trump had labeled “one of the biggest hoaxes in modern politics” just six months ago. Blitzer argued that the jobs data released in the morning show Trump “inheriting a strong and healthy U.S. economy,” and he aired a clip of Trump saying the January numbers were something to be “very happy about” that will likely “continue, big league.”
Blitzer noted that the president has adopted “a very different tone” since taking office with regard to BLS data -- which he regularly blasted as “phony” during the campaign. When Blitzer pushed Moore, who served as Trump’s senior economic adviser, to answer for Trump’s sudden change of perspective, Moore pivoted to recycled complaints about the supposedly lackluster state of the economy under Obama. When Blitzer listed indicators that speak to the overall health of the economy, Moore reverted to his misleading claim that America is suffering through “the weakest recovery since the Great Depression.” Moore also set a seemingly impossible standard of success for job creation, claiming that the economy “should be getting 300-, 400-, or even 500,000 jobs a month to make up for the jobs lost from the recession.” See the full segment from Wolf here:
In five minutes of back-and-forth, Blitzer never got Moore to own up to Trump’s sudden about-face on the monthly jobs report, but CNN viewers were exposed to the same tired criticism of President Obama that you expect to see at Fox News. This fruitless segment is sure to be a sign of things to come now that Moore -- arguably the world’s worst economist -- is serving as CNN’s “chief economics analyst.”
CNN was as culpable as any other network in promoting Trump’s rise, but its economic team usually stood up to the Republican candidate’s falsehoods. Last year, global economic analyst Rana Foroohar left a mark on the campaign by blasting Trump’s trade policy agenda as “either a bad idea or impossible,” and ridiculing his proposal to pay off the national debt as “absolute fabulism.” Over the summer, correspondent Cristina Alesci and then-analyst Ali Velshi torched Trump’s economic fairness agenda, agreeing it seemed to be “designed for higher-income, more affluent families” rather than, as Trump had promised, middle-income Americans.
On the jobs front, just this morning chief business correspondent Christine Romans -- who makes her living calling out Trump’s lies about the economy -- mocked Trump for accepting the jobs data, saying, “There’s no conspiracy in the numbers when they belong to him.” In fact, less than an hour before Moore took Blitzer to the spin room, CNN viewers were treated to White House correspondent Jim Acosta calling out the Trump administration for “embracing” data that it “repeatedly raised doubts about” during the campaign. Contributor Nia-Malika Henderson added that Trump should “send President Obama some flowers” to thank him for leaving behind such a healthy economy.
Moore doesn't do anything to bolster CNN’s economic reporting; in fact, his “troubled relationship with the facts” diminishes the network. All he brings to CNN is his deft capacity to recycle right-wing media talking points that portray Obama in the harshest possible light.
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Fox Credits Trump With January Job Creation He Inherited From President Obama
Fox News gushed over the jobs report for January 2017, the last of former President Barack Obama’s presidency, calling it “fantastic news” but implicitly crediting Donald Trump, who wasn’t even in office when the data were collected, for the success by calling it the “first jobs report under President Trump.”
Fox News correspondent Heather Nauert praised the January jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the February 3 edition of Fox & Friends, referring to it as “the first jobs report under President Trump” and labeling it as “fantastic news.” Nauert praised the report for showing that 227,000 new jobs were created in January, which she described as “a lot more than expected.” Nauert failed to mention Barack Obama, who was still the president of the United States for most of January. She concluded the segment by reiterating that this is “great news on the jobs front this morning” and suggesting Trump “would call that huge.” From Fox & Friends:
Unfortunately for Fox’s pro-Trump narrative, the job creation in this report does not belong to his administration. University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee, a former chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, pointed out that the "reference week" for the latest jobs data ran through January 12, meaning the entire report predates the Trump administration by over a week. Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler, who runs the paper's fact-checking research, also noted that the report "still reflects the Obama administration.” Fox also neglected to mention that the report marks 76 consecutive months of job growth -- the longest on record -- for Obama.
