Art Laffer | Media Matters for America

Art Laffer

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  • Fox melts down after polls show vast majority favor taxing the rich more

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After new polling was released showing the overwhelming popularity of raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires, Fox News and Fox Business figures blasted voters as “brainwashed” and ignorant and even claimed that some taxes on the wealthy are “anti-human.”

    A Fox News poll released at the end of January showed that a vast majority of registered voters -- 70 percent in total -- support raising income taxes on families making more than $10 million per year, and 65 percent support raising income taxes on those making more than $1 million per year. A Morning Consult/Politico poll released on Monday showed 61 percent of registered voters favor a wealth tax on households worth more than $50 million. Two other recent polls also found majority support for increasing taxes on the rich. But Fox hosts and guests decried these proposals as “one big giant con” amounting to a “war on the wealthy.”

    First up on Monday was the Fox Business show Varney & Co., where host Stuart Varney -- who has previously declared himself among the top 1 percent of income earners in America -- delivered a monologue bashing a Democratic proposal to strengthen and expand Social Security as just “another tax hike proposal from the Democrats.” He said, “The Democrats’ 2020 campaign is an endless series of tax hikes, massive tax hikes with massive new spending. Tax-and-spend on steroids.” He suggested that Democrats’ proposals to tax the richest Americans are aimed at undermining President Donald Trump, declaring that Democrats “hate Trump and can’t tolerate any success, even prosperity.” Varney also warned his viewers that Democrats “resent wealth. And if you’ve got it, they want it.”

    Following Varney’s monologue, Fox contributor Mike Huckabee compared Democratic lawmakers to armed robbers: “The Democrats have got a new uniform they're all supposed to wear. It’s ski masks and carrying blue steel revolvers, because they all believe that, instead of robbing 7-Elevens, they’re just going to rob everybody who has a job, everybody who’s making wages.” He also suggested that the Democrats’ aim was to “kill the economy and put people back on the welfare rolls and get them off those nasty jobs they're getting.” When Varney asked why “this form of socialism, this grab bag of take-money-off-the-rich,” was so popular, Huckabee blamed liberals in teaching positions for having “indoctrinated people coming up through the education system that there’s something really wrong with people who have been successful.” Huckabee continued by blaming American voters, saying, “We have a real economic ignorance going on in America.” Later in Varney’s show, Fox contributor Bill McGurn claimed that Democrats simply “don’t like wealth,” prompting Varney to ask if “jealousy of wealthy people [is] the norm.”

    On Fox’s America’s Newsroom, Fox Business host Charles Payne claimed “there’s a racial element” to raising taxes on the rich and said Democrats are “trying to use tax policy [as] a social justice tool to rewrite the wrongs of yesteryear,” adding, “It’s a punitive action.” Later in the day on his Fox Business show Making Money, Payne declared the Democrats’ tax proposals “the war on the wealthy” and rhetorically asked if Democrats can “win on class warfare.” On Tuesday, Payne returned to America’s Newsroom to blame the education of America’s children for the popularity of taxing the rich: “The idea of fairness has been promoted in our schools for a long time. And we're starting to see kids who grew up in this notion that fairness above all, and now they are becoming voting age and they are bringing this ideology with them.”

    On the Fox Business show Cavuto Coast to Coast, Reagan administration economist Art Laffer slammed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) proposal to greatly increase the estate tax rate for billionaires, saying, “There is no tax that is more vulgar, in my mind, than the death tax.” After a short rant, Laffer declared that the estate tax is “the most anti-family, anti-human tax I know of.”

    Fox Business show Bulls & Bears featured several panelists who ranted against Democratic proposals to tax the rich more. Host David Asman kicked the discussion off by asking, “Isn’t demonizing the rich an attack on the American dream?” Gary Kaltbaum, who runs his own investment firm, responded by calling the proposals “a war on the wealthy” and “just one big giant con because these socialists hate successful people.” Jonathan Hoenig, who owns the aptly named investment fund company Capitalistpig, ranted that American voters “have been brainwashed -- I mean, Americans writ large have been brainwashed in schools” into supporting tax increases on the rich, and claimed, “We’ve never seen this explicit hatred for success, envy of people who produce something.” Hoenig concluded that taxing the rich will run America into “the poor house.”

