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  • Experts point out Trump’s budget “just doesn’t add up”

    White House budget proposal bases its revenue numbers on unrealistically high economic growth projections

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Experts and journalists have pointed out that President Donald Trump’s budget numbers for the 2018 fiscal year do not add up, as they rely on unrealistic growth expectations. Nonpartisan experts say the gap between the White House’s estimates and the Congressional Budget Office’s is “the largest on record.”

    On May 23, the White House released its full budget proposal, which not only calls for kicking millions of working- and middle-class Americans off vital public assistance programs to make room for gigantic tax cuts for top income earners, but also bases its tax revenue projections on expected annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 3 percent by 2020. While right-wing media commentators have repeatedly defended trickle-down economic fantasies that predict unlikely levels of economic growth because of tax cuts for the rich, assuming such growth when determining revenue projections for the federal budget hides the true cost of Trump’s devastating budget plans.

    Experts and journalists quickly noted the absurdity of Trump’s projections in their coverage of the budget request. In a Washington Post blog, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, an economist at Harvard University, called the logic of Trump’s growth assumptions “simply ludicrous” and compared it to believing in the tooth fairy. On the May 23 edition of MSNBC Live, economist Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), told host Ali Velshi that Trump’s budget “does not add up at all” while noting that economic growth “is a function of the growth of the labor supply,” and that’s going to slow as the country grows older. Bernstein compared the chances of Trump’s projections coming true to the chances of a kitchen appliance coming to life to sing and dance, concluding that it is reckless for budget numbers to be “based on on these kinds of fairy tales”:

    On May 23, Vox correspondent Matt Yglesias pointed out that for anyone over 35, annual growth of 3 percent “doesn’t sound outlandish” because it is reminiscent of GDP growth during the 1990s. But Yglesias noted that if the United States did manage today to replicate 1990s-level growth in the labor force, productivity, and capital investment, “even under that rosy scenario” the growth rate would not hit 3 percent:

    In a May 24 column for Vox, economist and former Obama adviser Jason Furman explained in even more detail why 3 percent economic growth was “extremely unlikely,” with a specific focus on the slowing growth of the labor force. Furman also noted that the American economy is already growing faster than other advanced economies around the world, which have struggled to keep pace.

    As FiveThirtyEights Ben Casselman explained, the reason this level of growth is not currently attainable is that during the 1990s, the U.S. saw “rapid growth in its labor force and rapid gains in the productivity of that labor force.” By comparison, the baby boom generation today is retiring, not entering the workforce, which slows labor force growth, and “growth in productivity has slowed to a crawl” as electronic and internet-based technologies from the 1990s have matured.

    On May 24, The Washington Post’s Ana Swanson also looked at how realistic Trump’s growth projections would be with regard to labor force growth after Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters that much of the growth could come from getting the 6 million Americans marginally attached to the workforce to be fully employed. Yet, as Swanson noted, adding 6 million workers to the 160 million Americans already in the labor force would generate only 2 percent growth.

    Trump’s budget projections were not just debunked for lacking numbers based in reality; CBPP pointed out the historic gap between the White House’s economic growth projections and those of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). According to a May 22 CBPP blog post, Trump’s budget proposal projects $3 trillion less in deficit accumulation using its 3 percent growth model than it would using the CBO’s less optimistic economic forecasting. The difference is even more striking because, as CBPP pointed out, the gap between the White House’s proposal and CBO forecasting is “the largest on record”:

  • Some of the best media take downs of Trump’s “repugnant grab bag” of a budget

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    On May 23, President Donald Trump released his vision for the fiscal year 2018 federal budget titled, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” which called for deep cuts to Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), student loan assistance, and anti-poverty programs geared toward working- and middle-class Americans while providing gargantuan tax cuts for top income earners and increasing military spending. As details of the budget began to surface in the lead up to the announcement, Media Matters identified some of the best take downs from journalists and experts hammering the proposal for its “ruthless” cuts.

  • Media fell for Trump's spin that cutting Social Security isn't really a cut to Social Security

    Trump promised not to touch Social Security during the campaign, but some reporters reframed that broken promise for him

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A number of usually reliable reporters were duped by White House spin that President Donald Trump’s draconian budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 to slash spending for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was not a violation of his major campaign pledge to protect Social Security from cuts.

