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President Donald Trump took to Twitter on June 11 to echo misleading claims from Fox News that job growth in his first four full months in office was proof of his economic success. Both Fox and the president failed to notice, however, that it was the weakest February through May stretch of job growth since the end of the Great Recession.
On the June 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends Sunday, co-host Clayton Morris and economist Peter Morici claimed that Trump’s presidency had been a boon for the economy, hyped that 594,000 jobs had been created in Trump’s first four full months in office, and slammed media outlets for reporting that Trump’s economic agenda has stalled. Roughly an hour later, the president started tweeting what seemed like talking points pulled from the Fox segment. He decried mainstream reporters, whom he derisively labeled “fake news,” in a tweet claiming media outlets refuse to report “great economic news” since he was elected. Trump continued by boasting that the economy had added “600,000+” jobs:
...way up. Regulations way down. 600,000+ new jobs added. Unemployment down to 4.3%. Business and economic enthusiasm way up- record levels!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2017
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the economy in fact created 594,000 jobs from February through May of this year. Projections for April and May are preliminary and subject to change, but by comparison to previously established trends for the same timeframe, Trump has little to boast about. More jobs were created during the same four-month window in each of the past seven years under President Barack Obama.
On June 12 edition of CNN’s Early Start host Christine Romans picked apart various aspects of Trump’s claims on the economy. Romans discussed that while the stock market has gone up since Trump was elected, it had been rising for eight years making the latest gains just “icing on what has been a very big, juicy cake.” Romans also noted that Trump’s job growth claims neglect to mention how job creation was slower than the last three years:
These simple facts did not stop the pro-Trump sycophants at Fox News from continuing to push their favorable talking points. On the June 12 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, guest Stuart Varney laid out the same argument that Trump had tweeted and added that “it’s a disgrace” that news outlets had been focused on Trump’s scandals instead of giving the president credit for a strong economy. Later on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, guest Melissa Francis again pushed the 594,000 jobs created between February through May as proof of a strong economy under Trump.
Since Trump was elected, Fox has pivoted from mischaracterizing reports on the economy to blast Obama to mischaracterizing reports on the economy to hype or defend the Trump administration. Fox personalities frequently heap praise on economic indicators weaker than those they had once excoriated. The network has also reversed completely on how it reports jobs data, giving Trump credit for jobs he didn’t even create, and reporting glowingly on job creation under Trump that had become routine under Obama.
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:
Will Journalists Continue To Take Trump’s Empty Economic Promises Seriously?
According to a new survey from the University of Chicago, vanishingly few economists agree with the claim of President Donald Trump’s administration that blowing up the deficit with tax cuts for the rich will pay for itself by generating new economic growth. Professional economists have warned of Trump’s economic agenda for over a year; when will news outlets stop taking his boasts seriously?
On April 26, the Trump administration unveiled a plan to slash taxes for high-income earners, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin implausibly claimed the tax proposal “will pay for itself” by stoking latent economic growth. Last week, a new survey by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business showed that almost no professional economists agree with Mnuchin’s prediction that the plan will “pay for itself.” A May 4 article in The Washington Post described the findings as proof that “economists aren't buying” the Republican Party’s trickle-down economic agenda while a May 5 article from Vox noted that the results were “a rare display of unanimity” among economists. In statements given to both outlets, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) economist David Autor described Trump’s tax cut plan as “a fiscal disaster.” The survey results showed only two of 37 economists who answered the question agree with the statement that Trump’s tax proposal “would likely pay for itself.” Both these economists later clarified that they misread the question and had meant to register their disapproval. Stanford economist Kenneth Judd later told the Post, “I screwed up on that one … I meant to say that this is a horrible idea, a bad idea -- no chance in hell.” From the University of Chicago:
This timely rebuke by economists of Trump’s economic smoke and mirrors seemed to have been lost on CNN, which spent much of May 5 promoting the inexplicable claim that unnamed "economists" think Trump's rhetoric alone had so far been enough to stoke economic growth. CNN host Jake Tapper falsely claimed “many economists credit” Trump’s promise of tax cuts, deregulation, and profligate spending for job creation since he took office. CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans bizarrely claimed throughout the day that Trump’s “rhetoric” about the economy was responsible for a minuscule uptick in manufacturing sector employment, which rebounded substantially under former President Barack Obama.
The survey results showing that economists don’t trust Trump’s tax cutting agenda add to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that cutting taxes for the rich is a bad way to boost the economy. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called Trump’s trickle-down economic plan a return to the “voodoo economics” of the Bush and Reagan administrations and pointed to numerous examples of previous Republican administrations cutting taxes and not spurring growth. Independent research from the Congressional Research Service and Brookings Institution has been unable to find a causal relationship between tax cuts and economic growth, and many experts who hammered Trump’s fiscal policy proposals have pointed out that his restrictive approach to trade and immigration is likely to dampen economic activity, not enhance it.