The positive coverage of the report is a complete turnaround for Fox, which went to great lengths to portray strong jobs reports in a negative light during the Obama administration.
In February 2015, the economy added 257,000 new jobs, but Fox was concerned that the unemployment rate ticked up by 0.1 points -- the same increase the rate showed in today’s report. In October of that year, Fox & Friends stumbled through a news alert in which a host claimed the economy created “only 271,000 jobs … last month” even though that report, like the data released today, also beat expectations. Last January, Fox’s spin was to claim that 292,000 new jobs was “modest by historical standards,” though it was well over this month’s 227,000. And in April 2016 the network parsed the jobs data to conclude that a report showing 215,000 new jobs was unimpressive because 47,000 of those were allegedly low-quality retail positions -- yet Nauert made no such comment about the 46,000 retail jobs included in today’s report. As Election Day drew near, Fox & Friends falsely claimed that steady jobs data for October 2016 were “underwhelming” and spun the news as a boon for Trump’s presidential candidacy.
Media Matter’s predicted last month that Fox would retool its message on job growth to coincide with Trump’s presidency, arguing that the network’s “campaign of misinformation will likely come to a screeching halt next month.” Fox's spin on the jobs report this morning follows a consistent, deliberate, and predictable strategy of playing the role of Republican cheerleader and “propaganda machine.”
The Network Is Doubling Down On Its Failed Strategy Of Hosting Right-Wing Stooges In Place Of Actual Experts
CNN has reportedly poached discredited right-wing economic pundit Stephen Moore from Fox News. Moore spent years at Fox routinely spreading misinformation about the economy during the Obama administration and spent much of 2016 promoting Donald Trump's failed trickle-down policies while serving as his senior economic adviser. The decision to hire the notoriously incompetent Moore shows that the network remains invested in its failed strategy of giving airtime to partisan hacks instead of qualified experts.
According to a January 30 report from Business Insider, Moore described leaving Fox News as “a hard decision” but said that “CNN made a really good offer.” The report noted that Moore joins “other right-leaning journalists and contributors” recently hired by the network, which has been adding new conservative voices since Election Day. The decision to add Moore to its roster reveals CNN to be on a troubling trajectory because, even among professional political hacks and conservative pundits, Moore has distinguished himself for his particularly shoddy work.
Media Matters has extensively detailed Moore’s terrible track record as an economic analyst for over a decade. Moore has falsely claimed for years that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) forces workers into part-time jobs, he attempted to blame the housing crisis on Bill and Hillary Clinton, he promoted the lie that members of Congress and their staff are “exempt” from the ACA, he supported draconian budget cuts that hurt the economy, and he endorsed Republican attempts to block vital infrastructure spending.
During his tenure as the “chief economist” at the Heritage Foundation, Moore once exaggerated the actual cost estimate of providing unaccompanied minors with access to American public schools by an absurd 63 percent, claiming it would cost $1 billion a year. During a July 2014 dispute with Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, Moore was caught cherry-picking statistics for an op-ed published by The Kansas City Star to intentionally mislead readers about the relationship between tax cuts and job creation. (The newspaper eventually vowed to stop publishing Moore’s work, which had to be corrected by other outlets as well.)
The examples of Moore being clueless about even the basics of economic policy are legion. For instance, there was the February 19, 2014, interview with CNN in which host Carol Costello stopped Moore’s anti-minimum wage spin dead in its tracks:
Moore is so widely discredited that New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait once mocked him for being unable to “find a single true fact” to back up his support for repealing the ACA. Economist Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities chided Moore in a March 2015 column for his “fact-free” endorsement of anti-union “right-to-work” laws, and Krugman once speculated that Moore’s “incompetence is actually desirable” in conservative circles, because “a smart hack might turn honest.”
