Cable and network TV news devoted more segments to coverage of economic issues during the first half of 2015 compared to the last six months of 2014, an increase driven by heightened public interest in the debate over economic inequality and a flurry of economic policy proposals from nearly two dozen 2016 presidential candidates.
On August 24, major stock markets in the United States opened their trading sessions with significant declines and sustained losses of 3 to 5 percent throughout much of the morning. Fox News used the event to advocate on behalf of numerous failed Republican policy demands, such as major tax cuts for the wealthy and a significant roll back of federal regulations.
From the August 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the August 4 edition of Comedy Central's The Nightly Show:
From the August 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Fox News' dishonest campaign against Planned Parenthood took a new turn when the network promoted its own deeply misleading "Taxpayer Calculator" purporting to show how much an average American taxpayer has contributed to the health care provider over the past decade.
On the July 27 editions of Fox News' America's Newsroom and Happening Now, correspondent Shannon Bream continued her network's smear campaign against Planned Parenthood Federation of America centered around a deceptively-edited video alleging to show PPFA employees negotiating the sale of "fetal body parts for medical research." Bream promoted the efforts of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) to strip federal funding for the organization before referring viewers to a so-called "Taxpayer Calculator" created by the network to show people how much they have contributed to Planned Parenthood over the past decade. From America's Newsroom:
BREAM: Over the past 10 years, it's estimated Planned Parenthood has received more than $4 million [sic] in federal and state government funding. Here's a look at what you, the taxpayer, have contributed based on your income level. Now, if you want a more specific estimate on just how much you've given to Planned Parenthood, head to FoxNews.com and click on "Taxpayer Calculator." Martha.
MACCALLUM: That's going to get a lot of people's attention.
BREAM: It will.
First, and perhaps most egregiously, the on-screen graphic Fox shows during both segments falsely claims that Planned Parenthood received $4.3 billion-worth of federal funding "over 10 years." According to the "Taxpayer Calculator" Bream referenced during the segment, Fox News does not actually know how much public support comes from either federal or state sources (emphasis added):
Planned Parenthood and its affiliates have received $4.3 billion in government funding over the last ten years, according to the group's annual reports. Their government funding comes from both federal and state governments. We do not know exactly how much of Planned Parenthood's funding comes from the federal government.
According to Planned Parenthood's most recent annual report, the organization received $528.4 million from "Government Health Services Grants & Reimbursements," which amounted to just over 46 percent of its operational revenue as of June 30, 2014. Some of this funding came in the form of federal Medicaid reimbursements for health care services for low-income Americans, while other funds came from various local, state, and federal grants -- the Hyde Amendment "excludes abortion from the comprehensive health care services provided to low-income people by the federal government through Medicaid."
After incorrectly assuming that all public money received by Planned Parenthood comes from the federal government, Fox News staff then based their taxpayer contribution calculations on the proportion of federal tax revenue derived from different income tax brackets. Federal income tax rates are higher than state and local income tax rates. In fact, seven states levy no income taxes at all while two others tax only capital gains and dividends, not traditional wages. Fox's sloppily constructed "average taxpayer share" does not reflect reality -- it's simply the highest estimate the network's research team could produce.
Finally, Fox's investigation of Planned Parenthood's revenue and the American taxpayer's contribution to that revenue provides no useful context for the viewer. In 2014, the federal government spent nearly 900 times more than Planned Parenthood collected from all government sources in 10 years; the $4.3 billion price tag Fox highlighted represents a miniscule portion of total government spending over the same period. Likewise, the 10-year burden shouldered by Fox's "average taxpayer" represents a tiny fraction of their total income over that period. According to Fox News, a taxpayer with earnings in excess of $2.5 million over a decade would contribute only about $40 annually. Meanwhile, the average taxpayer, with a median household income of roughly $52,000 per year, would contribute only about $1.50 per year to Planned Parenthood, according to Fox's own calculations.
The deceptive "Taxpayer Calculator" is a continuation of Fox News' long campaign of deceit against Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the work performed by the organization (97 percent) is not related to abortion services. Fox has demonstrated on many occasions that it has no clue what Planned Parenthood does or the vital services it provides for millions of men and women every year; including cancer screening and preventative treatment, contraceptive services, family planning, STI/STD screening, and assorted other women's health services.
On July 22, the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) annual meeting will once again see corporations and state lawmakers gather to discuss and vote on model legislation meant for introduction in state legislatures across the country. On the eve of the three-day conference in San Diego, Media Matters looks back at five examples of great reporting by local news teams who pulled back the curtain and held ALEC accountable for hosting lobbyists and legislators in secret meetings -- where they wrote corporate-supported bills blocking minimum wage hikes, attacking unions, and eliminating environmental regulations -- and previews this year's agenda.
From the July 15 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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WisconsinWatchdog.org marked Republican Governor Scott Walker's presidential announcement with an article that made no mention of the economic struggles Wisconsinites have endured under his tenure and praised Walker campaign chair Michael Grebe without disclosing its conflict-of-interest connection to him.
While many members of Wisconsin's media have warned of Walker's "extreme" politics, "polarizing character" and disappointing economic record, WisconsinWatchdog.org cheered the governor's presidential campaign announcement in a July 13 article that praised his recall election survival and touted his successful crippling of unions. Watchdog.org said Walker is "once more on the precipice of history, set to bring his big government-reform message to the national stage."
