Issues ››› Poverty
  • Marco Rubio's Poor Shaming Comments Come Straight From Fox News' Talking Points

    Rubio On Policies To Alleviate Child Poverty: "Ultimately, There's No Law I Can Pass To Make People Better Parents"


    Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) blamed poverty on bad parents and a lack of strong family values during a CNN Republican presidential townhall, parroting Fox News' talking points and long history of poor-shaming.

  • Pew Study Reveals Huge Disparity Between Public And Media Perceptions Of GOP Approach To Poverty


    New polling from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of Americans viewed the Republican Party as favoring the rich, compared to 26 percent who see Republicans as favoring the middle class, and 2 percent who see them as favoring the poor. This huge disparity in public perception of Republican policies is often lost on media outlets that fall for lofty GOP rhetoric claiming to care about low- and middle-income Americans.

  • Las Vegas Review-Journal Publishes Misinformed Op-Ed Blaming Government Unions For Income Inequality

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    An op-ed published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal attempted to piggyback on Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' economic inequality platform to spread anti-union conservative misinformation blaming public employee unions for widening levels of inequality. The paper failed to disclose the author's parent organization is part of the State Policy Network -- a collection of think tanks funded in part by the Koch brothers -- and receives funding from the manufacturing industry.

  • Why Media Should Be Skeptical Of Koch Brothers' New Anti-Poverty Group

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Officials from the Koch brothers' funding arm have announced a new "venture philanthropy" project called Stand Together, with aims of "strengthening the fabric of American society," and focusing on "poverty" and "educational quality," according to USA Today. Media should know that: previous Koch-backed poverty and education efforts have been coupled with ideological proselytizing, Stand Together's executive director is a Koch veteran and former Republican congressional candidate who repeatedly fearmongered about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the group's top collaborator is associated with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan's sham "anti-poverty" efforts.

  • Wash. Post Highlights Research Debunking Myth That Economic Growth Is Solution To Poverty

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The Washington Post highlighted research demonstrating "only a weak relationship" between increased economic growth and increased economic security in the United States. The findings undermine a core tenet of conservative economic philosophy, often parroted by Republican presidential hopefuls and conservative media outlets, which claims that so-called "pro-growth" strategies like tax cuts are the best policy for alleviating insecurities faced by millions of Americans.

    In a February 2 post for The Washington Post's Wonkblog, reporter Emily Badger outlined how recent research from the Brookings Institution reveals a "weak relationship" between economic growth rates and improved economic inclusion in the country's 100 largest metropolitan areas. According to the Brookings report, from 2009 through 2014 the "growth/inclusion relationship was relatively weak" and consistent economic growth "hasn't revealed much about whether we are resolving larger challenges around providing improved economic opportunities for all."

    The Post concluded by highlighting how the Brookings data seemingly debunks economic policy talking points promoted by Republicans including Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan, which fixate on economic growth as one of the major solutions to poverty. From The Washington Post (emphasis added):

    Look across all 100 of these metros, and there's only a weak relationship between economic growth and inclusion. Areas with rapid growth haven't necessarily swept up the poor and working class. In many places where relative poverty has declined (like Jackson, Miss.), the economy isn't growing much:

    This non-pattern is notable precisely because the rising-tide theory remains so alluring, particularly among Republicans. Grow the economy, they argue, and that will improve job prospects and living standards for everyone -- the poor, the working class, minorities and other groups that have been left behind. Economic growth, they add, will achieve far more than any targeted program or government spending.

    "The best anti-poverty program is economic growth," Paul Ryan declared in the Wall Street Journal two years ago, as he was beginning to roll out his own poverty agenda.

    "Economic growth is the key to everything," offered Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

    Here's Jeb Bush's take, in arguing that 4 percent growth will create jobs enough for everyone: "So many challenges could be overcome if we just get this economy growing at full strength."

    Rand Paul insists that this logic will specifically lift up African Americans, who should reconsider "the Republican promise" for policies that boost economic growth.

    The data that we have, though, shows that inclusion doesn't work on autopilot. Sometimes -- often -- economic growth happens without broad benefits. And that means we have to actually be intentional in bringing everyone along, in connecting poor communities to transportation, or unemployed men to job training, or minority children to better education.

    The Brookings research seems to support a hypothesis endorsed by economists Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute, who argue that economic growth alone is not enough to reduce economic insecurity in the face of persistent inequality.

