The Wall Street Journal hid widespread popular support for Obama administration initiatives, including immigration reform, expansion of early childhood education, and increasing the minimum wage.
A November 10 Wall Street Journal article suggested that a recent dip in the president's approval ratings created "new complications for his second-term agenda" and could hinder his efforts to "enlist the public as allies in the push to pass an immigration overhaul, expand access to early-childhood education and raise the minimum wage." The Journal's suggestion ignores that immigration reform, early childhood education, and a minimum wage increase already draw high levels of popular support.
Public support for immigration reform is high. A January Associated Press poll on Americans' view of immigration reform found "major increase in support" for immigration reform efforts following the 2012 election, as "more than 6 in 10 Americans now favor allowing illegal immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens." Politico reported on November 7 that recent polling reveals this support has remained strong; a majority of Americans are now "more likely to support a candidate who backs immigration reform," and 73 percent of voters surveyed nationwide would support a pathway to citizenship, "if it includes requirements to cough up penalties, learn English, pass background checks, pay taxes and wait at least 13 years."
The President's immigration proposal includes those provisions, creating a pathway that requires applicants to wait multiple years before obtaining citizenship, pay their taxes and a penalty, learn English, and undergo background checks. A Congressional Budget Office found that the proposal would greatly benefit American workers and the economy over the long term, increasing wages and GDP over the next twenty years.
Studies from the National Bureau Of Economic Research and the Economic Policy Institute have also found that immigration tends to increase average wages for native-born workers over the long term, and UCLA professor and immigration expert Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda found that passing comprehensive immigration reform would add at least $1.5 trillion to the U.S. economy over 10 years.
Early Childhood Education
Gallup polling found that 84 percent of Americans believe that investing in early childhood education is either "very important" (61 percent) or somewhat important (23 percent) to America's future, and found that almost two out of three Americans are willing to support preschool programs for children from low-income households with taxes.
Obama has proposed the Preschool for All Initiative, aimed to improve quality and expand access to preschool for low- and moderate-income children, in addition to expanding Head Start, a grant program that funds comprehensive early childhood education programs across the country, which include health, nutrition, and social services.
Studies from Health and Human Services have shown that Head Start programs had significant health benefits for children and parents, and the National Bureau of Economic Research found that many Head Start participants were more likely to complete high school. The National Education Association (NEA) says that early childhood education programs generate a twelve percent return on investment, making it "one of the best investments our country can make," which "yields significant long-term benefits" for students later in life.
A strong majority of Americans support increasing the minimum wage. In July 2013, a poll by Hart Research Associates found that 80 percent of Americans supported President Obama and Senate Democrats' proposal of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10. Among Republicans, 62 percent agreed. Support for such proposals is consistently high. In February 2013, after President Obama pushed for a minimum wage increase to nine dollars during his State of The Union Address, a USA Today/Pew Research Center poll found that 71 percent of Americans supported the plan.
At the ballot box, all of the statewide minimum wage increases that have been proposed since 1998 have passed, including a recent constitutional amendment in New Jersey which voters overwhelmingly supported. Business owners also favor an increase: an April poll by Small Business Majority found that a "67% majority of small business owners agree the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour should increase, and that it should be adjusted annually to keep pace with the cost of living."
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) says that a minimum wage increase to $10.10 would be a "win for workers," positively impacting "nearly one in every five workers in the country." A February 2013 survey of economists conducted by the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business found broad support for President Obama's previous call for raising the minimum wage to $9.00. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has explained that raising the minimum wage has no "discernible impact" on employment, and that wage increases often result in more jobs rather than less.
Fox News has stoked outrage over the plan changes in the individual health insurance market, charging Obama with "government malpractice" and calling him a liar for supposedly not informing people that plans would change. But Fox's hyperbolic attacks ignore the fact that these changes are not only common in the individual market, but also that the administration announced them years ago.
Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.
Fox News obscured Republicans' role in creating a Medicaid coverage gap in the administration's health care expansion to hype one woman's coverage loss as an example of Obama's broken promises.
