Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has a long and documented history of pushing economic misinformation on his program, reinforced recently by economist Richard Wolff who said O'Reilly's claims about the economy are false.
On the March 25 edition of the independently syndicated Democracy Now!, former University of Massachusetts, Amherst economics professor Richard Wolff responded to O'Reilly's claim that European countries are going bankrupt because they are "nanny states," stating:
WOLFF: You know, he gets away with saying things which no undergraduate in the United States with a responsible economics professor could ever get away with. If you want to refer to things as "nanny states" then the place you go in Europe is not the southern tier -- Portugal, Spain, and Italy -- the place you go are Germany and Scandinavia because they provide more social services to their people than anybody else. And guess what? Not only are they not in trouble economically, they are the winners of the current situation.
[O'Reilly's] just making it up as he goes along to conform to an ideological position that is harder and harder for folks like him to sustain, so he has to reach further and further into fantasy.
O'Reilly's misinformation on economic issues, however, is not just contained to commenting on the European experience. Here are 10 other examples of O'Reilly's failure to accurately understand economics:
10. O'Reilly Falsely Compared The U.S. Debt Situation With That Of Greece. In an effort to force Congress to enact deep spending cuts, O'Reilly claimed that "like Greece, Ireland, and Spain...the USA has bankrupted itself." However, economists agree that the U.S.-Greece comparison is misguided and ignores the structure of the countries' economies.
9. O'Reilly Dismissed The Recession's Effect On Gas Prices. O'Reilly expressed doubt over the economic downturn's effect on gas prices, claiming that President Obama's explanation for low gas prices was "totally bogus." In reality, gas prices dropped precipitously during the recession, a fact that many news outlets -- including Fox -- reported at the time.
8. O'Reilly Claimed That Food Stamps Have No Economic Value. In a discussion about President Obama's stimulus bill, O'Reilly claimed that increasing spending on food stamps has "nothing to do with stimulating the economy." However, economists largely disagree, and studies have indicated that food stamps are among the most stimulative of government programs.
7. O'Reilly Suggested Bush Tax Cuts Increased Revenue. In an interview with former President Clinton, O'Reilly claimed that because of "the tax cuts under Bush, more money flowed into the federal government." However, when tax revenues are expressed as a share of the economy, the Bush tax cuts resulted in the lowest level in any decade since the 1950s, a fact noted by many economists.
6. O'Reilly Dismissed The Causes Of Income Inequality. In a discussion with Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers, O'Reilly brushed aside income inequality, claiming, "Income inequality is bull. Nobody gives you anything, you earn it." However, O'Reilly's statements ignored the fact that, at the time he said them, taxes on top income earners are at historic lows, and that, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "typical middle-class households face higher rates than some high-income households."
5. O'Reilly Blamed Undocumented Immigrants For California's Budget Problems. In a segment on California's budgetary problems, O'Reilly claimed that an "enormous amount of money" was being spent on the "illegal alien problem." However, O'Reilly ignored that fact that a majority of undocumented immigrants pay taxes, and that granting them legal status could have a positive impact on the economy.
4. O'Reilly Repeatedly Suggested That "Irresponsible Behavior And Laziness" Cause Poverty. O'Reilly has consistently characterized the poor as "lazy" and "irresponsible," ignoring the consequences of the recent economic downturn and the rise in income inequality in recent decades.
3. O'Reilly Claimed That The Economy "Would Be Fine" If We Cut Spending To 2008 Levels. In a segment discussing sequestration, O'Reilly called for a rollback in spending to 2008 levels, claiming that the economy "would be fine" if spending was cut to that level. However, this proposal that has been repeatedly criticized by economists as economically dangerous, costing as many as 590,000 jobs.
2. O'Reilly Claimed That The Stimulus Was A Failure. O'Reilly has repeatedly stated that President Obama's stimulus package was a failure, ignoring the fact that, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, it increased employment by over 1 million jobs and raised GDP by between 0.8 and 2.5 percent.
1. O'Reilly Repeatedly Claimed That Economy Is Worse Off Than It Was When Obama First Took Office. O'Reilly has consistently stated that the Obama administration's policies are hurting the economy, even going so far as to claim that it is worse off than it was prior to Obama's first inauguration. However, by almost every measure of economic health, including unemployment, net job creation, and GDP, the economy has improved greatly since 2009.
From the March 13 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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From the March 9 edition of Fox News' Cavuto on Business:
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Fox News revived the debunked myth that President Obama "gutted" work requirements from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program despite the fact that the claim has repeatedly been shown to be false.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy hyped a bill introduced by House Republicans last week that seeks to block the administration from granting waivers to states under the TANF program. Doocy claimed the bill would "make work a condition for receiving welfare," and repeated the debunked myth that those requirements have been "gutted under President Obama."
But the Obama administration has not removed work requirements from welfare. In July 2012, the administration announced that it would comply with governors' requests -- including Republicans -- to consider proposals to create more efficient ways to report on the work requirement for people receiving TANF benefits. According to Health and Human Services, any program that weakened or undercut welfare reform would not be approved, and waivers would only be granted to proposals that "move at least 20% more people from welfare to work."
The Center on Budget and Policies Priorities found that these waivers would strengthen welfare reform by "giving states greater flexibility to test more effective strategies for helping recipients prepare for, and retain jobs." The New York Times reported that the new requirements continued the administration's efforts "to peel back unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and allow states to spend federal money more efficiently."
As NPR reported, following 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney's use of the claim in a political ad, "every major fact-checking organization" found the attack to be false. Politifact rated the claim as "pants on fire" and The Washington Post's fact checker gave the claim four Pinocchios (its highest rating). Factcheck.org found no basis for the claim, explaining:
A Mitt Romney TV ad claims the Obama administration has adopted 'a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.' The plan does neither of those things.
- Work requirements are not simply being 'dropped.' States may now change the requirements -- revising, adding or eliminating them -- as part of a federally approved state-specific plan to increase job placement.
- And it won't 'gut' the 1996 law to ease the requirement. Benefits still won't be paid beyond an allotted time, whether the recipient is working or not.
The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted that unlike Obama, the Bush administration "pushed for a welfare 'superwaiver' that would allow states to waive just about every requirement, including the work requirement," a proposal which passed in the House three times.
Fox Business figures complained that an increased number of children receiving food assistance is evidence that they are part of an "entitlement culture" and attacked President Obama for allowing the food stamp program to expand in order to accommodate more children.
Fox Business' Varney & Co. devoted several segments to reports that one-quarter of children are now enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Fox Business anchor Nicole Petallides claimed that while children should receive meals at public school, "we are raising a group of entitlement nation children. I know as a parent, I go out of my way to teach our children how they have to earn each dollar." Fox News anchor John Stossell agreed, saying that expanding SNAP "encourage[s] the handouts" because "once you give away free stuff, people always want more."
In a later segment, Fox Business contributor Jedediah Bila claimed more children on SNAP is an indication that America "is becoming an entitlement culture" and warned that children receiving food assistance are "going to be entering a job market and in their mind are going to have this sense of entitlement coming along with them." Fox Business contributor Charles Payne agreed, saying people could "grow up and never even tap some of the potential that they have" because "if you make poverty too comfortable, people can't escape it."
From the January 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the January 3 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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From the December 11 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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CNN's Christine Romans dismissed millions of Americans who rely exclusively on food stamps for nutrition in a segment discussing Newark Mayor Cory Booker's decision to take the food stamp challenge. Romans downplayed Booker's attempt to destigmatize this program when she claimed that food stamps aren't meant to be people's only source of food when in fact, millions need the program for that exact reason.
On Monday, Booker began taking the the food-stamp challenge, which requires him to live for one week on a food budget equal to that of a New Jersey resident on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
On Wednesday, Romans, serving as guest host for CNN's Early Start, aired a clip of Booker talking about the difficulty he has faced in taking the challenge, as well as a photo of what Booker was planning to eat for the week. Romans then stated:
ROMANS: And I'd just like to add a point here because a lot of times people try to do this to prove a point, I guess, to live on SNAP, which is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It's not meant to be your own calorie intake source. ... Supplemental is the key. The government designs it so this is on top of what little money you might have, food pantries, soup kitchens. Some people are getting meals quite frankly in schools and the like. You know, like kids are getting two meals a day in school. So it's meant for a family to be supplemental. And it's never designed to be the only thing to survive.
Then, if you're going to survive on it, then we have to discuss as a country, are we -- are taxpayers going to pay for every calorie somebody consumes. Are we going to completely support people -- it's 46 million people who are getting food stamps.
Regardless of what the SNAP program was designed for, millions of Americans do rely on the program as their sole source of food. Peter Edelman, a scholar specializing in the fields of poverty and government assistance programs, stated that "six million people have no income other than food stamps." Edelman added that SNAP benefits are so low, it's difficult to understand how people can survive without other income.
CNN anchor Carol Costello questioned Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker's efforts to raise awareness of hunger in America, asking whether his decision to take the food-stamp challenge amounted to a publicity stunt. But Costello's own reporting on food insecurity sheds light on the need for greater public awareness, even as funding for supplemental food programs faces cuts during the final weeks of 2012.
In November, Booker announced that he would take the food-stamp challenge and live for one week on a food budget equal to that of a New Jersey resident on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. That came after a Twitter user challenged the mayor over the need for federal nutrition assistance. Booker's challenge began Monday and will last a week.
On Tuesday, CNN correspondent Alina Cho reported that Booker was taking the challenge to demonstrate the need for "deeper consideration" of Americans who rely on SNAP benefits and to "reduce the stigma" that often comes with reliance on the program. Costello questioned the long-term impact of Booker's campaign and asked whether it was "helpful or a pointless exercise."
Booker's challenge comes at a critical time for SNAP funding, as House Republicans push to reduce spending on the effective antipoverty program during year-end negotiations over broader spending cuts and the federal farm bill, which includes SNAP spending. Costello herself noted the push to cut SNAP funding during a discussion of the farm bill in September.
And, as Costello herself has demonstrated, public understanding of food insecurity and federal nutrition programs is often ill informed:
In questioning the effectiveness of Booker's efforts to raise awareness of this issue, Costello opined:
I'm not saying Booker is insincere. I'm just wondering what living for just a week in someone else's shoes really proves. It's not like the food stamp challenge hasn't been done before. The mayors of Philadelphia and Phoenix, even super chef Mario Batali have done it. What will it tell us that we don't already know? The talk back question for you today: is Cory Booker's food stamp challenge helpful or a pointless exercise?
Her own reporting on what Americans don't already know about food insecurity provides an answer.
Ted Nugent called for the suspension of the right to vote for "any American who is on welfare" as part of his proposal to reduce federal budget deficits outlined in his latest Washington Times column.
The National Rifle Association board member also called for "slaughtering the three sacred entitlement cows" of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and called for tax increases on "the nearly 50 percent of Americans who pay zero federal income taxes." Nugent wrote that these policies should be instituted "before taxes are raised on the producers, which will further choke the economy."
From Nugent's column:
The three sacred entitlement cows in the room that no politician wants to poke are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. A blinding statement of the obvious is that we are never going to get our financial house in order until these sacred entitlement cows are not only poked, but slaughtered. Until the slaughter is over, everything else is just taxation window dressing.
In addition to slaughtering the three sacred entitlement cows that consume a vast majority of the federal budget (and I use the term budget generously), let's truly spread the pain around and raise taxes on everyone, including the nearly 50 percent of Americans who pay zero federal income taxes. Those Americans need to have some skin in the game, too. I recommend at least a 5 percent federal income tax bracket for them. The insane free ride needs to end. [...]
Let's also stop the insanity by suspending the right to vote of any American who is on welfare. Once they get off welfare and are self-sustaining, they get their right to vote restored. No American on welfare should have the right to vote for tax increases on those Americans who are working and paying taxes to support them. That's insane. [...]
It shouldn't take a Motown guitar slayer to come up with these common-sense bargaining chips before taxes are raised on the producers, which will further choke the economy. How about it, GOP?
A Fox News segment highlighting the fact that more Americans are benefitting from food stamps advanced the misleading notion that the United States has become a "food stamp nation" thanks in large part to the Obama administration's supposed comfort with having more people in poverty.
But the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is an antipoverty program -- it's designed to keep people out of poverty. And it closely tracks with the economic situation: As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted, enrollment in the program "expands when the economy weakens and contracts when the economy recovers."
During a discussion about the increase in food stamp enrollment with Fox host Neil Cavuto, conservative pundit Michelle Fields said the increase "has a lot to do with eligibility. They've expanded who can get food stamps, so we're seeing so many more people on them." She added: "That's really what this administration is all about, right, is making people feel more comfortable living in poverty because that's what food stamps are."
Though Cavuto noted that the economic situation is the cause of much of the increase in SNAP enrollment, he nevertheless suggested that spending on the program would continue at current high levels.
In fact, SNAP is an antipoverty program, designed to keep people out of poverty and lessen the extent and severity of poverty and unemployment. In 2011, for example, the program kept nearly 5 million people out of poverty, more than 2 million of them children:
A recent World Bank report warned that we are on the path to a world "marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise." Yet The Los Angeles Times, CNN and Fox News ignored the report entirely, continuing a pattern of deficient climate coverage.
In November 2012, a World Bank report concluded that a 4 degree Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) worldwide temperature increase by the year 2100, of which there is approximately a 20 percent likelihood even assuming current commitments to greenhouse gas reduction are honored, would lead to "unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods in many regions" and the "regional extinction of entire coral reef species" that provide "food, income, tourism, and shoreline protection" for many communities. It also determined that the consequences of climate change would most adversely affect "many of the world's poorest regions," which have contributed among the least to climate change and have the least ability to adapt.
Of the major print outlets The Los Angeles Times was the only one that didn't mention the World Bank report (The New York Times only covered the report online, but recently created an interactive graphic illustrating one of the report's major warnings: sea-level rise).*
MSNBC's The Cycle, on the other hand, dedicated an entire segment to the report and climate change policies:
Unfortunately, it appears that their climate coverage made them an outlier once again among cable news outlets, as CNN and Fox News skipped the report. Fox News routinely ignores or downplays the veracity and urgency of climate change, and CNN has been criticized for under-covering it.
*This post has been updated to reflect changes in Daily Kos blogger RL Miller's reporting.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, Fox News pundit Andrea Tantaros mockingly dismissed the plight of hungry Americans, claiming that she would "look fabulous" if she were forced to live on a food stamp diet.
Tantaros' vapid commentary came in response to Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker's pledge to accept the food-stamp challenge and try to subsist on $133 for food per month for an extended period of time, just as food stamp recipients in New Jersey do.
After Fox Business panelists speculated whether Booker's pledge is an effort at "positioning himself for a run for the presidency as a man of the people," Tantaros quipped: "I should try it because, do you know how fabulous I'd look. I'd be so skinny. I mean, the camera adds ten pounds."
Tantaros' comments are appalling and uninformed. While most of us feast on turkey and yams, stuffing and cranberries, on Thursday, millions of Americans will go hungry, just as they do every day. The food stamp challenge exists to demonstrate the struggles that food insecure families face trying to live on their monthly allotment of food.
Despite the difficulty in subsisting on food stamps, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), which was formerly known as food stamps, helped keep millions of families out of poverty in 2011.
Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer pushed a claim debunked by the Post's own fact-checker to bash President Obama for supposedly having an un-American agenda.
Krauthammer asserted in his November 1 column that an "Obama second term means that the movement toward European-style social democracy continues, in part by legislation, in part by executive decree. The American experiment -- the more individualistic, energetic, innovative, risk-taking model of democratic governance -- continues to recede, yielding to the supervised life of the entitlement state." He also claimed: "Every four years we are told that the coming election is the most important of one's life. This time it might actually be true. At stake is the relation between citizen and state, the very nature of the American social contract."
To back up his argument, Krauthammer wrote that during his first term, Obama "enacted liberalism's holy grail: the nationalization of health care." But as the Post's fact-checker Glenn Kessler has explained, "the core of the health system in the United States will remain the existing private insurance market. So it in no way resembles the government-run health systems used in most industralized countries in the world." Other fact-checkers agree with Kessler, and Politifact even labeled the related claim that Obama enacted "a government takeover of health care" its 2010 Lie of the Year.
As Politifact pointed out,
[T]he law Congress passed, parts of which have already gone into effect, relies largely on the free market:
• Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.
• Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up "exchanges" where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don't have it.
• The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.
• The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.
• The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine.