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Even Breitbart Opposes Fast-Food CEO Andy Puzder Running The Department Of Labor
The Wall Street Journal editorial board stands virtually alone in defense of President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, Andy Puzder, a notoriously anti-worker fast-food CEO and frequent right-wing op-ed contributor to the Journal.
The Journal’s editorial board published a defense of Puzder on December 8, praising his opposition to raising the federal minimum wage, expanding Obamacare, and strengthening overtime protections for workers. The editorial board continued that they hoped Puzder would roll back other progressive advances for working-class Americans, including reversing an executive order mandating paid sick leave for federal contractors and undoing the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule requiring investment brokers to act in a client's best interests. From the Journal:
Donald Trump’s selection of CKE CEO Andy Puzder to lead his Labor Department has incited a tantrum on the left, which is a good sign. The burger maven once told us that he often picked up litter around his restaurants, and departing chief Tom Perez is leaving plenty to clean up.
He is also the rare executive who promotes free markets rather than merely his narrow business interests. Mr. Puzder has expounded in these pages on the unintended consequences of ObamaCare’s mandates and a $15 minimum wage. He’s also detailed how the Obama Administration has contributed to the shrinking labor force and large number of underemployed workers.
The Journal was one of the few voices to speak in support of Puzder’s nomination for secretary of labor. During a December 9 segment on Fox Business, host Stuart Varney used the controversy surrounding the nomination as “an excuse to run those racy ads” objectifying women, which Puzder’s company has become known for.
One of the only other defenders of Puzder is Stephen Moore -- a discredited economist, Trump economic adviser, and a former Journal editorial board member -- who, while defending his boss’ pick, attacked Media Matters and “the big unions” for what he called “a loud and libelous campaign” to damage Puzder’s nomination.
Controversy has been mounting over Puzder’s nomination after initial reporting failed to note the many right-wing media myths he has pushed to support his anti-worker agenda. The New York Times blasted Puzder in an editorial on December 8 titled “Andrew Puzder Is The Wrong Choice For Labor Secretary” for his stances on worker rights, and for Puzder’s companies' -- Carl's Jr. and Hardee’s -- record of labor law violations. From The New York Times:
Here is the record at those restaurants. When the Obama Labor Department looked at thousands of complaints involving fast-food workers, it found labor law violations in 60 percent of the investigations at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, usually for failure to pay the minimum wage or time and a half for overtime.
MSNBC’s Morning Joe mocked Puzder on December 9 for his statement to Business Insider that machines are preferable to workers, and co-host Mika Brzezinski reported that opposition to Puzder came from both the left and from the alt-right website Breitbart News, which had been instrumental in helping Trump get elected.
Puzder has a history supporting anti-worker policies and had claimed that replacing people with machines would be preferable because machines “never take a vacation” or complain when discriminated against. Puzder opposes new overtime rules proposed by the Department of Labor that would extend guaranteed overtime pay to millions of American workers. Puzder has also misleadingly claimed that stronger wages and benefits actually hurt workers, frequently attacking the push to raise the minimum wage, and Obamacare’s health insurance expansion.
Finally, as Gary Legum pointed out in a column published by Salon, if Puzder is confirmed, he may be the “least qualified labor secretary” since the early 1980s, when the Reagan administration appointed construction magnate Raymond Donovan to the same post.
Initial reporting on the president-elect’s selection of fast-food CEO Andy Puzder to replace Tom Perez as the next secretary of labor depicted Puzder as a “vocal” critic of Obama administration policies while failing to note the conservative media-fueled inaccuracies that inform the incoming secretary’s anti-worker views.
On December 8, The Wall Street Journal was first to report that President-elect Donald Trump planned to name Puzder -- the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger chains -- as the incoming labor secretary in his administration. The Journal’s report, and subsequent reporting from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, focused mostly on Puzder’s opposition to specific economic initiatives from the Obama administration -- raising the minimum wage, expanding overtime protections, and extending the scope of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- while failing to mention that Puzder’s arguments against each have been widely discredited:
Despite amplifying Puzder’s criticism of progressive economic policies, none of the outlets saw fit to mention that his arguments are wrong.