Fox host Elisabeth Hasselbeck welcomed guest Tammy Fiechtner onto the November 1 Fox & Friends to discuss a letter she received from her insurer explaining that she's being automatically moved to a new insurance plan. Hasselbeck hyped "what's being called the Obamacare coverage gap," saying, despite the letter, that she "hasn't gotten a new plan. In fact, she doesn't have coverage at all." Fiechtner's comments shed more light on her predicament; the new plan she was being moved to had a similar premium, but a higher deductible. Fiechtner then explained that after exploring her options, she found that she would have qualified for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s expansion of the program, but her Republican-led home state of Nebraska chose not to accept the Medicaid expansion (emphasis added):
FIECHTNER: When we went on the website, we found out that we didn't qualify for Obamacare because of how our business structure works. So, we were told that we had to go on Medicaid, which I don't understand why I have to be on Medicaid, but that's where they directed us to. Nebraska did not expand Medicaid, so there will be no help for people like ourselves. So we now are forced to buy a new plan all on own and face these expenses by ourselves.
As The New York Times reported, the ACA was "written to require all Americans to have health coverage" and "about 30 million uninsured Americans were to have become eligible for financial help" through subsidies for lower-income earners and the Medicaid expansion. According to the Times, the Supreme Court's 2012 decision to allow states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion left millions of low-income consumers without financial help in acquiring insurance:
But the Supreme Court's ruling on the health care law last year, while upholding it, allowed states to choose whether to expand Medicaid. Those that opted not to leave about eight million uninsured people who live in poverty ($19,530 for a family of three) without any assistance at all.
Hasselbeck's attempt to lay the blame for Fiechtner's situation on President Obama papers over Republicans' role in sabotaging access to affordable health insurance. As Politico reported in a November 1 story headlined "The Obamacare sabotage campaign," there is "a strong factual basis" for the charge that "calculated sabotage by Republicans at every step" has undermined key points of the law -- including the Medicaid expansion -- and has seriously damaged the overall rollout (emphasis added):
The Wall Street Journal provided a platform for the Employment Policies Institute, a lobbying group with ties to the fast food industry, to push misleading claims about the effects of minimum wage increases -- but the Journal failed to disclose the group's connections.
On October 28, the Journal posted an op-ed from Michael Saltsman that dismissed low-wage workers' recent push for a minimum wage increase and claimed the "vast majority of people earning the minimum wage aren't working at large corporations with 1,000 or more employees." Saltsman used this claim to suggest that small businesses would be hurt if forced to "bear the brunt" of increases in the minimum wage -- a common right-wing media myth that has been repeatedly undermined by economic data. The Journal's disclaimer identified Saltsman simply as the "research director at the Employment Policies Institute."
But the Journal's disclaimer doesn't mention that Saltsman's employer is a front group for corporate lobbyist Richard Berman, who lobbies for, among others, the restaurant industry. In 2007, CBS noted that Berman "takes a certain pride, even joy, in the nickname 'Dr. Evil,' " and reported:
His real name is Rick Berman, a Washington lobbyist and arch-enemy of other lobbyists and do-gooders who would have government control--and even ban-a myriad of products they claim are killing us, products like caffeine, salt, fast food and the oil they fry it in. He's against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, animal rights activists, food watchdog groups and unions of every kind.
He has come up with a clever system of non-profit educational entities. Companies can make charitable donations to these groups, which have names like Center for Consumer Freedom and Center for Union Facts. They are neutral sounding but "educating," with a particular point of view, all perfectly legal.
Berman and his staff of young crusaders attack the nanny culture by combing through watchdog and government reports, seeking inconsistencies, overstatements, seizing on the one fact here or there that might discredit the research. And Berman says he's rarely disappointed.
"He's a one-man goon squad for any company that's willing to hire him," says Dr. Michael Jacobson, who heads the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a healthy food advocacy group. Jacobson has been the point man in the "food wars" for decades.
Who are the companies that support Berman?
"The food industry, the beverage industry, alcoholic beverage industry, the restaurant industry's a major supporter. He doesn't disclose the names of his funders," Jacobson says.
Saltsman's claims are just another example of the Employment Policies Institute's track record of using misleading studies to claim that minimum wage increases would hurt the economy without providing real evidence. From the Center for Media and Democracy:
In 1995, EPI lashed out at Princeton University professors David Card and Alan Krueger, after they published a survey of fast-food restaurants which found no loss in the number of jobs in New Jersey after implementing an increase in the state's minimum wage. Berman accused Card and Krueger of using bad data, citing contrary figures that his own institute had collected from some of the same restaurants. But whereas Card and Krueger had surveyed 410 restaurants, Berman's outfit only collected data from 71 restaurants and has refused to make its data publicly available so that other researchers can assess whether it "cherry-picked" restaurants to create a sample that would support its predetermined conclusions.
