The multimedia financial services company The Motley Fool joined a chorus of media outlets uncritically promoting the misleading claim that reclassifying broadband Internet services as a public utility could amount to a multi-billion dollar tax on the internet.
In a December 6 blog suggesting net neutrality policies could "raise your internet bill," the Motley Fool joined the Wall Street Journal and others in hyping the misleading findings of a policy brief on Internet reclassification performed by economists Robert Litan of the Brookings Institution and Hal Singer of the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI). The brief, titled "Outdated Regulations Will Make Consumers Pay More For Broadband," concluded that reclassifying the Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act would create "more than $15 billion" in new annual fees to be passed on to consumers and stifle telecommunications innovation:
We have calculated that the average annual increase in state and local fees levied on U.S. wireline and wireless broadband subscribers will be $67 and $72, respectively. And the annual increase in federal fees per household will be roughly $17. When you add it all up, reclassification could add a whopping $15 billion in new user fees on top of the planned $1.5 billion extra to fund the E-Rate program. The higher fees would come on top of the adverse impact on consumers of less investment and slower innovation that would result from reclassification.
According to the nonpartisan open Internet advocacy group Free Press, PPI's claim that Internet reclassification would amount to more than $15 billion in new local, state, and federal taxes is an unlikely "worst-case scenario" that fails to account for how net neutrality works in practice. The multi-billion dollar estimate ignores the fact that reclassification of the Internet as an interstate telecommunications public utility would remove it from most in-state forms of taxation. Correcting this methodological error would reduce allegedly burdensome fees associated with net neutrality reclassification by nearly 75 percent, to roughly $4 billion.
Further regulatory decisions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), coupled with legislation from Congress, "could take additional steps to remove or limit any future taxes or fees," according to Free Press. For instance, FCC fees associated with the Universal Service Fund (USF) could be suspended if the FCC deems the fees to be contrary to the USF mission of subsidizing the expansion of telecommunications to under-served communities. Furthermore, a simple congressional renewal of the Internet Tax Freedom Act could guarantee against local, state, or federal governments imposing "Internet-specific taxes."
Net neutrality is the status quo by which the Internet operates. Establishing and codifying the neutrality that has always existed is an important step to ensure free markets and fair competition for consumers and content producers.
Sunday morning political talk shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox devoted just 30 seconds of coverage to net neutrality the week after President Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission to require Internet service providers to treat all content equally. Those same programs dedicated nearly 17 minutes to helping scandalize comments made by Jonathan Gruber, an economist who helped estimate the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The Washington Post has promoted the conservative myth that corporate taxes in the United States are among the highest in the world while pushing the claim that tax rates should be further reduced as part of a so-called "reform" of the tax code.
Fox News misleadingly claimed that a Republican Senate majority could be a "big plus" for the stock market and generate economic growth of 3 percent to 4 percent, but hid the reality that growth has already topped those levels.
On the November 3 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum warned that the midterm elections could have a "big impact on your money" and argued that despite recent stock market growth, "we could be seeing an even bigger rally if the GOP takes the Senate." Fox Business host Stuart Varney agreed, attributing the stock market rally of the past two weeks to the fact that "Republicans look more and more likely to take the Senate," and predicting that policies produced by a Republican-led Senate could set the economy on a path toward "3 to 4 percent" growth "instead of 2 percent." MacCallum and Varney claimed that 4 percent growth is something the economy has not seen in "a long time":
In reality, the American economy has grown by an average of 4.1 percent in the last six months -- while the Senate remained under Democratic control. The second and third quarters of 2014 had the strongest back-to-back growth rates the U.S. has seen since 2003, with respective growth rates of 4.6 percent and 3.5 percent. In fact, growth rates have topped Varney's arbitrary "3 to 4 percent" threshold during four of the past five quarters.
As Bloomberg News' Dave Weigel noted, Varney's speculation also ignores the Dow Jones industrial average's gain of more than 4,000 points since the 2012 election. The Dow is up more than 9,000 points since President Obama was first inaugurated in January 2009.
Right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham questioned the authenticity of the health care professionals flanking the president during a press conference on Ebola, suggesting that some may have been political props in "white coats."
On October 29, President Obama addressed the United States' on-going response to Ebola outbreaks in West Africa joined by several health care workers recently returned from relief operations overseas as well as others soon to depart for the region. Among the guests was Dr. Kent Brantly, who became infected while volunteering in Liberia and was the first Ebola patient treated on American soil. The president addressed the urgent need to "stop the outbreak at its source," and thanked the "extraordinary American health workers who are on the front lines of the fight."
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham criticized Obama's appearance with the relief workers on the October 30 edition of her radio show, and questioned whether or not some were employees of the pro-Obama political group Organizing for America disguised in "white coats":
INGRAHAM: [Obama] was flanked by volunteers who have gone to West Africa to help the victims of Ebola. Are we positive that it was all volunteers, Julia? Could it have been some of the folks from Organizing for America just in the white coats?
Listen to the full segment here:
Conservative media praised the failed theory of trickle-down economics in response to Hillary Clinton's remark that the middle class, not tax cuts for corporations, spurs economic growth, a position backed by economists.
Fox News contributor and Republican strategist Karl Rove misreported Gallup poll data on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in order to attack health care reform as a liability for Democrats in the 2014 midterm elections. In fact, the Gallup poll Rove cited found that the majority of respondents said the ACA has had no effect on them or their families, and 16 percent of respondents said the law helped.
In his October 22 Wall Street Journal column, Rove claimed that the ACA "is re-emerging as a major liability for the Democratic Senate" heading into the November 4 elections. Citing an October 2 poll by Gallup, Rove alleged that 54 percent of Americans "said the Affordable Care Act had hurt them and their families, compared to 27% who said it had helped them."
