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  • News Outlets Learn The Hard Way Not To Trust Trump’s Tweets

    The President-Elect Drives Misleading News Coverage 140 Characters At A Time

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Since his victory, President-elect Donald Trump has used his Twitter account to generate positive news about himself across the spectrum of media platforms, implanting misleading narratives about his business and economic acumen into national news -- sometimes for days at a time. Reports on the tentative nature of jobs he had supposedly “saved” at an Indiana factory offer a perfect example of why journalists should be wary of treating the president-elect’s boasts as newsworthy.

    On November 30, Fortune magazine reported that Trump had struck a deal with Indiana-based appliance manufacturer Carrier to provide taxpayer-funded incentives to the company if it agreed to keep several hundred jobs in the United States. In a tweet, Trump boasted that he would soon meet “the great workers of Carrier,” proclaiming that “they will sell many air conditioners!” Broadcast and cable news outlets heaped praise on the president-elect’s “symbolic coup.” In a December 1 speech at the Carrier facility in Indianapolis, Trump took credit for saving “over 1,100 jobs” and said the number of jobs kept safe “is going to go up very substantially.”

    A few days later, the flimsy Carrier story had completely fallen apart.

    Initial reports detailed how, in exchange for a multimillion dollar handout, the manufacturer was only keeping some jobs in Indiana -- the rest were still going to Mexico. By December 6, Chuck Jones, the president of the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1999, was irate that hundreds of union jobs were still scheduled to be outsourced after Trump had promised to save them, according to The Washington Post. “For whatever reason,” said Jones, the president-elect “lied his a-- off.” During a December 7 interview with CNN, Carrier employee T.J. Bray compared the farce to “a dog and pony show” and expressed his disappointment that “we are still losing a lot of workers.”

    On December 9, CNNMoney reported that some of the millions of taxpayer dollars doled out as part of the Carrier deal “will be invested in automation” that will soon “replace some of the jobs that were just saved.” According to Carrier, automation is the only way they can compete with low-cost labor in Mexico. CNNMoney correctly reported that the sharp decline in American manufacturing employment is “thanks in large part to more efficient factories.” Workforce automation has been a fact of life since the 1800s, but that point was obfuscated by Trump, who misled workers at Carrier and around the country, many of whom think they are losing their jobs to free trade and immigration.

    The days-long saga of news outlets cutting through the spin on this Carrier deal, which included the president-elect attacking Chuck Jones on Twitter, resulting in Jones receiving death threats from Trump supporters, follows a familiar pattern.

    Trump tweeted that he had single-handedly kept a Ford plant from moving to Mexico, on November 17. Conservative media outlets rushed to give him credit and many mainstream outlets followed suit, but, upon further investigation, it turned out that Ford’s decision had nothing to do with Trump. The plant “was never moving to Mexico” to begin with and no jobs were on the chopping block.

    On December 6, Trump tweeted that “costs are out of control” on what he claimed was a “more than $4 billion” contract between Boeing and the U. S. government to update Air Force One. Trump concluded his tweet with “Cancel the order!” As Trump’s tweet drove news coverage, Boeing shares plunged more than 1 percent -- an almost $1 billion hit to the company’s market capitalization. Hours later, a fact-check from The Washington Post revealed that almost every word in the tweet was exaggerated, false, or misleading but the damage had already been done. Trump’s intervention set such a dangerous precedent that even Fox News’ Karl Rove was aghast.

    Later on December 6, Trump staged an impromptu press availability in the elevator lobby of Trump Tower with Japanese telecommunications mogul Masayoshi Son. In a brief statement and corresponding tweets, Trump claimed credit for landing a $50 billion investment commitment that would create 50,000 jobs and national media spent the rest of the day praising him. ThinkProgress editor Judd Legum predicted that Trump’s “formula for manipulating the public” through “substance-free tweets” and fawning media would succeed because “people will have largely moved on” by the time reporters uncovered the details. He was right. The next morning, reports from The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and CNN showed that Trump may have had little influence on the deal.