    During his June 16, 2015, announcement to run for president, Trump clearly and unequivocally promised that if he was elected, he would “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.” Trump’s campaign declaration fit previous statements he made in the run-up to his announcement, wherein he claimed he was “the only [Republican] who won’t cut Social Security” and stated “I am going to save Social Security without any cuts.” Trump even hit then-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for copying his call to safeguard Social Security with “no cuts” and later reiterated his promise to “save” the program while attacking former presidential candidate and current member of Trump’s cabinet Ben Carson:

    After Trump’s repeated statements that he would not cut Social Security, the White House’s decision to include significant cuts to SSDI in its 2018 budget request represents a broken campaign promise. Some journalists -- including Washington Post reporter Philip Bump, Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, and NBC News reporter Benjy Sarlin -- caught on to what was actually being proposed, and Vox’s Dylan Matthews stated that these cuts clearly break “a crucial campaign promise.” Yet, despite this, several other journalists fell for the White House’s misleading spin.

    In the midst of an otherwise brutal recap of Trump’s budget, HuffPost reporter Arthur Delaney claimed “the document mostly honors Trump’s unorthodox campaign promise not to cut Social Security or Medicare” before actually quoting Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, as he expounded on proposed cuts to “disability insurance.”* In her write-up of the budget that detailed the profound impact it will have on low-income communities, New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor noted that Trump “would cut access to disability payments through Social Security” but casually added “the main function of Social Security — retirement income — would flow unimpeded.” New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis included similar misleading language in her report on the budget, arguing, “The blueprint also steers clear of changing Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare” and promoting the administration’s claim that Trump’s promise to protect “retirement” was intact.

    Washington Post reporters Damian Paletta and Robert Costa also fell for the White House’s misdirection gambit, writing of the president’s campaign rhetoric: “Trump insisted that they could not cut retirement benefits for Social Security.” NPR reporter Scott Horsley also detailed the “significant cuts to social safety net programs” while promoting the Trump administration’s spin that the campaign promise was merely to “preserve” the “Social Security retirement program.” Axios reporter Jonathan Swan managed to write a review of Trump’s budget that committed both sins; first claiming that the Trump budget fulfilled “his campaign promise” not to touch Social Security and later claiming that it merely would not affect retirees**:

    ORIGINAL: President Trump's 2018 budget proposal on Tuesday won't reform Social Security or Medicare — in line with his campaign promise — but it will make serious cuts to other entitlement programs. A source with direct knowledge tells me the Trump budget will save $1.7 trillion on the mandatory side over the next ten years.

    CURRENT: President Trump's 2018 budget proposal on Tuesday won't cut Social Security payments to retirees or Medicare, but it will make serious cuts to other entitlement programs. A source with direct knowledge tells me the Trump budget will save $1.7 trillion on the mandatory side over the next ten years.

    *The HuffPost report was corrected after pressure from readers and disability advocates to include the word “mostly.” The original post did not include that conditional language and incorrectly stated “the document honors Trump’s unorthodox campaign promise not to cut Social Security or Medicare.”

    **The Axios report was changed after its initial publication but no editor’s note or correction was added to indicate the revision. Media Matters had criticized the original language of the article in a May 22 blog.

  • Media Figures Immediately Call Out McMaster's Statement As Bullshit

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Journalists called out the White House’s attempt to spin a Washington Post report that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In a statement following the report, White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster gave a statement saying the president did not reveal “sources and methods” to the Russians, a claim that the media noted was not a part of the Post’s report.

  • These Are The Candidates Right-Wing Media Are Floating To Head The FBI

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Following President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, conservative media floated extreme right-wing personalities to lead the FBI. These possible FBI director replacements have a history of racist and anti-Muslim comments often made on Fox News, and their records demonstrate they can’t be trusted to lead the bureau impartially through the ongoing FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in 2016.

  • Parroting Trump, Right-Wing Media Figures Misrepresent Clapper’s Statements About Trump-Russia Collusion

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    President Donald Trump and right-wing media obfuscated comments that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made during his May 8 congressional testimony about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Clapper said he was not aware of evidence of such collusion, and Trump and commentators cast that comment as indication that there was no collusion. However, as others noted, just because Clapper wasn’t privy to any such evidence does not mean it doesn’t exist. 

  • An Overwhelming Majority Of Economists Are Predicting Failure For Trump’s Tax Cut Agenda

    Will Journalists Continue To Take Trump’s Empty Economic Promises Seriously?

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    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 AHCA Is Even Worse Than You've Read

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    A Media Matters study of four major newspapers’ coverage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) after it was passed by the Republican-led House found a serious lack of reporting on detrimental effects of the bill. Analysis of the coverage revealed a dearth of reporting on the AHCA’s negative impact on access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment, women’s health care, special education funding, services for the elderly, and funding for rural hospitals.

  • Wash. Post Relies On Anti-Choice Groups To Frame Coverage About Planned Parenthood

    In Story About “Defunding” Planned Parenthood, Wash. Post Favors Comments, Talking Points From Anti-Abortion Figures And Legislators

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    After the House Republicans passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) -- a bill that would eliminate Medicaid reimbursements for essential services provided by Planned Parenthood -- The Washington Post’s new health care reporter, Paige Winfield Cunningham, framed her story around reactions of, and misinformation from, anti-abortion organizations and politicians.

