Weekday broadcast and cable evening news covered a variety of economic topics including deficit reduction, economic growth, and effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) throughout the first quarter of 2014. A Media Matters analysis shows that many of these segments lacked proper context or input from economists, with Fox News continuing to advance the erroneous notion that the ACA and the minimum wage are causes of poor job growth.
Fox News' Sean Hannity lauded Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's latest budget, a proposal that has been criticized by economists for its potential destructive impact on the economy, employment, and poverty.
Relentless investigations into the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya that have been tirelessly cheered on by right-wing media have reportedly cost taxpayers and the Pentagon millions of dollars and wasted thousands of hours of personnel time, according to the Associated Press.
Citing a March 11 Pentagon letter, the AP reported how millions in funding have been funneled away from other Department of Defense responsibilities to "repetitive requests for information from about 50 congressional hearings, briefings and interviews," and the Pentagon determined that "[t]he total cost of compliance with Benghazi-related congressional requests sent to the department and other agencies is estimated to be in the millions of dollars." The AP cited former commander of U.S. Africa Command Gen. Carter Ham's experience as an example:
[He] has briefed or testified before congressional panels five times over two years, and yet both the Armed Services Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform has [sic] asked Ham to submit to additional interviews.
Right-wing media have actively campaigned for these unending investigations, even coordinating with House Republicans to skew evidence. On February 6, Fox host Bill O'Reilly demanded that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) subpoena former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to re-litigate one of Fox's favorite conspiracy theories, and on January 27, host Greta Van Susteren demanded the release of facts already in the public record. Fox has since reached farther to push the Benghazi hoax -- ignoring independent investigations that have turned up no evidence of political scandal.
Despite mounting evidence that low minimum wages put pressure on government finances through the need for expanded safety net programs, over the past year, evening news programs on four major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS -- have been largely silent about the public cost of low wages.
Fox News is providing ample, uncritical airtime to hype Representative Paul Ryan's (R-WI) report on the alleged ineffectiveness of government anti-poverty programs, despite condemnation from numerous economists that the report is misleading and inaccurate.
From the March 3 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Coverage of Social Security in three major national print outlets relied on reporting figures in raw numbers devoid of relevant context -- such as previous years' figures -- that could provide a more accurate picture of the program's finances. These findings, calculated since July 2013, are consistent with a previous Media Matters analysis of print media's coverage of Social Security.
The New York Times improved its standards for budget reporting over the past four months, providing readers with more adequate context to understand the size and scope of federal programs, budget deficits, and policy proposals.
On October 18, 2013, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan issued a statement affirming the paper's commitment to improving its numbers-based reporting. Sullivan's comments came in response to mounting criticism over how print media's reliance on reporting large numbers devoid of context often confuses and unintentionally misleads readers.
Ongoing Media Matters analysis of print media budget reporting standards confirms that the Times has begun to address these concerns, and now leads two other prominent print outlets -- The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal -- in providing context when reporting numbers.
The Times was less likely than other selected outlets to rely on raw numbers for budget reporting from October 19, 2013 -- the day after Sullivan's statement -- to February 14, 2014. The paper was also more likely than the other newspapers analyzed to provide relevant context. Furthermore, the Times was the most likely to present figures in percentage terms relative to the size of the budget or the size of the economy.*
These results show a deviation from past practices. Media Matters research through the first half of 2013 revealed that the Times relied on out-of-context raw numbers for nearly 67 percent of its reporting concerning the federal budget, the debt and deficit, and spending programs. This reflected roughly the average style of reporting among the three outlets examined.
Despite recent improvement, the paper still relies on out-of-context figures for a majority of its coverage. Sullivan acknowledged in her October 18 statement that "[i]t won't be easy to make these changes happen consistently" across the newspaper's entire staff, but that change is coming "and the sooner, the better."
Hopefully other major outlets follow suit.
Image via Flickr user Frank Sheehan using a Creative Commons License.
Three major national print outlets were more likely to report economic figures in terms of raw numbers devoid of relevant and necessary context, such as previous years' numbers or monthly figures that would give readers an accurate depiction of the economy. These findings, calculated since halfway through 2013, are consistent with a previous Media Matters analysis of print media.
In the years since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- commonly referred to as the stimulus -- right-wing media outlets have engaged in a steady campaign of misinformation to claim that it didn't help the economy.
February 17 marked the five-year anniversary of the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a multi-billion economic stimulus package designed to spur economic growth and job creation during the Great Recession. The legislation increased infrastructure investments and implemented a variety of tax cuts for individuals and businesses, totaling approximately $831 billion over the 2009-2019 period.
Ever since the stimulus was signed into law, right-wing media figures have repeatedly pushed misinformation about its structure and alleged ill-effects. From forwarding false claims about the bill providing tax breaks for undocumented workers to baselessly linking it to Operation Fast and Furious, no myth has been too outrageous in the campaign to disparage the stimulus and President Obama.
The most frequently pushed myth about the stimulus, of course, is that it failed to increase economic growth or create jobs. The erroneous notion that the stimulus"failed" has appeared repeatedly in the right-wing media over the past five years, often being brought up to stymie any potential increases in government spending and investment.
The idea that increased government spending in the stimulus did not help the economy is patently false, and easily disproved by economists.
A 2010 Wall Street Journal poll of economists revealed that a majority of economists agree that the stimulus boosted growth, and according to a May 2012 Congressional Budget Office report, the stimulus created the equivalent of between 900,000 and 4.7 million jobs in 2010 and between 600,000 and 3.6 million jobs in 2011. Furthermore, a February 2013 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities illustrates how GDP growth would have been slower had the stimulus not been enacted:
Despite the facts, multiple outlets -- including Fox News and the Wall Street Journal -- are using the five-year anniversary of the stimulus' implementation to push the same tired myths. On February 18, one Fox host even went so far as to wonder whether or not it caused a recession, ignoring the fact that the economy has been growing steadily since the stimulus was implemented.
If recent history is any indication, right-wing media are unlikely to stop their campaign of misinformation around the bill, particularly if additional spending measures -- a policy recommended by economists -- are implemented.
Fox wants to know whether the stimulus package signed by President Obama caused a recession.
In recognition of the five-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- commonly known as the stimulus -- Fox Business' Varney & Co. framed a segment around the question of whether it caused a recession.
Fox is just asking, and here is the answer in one simple chart. The most recent recession started in December 2007, over a year before the stimulus bill was signed into law. Since its passage in February 2009, the American economy experienced an immediate positive turn, culminating in more than four years of steady, gradual economic growth.
Fox's disregard for facts in its frantic push to disparage the president and his policies is nothing new, but the basic failure to understand that the economy has been recovering for the past five years marks a new low.
From the February 14 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the February 13 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Each year, Republican Senator Tom Coburn releases a "Wastebook" reviewing government projects that he views as wasteful, and each year, the media eagerly promote his report. Yet television news ignored a report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that U.S. taxpayers are being stiffed by coal companies buying federal land for less than its worth, which a previous report estimated has cost taxpayers nearly $30 billion over the last 30 years.
On Tuesday, the GAO found that the Bureau of Land Management was not adequately documenting reasons for accepting bids below the determined market value. Furthermore, as many states are not considering exports in their market value analyses, they may be underestimating the value in the first place. Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), who requested the study, stated that "Given the lack of market competition in coal leases" -- the GAO found the vast majority did not have a single competitor, as seen in the chart below -- "if the fair market value set by Interior is low, it can lead to significant losses for taxpayers. For instance, for every cent per ton that coal companies decrease their bids for the largest coal leases, it could mean the loss of nearly $7 million for the American people."
Based on the report, Sen. Markey's office estimated that recent leases could have yielded an additional $200 million in revenue and "possibly hundreds of millions more." A previous report from the Institute for Energy Economics estimated that selling federally-owned coal for less than fair market value has cost taxpayers $28.9 billion in lost revenue over the last 30 years. That finding adds to the economic damages that coal pollution and disasters exact on the economy. A 2011 study, for instance, found that air pollution from coal-fired power plants imposes more costs on society than the value added to the economy by the industry -- and that study did not include climate change damages. Recently, the spill of a chemical used to clean coal in West Virginia cost the local economy $61 million, according to a preliminary study that did not include the cost of clean-up or emergency expenditures.
Yet none of the major television networks covered the GAO report confirming that coal companies are underpaying the federal government*.
The "Wastebook" received considerably more attention when it was released in December 2013, drawing uncritical coverage from all the major television networks except MSNBC (ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News uncritically touted the report at least once, and NBC hosted Sen. Coburn where he raised the report without pushback). LiveScience reported that nearly a quarter of the projects Sen. Coburn's office listed in 2013 were science-related and that the "Wastebook" often distorts the studies. Last year, for instance, Fox News promoted the Wastebook's attack on a "government study" on Tea Party intelligence that was actually a non-government funded blog post. CNN's S.E. Cupp and others also attacked a study of duck penises included in the "Wastebook," contributing to the pattern of basic research being cut in the face of what MSNBC's Chris Hayes called "ignorant mockery."
From the February 4 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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