First, Obama-era regulations have not “stifled growth in the restaurant industry” or created a “restaurant recession.” According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in the restaurant industry is up more than 20 percent since Obama took office in January 2009:
Second, while it is true that Puzder is an ardent opponent of increased minimum wages -- he once argued that modest wage increases actually encourage low-wage workers to game the system so they can stay in poverty -- it is important to note that his arguments are unfounded. Puzder and other right-wing media personalities have waged a campaign of misinformation against raising the minimum wage, claiming that it hurts businesses and kills jobs. In reality, reliable professional studies of the minimum wage consistently find a negligible relationship between the minimum wage and employment activity.
As is the case with Puzder’s opposition to living wages, the incoming labor secretary’s antagonism toward the ACA is also not based in facts. Right-wing media outlets and allied politicians have spent years claiming that President Obama’s signature health care reform law is hurting the economy and stymieing the job market despite all evidence to the contrary. In reality, Obamacare has reduced the uninsured rate to historic lows, has reduced medical debt and benefited public health outcomes while strengthening the economic security of low-income families.
Finally, Puzder’s opposition to expanded overtime protections amounts to little more than retooled talking points generated by right-wing media. Conservative media outlets opposed President Obama’s proposed overtime expansion before they even knew the details, claiming it threatened to undermine American work ethic and turn the country into Greece. Puzder’s claim that a “regulatory maze,” which includes overtime expansion, has “reduced opportunities, bonuses, benefits, perks and promotions” ignores the obvious economic benefits of paying millions of American workers for the hours they actually work and that the overtime threshold “has the advantage of simplicity” that makes it efficient for employers to implement.
Media Matters outlined the many ways media should approach his troubled relationship with the truth. If coverage today is any indication, major outlets still have a lot to learn.
Trump Has Picked -- Or Considered -- Over A Dozen Right-Wing Media Veterans For His Administration
President-elect Donald Trump has picked -- or considered -- nearly a dozen people who have worked in right-wing media, including talk radio, right-wing news sites, Fox News, and conservative newspapers, to fill his administration. And Trump himself made weekly guest appearances on Fox for a number of years while his vice president used to host a conservative talk radio show.
Trump Reportedly Leaning Toward Prolific Right-Wing Op-Ed Writer And Fast Food CEO To Head Department Of Labor
**UPDATE: Several news outlets reported on December 8 that the president-elect is expected to choose Puzder to serve as the country’s 27th secretary of labor. The New York Times noted that Puzder “will arguably have less experience in government than any labor secretary since the early 1980s.”
Media outlets have reported that President-elect Donald Trump is considering Andy Puzder, a right-wing commentator and fast food CEO, for secretary of labor. Puzder is known for writing op-eds denouncing worker rights and the minimum wage, and his company is infamous for its “supermodel-centric marketing strategy” designed to offend viewers and stoke sales.
According to a November 15 article in Politico, Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which operates burger chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, was on the short list to replace Tom Perez as the secretary of labor in the incoming Trump administration. The same day, The Atlantic also reported on Trump’s possible choice of Puzder, noting the CEO’s history of fundraising for Trump and his staunch opposition to Obamacare and raising the minimum wage.
In his op-eds and media appearances, Puzder frequently peddles right-wing misinformation advocating policies that hurt American workers. Puzder has praised the job destruction that comes with workplace automation, boasting in a March 16 interview with Business Insider that he wanted to automate more of his restaurants to avoid paying worker salaries and benefits. Puzder claimed that replacing people with machines would be preferable because machines “never take a vacation” or complain when discriminated against. From Business Insider:
"They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," says Puzder of swapping employees for machines.
Puzder opposes new overtime rules proposed by the Department of Labor that would extend guaranteed overtime pay to qualified salaried workers making less than $47,476 a year. Puzder defended his position by claiming that having a salaried position -- and thus no overtime pay -- is an “opportunity” that confers “prestige” and “an increased sense of ownership” to overworked and underpaid managers. Puzder has also frequently attacked the push to raise the minimum wage and Obamacare’s health insurance expansion, misleadingly claiming that stronger wages and benefits actually hurt workers.
