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.
Media outlets covering the fight against greater competition in the broadband market should note the role that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) played in blocking competition in 19 states. The media has a history of ignoring ALEC's role in pushing model legislation.
From the January 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Media outlets have uncritically promoted House Speaker John Boehner's latest attempt to frame the Republican Congress' harmful agenda as a set of "jobs bills." But the Republican plan offers negligible hiring incentives, will cost over a million workers their health care coverage, and will increase the budget deficit by billions.
Fox News host Kennedy likened a federal requirement that publicly traded corporations disclose how much money CEOs make relative to workers to the practice of making women feel guilty for their perceived sexual behavior.
The Securities and Exchange Commission could vote as early as this month on a so-called pay ratio rule. "As proposed in September 2013, the SEC rules would require public companies to publish the ratio of the CEO's compensation to the median pay of employees," Politico reported. "Republicans in Congress and at the SEC have criticized the rule and don't want the agency to complete it."
Fox News co-host Eric Bolling claimed unequivocally that minimum wage increases "cost jobs, period," citing the story of a Michigan restaurant that closed after the state increased its minimum wage in September. In fact, the unemployment rate in Michigan has decreased since the wage increase took effect.
On the January 5 edition of The Five, Bolling criticized minimum wage increases that took effect in states across the U.S. on January 1. Bolling highlighted the case of a Michigan restaurant that closed after the state raised the minimum wage as evidence for his claim that "minimum wage rate hikes do cost jobs, period."
But Michigan's unemployment rate has fallen after the state increased the minimum wage. Starting on September 1, 2014, Michigan's minimum wage rose from $7.40 an hour to $8.15 an hour. In the months following the wage increase, the unemployment rate fell from 7.2 percent in September to 6.7 percent in November, the lowest since April 2006.
The lack of women on The Economist's list of the most influential economists in 2014 points to the larger problem of how women are severely underrepresented in economic discussions in the media.
The Economist magazine released a list ranking the top 25 "influential economists" for 2014. The magazine's ranking was created by Appinions, a startup company, that tracked economists based on "how much attention was paid to their utterances in the mainstream media, the blogosphere and in social media over a 90-day period."
The list was quickly met with controversy for failing to include women, with critics highlighting the exclusion of Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen. Responding to the controversy, The Economist wrote that criticism of the list "misunderstands how and why it was put together" and that it was "not a ranking of the most influential economists of 2014, but a list of those economists who got most attention in the last quarter of 2014."
But the controversy surrounding the apparent lack of women featured in The Economist's list points to a larger problem -- the lack of gender representation featured in economic discussions in the media. The Economist's study calculated influence based on media attention, a methodology that ignores the fact that media overwhelmingly turn to male economists, leaving women severely underrepresented during economic discussions in the media.
A Media Matters analysis of weekday evening cable news over one year found that female economists accounted for less than ten percent of total economist appearances throughout the year while male economists dominated over 90 percent of weekday evening cable news appearances. It also showed that men in general were hosted significantly more frequently than women to discuss the economy, with women accounting for only 28 percent of all guests in segments on the topic.
2014 was a year of eye-popping media numbers, from millions of dollars' worth of coverage devoted to a trumped-up scandal to mere seconds devoted to historic news. Here are some of the most important -- and most surprising -- figures from the year.
Conservative media outlets amplified a misleading study from the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, which claimed that "all net employment growth has gone to immigrants" between November 2007 and November 2014. But data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that job growth among the native-born has far outpaced job growth among immigrants during the economic recovery.
Fox News obscured the fact that Republican lawmakers are holding renewal of a terrorism insurance program hostage in order to continue chipping away at financial regulatory reform.
The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), first passed after 9/11 and subsequently renewed by Congress, allows the federal government to aid insurance companies in providing terrorism insurance to businesses. One of the biggest beneficiaries of TRIA are professional sports organizations like the NFL.
If TRIA is not renewed, these organizations could lose terrorism insurance coverage. Thus on the December 15 edition of Fox & Friends First, Fox Business contributor Lauren Simonetti claimed that the Super Bowl may be in danger of cancelation. According to Simonetti, "The reason is Congress," adding "unless this act is reauthorized by the end of the year," the Super Bowl could be canceled:
The New York Times overlooked the millions of dollars in campaign contributions spent by lobbyists and special interest groups that benefitted from the provisions added to the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress last week.
The Sunday broadcast political shows overwhelmingly ignored the omnibus spending bill's rollback of key regulations on Wall Street and campaign finance. Only ABC's This Week covered the provisions, which come at a time when the financial services industry and large donors are playing an increasingly outsized role in elections.
Congress' controversial $1.1 trillion spending bill to avoid a government shutdown took several days of debate to pass in the Senate and barely passed through the House of Representatives, due to the inclusion of provisions "easing rules on campaign finance and the banking industry," as NPR explained.
The deal reverses a requirement of 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform, allowing banks to "place both standard accounts and accounts that handle riskier derivative trades under the protection of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp." The provision was drafted by Citigroup bank and provides a major benefit to big banks that allows riskier trades and transfers accountability for banks' failures -- and potentially future financial crises -- onto the government and taxpayers. The bill also rolls back campaign finance regulations, dramatically increasing the limit wealthy individuals may donate to national political parties.
This erosion of key Wall Street and campaign finance regulations was all but ignored on the broadcast Sunday political talk shows. Neither NBC's Meet The Press, CBS's Face The Nation, nor Fox Broadcasting Company's Fox News Sunday acknowledged the controversial provisions in their discussion of the spending bill, glossing over the specific rollback of regulations in favor of general discussions on inner-party divisions on the vote. Only ABC's This Week highlighted the provisions. Host Martha Raddatz explained how the bill "dramatically ease[s] restrictions on the amount of cash individuals can donate to campaigns," while a later panel discussion emphasized the rollback of Wall Street regulations.
The shows' failure to cover the rollback of banking regulations and systematic erosion of campaign finance comes at a time when dark money, large donors, and outside spending are playing an increasingly outsized roll in elections and the financial services sector -- the very industry which drafted and stands to benefit from the Dodd-Frank reversal -- is already outspending all other industries in midterm elections.
Rush Limbaugh claimed on Fox News Sunday that the American people were "begging" the GOP to stop Obama by shutting down the government and denied the harmful effects of the 2013 shutdown, which cost an estimated $24 billion.
On the December 7 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Limbaugh to defend his recent demands for congressional Republicans to force a government shutdown. Limbaugh stated that the results of the 2010 and 2014 elections showed the American people were "begging" the GOP to stop President Obama and that Republicans don't need to worry about the political risk of another shutdown. He then claimed that the "only thing that happened in that shutdown was Barack Obama closed [...] the World War II Memorial to World War II vets" and "shut down some White House tours."
But the shutdown was a significant blow to the U.S. economy. Standard & Poor's found the shutdown cost $24 billion in economic activity. Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi similarly estimated that it "stunted fourth quarter GDP growth by 0.5 points, resulting in a $20 billion hit," by disrupting "federal spending, global trade and investments in housing and businesses." Following the 2013 shutdown, Fox repeatedly downplayed its economic impact.
From the December 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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