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  • Fox’s Chris Wallace Pushes Candidates To Accept GOP Budget Priorities During Debate

    Moderator Falsely Claims Social Security And Medicare Are “Going To Run Out Of Money” Without Major Benefit Cuts

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News host and 2016 presidential debate moderator Chris Wallace used the last question of the presidential debate to push both the Democratic and Republican nominees into accepting a past GOP proposal -- harmful cuts to vital entitlement programs as part of a national debt-reducing “grand bargain.”

    Wallace opened his question by falsely claiming that “the biggest driver of our debt is entitlements” like Social Security and Medicare while falsely equating the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) analyses of Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s tax and economic policy proposals. Wallace claimed that the CRFB “has looked at both” the Trump and Clinton tax plans and concluded “neither of [them] has a serious plan” to address “the fact” that Medicare and Social Security are going to run out of money in the next two decades: 

    CHRIS WALLACE: The one last area that I want to get into with you in this debate is the fact that the biggest driver of our debt is entitlements, which is 60 percent of all federal spending. Now the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has looked at both of your plans and they say neither of you has a serious plan that is going to solve the fact that Medicare is going to run out of money in the 2020s, Social Security is going to run out of money in the 2030s, and at that time recipients are going to take huge cuts in their benefits. So, in effect, the final question I want to ask you in this regard is, and let me start with you, Mr. Trump. Would President Trump make a deal to save Medicare and Social Security that included both tax increases and benefit cuts -- in effect, in effect a grand bargain on entitlements?


    WALLACE: Secretary Clinton, same question, because at this point Social Security and Medicare are going to run out -- the trust funds are going to run out of money. Will you as president entertain -- will you consider a grand bargain, a deal, that includes both tax increases and benefit cuts to try to save both programs?

    Wallace’s question ignores three important points.

    First, the CRFB did not score the Clinton and Trump tax plans as roughly equivalent in terms of their impact on the debt and deficit. According to a September 22 analysis from the organization, Trump’s economic agenda will create $5.3 trillion in new debt accumulation over the next decade -- more than 25 times more new debt that Clinton’s more balanced plan. University of Michigan economist and New York Times columnist Justin Wolfers tweeted a chart from CRFB showing how Trump’s plan would “explode” the national debt beyond current projections, whereas Clinton’s proposal leaves it “basically unchanged”:

    Second, as economist Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote on Twitter, Medicare and Social Security “DO NOT run out of money!!” because they are paid for by secured trust funds and specific permanent tax provisions. Bernstein also noted that the Affordable Care Act, which Trump vowed to repeal during the debate, has actually extended Medicare “solvency by 11 years.” Economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research added that, because the program can only spend money from a protected trust fund, “Social Security can’t legally drive the debt.”

    Third, Wallace’s supposed solution to avoid benefit cuts for Social Security and Medicare recipients in the 2030s is to start implementing those cuts today. As New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has noted many times, “these proposals would be really bad public policy” and would harshly impact low-income Americans who rely on the programs for retirement security. The only reason Social Security faces a long-term revenue shortfall is because the payroll tax that funds it is only applied to the first $118,500 of individual earnings. If the payroll tax cap was lifted to include more taxable earnings, the program could bring in more revenue and be funded through the end of the century. As Krugman notes, “while most Americans love Social Security, the wealthy don’t. Two years ago a pioneering study of the policy preferences of the very wealthy found many contrasts with the views of the general public; as you might expect, the rich are politically different from you and me. But nowhere are they as different as they are on the matter of Social Security.”

    Wallace’s decision to relitigate the failed “grand bargain” from 2011 wasn’t the only example of the Fox News host using the debate as a forum to push a conservative policy agenda. However, his specific fearmongering and misleading framing of the debt and entitlements does vindicate economic policy experts’ many concerns about him moderating the debate in the first place.

  • Wallace Uses Presidential Debate To Push Right-Wing Fantasy That 2009 Stimulus Hurt The Economy

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News host and presidential debate moderator Chris Wallace falsely blamed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) -- commonly referred to as “the stimulus” -- for creating a historically sluggish economic recovery, a frequent charge from right-wing media outlets that bears no resemblance to reality.

    During a line of questioning designed to undermine Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Wallace alleged that Clinton’s economic agenda closely resembles “the Obama stimulus plan in 2009,” which he falsely claimed was responsible for “the slowest GDP [gross domestic product] growth since 1949”: 

    CHRIS WALLACE: I want to pursue your plan, because in many ways it is similar to the Obama stimulus plan in 2009, which has led to the slowest GDP growth since 1949.

    DONALD TRUMP: Correct.

    CHRIS WALLACE. Thank you, sir. You told me, in July, when we spoke that the problem is that President Obama didn't get to do enough in what he was trying to do with the stimulus. So is your plan basically more, even more of the Obama stimulus?

    Right-wing media outlets, including Fox News, have long charged that the 2009 stimulus package was costly and ineffective, and they regularly promote the fantasy that the roughly $800 billion rescue package actually hurt the American economy. Fox News has portrayed the very concept of stimulating the economy through targeted government investments as a “distraction,” Fox host Bill O’Reilly has falsely claimed that food stamps have no economic value, and Fox anchor Megyn Kelly has been derisively referring to the rescue package as “the so-called stimulus” for years.

    Contrary to Wallace’s misleading talking point, economists like Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman generally believe that the stimulus package was too small and too focused on tax cuts instead of targeted spending. (Tax cuts actually don’t stimulate the economy very effectively.) In a July 2014 New York Times column, economist Justin Wolfers noted that 36 of 37 economists surveyed by the University of Chicago’s Initiative on Global Markets agreed that the stimulus was directly responsible for lowering the unemployment rate, and 25 agreed that the economic benefits of the law exceeded its costs.