    And Fox Business host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery used her daily monologue to dismiss the popularity of taxing the rich as a “rush on both sides to fan the flames of jealousy” and called Democrats’ proposals “an emotional and irrational appeal that amounts to redistribution.” She ominously warned rich people: “God help you if you find success in the new world. Even if capitalism is still marginally more popular, socialism has a better PR team. And when it gains a foothold, they're coming to neuter your golden nuggets.”

  • 4 ways right-wing media are shilling for tax reform (and why they're wrong)

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Right-wing media have been relying on debunked myths and partisan spin in order to defend the Republican tax overhaul efforts, which have passed in the House of Representatives and advanced in the Senate. Conservative media figures are pushing falsehoods about the corporate tax rate and the impact the proposals would have on the wealthiest Americans while downplaying the negative impacts of repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

  • How Conservative Media Enabled Trump’s Outrageous Lies

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS & JARED HOLT

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and conservative media figures repeatedly enabled each other to spread baseless smears and outright lies throughout the Republican presidential primary election cycle. Voices in conservative media repeatedly legitimized Trump’s debunked conspiracies, policy proposals, and statistics, some of which echoed longtime narratives from prominent right-wing media figures.

  • What The Media Should Know About Trump's "Political Kitchen Cabinet"

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump and his campaign have reportedly received advice from an increasing number of controversial Republican figures and political strategists, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, political strategist Roger Stone, and former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. Various members of this "political kitchen cabinet" have launched sexist attacks against Hillary Clinton, claimed Obama does not love America, and denied the science of climate change.

  • "Greece On Steroids": Fox's Cavuto Attacks New Overtime Rules That Will Help Millions Of Workers

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News host and senior vice president Neil Cavuto responded to President Obama's expansion of federally guaranteed overtime pay to 5 million additional American workers by fear-mongering that the regulatory change would lead the United States down a path toward financial ruin similar to Greece while hurting the workers it is meant to protect.

    In a June 29 op-ed in The Huffington Post, President Obama announced his plan to update federal overtime regulations in 2016 by increasing the salary threshold at which qualifying employees are legally guaranteed overtime pay. Under current law, salaried employees earning less than $23,660 annually are legally required to be paid time-and-a-half when their position requires that they work in excess of 40 hours per week. Obama's proposal would more than double the income threshold to qualify for overtime -- covering qualifying employees earning up to $50,400 annually, or roughly 40 percent of the salaried workforce. Current overtime standards only extend to about 8 percent of salaried workers.

    In response to the president's proposal, Cavuto expressed concern that paying more Americans for the hours they work could contribute to an economic disaster in the United States. On the June 30 edition of Fox's Your World, Cavuto proclaimed that the U.S. was becoming "Greece on steroids," a reference to the disastrous fiscal and financial circumstances that have unraveled the comparatively tiny European economy for more than six years. Cavuto was joined by discredited economist Art Laffer, who lamented the "huge burden on these companies" that will now be required to adequately pay their employees:

    Despite Cavuto's dire predictions, economists expect that expanded overtime protections will be a boon for the American workforce.

    According to the Economic Policy Institute, the majority of the workers who will directly benefit from the overtime change are women, and nearly 30 percent of affected workers are minorities. In an op-ed co-authored with philanthropist Nick Hanauer, economist Robert Reich blasted overtime opponents for warning of "unintended consequences" from stronger wages "without an ounce of empirical data to back it up." They also likened the policy to a "minimum wage hike for the middle class," and explained that it will either boost workers' pay or give them additional leisure time while adding new jobs. Economist Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argued in a blog published by The Washington Post that expanding overtime protections is "a critical labor standard with the potential to boost the paychecks of millions of middle-wage workers."

    Fox has a long history of attacking overtime protections, recently complaining that the then-rumored proposal amounted to "left-wing economic engineering" and was "probably going to hurt a lot of other people."