    On May 4, House GOP members voted to strip health care from an estimated 24 million people by 2026, “including 14 million by next year,” CNN reported, as well as eliminate Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood. In Winfield Cunningham’s first story about the vote and its effect on Planned Parenthood, she framed the conversation around the “victory” the bill represented “for conservatives who have long sought to undercut the country’s largest abortion provider” and pushed anti-choice misinformation behind such claims.

    The only Planned Parenthood representation came in a line summarizing an organization statement as saying “Congress is unfairly singling it out.” In comparison, Winfield Cunningham included quotes from three anti-abortion advocates: Vice President Mike Pence, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). In particular, Winfield Cunningham used statements from McCarthy and Dannenfelser to advance a lopsided narrative heavily favoring the anti-choice talking points that the bill stops “taxpayer funding for abortions” and that community health centers (CHCs) can easily replace Planned Parenthood.

    Planned Parenthood is not government-funded, but instead receives Medicaid reimbursements for providing care to low-income patients -- funds that are already prohibited by the Hyde Amendment from supporting abortion care. Although Winfield Cunningham acknowledged this reality -- and mentioned that losing the reimbursements “would be a heavy blow to the group” -- she undercut the point by writing that “conservatives say no abortion provider should get Medicaid reimbursements, even for health services such as cancer screenings and birth control,” because “money is all fungible.”

    Right-wing media and anti-choice organizations have long relied on the misleading claim that money is fungible to demand Planned Parenthood be defunded. However, as the Guttmacher Institute explained, this logic is deeply flawed: “Fungibility is an inherent possibility when involving the private sector in any government-subsidized activity, and the only way to avoid it would be for government agencies to exclusively provide any and all such services.” Slate’s Amanda Marcotte also previously debunked the fungibility myth in a 2015 article, noting:

    Republicans who tout the “money is fungible” line want you to imagine that Planned Parenthood draws on one big pot of government money for all its services. But since medical services are billed and funded individually, that's not actually how this works.

    Winfield Cunningham included a comment from Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) that AHCA would “gut Planned Parenthood, … affecting women across the country” but again undercut his argument by immediately adding (with a supporting quote from Dannenfelser) that “Republicans contend that community health centers have the capacity to care for Medicaid patients” and that these centers allegedly “provide a broader range of services than Planned Parenthood.”

    Although anti-choice lawmakers and right-wing media say that CHCs can and should replace Planned Parenthood clinics, experts have heavily disputed this claim. For example, Sara Rosenbaum, a professor at the George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, wrote:

    I have worked with community health centers for nearly 40 years, and no one believes more strongly than I do in their ability to transform the primary health care landscape in medically underserved low-income communities. But a claim that community health centers readily can absorb the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics amounts to a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do were Planned Parenthood to lose over 40 percent of its operating revenues overnight as the result of a ban on federal funding.

    [...]

    What’s more, federal law requires that community health centers be located in communities where there are few other providers. As a result, the notion that there are plenty of community health centers available in those communities to compensate for the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics simply is untrue.

    Furthermore, while all Planned Parenthood clinics offer preventive and basic care services, other clinics can be classified as “community health clinics” even if they provide more limited care -- making direct comparisons between the overall numbers a misleading measure of actual health care provision capacity.

    Winfield Cunningham appears to be the anchor of the Post’s health care coverage, with the two stories published about Planned Parenthood since the May 4 vote listing her as author or co-author. Planned Parenthood is an essential care provider for millions of Americans -- 60 percent of them low-income patients covered through programs including Medicaid. If Winfield Cunningham is going to be leading the Post’s coverage on health care, she owes readers more than lopsided “both sides” reporting that vastly overrepresents anti-choice misinformation that can -- and already has -- resulted in decreased access to essential health care.

    *Graphic by Dayanita Ramesh and research support provided by Julie Tulbert

  • After Enabling Trump, Right-Wing Media Campaign For Marine Le Pen

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    United States right-wing media figures have rallied behind “far-right populist” Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election by endorsing her, positively comparing her to President Donald Trump, and attacking her opponent Emmanuel Macron with anti-Semitic smears and comparisons to former President Barack Obama.

  • Press Still Obsessed With Trump Voters, But They Didn't Care About Obama's

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    At this point, if you’re a Donald Trump supporter -- and especially if you’re one from a mostly white town inside a red state -- and a Beltway reporter hasn’t interviewed you as part of a Trump supporter update story, you need to get out more often.

    A platoon of reporters continues to fan out to Trump strongholds, eagerly collecting quotes (“I think he’s doing a great job”) from people who voted for Trump and who want to confirm how much they still support him. (“Hitting it out of the ballpark.”) It’s a bizarre press phenomenon that has no precedent in modern history.