But according to Gallup, a majority of Americans (54 percent) believe that Obamacare has "had no effect" on them or their families, and another 16 percent believed that the ACA has helped:
Bloomberg TV co-host Cory Johnson called out the hypocrisy of activist telecommunications investor Jeff Pulver who misleadingly stoked fears that proponents of net neutrality advocate for regulations that would hamper telecommunications innovations. Johnson pointed out that without an open internet, the CEO might have been unable to create his own business.
Net neutrality, the basic principle that corporate internet providers should provide equal access to content for subscribers, has become a hotly debated issue among telecommunications conglomerates and internet service providers (ISP) who want to charge companies a premium for preferential access and speed for internet consumers.
On the October 21 edition of Bloomberg West, Johnson and co-host Emily Chang invited Pulver, the founder of Vonage, to respond to net neutrality advocates like Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has called on Comcast to strengthen its commitment to net neutrality. Pulver accused net neutrality advocates of "bullying" and hyped fears that committing to neutrality would amount to onerous regulation of data and information services. Pulver also argued that regulating the telecommunications industry to ensure neutrality through Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 would lead to discrimination against businesses that seek to provide faster or more reliable access to certain data services and halt innovation.
National Review editor Rich Lowry equated Kentucky senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes' refusal to disclose which presidential candidate she voted for in 2012 with former Republican Rep. Todd Akin's (MO) stunning claim that it is "really rare" for a woman to become pregnant as a result of "a legitimate rape." Lowry suggested the two positions were politically equivalent "gaffes," whitewashing the fact that Akin's statement was not only absurdly disconnected from scientific reality -- it also happened to reflect actual policy priorities of the Republican Party.
During an October 10 interview with the editorial board of The Louisville Courier-Journal, Grimes said she "respect[ed] the sanctity of the ballot box" when asked if she voted for President Obama in past elections. During an October 13 candidate debate, Grimes reiterated her stance on voter privacy:
GRIMES: This is a matter of principle. Our constitution grants, here in Kentucky, the constitutional right to privacy at the ballot box, for a secret ballot. You have that right, Senator McConnell has that right, every Kentuckian has that right.
GRIMES: I am not going to compromise a constitutional right provided here in Kentucky in order to curry favor on one or other side or for members of the media.
In an October 15 column published by Politico Magazine, Lowry exclaimed that "Alison Lundergan Grimes is the Todd Akin of 2014," and argued that Grimes' stated position defending the secret ballot was "a defining political gaffe" for this election. He likened her comments to then-Rep. Todd Akin's infamous statements about rape and pregnancy, in which Akin stated that pregnancies resulting from rape are rare because, "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Lowry argued that the two candidates represented similar levels of political ineptitude, writing that each was "telegenic, mockable and universally condemned."
Grimes' decision to stand on principle with regard to voter privacy has been labeled a "gaffe" by some, but, as MSNBC's Steve Benen pointed out, it is "an issue the media has deemed extremely important, but which actually affects no one."
By comparison, Akin's alarming comments on rape and pregnancy were reflected to varying degrees in actual policy decisions favored by Republican elected officials and candidates. Akin would later attempt to clarify his remarks amid a "firestorm" of controversy, but maintained his opposition to legal abortion access for women -- a constitutional right codified by the Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. In 2012, many prominent Republican candidates and conservative media figures supported banning safe and legal abortion, making the issue a central part of campaign rhetoric.
In October 2012, Indiana Republican senate candidate Richard Mourdock voiced his opposition to abortion "even when life begins in that terrible situation of rape," stating that "it is something that God intended to happen." Around the same time, Republican Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois supported a ban on all abortion, including cases that would threaten the life of the mother. Walsh falsley claimed that "modern technology and science" had solved the problem of potentially life-threatening pregnancies. During a 2007 Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney said "we don't want to have abortion in this country at all, period." He went on to state that it would be "terrific" if Congress passed a bill outlawing abortion, which he would be "delighted" to sign. Romney dodged abortion questions throughout his 2012 campaign, but promised to eliminate federal funding for women's health organizations like Planned Parenthood and vowed to be "a pro-life president."
Outlawing access to abortion remains a lightning rod for conservative media, with some right-wing outlets going so far as to tie debates about legal abortion to the crimes of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. Right-wing media figures like Karl Rove have pushed the myth that some forms of contraception are actually forms of abortion, while others such as Bill O'Reilly advanced extremist views on fetal "personhood" that would criminalize most abortions.
There is no appropriate comparison between Akin's extreme rhetoric and false scientific claims, and Grimes' personal defense of privacy at the ballot box.
Fox News ramped up its attempted character assassination of CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden with direct calls for his resignation, suggestions that he is uninformed on the spread of infectious disease, and a comparison of the public servant to Saddam Hussein's one-time propaganda minister.
On the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, contributor Laura Ingraham attacked Dr. Thomas Frieden, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for his handling of public relations in the wake of the first confirmed case of Ebola contraction in the United States. Ingraham assailed Director Frieden, claiming that he "is on the verge of becoming the Baghdad Bob of the health care community," and claimed that he seems less like a health care professional and more like a member of "the Obama spin room." Co-host Brian Kilmeade joined the attack, claiming the Frieden talks to the public "like children" before promoting the idea of appointing former Republican Senator Bill Frist to run the United States' Ebola response:
Ingraham's use of "Baghdad Bob" is an allusion to former Ba'ath Party spokesperson and Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf, who gained international notoriety in 2003 for repeated and obviously false claims that American troops were being rolled back by the defensive forces of Saddam Hussein's regime.