  • Schooling Fox On The Stimulus With One Chart

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox wants to know whether the stimulus package signed by President Obama caused a recession.

    In recognition of the five-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- commonly known as the stimulus -- Fox Business' Varney & Co. framed a segment around the question of whether it caused a recession.

    Fox is just asking, and here is the answer in one simple chart. The most recent recession started in December 2007, over a year before the stimulus bill was signed into law. Since its passage in February 2009, the American economy experienced an immediate positive turn, culminating in more than four years of steady, gradual economic growth.

    Fox's disregard for facts in its frantic push to disparage the president and his policies is nothing new, but the basic failure to understand that the economy has been recovering for the past five years marks a new low.

  • Fox Regular Art Laffer: The Minimum Wage Is Just The "Black Teenage Unemployment Act"

    Blog ››› ››› EMILY ARROWOOD

    Frequent Fox guest and former Reagan economic advisor Art Laffer argued for the abolishment of the minimum wage for some workers, describing the law as the "black teenage unemployment act." He added that the federal requirement "makes no sense whatsoever."

    Laffer, the so-called father of trickle-down economics, appeared on the January 8 edition of Fox News' Happening Now to discuss the possible extension of recently-expired unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. When host Jenna Lee asked Laffer and American Enterprise Institute's Michael Strain about other ways to improve the economy, Laffer recommended doing away with the minimum wage for some workers, saying that "honestly" the requirement is the "black teenage unemployment act." Strain agreed, and suggested lowering the minimum wage "for the long-term unemployed" to $4 an hour.

    JENNA LEE: One of the things you both agree on is maybe looking at minimum wage, and Art, you have an idea for minimum wage that you think could encourage hiring and it involves state government so what is that plan?

    LAFFER: Yeah, well the minimum wage makes no sense whatsoever to me. I mean, honestly, it's just the teenage -- black teenage unemployment act and this is the very groups that we need to have jobs not be put out of work because of the minimum wage so I'm really very much in favor of at least for teenagers getting rid of the minimum wage so we can bring them back into the labor force, get them the skills they need to continue being productive members of our society for years and years. I mean, that's the way I'd go on minimum wage.

    [...]

    STRAIN: I certainly agree with Art that we should lower the minimum wage for teenagers, I also think we should lower the minimum wage for the long-term unemployed. You know, right now, if you're a worker and you apply for a job and you've been unemployed for 7 months, the firm may say 'hey, you know, I wonder if there is something about this person maybe previous firms have seen something that I'm not seeing -- I'm not going to hire them.' And the reason that, well a reason that a firm might feel that way is because the government says that you have to take a $7.25 per hour risk on that worker. So if we lower that down to, say, $4 an hour, then the risk is much less to the firm, firms are going to be more likely to hire these workers. Now, I think if we do that, for workers that are heads of households and that are working full time, we don't want them living in poverty, so, if we're going to lower the minimum wage for those workers then we need to have some sort of a wage subsidy or an expansion of the earned income tax credit or something to make up the difference.

    LEE: I'm going to need a calculator.

  • Fox News Rewrites Economic History To Fit Anti-Government Narrative

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    In the wake of the five year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Fox News is rewriting American economic history, claiming that government interventions to keep the economy from entering free-fall were unnecessary and damaging.

    On the September 17 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto and former Reagan economic advisor Art Laffer discussed their years-long disapproval of the government rescue packages instituted and implemented in late 2008 and 2009 to arrest the free-falling financial industry, save the auto industry, and stimulate the economy. During their exchange, Laffer claimed that government intervention was unnecessary and impeded recovery:

    LAFFER: We were saying that the last thing you want to do is suppress a body's immune system when you're sick. It's just stupid, and the one time we should rely on the economy's immune system, called "free markets", is exactly when we're in the midst of a crisis.

    [...]

    LAFFER: You know, Neil, whenever people make decisions when they are either panicked or drunk the consequences are rarely attractive. And so it is with all of this stimulus, bailout, taking over auto companies. It would have been over in six months if they had done nothing.

