Right-wing media and conservative financial interests are touting Gov. Scott Walker's latest anti-worker move as a model for America, but his policies will harm the economy and stand in stark contrast with the GOP's recent attempts to rebrand the party as a champion of the middle class.
This week, Wisconsin governor and 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Scott Walker signed into law a so-called "right-to-work" bill, which will hamper the ability of private-sector workers to organize into labor unions and bargain collectively. Walker proclaimed the bill "sends a powerful message across the country and around the world" and boasted about its economic advantages. His signature follows weeks of championing from conservative media. The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece written by the CEO of Americans for Prosperity that lauded the right-to-work bill in Wisconsin, while misinforming readers about its likely economic impact. Fox News repeatedly praised the bill as well, while the editors of National Review called the Wisconsin bill a "righteous victory" for Walker and described organized labor as a "cancer."
Of course, economists point out that quality of life -- as measured by a variety of factors such as poverty and income rates -- is lower in right-to-work states. In fact, economist Gordon Lafer found that right-to-work laws "lower wages for union and non-union workers by an average of $1,500 a year" and lead to pension and health benefits cuts -- findings echoed in other economic studies.
But politically, Walker is hoping to bolster his conservative bona fides among right-wing media and others in anticipation of a competitive Republican primary season -- by taking a swing at the labor movement. And Wisconsin's latest attack on labor is just the latest chapter in a broader campaign against the middle class being waged in tandem by conservative media, corporate financial interests, and the whole of the Republican Party.
The nexus is easily demonstrable -- the right-to-work law Walker signed is a nearly word-for-word replica of model legislation crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization funded mostly by corporations and conservative organizations, and whose purpose, according to Fortune magazine, is to "bring business-friendly state lawmakers together with lobbyists for corporations." ALEC receives large sums of money from billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch to push legislation that supports the their political agenda, one often at odds with the well-being of middle and working class Americans. Indeed, the right-to-work bill in Wisconsin is just the latest in a string of such laws sweeping through GOP-controlled legislatures in the Midwest thanks to ALEC and the Kochs.
Walker has also been the beneficiary of the Kochs' financial clout. The Kochs directly and indirectly contributed millions of dollars to his gubernatorial campaigns while the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) provided manpower in the form of political rallies and hundreds of volunteers contacting voters in support of Walker. Walker attended a "gathering of rich conservatives" along with other presidential hopefuls convened by the Koch brothers earlier this year.
On Fox News, praise for Walker is over the top -- he is a "sexy" 2016 candidate that makes one host's "toes curl." Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has lavished Walker with compliments, mostly by suggesting Walker has adopted the host's own conservative ideas, while the Drudge Report crowned Walker the "clear GOP frontrunner."
If Walker's corporate-bought anti-worker agenda is the top choice for the conservative media, it symbolizes a striking detachment between conservative policy priorities and policies that would benefit average Americans. As an example, one economist found that declining union participation rates have exacerbated the problem of income inequality in the United States.
Fox News' Outnumbered attempted to downplay the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) positive jobs report indicating steady job growth and declining unemployment rates by taking the network's own polls out of context.
On March 6, the BLS announced that the economy added 295,000 new jobs in February, making it the twelfth straight month of job growth for the U.S. economy. In addition, the BLS' February jobs report showed a 5.5% unemployment rate, a new post-recession low.
In an attempt to downplay the positive jobs numbers, Outnumbered co-host Harris Faulkner pointed to a graphic of a Fox News poll indicating that 44% of Americans feel that the economy is improving, saying, "Despite reports of an improving economy, a large number of you are apparently not feeling it. A new Fox News poll finds 43% feel like the economy is getting worse and not better. That is almost as many number of people who feel things are improving":
Faulkner failed to mention that according to Fox's own poll, this month marks an 11-year high in Americans' optimism about the economy. Faulkner also suggested that, while the official unemployment rate is falling, the more comprehensive U-6 unemployment metric gives a more accurate depiction of the economy, saying "The real unemployment number, still twice as much, at about 11%." However, the U-6 unemployment rate has also been in decline for the fifth straight month, down 1.6% since this time last year.
A new report from the United Nations found that no country has reached gender equality in the workforce, and that "without targeted action" the gender pay gap won't be closed for 70 years -- but at Fox News, gender pay inequality is still no more than a "meme" or a "myth."
Ahead of International Women's Day on March 8, the United Nations' International Labour Organization (ILO) released their report on women in the workplace, finding that internationally "women continue to experience widespread discrimination and inequality" at work. According to the ILO's findings, no country has reached gender equality and "Globally, women earn approximately 77 per cent of what men earn, with the gap widening for higher-earning women." The ILO's report concluded that "without targeted action, at the current rate, pay equity between women and men will not be achieved before 2086."
Fox News has consistently glossed over the importance of issues like the gender pay gap, deeming them no more than a "myth" or a "meme." Over the years, Fox figures have crusaded against equal pay, either outright denying the existence of a pay gap or attempting to justify its existence, even going so far as to claim that the gender wage gap helped women remain employed during the recession. Fox hosts have actively campaigned against legislation meant to address the pay gap, claiming it could "actually hurt women."
Despite Fox's dismissive approach to the issue, pay inequality remains a problem both internationally and in the United States. According to a 2014 survey by the World Economic Forum, the United States ranked 65th in wage inequality of the 142 countries examined by the organization.
Fox News championed a campaign to encourage healthy school nutrition in an interview with New York Giants player Victor Cruz, sharply contrasting with the network's long history of attacking similar efforts as government fiat.
On the March 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Victor Cruz promoted Fuel Up to Play 60, the "nation's largest in-school wellness program." The initiative, a partnership between the National Football League and the National Dairy Council, aims to encourage support for school nutrition by creating "a system for increasing breakfast participation by delivering reimbursable meals to classrooms for student consumption before or during class," pointing to research that suggests offering "breakfast free to all children improve[s] student achievement, diets and behavior."
Cruz's campaign received a warm welcome by the Fox & Friends co-hosts who donned Cruz jerseys while interviewing him during National School Breakfast Week. Co-host Steve Doocy lauded Cruz for working to ensure "every kid in America is eating a healthy breakfast." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck praised Cruz's campaign, saying, "I know how important you understand nutrition is for kids. You do so much for kids, and this Play 60 campaign that you're running with here is so important. Tell us about why breakfast really counts for kids":
MSNBC's The Rundown with José Díaz-Balart highlighted a new study by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) and the Asian American Federation, which found that immigrants have a major positive impact on the American economy.
According to the study released by AAAJ, immigrants play a "vital role" in the American economy. The study reported a drastic increase in buying power of immigrants and minorities from 2000 to 2014:
The study also found that minorities and immigrants far outpace the majority starting small businesses:
Host José Díaz-Balart and MSNBC anchor Richard Lui highlighted the study during the March 2 edition of The Rundown, noting the positive impact immigration continues to have on the American economy. Lui also explained potential impact of immigrants affected by President Obama's action on immigration, reporting that the action translates to "potentially over 200 thousand new businesses and 200 thousand new jobs" for Americans:
From the February 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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CNBC anchor Joe Kernen praised Gov. Scott Walker's (R-WI) efforts "to get your state's finances in order" and suggested "reasonable people" would agree with his economic record. In reality, job and wage growth under Walker have trailed behind the national average, and he "will skip more than $100 million in debt payments to balance the books thrown into disarray by his tax cuts."
Kernen began his February 19 Squawk Box interview by telling the potential 2016 presidential candidate that "we've been together every step of the way on this show since your first election." He added, "I'm not going to recuse myself. But, you know, maybe [co-anchor] Andrew [Ross Sorkin] is here to grill you."
Kernen cheered Walker's economic and fiscal leadership. After Walker said he won his election because "in times of crisis, economic and fiscal in particular, they want leadership," Kernen said: "If there was an objective person watching the way the governor of Illinois approached that state's problems, and the way you approached it, I would think most reasonable people would say it looks like the way to do this maybe isn't just raising taxes to cover an ever increasing state budget."
Walker said, unchallenged, that Wisconsin's "tax burden is down, the economy is moving up, we've got a stable workforce, we've got all the sorts of advantages you want. And we're still -- plenty more work to be done, like it needs to be done across America, but there is a sharp contrast, no doubt about it."
