Right-wing media outlets are hyping disclosures that health insurance premium rates could "skyrocket" for some plans in 2016 as proof of the Affordable Care Act's failure as a national policy, ignoring the fact that these reported rates are skewed and not final, and that previous "rate shock" predictions have fallen flat.
Fox News is on the defensive after Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush said making Americans "work longer hours" was a central facet of his economic growth plan, claiming that Bush meant to say that the "Obama economy" is forcing Americans into part-time work. However, Fox's reasoning is based on faulty data and imaginary links between hours worked, productivity, and wages.
USA Today's editorial board published a misleading editorial comparing the economic crisis currently crippling Greece with the economic problems facing the United States, fear mongering that a similar crisis could happen "in as little as a decade." But economists have repeatedly dismissed the comparison, explaining that the U.S. economy is dissimilar from Greece and therefore unlikely to face a similar debt crisis.
On July 6, the editorial board published a piece claiming that the United States could find itself in a Greece-like economic and financial crisis as a result of America's debt and entitlements. According to the editorial board, "Greece is just further along" in its debt crisis however, Americans can expect a major shock "in as little as a decade."
Both countries have amassed large debts. Both are run by politicians eager to tell voters what they want to hear about national finances, not what they need to hear. Both have aging populations. Both are familiar with irresponsible banks lending to irresponsible borrowers. And both have been plunging headlong towards debt crises.
Greece is just further along.
Yet efforts to even modestly curtail health benefits, or any other "entitlement" programs for that matter, meet thunderous opposition from politicians, labor unions, senior citizen groups and others. Often, the objections are couched in language of people having "earned" their benefits after a lifetime of work.
In fact, they've earned a portion of their benefits. An average couple that retired in 2010, for instance, will receive $387,000 in Medicare benefits after having paid $122,000 in Medicare taxes while working. Social Security is in somewhat better shape but it, too, will soon have to start drawing down its reserves, adding more red ink to the budget.
Unless benefit programs are reined in, America is heading for its own debt crisis. It won't be complicated by whether it should drop out of a currency union. And it might be delayed by a vibrant and innovative private sector. But it could arrive in as little as a decade. And then everything will seem Greek to us.
USA Today's doom and gloom predictions are indistinguishable from the cartoonish fearmongering that has been promoted by Fox News since 2010.
Washington Post contributor and international political economist Daniel Drezner blasted media outlets for allowing the "re-emergence of a Greece-related meme that should have died of shame and embarrassment about four years ago." According to Drezner, after years of the media predicting a Greek-like disaster "exactly none of these things have come to pass."
And on the July 5 edition of ABC's This Week, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman downplayed the impact of the Greek debt crisis for other developed economies, explaining that Greece's GDP is roughly equal to that of Miami, Florida. Krugman also argued in his New York Times column that U.S.-Greece comparisons are unreliable, since they project debt in future decades and assume fiscal policies remain static.
Um, that's comparing a (highly uncertain) projection of debt 20 years from now -- a projection that's based on the assumption of unchanged policy -- with actual debt now. Actual US federal debt is only about half that high now. And it's worth pointing out that Greek debt is projected to rise to 149 percent of GDP over the next few years -- and that's with the austerity measures agreed with the IMF.
Basically, the United States can expect economic recovery to bring the deficit down substantially; Greece, which has a larger structural deficit and also faces a grinding adjustment to overvaluation with the eurozone, can't.
Yes, the United States needs fiscal adjustment -- Auerbach and Gale say that we have a long-run fiscal imbalance of 6-plus percent of GDP, although much of that could be closed by reining in health costs. But we really don't look much like Greece.
Univision Noticias falló a su audiencia al no revelar adecuadamente los vínculos financieros entre un columnista y organizaciones alineadas en contra de un aumento federal al salario mínimo, permitiéndole al autor decir, de manera engañosa, que subir el salario mínimo resultaría en un daño a las minorías trabajadoras y que destruiría empleos.
En una columna del 6 de julio, Daniel Garza, de la organización de extrema derecha Iniciativa Libre, alegó que la "inconveniente realidad de subir el salario mínimo" sería un daño a los "más vulnerables" al aumentar los costos de producción y reducir la demanda de trabajadores. Garza citó un reporte de febrero de 2014 elaborado por la Oficina de Presupuesto del Congreso (CBO, por sus siglas en inglés) como prueba aparente de que aumentar el salario mínimo traería consecuencias negativas a "los más vulnerables", y culpó un aumento del salario mínimo en 2009 de haber destruido cientos de miles de empleos -- ignorando por completo a la verdadera culpable de la pérdida de empleos, la recesión. De su columna en Univision.com:
La Oficina de Presupuesto del Congreso (CBO) pronosticó una pérdida de aproximadamente 500,000 trabajos. Cuando el Congreso aumentó el salario mínimo un 10.6 por ciento en el 2009, más de 600,000 jóvenes perdieron sus trabajos. Actualmente, el salario mínimo contribuye significativamente al desastre fiscal por el que atraviesa Puerto Rico, donde la ley ha contribuido a un alto nivel de desempleo según el Washington Post.
Univision no reveló los profundos lazos financieros existentes entre Daniel Garza, la Iniciativa Libre y la red de activistas anti-salario mínimo financiada por los multimillonarios conservadores Charles y David Koch, lazos que documentó recientemente Media Matters. Univision.com le ha estado brindando una plataforma a Garza y a la Iniciativa Libre sin revelar su agenda financiada por los Koch desde, por lo menos, el 18 de marzo 2015.
"No es un desarrollo positivo tener a alguien como Trump menospreciando la contribución de los inmigrantes a la corriente conservadora, especialmente a la marca Republicana", dijo Daniel Garza - director ejecutivo de la Iniciativa Libre, un grupo financiado por la red de los hermanos Koch, dedicado a vender el conservadurismo a los latinos - en una entrevista con MSNBC.
El argumento de Garza en contra del salario mínimo se encuentra basado enteramente en su mala interpretación de un estudio de la CBO de 2014. La CBO no predijo una "pérdida de aproximadamente 500,000 trabajos", como alega Garza. Predijo 500,000 empleos netos menos creados entre 2014 y 2016 como resultado de aumentar el salario mínimo a $10.10 por hora. El mismo estudio también predijo que un salario mínimo federal de $10.10 aumentaría los ingresos por hora de 16.5 millones de trabajadores estadounidenses, a la vez que sacaría a 900,000 estadounidenses de la pobreza e inyectaría miles de millones de dólares a la economía. El error de Garza no es sorprendente; de acuerdo al Center for American Progress (CAP, por sus siglas en inglés), el estudio de la CBO ha sido malinterpretado ampliamente. Traducido de CAP:
Primero que todo, las proyecciones de la CBO no son que las oportunidades laborales para trabajadores de bajos ingresos disminuirán en los próximos tres años si el salario mínimo se subiera del actual $7.25 a $10.10 la hora, como muchos han reportado. Apenas hace un par de semanas, la CBO publicó su panorama económico y presupuestario para 2014 a 2024, que estima que el empleo en Estados Unidos crecerá en 7 millones de empleos entre ahora y 2018. Por supuesto, esa proyección se basa en un número de supuestos sobre el futuro que consisten en poco más que conjeturas.
Un estudio de febrero de 2013 del Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR por sus siglas en inglés) demostró que décadas de investigación sobre el salario mínimo no han revelado ningún "efecto discernible en el empleo" como resultado de aumentos incrementales al salario mínimo. No hay evidencia de que aumentar el salario mínimo afecte los niveles de empleo, pero hay investigaciones considerables mostrando los impactos positivos para trabajadores de bajos ingresos cuando se aumenta el salario mínimo -- especialmente para las mujeres y las minorías raciales.
Since 2010, Fox News' hosts and analysts have kept up a steady drumbeat of dire warnings that the United States is on a road to financial and economic ruin and could meet the same fate as Greece if it doesn't implement draconian cuts to social safety net programs as a way to cut the debt and deficit. But Greece, which pursued such cuts, accelerated its economic deterioration, while the United States has rejected extreme austerity measures and enjoyed six years of continuous economic recovery.
Univision Noticias failed to adequately disclose for readers the financial ties between an op-ed contributor and organizations aligned against raising the federal minimum wage, allowing the author to misleadingly claim that increasing the baseline hourly wage would actually hurt minority workers and destroy jobs.
In a July 6 Spanish-language op-ed published by Univision.com, Daniel Garza of the far-right Libre Initiative claimed that the "inconvenient reality" of a minimum wage hike is that it would hurt "the most vulnerable" by increasing labor costs and reducing demand for workers. Garza cited a February 2014 report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as apparent proof that raising the minimum wage would bring dire consequences to "the most vulnerable" among the population, and blamed a 2009 minimum wage increase for destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs -- completely ignoring the actual culprit for job loss that year, the recession. Translated from Univision.com:
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted a loss of approximately 500,000 jobs. When Congress raised the minimum wage by 10.6 percent in 2009, more than 600,000 youths lost their jobs. Currently, the minimum wage contributes significantly to the fiscal disaster by running through Puerto Rico, where the law has contributed to a high level of unemployment, according to The Washington Post.
Univision failed to disclose the extensive financial ties between Daniel Garza, the Libre Initiative, and the network of anti-minimum wage advocates funded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, which was recently documented by Media Matters. Univision.com has been providing a platform for Garza and the Libre Initiative without disclosing their Koch-backed agenda since at least March 18, 2015.
Other media outlets, like MSNBC, have done a better job in disclosing Garza's financial backers, putting the bias in his opinion columns in context:
"It's not a positive development to have someone like Trump disparage the contribution of immigrants to the conservative brand, especially the Republican brand," Daniel Garza - executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, a group backed by the Koch brothers' donor network devoted to selling Latinos on conservatism - told msnbc in an interview.
Garza's entire anti-minimum wage argument is based on his misinterpretation of a 2014 CBO study. The CBO did not predict "a loss of approximately 500,000 jobs," as Garza claims. It predicted 500,000 fewer net new jobs created from 2014 through 2016 as a result of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The same study also predicted that a $10.10 federal minimum wage would increase the hourly earnings of 16.5 million American workers, while lifting 900,000 Americans out of poverty and injecting billions of dollars into the economy. Garza's mistake isn't surprising, according to the Center for American Progress, the CBO study has been widely misinterpreted:
First of all, CBO does not project that job opportunities for low-wage workers will decline over the next three years if the minimum wage were raised from the current $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, as so many have reported. Only a few weeks ago, CBO published its economic and budget outlook for 2014 to 2024, which estimated that U.S. employment will grow by 7 million jobs between now and 2018. Of course, that projection is based on a number of assumptions about the future that are little more than educated guesses.
A February 2013 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) showed that decades of minimum wage research reveal no "discernible effect on employment" resulting from incremental increases. There is no evidence that raising the minimum wage affects employment levels, but there is considerable research showing the positive impacts of increasing the minimum wage for low-wage workers -- specifically women and people of color.
Fox News host and senior vice president Neil Cavuto responded to President Obama's expansion of federally guaranteed overtime pay to 5 million additional American workers by fear-mongering that the regulatory change would lead the United States down a path toward financial ruin similar to Greece while hurting the workers it is meant to protect.
In a June 29 op-ed in The Huffington Post, President Obama announced his plan to update federal overtime regulations in 2016 by increasing the salary threshold at which qualifying employees are legally guaranteed overtime pay. Under current law, salaried employees earning less than $23,660 annually are legally required to be paid time-and-a-half when their position requires that they work in excess of 40 hours per week. Obama's proposal would more than double the income threshold to qualify for overtime -- covering qualifying employees earning up to $50,400 annually, or roughly 40 percent of the salaried workforce. Current overtime standards only extend to about 8 percent of salaried workers.
