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PBS Sets Itself Apart From Broadcast Outlets On Inequality And Poverty, Fox News Remains Major Source Of Misleading Coverage
In the second quarter of 2016, prime-time and evening weekday news programs on the largest broadcast and cable outlets dedicated significantly less time to economic inequality and poverty than they had in the first quarter of the year. The weekday drop-off was led by CNN and MSNBC, which dramatically reduced their programming on inequality. PBS remained the gold standard among broadcast outlets in terms of covering inequality and poverty, while Fox News remained a prevalent source of misinformation on the same topics.
Researchers Found New York’s Enactment Of Paid Sick Leave Was “No Big Deal” Despite Right-Wing Media Fear Mongering Around “Very Dangerous” Law
The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) released a report on the economic impact of New York City’s requirement that employers provide workers with paid sick leave, finding that right-wing media concerns that such ordinances would create a prohibitive cost burden were “proven unfounded.” The ordinance was a particular target of the thoroughly discredited pundit Stephen Moore, who now counts himself among Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s senior economic advisers despite a consistent track record of being dead wrong on the economy.
According to a September 6 report from CEPR, fears that New York’s paid sick leave mandate would be “a major cost burden on employers” that could “invite widespread abuse by employees” have “proven unfounded.” The report surveyed 352 randomly selected businesses from October 2015 to March 2016 and found 97 percent of businesses had not reduced worker hours, 94 percent had not raised prices, and 91 percent had not reduced hiring activity as a result of the city’s paid sick leave mandate. The report also found that 96 percent of businesses reported no changes in customer service, and 94 percent reported no changes in productivity as a result of the law, which CEPR described as “a ‘non-event’ for most employers” despite the fact that the measure extended paid sick days to 1.4 million workers. The CEPR report on the successful implementation of paid sick leave in New York comes just two weeks after researchers with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that paid sick leave laws like New York’s may prevent the spread of illnesses such as the flu and significantly improve public health.
Slate reported on CEPR's findings on September 7, mocking conservative critics of the law who worried it would create, as Slate put it, “a labor force of hypochondriac slackers” and drive businesses out of the city. Slate noted that paid sick leave laws had been passed in five states, Washington, D.C., and 26 cities since San Francisco enacted a paid leave mandate in 2007, calling the development “one of American progressives’ greatest policy triumphs.” Slate also noted that New York should be a good testing ground for how paid sick leave can affect economic growth, due to the city’s large size and the similar results found elsewhere by the U.S. Department of Labor. From Slate:
Did a labor force of hypochondriac slackers cause businesses to relocate to Nassau and Westchester Counties? It doesn’t look like it: New York City’s share of metropolitan employment has actually increased, slightly, in the two years since the revised law took effect.
That jibes with findings from other cities published by the U.S. Department of Labor in October. San Francisco has outperformed surrounding counties in job growth since the passage of its policy in 2007. Likewise, analyses of Seattle and Washington, D.C. found negligible impacts on hiring and business location. A ton of research has also shown that flexible leave policies have a positive effect on worker productivity, happiness, and health.
These findings -- and the report that New York has seen the best job creation in a half-century during Mayor Bill De Blasio’s first two years in office -- offer a stark rebuke to critics of paid leave mandates like Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore. During a January 17, 2014, appearance on Fox News, Moore, who was then a Wall Street Journal editorial board member, blasted New York’s paid sick leave mandate, falsely claiming it would be “very dangerous for cities” if more such laws were enacted.
Moore’s empty criticism echoed other right-wing pundits, who had attacked paid leave as an unwarranted “entitlement” and hyped the supposed costs to businesses while ignoring the benefits for workers. Right-wing media repeatedly push such myths and routinely dismiss the need for such laws as nothing more than part of a “giant welfare giveaway utopia.” The complete failure of this particular right-wing media myth in the face of actual evidence bolsters Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s claim that Moore “has a troubled relationship with the facts.” Krugman speculated that in the conservative economic policy climate where Moore has made his career, perhaps his “incompetence is actually desirable” -- after all, a “smart hack might turn honest.”
Trump Claimed Sequestration Was "Over-Exaggerated" In 2013
Media are calling out Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for flip-flopping on the 2013 federal spending sequester after Trump pledged to “eliminate the defense sequester” and increase military spending during a September 7 speech. Back in 2013, Trump supported the congressionally imposed sequester, saying “Frankly, this is a very minor amount of the cuts that have to be made.”
Just a week after the Associated Press quoted Stephen Moore, an economic adviser to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying Trump’s policy proposals are actually designed to be vague, Moore proclaimed that Trump’s economic plan is the “most detailed” plan from any candidate in decades and may even be “too specific.”
During the September 9 episode of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney asked Moore to respond to a September 4 Washington Post editorial titled “Donald Trump’s bet: We are all chumps.” In it, the paper slammed the GOP candidate for his lack of accountability, his penchant for lying, and his refusal to share “basic information” with voters such as medical records, tax returns, and “serious policy proposals.” After opening the segment by suggesting that Trump had “surely released a detailed economic plan, amongst other detailed plans,” Varney ceded the discussion to Moore, who claimed that the Trump campaign has “put forward the most detailed economic plan, I think, of any candidate in 40 years.” Moore went on to claim that Trump’s plan may be “too specific,” and that Trump has “an extremely detailed plan” available to the public on the campaign’s website. From Varney & Co.:
STEPHEN MOORE: But, back to this idea that there's no detailed plan, because I never really answered your question about that. We've put forward the most detailed economic plan, I think, of any candidate in 40 years. I mean, we've got a very detailed tax plan.
You look at his website about how we're going to replace Obamacare, you look at his energy plan -- the media didn't pay any attention to that. We're going to drill for resources, we’re going to put coal miners back into the jobs they lost. I mean, this is a very, very -- in fact, I would say, a lot of our political people say we're being too specific, we're giving too many targets for the, for our opponents to shoot at. Because we have an extremely detailed plan, and anybody who wants to look at it, go to the website, and you're going to see -- you know, compare that with what Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton has come out with. I mean, Hillary is all bluster. She doesn't have any plan at all.
Moore’s bizarre claim that Trump’s economic plan is “very detailed” and potentially even “too specific” comes just days after an August 29 article from the Associated Press (AP) quoted Moore claiming that Trump’s plans are supposed to be “visionary stuff” and have been left intentionally vague to avoid “a big debate” over small details. From the AP:
But Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who has worked with Trump to shape his tax and economic plans, says the vagueness on Trump's economic policies was by design.
"We want to talk about the big visionary stuff. We don't want to have a big debate about this loophole, that loophole," he said. "This is a campaign, it's not a write-up of a tax bill in the Ways and Means Committee."
Contrary to Moore’s claim that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton “doesn’t have any plan at all,” the same AP article found that while Trump had “just seven policy proposals on his website, totaling just over 9,000 words,” Clinton’s campaign site outlined 38 specific issues and contained 65 policy papers totaling 112,735 words. CNN’s Reliable Sources examined the AP’s exposé on Trump’s lack of policy specifics on September 4, and host Brian Stelter even tweeted about the sharp difference.
The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center’s (MassBudget) annual Labor Day report found that states that raised the minimum wage saw stronger low-wage earnings gains than states that did not raise wages, undermining a common right-wing media myth that higher wages actually reduce worker earnings.
MassBudget published its findings on how the minimum wage affects earnings in its 2016 State of Working Massachusetts report, published September 5. The study largely focused on a 7 percent increase in wage growth that low-wage Massachusetts workers experienced from 2014 to 2015 after the state enacted a minimum wage increase. The report also found that low-wage earnings growth was strongest nationwide in states that raised their minimum wages. According to the MassBudget report, women saw relatively greater income gains at the state level than men over the past year, and that may be related to the fact that women make up nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers and are disproportionately affected by wage increases. From the 2016 State of Working Massachusetts:
Massachusetts is accompanied by a handful of states such as California, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and others that have passed legislation in the past two years that would increase their minimum wage. In 2015, low-wage workers in our Commonwealth and in other states with recent minimum wage increases have seen real wage growth. The chart below shows that the growth in wages for the bottom 10th percentile of earners was fastest in states with legislated increases (versus minimum wage increases through indexing to inflation or no increase at all).
MassBudget’s report stands in contrast to misinformation about the minimum wage frequently promoted by right-wing media. Conservative outlets often claim that raising the wage will actually hurt workers by killing jobs and harming businesses, despite all evidence to the contrary. New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie actually cited a number of these debunked right-wing media myths during an August 30 press conference announcing his decision to veto a minimum wage increase in New Jersey.
As Labor Day approaches, Media Matters looks back at how media have attacked organized labor over the past year. In the midst of several important battles for labor unions in 2016, media have often pushed misleading information about union membership and fees, attempted to delegitimize the votes of union members, uncritically cited and elevated voices from anti-union dark-money groups without proper disclosure, and claimed that teachers unions’ activism shows that educators do not care about what’s best for their students.
Veteran political consultant and commentator James Carville says the media assumes false equivalence when covering major policy disagreements, allowing right-wing misinformation to overshadow clear evidence that Democratic policies on issues like the economy and health care have been successful.
Carville, who is a guest contributor to Media Matters, recently released We’re Still Right, They’re Still Wrong, a sequel to his 1996 book We’re Right, They’re Wrong. In an interview with Media Matters, Carville explained that he wrote the book because “the Democratic Party does a very poor job of tootin’ our own horn” while “right-wing blowhards” successfully push misinformation about Democratic policies into mainstream media coverage.
“The economy performs better under Democrats than Republicans -- there’s no debate there,” Carville explained. “You don’t even have to be an expert to go look up unemployment data. Look up growth. The deficit is remarkably lower under Democratic presidents than Republican presidents.” But Carville argues that reporters’ obsession with presenting “both sides” of policy disagreements -- rather than focusing on evidence -- ends up lending credibility to right-wing misinformation. Conservatives "don’t ever cite any facts for anything that they say. And they just move on.”
Carville highlighted conservative fearmongering on issues like Obamacare, the Ebola virus -- which some warned was going to “kill us all” -- and climate change as notable examples. “It’s not a disputable fact. The earth is getting warmer; get over it. There‘s not another side of the argument.”
Carville sees evidence of that same false equivalence in reporting about the presidential election. “I do interviews and they say, ‘Well, we have two unpopular candidates.’ Yes, that’s sort of true, but one is twice as unpopular as the other.”
In Carville’s view, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s candidacy is the natural product of years of fact-free right-wing fearmongering. “I think Trump is the perfect nominee of a party that hates facts. Because he doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t know the nuclear triad from the federal triangle. And he is just exactly what they deserve. They’ve been a fact-denying party from evolution to global warming to economic policy to foreign policy, so why should they be surprised if they have a fact-denying nominee? He fits in perfectly for them.”
At the same time, Carville sees a double standard in the way reporters handle each candidate's respective controversies. In a March piece for Media Matters, Carville laid out what he dubbed “The Clinton Rule” based on the Beltway media’s obsession with supposed Clinton “scandals”: “There shall be one standard for covering everyone else in public life, and another standard for the Clintons.”
As a recent example, Carville pointed to the media’s recent scrutiny of the Clinton Foundation and the growing calls for the Clintons to shut it down. He urged Democrats to be blunt in their defense of the foundation: “People are going to die. Yes, people will die when you shut it down.” He dismissed potential hand-wringing over his proclamation: “‘Oh gee, do you think you should you really say that?’ Well it’s a fact.”
“My message to Democrats is, you’ve been right, get over it. You can be nice, you can be polite about it, but you’ve just been right,” Carville said. “I’m sure it’s going to come a day where we’ll get something wrong and we’ll deal with that, too.”
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New Jersey governor and Trump campaign adviser Chris Christie held a press conference on August 30 to announce he would veto a bill passed by the state legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. During the press conference Christie attacked efforts to raise the minimum wage, citing right-wing media myths that raising wages would hurt businesses and lead to job automation.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was blasted by NBC after it was revealed that the candidate’s latest campaign ad cites two distinct and contradictory tax plans, neither of which are Trump’s current plan. This “confusion” follows months of Trump contradicting himself on economic policy.
On August 29, MSNBC and NBC News political reporter Benjy Sarlin reported that Trump's new campaign ad, which is part of a $10 million ad buy in key swing states, seems to make promises about lower taxes, boosted job creation, and economic growth that are "generic enough for a Republican politician." Yet, on closer inspection, Trump's promises are actually buttressed by citations linking to two different tax plans that he has either disavowed or has not endorsed.
The ad's promises of wage growth and a thriving business community are based on a September 2015 analysis by the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation of Trump's original tax plan, which he replaced with a different and less detailed plan on August 8. Meanwhile, the ad's promise of tax relief for working families and increased job creation is based on a Tax Foundation analysis of the 2016 tax reform plan outlined by House Republicans, which Trump has yet to endorse. From NBC News:
Trump has not endorsed the House GOP plan outright, but his new proposal,announced earlier this month, has some similarities. Most notably, they both advocate collapsing the tax code into three brackets with rates of 12%, 25%, and 33%. But there are also important differences: Washington Post columnist Allan Sloan reported that Trump's plan would preserve a deduction on business loans that the House GOP plan would scrap that would save up to $1.2 trillion in revenue over 10 years.
NBC’s Sarlin later reported that the Trump campaign was still issuing press releases containing the tax policy discrepancies even after they were revealed, and noted a half-hearted defense from the Trump campaign’s deputy policy director:
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) August 29, 2016
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) August 29, 2016
Numerous other journalists picked up on Trump’s contradictory campaign ad, noting that it was “odd for Trump to cite the House GOP’s plan as if it were his own,” and arguing that the confusion might stem from Trump’s refusal to “fill in all the details” for his latest plan.
Trump's inconsistency with the facts and noncommittal approach to his own economic policy outlines has become a feature of his presidential campaign. Trump’s latest tax plan was blasted by the media for being “light on details” and “ridden with more of the same empty tropes” exemplified during his previous economic policy speeches. Economists trashed the plan as “nonsense” and an attempt to re-write his previous tax and economic policy plan into just more of the “standard voodoo” economics frequently pushed by Republican supply-side advocates.
At the outset of his campaign last year, Trump frequently said he would raise taxes on wealthy people like himself, but his initial plan overwhelmingly favored the very rich. Despite publishing a tax plan that included tax cuts for millionaires, he spent months falsely claiming the opposite was true. Trump has claimed for months that the only reason he has not released his tax returns is because they are under audit from the IRS, but the candidate has actually released his returns in the midst of an audit before, and continues to defy media inquires into tax years that are no longer under IRS review.
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MSNBC host Rachel Maddow ridiculed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after a Wall Street Journal survey found not a single former member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) would support his presidency.
Maddow opened the August 25 edition of her program by blasting Trump over a Wall Street Journal survey that revealed that no former CEA members would state support for the GOP nominee. Maddow reported that while this “very diverse group” of 45 economists had served eight different presidents -- including five Republicans -- “the one thing they all have in common is that not a single one of them supports Donald Trump for president.”
According to the Journal, no Democratic or Republican advisers expressed support for Trump. Two former Republican advisers (Matthew Slaughter and Richard Schmalensee) crossed party lines to offer support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. And two GOP advisers (former Reagan appointees William Poole and Jerry Jordan) even stated their support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson over their own party’s nominee. Maddow called the survey result “stunning,” and compared the economists’ “profound rejection” of Trump to being passed over at a dance. Maddow noted that it was like asking someone to dance, “and everybody in the world decides they will never dance again because of you” (emphasis added):
RACHEL MADDOW (HOST): It's one thing to have, you know, some dissident Republicans rejecting a party's presidential nominee. It happens here and there. It happens, to a greater or lesser extent, with almost every nominee from both major parties every election cycle. There's always a dissenter here or there, but when it's everyone alive who has ever worked for any American president as an economic adviser including the last five Republican presidents, and they all reject you. That’s not like, you ask somebody to dance and they say, “no I don't want to dance with you.” That's like, you ask someone to dance and everybody in the world decides they will never dance again because of you. I mean, this is just -- this is profound rejection. I find that just stunning.
During the segment, Maddow also highlighted a bitingly critical indictment of Trump that Harvard economist Martin Feldstein, a former CEA chairman under President Reagan, told to The Wall Street Journal:
“I have known personally every Republican president since Richard Nixon. They all showed a real understanding of economics and international affairs. The same was true of Mitt Romney. Donald Trump does not have that understanding and does not seem to be concerned about it. That alone disqualifies him in my judgement.”
The revelations from the Journal’s survey were also a topic of conversation on the August 26 edition of CNN’s New Day, during which Trump booster Steve Forbes dismissed the revelation and pivoted to highlight the supposed strength of Trump's advisers: Stephen Moore and Larry Kudlow. Moore and Kudlow have been dogged for making inaccurate statements and failed predictions over the years. Moore was accused of having “a troubled relationship with facts” by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who went on to say that Moore may be maintaining a career in conservative economics only because “incompetence is actually desirable at some level” in those circles. Meanwhile, Kudlow recently lectured single parents that they are partly to blame for poverty even though he admitted to having "virtually no knowledge in this field.”
The Journal's failure to find a single Democratic or Republican supporter of Trump among 45 former presidential economic advisers follows an August 22 report from the paper that hundreds of business economists overwhelmingly prefer Clinton as the best candidate on the economy. Clinton received the support of 55 percent of 414 economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics (NABE). Trump drew votes from just 14 percent of NABE members, once again registering less support on the economy than Gary Johnson, who garned 15 percent.
The almost complete lack of support for Trump on the economy comes despite months of the GOP nominee being the dominant force in cable news discussions of the economy -- thanks in part to appearing on Fox News’ Hannity 24 times during the first six months of 2016.