It is one thing for CNN to add a conservative perspective to its news coverage, but it is another thing entirely to grant more airtime to an incompetent serial misinformer like Steve Moore. CNN viewers are already forced to endure Trump sycophant Jeffrey Lord’s ignorant and bigoted commentary. Adding Moore to the network’s roster proves once again that CNN boss Jeff Zucker learned nothing from his organization’s humiliating relationship with irreconcilable Trump apologist Corey Lewandowski. Viewers deserve to hear analysis from qualified experts, not hacks who will eschew the facts to toe a predictable party line on every issue.
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In Fact, Report Shows SNAP Beneficiaries Have Similar Purchasing Habits To Non-SNAP Shoppers
A recent article in The New York Times grossly misinterpreted the findings of a government review of nationwide grocery purchases by participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as “food stamps.” The article incorrectly portrayed the study as showing that “a disproportionate amount of food stamp money is going toward unhealthful foods,” when in reality it showed that Americans across the board purchase similar items and that overall, everyone could be eating in healthier ways. The suggestion that SNAP recipients are somehow guilty of wasting money on frivolous food purchases is a tired right-wing media attack, and the Times’ sloppy handling of the recently released data is sure to embolden opponents of federal anti-poverty programs.
On November 18, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers the federal food security program, released a report analyzing purchases at “a leading grocery retailer” in 2011. A key finding in the data was that “food purchases, consumption patterns, and dietary outcomes among SNAP participants and higher income households are more similar than different.” Recipients of SNAP benefits spent slightly more of their grocery budget on meats and “sweetened beverages” (which include many juices and soft drinks) while non-SNAP households spent slightly more on vegetables and “high fat dairy” items. Overall, “differences in the expenditure patterns … were relatively limited” across all major grocery categories:
According to the USDA’s summary of its findings, households that receive SNAP benefits and households that do not receive benefits have similar consumption habits, including the habit of purchasing food items like “sweetened beverages,” “soft drinks,” “salty snacks,” and other junk foods that “may not be fully consistent with” preferred dietary guidelines. Indeed, according to the full November 2016 report, the seven most common grocery purchases of SNAP and non-SNAP consumers are virtually the same, with “soft drinks” ranking first for SNAP households and second for all other customers and “bag snacks” ranking fourth for SNAP households and fifth for others:
However, The New York Times published a headline that seems to condemn low-income Americans for buying soft drinks -- “In the Shopping Cart of a Food Stamp Household: Lots of Soda” -- and its piece noted that advocates of healthy living “have called for restrictions so that food stamps cannot be used to buy junk food or sugary soft drinks.”
Rebecca Vallas and Katherine Gallagher Robbins of the Center for American Progress slammed the article in a blog for Talk Poverty, noting that the misleading article was accompanied by an image “of a grocery cart overflowing with 2-liter bottles of soft drinks and a store aisle that is nothing but a wall of soda.”
Talk Poverty cited several examples of research refuting the Times’ stance along with experts who “took to social media to highlight the study’s actual findings”:
Aside from missing the point of the USDA study, the Times’ report has several other issues. From the outset, the article defines SNAP as a “$74 billion food stamp program,” which makes the program sound extremely large even though it actually comprises a relatively small piece of the $3.6 trillion federal dollars spent in 2011. Reporting incomprehensible raw numbers in this way is not informative, it’s a scare tactic, and The New York Times publicly committed in October 2013 to improving its reporting on exactly this issue.
Furthermore, by promoting the misleading premise that SNAP users are wasting tax dollars on junk food, the Times provided ammunition to political interests set on destroying the program. Right-wing media outlets have spent years demonizing SNAP and other food assistance programs based on the premise that these outlets know better than the recipients themselves what the latter should be eating. This misinformation campaign has already impacted public policy, spurring Republican lawmakers in several states and in Congress to pursue unnecessary restrictions that hurt working families.
Finally, buried in the eighth paragraph of the Times piece, the paper quotes a USDA spokesperson who points out that the question “Are we consuming too many sweetened beverages, period?” can be applied to “all households,” not just SNAP recipients.
