Right-wing media outlets used a flawed National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper to attack unemployment insurance (UI), claiming that the paper proved that UI disincentives work. In fact, experts criticized the paper's methodology and data, and one of the paper's co-authors admitted that most UI recipients look for work while receiving benefits.
Conservative media hyped the findings of a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report as a "bombshell" that shows the costs of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be much higher than expected. But according to the CBO's report, the ACA will cost 20 percent less over the next decade than its initial projections.
Continuing a "troubling" pattern, The Washington Post is allowing opinion writer Ed Rogers to defend Wall Street from attacks without disclosing his firm "offers services" to Wall Street interests. The Post also doesn't disclose that Rogers' firm "provides investment banking services" for American and foreign clients.
Rogers is a "Republican mega-lobbyist" who is the chairman and co-founder of the BGR Group with former Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) in 1991. The Post noted the firm is one of the top Washington D.C. lobbying firms, having banked more than $15 million in 2014.
Media Matters previously documented that Rogers' firm received more than $1.6 million in 2014 lobbying fees from energy and transportation clients that benefit from positions he repeatedly espoused in his Post writing. The Post and Rogers never disclosed his firm's clients.
The Post has defended the practice, telling Media Matters via email, "His full-time lobbying job is in his bio on every single piece he writes." But such a standard requires readers to actively search federal lobbying records to ascertain if Rogers has clients that might benefit from his writing. Media ethicists have slammed the Post for this "troubling" and "dishonest" standard.
Rogers' undisclosed and conflict-laden commentary extends into other areas beyond the environment, including financial regulations.
Media outlets are falsely alleging that President Obama's plan for free community college will hurt the middle class because it makes changes to 529 college savings plans. In fact, those who use 529 plans tend to be wealthy, and the changes will help build a broader tax credit for college savings.
Right-wing media figures misleadingly attacked and dismissed the need for paid parental leave after President Obama's State of the Union speech advocated for expanding these programs to more Americans. In fact, economists have found that increasing paid leave would boost the economy, increase wages, and keep families out of poverty.
Fox's Bill O'Reilly downplayed the impact of raising the minimum wage, claiming only an"infinitesimal" number of people would be impacted, and ignoring the 27.8 million Americans that would benefit from a raise in the minimum wage.
During the January 20 State of the Union address, President Obama urged members of Congress to raise the minimum wage, saying those "who still refuse to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest working people in America a raise."
On the January 21 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly and network contributor Eric Shawn undermined President Obama's minimum wage initiative, and diminished the number of Americans that would be impacted by raising the minimum wage. O'Reilly asserted that only "a very low number" of people make "minimum wage anyways," claiming that the number of people who would be impacted by the change would be "infinitesimal" and saying Obama has been "misleading everybody" by insisting a raise would have a big effect:
But according to the Economic Policy Institute, raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016 would "raise the wages of 27.8 million workers, who would receive about $35 billion in additional wages over the phase-in period."
Right-wing media maligned Obama's economic policy initiatives announced during his State Of The Union address as both divisive class warfare and Santa Claus-style giveaways.
Media coverage of Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst's Republican response to the State of the Union failed to explain that Ernst's family farm has benefited from large government subsidies, despite highlighting her upbringing on her family farm and calls to cut government spending.
Coverage of the economy on weeknight television news shows during the last six months of 2014 continued to focus heavily on policies meant to boost job creation and economic growth, but discussions overwhelmingly lacked input from actual economists. Additionally, a Media Matters analysis uncovered a relative decline in the number of segments promoting the conservative media myths that Obamacare and increasing the minimum wage hurt the labor market.
From the January 21 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the January 20 edition of CNN's CNN Tonight:
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Fox News misleadingly asked whether President Obama's new tax initiative which proposes to cut taxes on the middle class was "raising your taxes?" In reality, Obama's plan lowers middle class taxes and is funded by closing tax loopholes and increasing capital gain taxes on the top one percent of earners.
Rush Limbaugh complained that low gasoline prices are a sure sign the U.S. economy is "in the tank," a stark turnaround for a radio host who previously told listeners that high gas prices were part of President Obama's plan to inflict "economic suffering" on the American people.
Limbaugh opened the January 20 edition of his radio program by purporting to let listeners in on the "dirty little secret" behind these low oil prices -- a struggling economy. Limbaugh charged, "One of the leading, or primary, reasons why the price of oil is down, and gasoline, is demand. Demand is down. And the demand is down because the U.S. economy's in the tank." The reason "you won't find very many experts acknowledge this," he went on, is "because it contradicts the idea that the economy is roaring back."
