From the March 6 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
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Conservative media were unfazed by Rep. Paul Ryan's suggestion that low-income parents don't care for their children if they receive free school lunches, a response that stays true to their history of shaming low-income people.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee, helped kick off the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 6 with a speech on the direction of the Republican Party as the 2014 and 2016 elections approach. Ryan shared an anecdote about a child receiving free lunch from school to paint Democrats as out of touch (emphasis added):
RYAN: The Left is making a big mistake here. What they're offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. The American people want more than that. You know, this reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy Gov. Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a very poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn't want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch. One in a brown paper bag, just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the Left does not understand.
Right-wing media saw nothing objectionable in Ryan's comments. National Review Online praised his argument with the headline, "Paul Ryan's Moving Story That Explains the Difference Between Hard Work and Dependency," a take which echoes Fox News' narrative that free school lunches for children create dependency rather than encouraging hard work.
On Fox's Happening Now, correspondent Carl Cameron, reporting from CPAC, characterized Ryan's speech as taking a "middle-of-the-road tone."
Ryan's comments fit in well with conservative media's history of shaming the poor, and in particular, free school lunch programs for children of low-income families. In the past, Fox has even suggested children be forced to work for their meals.
Where else might Ryan have heard this before?
Fox News is providing ample, uncritical airtime to hype Representative Paul Ryan's (R-WI) report on the alleged ineffectiveness of government anti-poverty programs, despite condemnation from numerous economists that the report is misleading and inaccurate.
From the February 27 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News is stoking fears that in "Obama's America," Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (food stamps) may be used for lap dances and liquor, a shameless misrepresentation given that under USDA regulation, benefits may not be redeemed for cash or used for non-food items.
On the February 25 edition of The Five, co-host Eric Bolling cited an interview with surfing freeloader Jason Greenslate that aired on The O'Reilly Factor the night before. Like Fox's first profile of Greenslate during the August 2013 special titled "The Great Food Stamp Binge," wherein the network attempted to make the "blissfully jobless California surfer" the face of SNAP benefits, Bolling used Greenslate to suggest that the program is rife with fraud, suggesting that food stamps may be used in "strip clubs, liquor stores, [and] pot dispensaries":
BOLLING:He's playing the system, he's stretching the rules to their limits. But what would you expect with a $105 billion dollar program that's almost tripled under Obamanomics? That's what you would expect, right there, take a look at it. But what's next? Strip clubs, liquor stores, pot dispensaries? Oh, that's already going on, folks. Welcome to Obama's America.
Bolling went on to claim that Greenslate is "representative of literally millions of Americans," before concluding: "The SNAP program, it's not called food stamps anymore, it's called SNAP. Supplemental -- what, N -- Nutrition. Right. What about liquor, lap dances, and pot is nutritional?"
Fox News cropped and distorted President Obama's remarks on rising income inequality to falsely claim the president supports equal incomes for all Americans.
On The February 15 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In, Fox host Eric Bolling played a clip of President Obama's December 4, 2013, speech on rising income inequality and contrasted it with recent comments made by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Bolling used the contrast to claim that Obama's solution to the problem of inequality was to make all incomes equal, whereas Christie supported equality of opportunity. Later in the segment, Bolling used his distorted depiction of Obama's stance to ask "isn't that what Communism is all about?":
Bolling's characterization of President Obama's comments is wildly distorted. Nowhere in the speech that Fox aired does Obama advocate equal incomes. In fact, in a portion of the speech that Fox did not air, Obama explained that "we don't promise equal outcomes" but have "strived to deliver equal opportunity." The transcript of Obama's speech is below with the small portion Fox chose to air in bold:
They may not follow the constant back-and-forth in Washington or all the policy details, but they experience, in a very personal way, the relentless decades long trend that I want to spend some time talking about today, and that is a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America's basic bargain that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead. I believe this is the defining challenge of our time: making sure our economy works for every working American. That's why I ran for president. It was the center of last year's campaign. It drives everything I do in this office.
Now, the premise that we're all created equal is the opening line in the American story. And while we don't promise equal outcomes, we've strived to deliver equal opportunity -- the idea that success doesn't depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit. And with every chapter we've added to that story, we've worked hard to put those words into practice.
From the February 13 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the February 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Right-wing media figures are baselessly stoking fears about calls to reduce inequality and expand opportunity to low-income Americans, claiming that these efforts are evidence of persecution of the rich and class warfare.
The media has extensively reported on the Republican National Committee's decision to boycott MSNBC following an offensive tweet for which the network subsequently apologized. But they've spent far less attention on the fact that the RNC denounced MSNBC while on Fox News -- a network that has frequently aired offensive and derogatory comments.
From the January 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the January 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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As the dilemma of growing income inequality has become the object of increasingly intense public scrutiny, Fox News has consistently resisted engaging in the subject with facts.
What Fox's viewers miss is real discussion of a problem that has been building for decades and undermines America's economic stability and growth. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stigliz, income inequality "reinforces itself by corroding our political system and our democratic governance." And economists have found that income inequality has been "the most important" determinant of poverty in the past several decades.
Experts say that inequality is damaging, but preventable. They highlight policies like increasing the minimum wage, larger tax credits for low-wage workers, government-subsidized childcare, renewed investment in schools, universal health insurance, and expanded union rights as opportunities to reduce inequality -- policies that Fox has routinely helped to smear.
At Fox News, President Obama's push to increase the federal minimum wage for millions of American workers through legislative and executive action is merely a "symbolic" gesture.
On January 28, the White House announced that President Obama had authorized an executive order raising the minimum pay for federal workers to $10.10 per hour, a regulation that will be effective for all employees signing a new federal contract. According to the White House's official press release, the president hopes that this move will encourage Congress to take action on a proposal by Representative George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 for all American workers.
On the January 28 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer called the move a "shot across the bow" for congressional Republicans resisting an increase to the minimum wage. Fox Business' Stuart Varney questioned the White House's motivation, claiming that it was a "symbolic" move motivated by political circumstances and concluding that an executive order lifting wages for all federal employees was simply "not a big deal":
Varney's disregard for the impact of executive action on the minimum wage mirrors comments from other Fox News personalities. On the January 27 edition of The Real Story, contributor Charles Payne scoffed at the notion that lifting the minimum wage is an important goal, noting, "higher minimum wage is not the cure, we're talking about something that impacts less than 3 percent of real workers."
Demos' Heather McGhee hailed the Obama administration for lifting federal pay through executive order, noting that the decision "adds momentum to the fight for a federal minimum wage increase." According to research from the Economic Policy Institute, adopting a $10.10 minimum wage nationwide, which would require congressional legislative action, would positively impact the wages of more than 27 million workers while boosting overall economic growth by $22 billion and creating enough economic demand to support 85,000 new jobs.
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 nationwide also has the support of hundreds of economists around the country, including numerous Nobel Laureates.
In an economy as large as the United States, while it may be easy for right-wing media voices to shrug off the implications of minimum wage policies, the fact is that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 3.6 million American workers currently work at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. After adjusting for inflation, the federal minimum wage is lower than at any point from the 1950s to the early 1980s.
Right-wing media's opposition to raising the minimum wage has grown as public sentiment has turned in favor of it. Varney's pattern of deriding both policies to lift wages and low-wage workers themselves appears to be par for the course.
New research reveals that the Affordable Care Act has a relatively strong effect on reducing income inequality and economic insecurity for low-income Americans. However, given past coverage of the law, this fact is likely to go underreported in media.
A new study from the non-partisan Brookings Institution projects the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or "Obamacare") to positively impact low-income Americans. The research, performed by economists Henry Aaron and Gary Burtless, reviews a comprehensive income measure combining wages, the value of employer-provided health insurance, and the value of government-subsidized coverage. The authors project that the ACA will increase incomes in the bottom-fifth of the population by almost 6 percent, while increasing incomes in the bottom-tenth of the population by more than 7 percent.
Additionally, the authors found that positive "benefits of the ACA to low-income families would have been greater if the enacted version of the law had been put into effect." According to the study, the Supreme Court's landmark 2012 decision upholding the law, but allowing states to opt-out of expanding Medicaid to low-income residents, has dampened the effectiveness of health care reform -- preventing nearly 6 percent of the American population in the lowest 20 percent of income earners from accessing free health coverage through Medicaid. If not for the Supreme Court's decision, and corresponding "state inaction," the relatively strong impact of the ACA in reducing inequality for low-income Americans would have been greater.
The study concludes that, while the ACA does not positively impact the income of all Americans, the "small proportional drops in income" correspond with "larger proportional gains" for the poorest quarter of the working population. The graph below shows the average expected impact of the ACA on after-tax adjusted incomes for each tenth of the wage spectrum. The results show that corresponding positive impacts at the bottom of the income bracket more than make up for marginal decreases at higher income levels.
Previous Media Matters research has exposed how the media almost never mentions the positive impact of health insurance access on reducing economic inequality and strengthening economic security. Instead, media outlets opted to focus on the difficult rollout of Obamacare health care exchanges -- notably Healthcare.gov. The lack of discussion regarding the positive impact of the ACA on reducing economic inequality is particularly pervasive among right-wing media, where policy proposals aimed at reducing inequality are treated as trivial and unimportant.
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