Even after admitting 15 paragraphs down that “food stamp recipients and other households generally made similar purchases,” the Times pivoted back to claiming the data are “deeply troubling” to public health experts focused on the pervasiveness of a sugar-rich diet on obesity. The Times quoted obesity expert Dr. David Ludwig, who called for restrictions against using SNAP on food items “that are demonstrably going to undermine public health.” The article chose not to cite an April 2014 report by public health experts affiliated with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which found that childhood access to food stamps in their current form actually already contributes to “a significant reduction” in obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes later in life.
If the Times wanted to tackle the problems created by the traditional American junk food diet, the paper could have followed the example set by comedian and Last Week Tonight host John Oliver, whose excellent October 25, 2014, takedown of the sugar industry addressed the issue without targeting a single low-income family.
**CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this post questioned the Times' inclusion of New York University professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health Marion Nestle's claim that SNAP expenditures on soft drinks are "a multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidy of the soda industry." Media Matters cited a November 2016 USDA report which indicated that the amount of SNAP funds going toward soft drink purchases equaled $357.7 million, not billions of dollars. Dr. Nestle's office reached out following the publication of this piece to contend that if the $357.7 million figure in the USDA report, which was based off figures provided by a "leading grocery retailer" in 2011, was representative of nationwide SNAP use, total expenses on soft drinks would amount to roughly $3.8 billion annually. We have removed reference to Nestle's comments in response to her office's feedback.
With that said, Media Matters stands by its conclusion that the article poorly informed readers about the nutrition assistance program and may have misled readers into believing soft drink consumption levels among SNAP recipients are uniquely inflated by the program -- a conclusion shared by The New York Times' public editor, who argued that the article "didn't do much to advance the discussion."
General Motors (GM) announced a $1 billion investment in US jobs and factories that it stressed at the time was “part of the normal process” and had “been planned for months.” Nonetheless, several major media outlets gave credit to Trump in either their headlines or first few paragraphs, downplaying that the decision was previously planned. Many pro-Trump outlets earlier did the same or framed the decision entirely as a Trump-influenced effort, some by referencing a tweet Trump wrote in early January in which he threatened a “big border tax” if GM sells Mexican-made cars in the United States.
President-elect Donald Trump dodged a question during his January 11 press conference about how he plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and whether or not the replacement plan would insure as many people, but he did indicate the attack on health care reform will be led by his nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Rep. Tom Price (R-GA). In light of Trump’s delegation to Price, the media must do a better job of scrutinizing the devastating consequences of Price’s proposals than they have in the past
A Media Matters study of pre-election coverage found that prime-time cable and broadcast news failed to ask substantive questions about what Trump’s replacement for the ACA would look like. This cannot be the standard going forward.
On January 11, Trump held his first press conference in nearly six months and took questions on a variety of issues. A reporter asked Trump a two-part question about the future of Obamacare, first, asking for specifics on the timeline for the repeal and replacement of the ACA, and second, questioning whether or not Trump’s replacement would “guarantee coverage” for those who gained insurance under health care reform. During his three-minute answer, Trump provided no specifics on what policies the replacement package might include and dodged the question of whether or not it would maintain current levels of insurance coverage, instead insisting:
DONALD TRUMP: We're going to be submitting as soon as our secretary is approved, almost simultaneously, shortly thereafter, a plan. It‘ll be repeal and replace. It will be essentially simultaneously.
Trump’s answer, while not containing any policy specifics, did reveal two key things about the upcoming ACA fight.
First, Trump’s reluctance to answer whether or not his replacement will cover as many individuals as the ACA does is a trend, not an anomaly. As Vox senior editor Sarah Kliff and other reporters have noted, Republicans continue to dodge and obfuscate when pressed for details on how their ACA replacement will maintain the coverage expansions achieved since 2010. According to a December 15 article in The New York Times, a Republican congressional aide promised that the GOP plans would guarantee “universal access” of health care and coverage but provided no details about how this would improve on existing law.
