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.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed that failure to raise the debt ceiling would only affect discretionary spending -- something he said "we don't really need as a country." This ignores the importance of discretionary programs and the far-reaching impact that failure to increase the debt ceiling would have.
Major media outlets are pushing the narrative that the United States Department of the Treasury could prioritize payments to bond holders and select groups of recipients in lieu of an increase of the federal borrowing limit, also known as the debt ceiling, beyond October 17. This ignores Treasury Department officials and other experts who explain such prioritization is unworkable and legally dubious, and that default would still happen.
Right-wing media are dishonestly blaming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the fact that Chad Henderson, a low-income college student, will "pay $175 per month under Obamacare, about 18% of his yearly income," ignoring the fact that Henderson would have been eligible for subsidized health care if his state had not rejected the healthcare reform law's Medicaid expansion.
On October 3, several media outlets highlighted Henderson as an early ACA enrollment success story. Henderson, a 21-year-old student at Chattanooga State University, told Washington Post's Wonkblog that he had been without health insurance for 14 years but successfully signed up for coverage through one of the law's new online exchanges. Henderson will pay $175 per month in premiums, which he said fits his budget. Right-wing blogs later hyped the cost of Henderson's insurance plan to claim it's unaffordable.
The Blaze reported that "Henderson, who reportedly earns $11,500 annually, will pay $175 per month under Obamacare, about 18% of his yearly income" and quoted the Cato Institute's Michael F. Cannon to claim that "it appears that Obamacare quadrupled Chad's premiums," citing an eHealthInsurance.com quote for a plan he could have purchased. Michelle Malkin's blog also highlighted Cannon's claim. A Washington Examiner article headlined "$175 premium for a young, healthy student? Thanks, Obamacare!" responded: "Ouch! Wasn't Obamacare supposed to lower premiums?" and on October 3, the Drudge Report promoted the Examiner story:
These reports failed to mention that Henderson would have been able to receive subsidized coverage under the health care reform law's Medicaid expansion if his state had not chosen to opt out after the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states didn't have to expand their Medicaid coverage. From Wonkblog's story about Henderson:
Henderson is a part-time worker at a day-care center. He did not qualify for tax credits to purchase health coverage because his income is below the poverty line. Since Georgia is not expanding the Medicaid program, that meant Henderson was essentially responsible for his entire premium.
Fox News misleadingly claimed Senate Democrats were to blame for the government shutdown, ignoring the role Republicans in the House and Senate have played in refusing to negotiate over government funding.
On the October 2 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy attacked Senate Democrats for not showing up to a Republican photo opportunity, in which congressional Republicans including Sen. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) sat on one side of a table facing empty chairs. Doocy claimed, "none of the Democrats showed up to try to resolve the Senate shutdown":
Fox also hyped an October 1 tweet from House Majority Leader Cantor that claimed that House Republicans were "ready to negotiate with the Senate," criticizing the Senate Democrats in an on-screen graphic for leaving House Republicans "alone at table to compromise."
But House Republicans' October 1 offer to negotiate was little more than a photo opportunity since, as The New York Times pointed out, they have shown no willingness to back down from their "threat of blackmail." From The New York Times editorial board:
Finally, at the last minute, when there was still time to end the charade with a straightforward spending bill, Mr. Boehner made the most absurd demand of all: an immediate conference committee with the Senate. Suddenly, with less than an hour left, he wanted to set up formal negotiations?
For six months, the Senate has been demanding a conference with the House on the 2014 budget -- talks that might have prevented the impasse in the first place. But the House leadership has adamantly refused, knowing it would not succeed in getting all the cuts to taxes and spending that it demands. For Mr. Boehner to call for a conference near midnight was the height of hypocrisy.
Having let down the public, Republicans will now, inevitably, scramble to save their reputation. They are desperate to make it appear as if President Obama and the Democrats are the ones being intransigent, hoping voters will think that everyone is at fault and simply blame "Washington." Mr. Boehner even mocked the president on Monday for refusing to negotiate over health reform, as if he actually expected Mr. Obama to join in wrecking a law that will provide health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans under threat of blackmail.
Fox's newest attempt to blame Senate Democrats for the government shutdown ignores that the controversy is the result of an unprecedented effort by House Republicans to demand concessions in exchange for doing their job. As USA Today noted, the GOP's demands "are both preposterous and largely unrelated to budgetary matters" and "[n]o president of either party could accept that kind of badgering. No president should."
Though the media has repeatedly presented a false equivalence between the House Republicans and Senate Democrats' actions in advance of the shutdown, attempts to shift the full weight of the blame away from the GOP ignores the fact that threatening to shut down the government in order to repeal duly-passed legislation is a "dramatic break from the past." In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait highlighted the importance of remembering that "one party is pursuing this as a conscious strategy." The Huffington Post's Dan Froomkin also reported that congressional experts and historians agree that "[e]ven compared to the famous government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, the current GOP bargaining position is unprecedented in its political extremism":
"It's unheard of to shut the government down because you want to repeal a law," said Tiefer.
"That seems quite beyond the pale," said George Washington University political science professor Sarah Binder.
Former Congressional Research Service and the Library of Congress official Louis Fisher said he was shocked when he saw what he now recognizes as a foreshadowing of today's crisis, when Republican senators refused for two years to confirm Richard Cordray -- or anyone else, for that matter -- to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless President Obama agreed to change the bureau's structure.
"That is really amazing, to say you're not going to confirm unless the underlying statute is rewritten," Fisher said. "That was breathtaking to me."
"The Republican Party is caught between politics and its responsibility, as a majority party of the House of Representatives, for governance," said [University of Maryland professor of government and politics the Frances] Lee. "Governance always requires disappointing your base."
It's easier when you're in the minority, she said. "The party out of power can take advantage of its lack of responsibility for governing."
Today's GOP "wants to behave like a party that has no power at all, but unfortunately for it, it does," she said. "The politics of defunding Obamacare are great with its base, but it has an institutional role which it cannot evade."