Matthew Yglesias

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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”:

  • Did News Outlets Finally Learn Their Lesson About Trump’s Exaggerated Jobs Announcements?

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Since his election, President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed credit for private businesses’ decisions to invest in the United States. His flimsy and misleading boasts have been routinely amplified by compliant media outlets before the claims eventually collapse under scrutiny. Yet the response from mainstream journalists to the president’s latest jobs boast seems to indicate that perhaps some outlets have “caught on” to Trump’s exaggerated pronouncements and have stopped taking them at face value.

    On March 27, The Detroit News broke the news that the Ford Motor Co. has announced an investment of “$1.2 billion in three Michigan facilities” and that most of the investment was brokered in 2015 as part of the company’s contract with the United Auto Workers union. Roughly $350 million of that total investment represents new money, but Ford is expected to “add or retain” only 130 jobs -- a marginal amount compared to the 201,000 people the company employs worldwide.

    Trump moved early the next day to take credit, tweeting that Ford would announce an investment “in three Michigan plants” and that “car companies [are] coming back to the U.S.” before concluding, “JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!” Later in the day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer pointed to the Ford announcement as proof that “the president’s economic agenda is what American businesses have been waiting for.”

    In the past few months, Media Matters has chronicled dozens of occasions when outlets stumbled over themselves to credit Trump for creating new American jobs based on his misleading claims of playing a role in private sector business decisions that he had little to do with. (See: Alibaba, Carrier, Ford, SoftBank.)

    Trump’s tweet about Ford seemed poised to inspire more of the same media fawning, but journalists who covered the news largely downplayed Trump’s role rather than falling for his boast. The Washington Post, USA Today, Bloomberg, and Reuters all reported that the majority of the Ford investment plan far predated the Trump administration and was part of the company’s long-term restructuring plan for its American factories.

    New York Times columnist and MSNBC contributor Steven Rattner noted that “The big news ended up being only 130 jobs” and asked of the president, “When will he stop misleading [people]?” CNBC reporter Jacob Pramuk reported that the “White House on Tuesday promoted a Ford investment in American plants” even though “most of [the money] was part of a plan the automaker first announced in 2015.” Vox senior correspondent Matt Yglesias highlighted that CNBC article on Twitter and commented that reporters were “catching on” to Trump’s game. Washington Post reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee pointed out that the Ford investment “had nothing to do [with] Trump’s election.” Meanwhile, New York Times correspondent Binyamin Appelbaum mocked Trump by writing that the president’s tweet contained “three more exclamation points … than the number of new jobs that Ford created today.” In his write-up of Trump’s announcement, CNNMoney senior writer Chris Isidore added that “Ford isn't bringing any work back to the United States from Mexico, or any other foreign country” -- a blow to Trump’s claim that automakers are “coming back to the U.S.”

    In contrast to the sober reporting from mainstream media, right-wing outlets that are aligned with Trump continued to promote his unsubstantiated role in creating jobs for American workers. The “alt-right” website Breitbart.com promoted the Ford story under the banner “TRUMP JOBS BOOM CONTINUES” while the sycophants at Fox News called the investment deal “another win for American workers” and Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy hyped the investment plan by stating, “Oh, it’s so much winning.” From the March 28 edition of Fox & Friends:

    As the White House has become embroiled in scandal and legislative failure, Trump has flooded the news cycle with lies far more outrageous than his attempt to take credit for jobs he didn’t create. Journalists, therefore, still need to be mindful of the administration’s attempts to build up the myth of Trump as a unique dealmaker and economic leader.

  • Right-Wing Media Tout Trump’s “Lobbying Ban” As Draining The Swamp, While Other Outlets Question Ban’s Efficacy

    Emphasis On Ban Also Ignores Trump’s Many Other Conflicts Of Interest

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media are touting new “promises” from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team to implement five-year “bans on having folks go and lobby after being in the administration” -- and to allow no registered lobbyists on his transition team -- as “a signal that he's going to do the draining of the swamp he said he'd do.” But other media have explained why the ban wouldn’t necessarily work, as lobbyists could just avoid registering as such, and transition team members could undo their lobbyist registration. In addition, the proposed “ban” does nothing to address the “tidal wave of potential conflicts of interest” that “will arrive with” a Trump administration.

  • FBI Director's Letter Receives Criticism From Across The Political Spectrum

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Media figures from across the political spectrum are criticizing FBI Director James Comey for defying Justice Department rules and precedent to issue a short and vague letter informing Congress that the Bureau had obtained and was seeking to review emails “that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” regarding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. The journalists and pundits called the timing of Comey’s letter “unfortunate, given its potential to affect a democratic process in which millions of people are already voting,” with some going so far as to say Comey’s letter “both disgraces and politicizes the FBI.”

