Fox Host defends Ben Carson's claim that poverty is a "state of mind," citing "tough love ... in the animal kingdom"
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While many conservative media voices have been cheering President Donald Trump’s proposed budget that would cut billions in vital programs for the impoverished and disadvantaged, experts and reporters who focus on one of the most far-reaching programs -- Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) -- say its proposed elimination would impact more citizens than most.
The 42-year-old program, enacted by the Ford administration as a program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provides some $3 billion for local communities to use for everything from senior centers to housing and road construction to drug treatment, say experts.
And when the cuts were first proposed in March, reporters who cover such programs contended that claims of waste and corruption in the funding are misleading.
“They just think it's government waste, that these are slush funds of local officials and particularly that they were funneled to special projects,” Liz Farmer, public finance writer for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., said of critics. “But the block grants hit everybody, particularly needy populations because that is what local governments tend to want to spend the money on.”
Since Trump’s budget blueprint was revealed on March 16, many conservative commentators have cheered the spending plan for its efforts to cut programs from climate research to public broadcasting.
Several have also taken on the CDBG program specifically. Among them is Reason magazine’s Scott Shackford, who wrote, “The CDBG program is chock full of cronyism and corruption and should be eliminated. Much like the corrupt city redevelopment agencies, what actually ends up happening is that this money gets funneled by politicians to friends with connections for various projects that aren't really about helping the poor at all.”
But those who rely on the funding, and others who report on it, say such claims are unfounded and the program actually helps more people in more places than many other federal funding sources do.
“In Philly, they help residents who are facing foreclosure to keep their houses, foreclosure assistance, and for homeowners who are low-income and own their houses, they help with repairs of those houses,” Aubrey Whelan, a local government and community services reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer, said when the cuts were initially revealed. “It is a lot for commercial development, aid to small businesses.”
She said Philadelphia alone receives about $39 million in CDBG funds, with much of it going to affordable housing and providing assistance to small businesses in hard-hit low-income neighborhoods.
“City officials said it would wholesale eliminate programs, not just have them operating at a limited capacity,” said Whelan. “It’s something that people are pretty concerned about here. It affects a lot of different people.”
Whelan, Farmer, and other journalists we spoke with when the CDBG elimination was first proposed said they find little to no problems in CDBG management, contrary to claims found in conservative media.
Most said the real story is how the cutbacks would hurt the most needy in many of their communities.
“Palm Beach County has been using this funding to address underserved areas, to tackle homelessness and for vulnerable groups,” said Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, FL. “If those funds are going to be cut, you are going to have some local officials who are not going to be very happy.”
Swisher, who covers the county that is home to Trump’s Mar-A-Lago club, said the county receives about $5.8 million in CDBG funds each year, which has helped with abandoned building demolition, code enforcement, water and sewer improvements, and a homeless shelter's operation. It has also supported transitional housing for those impacted by domestic violence.
He also pointed out that the proposed cuts would come while Trump costs the county $60,000 per day in overtime for police officers every time he visits, according to the county sheriff’s office.
“The biggest beneficiaries are some of the most low-income communities of Palm Beach County,” Swisher said of the grants.
Another place that would feel the pain is El Paso, TX, which receives about $6 million in CDBG funds, according to Veronica Soto, the city’s director of community and human development.
“We use the bulk of the money to do investments, reinvestments into low-income neighborhoods,” Soto said earlier this year. “We have funded improvements to parks in lower and moderate income areas, we have senior centers, we have done curb cuts, sidewalk gaps. It would mean those projects would not move forward. Because a lot of our money goes to parks, the kids would be impacted.”
She said the Trump budget cuts would also mean cutting 33 city jobs, nine in her department.
“I would have to lay myself off,” Soto said. “Seventy-five percent of my salary is from grants.”
Kevin Howard, manager of the community development division for Little Rock, AR, said the cuts would affect about 10,000 people in his community.
“The citizens benefit from this in different ways,” he said. “We do a lot of homeowner-occupied rehabs and public service grants for health services, meals on wheels, and private wheelchair ramps for senior citizens.”
Asked about claims by some in the media that these programs are wasteful or mismanaged, he replied: “These are not handouts; these are people who cannot do it themselves. I have never seen any corruption or mismanagement.”
