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Fox News used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) underwhelming jobs report for the month of May as proof that Congress needs to pass President Donald Trump’s trickle-down economic agenda that, in reality, would strip working- and middle-class Americans of basic public services and hand top income earners a gigantic tax cut.
On June 2, BLS released its jobs report for May 2017, which estimated the United States added 138,000 new jobs last month while the unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.3 percent. The jobs number fell below economists’ expectations and The Washington Post declared that the report showed that the “job market stumble[d]” last month. While the number of new jobs reported was weaker than expected, The New York Times noted the overall health of the economy was still strong enough for the Federal Reserve to possibly raise interest rates and pointed out that wage growth was up 2.5 percent from this time last year.
In response to this news, Fox pushed the absurd claim that the report is proof that big business needs Congress to pass Trump’s economic agenda of tax cuts and gutting consumer protections to stoke further economic growth and job creation. During the June 2 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, guest Steve Hilton, host of The Next Revolution, used the jobs report to claim the U.S. was in a “jobs crisis” and needed Trump’s economic agenda to be enacted. On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney described the jobs number as “lousy” and “disappointing” while correspondent Ashley Webster claimed the jobs number shows the American economy is “in a holding patterning” that is “waiting on Washington” to act. Fellow Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo added that “what this jobs number tells us is that business is still cautious” and companies are “sitting on cash” because they are “strangled by all of the regulatory environment” and waiting for Congress to pass Trump’s agenda:
In reality, Trump’s economic agenda has been described as a “repugnant grab bag” of tax cuts for top-income earners that guts funds for Medicaid, children’s health insurance, food assistance, medical research, disease prevention funding, disability insurance, and even college student financial aid while watering down consumer protections to give Wall Street investors a $100 billion windfall. Trump’s budget proposal to slash funding for vital health assistance programs has been described as “ruthless” and would exact a huge human cost from those who lose access to care.
Far from being a jobs savior, Trump’s economic agenda has faced heavy criticism from economists for relying on “voodoo” economic theories that falsely claim tax cuts will lead to economic growth. Research from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service and Brookings Institution have found no link between tax cuts and economic growth. Economist Jason Furman has also slammed Trump’s tax cut agenda for proposing to add trillions of dollars to the federal debt in ways that could hamper economic growth. Trump’s tax proposals have been blasted by economists and experts across the political spectrum, who have argued that his restrictive approach to international trade and immigration, if enacted, may actually dampen economic activity. Even Trump’s proposals to reduce supposedly burdensome regulations in the financial industry fly in the face of facts -- Trump has proposed dismantling the Dodd-Frank Act, but the Government Accountability Office concluded in 2016 that Dodd-Frank protections have “contributed to the overall growth and stability in the U.S. economy.”
Fox figures have attempted to use the monthly jobs report to advance the president’s agenda since he first took office. Fox used the reports to claim unearned victories for the president, and even once used a jobs report described as “weak” to declare it was “the most successful day” of Trump’s presidency. Last month, a Fox Business panel attempted to spin the April jobs report as a reason to pursue Trump’s tax and regulatory policies with no evidence to back up its claims. Next month will likely produce more of the same.
The number of food stamp recipients is roughly equal to the number of people living in poverty, far below number who qualify for assistance
Fox News contributors and hosts defended President Donald Trump’s draconian budget request for fiscal year 2018 by coalescing around a talking point also voiced by the White House that spending cuts for nutrition assistance programs are justified because of their gut feeling that too many people are using them. In the real world, the number of food stamp recipients is roughly equal to the number of Americans living in poverty, which has remained elevated since the last recession ended.
During a May 23 press conference discussing Trump’s budget request, NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander asked Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to defend the president’s decision to cut programs like Social Security and Medicaid that he had promised to protect during the campaign. Mulvaney falsely claimed that no person who “really needs” assistance will be removed from the programs, and turned to Trump’s proposed new restrictions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as “food stamps,” as an example. Mulvaney noted that the number of SNAP recipients “spiked during the recession” to over 42 million and complained that it remains high today “eight years removed from the end of the recession.” Mulvaney ended his remark by wondering “why is the number still that high?”:
Mulvaney’s unfounded gut feeling that the number of people receiving SNAP benefits is too high was endlessly reiterated by Fox News and Fox Business personalities who have a long track record of attacking the program. On the May 22 edition of America’s News Headquarters, contributor Mercedes Schlapp bemoaned the so-called “entitlement mentality” of Americans who might oppose unnecessary cuts to food assistance. Later that day, on Your World with Neil Cavuto, host Cavuto complained the number of SNAP recipients has “ballooned to over 44 million today” (it’s actually 42 million), baselessly suggesting it was “not sustainable,” while conservative columnist Carrie Sheffield falsely claimed that federal food assistance has “crowded out the private sector.”
Fox returned to the complaint on May 23, dedicating time on Fox Business’ Cavuto: Coast to Coast and Risk & Reward to the same talking point that 44 million SNAP recipients seemed like too many and therefore the program must be cut. On Making Money with Charles Payne, host Payne and guest Liz Peek falsely argued that food assistance programs are meant only to be “emergency programs” while lamenting the number of users. During that day’s edition of Your World, Cavuto returned again to his complaint about the number of people enrolled in SNAP, remarking that if 44 million Americans are really in need of food assistance “we’re Mozambique, we’re not America.” Moments later, Cavuto was joined by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who defended adding new restrictions to food assistance programs and agreed with Cavuto’s characterization that there is no way so many people truly qualify for assistance.
Contrary to this misleading characterization, the number of SNAP recipients is actually lower than the number of people who qualify for the program and is roughly equal to the number of people living in poverty (see graph below). One would expect the number of SNAP beneficiaries to largely mirror the number of Americans living in poverty because the program is available, with some restrictions, for individuals earning up to 130 percent of the federal poverty level.
For much of the program’s history, the number of people who actually participated in the federal food assistance program was far less than the number who struggled with poverty and the number who potentially qualified for assistance. That began to change during the Bush and Obama administrations, when technological improvements and a bipartisan effort to tackle stigma helped get more deserving families and individuals enrolled in the program. Rates of waste, fraud, and abuse in the system have actually fallen as participation increased and, according to a November 2016 report from the Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, the gap between the number of Americans who qualify for assistance and the number who receive it has been narrowing for years:
“Alt-right” fringe outlets and fake news purveyors are hyping an unsubstantiated suggestion from Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thought former President Barack Obama spied on the Supreme Court. Napolitano previously pushed the false claim that British intelligence spied on President Donald Trump on behalf of Obama.
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Labor rights advocates and progressive political activists commemorated May Day with marches in the United States and around the world in solidarity with immigrants and workers, but their mostly peaceful demonstrations were smeared by right-wing outlets, which painted them as violent outbursts led by anarchists.
May 1 or May Day has been commemorated internationally as a workers rights holiday for over 100 years and this year it happened to roughly coincide with the culmination of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. Trump’s tenure thus far has been typified by toxic anti-immigrant rhetoric and aggressively anti-worker policies and hundreds of thousands of activists peacefully marched this May Day in Washington, D.C. and across the country demonstrating their opposition to his agenda. While clashes broke out in some cities, most marches in the U.S. and around the world were peaceful.
In response to the demonstrations, fringe right-wing outlets like The Gateway Pundit, ZeroHedge, and Infowars, along with the Russian government propaganda outlet RT, used the few isolated instances of violence to paint a picture that all protesters were violent communists and anarchists. Right-wing conspiracy site WorldNetDaily warned, “Movements like this always end in death, poverty and misery.” Breitbart.com had a bevy of articles on May Day that claimed protesters were “radical left-wing activists,” alleged the crowd sizes at the protests did not live up to expectations, hyped violence that broke out in Portland as being endemic to other demonstrations and mocked Facebook for letting workers take the day off to join up with “communists and Black Bloc enforcers” at May Day protests.
Fox News’ portrayals of the May Day rallies depicted a similar dystopia. On the May 2 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney discarded the notion that the demonstrations had anything to do with “workers, or workers rights, or trade unions” and claimed May Day had been hijacked by “the violent left” to protest Trump. Varney continued to lambast May Day protesters on his Fox Business program while guest Tom Sullivan claimed the demonstrators were actually communist agitators who “just changed their names” to blend in with progressivism. From the May 2 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:
Meager Growth Under Obama Meant We Were “Sliding Toward Recession”; For Trump, Fox Predicts A “Bounce Back”
The latest report from the Commerce Department found American economic growth in the first quarter of 2017 fell just short of most economists’ expectations. A virtually identical report one year ago was met with a chorus of outrage and hyperbole from the professional antagonists at Fox News, but their doomsaying has mellowed completely with President Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office.
On April 28, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a report detailing the rate of change in real gross domestic product (GDP) during the first quarter of the year. The report showed GDP had increased just 0.7 percent during the time frame, which was both below expectations and the “weakest growth in three years.” According to The New York Times, the indicator “upset expectations for a Trump bump at the start of 2017,” while The Washington Post added that underwhelming economic performance “highlights the challenge this administration … will face trying to meet its target rate of 3 percent economic growth.” During a segment on CNN’s New Day, chief business correspondent Christine Romans noted that “the main culprit” holding back economic growth is “some nervousness among consumers,” whose spending accounts for more than half of the economy:
At Fox News, however, the GDP report was met with muted reactions and renewed criticism of the supposedly weak economy Trump inherited from President Obama. Fox Business host Stuart Varney admitted at the outset of the April 28 edition of Varney & Co., that the report was “very, very weak” before predicting “the Left [will blame] President Trump” for sluggish first-quarter growth while guest John Lonski surmised that the economy would “bounce back” in the second quarter of the year. Later in the program, after a guest complained about the economy settling into a cycle of slow growth, Fox Business anchor Ashley Webster pleaded, “It’s just the first three months, give it time,” before predicting higher rates of growth over the next three months stemming from deregulation. Fox Business contributor Elizabeth MacDonald added that “this is an overhang … of the Obama years” while complaining that “this is what the president has inherited.” From Varney & Co.:
The measured response from Fox’s cast of characters is a far cry from how they responded to a virtually identical GDP report published by the BEA on April 28, 2016. Varney falsely characterized first-quarter GDP growth of last year -- which at 0.5 percent also missed expectations before being upwardly revised -- as proof that the economy was “sliding toward recession” and ignored other indicators showing the economy was improving. One day later, Varney continued lambasting Obama during an appearance on Fox & Friends in which he pushed the unsubstantiated claim that the post-recession recovery was a historic failure.
This is not the first time a Fox personality has backtracked on mischaracterizations of the economy in order to hype or defend the Trump administration. The network has completely reversed its tone toward the monthly jobs reports since Trump took office, giving him credit for jobs he didn’t create, fawning over job creation that had become routine under Obama, and heaping praise on economic indicators identical to those they had once excoriated.
Columbia University Report Outlines Market Forces Killing The Coal Industry
A new Columbia University report adds to a wealth of research disproving the right-wing media myth that President Donald Trump can bring back coal jobs and revitalize coal communities by simply rolling back environmental protections enacted by previous administrations.
Conservative media outlets, political commentators, and Trump himself have repeatedly argued that undoing Obama-era environmental protections would reverse the decades-long decline in coal mining employment. But a new in-depth analysis published by researchers at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy throws cold water on this notion, concluding, “President Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations will not materially improve economic conditions in America’s coal communities.”
The report goes into great detail about the factors behind coal’s decline. It finds that the vast majority of the decrease in coal consumption was due to market factors unrelated to federal regulations and that it is “highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.” From the April 2017 report (emphasis added):
We found that 49 percent of the decline in domestic US coal consumption was due to the drop in natural gas prices, 26 percent was due to lower than expected electricity demand, and 18 percent was due to growth in renewable energy. Environmental regulations contributed to the decline by accelerating coal power plant retirement, but these were a less significant factor. We also found that changes in the global coal market have played a far greater role in the decline of US production and employment than is generally understood. The recent collapse of Chinese coal demand, especially for metallurgical coal, depressed coal prices around the world and reduced the market for US exports. The decline in global coal prices was a particularly important factor in the recent wave of coal company bankruptcies and resulting threats to the healthcare and pension security of retired US coal miners and their dependents.
Second, the paper examines the prospects for a recovery of US coal production and employment by modeling the impact of President Trump’s executive order and assessing the global coal market outlook. We found that successfully removing President Obama’s environmental regulations has the potential to mitigate the recent decline in US coal consumption, but that will only occur if natural gas prices start to rise. If they remain at current levels, domestic consumption will continue to decline, particularly if renewable energy costs fall faster than expected. We similarly see little prospect of a sustainable recovery in global coal demand growth and seaborne coal prices. Combining our domestic and international market outlook, we believe it is highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.