  • Conservative Media Run With Wall Street Journal's Nothingburger Of A Clinton Pseudo-Scandal

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Right-wing media are hyping a Wall Street Journal article that attempts to scandalize the FBI’s investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s email use by tying political donations made by Clinton ally and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to a 2015 state senate candidate whose husband later became involved in the FBI investigation. Journalists mocked and poked holes in the “embarrassing” story that has “literally nothing” to it. 

  • Pence Runs With Flawed AP Report To Smear The Clinton Foundation

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    During the 2016 vice presidential debate, Republican Gov. Mike Pence referenced a flawed Associated Press (AP) report to baselessly allege Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was involved in “pay-to-play politics.” The cited AP report falsely suggested that Clinton granted special State Department access to Clinton Foundation donors but included no evidence of wrongdoing. Pence also left out the fact that the AP was forced to take down its misleading tweet on the report, saying it did not meet its journalistic standards.

  • NBC News Mainstreams Conspiracy Theories About Hillary Clinton's Health

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    NBC News helped mainstream conservative media conspiracy theories about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s health by devoting an entire article to a "coughing fit" she had. The report -- while widely criticized by members of the media -- was pushed by right-wing media figures who for years have led the charge in spreading debunked conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health.

    On September 5, NBC News reported that Clinton suffered from a "coughing fit" on the campaign trail in an article titled, “Hillary Clinton Fights Back Coughing Attack,” writing:

    Hillary Clinton struggled to fight back a coughing fit while campaigning in Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday.

    [...]

    The former secretary of state has suffered from coughing fits at times throughout the Democratic presidential primary.

    However the frog in Clinton's throat on Monday was one of the most aggressive she's had during her 2016 run and left her almost unable to finish her remarks.

    Clinton’s coughing was also brought up on broadcast morning shows on September 6, including NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS This Morning, where CBS correspondent Nancy Cordes claimed Clinton’s coughing from seasonal allergies “got the better of her.”

    The NBC News report was embraced by right-wing media figures, who have spent years pushing conspiracy theories about Clinton’s health. The Drudge Report linked to the NBC News story on its banner, blaring the headline: “GETTING WORSE: CLINTON COUGH VIOLENTLY RETURNS,” adding Clinton’s “HEALTH STATUS UP IN THE AIR.” The story was also tweeted out by conservative media figures, with Fox Business host Lou Dobbs writing that “it’s time for answers” about Clinton’s health:

    The piece, however, was widely derided by mainstream media figures declaring “this ain’t news” and asking if NBC “seriously ran this story?”:

    As James Poniewozik, The New York Times’ TV critic, points out, the fact Clinton coughed is “news only [because] of a context of rumor, which NBC is indulging.” The NBC News report sent a dog-whistle to right-wing conspiracy theorists and gave legitimacy to their ridiculous claims that Clinton is suffering from serious health problems. For years, right-wing media have obsessed over Clinton’s bodily functions, including coughing fits and using the restroom.

    More dangerously, mainstream media have also hyped these conspiracies, even when their own outlets have debunked them. Even NBC Nightly News previously dispelled the “conspiracy theories” surrounding Clinton’s health.

    Media figures have recently criticized the right-wing figures promoting these myths. CNN’s Brian Stelter said it “does a disservice” to the audience “by peddling these conspiracy theories.” Michael Smerconish argued “it’s unhealthy for us as a society and electorate to all play armchair physician and go on and make some diagnoses,” especially since these claims have been debunked numerous times.

  • Even The Media Is Getting Sick Of The Trump “Pivot” Narrative

    ››› ››› CHRISTOPHER LEWIS

    Following Donald Trump’s heavily anticipated immigration speech, media figures have finally concluded that there will be no so-called “pivot” from the Republican presidential nominee. They are urging people to never “speak of Donald Trump pivoting ever, ever again” and claiming that talk of a Trump pivot needs to “be put in a lockbox.”

  • GOP Uses Flawed AP Report To Call For An Investigation Into The Clinton Foundation

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Republicans are using a flawed Associated Press report -- that baselessly alleged Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton granted special State Department access to Clinton Foundation donors -- to justify calls for an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Even though the report included no evidence of wrongdoing, numerous media figures hyped it as a scandal, claiming “the optics are disturbing” for Clinton.

  • Vox’s Matthew Yglesias Explains The Need For Journalists To Contextualize Clinton Stories

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Vox’s Matthew Yglesias used the example of former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s charitable organization to show that journalists need to properly contextualize their reporting on Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation because such scrutiny “can be misleading” in a media environment where Clinton is presumed to be corrupt and “every decision she makes and every relationship she has is cast in the most negative possible light,” while others who pursue similar actions are given “the presumption of innocence.”

    Over the past few weeks, new information about Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation has been scandalized by the media, with coverage focused on “optics when outlets find no evidence of wrongdoing, and misrepresenting stories that lack proper context. The sensationalist reporting on Clinton has sparked serious criticism of the media coverage, illustrating double standards and flawed reporting.