Roland Garton, president of The Grant Helpers of Champagne, IL, a grant writing consulting firm that aids local communities in filing for such grants, said CDBG cuts would hurt the neediest.
“Since they tend to target low-income groups, those would be the hardest hit,” Garton said. “This is money that big cities and small cities both have access to. There are a lot of programs that focus on one or the other. But these have broad applications to all cities. The hits would be broad. States that are weak economically would be hardest hit.”
The proposed cuts have also been criticized by the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Republican Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. He issued a statement in March condemning the proposed cuts:
“Community Development Block Grants are the only federal funding source that gives city leaders some discretion in how the money is spent, and mayors have used them to leverage private investment, create affordable housing, spur economic development, rebuild infrastructure and provide services that strengthen metro areas. America’s mayors will continue to work with our many champions in both the House and Senate to ensure that critically-needed tools like CDBG funds and the HOME Investment Partnership are fully funded.”
The number of food stamp recipients is roughly equal to the number of people living in poverty, far below number who qualify for assistance
Fox News contributors and hosts defended President Donald Trump’s draconian budget request for fiscal year 2018 by coalescing around a talking point also voiced by the White House that spending cuts for nutrition assistance programs are justified because of their gut feeling that too many people are using them. In the real world, the number of food stamp recipients is roughly equal to the number of Americans living in poverty, which has remained elevated since the last recession ended.
During a May 23 press conference discussing Trump’s budget request, NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander asked Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to defend the president’s decision to cut programs like Social Security and Medicaid that he had promised to protect during the campaign. Mulvaney falsely claimed that no person who “really needs” assistance will be removed from the programs, and turned to Trump’s proposed new restrictions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as “food stamps,” as an example. Mulvaney noted that the number of SNAP recipients “spiked during the recession” to over 42 million and complained that it remains high today “eight years removed from the end of the recession.” Mulvaney ended his remark by wondering “why is the number still that high?”:
Mulvaney’s unfounded gut feeling that the number of people receiving SNAP benefits is too high was endlessly reiterated by Fox News and Fox Business personalities who have a long track record of attacking the program. On the May 22 edition of America’s News Headquarters, contributor Mercedes Schlapp bemoaned the so-called “entitlement mentality” of Americans who might oppose unnecessary cuts to food assistance. Later that day, on Your World with Neil Cavuto, host Cavuto complained the number of SNAP recipients has “ballooned to over 44 million today” (it’s actually 42 million), baselessly suggesting it was “not sustainable,” while conservative columnist Carrie Sheffield falsely claimed that federal food assistance has “crowded out the private sector.”
Fox returned to the complaint on May 23, dedicating time on Fox Business’ Cavuto: Coast to Coast and Risk & Reward to the same talking point that 44 million SNAP recipients seemed like too many and therefore the program must be cut. On Making Money with Charles Payne, host Payne and guest Liz Peek falsely argued that food assistance programs are meant only to be “emergency programs” while lamenting the number of users. During that day’s edition of Your World, Cavuto returned again to his complaint about the number of people enrolled in SNAP, remarking that if 44 million Americans are really in need of food assistance “we’re Mozambique, we’re not America.” Moments later, Cavuto was joined by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who defended adding new restrictions to food assistance programs and agreed with Cavuto’s characterization that there is no way so many people truly qualify for assistance.
Contrary to this misleading characterization, the number of SNAP recipients is actually lower than the number of people who qualify for the program and is roughly equal to the number of people living in poverty (see graph below). One would expect the number of SNAP beneficiaries to largely mirror the number of Americans living in poverty because the program is available, with some restrictions, for individuals earning up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level.
For much of the program’s history, the number of people who actually participated in the federal food assistance program was far less than the number who struggled with poverty and the number who potentially qualified for assistance. That began to change during the Bush and Obama administrations, when technological improvements and a bipartisan effort to tackle stigma helped get more deserving families and individuals enrolled in the program. Rates of waste, fraud, and abuse in the system have actually fallen as participation increased and, according to a November 2016 report from the Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, the gap between the number of Americans who qualify for assistance and the number who receive it has been narrowing for years:
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Trump promised not to touch Social Security during the campaign, but some reporters reframed that broken promise for him
A number of usually reliable reporters were duped by White House spin that President Donald Trump’s draconian budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 to slash spending for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was not a violation of his major campaign pledge to protect Social Security from cuts.