    The argument that the crisis would have corrected itself is devoid of any factual basis and ignores the opinions of experts. 

    On September 15, 2008, the day that Lehman Brothers filed bankruptcy, the Dow Jones industrial average suffered its largest single-day loss since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Over the next two weeks regulators and legislators cobbled together policies to save failing financial markets. On September 29, 2008, when the first draft of a $700 billion financial bailout failed to pass the House of Representatives, the Dow Jones suffered its worst ever single-day loss.

    As the federal government was organizing its financial rescue, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, many economists voiced disapproval with the design of the bailout. Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman joined the chorus calling to reshape the bailouts to hold risk takers accountable and protect the public against losses. However, at no point did any significant group of experts or economists argue that the government should have done nothing. In an April 2012 Huffington Post article on the dwindling popularity of the bank bailouts, columnist Mark Gongloff noted that most experts recognized the necessity of a federal rescue in the wake of Lehman's collapse. From the article:

    For what it's worth, most experts think the bailout prevented an even deeper crash and economic depression. Then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson tested the counterfactual by letting Lehman Brothers croak, and the result was a face-peeling market firestorm that nearly took down AIG -- the massive insurance company whose bailout is so unpopular now.

    Indeed, Cavuto and Laffer's unwillingness to recognize the important role played by financial bailouts in stabilizing a subset of the economy is even at odds with opinions fit for print at FoxNews.com.

    Cavuto and Laffer focused most of the segment on the financial bailout, but lumped the successful auto rescue and economic stimulus into their fabricated retelling of economic history. Contrary to the anti-government narrative forwarded by Fox News, the stimulus packages instituted by the Bush and Obama administrations were widely regarded as not going far enough. Meanwhile, the auto rescue remains so popular in hindsight that it may have effectively moved vital swing states toward President Obama in the 2012 Election.

    Media Matters has documented a long track record of Fox News' attacks on stimulus programs, which are sometimes based on entirely fabricated evidence. The right-wing myth that economic stimulus failed is a common talking point used to disparage the fundamental role of government. The argument that stimulus was an unnecessary waste of taxpayer resources directly contradicts prevailing economic opinion.

    Cavuto and Laffer's denial of the necessity of some forms of government intervention continues a right-wing media campaign against any role of government in the economy, even in cases when it is absolutely vital for stability, growth, or recovery.

  • Fox Sounds Alarm Over Detroit Bankruptcy Using Outlandish Pension Liability Figures

    Blog ››› ››› ALBERT KLEINE

    Fox News baselessly suggested that other U.S. cities may follow Detroit's lead in filing for bankruptcy, citing an outlandish estimate of total state and local unfunded pension liabilities, even though other estimates put the figure at a much lower amount.

    On July 18, the city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, officially becoming the largest city in the United States to do so. According to USA Today, "The bankruptcy petition would seek protection from creditors and unions who are renegotiating $18.5 billion in debt and other liabilities."

    On the July 23 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer interviewed frequent guest Art Laffer on Detroit's bankruptcy, noting "other cities that could be heading down the same path."

    Fox News

    Hemmer and Laffer claimed throughout the segment that unfunded pension liabilities could force other municipalities to file for bankruptcy, with Hemmer going so far as to call pension programs a "Ponzi scheme."

    During the segment, Fox aired a graphic that claimed in 2012, total state and local unfunded pension liabilities amounted to more than $4 trillion.

    Fox News

  • VIDEO: First Greece, Now Cyprus: The Right-Wing Media's Fiscal Fearmongering

    Blog ››› ››› ALBERT KLEINE

    Conservative media are again using a European financial crisis to stoke fears about the U.S. economy.

    According to many right-wing media figures, the Cypriot government's plan to tax private bank accounts to avert a fiscal disaster provides a dire warning for the U.S. Many have speculated or outright claimed that the same could happen here unless the so-called "debt crisis" is averted

    Of course, fears of heavy taxation on private bank accounts occurring in the U.S. are largely unfounded, with many experts noting the comparison between the two countries is ill-conceived. But the facts rarely matter for right-wing media when it comes to exploiting a European crisis.