Poverty | Media Matters for America

Poverty

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  • Fox News' "trust fund baby" prime-time host is on a mission to demonize the homeless

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ & JOHN KERR

    On his prime-time Fox News show, Tucker Carlson, an admitted “trust fund baby” and “out-of-the-closet elitist,” has taken a surprising interest in the subject of homelessness in America. But his programming mostly consists of attacking people experiencing homelessness, complaining they make cities “dirty,” describing them as criminals and drug addicts, and claiming they’re victims of “family dissolution.”

    Carlson’s attacks culminated in a May 13-17 nightly series titled “Homeless in America” in which he showed b-roll of unsuspecting people on the streets of West Coast cities and labeled them drug addicts and menaces to society. Carlson also repeatedly suggested that “normal people” are the real victims of the homelessness crisis, even claiming that the issue is preventing families from visiting public parks. Overall, his coverage has largely framed the issue as a moral and personal failure of struggling individuals, drawing on the longstanding Fox News tactic of shaming poor people.

    Previously:

    Tucker Carlson blames homelessness in Los Angeles on immigration and sanctuary cities

  • Racist right-wing media myths allow the racial wealth gap to persist

    Blog ››› ››› SARAH WASKO

    Wealth inequality in the U.S. has been steadily increasing along racial and ethnic lines since the Great Recession, according to a Pew study. White Americans disproportionately enjoy the economic security that wealth affords to people in this country, and right-wing media figures often blame Black people for their lack of financial means.

    In perpetuating this racist myth that Black people are somehow less capable or driven to succeed, right-wing media ignore that Black people face a myriad of barriers to building wealth: Burdened by a history of state-sponsored discrimination from slavery to Jim Crow, Black people continue to be racially discriminated against when seeking a mortgage for a home, and they regularly face racially targeted wealth extraction and policing that results in financially devastating fines and fees.

    Media Matters spoke with Anne Price, president of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, where she leads the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative that elevates the voices of experts of color in national economic debates and policymaking. She dispelled the racist right-wing media myths that link the wealth gap to behavioral pathology and deservedness.

    According to Price, many of these tropes date back to slavery, and they inform policy decisions that play a critical role in how families of all races accumulate wealth. She says, “We’re [currently] thinking more about individual choice than we are about the types of investments that can actually be made. And this idea that we will never have enough resources to do that is really becoming a dark road that we’re going down as a nation. But in fact, we do have the resources to actually address racial wealth inequality, and the idea that we can’t actually afford to do this is also really a false myth.”

    Video edited and animated by Miles Le

  • Network news ignores report that Trump wants reduced aid to Puerto Rico amid food-stamp crisis

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    On March 25, The Washington Post reported that almost 1.3 million people in Puerto Rico are facing a new crisis after Congress failed to reauthorize additional food stamps that they had been receiving since the devastating Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in September 2017. The Post also reported that President Donald Trump has privately complained about continuing government aid to Puerto Rico, asking top advisers how he can limit federal support. After the Post's report, CBS, ABC, and NBC nightly and morning news programs failed to report on Puerto Rico’s continued struggles -- as well as Trump’s callous disregard for the plight of struggling Puerto Ricans.

    According to the Post, “Congress missed the deadline for reauthorization” of additional food-stamp aid to Puerto Rico in March, meaning “about 43 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents are grappling with a sudden cut to a benefit they rely on for groceries and other essentials.” The island will again need the federal government’s help to “stave off drastic cuts to Medicaid … as well as for the disbursement of billions in hurricane relief aid that has not yet been turned over to the island.” The problems in Puerto Rico are compounded by its lack of statehood; as the article notes, “The island would not need Congress to step in to fund its food-stamp and Medicaid programs if it were a state. For states, the federal government has committed to funding those programs’ needs, whatever the cost and without needing to take a vote.”