During his June 16, 2015, announcement to run for president, Trump clearly and unequivocally promised that if he was elected, he would “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.” Trump’s campaign declaration fit previous statements he made in the run-up to his announcement, wherein he claimed he was “the only [Republican] who won’t cut Social Security” and stated “I am going to save Social Security without any cuts.” Trump even hit then-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for copying his call to safeguard Social Security with “no cuts” and later reiterated his promise to “save” the program while attacking former presidential candidate and current member of Trump’s cabinet Ben Carson:
Ben Carson wants to abolish Medicare - I want to save it and Social Security.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 26, 2015
After Trump’s repeated statements that he would not cut Social Security, the White House’s decision to include significant cuts to SSDI in its 2018 budget request represents a broken campaign promise. Some journalists -- including Washington Post reporter Philip Bump, Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, and NBC News reporter Benjy Sarlin -- caught on to what was actually being proposed, and Vox’s Dylan Matthews stated that these cuts clearly break “a crucial campaign promise.” Yet, despite this, several other journalists fell for the White House’s misleading spin.
In the midst of an otherwise brutal recap of Trump’s budget, HuffPost reporter Arthur Delaney claimed “the document mostly honors Trump’s unorthodox campaign promise not to cut Social Security or Medicare” before actually quoting Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, as he expounded on proposed cuts to “disability insurance.”* In her write-up of the budget that detailed the profound impact it will have on low-income communities, New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor noted that Trump “would cut access to disability payments through Social Security” but casually added “the main function of Social Security — retirement income — would flow unimpeded.” New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis included similar misleading language in her report on the budget, arguing, “The blueprint also steers clear of changing Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare” and promoting the administration’s claim that Trump’s promise to protect “retirement” was intact.
Washington Post reporters Damian Paletta and Robert Costa also fell for the White House’s misdirection gambit, writing of the president’s campaign rhetoric: “Trump insisted that they could not cut retirement benefits for Social Security.” NPR reporter Scott Horsley also detailed the “significant cuts to social safety net programs” while promoting the Trump administration’s spin that the campaign promise was merely to “preserve” the “Social Security retirement program.” Axios reporter Jonathan Swan managed to write a review of Trump’s budget that committed both sins; first claiming that the Trump budget fulfilled “his campaign promise” not to touch Social Security and later claiming that it merely would not affect retirees**:
ORIGINAL: President Trump's 2018 budget proposal on Tuesday won't reform Social Security or Medicare — in line with his campaign promise — but it will make serious cuts to other entitlement programs. A source with direct knowledge tells me the Trump budget will save $1.7 trillion on the mandatory side over the next ten years.
CURRENT: President Trump's 2018 budget proposal on Tuesday won't cut Social Security payments to retirees or Medicare, but it will make serious cuts to other entitlement programs. A source with direct knowledge tells me the Trump budget will save $1.7 trillion on the mandatory side over the next ten years.
*The HuffPost report was corrected after pressure from readers and disability advocates to include the word “mostly.” The original post did not include that conditional language and incorrectly stated “the document honors Trump’s unorthodox campaign promise not to cut Social Security or Medicare.”
**The Axios report was changed after its initial publication but no editor’s note or correction was added to indicate the revision. Media Matters had criticized the original language of the article in a May 22 blog.
Budget proposal will include deep cuts to Medicaid and Social Security, programs Trump promised to protect during campaign
Multiple news outlets have reported on the harsh human toll of President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, which is expected to gut programs that guarantee basic living standards, including parts of Medicaid and Social Security. These cuts directly contradict Trump’s promise to save the programs “without cuts.”
The White House first hinted at slashing programs that help working- and middle-class Americans on February 26 when, according to Bloomberg, Trump floated proposals to increase defense spending by 10 percent while cutting programs including assistance for low-income Americans while still promising not to touch Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The White House claimed these drastic cuts would help spur economic growth, an absurd claim that was resoundingly ridiculed by economists as “deep voodoo” and “wholly unrealistic.” The administration’s initial budgetary proposals were so drastic and poorly thought out that they stunned many observers and experts. The White House even advocated cutting assistance to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which would be particularly harmful to “small-town America,” and Meals on Wheels, which “doesn’t make economic sense” and would cruelly deny millions of elderly Americans basic companionship and a hot meal.
On May 21, The Washington Post reported that the White House will unveil a formal federal budget proposal that goes even further than the administration’s earlier indications by proposing “massive cuts to Medicaid” and other anti-poverty public assistance programs. On May 22, Axios reported that the president plans to cut $1.7 trillion over 10 years from federal assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which collectively serve tens of millions of people. (Axios incorrectly stated that Trump’s budget plan “won’t reform Social Security or Medicare,” before outlining Trump’s plan to cut SSDI and incorporate massive Medicaid restrictions that would become law if his Obamacare repeal plan is ever enacted.)
As details of Trump’s budget plan continued to leak, some media outlets explained the devastating consequences for millions of Americans if the White House gets its way and these drastic cuts take effect. They also explained that Trump’s embrace of deep cuts to components of Medicaid and Social Security represent a betrayal of his promises from the campaign.
CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans explained on the May 22 edition of CNN Newsroom that much of the money being cut from mandatory spending would come from Medicaid, which could see up to a 25 percent reduction in federal funding, pushing the financial burden onto the states and kicking 14 million people off their health insurance programs. Romans mentioned that protecting Medicaid is one of many campaign promises from Trump “that are turning out not to be true.”
On the May 22 edition of MSNBC Live, host Chris Jansing went even further in breaking down the human toll of Trump’s budget cuts with NBC News senior editor Beth Fouhy and New York Times national reporter Yamiche Alcindor. The show aired part of an interview with a mother of two young children, who told Fouhy that if these cuts are enacted, the costs of care for her child with cerebral palsy will bankrupt her. Then they showed a clip of Trump on the campaign trail proclaiming that he would “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.” Alcindor discussed a report she wrote for the Times earlier this month about the human costs of budget cuts that would lead eliminate programs that help provide small communities with access to clean drinking water, drug rehabilitation centers, and jobs programs:
Right-Wing Media Push Absurd Idea That The Uninsured Can Just Go To The E.R.
Right-wing media attempted to pacify the millions of Americans who would lose their health insurance coverage if the American Health Care Act (AHCA) becomes law with the absurd notion that people do not need insurance to receive access to health care via the emergency room. In reality, laws requiring hospitals to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay apply only to emergency care to stabilize a patient; they do not constitute a mandate to provide all of a patient’s routine health care needs.
Right-wing media have attempted to defend Republicans in the House of Representatives who voted for the AHCA -- a previous version of which was expected to strip health insurance coverage from up to 24 million Americans -- by pushing the misleading idea that those without medical coverage can just go to the emergency room. On the May 7 edition of Fox Broadcasting’s Fox News Sunday, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich dismissed late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s heartfelt plea that no child should go without health care on account of their family’s finances, denouncing what he called the “mythology of the left” and claiming hospitals will treat a sick person regardless of their ability to pay. On the May 8 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now, The Blaze’s Lawrence Jones pushed the same narrative that those without health insurance can access care at emergency rooms when he attempted to defend Rep. Raul Labrador’s (R-ID) comments at a town hall that “nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.” This narrative even made it’s way onto the May 9 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where host Joe Scarborough claimed that “we already have universal health care coverage; the problem is that so much of it is driven by emergency room visits.”
Hospital emergency rooms have been required to provide care for the uninsured since the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) was enacted in 1986, but the provider is required only to “stabilize a patient within its capacity.” EMTALA does not mandate that a hospital provide full medical treatments to an uninsured patient, only that “patients receive appropriate emergency care.” Aaron Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, explained in a blog post that EMTALA requires only treatment of an emergency situation, not provision of the regular life-saving treatment necessary for many illnesses, such as diabetes:
Over 25 million people in the United States have diabetes, requiring regular access to medication to stay alive. They can’t get insulin in an emergency room. They can’t get needed eye exams or kidney function tests in the emergency room. They can’t get a checkup in the emergency room. But once they go into hypoglycemic shock or once their feet become gangrenous, then they can get examined and treated. Does that sound like access to health care?
