Right-wing media myths about the American Jobs Plan

Research/Study Research/Study

Debunking right-wing media myths about the American Jobs Plan

Last week, President Joe Biden introduced his plan to revamp the nation’s infrastructure. Known as the American Jobs Plan, the proposal would dedicate $2 trillion to improving roads and bridges, expanding internet access, and addressing climate change, among other projects.

The proposal will likely be debated for months, and right-wing media are working to chip away at public support for Biden’s plan. Polling indicates that many of the measures included in the proposal are already broadly popular, and conservative commentators have resorted to distorting the contents of the plan and its potential impact.

Here are some of the most common right-wing media myths associated with Biden’s proposal:

  • Myth: Only a small portion of the proposed funding supports “true” infrastructure

  • One of the most common attack lines in conservative media claims that only a fraction of Biden’s proposal addresses actual infrastructure improvements. Some have argued that as little as 5% of the plan would fund “real infrastructure” spending.

    These claims rely on an outdated and particularly narrow definition of infrastructure in the context of the modern U.S. economy. For instance, some commentators have claimed that funding for expanded broadband access should not be classified as infrastructure spending. But many Republicans previously supported broadband spending as an infrastructure investment, including during the Trump administration.

    Some components of Biden’s plan — such as workforce development and elder care spending — are less clearly linked to a traditional definition of infrastructure. But even a strict interpretation of the term would encompass a majority of the proposed spending, and regardless there is widespread public support for provisions that both fit and do not fit within this interpretation.

    • On April 6, The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro wrote on Twitter: “The rule is that if you can stuff anything into the infrastructure box, then it counts as useful government spending. So everything is infrastructure now!”
    • Fox News contributor Jason Chaffetz, appearing on the April 5 edition of Fox & Friends, claimed that “less than 10%” of Biden’s plan goes toward infrastructure spending, just like how “less than 10%” of the recent coronavirus relief package “goes to actually fight the coronavirus.”
    • The same day, Fox host Mark Levin argued on his radio show, “We all know what infrastructure means. It’s something that’s physical. It’s not broadband. It’s not the welfare state. It’s not the Marxist and neo-Marxist agenda.”
  • Mark Levin: "We all know what infrastructure means. It’s something that’s physical. It’s not broadband."

    Mark Levin
    Audio file

    Citation From the April 5, 2021, edition of Westwood One's The Mark Levin Show

    • In an interview with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on April 1, Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer questioned why only 5.6% of the “$2 trillion proposal is ... dedicated to roads and bridges.”
  • Myth: Biden’s plan is a disguised Green New Deal and contains unnecessary spending to address climate change

  • The American Jobs Plan is not the same as the Green New Deal — the ambitious climate change plan introduced to Congress in early 2019 that serves as a familiar bogeyman on Fox News. Green New Deal architects and champions have called Biden’s plan the “closest we’ve come to a realization of the Green New Deal” because it integrates issues of equity and climate with infrastructure spending, but Biden’s proposal still falls short of the Green New Deal in scope and spending.

    Critics who suggest that spending to address climate change has no place in an infrastructure bill ignore the many ways in which the climate crisis and infrastructure are inextricably linked. Climate-related disasters already threaten existing infrastructure, and spending to reduce carbon emissions will help limit the impact of future disasters.

    • On April 5, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade complained about climate-focused spending, including “retrofitting homes and buildings.” Co-host Steve Doocy responded, “That’s Green New Deal, Brian.”
    • The day before, Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy claimed, “They’ve taken something that Americans want and need, like infrastructure, and they’ve made it the Green New Deal.” Fellow co-anchor Pete Hegseth agreed, arguing, “They will ram this though through reconciliations and suddenly — voila — you have the Green New Deal.”
  • Video file

    Citation From the April 4, 2021, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Weekend

    • Levin argued on April 1 that the American Jobs Plan is “the New Green Deal wrapped up in more acceptable language.”
    • The same night, Fox host Tucker Carlson mocked spending on electric vehicles and hosted climate denier Marc Morano to attack the proposal.
    • On March 31, Fox host Sean Hannity claimed that the proposal is a “green new energy program disguised as an infrastructure bill.”
  • Myth: Increasing the corporate tax rate will hurt the economy

  • Biden has proposed funding the spending package by increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. The plan sparked outrage among many in conservative media, even though the change would still be lower than the 35% rate prior to the Trump administration’s 2017 tax cuts.

