Fox News' Neil Cavuto refused to hear arguments in favor of expanded infrastructure investments, instead claiming that revenue for necessary improvements will be lost to fraud or waste. Cavuto has repeatedly argued against and downplayed the necessity of infrastructure spending, revealing his misunderstanding of the the federal budgeting process and the current state of American infrastructure.
On the December 3 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, Cavuto engaged in a contentious interview with Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) regarding the congressman's proposal to increase the federal gas tax as a means of financing necessary investments in roads, bridges, and other forms of public infrastructure around the country.
On the December 4 edition of Your World, Cavuto returned to the previous night's argument in his opening segment. He was joined in his heated criticism of infrastructure investments by libertarian pundit Matt Welch, editor-in-chief of Reason magazine. Both Cavuto and Welch continually claimed that they do not know where all of the infrastructure and transportation revenue has gone; maintaining only that it must not be going to the places where it is needed:
CAVUTO: To make the point here, that we're not following the moneys we're already spending that, I think, are not exactly in a 'lock box' just meant for this sort of thing.
WELCH: Yeah, I mean if you look at people who advocate for big government, they actually don't spend a lot of time extolling the virtues of big government, because that is an awkward conversation and because it requires them to do what you were asking earlier, is just document what you've already spent.
WELCH: Spending money on the federal level is an inefficient way to deal with local, and state, and city roads.
CAVUTO: If you were to add it all up. Let's say now -- being devil's advocate here -- let's take the stimulus money, the shovel-ready projects a lot of them were infrastructure-targeted, at around $800 billion and average it out over the last five years and throw in the $60 billion or so you're supposed to get from the oil companies, a lot of taxes, and they were going to tap that for infrastructure. You're looking at $250-300 billion a year that would be presumably allocated to just this sort of thing. We're asking for more?
Cavuto's central argument is that the federal government must not be spending money on infrastructure if our infrastructure is in a state of disrepair. Cavuto repeated a popular Fox News thesis, claiming that the government is wasting, misallocating or stealing tax dollars instead of putting them to good use.
In fact, the government's infrastructure budget is simply woefully underfunded.
From the December 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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As the Detroit bankruptcy moves forward, Fox News personalities have been quick to blame worker unions and political corruption for the city's unfunded pension liabilities. This discourse ignores the forces actually undermining Detroit's financial solvency: the dramatic reduction of the city's population and taxbase since its post-war peak.
Way back in November 2008, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that bore the headline: "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." At the time, the economy was crashing and the Bush White House was considering a multi-billion dollar bailout of the auto industry to prevent its collapse and the resulting wholesale economic devastation. Romney argued against the bailout, pushing instead for a "managed bankruptcy" for the troubled automakers, which he referred to collectively as "Detroit."
Four years later, Romney was the Republican presidential candidate, and that op-ed became the subject of repeated attacks from Barack Obama, who supported the auto bailout and wanted to remind voters that the automobile industry had been saved by timely government intervention. "We refused to let Detroit go bankrupt. We bet on American workers and American ingenuity, and three years later, that bet is paying off in a big way," Obama said at the time, also referring to the automobile industry by its well-known nickname, "Detroit."
Jump forward to the present day, and the city of Detroit (not the automobile industry both Romney and Obama referred to as "Detroit," which has flourished) is declaring bankruptcy. It's an unfortunate state of affairs for a great American city. What's also unfortunate is how many conservatives are using Detroit's bankruptcy to claim that Mitt Romney was right and Obama broke his promise when he said he "refused to let Detroit go bankrupt" -- knowingly and deliberately confusing "Detroit" as it refers to the auto industry with Detroit the city.
In 2013, broadcast evening news programs have largely ignored the need for the economy to return to full employment, instead placing overwhelming focus on debt and deficit reduction.
From the December 3 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Company:
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From the December 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Right-wing media have repeatedly blocked efforts to help the economy return to full employment in recent years, instead placing undue focus on policies that would hinder economic growth and job creation.
In a December 2 post on The New York Times' Economix blog, Center on Budget and Policies Priorities Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein outlined a number of policies that would help the economy return to full employment, roughly defined as when all who are able and want to work are employed. Bernstein's policy prescriptions derive from his recently released book, Getting Back to Full Employment, coauthored with economist Dean Baker.
Bernstein's myriad recommendations, as he notes, have been repeatedly stymied by the current "political environment." Many of the policies he recommends -- particularly those related to fiscal policy -- have been given extra derailment by the right-wing media, who vehemently oppose efforts that would return the U.S. economy to full employment.
The primary reason Bernstein cites to explain why the economy has been operating below full employment is the implementation of austerity measures that have drastically reduced the deficit in the past few years. According to Bernstein, the policy of cutting deficits in a time of high unemployment has held back the economy from reaching its full potential.