Emergency rooms are designed to treat emergencies, not provide care for all health conditions, and they are a costly alternative to seeking treatment at a doctor’s office for a minor illness or injury. Since the passage of Affordable Care Act (ACA), more low-income Americans have had access to health insurance and, with it, regular preventative services. In fact, states that accepted the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid found new enrollees took advantage of this new access and were 62.9 percent more likely to visit a general care physician. Low-income Americans are now less likely to face crushing medical debt thanks in part to not having to bear the uninsured cost of emergency room visits and catastrophic care, which was the case for millions of Americans before the ACA became law. Dismantling the ACA, as columnist Michael Hiltzik explained in the Los Angeles Times, would put millions at risk of losing access to care and possibly facing medical bankruptcy once again.
During the May 8 edition of ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel responded directly to Gingrich’s absurd emergency room claims by explaining that emergency care is often just one part of a patient’s treatment. Kimmel noted that his son has had “a dozen doctors appointments” since his initial emergency, along with numerous ancillary costs associated with his treatments, which “Newt forgot to mention.” The back-and-forth between Gingrich and Kimmel became a story unto itself, and it was the subject of a panel segment on the May 9 edition of CNN’s New Day, in which co-host Chris Cuomo reiterated that an emergency room is not the appropriate place to treat all of a person’s health care needs:
Moore: Medicaid Cuts Were “Central To Our Plan All Along,” Contrary To Trump’s Public Statements
Discredited right-wing economic pundit and former Trump campaign economic adviser Stephen Moore accidentally let slip that gutting the Medicaid program “was central” to President Donald Trump’s plan to repeal Obamacare, despite the president’s repeated assertions that he would not touch the program. The statement corroborates admissions Moore made at a private event last July, when he claimed that Trump would fund massive tax cuts and reckless spending by dismantling programs that provide basic living standards for millions of Americans.
During the May 8 edition of CNN Newsroom, Moore -- CNN’s “senior economics analyst” -- was joined by University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee to discuss the merits of billionaire businessman and philanthropist Warren Buffett’s argument that the Trump health care agenda amounts to little more than a tax cut for the rich funded by cuts to health care subsidies for low-income Americans. Goolsbee pointed out that Trump’s health care legislation “cuts taxes for high-income people by hundreds of billions of dollars” at the expense of Medicare and Medicaid, which Trump promised “he would never cut.” Moore interjected falsely: “He never said that we weren’t going to reform Medicaid,” arguing, “That was central to our plan all along”:
Moore’s claim was debunked on air by co-hosts John Berman and Poppy Harlow, as well as Goolsbee, who cited Trump’s tweets and public statements as proof that he had broken his promise to protect Medicaid. Reporters who tuned in for the performance also noted Moore’s false statement. Moore accepted Berman’s correction before quickly pivoting to talking points extolling the virtues of converting Medicaid to block grants, which would also amount to a massive benefit cut for recipients.
Moore’s secondary claim that gutting Medicaid was “central to our plan all along” drew little notice from the fact-checkers, but it sheds light on Trump’s real agenda. According to a September 7 article from HuffPost political reporter Christina Wilkie, Moore had outlined Trump’s often contradictory economic plans during a “question-and-answer session” at a private July 14 meeting of the conservative Council for National Policy (CNP) in Cleveland, OH. During the event, Moore suggested that Trump planned to pay for his costly economic agenda by removing supposedly onerous public protections imposed by the federal government and enacting “draconian public assistance reforms and cuts in social services.” Since taking office, Trump has proposed a budget and health care agenda that would fulfill those promises. As the article noted, Moore’s zeal for tearing down anti-poverty programs, including Medicaid, seems to undermine Trump’s claim that he would focus on “looking out for the downtrodden.” It also confirms that imposing this harsh agenda -- and lying about it -- was indeed “central to” the Trump team’s economic plan “all along.”
Fact Check: A Historic Number of Activists Have Taken To The Streets To Protest The Trump Regime
New York Times White House correspondent Michael Shear claimed during the May 5 edition of CNN’s Inside Politics that there hasn’t been “the [same] kind of intense activism on the Democratic side” against President Donald Trump and his administration as there was “instantly in the Tea Party revolt” against former President Barack Obama.
Shear must not have been paying attention, because he couldn’t be more wrong about the scope of activism against Trump. Here are some numbers for Mr. Shear:
On Trump’s first day in office, an estimated 3.2 to 5.2 million people marched in the Women’s March across the United States and even more people marched around the world. There was even a march in Antarctica.
Estimates vary on attendance for marches and demonstrations opposing Trump’s proposed Muslim ban. But some estimates put 8,000 people at the U.S. Capitol and 10,000 people at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in New York. Others outlets estimated that 7,000 people protested at Los Angeles International Airport, and an activist leader told NBC that 12,000 signed up for the protest at Battery Park in New York.
An estimated 125,000 marched on April 15, the weekend before Tax Day, to demand that Trump release his tax returns. Shear’s New York Times even had a correspondent embedded with the Tax March in New York.
On Trump’s 100th day in office, roughly 200,000 people took part in the People’s Climate March in Washington to demand action against global climate change.
By contrast, the largest protest during Obama’s first few months was the Tea Party protest on Tax Day 2009. A nonpartisan analysis showed that it drew 300,000 total attendees across the country despite heavy promotion and participation by Fox News and major conservative donor groups.
This is a time of historic protests and activism against the bigoted and hateful policies of President Donald Trump. Activists have been central to the evolution of American democracy and have fought for policies that are more inclusive and that better their communities. Shear’s dismissal of the efforts of millions of Americans is line with the outdated tradition of mainstream news outlets speculating about and judging protests from a studio, rather than reporting real information from the scene or interviewing activists and protestors.
Media should do better.
A Washington Post column highlighted the latest attempt by congressional Republicans to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a longtime target of the banking lobby and right-wing media outlets intent on unwinding public protections put in place after the financial crisis.
On April 21, Washington Post financial columnist Michelle Singletary called attention to an attempt by Republican lawmakers to block new protections from the CFPB that would give prepaid card users federal guarantees similar to those afforded to credit and debit card users. Prepaid cards, which are not attached to bank accounts, are often used by customers without access to financial services, but they currently offer few protections for consumers. Some of the new protections authorized by the CFPB include requiring institutions to investigate fraud charges, granting cardholders access to account balances, and mandating that fee information be “upfront and clear.” Singletary pointed out the absurdity of Republicans’ position that they “don’t think prepaid cards deserve the same protections” as credit and debit cards and chided their “ridiculous” complaint that fee transparency might help consumers reduce their costs. From the Post:
On this issue, it comes down to this: Opponents of the new rules object to helping people who can least afford a whole bunch of fees so that card companies can make more money off them. It’s an example of putting business interests first and the interests of the nation’s most financially vulnerable consumers last.
On April 21, the right-wing website The New American published a column by conservative commentator Veronique de Rugy slamming the new CFPB rules, claiming these basic protections are an attempt to strangle innovative products with “excessive regulation.” Similar attacks on the CFPB’s prepaid card rules were pushed by conservative think tanks the Institute for Liberty, Americans for Tax Reform and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
On April 20, the Center for American Progress (CAP) reported that roughly 23 million Americans -- or one in 10 households -- used prepaid cards in 2015 for a total of over $270 billion in transactions and pointed out the danger of blocking protections for millions of consumers. CAP’s Joe Valenti noted how bizarre the GOP’s actions are, since many major prepaid card companies do not object to these new rules, and he said the only gains to killing these rules would likely be for “companies looking to evade regulation and profit from unsavory business practices.”
The GOP’s attempt to block new public protections devised by the CFPB is the latest in a years-long assault on the agency by right-wingers hoping to curb necessary financial regulations and oust the agency’s director. These attacks have only increased with the GOP takeover of the White House, which left the CFPB as “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” remaining in a Republican-dominated federal government
A Longform Foray Into SSDI Echoed Conservative Misinformation, Was Replete With Data Errors
Disability advocates hammered a faulty feature article published last month in The Washington Post that portrayed disability insurance as a form of long-term unemployment insurance in rural communities and claimed that as many as a third of people in those communities received disability assistance. Advocates analyzed the article’s data and found that the Post had vastly overstated the number of people receiving assistance on the program, prompting the paper to issue a correction. That correction, however, ignores the article’s more devastating flaws.