    The problem of media amplifying his misinformation isn’t confined to economic policy. A November 27 tweet falsely claiming Hillary Clinton received “millions” of illegal votes generated so much media attention that it has become gospel for many Trump supporters. PolitiFact, which traced the illegal voter conspiracy to Trump ally and 9/11 truther Alex Jones, rated the claim “False”, calling it "obscenely ludicrous.”

    The fact that Trump’s boasts always seem to crumble in the face of modest scrutiny is a telling sign. Media outlets need to stop letting Trump’s tweets dictate and drive the news cycle and stop accepting his self-promotion at face value.

  • Wall Street Journal Virtually Alone In Defending Trump’s Pick For Labor Secretary

    Even Breitbart Opposes Fast-Food CEO Andy Puzder Running The Department Of Labor

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal editorial board stands virtually alone in defense of President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, Andy Puzder, a notoriously anti-worker fast-food CEO and frequent right-wing op-ed contributor to the Journal.

    The Journal’s editorial board published a defense of Puzder on December 8, praising his opposition to raising the federal minimum wage, expanding Obamacare, and strengthening overtime protections for workers. The editorial board continued that they hoped Puzder would roll back other progressive advances for working-class Americans, including reversing an executive order mandating paid sick leave for federal contractors and undoing the Labor Department’s fiduciary rulerequiring investment brokers to act in a client's best interests. From the Journal:

    Donald Trump’s selection of CKE CEO Andy Puzder to lead his Labor Department has incited a tantrum on the left, which is a good sign. The burger maven once told us that he often picked up litter around his restaurants, and departing chief Tom Perez is leaving plenty to clean up.

    [...]

    He is also the rare executive who promotes free markets rather than merely his narrow business interests. Mr. Puzder has expounded in these pages on the unintended consequences of ObamaCare’s mandates and a $15 minimum wage. He’s also detailed how the Obama Administration has contributed to the shrinking labor force and large number of underemployed workers.

    The Journal was one of the few voices to speak in support of Puzder’s nomination for secretary of labor. During a December 9 segment on Fox Business, host Stuart Varney used the controversy surrounding the nomination as “an excuse to run those racy ads” objectifying women, which Puzder’s company has become known for.

    One of the only other defenders of Puzder is Stephen Moore -- a discredited economist, Trump economic adviser, and a former Journal editorial board member -- who, while defending his boss’ pick, attacked Media Matters and “the big unions” for what he called “a loud and libelous campaign” to damage Puzder’s nomination.

    Controversy has been mounting over Puzder’s nomination after initial reporting failed to note the many right-wing media myths he has pushed to support his anti-worker agenda. The New York Times blasted Puzder in an editorial on December 8 titled “Andrew Puzder Is The Wrong Choice For Labor Secretary” for his stances on worker rights, and for Puzder’s companies' -- Carl's Jr. and Hardee’s -- record of labor law violations. From The New York Times:

    Here is the record at those restaurants. When the Obama Labor Department looked at thousands of complaints involving fast-food workers, it found labor law violations in 60 percent of the investigations at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, usually for failure to pay the minimum wage or time and a half for overtime.

    MSNBC’s Morning Joe mocked Puzder on December 9 for his statement to Business Insider that machines are preferable to workers, and co-host Mika Brzezinski reported that opposition to Puzder came from both the left and from the alt-right website Breitbart News, which had been instrumental in helping Trump get elected.

    Puzder has a history supporting anti-worker policies and had claimed that replacing people with machines would be preferable because machines “never take a vacation” or complain when discriminated against. Puzder opposes new overtime rules proposed by the Department of Labor that would extend guaranteed overtime pay to millions of American workers. Puzder has also misleadingly claimed that stronger wages and benefits actually hurt workers, frequently attacking the push to raise the minimum wage, and Obamacare’s health insurance expansion.

    Finally, as Gary Legum pointed out in a column published by Salon, if Puzder is confirmed, he may be the “least qualified labor secretary” since the early 1980s, when the Reagan administration appointed construction magnate Raymond Donovan to the same post.

  • Major Newspapers Fail To Grasp Severity Of Putting Andy Puzder In Charge Of Labor Department

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Initial reporting on the president-elect’s selection of fast-food CEO Andy Puzder to replace Tom Perez as the next secretary of labor depicted Puzder as a “vocal” critic of Obama administration policies while failing to note the conservative media-fueled inaccuracies that inform the incoming secretary’s anti-worker views.

    On December 8, The Wall Street Journal was first to report that President-elect Donald Trump planned to name Puzder -- the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger chains -- as the incoming labor secretary in his administration. The Journal’s report, and subsequent reporting from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, focused mostly on Puzder’s opposition to specific economic initiatives from the Obama administration -- raising the minimum wage, expanding overtime protections, and extending the scope of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- while failing to mention that Puzder’s arguments against each have been widely discredited:

    • The Journal reported that Puzder is a “vocal advocate for cutting back regulations,” which he claims “have stifled growth in the restaurant industry,” and concluded with the acknowledgment that Puzder has used the Journal’s own opinion pages to discuss “topics such as the negative effects of President Obama’s health-care law and of broad increase in minimum wage.”
    • The Times noted that Puzder believes “large minimum wage increases hurt small business and lead to job loss among low-skilled workers,” adding that he believes the ACA created a so-called “restaurant recession” by reducing disposable incomes that American workers would otherwise “spend dining out.”
    • The LA Times claimed that Puzder opposes raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour “because he thinks that would cost many low-wage workers their jobs,” and quoted a Forbes op-ed published by Puzder on May 18 that alleged the Obama administration had created an “extensive regulatory maze” with overtime and health care reforms that drive up labor costs and “reduced opportunities, bonuses, benefits, perks and promotions” for workers.
    • USA Today’s synopsis was much less extensive, merely labeling Puzder as “a major critic of what he calls unnecessary federal regulations, including a proposed hike in the federal minimum wage” before moving on to other rumored Trump appointments.

    Despite amplifying Puzder’s criticism of progressive economic policies, none of the outlets saw fit to mention that his arguments are wrong.

    First, Obama-era regulations have not “stifled growth in the restaurant industry” or created a “restaurant recession.” According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in the restaurant industry is up more than 20 percent since Obama took office in January 2009:

    Second, while it is true that Puzder is an ardent opponent of increased minimum wages -- he once argued that modest wage increases actually encourage low-wage workers to game the system so they can stay in poverty -- it is important to note that his arguments are unfounded. Puzder and other right-wing media personalities have waged a campaign of misinformation against raising the minimum wage, claiming that it hurts businesses and kills jobs. In reality, reliable professional studies of the minimum wage consistently find a negligible relationship between the minimum wage and employment activity.

    As is the case with Puzder’s opposition to living wages, the incoming labor secretary’s antagonism toward the ACA is also not based in facts. Right-wing media outlets and allied politicians have spent years claiming that President Obama’s signature health care reform law is hurting the economy and stymieing the job market despite all evidence to the contrary. In reality, Obamacare has reduced the uninsured rate to historic lows, has reduced medical debt and benefited public health outcomes while strengthening the economic security of low-income families.

    Finally, Puzder’s opposition to expanded overtime protections amounts to little more than retooled talking points generated by right-wing media. Conservative media outlets opposed President Obama’s proposed overtime expansion before they even knew the details, claiming it threatened to undermine American work ethic and turn the country into Greece. Puzder’s claim that a “regulatory maze,” which includes overtime expansion, has “reduced opportunities, bonuses, benefits, perks and promotions” ignores the obvious economic benefits of paying millions of American workers for the hours they actually work and that the overtime threshold “has the advantage of simplicity” that makes it efficient for employers to implement.

    Media Matters outlined the many ways media should approach his troubled relationship with the truth. If coverage today is any indication, major outlets still have a lot to learn.

  • Reports Show Trump May Have Had Little To Do With SoftBank Deal He Took Credit For

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    On December 6, President-elect Donald Trump credited his election victory for spurring Japanese telecommunications and technology giant SoftBank to propose a $50 billion investment in the United States, which he claimed would create as many as 50,000 jobs. Later reporting from The Wall Street Journal and others debunked Trump’s boasts, but not before numerous media outlets amplified his unsubstantiated claims.

  • Washington Post Corrects "Inaccuracies" In Trump's Air Force One Tweet

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler broke down the numerous errors in a tweet sent out by President-elect Trump calling for the cancellation of the building of an Air Force One plane claiming that “costs are out of control.”

    In a December 6 tweet, Trump said the cost of a new Boeing 747 Air Force One plane would be “out of control, more than $4 billion,” and called for the government to cancel the order.

    Later in the lobby of his New York Trump Tower, the president-elect called the alleged price of the plane “ridiculous … We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.” But Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler found that Trump’s tweet is incorrect. Boeing will design a replacement “for the aging pair of Air Force Ones” but is technically not building the jet, and the cost of the project has not been set. The Department of Defense estimates “a cost of $2.9 billion over the next five years,” with a possible additional $1 billion “to complete and procure the aircraft.” Kessler explained Trump cannot “cancel the order” because nothing has been ordered yet. From the December 6 Washington Post article:

    Trump is not a stickler for accuracy, but there are number of inaccuracies in his tweet. Let’s break them down one by one.

    “Boeing is building . . . ”

    Earlier in 2016, Boeing received a $170 million contract to design a replacement for the aging pair of Air Force Ones used by the president. Boeing is not actually building the jet, though logically it is the only U.S. manufacturer with the capability to build such an aircraft.

    “ … a brand new 747 Air Force One … ”

    At a minimum, there would be two Air Force Ones. You need a spare in case there is a problem with one. The jets generally have a life cycle of 30 years.

    A plane only receives the call sign “Air Force One” when the president is on board. This is actually a highly modified version of the Boeing 747-8 jet.

    “Costs are out of control, more than $4 billion”

    Cost have actually not been set. The Defense Department’s five-year plan indicates a cost of $2.9 billion over the next five years for design and development. It’s logical to assume at least another $1 billion in additional expenses to complete and procure the aircraft.

    So an estimate of $4 billion — for design, testing and manufacture of at least two jets — is not completely out of line. But the budget is subject to approval by Congress and the actual design of the aircraft. Boeing literally needs to re-engineer the plane from the ground up, so there are many one-time expenses.

    [...]

    “Cancel the order!”

    Nothing has been ordered yet. But the program could be eliminated. This may not be a problem for Trump, but certainly would affect his successors, especially if no order is placed before Boeing stops making 747s. The current aircraft were delivered in 1990, and as we noted, the life cycle is about 30 years. The Pentagon says the current fleet “faces capability gaps, rising maintenance costs, and parts obsolescence as it reaches the end of its planned 30-year life-cycle.”

    Boeing seemed to “shrug off” the tweet, which caused the company’s stocks to dip about one percent in the morning, but bounced “back in the black” later that same day.

  • Right-Wing Media Slam Student Loan Assistance, Calling It A “Con” And A “Bailout”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined a chorus of right-wing outlets in blasting the federal government’s income-based student loan repayment program, calling it a costly “con” meant to “buy millennial votes.” Yet right-wing media are ignoring the benefits of a program that could relieve millions of student borrowers of a portion of their remaining debt and that is still generating a profit.

    Right-wing media lambasted the Department of Education and student borrowers after the Journal reported on November 30 the latest findings from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that the government is on track to forgive $108 billion of $352 billion in student loans as part of federal income-driven repayment plans. The Journal’s editorial board blasted the government on December 1, calling the latest findings proof that the Department of Education’s loan program is a “con” designed to “buy millennial votes.” (The editorial column was the Journal’s second since November 1 lamenting the federal program, which has led to millions of students earning student loan forgiveness.) Earlier that day, Fox News host Jon Scott questioned if the program was a “bailout” for student borrowers. Fox Business host Stuart Varney also called the program “a bailout” on the November 30 edition of Varney & Co., while his guest Steve Costes added that the program is “a shame.”

    Federal student loan borrowers have multiple repayment plan options, including income-based plans that require borrowers to pay back loans based on a percentage of their income for a certain number of years, after which the remainder is eligible to be forgiven. The GAO’s findings were for the hypothetical cost in loan principal forgiveness for the 5.3 million borrowers who signed up for income-based repayment plans for loans issued over a 22-year period, between 1995 to 2017. These borrowers will likely see an average of $21 forgiven for every $100 in loans received. Despite right-wing media complaining about the cost of borrower relief for those on income-based payment plans, the GAO found that the Department of Education still nets a profit on student loans.

    The reason the government still makes a profit even after loan forgiveness is because many federal student loans have an interest rate at 6.8 percent -- a figure that is much higher than inflation or the 1 percent interest rate banks receive from the Federal Reserve. The 6.8 percent interest rate is so high that the GAO’s hypothetical borrower would pay almost double the original principal of their loan if the income-based plan had no cutoff date for forgiveness:

    Student loan debt is a leading concern among young people, with The Atlantic finding nearly 30 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 “cited paying off student loans as their biggest financial challenge.” According to Fortune, “there is little doubt that many Millennials are struggling financially” after a survey by PwC found that 79 percent of the 42 percent of millennials that have student loans struggle to pay those loans. Evidence shows student debt can impact personal wealth, delay homeownership affect personal decisions to marry or start a family, and that it has “cripple[d] retail sales growth.” The financial stress of student loans has a “devastating toll” on borrowers’ mental health, according to Complex, which cited findings by researchers that “student loans were associated with poorer psychological functioning.”

    While right-wing media push many myths about student debt, student concerns are valid; according to a November 21 op-ed published by Investopedia, Americans with student loan debt have “a challenging road ahead of them in the present and the future” due to workers being unable to save for retirement. The op-ed, which was authored by a financial adviser, even questioned whether people with student loans "will be able to retire” at all. The increasing debt burden can even hinder career advancement as graduates can be forced to take jobs that may have no chance of wage growth or career development so they can make debt payments on time.

    Conservative media have labeled higher education as a "privilege" and suggested students ought to choose fictional cheaper colleges. Some outlets have even defended schools that take advantage of students and leave them with significant debt. But research shows college matters now more than ever, and the cost to attend is rising across the board. The student debt crisis is especially damaging for poor students and students of color, who more frequently attend cheaper open-access and community colleges and are still forced to borrow in higher numbers to pay for their education.

    Blaming students for the student loan debt crisis ignores the facts and distracts from finding real solutions to America's skyrocketing student debt burden.

  • Television News Praises Trump’s “Symbolic Coup” In Carrier Jobs Announcement

    Indiana-Based Company Convinces Trump To Give It Taxpayer Money, Still Moves Many Of Its Jobs To Mexico

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Broadcast and cable news personalities rushed to credit President-elect Donald Trump for closing a deal with the Indiana-based manufacturer Carrier that provides the for-profit company with millions of taxpayer dollars while allowing it to still outsource hundreds of jobs to Mexico. Journalists and reporters framed the agreement as a “symbolic coup” and “unadulterated win” for Trump’s incoming administration even as they acknowledged that supporting a relatively small number of jobs at taxpayer expense is an unsustainable manufacturing policy.