Second, Trump’s claim that his administration would submit a plan “as soon as [his] secretary is approved,” seems to indicate that his replacement package would closely resemble the legislation authored by his HHS nominee, Tom Price. Price’s bill, the “Empowering Patients First Act,” is the most developed health care replacement of all the Republican plans. (After dozens of symbolic votes to repeal the ACA and six years of campaigning against the law, Price is the only congressional Republican to actually put a replacement plan together in legislative language.)
Price’s plan would gut access to health insurance in the U.S. and eliminate the essential health benefits package -- allowing insurers to determine whether or not things like maternity care should be covered. This dismantling of health care reform would benefit younger, healthier individuals while sending costs skyrocketing for older or sicker individuals. The plan would reinstate high-risk pools, endangering health care access for individuals with pre-existing conditions an ACA provision conservatives claim to want to preserve. Price’s bill would also rescind the ACA’s Medicaid expansion entirely and convert the program to a block grant, blocking access to care for many low-income communities. Additionally, as the HHS secretary, Price could unilaterally reverse the contraception mandate, a benefit he has dismissed because he claims he has yet to meet “one woman” who had trouble accessing birth control before the ACA. If enacted, Price’s “Empowering Patients First Act” would roll back the gains the Affordable Care Act has achieved, leaving millions more Americans uninsured -- as would most of the variants of “Trumpcare.”
Given that the incoming president suggested during his press conference that he will leave stewardship of repealing and replacing the ACA to his HHS secretary, journalists need to actively scrutinize Price’s record and his proposals for the future of American health care.
During the January 11 press conference, reporters asked just one question about the ACA, with zero attempts at a follow up, despite the fact that Trump functionally avoided the original question. The initial reporting on Price’s nomination whitewashed his history of opposition to reproductive health care, and largely failed to contextualize the potential impact of his proposed policies on the American health care system. Since Trump hinted at the major role Price might play in the upcoming ACA fight, it is incumbent on reporters to step up beyond their pre-election coverage and take the current job of vetting Price seriously, making clear the disastrous effects his proposals could have on the American health care system.
Will Right-Wing Media’s Campaign To Destroy The Consumer Watchdog Succeed Under Trump?
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined Republican senators in urging the president-elect to fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray, for “a menu of reasons” ranging from the agency’s crackdown on racial prejudice in auto loans to the cost of building renovations.
The CFPB was set up in the wake of the financial crisis as part of a new regulatory network constructed by the Dodd-Frank Act and has been a target of conservative media misinformation ever since, most of which has focused on the agency’s supposed overreach in protecting American consumers from predatory corporate behavior. The Journal’s editorial on January 9 calling on Donald Trump to fire Cordray “for cause” after Trump assumes the presidency followed calls for Cordray’s termination by Republican Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). Among the reasons the Journal claimed as justification for Cordray’s termination was the CFPB’s allegedly poor handling of anti-discrimination regulations, its supposed failure to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and reports of racial and gender discrimination from CFPB employees. From The Wall Street Journal:
Meantime, Mr. Trump should fire Mr. Cordray for cause, and the President-elect has a menu of reasons. Take a CFPB auto-loan campaign, which involved guessing the race of a borrower by his last name, and then suing banks that seemed to offer better deals to people the government assumed are white. A House Financial Services Committee report detailed how Mr. Cordray and senior officers knew their statistical method was “prone to significant error” but hid that reality from the public.
Mr. Cordray’s bureau routinely fails to show the reasoning behind its rules. In December the Cause of Action Institute filed a lawsuit against CFPB for refusing to produce more than 1,800 pages of documents on how the agency came up with a regulation on arbitration. Such disclosures are required by the Freedom of Information Act.
An investigation of CFPB employment practices by the Government Accountability Office found that a quarter of black, Asian and female respondents reported that they had been discriminated against. About 10% claimed to have personally observed retaliation against another employee. The bureau neglected to fulfill seven Inspector General recommendations in this area. Mr. Cordray also stood by while a CFPB office renovation notched more than $100 million in cost overruns.
The Journal’s supposed evidence that the CFPB is a “lawless and unprofessional agency [that] deserves a dose of political accountability” does not hold up to scrutiny.
