Right-wing media figures rushed to claim the Affordable Care Act will destroy 2 million jobs, citing a new Congressional Budget Office report, but that's not what the report found -- the CBO report projected that the law will give workers the freedom to voluntarily reduce their employment after gaining health insurance.
The CBO released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the years 2014 to 2024 on February 4, which projected in part that the number of full-time workers would decline by about 2 million by 2017. Right-wing media quickly pounced on the report to distort the CBO's projections about the ACA's effect on future employment.
In a post on her Washington Post blog, Jennifer Rubin claimed the report "confirms what critics have been saying all along: Obamacare is killing jobs and squelching growth." On Fox, America's News HQ co-host Alisyn Camerota claimed "a bombshell new CBO report" found that "Obamacare will be much worse for the economy than previously predicted," and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs added it is "another round of devastating numbers for all Americans because the result of this is there will be fewer jobs":
The CBO makes it clear that the decrease in workers is not due to jobs being lost -- rather, the ACA will allow workers to choose to work less. The projected change is in the supply of labor, not the demand for labor, and thus the CBO noted that the decrease would not lead to a corresponding increase in unemployment or underemployment (emphasis added):
The reduction in CBO's projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024. Although CBO projects that total employment (and compensation) will increase over the coming decade, that increase will be smaller than it would have been in the absence of the ACA. The decline in fulltime-equivalent employment stemming from the ACA will consist of some people not being employed at all and other people working fewer hours; however, CBO has not tried to quantify those two components of the overall effect. The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses' demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly baselessly claimed that the "explosion of disability payments in this country" is an "undeniable" fact that contradicts President Obama's point that "we have not massively expanded the welfare state."
O'Reilly's comments came on the February 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends during a discussion of his recent interview with President Obama. O'Reilly cited disability benefits as an example of what Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the "massively expanded the welfare state" and claimed that government is "getting conned like crazy" by disability beneficiaries. He failed to cite any further examples of the supposedly expanding "Nanny State" that Fox's on-air graphics hyped.
In reality, a recent study from the Social Security Administration's actuaries found that the total allowance rate for disability benefits has fallen significantly during Obama's presidency. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has noted, "[s]tandards don't become more lax in recessions, and stories that focus only on the growth in applications omit that crucial fact."
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): When he said we have not massively expanded the welfare state, how could coffee not shoot out through your nose? I mean, that's just -- that is just not true!
O'REILLY: Well, it's theoretical and I wanted to stay away from that, but I had to hit him with the disability because that's the -- if you want to point to something that is undeniable, it's the explosion of disability payments in this country because as I pointed out, the workplace is safer than it was 20 years ago. Then what are all these people getting paid for? If you go into welfare, he'll go into recession. It's not my fault. I had to bail these people out. They're dying. If you go into unemployment, he's going to go there. He's going to use the economic maladies as justification. But if you go to something like disabilities where that's somebody who is going into the government saying look, I can't do this, give me money and the government says sure and doesn't check it out and everybody knows it. That's what I said, you see you're getting conned like crazy. It all goes back to the fact that he doesn't see this stuff as a welfare state. He sees it as necessary.
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): And that's the one thing that I don't get. That's an issue its not his fault, not his administration's fault, disability is exploding. That's where you focus on. 60 Minutes did 30 minutes on just the disability explosion in this country right now. And it would be apolitical and help our economy. But yet he doesn't see it that way. And unfortunately, we got three more years of this.
Right-wing media figures are baselessly stoking fears about calls to reduce inequality and expand opportunity to low-income Americans, claiming that these efforts are evidence of persecution of the rich and class warfare.
Now that the Republican Party has settled on a set of principles to guide its action on immigration reform, media outlets have turned to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as a credible source on immigration reform, validating his arguments that reform will slow U.S. economic recovery and further depress Americans' wages. These talking points, however, have been repeatedly discredited as experts agree that immigration reform would have a positive impact on the economy and Americans' wages.
As The Washington Post reported, Republican leaders released a list of "principles" on immigration reform, declaring that "there would be 'no special path' to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but that, in general, they should be allowed to 'live legally and without fear' in the United States if they meet a list of tough requirements and rules." The statement concluded that "none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced."