Limbaugh's theories stand in stark contrast to those he offers when gas prices are high. He's spent years accusing President Obama of desiring high gas prices in order to hurt the economy and Republican voters, pushing for high prices to be a central economic criticism of Obama's first term.
Before the 2012 election, Limbaugh theorized that Obama wanted high gasoline specifically to cause economic suffering (emphasis added):
LIMBAUGH: I'm just telling you the bottom line: Rising gas prices, that's [Obama's] plan. Economic suffering is the plan. Old Chester's got too many cars: Two. He doesn't deserve them. He's not entitled to that many cars. It doesn't matter if he works hard and got the money to pay for them himself. It's not fair. He shouldn't have that many cars. Nobody "needs" that many cars. Particularly when there are people that only have one. Or, in some cases, don't have any. It's just not right.
In 2011, he speculated that media were ignoring rising gas prices to protect Obama from criticism over the economy in the run up to his reelection, asking, "Will the media ignoring the rise in gas prices be able to keep that from becoming a major factor in people's minds over the economy and Obama's role in it?" He applauded those who did report on rising prices:
LIMBAUGH: Another very, very, very, very, very, very worried about rising gasoline prices now, Washington Post and New York Times, I think on Sunday both had stories, "Uh-oh, no, rising gas prices, could it possibly be damaging to Obama's campaign?" New York Times, Washington Post both concerned about rising gasoline prices. Do you realize gasoline prices have never been higher at this time of year than they are right now?
The price of gasoline's up 90% since when Obama took office, folks. They're right to be concerned about it.
As far back as 2008, Limbaugh lamented that high gasoline prices "hurt primarily Republican, middle-class, suburban voters," and accused Democrats of reveling in higher prices to hurt GOP supporters:
LIMBAUGH: May I take you back to last week, where I postulated the theory that one of the reasons that these high gasoline prices are found attractive by the left is who they hurt?
They hurt primarily Republican, middle-class, suburban voters. If you look at a map of the country and the red and blue versions, versus who lives where and how they voted, you find that most large Democrat cities already have some type of mass transit.
Limbaugh's hypocrisy on gasoline prices is shared by his conservative media colleagues. Fox News spent years blaming Obama for high gas prices only to respond to falling gas prices in 2012 by asking if the drop was bad for the country. As recently as October, the network was busy speculating that low gas may hurt the economy.
Fox News diminished the importance of paid sick and parental leave for working families and other employees as unnecessary "giveaways," ignoring the fact that paid sick leave policies have proven to save the economy billions of dollars annually, improve businesses, and predominately help low-income workers and women.
On January 15, President Obama launched an initiative to urge federal agencies and private-sector businesses to provide paid sick and family leave to working parents and other employees. And as The New York Times reported, pushed Congress to pass measures that will "let workers earn up to a week of paid sick time a year," provide federal workers "an additional six weeks of paid parental leave," and "encourage states to create paid family and medical leave programs." As The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted, "The U.S. remains the world's only wealthy nation that does not mandate a minimum of paid sick leave, vacation leave or parental leave."
On the January 15 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Stuart Varney dismissed the initiatives as a "giveaway" and a political ploy aimed at making Republicans "look bad." Host Martha MacCallum flippantly diminished the importance of paid sick leave for working families and other employees saying, "What happened to, if you are really sick and you really can't come to work you don't come to work, and then if you are not really sick then you don't get any sick days?":
But Fox's dismissal ignores the fact that paid sick days have been shown to save the U.S. economy billions of dollars annually. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, "Paid sick days help to decrease the productivity lost when employees work sick... which is estimated to cost our national economy $160 billion annually." Paid sick leave also contributes to workplace stability by removing the cost of replacing workers and the risk of infecting other workers.
Additionally, The Center for Economic Policy Research found that Connecticut's paid sick leave law had a negligible financial impact on the businesses that had to change their policies to comply with the law. Furthermore, these businesses reported minimal abuse of sick leave policies and a host of benefits:
The largest increases in paid sick leave coverage after the law went into effect were in health, education and social services; hospitality; and retail. Part-time workers, rarely covered before the law took effect, benefited disproportionately from its passage. Few employers reported abuse of the new law, and many noted positive benefits such as improved morale and reductions in the spread of illness in the workplace.
And paid sick leave policies predominately help low-income workers and women. As The Washington Post's Wonkblog pointed out, low-income workers are four times less likely to get paid sick leave than the top 10 percent of private sector wage earners. And a Kaiser Family Foundation report found that women are overwhelmingly more likely than men to need paid sick leave to care for their sick children, and the poorest moms have the fewest benefits with "only 36 percent of moms below 200 percent of the federal poverty level" having paid sick leave.