From the May 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The New York Post responded to a new report debunking the paper's conspiracy theory that the Census Bureau manipulated unemployment data for political reasons by doubling down on its unsubstantiated conspiracy campaign.
In November 2013, the New York Post cited an anonymous Census Bureau employee to claim that the government dishonestly manipulated unemployment figures while President Obama was seeking reelection in 2012. The conspiracy theory quickly became a right-wing talking point, despite the fact that the Post failed to provide evidence that the September 2012 unemployment rate was either unusual or manipulated and attributed the supposed data manipulation to a Census worker who was not even employed by the Bureau at the time in question.
On May 1, the Commerce Department inspector general (IG) issued its investigative report on the claims, finding "no evidence" to support them. The report thoroughly debunked the Post's accusations, noting that it had "exhaustively investigated these allegations and found them to be unsubstantiated."
The Post responded to the debunking by doubling down, standing by its original claim that "Census 'faked' 2012 election jobs report" in an effort to help re-elect President Obama. In a May 1 article, John Crudele called for a "special independent prosecutor" and disputed the IG findings with his own "investigation":
Now it's my turn to speak. My own investigation over the past six months has found the following facts:
- In the course of my own investigation several whistleblowers have come forward to allege that Census workers regularly fabricate or fudge economic data. In addition to the Philadelphia Census office, whistleblowers who work in the Chicago and Denver regions have alleged that data was regularly falsified and higher-ups told them to shut up about it.That casts a shadow on three of the six regions in the newly aligned Census organization. I don't know if workers in the other three regions will make similar claims because I have spoken to any yet.
- One of those whistleblowers has told me -- and has also told the Oversight Committee and the IG -- that supervisors in Philadelphia were particularly concerned about the unemployment data during the last Presidential election. And this source has said Buckmon wasn't the only one messing with data.The IG's report said "we found no evidence of systemic data falsification in the Philadelphia Regional Office." And it concluded that moving the national unemployment rate would simply be too hard to do.The word "systemic" is loaded. As I mentioned, Buckmon's actions alone could have affected the results for half a million households. If two or three others were also falsifying data that would have changed the results for 2 million households. Would that have constituted a problem with the "system?"
- One of those whistleblowers has told me -- and has also told the Oversight Committee and the IG -- that supervisors in Philadelphia were particularly concerned about the unemployment data during the last Presidential election. And this source has said Buckmon wasn't the only one messing with data.The IG's report said "we found no evidence of systemic data falsification in the Philadelphia Regional Office." And it concluded that moving the national unemployment rate would simply be too hard to do.
Yet again, the Post's conspiracy theory relies on anonymously sourced whistleblowers and unsubstantiated speculation. In contrast, the IG report identified the specific evidence that informed its finding:
OIG thoroughly investigated these allegations, and found no evidence that management in the Philadelphia Regional Office instructed staff to falsify data at any time for any reason. Further, we found no evidence of systemic data falsification in the Philadelphia Regional Office. Addressing allegations raised in the media, we found no evidence that the national unemployment rate was manipulated by staff in the Philadelphia Regional Office in the months leading up to the 2012 presidential election. To accomplish this, our analysis concluded that it would have taken 78 Census Bureau Field Representatives working together, in a coordinated way, to report each and every unemployed person included in their sample as "employed" or "not in labor force" during September 2012, an effort which likely would have been detected by the Census Bureau's quality assurance procedures. Moreover, our analysis shows that the drop in the unemployment rate at that time is consistent with other indicators, including payroll estimates by Moody's Analytics and Automatic Data Processing (ADP).
As the United States Senate voted on a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage, Fox News dedicated 15 times more coverage to the latest "developments" in its on-going campaign to create a political scandal from the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
Fox & Friends misrepresented the findings of a new report on the increase in low-wage jobs during the economic recovery to attack President Obama, failing to mention that the report cites cuts to public sector employment -- not Obama's economic policies -- as a major culprit for the post-recession net job loss.
On the April 28 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox host Stuart Varney distorted the findings of a new National Employment Law Project (NELP) report as "the left pointing out the failures of President Obama's economic policies." Co-host Steve Doocy described the report as "an eye-opener" and falsely claimed that The New York Times, which reported on the NELP study, is "turning on the White House":
The newly released NELP study found that since the economic downturn, low-wage jobs have replaced higher-wage positions in the private sector. According to NELP, "lower-wage industries accounted for 22 percent of job losses during the recession, but 44 percent of employment growth over the past four years." The report explained the growth of low-wage jobs during this recovery:
One year into the recovery, we noted that slow growth in higher-wage industries was likely the result of specific drivers of the Great Recession, including the housing bubble collapse and financial crisis, as well as a continuation of the long-term decline in durable and nondurable manufacturing and telecommunications. Three years later, mid- and higher-wage industries are adding jobs; albeit, not at a fast-enough rate to fill employment deficits in many cases (see Tables 1 and 2 in the Appendix). Nevertheless, four years into the recovery, growth remains strongest in low-wage, service-providing industries (e.g., retail, restaurants, and temporary help) and industries less affected by recessions (e.g., health and education).
Contrary to Varney's claims that this report is a "critique from the Left," the NELP report does not address the president's economic policies in any way. The only mention of economic policy in the report addresses budget cuts, specifically at the local level, as a "driver of unbalanced growth":
Over the past four years, private sectors gains have been partially offset by public sector job losses resulting from budget cuts at the federal, state, and local levels. Net job losses totaled 627,000 across all levels of government during the recovery period. Employment declines were particularly severe at the local level, where education absorbed nearly three-quarters of the 378,000 net job losses over the past four years. (emphasis added)
Fox has previously championed budget cuts and falsely blamed the Obama administration with harming the economic recovery. Fox has also attacked the president's calls to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, a cause firmly supported by NELP and numerous other groups. Fox's apparent interest in NELP's work only emerges when it fits with the network's obstructionist anti-administration narrative.
From the April 24 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Cliven Bundy's abhorrent, racist comparison of slavery to federal poverty assistance bears a striking resemblance to common claims from conservative media, who have frequently invoked slavery to describe the supposed damage "the welfare state" has done to black Americans.
Nevada rancher Bundy, who was praised by conservative media for engaging in an armed standoff with federal agents after refusing to pay decades worth of federal grazing fees on public land, on April 19 questioned whether black Americans were "better off as slaves" or "better off under government subsidy," telling a reporter in a racist rant:
"I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, "and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids -- and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch -- they didn't have nothing to do. They didn't have nothing for their kids to do. They didn't have nothing for their young girls to do.
"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."
As Slate's Jamelle Bouie noted, Bundy's repugnant rhetoric sounds familiar -- it's the same logic behind many right-wing criticisms of the social safety net. Media Matters has been tracking this type of offensive rhetoric for years.
During the fight over health care reform, Rush Limbaugh claimed that "It won't be a matter of whether you have coverage or don't have coverage. What'll matter is that all of us will be slaves; we'll become slaves to the arbitrary and inhumane decisions of distant bureaucrats working in Washington where there's no competition, nobody you can go to if you don't like what you hear from the bureaucrats that you have to deal with."
When Glenn Beck was a host on Fox News, he had an obsession with comparing things to slavery, including the claim that progressive policies created "slavery to government, welfare, affirmative action, regulation, control," and that "big government never lifts anybody out of poverty. It creates slaves." In 2008, Jim Quinn, the co-host of the radio show The War Room with Quinn & Rose, was forced to apologize for comparing "slave[s] in the Old South" to welfare recipients today, when he claimed that the only "difference" was that the "slave had to work for" the benefits Quinn said they received.
In his 2008 book Let Them In, The Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley argued that the Great Society programs of the 1960s were ultimately worse for black families than slavery, writing "The black family survived slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow, but the well-intentioned Great Society sounded its death knell."
More recently, Riley promoted the twisted logic of George Mason University's Walter Williams (who has often guest-hosted The Rush Limbaugh Show), who claimed that because more black children live in single-mother families now, welfare "destroy[ed] the black family" more than slavery:
During Reconstruction and up until the 1940s, 75% to 85% of black children lived in two-parent families. Today, more than 70% of black children are born to single women. "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do," Mr. Williams says. "And that is to destroy the black family."
Ted Nugent, National Rifle Association board member and a favorite of conservative media, has become infamous for his extreme racism for calling President Obama a subhuman mongrel -- but Nugent also used the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech to claim that the Great Society programs were "responsible for more destruction to black America than the evils of slavery and the KKK combined." In a 2011 Washington Times column, Nugent also suggested that the Democratic Party is the "modern-day slave master" to low-income Americans.
Vox's Matt Yglesias noted the irony of Bundy criticizing the government for assisting Americans through federal programs, when he himself has benefited from federal subsidies which keep the cost of grazing low for ranchers like himself. And though the abhorrent comparison of slavery to welfare is ridiculous on its face, it's worth noting that federal benefit programs have been vital in keeping Americans out of poverty -- in fact, federal programs today are cutting poverty nearly in half, whereas in 1967 they only reduced poverty by a single percentage point.
Conservative media may finally renounce Bundy and his lawless cause following his racist remarks; but they should also renounce this harmful, inaccurate comparison.
From the April 23 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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A report from Feeding America on food insecurity and food costs in the United States sheds new light on the real targets of the conservative media's crusade against food stamps.
Conservative media often rush to baselessly condemn those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps, as lazy or taking advantage of the system, but the truth is that these programs help feed millions of Americans who would otherwise go hungry.
In 2013, Fox News shamelessly promoted "blissfully jobless California surfer" Jason Greenslate as the "new face of food stamps," and in April the network again attacked the program by portraying a couple living in a yacht and fraudulently collecting benefits as representative of the norm.
But these attacks are out of touch with the reality that almost 41% of recipients live in a household with earnings, and according to the USDA program fraud is below one cent on the dollar.
Feeding America's report on the county and congressional district level food insecurity and county food costs in the United States paints a startlingly different picture of the food insecure than the one the right-wing media typically pushes. Feeding America found that more than 49 million* people in the United States are food-insecure, meaning that they have "limited or uncertain access to adequate food," and that 16 million of those people are children. On average, about 71% of the food-insecure throughout the country fall below 185% of the poverty line, making them eligible to receive SNAP benefits.
In September 2013, Politico reported that Fox distributed copies of its misleading food stamp special to members of Congress during the August recess, and Fox's portrayal of Greenslate was prominently featured in GOP talking points. When Congress reconvened, conservatives in the House voted to cut $39 billion from the program. According to NBC News, food insecurity has been exacerbated by the cuts to program and have left many Americans unable to feed their families:
"The recession has subsided for most Americans but it still hasn't subsided for low-income Americans. Their situation just has not improved," he said, adding that it was "probably worse now" because a temporary funding boost in 2009 to the key government food aid program known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) was allowed to lapse by Congress last year.
"It seems like we are stacking the deck against" low-income people, said Everett, who was recently named to the congressional National Commission on Hunger. "We're missing rungs at the bottom of the (economic) ladder to be able to help people to get to the top."
*Number has been updated for accuracy
Local media outlets across the country published uncritical reports highlighting a conservative influence group's so-called economic competitiveness report, despite criticism of previous editions of the report over its methodology and findings.
On April 15, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) published the 2014 edition of its annual "Rich States, Poor States" economic competitiveness ranking, which claims to be "a forward-looking measure of how each state can expect to perform economically." For the seventh consecutive year, Utah was given the top spot for future economic outlook in 2014; New York was ranked last, and has never risen past 49th place.
Local media outlets quickly picked up the report and mainly discussed their own state's rankings and the rankings of neighboring states. Conservative radio station WOAI in San Antonio, Texas, published a blog detailing the report; including a quote from co-author and Heritage Foundation economist Steven Moore whom WOAI referred to as an "ALEC analyst":
A conservative group says Texas is tops in the country in economic activity today, but the American Legislative Exchange Council warns that the state's economic performance in the future will be rocky, largely because state government is spending too much money.
"That wasn't the good budget," ALEC analyst Steven Moore told 1200 WOAI news about the budget approved by the Legislature in 2012. "Not withstanding [sic] all of the very good things that are happening in Texas, and with the very big increase in the size of the economy."
ALEC ranks Texas no better than 13th nationally in terms of future economic performance.
Despite the uncritical, often glowing, pick-up by local media outlets, ALEC's competitiveness report has received scrutiny in the past, mostly due to evidence showing that economic data does not comport with the results of their study.
From the April 18 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the April 15 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the April 15 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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On the last day to file federal taxes, Fox host Stuart Varney complained that the wealthiest Americans "already pay for almost everything," ignoring the fact that tax rates for the richest Americans have steadily declined in recent decades mirroring rates paid by most Americans.
On the April 15 edition of America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer highlighted a Congressional Budget Office report finding that the top 20 percent of income earners in the U.S. pay over 90 percent of federal income tax money. His guest, Fox Business host Stuart Varney, wondered whether it was fair:
VARNEY: You hear it all the time, don't you? Tax the rich some more because they can afford it. Well you may be surprised to hear that wealthier people already pay for almost everything. Let me repeat the number you just gave. 20 percent - the top 20 percent of income earners pays over 90 percent of all the federal income tax money.
Do you think that's fair, Bill? If I may ask you a question. Do you think it's fair that that minority pays for everything for the vast majority?
Over the past year, broadcast evening news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC failed to mention the role of reduced taxes on the wealthy as a cause of inequality, despite the fact that economists view taxes as a primary driver of income gaps.
Right-wing media hyped a misleading apples-to-oranges comparison to claim that the U.S. is at a "tipping point" in the "relationship between welfare and work."
On April 15, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed new statistics showed that "the number of people living on the government dole outnumbered full-time working women." Fox Business host Stuart Varney then claimed "welfare is replacing work" because in 2012, 46 million people collected Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) and 44 million women worked full time. Varney cited SNAP benefits as "the classic example" of an "explosion in welfare payments outgoing from the government to individuals and a decline in work," which he attributed to the Obama administration "buying votes." Meanwhile, Fox displayed this graphic:
Other right-wing media sources highlighted the same supposedly "telling" numbers. CNS News posted a graphic comparing the number of women working full time to total SNAP beneficiaries and the Drudge Report also hyped the connection:
But these numbers can't be compared, as many working women fall into both categories.
In fact, because the majority of recipients are working-class Americans with jobs, senior citizens, or children, an increase in SNAP beneficiaries is an extremely unreliable predictor of the number of full-time workers, let alone evidence of a tipping point before a decline in overall employment. A 2013 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the "overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients who can work do so" (emphasis original):
The overwhelming majority of SNAP recipients who can work do so. Among SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, more than half work while receiving SNAP -- and more than 80 percent work in the year prior to or the year after receiving SNAP. The rates are even higher for families with children -- more than 60 percent work while receiving SNAP, and almost 90 percent work in the prior or subsequent year.
The number of SNAP households that have earnings while participating in SNAP has been rising for more than a decade, and has more than tripled -- from about 2 million in 2000 to about 6.4 million in 2011. The increase was especially pronounced during the recent deep recession, suggesting that many people have turned to SNAP because of under-employment -- for example, when one wage-earner in a two-parent family lost a job, when a worker's hours were cut, or when a worker turned to a lower-paying job after being laid off.
A separate report from the USDA pointed out that in 2012, "75 percent of all SNAP households, containing 87 percent of all participants, included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled nonelderly person. These households received 82 percent of all SNAP benefits."
This latest attempt to cast the SNAP program as spurring unemployment ignores current economic reality. SNAP enrollment has risen as a result of the economic downturn. The Economic Policy Institute noted that "SNAP swelled because the economy entered the worst recession since the Great Depression and remains severely depressed even 18 months after the official recovery began." According to a 2012 report from the Congressional Budget Office, SNAP enrollment is projected to decline as the economy recovers:
The number of people receiving SNAP benefits will begin to slowly decline at the end of fiscal year 2014, CBO expects, reflecting an improved economic situation and a declining unemployment rate. Nevertheless, the number of people receiving SNAP benefits will remain high by historical standards, CBO estimates. That is partly because of a growing U.S. population and thus a greater number of potential SNAP participants.