In reporting on the debate, media are validating Sessions' bogus economic arguments against reform. Discussing the issue on Fox News, for example, contributor Tucker Carlson highlighted Sessions' arguments, saying that Sessions is "no liberal and is not either some kind of fiery demagogue populist" and that "he's making an intellectual case against more immigration in a down economy."
CBS News similarly highlighted an "analysis" by Sessions, reporting that it "said increasing the number of immigrants would hurt an already weak economy, lower wages and increase unemployment. He cited White House adviser Gene Sperling's comment earlier this month that the economy has three people looking for every job opening." The article continued:
He said the House Republican leaders' plan that's taking shape would grant work permits almost immediately to those here illegally, giving them a chance to compete with unemployed Americans for any job. He said it would lead to a surge in the future flow of unskilled workers and would provide amnesty to a larger number of immigrants in the country illegally, giving them a chance to apply for citizenship through green cards.
Politico also quoted Sessions' criticism that the GOP proposal "provides the initial grant of amnesty before enforcement; it would surge the already unprecedented level of legal lesser-skilled immigration to the U.S. that is reducing wages and increasing unemployment; and it would offer eventual citizenship to a large number of illegal immigrants and visa overstays."
In fact, Sessions' arguments are actually repackaged talking points from anti-immigrant groups and, as the libertarian Cato Institute noted, "are based on misinterpretations of government reports, cherry-picked findings by organizations that engage in statistical chicanery, or just flat-out incorrect." Cato, which released a point-by-point rebuttal of many of Sessions' claims, added that his assertions "do not advance a logical argument against immigration."
Fox Business' Charles Payne falsely claimed that the 16-day government shutdown helped increase economic growth, despite direct evidence to the contrary.
On January 30, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis released its report on gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2013. According to the report, the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.2 percent, down from 4.1 percent growth in the third quarter. Despite GDP growth falling, a number of economists agreed that the number was impressive.
Discussing the report on Fox News' America's Newsroom that day, Payne asserted that the 16-day government shutdown -- which occurred in the fourth quarter of 2013 -- helped spur economic growth:
PAYNE: Our economy has gotten so much traction since the government shutdown, which the mass media has said is an evil awful thing and it hurt us, well, during that period, more jobs were created, during that period, the stock market was up and we continue to see, as government gets out of the way, the private sector comes in.
Payne is completely incorrect.
While it's true that the GDP report showed a relatively strong increase, it is important to note how much better it would have been absent the government shutdown. According to MSNBC's Steve Benen:
The congressional Republicans' government shutdown, for example, shaved about 0.3% from the overall total. That's a difference, in other words, between 3.2% growth and 3.5% growth. It's still not clear exactly why GOP lawmakers did this, or what they hoped to accomplish, but there's evidence now that the gambit took a toll on the economy.
And despite Payne's claim that the shutdown helped job growth, Jason Furman, head of the Council of Economic Advisers, previously claimed that it reduced private sector employment by 120,000 jobs in October, 2013.
Furthermore, while Payne claimed that less government spending helped grow the economy, evidence suggests otherwise. Absent government spending cuts, economists estimate GDP in the fourth quarter would have risen an additional 0.9 percentage points.
Image via DJHEAVYD using a Creative Commons License.
The Wall Street Journal endorsed billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins' inflammatory suggestion that a "[p]rogressive Kristallnacht" may be soon be directed against the rich and dubbed subsequent criticism of the Nazi comparison "Perkinsnacht."
In a January 24 letter to the editor, Perkins hyped a supposed "progressive war on the American one percent" and compared it to Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht, asking: "Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?" In the following days, Perkins' letter received widespread criticism.
A January 29 Journal editorial -- headlined "Perkinsnacht" -- dismissed criticism of Perkins' Nazi reference as "unfortunate, albeit provocative," and claimed that Perkins' critics had proved his point: "the vituperation is making our friend's point about liberal intolerance -- maybe better than he did."
The Wall Street Journal isn't the first right-wing media source to throw support behind Perkins. On January 29, conservative columnist Michelle Malkin characterized the reaction to Perkin's letter as evidence of a "bullying epidemic" and "wealth-shaming" by "the grievance industry." Fox Business contributor Charles Payne went further, arguing that Perkins "may be a couple of years ahead of the curve."
Fox News' Neil Cavuto pushed the myth that minimum wage increases harm the economy, claiming that the president's call to raise the minimum wage was at odds with his push to extend unemployment insurance. However, both of these measures work in the direction of creating jobs and increasing economic growth, particularly in a sluggish economy.
On January 28, President Obama delivered his State of the Union address, during which he advocated extending emergency unemployment compensation benefits -- which lapsed in late 2013 -- and increasing the minimum wage to $10.10.
On the January 29 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto was joined by Jamie Richardson, vice president of White Castle government relations, and Jerry Storch, former CEO of Toys"R"Us, to discuss the president's call to increase the minimum wage. After Richardson and Storch both expressed their opposition to minimum wage increases, Cavuto implied that the president was giving conflicting messages on the state of the economy, saying "if the economy is so bad that it warrants extending unemployment benefits for the umpteenth time, then surely it warrants going slow on increasing the minimum wage."
Cavuto's implication that because the economy requires restoring unemployment benefits, the minimum wage shouldn't be increased is simply groundless. The fact is that both measures act to increase jobs and grow the economy.
Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin dismissed discussions of income inequality as a "war on wealth"meant to shame and bully job creators.
Last week, billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins wrote an inflammatory letter to The Wall Street Journal that likened an alleged "progressive war on the American one percent" and "demonization of the rich "to Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht, asking:"Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now." Perkins' letter received widespread criticism.
In her January 29 syndicated column, Malkin defended Perkins, deeming the reaction to Perkin's controversial letter as further evidence of a "bullying epidemic" she labeled as "wealth-shaming" by "the grievance industry":
Amen, amen, and amen. Perkins barely scratched the surface of the War on Wealth that has spread under the Obama regime.
The deadliest threats come from the men in power in Washington who stoke bottomless hatred against "millionaires and billionaires" through class-bashing rhetoric and entrepreneur-crushing policies -- while they pocket the hard-earned money of the achievers trying to buy immunity. It's high time to shame the wealth-shamers and their cowed enablers. Silence is complicity.
Fox Business contributor Charles Payne similarly defended Perkins' remarks, arguing that the wealthy have "justified rage" and Perkins "may be a couple of years ahead of the curve."
The Wall Street Journal misleadingly attacked President Obama's decision to boost the minimum wage for federally contracted workers as an "ostentatious display of President Obama's intention to end run lawmakers and even the law," ignoring the fact that previous presidents set precedent for this type of action.
In his January 28 State of the Union address, President Obama announced plans to issue an executive order that would require "federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour." As he said, "if you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty."
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board responded to the president's announcement with the suggestion that Obama was acting like a "king" who "seems to think is a [sic] Democracy of One, or shall we say The One." The editorial attacked the president's plan as "the latest ostentatious display of President Obama's intention to end run lawmakers and even the law" and went on to deny the fact that increases in the minimum wage carry economic benefits or have any bearing on the "economy and efficiency" of the federal contracting process.
But the Journal ignored the fact that Obama isn't the first president to issue this type of order. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson took similar action to increase equal opportunity and nondiscrimination standards for federal workers. As The New York Times Taking Note blog reported:
Other presidents have used executive orders to upgrade labor standards for employees of federal contractors, including President Kennedy, who required federal contractors to have companywide equal employment opportunity plans, and President Johnson, who prohibited racial discrimination and other bias in hiring by federal contractors.
The non-partisan research center Demos has pointed to executive orders that "have mandated that companies working on behalf of the American people are upholding high standards of employment practices" and further detailed presidential precedent:
From the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act to Executive Order 11246 of 1965, and a host of other laws and executive actions, our laws have mandated that companies working on behalf of the American people are upholding high standards of employment practices. Yet as the nature and prevalence of federal contracting, lending and grant-making have changed, and some laws have been weakened, working people have fallen through the cracks.
In the past, presidents have used their authority to improve job opportunities for Americans working or seeking to work for federal contractors. For example, starting in 1941, successive administrations issued executive orders to fight employment discrimination in the contracting workforce. This effort culminated with President Lyndon Johnson's signing of Executive Order 11246, mandating equal employment opportunity and affirmative action for all individuals working for federal contractors. An executive order to raise and enforce workplace standards for contractors, grantees, and other private companies that do business with the federal government would follow this powerful and effective precedent.
Furthermore, the Journal's claim that a minimum wage increase would hurt businesses and doesn't affect the "economy and efficiency" of federal contracting flies in the face of the hundreds of economists around the country, including numerous Nobel Laureates, who have come out in support of such a plan.
Increases in the minimum wage have not been shown to significantly damage the job market. In fact, businesses that have chosen to boost employee wages have reaped economic benefits. As the Harvard Business Review found, "[i]n return for its generous wages and benefits, Costco gets one of the most loyal and productive workforces in all of retailing, and, probably not coincidentally, the lowest shrinkage (employee theft) figures in the industry [...] Costco's stable, productive workforce more than offsets its higher costs." According to the Economic Policies Institute:
[T]he weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.
From the January 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox Business contributor Charles Payne argued that a businessman "may be a couple of years ahead of the curve" after he drew parallels between the treatment of the wealthy in America and "fascist Nazi Germany."
On January 24, The Wall Street Journal published a letter to the editor comparing the alleged "demonization of the rich" to the boiling over of European anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust. The letter, written by billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins, questions whether a "Progressive Kristallnacht" looms on the horizon:
Progressive Kristallnacht Coming?
Regarding your editorial "Censors on Campus" (Jan. 18): Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."
From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent. There is outraged public reaction to the Google buses carrying technology workers from the city to the peninsula high-tech companies which employ them. We have outrage over the rising real-estate prices which these "techno geeks" can pay. We have, for example, libelous and cruel attacks in the Chronicle on our number-one celebrity, the author Danielle Steel, alleging that she is a "snob" despite the millions she has spent on our city's homeless and mentally ill over the past decades.
This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now?
Mr. Perkins is a founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
In response to media criticism, Perkins defended his remarks during a January 27 interview with Bloomberg. Perkins admitted that Kristallnacht was a "terrible word to have chosen," but reiterated that he neither regrets nor retracts his core argument that the rich are being demonized and persecuted in the United States.
The sentiment that America's ultra-wealthy are being singled out for persecution is shared by some voices in the right-wing media. On the January 28 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., contributor Charles Payne glossed over Perkins' demeaning allusion to the horrific, racially-motivated violence that defined Nazi Germany at the onset of the Holocaust. Rather than criticizing the paranoia of Perkins' comments, Payne argued that the wealthy have "justified rage" and Perkins "may be a couple of years ahead of the curve":
Fox News has a history of facile and offensive comparisons of progressive economic or social policies with Nazi Germany. This is not even the first time a Fox employee has used Kristallnacht as the impetus for their faux outrage. In response to his recent indictment for violating campaign finance regulations, Fox darling Dinesh D'Souza wasted no time in parroting the "this is like Nazi Germany" line.
The fact remains, the United States in no way resembles Nazi Germany and there is no legitimate defense of Tom Perkins, or any other person, comparing Kristallnacht and other Nazi atrocities to protestors advocating in favor of better wages, affordable housing, and reasonable income tax rates for high earners. Perkins, a yacht-enthusiast who owns high-end property around the world as well as his own personal submarine, is not witnessing the sort of persecution faced by European Jews in the 1930s. The real Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938) saw intense racial violence in which 267 synagogues were destroyed, at least 91 innocent Jewish citizens of Germany were killed in the streets, and tens of thousands more were rounded up and placed in concentration camps. Most of them would die before Europe was liberated from Nazi oppression.
As the dilemma of growing income inequality has become the object of increasingly intense public scrutiny, Fox News has consistently resisted engaging in the subject with facts.
What Fox's viewers miss is real discussion of a problem that has been building for decades and undermines America's economic stability and growth. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stigliz, income inequality "reinforces itself by corroding our political system and our democratic governance." And economists have found that income inequality has been "the most important" determinant of poverty in the past several decades.
Experts say that inequality is damaging, but preventable. They highlight policies like increasing the minimum wage, larger tax credits for low-wage workers, government-subsidized childcare, renewed investment in schools, universal health insurance, and expanded union rights as opportunities to reduce inequality -- policies that Fox has routinely helped to smear.
At Fox News, President Obama's push to increase the federal minimum wage for millions of American workers through legislative and executive action is merely a "symbolic" gesture.
On January 28, the White House announced that President Obama had authorized an executive order raising the minimum pay for federal workers to $10.10 per hour, a regulation that will be effective for all employees signing a new federal contract. According to the White House's official press release, the president hopes that this move will encourage Congress to take action on a proposal by Representative George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 for all American workers.
On the January 28 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer called the move a "shot across the bow" for congressional Republicans resisting an increase to the minimum wage. Fox Business' Stuart Varney questioned the White House's motivation, claiming that it was a "symbolic" move motivated by political circumstances and concluding that an executive order lifting wages for all federal employees was simply "not a big deal":
Varney's disregard for the impact of executive action on the minimum wage mirrors comments from other Fox News personalities. On the January 27 edition of The Real Story, contributor Charles Payne scoffed at the notion that lifting the minimum wage is an important goal, noting, "higher minimum wage is not the cure, we're talking about something that impacts less than 3 percent of real workers."
Demos' Heather McGhee hailed the Obama administration for lifting federal pay through executive order, noting that the decision "adds momentum to the fight for a federal minimum wage increase." According to research from the Economic Policy Institute, adopting a $10.10 minimum wage nationwide, which would require congressional legislative action, would positively impact the wages of more than 27 million workers while boosting overall economic growth by $22 billion and creating enough economic demand to support 85,000 new jobs.
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 nationwide also has the support of hundreds of economists around the country, including numerous Nobel Laureates.
In an economy as large as the United States, while it may be easy for right-wing media voices to shrug off the implications of minimum wage policies, the fact is that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 3.6 million American workers currently work at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. After adjusting for inflation, the federal minimum wage is lower than at any point from the 1950s to the early 1980s.
Right-wing media's opposition to raising the minimum wage has grown as public sentiment has turned in favor of it. Varney's pattern of deriding both policies to lift wages and low-wage workers themselves appears to be par for the course.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham derided Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's plan to attract skilled immigrants to work and live in bankrupt Detroit, saying "we can then wall off Detroit" to keep those immigrants from moving to other parts of the country.
During a January 23 news conference, Snyder announced a plan to lure immigrants to Detroit by reportedly "seeking 50,000 work visas solely for the city over five years." As the Associated Press reported:
The type of visas involved are not currently allocated by region or state, but rather go to legal immigrants who have advanced degrees or show exceptional ability in certain fields.
Under the governor's unique proposal, one-quarter of the nation's 40,000 annual EB-2 visas would be designated for such immigrants willing to live and work for five years in Detroit -- a city amid the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history whose neighborhoods have been hollowed out by a long population decline.
"Let's send a message to the entire world: Detroit, Michigan, is open to the world," Snyder said during his news conference, which came a day after he backed plans to commit as much as $350 million in state funds to help shore up Detroit pension funds and prevent the sale of valuable city-owned art.
Under the plan, according to the AP, "Detroit would be allocated 5,000 visas in the first year, 10,000 each of the next three years and 15,000 in the fifth year."
On her radio show, Ingraham criticized the plan, asking, if immigrants move into the city, "is there going to be finally a border enforced in our country? Except it's going to be around Detroit?" From the show:
INGRAHAM: The people of this country, they're smart enough to know that they don't want to go anywhere near Detroit. Right? But we need to get these people from other countries to live and work in Detroit to save us because we can then wall off Detroit, apparently, so they can't then move to other parts of the country. Is that what Rick Snyder is gonna do? Is there gonna be, you know, is there gonna be finally a border enforced in our country? Except it's going to be around Detroit. This is the craziest thing I've ever heard of.
As of this month, Michigan's unemployment rate is higher than the national average at 8.4 percent. Its population has fallen from 1.8 million in the 1950s to 700,000 residents today. Michigan is reportedly "the one state in the nation to see its population drop" from 2000 to 2010.
Fox News hyped Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's economic record, claiming that the governor's economic plan generated a nearly $1 billion budget surplus while ignoring that the current surplus is built upon a projected structural deficit and that the state ranks 28th in the nation for job creation under Walker's tenure.