Puzder even attacked working-class Americans during an appearance on Fox & Friends, claiming that low-income workers might be wary of higher paying jobs if the salary increase results in a loss of government benefits. Puzder wrote in an op-ed in The Hill of a so-called "Welfare Cliff," where employees turn down promotions that could lead to $80,000 salaries because they "don't want to lose the free stuff from the government." Yet, by Puzder's own admission, the company he runs does not pay anywhere near the $80,000 annual salary that his employees were supposedly passing up so as to qualify for anti-poverty assistance.
In addition to being an outspoken media advocate of poverty wages in the fast food industry and an opponent of policies aimed at helping American workers, Puzder also runs a company that boosts its sales via a “supermodel-centric marketing strategy” catered to exploiting his customers’ base impulses. Puzder told Entrepreneur magazine that complaints that his ads are sexist “aren't necessarily bad” for the company and that he thinks his company’s “sales go up” amid public outcry over ads that degrade women. The fast food chain has been running these ads for years, and Jezebel compiled “a history of disgusting Carl's Jr. ads” from 2005 to 2013. Puzder’s stance on objectifying women for commercial gain is eerily reminiscent of Donald Trump’s own history of degrading remarks about women.
As the president-elect begins the transfer of power, media need to inform Americans of Trump’s potential cabinet picks, the potential policies these cabinet members may support, and how those policies will affect American workers. Experts have already started to express fear that Trump’s proposals for the economy -- budget-busting tax cuts for the rich and unfunded deficit spending -- may create a short-term “sugar high” followed by an economic crash. The next labor secretary could exacerbate those economic worries if he or she promotes policies that undermine the livelihoods of millions of Americans.
Right-wing media assailed new overtime rules released by the Department of Labor (DOL) on May 17, which expand overtime pay protections to 4.2 million American workers previously exempt from compensation under outdated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new rule updates the minimum salary threshold to qualify for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 per year to $47,476 per year, and pegs the threshold to inflation going forward.
Fox News turned to a fast food CEO notorious for his opposition to paying employees livable wages during a misleading segment alleging that social safety net programs trap low-income Americans in poverty.
On the June 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy invited CKE Restaurants (Hardee's, Carl's Jr.) CEO Andy Puzder to argue that low-income workers might be wary of higher paying jobs if the salary increase results in a loss of government benefits. Doocy referenced Puzder's June 22 op-ed in The Hill as evidence of the so-called "Welfare Cliff," where employees turn down promotions that could lead to $80,000 salaries because they "don't want to lose the free stuff from the government" (emphasis added):
PUZDER: The policy guys call it the "Welfare Cliff," because you get to a point where if you make a few more dollars you actually lose thousands of dollars in benefits. And, quite honestly, these benefits are essential for some people. They are how they pay their rent; they are how they feed their kids. So, what happens is, we have people who turn down promotions or, if minimum wage goes up, they want fewer hours. They want less hours because they are afraid they'll go over that cliff.
DOOCY: And, it's got to drive you nuts, because you're always looking for good people to run your stores. And, if they would just take the next step, take the next step up the ladder, next thing you know they could be a manager making $80,000, but they don't want to lose the free stuff from the government.
The term "Welfare Cliff" was popularized by Pennsylvania's Republican-appointed Secretary of Public Welfare in a July 2012 report, which claimed a "single mom" could nearly double her net income by taking full advantage of nine distinct anti-poverty programs, but the concept of a trade-off between welfare and work dates back to a flawed Cato Institute study from 1995. One thing all such studies have in common is the base calculation of benefits available to a hypothetical "single mom" with multiple dependent children. Most American workers aren't single moms, most recipients of government benefits don't enroll in every single available program, and the value of federal benefit programs like welfare is less now than it was in years past -- facts that are never acknowledged in right-wing media discussions of anti-poverty programs.
By Puzder's own admission, the company he runs does not pay anywhere near the amount he and Doocy claim is attainable if workers were willing to work their way off of welfare. According to a March 2014 op-ed by Puzder in The Wall Street Journal, employees at CKE-run restaurants can earn "a management-level salary starting around $36,000 and going as high as $65,000," with an average of "around $45,000" per year.
According to the most-recently available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average food service employee nationwide makes just $19,110 annually, or roughly $9.19 per hour. According to a 2013 study from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the overwhelming majority of fast food employees (89.1 percent) make less than $9 per hour and face significant "barriers to upward mobility" in the profession.