    Despite Puerto Rico’s struggle to recover from Hurricane Maria, Trump last month “asked top advisers for ways to limit federal support from going to Puerto Rico, believing it is taking money that should be going to the mainland.” According to the article, “Trump sees the island as fundamentally broken and has told advisers that no amount of money will ever fix its systemic problems.” He has complained that “large swaths of the island never had power to begin with” and has “occasionally groused about how ungrateful political officials in Puerto Rico were for the administration’s help.” But as Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has asserted, “the problems of Puerto Rico have a root-cause problem attached to it: We don’t have political power and are not treated as equal citizens.”

    Withholding federal aid from Puerto Rico out of contempt for the island has dire implications, yet CBS, ABC, and NBC have all failed to report on the distressing situation Puerto Ricans currently face -- as well as the disdain the president has consistently shown toward the island.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched the Nexis transcript database for mentions of “Puerto Rico” or “Hurricane Maria” from 7 a.m. EST on March 25 to 9 a.m. EST March 27 for CBS, NBC, and ABC. We found no mentions on any network.

  • Fox "straight news" anchors don't correct misinformation about Trump cuts to food stamp benefits

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, one of the programs the network bills as hard news, provided a platform for Fox Business host Charles Payne to spew unchecked misinformation regarding immigration and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

    In a segment discussing President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for 2019, which includes cuts to SNAP, Payne expanded on a quote from Trump that was displayed on screen, inaccurately claiming that “a large majority of” undocumented people in the United States collect welfare benefits. Payne went on to advocate for a SNAP reform proposal that the Trump administration has suggested, espousing the supposed benefits of what the administration is referring to as a “Harvest Box.”

    As Payne pushed clear misinformation regarding SNAP benefits, two of Fox’s supposed news anchors, Bill Hemmer and Sandra Smith, sat silently. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for SNAP benefits. Some mixed-status households do receive benefits for members who are eligible, such as U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, but in those cases “the child’s eligibility does not change their parents’ or any other family members’ eligibility for that benefit.” Payne even misrepresented the report (which was produced by an anti-immigrant organization); Breitbart cited in its interview with Trump; that report claimed that “63 percent of non-citizen households end up on welfare,” while Payne suggested the findings applied specifically to individual undocumented immigrants. Moreover, Trump administration officials have openly admitted to The New York Times that the “Harvest Box” proposal has “virtually no chance of being implemented” and is simply “a political gambit by fiscal hawks in the administration aimed at outraging liberals and stirring up members of the president’s own party working on the latest version of the farm bill.” The plan appears in part to be a way to cut SNAP benefits.

    From the March 12 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    BILL HEMMER (CO-HOST): Let’s talk about budget and welfare reform. Here is the comment from Breitbart from the president, do we have that here? “I don’t like the idea of people coming in and going on welfare for 50 years” -- I think he was talking about immigrants right? Illegals? “And that’s not what they to be able to do -- that’s not what they want to be able to do -- and it’s no good.”

    CHARLES PAYNE (FOX BUSINESS HOST): Well, he was referring, there are some studies out there that show a large majority of illegal immigrants go on public assistance and they stay on there at least for a generation, and it’s very costly to, you know -- this is not necessarily new. You may not hear any president speak like this about it, but, you know, it’s a concern that a lot of American taxpayers have. So, yeah, he put it out there. You know, of course, Nancy Pelosi’s calling this whole thing cruel in the first place, this budget. But, he’s got some other ideas, like this harvest box that the Democrats are against.

    HEMMER: What is that?

    PAYNE: It’s a food box that 16 million people would get. It’s got -- it would cover about 81 percent of people on food stamps. And, here’s the thing, when food stamps first started in 1939, that’s exactly what it was, the same sort of program. You got a dollar’s worth of stamps that you could buy anything with for household goods, and another 50 cents that you bought surplus food from the federal government. And it was, you know, things that -- you know, beans, rice, cornmeal, eggs -- fresh eggs, so it had a two-prong impact, right? You help the American farmer; you also help the consumer, right? It wasn’t spent on things like potato chips, which, you know, no one wants to be honest, but a lot of the money now food stamp recipients receive are spent on non-healthy items. And it’s ironic because Democrats talk about food deserts all the time, but, you know, if you really care about nutrition, it’s an idea to think about.