WisconsinWatchdog.org also made little mention of Walker's shaky economic record in its discussion of his qualifications to become president. The article praised him for enacting damaging tax cuts and dismissed widespread criticism that he drained the state of revenue by parroting the state Republican party's argument that the tax revenue "came from the hard-earned money of Wisconsin taxpayers, and it belongs to them."
As local Capital Times reporter John Nichols told Media Matter's Joe Strupp, "The Wisconsin economic story is not a particularly good story. Wisconsin trails a lot of neighboring states in economic vitality; its job growth is not particularly good."
WisconsinWatchdog.org previously tried to distort Walker's economic record by relying on a methodologically flawed report produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The "Rich States, Poor States" report by ALEC has been called "snake oil" by The Iowa Policy Project and labor advocacy group Good Jobs First for its promotion of deregulation and reliance on cutting public services. Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal called the maps in ALEC's report "a joke" because they ranked strong states like New York and California at the bottom of the list, and said, "ALEC is ranking states based on each state's level of deregulation and awarding the most deregulated states, but the outcomes seem to have very little bearing in where companies actually want to launch and do business."
Bloomberg's more objective state ranking index, the Economic Evaluation of States, places Wisconsin in 38thplace using indicators like home prices and wage growth. Even by his own measure, Walker's record on job creation has come up short. His campaign promise to bring 250,000 new private sector jobs by the end of his first term "failed miserably" according to former mayor of Minneapolis R. T. Rybak, writing in an op-ed for The Hill. Fewer than 150,000 jobs were created during Walker's first term.
The governor's strong stance against raising taxes in the face of deficit spending created a budget fight that delayed his presidential candidacy announcement. While neighboring Minnesota has raised taxes and seen economic growth, Walker's continued push for spending cuts had members of his own party rebelling against his budget, which passed with the largest legislative Republican opposition so far in his tenure.
The Walker budget that finally passed last week included controversial and possibly economically harmful changes. Chief among these are a $250 million-dollar cut to higher education, provisions to weaken tenure protection at state schools, elimination of wage protections for construction laborers working on state projects, and the replacement of a provision that said workers must be paid a "living wage" with wording that says workers must only be paid "minimum wage." Current minimum wage in Wisconsin is projected to remain at $7.25 per hour until at least 2018.
WisconsinWatchdog.org's support of Walker comes as no surprise -- the website formerly known as the Wisconsin Reporter has a long history of defending him. During the "John Doe" investigations into possible campaign finance violations during Walker's 2010 and 2012 campaigns, WisconsinWatchdog.org ran more than 180 articles pushing back against his critics.
As part of the Franklin Center's Watchdog.org media group, WisconsinWatchdog.org operates aspart of a collective of state-based media outlets that use funding from the likes of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers to push conservative views and misinformation into state policy conversations. The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Bradley Foundation, which is run by Walker's campaign chairman, Michael Grebe. Though WisconsinWatchdog.org's article mentions Grebe, his position, and a reprints a quote from the Weekly Standard praising his experience, it never discloses Grebe's position as president and CEO of the Bradley Foundation.
From the July 12 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
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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.
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.
From the July 6 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the June 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News worried over the country's crumbling infrastructure following an Amtrak derailment, ignoring their own role in cheerleading persistent Republican efforts to obstruct investments in rebuilding infrastructure.
An Amtrak train bound for New York City crashed May 13 in Philadelphia, leaving at least six dead and over a hundred injured. Speed is being investigated as a possible factor in the crash, though an official cause is not yet known.
Speculating on possible causes for the deadly crash, Fox News' Fox & Friends decried the country's crumbling infrastructure. Co-host Steve Doocy asserted that "infrastructure in this country is falling apart," while former New York City mayor and frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani added "We do know for sure, whether it is the cause or not, that the infrastructure in this country has not been fixed. It badly needs it," concluding, it's "an investment we have to make."
Yet Fox News itself and other right-wing media have long been champions of cuts to infrastructure spending, suggesting that federal, state, and local funds for infrastructure are being abused or stolen, and dismissing the role of Republican obstruction in rebuilding crumbling infrastructure.
Indeed, the nation's infrastructure is crumbling due in part to Republican efforts to block public spending on infrastructure.
The vast system of public infrastructure in the United States -- ranging from roads and park trails to canals and ports -- is currently graded as D+, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers' (ASCE) most recent report card for America's infrastructure, and would need an investment of $3.6 trillion by 2020 to improve.
One in ten bridges in the U.S. are structurally deficient, and states have been forced to convert roads to gravel due to a lack of sufficient funding for repairs. Nearly 14,000 dams are considered high-hazard, meaning failure of the dam would likely cause the loss of life.
But public investment in infrastructure has fallen to its lowest level since World War II, according to analysis from the Financial Times, which attributes the record-low public investments to Republicans blocking President Obama's push for more spending on infrastructure.
Republicans have consistently blocked infrastructure spending proposals. And the recently passed GOP-controlled House and Senate budgets each call for significant cuts to highway construction and transportation infrastructure funding, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Both budgets would cut transportation funding by 22-28 percent over ten years, at a time when experts are urging more investment in infrastructure "in order to reduce congestion, increase capacity, and improve the performance and safety of our nation's highways, bridges, and transit systems."