The Wall Street Journal has a responsibility to disclose the Employment Policies Institute's corporate lobbying ties when providing a platform for such commentary.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed that Congress' decision to raise the debt limit means that President Obama can now "spend as he wishes," even though the debt limit only affects the government's ability to meet past financial obligations, and government spending has always been checked by congressional allocations.
A day after Congress agreed to a deal that would end 16 days of government shutdown and avert the financial crisis that would have resulted from a failure to raise the debt limit, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked Napolitano to comment on whether the decision to raise the debt ceiling was "a deal or raw deal." In response, Napolitano summarized: "because the Democrats bullied the Republicans last night, they have the ability to borrow more money and the president can spend as he wishes for another 90 days." Meanwhile, an on-air graphic framed the congressional deal as a "borrowing binge."
But Napolitano misrepresented the way that government spending functions. As the Government Accountability Office has previously noted, the debt ceiling places a "limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred." Raising the debt ceiling would only allow the government to meet "existing legal obligations," which, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has pointed out, does not authorize new spending.
Furthermore, Napolitano's claim that reopening the government would allow Obama to "spend as he wishes" is a common right-wing myth that has been repeatedly debunked. As PolitiFact noted, "[o]nly Congress can appropriate money. Obama can only spend what he's given." The "Power of the Purse" is a congressional responsibility that places restrictions on the executive branch's ability to spend.
The idea that a debt ceiling deal amounts to a "blank check" is a right-wing talking point frequently parroted by the media. Indeed, Fox has previously suggested that a debt ceiling increase would allow the president to take over Congress' power to dictate spending.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly whitewashed Fox's transparent politicization of the Kermit Gosnell murder trial to frame it as an example of her network's commitment to provide "context to certain stories that you won't get elsewhere."
Kelly appeared on the October 13 edition of Fox's Media Buzz to discuss her new show, The Kelly File. During the segment, Kelly pushed back against the suggestion that "Fox News leans right," criticizing what she characterized as the "marching orders of media that we do believe leans left," and saying that viewers of her show would see different stories from what they would find in the mainstream media. She claimed that "what we do at Fox News is fair and balanced broadcasting" and held up Fox's coverage of the Kermit Gosnell trial as an example of the network's commitment to providing "context to certain stories that you won't get elsewhere" (emphasis added):
HOWARD KURTZ (host): What about the counter-notion that maybe as a counterweight that Fox News leans right. Does your show lean right?
KELLY: I don't think that's true. I think what we do at Fox News is fair and balanced broadcasting. And so, you know if you tune in to see my show at 9 pm, you're not going to see the same stories as you see on the front cover of The New York Times necessarily. You know, that's not what we get paid to do, is just follow the marching orders of media that we do believe leans left. That there's plenty of options if people want that. But Fox News gets paid for telling the full story, the complete story, and having both sides of the argument presented in a way.
KURTZ: But will I see more Republicans than Democrats?
KELLY: It depends on the night and the story. You know? I mean, hopefully no, over the course of a week or two, it will all balance out and you'll see both sides. And if you have a Republican you can always press them with the Democratic talking points and vice versa, so there's ways of presenting both sides even if you have more of one. But I think the thing that Fox also does is provide context to certain stories that you won't get elsewhere and to tell stories that won't get told elsewhere. I mean, the Gosnell abortion doctor story is one example that very few were covering aggressively until Fox News really picked it up. And that was a hard story to tell. But we did.
But Fox's coverage of the Gosnell trial is a strong example of the network's transparent politicization of a tragic case.
Fox News cherry-picked early Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment numbers to claim that the new health system rollout was underperforming by enrolling just 51,000, ignoring state figures that more than double that number.
On the October 11 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy cited claims from two Department of Health and Human Services employees that 51,000 people had signed up for new health coverage under the ACA in the first week of open enrollment, noting, "Remember, we thought it would be in the millions" and claiming that "at this rate, they extrapolate, by the end of this year, just 2 million people will have been signed up. Remember, they need to have at least 7 million people sign up." Co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested that these numbers showed that the federal exchange had "failed miserably," and Doocy pointed out that the exchange in Obama's home state of Hawaii had registered "zero" people.