    Wallace’s willingness to use the debate stage as a forum to promote right-wing misinformation was one of the primary reasons that Media Matters questioned the decision to include him as a moderator.

  • NY Times Columnist Urges Fox News Moderator To Discuss “Budget Reality” During Final Debate


    New York Times columnist David Leonhardt called on Fox News host Chris Wallace to base “his questions on budget reality” during the “debt and entitlements” portion of the third and final presidential debate that he will moderate tonight -- the first general election debate ever moderated by a Fox personality. Given Wallace’s track record of parroting right-wing media budget hysteria from his anchor desk at Fox News, it is possible that the moderator will fall short of what Leonhardt characterized as his “reputation as a serious journalist.”

  • Fox & Friends Defends Trump’s Infeasible “Trickle-Down” Tax Plan

    Fox Staunchly Defending Myth That Tax Cuts Create Economic Growth

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox & Friends attempted to defend Republican nominee Donald Trump's budget-busting tax plan by pushing the discredited claim that his proposed tax cuts for the rich and for corporations would stimulate economic growth.

    On October 11, Fox & Friends was joined by Fox Business host Stuart Varney to discuss Trump’s tax cuts, which, according to Varney, will “get 4 percent growth within a couple of years.” After Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade pressed Varney about criticism of how much additional debt would be incurred under Trump’s “trickle-down” tax plan, Varney admitted it would “initially” increase federal deficit before speculating that, “over the longer term, the deficit, I think, comes down.” Varney also claimed Trump’s plan “is cutting taxes across the board” -- failing to mention that his cuts overwhelmingly benefit the top 1 percent of taxpayers, with almost nothing for working- and middle-class Americans. From the October 11 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    Fox & Friends has hosted Varney before to push Trump’s “trickle-down” economic policies; on September 28, the show invited Varney to defend Trump’s tax cuts for the rich. He decried Clinton’s assertion at the September 26 presidential debate that Trump’s tax cuts are "Trumped-up trickle-down economics" and claimed Trump’s huge tax cut for the wealthiest of Americans is “how we grow the economy.” Varney continued his defense of Trump’s economic policies on his Fox Business program Varney & Co. later that morning, claiming that, economically speaking, “we are in a mess [and] the only way out is to stimulate private enterprise by tax cuts.”

    Fox’s desperate attempt to shore up Trump’s right-wing tax policy comes after economists, experts, and journalists have lampooned the plan’s many flaws. During the September 15 edition of CNN’s The Lead, Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi noted that the job creation and economic growth Trump has promised are “not feasible” without a significant increase of net immigration over the next decade, which Trump vehemently opposes. CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar derided Trump’s reliance on tax cuts to boost economic growth as “magical thinking,” and noted that economists now have “20 years of evidence that this sort of trickle-down theory is not working.” The idea of tax cuts as a means for creating growth has even been debunked by economists on Fox -- including on Varney’s own show. Economist Austan Goolsbee scolded Varney on the April 25 edition of Varney & Co., reminding the Fox host that cutting taxes would not increase growth and arguing instead that they would “choke off the money that you needed to make the investments that are critical to your future grow[th].”

    According to a September 2014 report from the Brookings Institution, tax cuts do not always create economic growth and can even discourage growth by undermining economic incentives to invest. A September 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) similarly concluded that reducing top income tax rates does not correlate to increased economic growth, but lowering top rates does "appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution."

    Varney has attempted to rewrite history before to claim tax cuts created “gigantic” increases in revenue during previous Republican administrations, and Fox has repeatedly pushed debunked trickle-down economic claims. The fact remains that tax cuts for the wealthy guarantee only one thing: lost revenue that could be spent on vital investments that improve the lives of every American.

  • Myths & Facts: A Debate Guide To Donald Trump’s Most Common Lies About The Economy

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s penchant for promoting right-wing media myths and other misleading claims presents a unique challenge heading into the first presidential debate of the general election. If the September 26 debate is anything like the opening debates of 2008 and 2012, it will focus heavily on issues relating to the American economy, and both moderator and audience should be prepared for a torrent of misinformation from the GOP standard-bearer.

  • Media Response To Latest Analysis Of Trump’s Tax Plan: It “Screws The Middle Class”

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump updated his tax reform plan in a September 15 speech, just over a month after his initial August 9 revision of the plan. The conservative-leaning Tax Foundation has now scored Trump’s latest tax plan and found it would still cost trillions of dollars in lost tax revenue and would overwhelmingly benefit higher-income earners. Mainstream media are using these findings to push back on Trump’s claims that he supports the middle class and to shine a spotlight on the contradicting statements about the economy his campaign has made.

  • Wall Street Journal Lauds Trump’s Economic Plan Experts Called “Nonsense” And “Fantasy”

    Editorial Board Favorably Compares Trump Economic Vision To Jeb Bush’s Plan

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s latest update of his tax and economic policy proposals, which he announced during a September 15 speech at the Economic Club of New York. The Journal lauded Trump’s goal of sustained economic growth of 4 percent or more annually -- comparing it favorably to failed GOP candidate Jeb Bush’s 4 percent pledge. Once again, the editorial board ignored both the Journal’s own reporting that 4 percent growth would require economic “wizardry” and criticism from economists and experts who have frequently slammed Trump and Bush’s “nonsense” trickle-down economic plans.