Conservative media figures criticized the Obama administration for suggesting terrorism is tied to poverty, ignoring the fact that former President George W. Bush also explicitly cited alleviating poverty as a fundamental tool to fighting terrorism.
"It turns out the rich have suffered more than you," concluded Fox Business host Stuart Varney, after a new analysis found income inequality hasn't risen since the financial crisis.
According to new analysis from economist Stephen J. Rose of George Washington University, existing data points reveal that income inequality has not actually risen since the recession, due in part to income losses incurred by the wealthiest one percent during the financial crisis. As The New York Times explained on February 17, though income inequality is still enormously high:
[T]he crisis, which ran roughly from 2007 to 2010, reduced the pretax incomes of the wealthiest Americans more than the incomes of any group. The wealthy have indeed received the bulk of the gains since the recovery began, but they still haven't recovered their losses. Meanwhile, the steps that the federal government took in response to the crisis, including tax cuts and benefit increases, have mostly helped the nonwealthy.
Of course, income inequality is still at historically troubling rates, and could potential even worsen, as the Times repeatedly noted.
But Fox Business' Varney had a much different takeaway from the report. On the February 17 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Varney cited the report to argue the recession hurt the rich more than others, saying, "The rich took it on the chin, everyone else took it on the chin, but not as badly." A data point for his argument was "for the very, very wealthiest people ... their income went from $39 million in 07 to 29 million in 2013." Though Varney acknowledged that income losses are felt more strongly by those with less wealth, he claimed that "government programs" made it so the lower and middle classes "didn't suffer quite as much as that one percent." He concluded, "It turns out, the rich have suffered more than you."
The Daily Caller sent a "special message" to its email list from sponsor Stansberry Research, a disgraced financial firm that was fined $1.5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for engaging in "deliberate fraud" and profiting from "false statements." The Caller's paid promotion comes three years after the conservative website reported that Stansberry is led by a "fraudster" and engages in "questionable marketing tactics."
The Daily Caller, which is led by editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson, sent a February 12 email featuring Stansberry Research with the headline, "DIY: Shield yourself from Market Crash." The email warns that people must take "precautions against a serious market crash and financial crisis" and can do so by purchasing founder Porter Stansberry's "Personal Blueprint For Surviving the Coming Currency Collapse." The email marketing is a way to get people to sign up for a "full 1-year Stansberry's Investment Advisory subscription. We'll bill your same credit card just $99."
The email contained the note: "Please read this special message from our sponsor, Stansberry Research. Note that the following message reflects the opinions and representations of our sponsor alone, and not necessarily the editorial positions of The Daily Caller."
The Daily Caller published a November 8, 2011, piece headlined, "Meet Porter Stansberry, the fraudster behind ominous 'NewAmerica3′ ads." The Caller reported that television viewers are seeing "strange, disjointed ads promoting" Stansberry's website and what "most viewers don't know is that the man behind the ad has been found liable in the past for defrauding investors." The Caller added that the firm engages in "questionable marketing tactics" and produces videos "ominously warning of an apocalyptic future."
From the February 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the February 6 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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After the release of the Labor Department's monthly jobs report showing robust job growth and a significant increase in hourly wages, Fox News framed the numbers negatively and suggested the headline was the fact that the unemployment rate ticked up.
The U.S. added 257,000 jobs last month and has seen a significant increase in hourly wages, according to a February 6 report from the Labor Department. The last three months combined have resulted in the biggest gain in jobs in the past 17 years.
Immediately after the numbers were released, Fox News' Fox & Friends hosts portrayed the news in a negative light. Host Elisabeth Hasselbeck introduced the segment saying, "Nicole Petallides from our sister network Fox Business has the numbers for you, beginning with an increase in the unemployment rate." After listening to Petallides run through the positive numbers -- including her explanation that the increase in the unemployment rate is "great news" because it means more people are entering the workforce -- host Steve Doocy closed the segment saying, "So the headline is unemployment rate ticks up to 5.7" percent.
Weeknight television news programs have given little attention to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and 10 nations from the Asia-Pacific region. Although the nations involved in the negotiations create a huge amount of economic activity, only PBS and MSNBC have devoted any significant coverage to the TPP since August 2013.