Fox failed to note that the "7 million" figure was a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate of the overall enrollment expected by January as a result of the full healthcare overhaul, not just enrollment expected on the federally-run exchange. Fox ignored the tens of thousands of additional enrollees from the states that are operating independent exchanges. A Washington Post graphic mapped the states that are running their own health insurance marketplaces:
According to Bloomberg, 28,699 additional people signed up for California's health exchange and New York enrolled a further 40,000 -- together more than doubling Fox's figure. The New York Times reported that another 30,706 applications were submitted in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Washington, and Rhode Island by October 8.
Fox's single example of the progress state-based exchanges are making was Hawaii, which did not open for enrollment on schedule and " hasn't been able to sell any insurance in Hawaii because of problems with the software at the heart of the marketplace." The state is aiming for an October 15 relaunch.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly claimed that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will require doctors to disclose patients' health information to law enforcement and encourage patient dishonesty about health concerns, ignoring the fact that the ACA expands existing doctor-patient confidentiality protections.
On October 10, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that "the fine print" on the new health care exchange sites reveals that "your information can be used by law enforcement and for audit activities" and that "your e-mail could become public record." Napolitano further claimed that digital health records meant the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could now share private health information like cocaine use "with law enforcement or with the IRS," and suggested that the law would encourage doctors to report private health information to law enforcement rather than treat their patients, "incentiviz[ing] us to keep the truth from our doctors."
Doocy and Napolitano's claim that the ACA will incentivize lying to doctors relied on the false suggestion that the new law negates the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Actess (HIPAA), which in part established standards on how electronic medical information can be shared. But according to the American Medical Association, the new health law actually "expands" HIPAA rules. The National Conference of State Legislatures explained that under the ACA, the new rules "expand privacy measures," strengthening patients' rights and protections and strengthening the government's ability to enforce the privacy law against other business interests.
Under the ongoing HIPAA privacy standards, "covered entities" -- including doctors, clinics, nursing homes, pharmacies, health insurance companies, health care clearinghouses, Medicare, Medicaid, and the military and veterans health care programs -- are explicitly required "to protect the privacy and security of health information and must provide individuals with certain rights with respect to their health information."
Without patients' written authorization, the Privacy Rule prohibits these entities from sharing confidential health information with law enforcement officials except in very limited circumstances, including when a court order has been issued or when required by law. University of Virginia's Health Sciences Center summarizes these instances (emphasis added):
Confidentiality is the basis of the Physician-patient relationship. If the patient is uneasy about disclosing pertinent and privileged information, the ability of a physician to provide adequate care is severely compromised. It should be made clear to the patient that this information will not be disclosed unless required by law. The medical record is to be kept private with certain exceptions including:
- Treatment of minors
- HIV+ Patients
- Abuse of a Child or Adult
- Transportation Safety
- Duty to report harm/wounds
The digital privacy standards established by HIPAA continue to apply under the ACA, but the law includes some modifications to the Privacy Rule to expand patient protections. From the ACA's "Final modifications to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Enforcement Rules":
- Make business associates of "covered entities" directly liable for compliance with certain of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules' requirements.
- Strengthen the limitations on the use and disclosure of protected health information for marketing and fundraising purposes, and prohibit the sale of protected health information without individual authorization.
- Expand individuals' rights to receive electronic copies of their health information and to restrict disclosures to a health plan concerning treatment for which the individual has paid out of pocket in full.
- Require modifications to, and redistribution of, a covered entity's notice of privacy practices.
- Modify the individual authorization and other requirements to facilitate research and disclosure of child immunization proof to schools, and to enable access to decedent information by family members or others
- Adopt the additional HITECH Act enhancements to the Enforcement Rule not previously adopted in the October 30, 2009, interim final rule (referenced immediately below), such as the provisions addressing enforcement of noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules due to willful neglect.
The Wall Street Journal attacked the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) Medicaid expansion by claiming that Medicaid beneficiaries would have better health outcomes with no insurance at all. But the Journal's analysis relies on an inaccurate reading of an Oregon health care study and ignores that Medicaid has been shown to lower rates of depression, reduce financial strain, and benefits low-income children, mothers, and veterans.