Trump has been pilloried for having only a few credentialed economists on his economic policy team and 370 economists, including eight Nobel laureates, signed a letter denouncing his repeated lies and “conspiracy theories” about the state of the American economy. It is no wonder that Trump could not manage to garner the support of a single former member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers during his presidential campaign. What remains to be seen is why any media outlet, such as CNN last week, would take his positions seriously or accept his policy proposals at face value.
The Usually Reliable Analyst Is Inventing Good News For The Trump Administration
CNN hyped meager growth in manufacturing employment shown in the latest monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as an example of robust Trump-driven job creation -- a claim so absurd it would make Fox News blush.
On May 5, the BLS released its employment update for April 2017, showing that the economy created 211,000 new jobs while the unemployment rate dropped to 4.4 percent, its lowest point in 10 years. Despite further negative revisions to job creation estimates for February and March, the report was generally solid and continued a 79-month streak of steady job creation and labor market improvement dating back to October 2010. In light of a meager March report, which Bloomberg described as “a weaker-than-expected reading,” the job market remains on a relatively stable and healthy upward trend since job growth began during the Obama administration. FiveThirtyEight senior economics writer Ben Casselman helpfully illustrated these long-running trends in a series of tweets. In an interview with The New York Times, economist Jason Furman actually expressed his surprise “that this late into an expansion the economy is still adding jobs well above the steady-state pace.”
There is plenty to like in this monthly jobs report, as has been the case for years, but for some reason CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans decided to overly inflate the significance of one specific portion that would serve as the most useful talking point for President Donald Trump. After discussing the top-line jobs and unemployment numbers, Romans absurdly claimed that the Trump administration should be credited for “kind of reviving some of the interest in the manufacturing sector,” which gained 6,000 jobs in April and 41,000 net jobs since January. From the May 5 edition of CNN’s New Day:
Romans’ comments were odd considering that she admitted health care created far more jobs in April (37,000) than manufacturing, and health care could be in peril in light of Trump’s attempt to take insurance away from millions of Americans. But even more concerning is that while it is true that the manufacturing sector, which employs approximately 12.4 million Americans, has seen 41,000 new jobs added since January, that increase -- a mere 0.3 percent -- is little more than a rounding error. In fact, the April 2017 report states that month-to-month job creation in the sector “showed little change,” and the final number will still be subject to two more revisions. As is the case with every other major labor market indicator, manufacturing employment began steadily increasing seven years ago in the wake of financial and economic rescue measures passed by the Obama administration. Employment in the sector has been relatively flat the past year:
In total, the jobs report for the last month wasn’t very different from other reports of the recent past, which had become routinely positive since the economy began recovering from the Great Recession. And Romans’ adoring portrayal seemed more suitable for the professional sycophants at Fox News than the reporting team at CNN.
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Fox News Joins Chorus Accusing Elizabeth Warren Of Hypocrisy On Pay Equity
Equal Pay Day, which fell on April 4, “symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year,” according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. Right-wing media outlets, which have long denied the very existence of a gender pay gap, used the annual commemoration as an excuse to attack progressives as hypocrites on the need for pay equity, airing recycled and debunked talking points previously used against President Barack Obama and former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
On April 4, the right-wing Washington Free Beacon commemorated Equal Pay Day by misleadingly claiming that the “gender pay gap” experienced by female staffers working for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is “nearly 10 percent wider than the national average,” according to its own review of Senate salary data. The article claimed that “median annual earnings” for women working in Warren’s office for the entirety of 2016 were “more than $20,000 less than the median annual earnings for men” while “average salaries rather than median” showed a roughly “31 percent” pay gap. The article slammed Warren for paying five men larger salaries than that of her highest-paid woman staffer and concluded by noting several prominent Democratic politicians who supposedly “pay women less than men,” including Clinton and Obama:
Warren is far from the only politician who pays women less than men.
Most notable on the list is failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who paid women less than men first as a senator, then as secretary of state, and as a presidential candidate. Her campaign viewed her tendency to pay women less than men as a campaign vulnerability.
Former President Barack Obama regularly spoke out about the gender pay gap, but women working at the White House were paid less than men.
The Free Beacon’s misleading analysis of Warren was picked up by other right-wing outlets, including The Daily Caller and The Washington Times. The April 4 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight also featured the report during a segment wherein the host mocked Warren as “a fake Native American” and Townhall editor Katie Pavlich claimed the news proved Warren “is not a champion for women”:
The attacks right-wing media used against Warren rely on the exact same debunked “analysis” they have used to smear progressive elected officials on equal pay before: On February 23, 2015, the Free Beacon claimed that Hillary Clinton, as senator, paid female staffers “72 cents for each dollar paid to men” in a piece titled “Hillary Clinton’s War On Women.” Fox host Sean Hannity echoed the claim, saying the article proved Clinton “paid female staffers a lot less than men.” Fox host Greg Gutfeld hyped a similarly deceptive claim in 2012, saying that women who work in the Obama White House generally earn less than men. In reality, PolitiFact debunked the Free Beacon/Hannity claim, rating it as “Mostly False” and noting that Hannity’s analysis “ignores critical facts.” Gutfeld was proven wrong as well: American Prospect columnist Paul Waldman reported that the data on Obama staff pay indicated that “men, on average, are occupying higher-paying jobs in the White House ... not that women are being paid less for doing the same job.” (At no point in this years-long charade have right-wing media acknowledged the systemic problem of men being overrepresented in leadership roles.)