    Specifically, eight years ago in April 2009, as President Barack Obama approached his first 100 days in office, the Beltway press was in no way obsessed with chronicling his “supporters.” There certainly wasn’t an avalanche of “Obama Voter” headlines, nor did reporters sprint to blue state bastions like Cambridge, MA, Montclair, NJ, or Portland, OR, to harvest effusive quotes from Obama’s biggest fans.

    The media double standard at play is monumental.

    During Trump’s first 100 days, The New York Times has published more than 130 articles in its news and opinion sections that mentioned “Trump supporters” or Trump voters, according to Nexis. During Obama’s first 100 days in office, the Times published seven articles in the news and opinion sections that mentioned “Obama supporters” or Obama voters.

    At The Washington Post, the daily has published more than 140 articles in its news and opinion sections referencing “Trump supporters” or Trump voters. But in 2009, it published only 16 articles referencing Obama supporters or voters during the same time period.

    In 2009, it just wasn’t a thing. Back then, finding out what Obama voters thought of the new president simply wasn’t considered as newsworthy by the political press. Yet today, what Trump voters think of him is being hyped as wildly important.

    We’ve seen nonstop entries to the genre in recent days: Politico (“Poll: Trump Voters Stand By The President”), Los Angeles Times (“Voters In This Democratic Part of Colorado Backed Trump. After 100 days, They Have No Regrets”), Hartford Courant (“At 100 Days, Trump Supporters In State Like What They See”), NBC News (“This County Flipped From Obama To Trump. How Do They Feel Now?”) New York Times (“These Guys Really Like Trump”).

    The conveyor belt of “Trump Voters” stories has become so relentless that the topic, and the media’s insatiable appetite, has morphed into a punch line on Twitter:

    And the hits keep coming. Look at the big voter piece the Times did late last week, “Circling Back to Voters, 100 Days Into Trump Era.” The piece was explained this way (emphasis added):

    Now, as President Trump approaches his 100th day in office, we wanted to circle back to some of the voters — most of them Trump supporters — we had spoken with around the start of his presidency about the issues that had driven their votes.

    So to take the nation’s temperature about Trump’s first 100 days, the Times focused largely on interviewing voters in white communities from red states. And specifically, to take the nation’s temperature, the Times quoted an alt-right white supremacist activist who during last year’s election “was captured on video shoving a black woman at a Trump rally.” (He thinks Trump’s doing a great job.)

    This “Trump Voter” press trend has manifested in other odd ways, like suggesting that if Trump’s base still approves of him -- while most Americans do not -- than that means Trump’s support is “stable” because he “has held onto the support of the voters who put him in the White House,” and his base is "steady."

    No president in the history of modern polling has lost his base after just 100 days in office. It’s unthinkable and represents a completely preposterous premise. (It took roughly six years for President George W. Bush to finally start losing his base, and he left office as the least popular president in U.S. history.) So why is that the baseline being used to judge Trump’s success?

    Fact: Most presidents expand their base of support during the first months after their election victory.  (That’s why it’s called a honeymoon.) But not Trump, who boasts a historically awful approval rating for a new president at his first 100 days. To give Trump credit for hanging onto his base is the political equivalent of a participation medal. But for some reason in 2009, the press wasn’t handing out those awards.  

    Back then, what did the Beltway press think was exceedingly important as Obama’s first 100 days approached? The president’s most fevered critics in the Tea Party, of course. And that press obsession stretched on for years and greatly exaggerated the movement’s importance.

    At the time, I noted that during one ten-day stretch between April 9 - 19, 2009, the three cable news channels reported on or discussed the fledgling Tea Party movement more than 100 times. (Fox News quickly emerged as the Tea Party’s unofficial marketing partner.)

    Note that Media Matters recently reported that one day after hundreds of thousands of protesters worldwide took to the streets to criticize Trump’s anti-science agenda during the March for Science, the event was essentially ignored on the Sunday morning talk shows. But you know which protesters were not ignored by the same Sunday shows eight years ago this month? Tea Party protesters who staged anti-Obama demonstrations.

    On April 19, 2009, NBC’s Meet The Press stressed at the top of its show that “Tea party protests over taxes this week highlighting the political divide as conservatives rail against the administration's big government answers to the financial crisis.” The show then interviewed Republican Dick Armey, who helped plan the rallies. (Meet the Press failed to cover the recent March for Science.)

    Soon after taking office in 2009, and following his landslide popular vote victory, Obama faced a firewall of criticism in his first 100 days, and the press responded by pushing the views of his critics front and center. After Trump lost the popular vote, he has also faced a firewall of criticism in his first 100 days. But the press has responded by pushing the views of his supporters front and center.