    In an August 30 article, Yglesias argues that the media must properly contextualize stories about Hillary Clinton, because while “it’s natural to assume that where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” in the instance of the Clinton Foundation, “the smoke … is not a naturally occurring phenomenon” but rather “the result of … editorial decisions by the managers of major news organizations to dedicate resources to running down every possible Clinton email lead.” He criticizes the media for extending the “presumption of innocence” to politicians like Colin Powell, who turned his charity -- which accepted corporate donations -- over to his spouse while he served as secretary of state, while they depict Hillary Clinton as “a uniquely corrupt specimen operating with wildly unusual financial arrangements and substantive practices” because “people ‘know’ she is corrupt”:

    The value of the presumption of innocence

    Because Colin Powell did not have the reputation in the mid- to late ’90s of being a corrupt or shady character, his decision to launch a charity in 1997 was considered laudable. Nobody would deny that the purpose of the charity was, in part, to keep his name in the spotlight and keep his options open for future political office. Nor would anybody deny that this wasn’t exactly a case of Powell having super-relevant expertise. What he had to offer was basically celebrity and his good name. By supporting Powell’s charity, your company could participate in Powell’s halo.

    But when the press thinks of you as a good guy, leveraging your good reputation in this way is considered a good thing to do. And since the charity was considered a good thing to do, keeping the charity going when Powell was in office as secretary of state was also considered a good thing to do. And since Powell was presumed to be innocent — and since Democrats did not make attacks on Powell part of their partisan strategy — his charity was never the subject of a lengthy investigation.

    [...]

    The perception that Clinton is corrupt is one of her most profound handicaps as a politician. And what’s particularly crippling about it is that evidence of her corruption is so widespread exactly because everyone knows she’s corrupt.

    Because people “know” that she is corrupt, every decision she makes and every relationship she has is cast in the most negative possible light. When she doesn’t allow her policy decisions to be driven by donors, she’s greeted by headlines like “Hillary Blasts For-Profit Colleges, But Bill Took Millions From One.”

    [...]

    Hillary Clinton is running for president. Her opponent, Donald Trump, is unusually weak and will probably lose. Scrutinizing her, her activities, and her associations is appropriate, and it’s difficult for any responsible citizen to argue that the likely next most powerful person on the planet is under too much scrutiny.

    But the mere fact of scrutiny can be misleading.

    It’s natural to assume that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But the smoke emanating from the Clinton Foundation is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. It is the result of a reasonably well-funded dedicated partisan opposition research campaign, and of editorial decisions by the managers of major news organizations to dedicate resources to running down every possible Clinton email lead in the universe.

    Whatever one thinks of that decision, it’s at least appropriate to ask editors and writers to put their findings on these matters into some kind of context for readers’ benefit. To the extent that Clinton is an example of the routinized way in which economic elites exert disproportionate voice in the political process, that’s a story worth telling. But it’s a very different story from a one in which Clinton is a uniquely corrupt specimen operating with wildly unusual financial arrangements and substantive practices.

    Much of what we’ve seen over the past 18 months is journalists doing reporting that supports the former story, and then writing leads and headlines that imply the latter. But people deserve to know what’s actually going on.

  • Fox & Friends Defends Trump's Widely Condemned Self-Congratulatory Tweet About Chicago Shooting

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    The hosts of Fox News’ Fox & Friends defended Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after he tweeted about the shooting death of Nykea Aldridge, NBA player Dwyane Wade’s cousin, in Chicago, while other media figures from across the political spectrum criticized Trump for  “lacking empathy” and “politicizing tragedy.”

  • Media Hype “Optics” In AP Report On Clinton Foundation, While Admitting There Is No Evidence Of Ethics Breaches

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & JARED HOLT

    Media are attempting to scandalize a report from The Associated Press that revealed that “[m]ore than half the people outside the government who met with now-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money ... to the Clinton Foundation,” calling the report “breathtaking” and “disturbing,” because it “looks bad,” and the “optics” and “perceptions” are problematic, despite the fact that their programs also note that “it wasn’t illegal,” and there was no quid pro quo. The focus on the “optics” of the situation rather than the facts has led some in media to criticize the reporting, and explain that “consumers of the media [should] think twice about whether or not the narrative” media are pushing “fits ALL of the facts.”

  • Journalists Ridicule Lack Of Economic Policy During Trump’s “Make America Work Again” Convention Night

    Day Two Of The Republican National Convention Focused On Emails, Benghazi, And Clinton-Bashing

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The second day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) was billed as an opportunity to highlight Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposals to boost job creation and economic growth. Journalists blasted the RNC and Trump campaign after the speakers ignored the economy and instead attacked Hillary Clinton over issues like the Benghazi attacks and her use of a private email server.