As has always been the case, Fox News and other right-wing outlets seem to care about the pay gap women face in the workplace only when it’s politically advantageous to do so. When they aren’t cherry-picking statistics to malign progressives, Fox personalities frequently dismiss pay inequality as “an absolute myth” and attribute it “to women’s choices” rather than discrimination. Yet, the real myth is that the pay gap is caused by women choosing lower-paying jobs. As CNN analyst Christine Romans explained on the April 4 edition of New Day, women face a pay gap because “even in the same job categories, men make more”:
Despite continued efforts to make pay in the United States more equitable, the gender pay gap persists. According to the Center for American Progress, women still earn only 79 cents for every dollar a man makes and the pay gap is even wider for women of color. April 4 marked the day when working women finally caught up to the earnings men accrued in 2016, but all Fox and the right-wing chorus wanted to do to commemorate the occasion was push tired and recycled myths.
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Great Job With That Stephen Moore Hire, CNN
Discredited right-wing economic pundit Stephen Moore used his first appearance on CNN since joining the network as its “senior economics analyst” to put a negative spin on the Obama-era economic recovery while squirming out of questions about lies that President Donald Trump, whom he advised during the campaign, turned into routine campaign talking points.
During the February 3 edition of CNN’s Wolf, host Wolf Blitzer invited Moore to offer his perspective on Trump’s sudden acceptance of job creation and unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which Trump had labeled “one of the biggest hoaxes in modern politics” just six months ago. Blitzer argued that the jobs data released in the morning show Trump “inheriting a strong and healthy U.S. economy,” and he aired a clip of Trump saying the January numbers were something to be “very happy about” that will likely “continue, big league.”
Blitzer noted that the president has adopted “a very different tone” since taking office with regard to BLS data -- which he regularly blasted as “phony” during the campaign. When Blitzer pushed Moore, who served as Trump’s senior economic adviser, to answer for Trump’s sudden change of perspective, Moore pivoted to recycled complaints about the supposedly lackluster state of the economy under Obama. When Blitzer listed indicators that speak to the overall health of the economy, Moore reverted to his misleading claim that America is suffering through “the weakest recovery since the Great Depression.” Moore also set a seemingly impossible standard of success for job creation, claiming that the economy “should be getting 300-, 400-, or even 500,000 jobs a month to make up for the jobs lost from the recession.” See the full segment from Wolf here:
In five minutes of back-and-forth, Blitzer never got Moore to own up to Trump’s sudden about-face on the monthly jobs report, but CNN viewers were exposed to the same tired criticism of President Obama that you expect to see at Fox News. This fruitless segment is sure to be a sign of things to come now that Moore -- arguably the world’s worst economist -- is serving as CNN’s “chief economics analyst.”
CNN was as culpable as any other network in promoting Trump’s rise, but its economic team usually stood up to the Republican candidate’s falsehoods. Last year, global economic analyst Rana Foroohar left a mark on the campaign by blasting Trump’s trade policy agenda as “either a bad idea or impossible,” and ridiculing his proposal to pay off the national debt as “absolute fabulism.” Over the summer, correspondent Cristina Alesci and then-analyst Ali Velshi torched Trump’s economic fairness agenda, agreeing it seemed to be “designed for higher-income, more affluent families” rather than, as Trump had promised, middle-income Americans.
On the jobs front, just this morning chief business correspondent Christine Romans -- who makes her living calling out Trump’s lies about the economy -- mocked Trump for accepting the jobs data, saying, “There’s no conspiracy in the numbers when they belong to him.” In fact, less than an hour before Moore took Blitzer to the spin room, CNN viewers were treated to White House correspondent Jim Acosta calling out the Trump administration for “embracing” data that it “repeatedly raised doubts about” during the campaign. Contributor Nia-Malika Henderson added that Trump should “send President Obama some flowers” to thank him for leaving behind such a healthy economy.
Moore doesn't do anything to bolster CNN’s economic reporting; in fact, his “troubled relationship with the facts” diminishes the network. All he brings to CNN is his deft capacity to recycle right-wing media talking points that portray Obama in the harshest possible light.
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President-elect Donald Trump spread numerous falsehoods, myths, and outright lies about the state of the American economy in 2016. As the year comes to a close, Media Matters offers eight examples of journalists and media outlets debunking Trump’s outrageously misleading statements.
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