Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment

Issues ››› Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment
  • Myths & Facts: The Minimum Wage

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    On June 25, 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) into law and established the first nationwide minimum hourly wage. The relative value of the minimum wage has fluctuated considerably over time, but it has steadily eroded since reaching an inflation-adjusted peak in 1968 -- the $1.60 per hour wage that year would be worth roughly $11.05 today. For several years, in the face of a growing movement to lift local, state, and federal minimum wages to a livable standard, right-wing media opponents have frequently promoted a number of misleading and discredited myths about the minimum wage’s economic effects.

  • Fox News Blasts Obama On Household Income, Fails To Mention Incomes Are Going Up

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade cherry-picked new economic data to attack President Obama over the difference in median household income between now and the year 2000, but they failed to mention that median household income is still going up since it crashed after the Great Recession.

    Doocy and Kilmeade blasted Obama on the economy over new median household income data on the June 10 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, but they failed to mention that recent incomes have risen year to year. Seizing on pre-recession data, Kilmeade noted that median household income is down from 2000, when the annual household median income was $57,342 in 2016 dollars. Although Fox & Friends pointed out that this is $79 more than 2016’s median household income of $57,263, the co-hosts did not note that the 2016 figure is still an increase of $2,409 from last year, continuing the post-recession upward trajectory.

    Doocy also criticized the president for not getting gross domestic product growth up to 3 percent during his tenure, falsely claiming, “President Obama has been historic … because no U.S. president has ever not had 3 percent growth in a single year.” Doocy’s bizarre claim is wrong: Republican President Herbert Hoover not only never hit 3 percent growth, but he failed to hit zero percent growth, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

    The bureau has consistent annual data from 1930 to the present. Because of the Great Depression, the economy contracted at a rate of 8.5 percent in 1930, 6.4 percent in 1931, a staggering 12.9 percent in 1932, and 1.3 percent in 1933. The contraction in 1933 may have been even greater, had Franklin Delano Roosevelt not replaced Hoover in the White House in March of that year, and chosen to initiate the substantial government stimulus projects known as the New Deal. Hoover is also not the only example that disproves Doocy’s claim -- reliable GDP estimates prior to 1930 are difficult to find, but available data show four consecutive presidents overseeing economic growth of less than 2 percent from 1871 to 1885.

    Fox & Friends has pushed conservative misinformation on the economy before, sticking to a right-wing script reported on in an April 28 blog post by Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman. Waldman explained how Republicans mislead the American public about the health of the economy by ignoring positive economic trends. The focus of Waldman’s comparison was the “objective reality” of progress and areas for improvement specified by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the “laughable fantasy” of “an absolute [economic] nightmare” outlined by Republican front-runner Donald Trump, but it could have just as easily been any of the personalities at Fox News. The June 10 Fox & Friends segment that misled on median household income is just another example of right-wing media sticking to the script.

  • Ryan's "Better Way" Poverty Plan Is Based On Myths From Right-Wing Media

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the Republican-led Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility released the GOP’s latest policy plan to cut government anti-poverty assistance programs. Many of the arguments in favor of Ryan’s proposed reforms are based on easily debunked right-wing media myths and poor-shaming. Ryan’s rhetoric in this poverty “reform” agenda -- titled “A Better Way to Fight Poverty” -- is gentler than in his previous policy proposals. But his plans are still based on myths, and his solutions once again are focused on gutting vital programs designed to assist Americans struggling to make ends meet and families in need.

  • Paul Ryan Parrots Right-Wing Media Talking Points To Smear DC’s Minimum Wage Increase

    Ryan’s Agenda To Lift Americans Out Of Poverty Skips Over Raising Sub-Poverty Minimum Wages

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) concluded a June 7 press conference meant to highlight his recent proposals to reform federal anti-poverty programs by confirming that he remains opposed to initiatives aimed at raising local, state, and federal minimum wages. Ryan’s stated opposition to the minimum wage recycles easily debunked right-wing media myths about the supposed negative side-effects of living wages.

    On June 7, the speaker released a report from the Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility. The plan outlines a number of standard conservative proposals to “reform” anti-poverty programs in the United States, but one thing it almost completely ignores is the minimum wage. In fact, the lone mention of the word “minimum wage” appears as part of an argument pushing the debunked “Welfare Cliff” myth, the claim that low-income, single moms are so heavily subsidized by government benefits that they have no incentive to pursue professional advancement.