The Journal has attacked the CFPB before for standing up to discrimination in auto lending after the agency drafted new guidance on interest rate markups and facilitated compensation for American consumers who had been the targets of discrimination. In November 2015, the Center for Responsible Lending concluded that the CFPB’s regulatory changes had the added benefit of saving all consumers money. The Journal's complaint that CFPB is not forthcoming enough with FOIA requests specifically cites a lawsuit from Cause of Action, a Koch-funded front group. The editorial’s allegation of rampant discrimination at the agency also ignored that it was the CFPB that initiated a self-assessment of its employee evaluations, as part of the “standards for equal employment opportunity” mandated by Dodd-Frank, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report alluded to by the Journal actually found that the agency “has worked to strengthen personnel management practices and enhance its diversity and inclusion efforts.” Even the Journal’s accusation of mismanagement and cost overruns in the agency’s office renovation falls flat: The Federal Reserve Inspector General found that “construction costs appear reasonable” and that the agency’s building “costs are below the amount previously budgeted.”
While the editorial attacked the CFPB, and Cordray, for problems that the agency took steps to fix years ago, it completely ignored the agency’s successes. According to a December 2, 2015, article in The New York Times, the CFPB has “seized upon its mission” to rein in abuses in financial services under Cordray, including cracking down on predatory for-profit colleges, arranging forgiveness of $480 million of student loans, and ordering the reimbursement of nearly $700 million to Citigroup customers swindled by illegal credit charges. Since its inception, the agency had “provided for $11 billion in relief for over 25 million customers,” according to the Times.
The demands for Cordray’s termination mark the culmination of a years-long conservative campaign to undermine the agency. As New York magazine pointed out in a December 29 article, Cordray will be “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” left after Republicans assume control of the federal government, and for conservatives, “Cordray’s success at enacting new regulations is a bug, not a feature.”
In a transparent play to give the website a veneer of credibility, Breitbart.com has hired Wall Street Journal reporter John Carney to head up its new finance and economics section.
Carney will “manage a roster of news contributors that includes former CNBC personality Larry Kudlow” for the Breitbart vertical when it launches following Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green reported.
Breitbart is currently defined by its bigoted content and popularity among the white nationalist and misogynist “alt-right.” Progressive activists have successfully urged the platform’s blue-chip advertisers to abandon it.
Breitbart is ascendant in the political sphere; the candidate the site championed is on his way to the White House, accompanied by the outlet’s chairman, Stephen Bannon. But Breitbart’s position in the cultural sphere is waning due to scrutiny of its work. Its leadership wants to change the site’s narrative -- because, as Andrew Breitbart himself often warned, “politics is downstream from culture.”
Over the past few years, Breitbart’s reach has expanded in two ways. The site has launched verticals that cover national security, technology, and sports (frequently with a heavy reliance on aggregation and wire service copy) in an effort to convince the members of its hard-right American audience to get their news about those subjects within the same ecosystem where they read about politics.
And it has sought to expand its audiences in particular geographic areas by launching sections focused on California, Texas, the United Kingdom, Israel, and soon, Germany and France.
The launch of the new financial and economic vertical sounds like a little bit of both.
Breitbart has covered finance and economics in the past, but not with any real dedication or rigor; the website wants its audience to stay with it for that news, rather than going elsewhere.
But Breitbart also seems to be seeking a new audience with the move: Wall Street professionals who are high value for advertisers but currently don’t get much from the website other than an association with the “alt-right.”
That’s where Carney comes in.
According to Green, Carney “writes about finance with a populist bent that often mirrors Breitbart’s outlook on politics.” He certainly seems on board with the Breitbart mission, telling Green that the section will promote “the economics of making America great again.”
But he is also a professional journalist, with the Journal, Business Insider, and CNBC on his resume along with clips from other major publications. That makes him a dramatic departure from the editors the website has previously chosen to launch its new sections, a motley melange of conservative political operatives, conspiracy theorists, and fringe writers, often with a prior relationship with the website.