The Post’s March 30 article titled, “Disabled, or just desperate?” followed Alabama resident Desmond Spencer and his family as they struggled to make ends meet and narrated his unease about applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The piece cited data purportedly provided by the Social Security Administration to argue that Spencer’s condition was typical of working-aged adults in rural communities around the country. A Media Matters analysis of the actual content found that it was filled with tropes, gimmicks, and dog whistles frequently promoted by right-wing opponents of SSDI. Disability advocates questioned the portrayal of a single anecdotal account as representative of millions of Americans, and Rebecca Vallas of the Center for American Progress (CAP) slammed the Post for creating a “dystopian portrait” of an SSDI system “riddled with rampant abuse.”
A week after publishing the initial report, the Post’s editorial board cited the flawed article as part of its case in favor of unnecessary “reforms” of the disability insurance system that would add even more restrictions to SSDI. Media Matters again criticized the Post for mischaracterizing the program and peddling myths about the social safety net common in conservative media. Economist Dean Baker also browbeat the editorial for targeting a program that helps provide basic living standards at a time of rampant economic inequality.
The core argument forwarded by the initial Post report was that as many as one-third of working-age adults in rural communities are reliant on SSDI for most or all of their monthly income. Yet, the paper did not acknowledge whether or not these people are actually disabled. Instead, the article wove a narrative of low-income Americans struggling to find gainful work who end up on disability as a form of long-term unemployment. An April 13 blog published by CAP outlined how analysts attempted “to replicate [the Post’s] analysis” only to find that “their numbers are flat-out wrong.” After a careful inspection, CAP discovered that the Post’s numbers overcounted the number of children and working-age adults receiving SSDI, and failed to correct for the double-counting of roughly 1.3 million people. CAP even uncovered that the paper was missing data entirely for nearly 100 of the “rural counties” the article was supposed to be analyzing. In response to the these revelations, the editors responsible for the Post’s report issued a lengthy correction to the article and updated it throughout to remove and amend data.
In an April 18 blog post, the team at CAP noted that the fixes still didn’t go far enough since more accurate data actually disproved the Post’s core argument. The revised and corrected report is still built on questionable data and it continues overcounting the number of working-age adults reliant on disability insurance. Most importantly, the core claim that disability checks are a primary source of income for “as many as one-third of working-age adults” in rural communities encompassing “large swaths of the country” appears to be completely false; CAP’s team could find only one county -- out of 3,143 -- that fit the Post’s dystopian description of disability. From the Center For American Progress’s TalkPoverty.org (emphasis added):
Even using The Post’s flawed methods, they were only able to find one county—out of more than 3,100 counties nationwide—where the story’s central claim that “as many as one-third of working-age adults are receiving monthly disability checks” holds up. Not a single other county even comes close. In fact, The Post’s own analysis—which it has now made available in a public data file next to the story, yields an average rate of about 9.1 percent of working-age adults receiving benefits across rural counties—just three percentage points higher than the national average.
And yet the article is framed as follows: “Across large swaths of the country,” the article still reads, “disability has become a force that has reshaped scores of mostly white, almost exclusively rural communities, where as many as one-third of working-age adults are receiving monthly disability checks.”
If by “large swaths” and “scores of… rural communities” The Post means McDowell County, West Virginia, population less than 21,000 residents—and nowhere else in America—then sure.
But the fact is there’s a word for using data this way: cherry-picking.
Fox News is rewarding Jesse Watters with a prime-time slot on the panel show The Five as part of the shakeup caused by Bill O’Reilly’s ouster. Watters, a former O’Reilly producer and longtime protégé, was widely condemned last year for a racist segment set in New York City’s Chinatown. His ambush interviews have disparaged immigrants, women, African-Americans, the homeless, and members of the LGBTQ community, and he earned notoriety for an incident in which he “followed, harassed, and ambushed” a female journalist on camera.