    At the conclusion of his press conference, Ryan was asked by two reporters to comment on a plan in Washington, D.C. to raise the municipal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020 and then index it to inflation. In just over a minute, Ryan proceeded to parrot numerous debunked charges commonly leveled against the minimum wage by right-wing antagonists. From CNN Newsroom:

    Ryan’s anti-minimum wage talking points are either misleading, or outright false. Ryan also missed basic facts of D.C.’s minimum wage initiative, which the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates will result in increased wages for one-fifth of the city’s private sector workers.

    Increasing The Minimum Wage Does Not Hurt Entry-Level Workers

    Ryan claimed that raising the minimum wage “prices entry-level jobs away from people” before engaging in the common right-wing media tactic of reciting a story of his own youthful experiences working in the fast-food industry.

    Right-wing media frequently claim that minimum wage positions are meant to be entry-level jobs (usually just for teenagers), but the fact is that the majority of minimum wage workers are adults over the age of 25 and less than one-quarter of minimum wage workers are aged 16 to 19. Women make up a disproportionate number of minimum wage workers, and according to July 2015 research from EPI, stand to benefit considerably from an increased minimum wage.

    Fast-Food Jobs Were Never The First Rung On A Ladder Of Upward Mobility

    Ryan claimed that working at McDonald’s was “a great way to learn skills,” a wage and job mobility myth about fast food workers frequently parroted by right-wing media. But according to a July 2013 report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the fast-food industry is particularly bad at providing actual opportunities for advancement to low-wage workers. Entry-level workers account for 89 percent of fast food industry workers, and only a tiny fraction move on to management or ownership positions.

    Economic Growth And Job Creation Is Not Enough To Curb Poverty

    Ryan concluded his remarks by saying that he does not want to “cap” wages, he wants to “unleash[]” them, and institute policies that create “the kind of economy, and economic growth … that help get people better jobs, in a better economy, that has a more promising future for them.” Those claims echo a common right-wing media myth, that economic growth can indirectly lift millions of Americans out of poverty without the need for targeted programs.

    But the budget, economic, and tax proposals Ryan and his fellow Republicans repeatedly support do not generate the economic growth they promise. The trickle-down economic principles he has spent a career endorsing are a proven failure.

    If economic growth alone was the key to solving poverty and reducing economic inequality, both would have been wiped out decades ago. According to a January 29 report from the Brookings Institution, the relationship between economic growth and improved economic inclusion is “relatively weak” across the United States. The Brookings research seems to support a hypothesis endorsed by economists Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and Elise Gould of the EPI, who argue that economic growth alone is not enough to reduce economic insecurity in the face of persistent inequality.

  • Are Paul Ryan’s Poverty Reforms Still Trump-Endorsed?

    Media Should Question The Speaker And Presumptive GOP Nominee About The Compatibility Of Their Poverty Proposals

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) have engaged in a war of words regarding Trump’s racist attack on the federal judge presiding over two class action lawsuits against Trump University. Despite the recent infighting, Trump and Ryan seem to agree in principle on the latter’s vision for a complete overhaul of federal anti-poverty programs. Reporters need to ask the Republican nominee, and the speaker, if the Ryan reform agenda is truly Trump-endorsed.

    During an appearance on the June 5 edition of CBS’ Face the Nation, host John Dickerson asked Trump to comment on Ryan’s June 2 endorsement of his presidential candidacy. Trump responded that he found Ryan “appealing” because “he’s a good man” who “wants good things for the country.” Trump said that he expected to “agree on many things” with the highest-ranking elected Republican in the country, specifically citing Ryan’s positions on poverty:

    Trump’s decision to bring up Ryan’s supposed zeal to “take people out of poverty” was no accident, as it had been widely reported that the speaker planned to roll out his renewed poverty reform agenda in the coming days. On June 7, Ryan released a report from the so-called Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility.

    The report was nothing new for Ryan, closely echoing the positions espoused during the speaker’s sham poverty forum in January and his appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in March. It struck a softer tone than the overt poor-shaming Ryan has promoted in the past, but it still pushed the same kinds of policies that MSNBC’s Steve Benen previously slammed as “brutal” for the poor.

    During Ryan’s June 7 press conference announcing the proposed poverty program reforms, he repeatedly stated that his plan would have “a better likelihood of passing” if Trump were president of the United States. From the June 7 edition of CNN Newsroom:

    Media outlets are notorious for stumbling into the role of Ryan’s public relations outfit, frequently portraying his budget, economic, and tax reform policies as serious proposals rather than right-wing agenda items. The instinct to treat Ryan as a voice of reason has been particularly pronounced since the speaker decided to zero in on poverty.

    Ryan has now formally endorsed Trump for president, and Trump has tacitly endorsed Ryan’s proposed reforms. Now that the final plan has been made public, reporters need to ask Trump if he actually endorses Ryan’s plan. And they should ask Ryan if he can accept the endorsement of a man whom he just accused of engaging in “the textbook definition of a racist comment” with his attacks on a Hispanic federal judge.

  • Will The Media Fall For Paul Ryan’s Sham Poverty Proposals Again?

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    With Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan slated to release a new proposal to “reform” American anti-poverty programs on June 7, media should be aware of his long history of promoting “far-right” and “backward-looking” policies that would enact draconian cuts to vital programs for families in need and actually "exacerbate poverty, inequality, and wage stagnation."

  • National Review Smears Labor Secretary Tom Perez As A “Radical” And “Ideologue” For Supporting Workers

    Attacks On The Labor Secretary Come Amid Speculation That Perez Could Be Hillary Clinton’s Pick For Vice President

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The National Review recycled debunked myths and smeared Labor Secretary Thomas Perez for standing up to big business and expanding overtime protections for workers as speculation mounts that he may be Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s pick for vice president.

    National Review described Perez as “[t]he Obama administration’s most radical and relentless ideologue” in a June 2 column by correspondent Jim Geraghty, replete with right-wing media myths about the potential contender for vice president. Although the column admitted that Perez’s “liberal credentials are as impeccable as they come” it still lambasted the Labor Secretary for advocating for labor and expanding overtime protections for salaried workers. National Review quoted Iain Murray of the right-wing Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) who claimed this expansion of worker protections for people making up to $47,476 is “probably the most fundamental attack on the free-enterprise system going on at present” (emphasis added):

    Perez’s liberal credentials are as impeccable as they come. Mother Jones called him “one of the administration’s most stalwart progressives.” Conservative policy experts who have followed his work in the Justice and Labor Departments consider him perhaps the Obama administration’s most radical and relentless ideologue.

    Iain Murray, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s vice president of strategy, calls Perez “possibly the most dangerous person in the administration right now.”

    “His rewriting of U.S. labor law is probably the most fundamental attack on the free-enterprise system going on at present,” Murray says. “If he has his way, we won’t just revert to the 1930s. We’ll do things that even Franklin Roosevelt couldn’t do, like eliminate vast numbers of independent-contractor jobs and unionize those that remain.”

    Murray sees Perez’s ideological vision as driven by an arrogant insistence that most workers are oblivious to their own exploitation by employers, and need the state to intervene to help them understand proper “work-life balance” or to make basic choices about work.

    Right-wing media repeatedly assailed the new overtime rules released by the Department of Labor (DOL) on May 17, which will expand overtime pay protections to 4.2 million additional American workers previously exempt from compensation under outdated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

    But experts have found that these new protections are long overdue. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) found the new overtime rule “will rectify” the problem of wage protections guaranteed by the FLSA that have been “steadily erod[ing] since the late 1970s.” The overtime update is particularly important for women -- especially women of color and working mothers -- as the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) found “women are now the sole or co-breadwinner in half of American families with young children.”

    Right-wing media smears against Tom Perez have been ongoing since his confirmation hearings for Labor Secretary began in 2013 and are frequently laced with racially charged language in addition to debunked misinformation. Then-Fox contributor Michelle Malkin has baselessly called Perez an "extremist race-baiter," and frequent Fox guest J. Christian Adams has falsely claimed that Perez's leadership of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division saw it "infested with racial animus." Republican lawmakers later regurgitated these falsehoods and claimed that the division under Perez's leadership was itself racist. Right-wing talk radio host Mark Levin also called Perez an “Ethno-Thug[],” and the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal stooped to claiming the only reason to confirm Perez for Secretary of Labor was his “Spanish surname” -- a reductionist line of attack also used by The National Review, which remarked Perez’s “Dominican heritage means he checks the box as a Latino.”

  • How Conservative Media Enabled Trump’s Outrageous Lies

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS & JARED HOLT

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and conservative media figures repeatedly enabled each other to spread baseless smears and outright lies throughout the Republican presidential primary election cycle. Voices in conservative media repeatedly legitimized Trump’s debunked conspiracies, policy proposals, and statistics, some of which echoed longtime narratives from prominent right-wing media figures.

  • STUDY: Sunday Shows Less Likely Than Weekday Competitors To Discuss Poverty

    Fox News Talks A Lot About Inequality And Poverty, But Promotes Policies That Would Make The Problems Worse

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    In the first quarter of 2016, prime-time and evening weekday news programs on the largest cable and broadcast outlets mentioned poverty during roughly 55 percent of their discussions of economic inequality in the United States. During the same time period, Sunday political talk shows mentioned poverty in only 33 percent of discussions of economic inequality.

  • Conservative Opposition To Overtime Pay Brought To You By The National Retail Federation

    NRF Claims Overtime Expansion Will “Demote” Working Americans “To Clock-Punchers”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Right-wing media and Republican politicians blasted the Labor Department’s decision to update and expand overtime protections, clearly taking their cues from the National Retail Federation (NRF) -- a business association known for spreading falsehoods on worker rights. The NRF and its allies are portraying overtime expansion as something that will hurt workers and the economy, ignoring the association’s own report, which found that the change would likely result in new jobs and fewer unpaid hours for retail workers.

    The Department of Labor released an update to overtime rules for salaried employees on May 17, raising the minimum annual salary threshold to qualify for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 -- an announcement that was denounced by right-wing media. Conservative outlets claimed the rule was “interfering” with businesses and would result in less flexibility and possibly lower pay, citing the NRF’s 2016 report “Rethinking Overtime” as proof, but they failed to acknowledge that the NRF has consistently opposed better pay for workers, fair scheduling, and collective bargaining rights. Contrary to claims that the expanded overtime will harm the economy, the NRF’s own report found the overtime rule would lead to over 117,100 new part-time jobs.

    The Wall Street Journal decried the updated overtime rule in a May 18 editorial, claiming employers will lower salaries as a result. The Journal cited the NRF study, which found that businesses will “shift about a third of salaried retail and restaurant workers to hourly status” and bizarrely pointed to the study’s finding that one in 10 workers on salary will work fewer hours (which are already unpaid) as proof that the rule is not in the best interests of employers or workers. Townhall also pushed the narrative that salaried workers working fewer unpaid hours is a negative, citing NRF’s report.

    During NRF’s campaign against overtime expansion, the lobbying group has claimed the new rule is “outrageous” and will force employers “to demote their middle management professionals to clock-punchers.” On the May 18 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, NRF senior vice president David French called the rule “a massive overreach.” Earlier that day on Fox’s America’s Newsroom, correspondent Kevin Corke said the rule will mean “more red tape and fewer advancement opportunities” and falsely claimed that “most of the people impacted by this change will not see any additional pay.” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) echoed NRF’s statement on the May 19 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., claiming the overtime rule imposes “more red tape on job creators, which translates into fewer opportunities for people.” In statements released May 18, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) referred to the overtime rule as “more red tape” while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed it was an “absolute disaster” that will end up “hurt[ing] the very people it alleges to help.”

    Despite the coordinated condemnation from conservative media outlets and politicians, overtime expansion is vitally important in a country where 50 percent of full-time workers already work more than 40 hours per week. In an April 21 op-ed in The New York Times, economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich argued that many Americans are unaware that overtime protections have eroded over generations, and he noted that working unpaid overtime limits worker productivity and hiring. Reich also pointed out that the proliferation of unpaid overtime contributes to soaring corporate profits.

    The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that overtime expansion will “reduce excessive hours of unpaid work” while adding at least 120,000 jobs in the retail sector -- the very one the NRF claims to represent. The rule change is also expected to change employer behavior; some employers will hire more workers, while other employers will become more efficient. Employees in many instances work unnecessary hours because company cultures value “how much people work (or seem to)” instead of “the quality of their output,” according to an article by professors Erin Reid and Lakshmi Ramarajan in the June 2016 edition of the Harvard Business Review.

    The NRF has a history of pushing a right-wing, anti-worker agenda. The group opposes collective bargaining and fair scheduling, and was an outspoken opponent of increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour when the debate first gained prominence in 2014.