Of course, in the past few years, right-wing media have championed every effort to reduce deficits and derided any policies that would potentially increase them, even if the result was faster economic and jobs growth.
For example, in the third quarter of 2013, Fox News placed overwhelming focus on deficit reduction, mentioning its supposed need as the country's top economic priority instead of economic growth. Indeed, calling for deficit reduction has become a theme at the network, even while other news outlets place more emphasis on the need for economic growth.
Right-wing media's focus on deficits as economic priorities has not only impeded efforts to increase employment through increased government spending -- an idea endorsed by economists -- but has also crowded out any discussion of pro-growth economic policy.
Bernstein states that one of the best paths to full employment is directly targeting unemployed people through things like subsidized jobs programs. According to Bernstein, government should be involved in directly creating jobs as "employer of last resort," adding that "just as the Fed's powers must be invoked when credit markets fail, so must the government's when labor markets fail to create the quantity of jobs necessary to employ American labor resources (or 'people,' if you prefer)."
In the past few years, right-wing media have not only railed against enacting policies that would create jobs indirectly -- such as canceling sequestration -- but also against direct employment efforts.
In 2011 when President Obama introduced the American Jobs Act, a bill that would directly increase employment through investment and jobs training programs for the unemployed, right-wing media were quick to run attacks against the legislation. Fox News erroneously characterized the bill as "another failed stimulus plan" and falsely claimed that economists considered it "nonsense." And even though the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - commonly known as the stimulus -- unequivocally created up to millions of jobs, Fox still continues to characterize the bill as a failure.
Bernstein notes that one of the greatest direct employment efforts of the past few years was utilizing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund to places hundreds of thousands of low-income individuals in temporary jobs. Of course, TANF -- commonly referred to as welfare -- has become right-wing media's favorite boogeyman, with false claims about its effectiveness and necessity trumpeted regularly on Fox News.
Bernstein's final recommendation focuses on the need for greater infrastructure investment, noting that it would increase long-term economic output and productivity. He also notes that given current low borrowing rates, increased investment through deficit spending would produce minimal negative side effects.
Right-wing media have long opposed infrastructure investment and have ramped up efforts to block additional investment in recent months. Conservative media figures repeatedly dismiss calls for additional investment, erroneously claiming that current investment levels are adequate despite the fact that spending on infrastructure is at historic lows. In a more direct and egregious attack on infrastructure spending, The Wall Street Journal editorial board recently claimed that it could not spur economic growth despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
While Bernstein includes additional recommendations on how to achieve full employment that get little play in national media debates, it is clear that right-wing media have played a role in ensuring that the economy does not achieve this goal anytime soon.
After weeks of highlighting negative aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), media outlets have largely underreported the law's success in helping slow the growth of health care costs.
The Columbus Dispatch claimed that unemployment insurance [UI] benefits create a disincentive to work to attack President Obama's recent call to extend them into 2014. However, multiple economists have found that unemployment benefits are not disincentives to work during economic downturns, and that not extending them will hurt the economy and result in job loss.
Rush Limbaugh is citing an erroneous report about HIV in Greece to falsely claim that half of all recent infections there were self-inflicted for the purpose of receiving government benefits. In fact, the original report on AIDS and HIV in Greece does not confirm a single instance of a person intentionally infecting himself with HIV.
Limbaugh is surely fascinated by this erroneous report because it fits into the false right-wing narrative that government programs that help the poor encourage laziness and dependency.
Limbaugh read from a post about Greece by the British magazine New Scientist during his November 25 radio show:
After reading from the post, Limbaugh attempted to link LGBT people to diseases by saying, "Is that true? Greece is like the gay capital of the world? You heard that? I just had a note flashed to me that says -- well, I don't know about that."
The magazine reported that Greeks who have HIV receive a monthly benefit of 700 euros, which is currently about $945.
For the statistic that half of all recent infections in Greece were self-inflicted, New Scientist cited a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations.
However, the WHO report is incorrect. The WHO's source for this figure is a 2011 study in the British medical journal The Lancet. Here is what the Lancet study actually says:
An authoritative report described accounts of deliberate self-infection by a few individuals to obtain access to benefits of €700 per month and faster admission onto drug substitution programmes. These programmes offer access to synthetic opioids and can have waiting lists of 3 years or more in urban areas. [emphasis added]
Somehow, the "few individuals" mentioned by The Lancet became "half of new HIV infections" in the WHO report.
Furthermore, the "authoritative report" cited by The Lancet says:
An additional factor the committee believed worth considering is the well-founded suspicion that some problem users are intentionally infected with HIV, because of the benefit they are entitled to (approximately € 1,400 every two months), and also because they are granted "exceptional admission" to the Substitution Programme. It is well-known that the Substitution Programme has a long waiting list and that the waiting time can be over 3-4 years. Drug users with a severe chronic condition jump the queue and are admitted in a short period of time. [emphasis added]
So, the original source for this claim merely says that there is a "well-founded suspicion" that "some problem users" of IV drugs had intentionally infected themselves. A "suspicion" is not the same thing as a documented occurrence, let alone "half" of all recent infections.