In response to the president's proposal, Cavuto expressed concern that paying more Americans for the hours they work could contribute to an economic disaster in the United States. On the June 30 edition of Fox's Your World, Cavuto proclaimed that the U.S. was becoming "Greece on steroids," a reference to the disastrous fiscal and financial circumstances that have unraveled the comparatively tiny European economy for more than six years. Cavuto was joined by discredited economist Art Laffer, who lamented the "huge burden on these companies" that will now be required to adequately pay their employees:
Despite Cavuto's dire predictions, economists expect that expanded overtime protections will be a boon for the American workforce.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the majority of the workers who will directly benefit from the overtime change are women, and nearly 30 percent of affected workers are minorities. In an op-ed co-authored with philanthropist Nick Hanauer, economist Robert Reich blasted overtime opponents for warning of "unintended consequences" from stronger wages "without an ounce of empirical data to back it up." They also likened the policy to a "minimum wage hike for the middle class," and explained that it will either boost workers' pay or give them additional leisure time while adding new jobs. Economist Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argued in a blog published by The Washington Post that expanding overtime protections is "a critical labor standard with the potential to boost the paychecks of millions of middle-wage workers."
Fox has a long history of attacking overtime protections, recently complaining that the then-rumored proposal amounted to "left-wing economic engineering" and was "probably going to hurt a lot of other people."
Fox News host Sean Hannity praised Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's "great record as governor" during an exclusive interview following the official launch of Jindal's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Hannity ignored the massive budget deficit created by Jindal's tax cuts, as well as the economic woes his policies have inflicted on constituents in his state.
Fox News turned to a fast food CEO notorious for his opposition to paying employees livable wages during a misleading segment alleging that social safety net programs trap low-income Americans in poverty.
On the June 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy invited CKE Restaurants (Hardee's, Carl's Jr.) CEO Andy Puzder to argue that low-income workers might be wary of higher paying jobs if the salary increase results in a loss of government benefits. Doocy referenced Puzder's June 22 op-ed in The Hill as evidence of the so-called "Welfare Cliff," where employees turn down promotions that could lead to $80,000 salaries because they "don't want to lose the free stuff from the government" (emphasis added):
PUZDER: The policy guys call it the "Welfare Cliff," because you get to a point where if you make a few more dollars you actually lose thousands of dollars in benefits. And, quite honestly, these benefits are essential for some people. They are how they pay their rent; they are how they feed their kids. So, what happens is, we have people who turn down promotions or, if minimum wage goes up, they want fewer hours. They want less hours because they are afraid they'll go over that cliff.
DOOCY: And, it's got to drive you nuts, because you're always looking for good people to run your stores. And, if they would just take the next step, take the next step up the ladder, next thing you know they could be a manager making $80,000, but they don't want to lose the free stuff from the government.
The term "Welfare Cliff" was popularized by Pennsylvania's Republican-appointed Secretary of Public Welfare in a July 2012 report, which claimed a "single mom" could nearly double her net income by taking full advantage of nine distinct anti-poverty programs, but the concept of a trade-off between welfare and work dates back to a flawed Cato Institute study from 1995. One thing all such studies have in common is the base calculation of benefits available to a hypothetical "single mom" with multiple dependent children. Most American workers aren't single moms, most recipients of government benefits don't enroll in every single available program, and the value of federal benefit programs like welfare is less now than it was in years past -- facts that are never acknowledged in right-wing media discussions of anti-poverty programs.
By Puzder's own admission, the company he runs does not pay anywhere near the amount he and Doocy claim is attainable if workers were willing to work their way off of welfare. According to a March 2014 op-ed by Puzder in The Wall Street Journal, employees at CKE-run restaurants can earn "a management-level salary starting around $36,000 and going as high as $65,000," with an average of "around $45,000" per year.
According to the most-recently available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average food service employee nationwide makes just $19,110 annually, or roughly $9.19 per hour. According to a 2013 study from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the overwhelming majority of fast food employees (89.1 percent) make less than $9 per hour and face significant "barriers to upward mobility" in the profession.
Several media outlets parroted Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's economic message after he claimed his administration would oversee 4 percent economic growth and the creation of up to 19 million new jobs. But economists argue that his goals are unrealistic, and question the impact any single president can have on "decades-long trends."