The report’s conclusion that undoing environmental protections will have little impact on coal mining employment aligns with what numerous experts and nonideological media analysts have reported. The researchers also found that the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which regulates emissions from coal-fired power plants and which Trump singled out with a March 28 executive order that rolled back environmental regulations, “played no direct role in the reduction of US coal consumption and production experienced over the past few years.” (The Obama administration announced the final version of the CPP in August 2015 but the rules were never actually implemented.)
The report does note that the decline in coal consumption could be mitigated “if natural gas prices increase going forward,” but the impact on jobs would not be as direct. As Robert W. Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming, explained to The New York Times, even if coal mines stay open, they are “using more mechanization” and “not hiring people. … So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs.”
Notably, the Columbia report offers policy recommendations “for how the federal government can support economic diversification in coal communities through infrastructure investment, abandoned mine land reclamation, tax credits, small business incubation, workforce training, and support for locally driven economic development initiatives.”
But perhaps just as importantly, the researchers offer the following recommendation for lawmakers: “Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going on in the US coal sector—including the causes of coal’s decline and unlikeliness of its resurgence—rather than offer false hope that the glory days can be revived.”
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Reports On Ossoff’s Fundraising Ignore Advantage Republicans Have From Outside Spending
Following the special election primary for a vacant House seat in Georgia, media figures are repeating President Donald Trump’s spin highlighting out-of-state donations that helped Democrat Jon Ossoff. The focus on Ossoff’s fundraising, however, ignores the disproportionate advantage the Republican Party and Republican candidates got from outside groups in the race.
Trump Apologists Cannot Understand Why Protests Aimed At Trump’s Tax Returns Would Coincide With Tax Day
Fox News echoed the insults and attacks President Donald Trump leveled against tens of thousands of Americans that took part in over 180 rallies and events in 48 states over the weekend in protest of the president’s refusal to disclose his tax returns.
On April 15, the day that federal tax returns are typically due to be filed, organizers in Washington, D.C. and across the country led Tax March demonstrations in protest of Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns to the public. Trump attacked the protestors in a series of tweets the following day, complaining that his “tax returns are being brought up again,” diminishing the nationwide demonstrations as “small organized rallies,” and suggesting that demonstrators were paid to oppose him. Trump concluded by exclaiming “the election is over!”
I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 16, 2017
Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 16, 2017
Taking their cue from Trump, Fox News media personalities proceeded to blast the Tax March. On the April 17 edition of Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee questioned “the timing of this” and wondered if the protests were a distraction given “everything that’s going on in the world.” Guest Adam Goodman, a Republican strategist, agreed with her assessment adding that “for many, as I think you can now see, the campaign isn’t over, it’s never over.”
The April 17 edition of Fox’s Outnumbered led its segment bashing the protesters by displaying Trump’s tweet calling for the protestors to be “looked into” and co-host Meghan McCain deflected criticism of Trump’s unprecedented refusal to disclose his tax information because he was not legally required to release it. Guest Guy Benson, political editor of Townhall, complained that the Tax March and other protests against Trump’s presidency made him feel “fatigue,” and wondered “why this issue, why a giant protest now?” Later that evening, on Fox Business’ Kennedy, host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery piled on the criticism, calling the protesters “a collection of free wheeling leftists” who are “bored” with the Trump administration and disgruntled Clinton supporters who have not gotten over the election.
Fox continued to mock the protesters and playdown the importance of Trump releasing his tax returns into the following day. On the April 18 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox contributor and the Trump campaign’s deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, falsely claimed “the American people don’t care” if Trump discloses his tax returns and that the marchers were “paid professional protesters.” Later that morning, on Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano acknowledged Trump’s taxes were an important issue during the campaign but reiterated Trump’s talking point that “the campaign is over” and “this is no longer relevant.” Host Stuart Varney, however, admitted that the tax returns might reveal Trump could make “enormous” gains from the tax cuts he campaigned on.
While Trump’s devotees and apologists at Fox regurgitated his rhetoric, investigative reporter and tax specialist David Cay Johnston -- who had previously obtained a copy of Trump’s 2005 tax returns -- explained on the April 18 edition of MSNBC’s MSNBC Live that complete tax disclosure remains important in rooting out conflicts of interest and understanding how much Trump would benefit from his tax agenda:
Fox News defended Trump hiding his tax returns throughout the 2016 election season and seems poised to continue. The network has repeatedly held Trump to a different standard than other presidents and politicians.