WHO posted a correction to its study on November 26, explaining that the claim that "about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits" was the result of an editing error:
In September 2013, WHO/Europe published "Review of social determinants and the health divide in the WHO European Region". The report incorrectly states that, in Greece: "HIV rates and heroin use have risen significantly, with about half of new HIV infections being self-inflicted to enable people to receive benefits of €700 per month and faster admission on to drug substitution programmes".
This statement is the consequence of an error in the editing of the report.
Fox News claimed the Obamacare rollout has "clearly" been worse for the American people than the government shutdown, because the shutdown's "biggest inconvenience" was a few closed national parks and memorials -- ignoring the shutdown's cuts to domestic violence centers, women and children's food and health care, stalled scientific research, and severe economic losses.
On the November 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox legal analyst Andrew Napolitano held a "pop quiz" to determine "[w]hich was more harmful to your personal freedoms," Obamacare or the government shutdown? Both decided that there was no contest: Doocy proclaimed that Obamacare was "clearly" worse than the "slimdown," and Napolitano agreed that it was "[n]ot even a close call." As evidence, Napolitano pointed out that "the biggest inconvenience" of the government shutdown was "a couple hundred well-intended people trying to get into national parks and monuments and the government had closed them." In contrast, he claimed that Obamacare hurts people by forcing them to buy expensive "high end, one-size-fits-all" health insurance policies.
Fox's faulty comparison ignored the significant impacts of the government shutdown, which harmed the economy and slashed funding to necessary programs for low-income Americans.
Because of the shutdown, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a program that helps provide health care for at-risk babies and "helps new mothers feed themselves and their babies properly," saw its funding slashed, and states that were unable to lend the program local funds were forced to stop accepting enrollees. The shutdown also cut federal funding to at least 2,000 shelters for victims of domestic abuse, workplace safety inspections were halted, federal workers stopped inspecting toxic waste sites, and the CDC stopped monitoring the spread of the flu. National Geographic further reported that the shutdown caused long-term setbacks in scientific research, and The Washington Post detailed how the shutdown's fallout cost low-income workers their economic stability.
The shutdown also did lasting damage to the U.S. economy. Moody's Analytics estimated that the shutdown "cut real GDP by $20 billion, shaving half a percentage point off growth in the fourth quarter," according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report. CRS also noted that "JP Morgan Chase's chief economist was quoted as estimating that the shutdown reduced fourth quarter growth by 0.5 percentage points, with half the reduction attributable to lower government spending and half to 'spillover effects and lost activity' in the rest of the economy." The shutdown also eroded consumer confidence and may have derailed our gradual economic recovery, and economists argue that the shutdown will have lingering effects on the labor market and overall economy for several months.
Napolitano's argument that "5,500,000 innocent Americans were told they don't - they won't have health insurance on January 1st" is also inaccurate. Fox has repeatedly worked to hide the fact that rather than losing coverage outright, most of these consumers are simply being offered new, often better, options because policies will be required to include basic standards of care. Moreover, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, though rocky, has successfully allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to sign up for Medicaid.
Fox News' Sean Hannity and Eric Bolling seized on a dubious, anonymously sourced report to revive the conspiracy theory that the Bureau of Labor Statistics manipulated unemployment data to help re-elect President Obama.
On November 18, the New York Post cited an anonymous Census Bureau employee to suggest that employment numbers were changed while President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012.
On the November 19 edition of his syndicated radio show, Hannity claimed the report proved that he was right to claim, in October 2012, that unemployment numbers were "altered for political gain."
On the November 19 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Eric Bolling also claimed the Post report proved his BLS conspiracy theories:
But not only was the New York Post's report thinly sourced to begin with, CNBC reported today that Julius Buckmon, the Census worker that allegedly fabricated data, has not worked at the Census Bureau since 2011, long before the unemployment report that Fox accused the Obama administration of manufacturing. Business Insider's Brett LoGiurato spoke with a Census spokesperson who confirmed that Buckmon has not worked for the agency since 2011 and that Buckmon "was an employee who was willfully disobeying Census procedures and disobeying the law."
Furthermore, the unnamed source provided no evidence that the September 2012 unemployment rate was either unusual or manipulated. Business Insider's Joe Wiesenthal explained:
The allegation is interesting. It claims that surveyers conducting the Household Survey -- which is what establishes the unemployment rate -- were pressured to fake surveys in order to fill in data gaps, when it was difficult to get adequate response rates on its surveys.
It also claims that instances of bad data being filled in is something that was going back to 2010 -- in other words, this is not a story about the infamous September 2012 jobs report. There's also no allegation here that there was pressure to manipulate the number up. The only claim is that there was pressure to fill in gaps where there was a shortfall in the number of survey respondents.
There may be more information to come to light on this, but at least this particular report doesn't jibe with Welch's claim that something unusual happened with the September report to artificially push the number down.
Reports indicate that CNBC business anchor Maria Bartiromo will soon move to the Fox Business Network to host a weekday market hours program. Judging by Bartiromo's past comments, the host will find a welcome home at Fox.
On November 18, multiple news outlets reported that Bartiromo, currently the anchor of CNBC's Closing Bell, intends to leave her current position to take a job at Fox Business. According to USA Today, Bartiromo will also report for Fox News.
A March 2010 profile of Bartiromo in New York magazine described her as "empathetic to Big Business" and noted the criticism she's taken for being "too cozy" with the people she covers as a journalist. Bartiromo dismissed her critics as jealous: "Anybody who has been very successful is sort of, you know, in the crosshairs."
Indeed, Bartiromo has gone to great lengths to protect the interests of businesses, even advancing borderline conspiracy theories about the Obama administration and government regulatory agencies.
In 2011, Bartiromo repeatedly argued that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) should not have intervened when Boeing was accused of anti-labor practices, going so far as to claim that the only reason NLRB filed suit against the company was because Boeing's jobs are non-union. In late 2012 when Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit unexpectedly resigned, Bartiromo asserted that is was because he was "[g]etting bashed and bashed and bashed again by the President, by the populists." And of course, there is Bartiromo's recent staunch defense of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, despite the fact that Dimon headed the investment bank when it was involved in allegedly fraudulent deals in the mortgage security market just before the financial crisis.
Bartiromo's soft approach to business interests is exactly what will make the host successful at Fox. The network regularly accuses the federal government of committing "shakedowns" whenever big business interests are held accountable for misconduct, even when there is mounting evidence of wrongdoing. Similar to Bartiromo's assertion that Pandit resigned because of pressure from the Obama administration, Fox Business' Stuart Varney claimed that when Standard & Poor's Devan Sharma stepped down as president in 2011 it was because the Obama administration was exacting revenge for S&P's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating.
Bartiromo's defense of big business is not the only reason she'll fit in at Fox -- she's also well-practiced in false, conservative attacks on President Obama. In October 2012, she suggested that the reason President Obama did not refer to the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya as "terrorism" -- a well-worn falsehood -- was because he may have been trying to garner support for cuts to military spending. The attacks in Benghazi, of course, have become fodder for Fox to advance baseless conspiracy theories and attacks on the Obama administration and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Given that Bartiromo's past comments fit into Fox's pro-business anti-government narrative, it is no wonder that the network would take her on board.
(Image via Financial Times via Creative Commons License)
Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer attacked attempts to reduce income equality as only exacerbating economic growth and unemployment. But leading economists have supported government efforts to address inequality, calling it a paramount issue facing the country.
On the November 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly and Krauthammer met ostensibly to discuss rising economic inequality in the United States. Their conversation, however, quickly devolved into standard attacks against the efficacy of policies aimed at reducing inequality and building economic security. Citing a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), O'Reilly highlighted the "astounding" income gains of the top 1 percent of earners from 1979 to 2007 before turning to blame President Obama for failing to address growing inequality during his administration. Krauthammer joined the chorus, blaming President Obama's expressed concern with reducing economic inequality for actually driving unequal economic growth during his time in office [emphasis added]:
O'REILLY: President Obama promotes income equality, but during his time in office the rich are getting richer and the median income for working Americans has actually gone down. Joining us now from Washington, Charles Krauthammer. So why is this happening?
KRAUTHAMMER: It's happening because there is low economic growth. It's what Kennedy said; a rising economic tide lifts all boats. If you're obsessed with equality, as they are in Europe, what you end up with is chronic unemployment.
Krauthammer's claim that efforts to reduce economic inequality have an adverse effect on the economy is patently false. Economist Robert Reich has argued for decades that economic inequality "is bad for everyone," including the very wealthy, because it reduces economic growth potential.
Reich is not alone among noted economists championing policies that reduce inequality as a means to spur economic growth.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller recently told the Associated Press that "rising inequality in the United States and elsewhere in the world" is "[t]he most important problem that we are facing today." Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman agrees; reducing economic inequality should be a primary policy goal in the United States. In a column titled "Rich Man's Recovery", Krugman argued that the continued concentration of wealth among the very wealthy "undermine[s] all the values that define America." Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz encouraged politicians to address economic inequality in 2013 as a means of unleashing a robust and sustainable economic recovery. Recently, Stiglitz has stated that "inequality is a choice."