Wall Street leaders who have worked with Carney in the past will likely continue to take his calls. Other mainstream journalists may be more willing to entertain offers from Breitbart now that they know Carney is helming part of the site.
If that strategy holds, Breitbart may be able to generate enough independent reporting and scoops to attract that Wall Street audience. And with that audience comes more traffic and more advertising.
While Carney suggests that the section will “hold [Trump] accountable,” Kudlow’s presence on the staff gives the game away. The longtime right-wing media personality lavished praise on Trump’s economic plans -- which he helped author -- during the presidential campaign. Trump has reportedly considered naming him to head the Council of Economic Advisors.
Together, Carney and Kudlow will put a veneer of credibility over the same old Trump sycophancy.
Right-wing media outlets ran with Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma’s claim that Alibaba would “create 1 million U.S. jobs” in the US by allowing the sale of American goods to China on their platform. While right-wing media outlets cite Alibaba’s dubious statement as a victory for President-elect Donald Trump, the company’s vague plan relies on claims of indirect job growth.
Will The Network Continue Its Nitpicking Misinformation Campaign After Trump Takes Office?
Today marked the release of the final monthly jobs report during President Obama’s time in office, and Fox News wasted no time in spinning the document, which showed consistent job gains, new workforce entries, and sizable year-to-year wage increases, by claiming that it’s “not a great picture of the employment situation.” The network has exploited the monthly jobs report to attack the president since he took office in January 2009, but its campaign of misinformation will likely come to a screeching halt next month.
On the first Friday of every month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases its monthly employment situation summary detailing key indicators of the national labor market from the previous month. The report for December 2016 showed another month of consistent performance from the American economy, with 156,000 new jobs created, a 2.9 percent increase in hourly wages over the previous year, and the unemployment rate remaining “little changed” at 4.7 percent. The December jobs figure came in below some economic forecasts, but the miss was offset by major upward revisions to jobs estimates in October and November. Meanwhile, the slight 0.1-point increase in the unemployment rate was driven mostly by an influx of job seekers entering the labor market last month. According to The Wall Street Journal, December marked the 75th consecutive month of job growth -- the longest streak on record.
On CNN’s New Day, chief business correspondent Christine Romans outlined the details of what she called “a solid finish to the year.” Romans said the economy created roughly 2.2 million jobs in 2016 and stressed that “altogether for the Obama presidency, it’s a net 11 million new jobs” even though he inherited the Great Recession and took office in a year when “5 million jobs just disappeared”:
Investment analyst and Bloomberg View columnist Conor Sen argued that the December report “is about as strong of a jobs print as we can get at this point in the cycle.” University of Michigan economist and New York Times columnist Justin Wolfers compared the economy to “the little engine that could,” arguing that after accounting for prevailing economic trends, the December report was “good news.” New York Times senior economic correspondent Neil Irwin noted that the 2.9 percent average hourly wage increase “is the highest of this expansion,” concluding, “Boom.” Economist Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute wrote in a January 6 blog post, “All told, it’s clear that the next president is inheriting an economy much stronger than it was at the start of the previous administration,” a sentiment echoed by MSNBC’s Steve Benen, who said the report stands as yet more evidence that “the president is handing off a healthy economy to his successor (who spent 2016 telling voters the economy is terrible).”
The generally positive outlook on the economy portrayed by these journalists, economists, and other experts was once again absent at Fox News, which painted the report as another example of the president’s failing policies.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney slammed the report all morning on Varney & Co., and he invited several guests to claim that the report was proof of a sputtering and “sick” economy. Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade lamented the report as “not a great picture of the employment situation in the country,” ignoring all its positive indicators, while guest and Trump apologist Jeanine Pirro slammed the Obama administration for its supposed failure to advance the economic interests of African-Americans. (Many observers had noted that the December report actually showed the unemployment rate for African-Americans falling to its lowest point since August 2007.) From the January 6 edition of Fox & Friends: