Fox continued its effort to target the Obama administration with manufactured scandals, fearmongering that IRS commissioner Sarah Hall Ingram will use the IRS' authority under the Affordable Care Act to discriminate against conservatives by denying or postponing approval for medical procedures.
Fox News and Fox Business previously portrayed electric carmaker Tesla Motors as another "failure" of the Obama administration's green energy investments. But since it is now clear that the company is doing well, both networks have developed amnesia about its federal loan, with Tucker Carlson claiming that "they don't take any government subsidies at all."
Tesla recently reiterated its plans to repay a loan granted through the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program ahead of schedule. This followed a series of positive developments, including the company's first quarterly profits and a shining review of the Model S sedan by Consumer Reports. Financial services firm Morgan Stanley recently told Raw Story that "Many funds approach an investment opportunity by first asking: does the company do something better or cheaper than anybody else? Tesla is beginning to convince the market it may do both."
But no matter how Tesla fares in the coming years, it seems likely that Fox News will change its reporting to follow suit. In 2012, Fox News' claim that Tesla was a "failed" company was eventually adopted by the campaign of then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Later, Fox News admitted Tesla was a "success", eventually forgetting its federal loan in the process.
Video created by Max Greenberg and John Kerr.
Following months of media calls for deficit reduction, cable news channels spent just over 7 minutes reporting on a revised Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projection that the 2013 deficit will decline by more than previous estimates. Broadcast network news evening shows did not cover the new report.
Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade reacted to a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report showing the 2013 deficit dropping by $200 billion by lamenting that the report might discourage further austerity measures.
In a May 14 report, the non-partisan CBO estimated that in 2013, the federal deficit will be $200 billion lower than previously projected, the smallest deficit since 2008. The report also predicted that the deficit over the next 10 years will be $618 billion less than previously thought.
Kilmeade reacted to this news with calls for increased austerity, lamenting that the "positive news" in the CBO report might lead away from a mindset of "fiscal discipline." Kilmeade concluded, "I just hope we still feel the urgency to get our budget in order."
However, Kilmeade's concern may be misplaced. As The Washington Post's Ezra Klein noted in a May 14 post, the new CBO estimate makes the deficit look "downright manageable":
[T]he debt disaster that has obsessed the political class for the last three years is pretty much solved, at least for the next 10 years or so.
In fact, that's probably too much deficit reduction, too quickly.
Many economists agree that too much in spending cuts too quickly can hurt economic growth. In an April 27 post on his New York Times blog, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called continued efforts at deficit reduction through austerity measures "very bad policy," explaining that recent declines in government spending -- at the federal, state, and municipal levels -- have contributed to slow economic growth. Similarly, in a February 8 Guardian op-ed, the Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker asserted that "deficit reduction is throwing people out of work" and concluded that "we need deficits today to fill a huge hole in demand created by the private sector."
Additionally, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that austerity has led to a decline in government spending, which has turned into a drag on economic growth:
Economic media coverage has been heavily focused on advocating for deficit reduction, even as deficits decline and the federal government posts a surplus.
A Media Matters analysis on economic news coverage in the month of April found that media continued their long-established focus on deficit reduction. In 45 of 123 total segments discussing policy impacts on the economy, guests or hosts on network and cable news advocated for deficit reduction as a priority.
Calls for deficit reduction beat out mentions of other economic issues, most notably the need for economic growth and job creation, and economic inequality.
The continued focus on deficit reduction is particularly interesting given the fact that, in the month of April, the federal government posted the largest budget surplus in five years. Furthermore, according to the Congressional Budget Office, current and projected deficits are expected to decline in coming years.
Even conservatives have recently acknowledged that deficit reduction is not the country's most pressing economic issue. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), agreeing with President Obama, stated that the country is not facing an immediate debt crisis, a notion shared by prominent Democrats. And John Makin, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, remarked that Congress has already enacted enough deficit reduction.
Meanwhile, economists have expressed concerns over media's focus on deficits, instead calling attention to resolving the very real immediate crisis of unemployment. Economist Jared Bernstein recently began a series on the path to full employment, and numerous other economists have advocated increased short-term spending to bolster economic growth and job creation.
Furthermore, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has even pointed out that focusing on jobs and growth -- not spending cuts -- provides an effective avenue for deficit reduction.
From the May 14 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Media outlets largely ignored economic inequality in discussions about the overall economy, despite mounting evidence suggesting that the problem has increased in recent years.
While media have been quick to highlight ostensibly positive gains for the economy -- notably that the Dow Jones Industrial reached 15,000 for the first time in its history, GDP grew by 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013, and unemployment for April edged down to 7.5 percent -- signs of rising income inequality have gone largely unmentioned.
According to a recent Media Matters analysis, economic coverage for the month of April barely mentioned issues of inequality. In 123 total segments discussing policy effects on the macroeconomy, only 12 touched upon the growing disparity in economic gains for the rich and the poor.
The discrepancy in covering economic inequality stretched across all major outlets. ABC, CBS, and NBC provided no mentions of the problem. MSNBC devoted the most coverage, with roughly 25 percent of segments on the economy discussing rising inequality.
While the media have pushed inequality out of the spotlight, mounting evidence suggests that the problem is getting worse.
As for the rising stock market, while any gains should be viewed as a positive for the economy as a whole, the distribution of those gains paints a less than perfect picture. According to a Gallup poll, 52 percent of Americans currently hold stocks, a number that has been consistently declining in recent years.
Other indicators highlight the deep-seated nature of economic inequality. According to Congressional Budget Office data, from 1979 to 2007 the top one percent of income earners have seen their after-tax share of total income rise by more than 120 percent, while the bottom 20 percent of earners have seen that share decline by almost 30 percent.
And according to an analysis by journalist David Cay Johnston, economic gains in recent history show an even darker reality - from 2009 to 2011, 149 percent of increased income was reaped by the top 10 percent of earners.
Meanwhile, the economy is currently suffering from an epidemic of long-term unemployed workers, which, as noted in a Bloomberg editorial, could create a permanent underclass of workers unable to reenter the labor force.
Some of the media's attention -- albeit very little -- has focused on the inequitable impact of sequestration on low-income individuals. The overwhelming majority of discussion of inequality in April, most notably on MSNBC, focused on Congress' unwillingness to mitigate the impacts of sequestration of the poor, while members were seemingly enthusiastic to correct inconveniences for those at the upper end of the income scale.
While some attention has been given to economic inequality, the broader trend in media is to ignore the issue, preferring instead to focus on the widely recognized non-issue of short-term deficit and debt reduction.
Evening news coverage throughout April touched upon several economic issues, including income inequality, deficit reduction, and entitlement cuts. A Media Matters analysis of this coverage reveals that many of these segments lacked proper context or necessary input from economists, while some networks ignored certain issues entirely.
The success of Tesla Motors complicates Fox News' narrative about green energy investments, but the network has a strategy: simply ignore the fact that the company received a federal loan.
Tesla, a leading electric automaker, received a $465 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program in 2010. The company has since become a fixture in car magazines and one of the most conspicuous successes of the Obama administration's green energy policies, recently announcing that it intends to pay back the loan five years ahead of schedule and reporting its first quarterly profits. On the heels of the latter news came word that the notably tough reviewers at Consumer Reports had given the Tesla Model S sedan a 99 out of 100 rating, proclaiming "we've never seen anything quite like the Model S. This car performs better than anything we've ever tested before."
On Friday, Fox News reported the quarter one profits -- "encouraging" -- and the positive review, pronouncing the automaker a "huge success."
One major problem: somehow, Fox News neglected to mention the federal loan guarantee program that helped Tesla obtain vital capital to develop the Model S. By contrast, Fox News has repeatedly used a negative Consumer Reports review of Fisker's hybrid electric Karma sedan as a hook to attack the Obama administration's green loans, without mentioning successes like Tesla or the money that Congress set aside to cover losses, knowing that not every company would succeed.
While reporting that weekly jobless claims have fallen to a five year low, Fox News' Jenna Lee said that, "much of the job growth has come from fewer layoffs, not increased hiring, which begs the question whether it is real job growth at all." While Lee implied an inverse relationship between jobless claims and job growth, the U.S. Labor Department's first time unemployment claims report is only an indicator of layoffs, not job growth. In fact, the April jobs report showed that 165,000 jobs were added to the economy and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent - the lowest since December 2008.
On the May 9 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, host Jenna Lee reported on the weekly initial jobless claims report issued by the Labor Department. Lee acknowledged that the numbers were encouraging but then erroneously framed the report as an indicator of slowed job growth, questioning "whether it is real job growth at all."
Lee's question implied an inverse relationship between the job growth and initial jobless claims report, which is a weekly report that tracks the number of Americans who apply for unemployment benefits. Jobless claims don't measure job growth, as Lee implies. The data are only a proxy for layoffs and necessarily do not measure job growth - if someone does not get laid off, that's a job maintained, not created. Contrary to Lee's suggestion, Bloomberg reported that, "Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates."
Lee questioned "whether it is real job growth at all." According to the report that actually tracks job growth, employers added 165,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent -- the lowest it has been since December 2008. Private sector job growth has consistently risen since 2009:
But Fox News recently attacked that report, too. Their coverage was largely negative, despite the fact that economists generally agree that the report shows positive gains in the labor market.
Fox News' Stuart Varney portrayed a natural gas automaker as a "green energy failure," even though he pushed the federal government to make transit agencies buy vehicles from the same company only a few months prior.
Vehicle Production Group (VPG), a Michigan-based company that makes wheelchair-accessible vans, recently ceased operations and closed its offices. The company, which had drawn attention for designing the first vehicle specifically for people with disabilities, was awarded a $50 million conditional loan commitment in 2010 to develop vans with natural gas engines as part of the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program.
On Wednesday, Varney depicted the company as "the latest embarrassment for the [Obama administration's] green energy policy" on Fox & Friends:
But Varney did not mention that VPG received its loan under a program that President George W. Bush signed into law, or that the natural gas vehicles it was intended to subsidize are a component of T. Boone Pickens' energy plan, which Fox News personalities have previously supported. Pickens funded and advocated for VPG himself.
A gaffe according to the oft-repeated definition is getting caught saying something you actually believe.
Last week Harvard Professor and Daily Beast contributor Niall Ferguson offered an "unqualified apology" after remarking that the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes should be ignored because of his purported sexuality.
In the Harvard Crimson he seems to withdraw at least the "unqualified" nature of his remorse claiming "not for one moment did I mean to suggest that Keynesian economic as a body of thought was simply a function of Keynes' sexuality." According to the economist, "nor can it be true--as some of my critics apparently believe--that his sexuality is totally irrelevant to our historical understanding of the man."
Ferguson goes on to state "Keynes' sexual orientation did have historical significance. The strong attraction he felt for the German banker Carl Melchior undoubtedly played a part in shaping Keynes' view on the Treaty of Versailles and its aftermath."
Pop psychological gay baiting economic analysis is nothing new for Ferguson. UC Berkley economist Brad Delong highlighted the following passage of a 1995 American Spectator article:
"the ideas contained in The Economic Consequences of the Peace" "owed as much to his homosexuality as to his Germanophilia..." for "there is no question that the attraction Keynes felt for [Carl Melchior] strongly influenced his judgment..."
Furthermore University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers located a passage in The Pity of War where Ferguson makes this claim: "Though his work in the Treasury gratified his sense of self-importance, the war itself made Keynes deeply unhappy. Even his sex life went into a decline, perhaps because the boys he liked to pick up in London all joined up."
In fairness to Ferguson, conservative economists have launched attacks on Keynes' sexuality for decades.
It's clear that Niall Ferguson was not apologetic for making the remark, instead he was contrite about being caught making the remark in public -- the economic equivalent of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
Ferguson's attack on Keynes comes at a time when his own economic fundamentals are on the defensive. The academic grounding of the austerity crowd's recent efforts, the Reinhart-Rogoff study, is now the subject of late night mockery. The Keynesian view, now carried forward in public policy debates most strongly by Paul Krugman, is resurging and Ferguson is lashing out.
What Ferguson should really be apologetic for is not his simply economic homophobia -- there is no other appropriate term for claiming the beliefs of one of history's most noted economists should be distrusted because he enjoyed sex with men. J.K. Trotter of The Atlantic cut to the heart of the matter when he summed up Ferguson's argument as "being gay means you don't actually care about the welfare of children or the future of mankind."
Instead, the austerity economics Ferguson has pressed in the media has pushed policies condemning millions to the unemployment line. For this, I doubt any apology -- unqualified or not -- is forthcoming.
Daily Beast contributor Niall Ferguson has offered an "unqualified apology" for suggesting that John Maynard Keynes, the British economist whose theories are the basis of macroeconomics and the foundation of progressive economic policy, was unconcerned with future generations because he was gay and childless.
Ferguson, a Harvard history professor who has issued flawed denunciations of President Obama's economic policies, made his original comments during a May 2 speech. According to a May 3report by Financial Advisor magazine (emphasis added):
Speaking at the Tenth Annual Altegris Conference in Carlsbad, Calif., in front of a group of more than 500 financial advisors and investors, Ferguson responded to a question about Keynes' famous philosophy of self-interest versus the economic philosophy of Edmund Burke, who believed there was a social contract among the living, as well as the dead.Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of "poetry" rather than procreated. The audience went quiet at the remark. Some attendees later said they found the remarks offensive.
It gets worse.
Ferguson, who is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, and author of The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, says it's only logical that Keynes would take this selfish worldview because he was an "effete" member of society. Apparently, in Ferguson's world, if you are gay or childless, you cannot care about future generations nor society.
Ferguson quickly came under fire following the publication of the Financial Advisor piece. On May 4, he acknowledged on his website that his comments were "as stupid as they were insensitive." He wrote:
But I should not have suggested - in an off-the-cuff response that was not part of my presentation - that Keynes was indifferent to the long run because he had no children, nor that he had no children because he was gay. This was doubly stupid. First, it is obvious that people who do not have children also care about future generations. Second, I had forgotten that Keynes's wife Lydia miscarried.
Ferguson further stated that he "detest[s] all prejudice, sexual or otherwise," but that his colleagues, students, and friends "have every right to be disappointed in me, as I am in myself." He concluded: "To them, and to everyone who heard my remarks at the conference or has read them since, I deeply and unreservedly apologize."
This is not the first time Ferguson has been the subject of scrutiny following an offensive comment. He was harshly criticized for a 2009 column in which he compared Obama to the cartoon character Felix the Cat, writing that Obama was "not only black" but "also very, very lucky." More recently he claimed that New York Times columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman's supposed "inability to debate a question without insulting his opponent suggests some kind of deep insecurity perhaps the result of a childhood trauma."
The Wall Street Journal ignored the role of government employment in economic recovery, writing that "government needed austerity" and that hiring "is unsustainable given current debt and tax burdens." The decline in total government employment, which is historically unusual following a recession, is harming the recovery and slowing economic growth.
In a May 3 editorial, the WSJ claimed the decline in government employment was a response to President Obama's stimulus package, advocated further austerity for federal hiring, and ignored the public sector's role in boosting economic growth. From the article:
Another good sign is that private hiring continues to make up for flat employment in government. Public payrolls fell marginally by 11,000 in April, which has the Keynesians on Wall Street and in Washington moaning about "austerity." But after the artificial hiring of the Obama stimulus, government needed austerity and should get a lot more. Private hiring can build on itself as the economy grows, while government hiring is unsustainable given current debt and tax burdens.
In fact, total public-sector employment, which was increasing after 2007, has been in decline for the past four years. The austerity in the public sector has gone beyond counteracting hiring from the recovery act, falling significantly below pre-recession levels:
In the past, economic recoveries following a recession have benefitted from public-sector job growth. This graph from the Economic Policy Institute demonstrates the difference in public-sector employment following the 2007 recession compared to recessions since 1981:
Fox News' coverage of the April unemployment report was largely negative, despite the fact that economists largely agree that the report shows positive gains in the labor market.