    Right-wing commentators have suggested that the proposed tax increases would damage the country’s current economic recovery and that corporations would simply pass costs on to workers and consumers. In fact, the proposal would create an estimated 2.6 million jobs over 10 years, according to a report by Moody’s Analytics, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, “The burden of a corporate rate hike would fall mostly on corporate shareholders, who reaped most of the benefit of the 2017 corporate tax cut.”

    • On April 2, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt expressed concern that the proposed increase in the corporate tax rate would scare off corporations operating in the United States: “Who’s going to stay here? What corporation is going to want to be here?” Eardhardt continued, “Just because you don’t own a corporation doesn’t mean it’s not going to affect you because it will. It will trickle down. It will affect all of us.”
    • That same day, The Federalist published a piece titled “Biden Infrastructure Bill’s Corporate Tax Hikes Will Cripple The Economy.”
    • In his April 1 monologue, Carlson claimed, “Joe Biden wants to raise taxes to punish you and he plans to do that.” Carlson later dismissed the fact that the proposal would be funded through corporate tax increases: “‘Corporations are going to pay for it’ — yeah if only, we’d support it if that were the case. … When it costs, they pass the costs along to the workers in the form of lower wages and to customers in the form of higher prices.”
    • The same night, Hannity interviewed Fox Business host Larry Kudlow. Hannity claimed that “the American people are going to be whacked. Everything they buy, every bit of energy they use, they will be paying through the nose.” Kudlow agreed and argued that the tax increases would mean “you are going to lose probably a trillion dollars of investment in the next couple of years. You are gonna lose about a trillion dollars in wages in the next couple of years.”
  • Video file

    Citation From the April 1, 2021, edition of Fox News' Hannity

  • Myth: The plan’s $2 trillion in government spending is unnecessary and will bankrupt future generations

  • Experts agree that significant infrastructure improvements are badly needed. But right-wing media have suggested that Biden’s proposed spending is unnecessary and that the country cannot afford the $2 trillion price tag. As noted above, Biden’s plan would be fully funded by corporate taxes, and a study from The Wharton School estimates that the proposal would actually reduce the national debt by 6.4% over the next few decades.

    • On April 2, conservative commentator and discredited economist Steve Moore argued on America’s Newsroom that given the current performance of the economy, “we don’t need this $2.2 trillion bill.” Moore continued, “We don’t need massive new spending, we don’t need a massive new tax bill, and we don’t need all this additional debt.”
  • Video file

    Citation From the April 2, 2021, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom

    • During an appearance on Special Report with Bret Baier on April 1, Fox contributor Charles Hurt complained that Biden thinks that “the answer to every problem is to spend more money that we don’t have.”
    • That morning on Fox & Friends, Kilmeade argued that the fossil fuel industry would be destroyed by Biden’s proposal and said that green jobs “don’t pay as much, they don’t need as many people.” In fact, clean energy jobs “are higher paying, with a lower barrier to entry, than comparable” positions. Kilmeade also falsely implied that a proposal to cap abandoned oil wells would actually impact active oil wells.
    • The conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group centered criticism of Biden’s proposal from pro-austerity and corporate front groups in reporting that aired on local television stations across the country.
  • Myth: Biden and Democrats are uninterested in working with Republicans to create a bipartisan bill

  • Shortly after Biden announced his plan, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declared that Republicans would not support it. Despite McConnell essentially eliminating any possibility of a bipartisan bill, right-wing media figures have accused Biden of violating his campaign promise to reach across the aisle as Democrats now look to use reconciliation to move the proposal forward.

    • During an interview with Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), Fox guest host Charles Payne noted that Democrats may attempt to pass an infrastructure bill through reconciliation and asked, “What does it mean for the idea of unity in this country, unity in Washington, D.C., that was promised on the campaign trail?”
    • On April 6, Fox anchor Harris Faulkner complained, “We were promised something different from this president in terms of how they were all going to get along and pass stuff together.” Fox Nation host Tammy Bruce agreed, claiming, “This seems like a cudgel. … This is not what we voted for, it’s not this kind of thing that we want.”
  • Video file

    Citation From the April 6, 2021, edition of Fox News' The Faulkner Focus

    • On Faulkner’s show the previous day, Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren argued, “Where is this talk of unity from the Democrats?” Lahren continued, “They’re going to ramrod this through, once again, without Republican support and hopefully without some Democrat support as well.”