    Despite this evidence, conservative media have claimed for years that growing the economy is the best and only solution to alleviating economic insecurity and that crafting policies to reduce inequality as a means of reducing poverty would be counterproductive. Making matters worse, the tax cuts frequently endorsed by conservative media as a means of spurring economic growth have failed to generate the promised economic returns, though research suggests cutting taxes can worsen economic inequality.

    According to Media Matters' analysis of evening and prime-time economic news coverage in 2015, segments about policies focused on creating jobs and growing the economy were frequently featured on major cable and broadcast programs, outnumbering discussions of economic inequality.**

    During the course of a 12-month survey, Media Matters recorded 382 segments on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC focused on economic growth -- most of which came from Fox News. The same 12-month period produced 301 segments focused on economic inequality -- two-thirds of which came from MSNBC alone.

    **Media Matters' economic indicator tracking reports are available here: first and second quarters, 2015; third and fourth quarters, 2015.

  • Stanford University Research Highlights Need For Greater Media Focus On Poverty And Inequality

    Previous Media Matters Research Revealed That Inequality Was Mentioned In Only 23 Percent Of Economic News Coverage

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    A new report from researchers at Stanford University found that the United States is "dead last" among other developed countries on poverty and inequality measures, which highlights the need for media outlets to focus more on these issues.

    On February 1, the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality published a special edition of Pathways magazine featuring the university's "State of the Union Report" for poverty and inequality in 2016. The report found that among 10 similarly developed nations -- including Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom -- the United States had the highest levels of income inequality and wealth inequality, and the worst-rated social safety net. The U.S. placed near the bottom (eighth) in terms of both economic mobility and labor market strength, and finished only fifth in terms of poverty. According to the report's authors, a weak safety net, stagnant economic mobility, and rampant economic inequality are the primary reasons for the United States' poor performance, but a "moderate increase" in public spending on safety net programs would push poverty in the U.S. down to the levels of its peers (emphasis original):

    The research shows that, among the well-off countries for which comprehensive evidence is available, the U.S. has the lowest overall ranking, a result that arises in part because the U.S. brings up the rear in safety net performance, income inequality and wealth inequality. When the comparison set is expanded to include other less well-off countries, America still ranks 18th (out of 21 countries), with only Spain, Estonia and Greece scoring worse.


    The report also notes some bright spots. It shows, for example, that a relatively moderate increase in U.S. safety net spending would push the poverty rate down to levels observed in other well-off countries. The rate of disposable-income poverty, which is the rate that people actually experience after transfers play out, is especially high not because market incomes are all that low but because the safety net is relatively small.

    These findings create greater urgency for American media to adequately report on issues related to poverty and economic inequality. According to a recent Media Matters analysis of cable and broadcast economic news coverage in the second half of 2015, media's focus on economic inequality slipped to its lowest point since late 2013. In the second half of 2015, just 23 percent of qualifying economic coverage contained significant discussions of economic inequality:

    The findings also highlight a need for media to counter prevailing myths that public assistance programs are expensive and ineffective. According to the study, the United States could measurably improve its poverty rate compared to the rest of the developed world with "a relatively modest increase" in safety net spending at a time when Republican lawmakers, including Speaker Paul Ryan, have proposed doing the opposite. Calls from conservative lawmakers to gut the social safety net are propped up by right-wing media outlets notorious for shaming those that need assistance, and progressive calls to preserve and expand vital programs are openly attacked by the same right-wing outlets.

  • Wash. Post vs. Wash. Post On Walmart And The Minimum Wage

    Opponents Falsely Blame Minimum Wage For Walmart's Decision To Abandon Planned Stores In Low-Income D.C. Neighborhoods


    The Washington Post gave voice to a pair of discredited researchers who falsely blamed Washington, D.C.'s incremental minimum wage increase as the core reason Walmart went back on its deal to build stores in low-income neighborhoods, a claim belied by The Post's own reporting on the retailer's decision to scale back operations at stores across the country and around the globe.

    On January 15, The Washington Post reported that Walmart plans to close 269 stores this year, including 115 overseas and 154 in the United States, as it shifts its focus toward online shopping and profitable, established supercenters and grocery stores. As part of this companywide contraction, Walmart will abandon numerous planned stores, including two in low-income neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. According to a separate January 15 Washington Post report, "behind closed doors" Walmart officials are placing some blame for the company's decision to abandon expansion plans on the city's increased minimum wage, but the heart of the problem is high construction costs and a general lack of profitability at "large urban Walmarts." The Post reported that Walmart executive vice president Mike Moore is already concerned about underperformance at the company's three stores in Washington, D.C., and company officials are worried that future stores would fail to generate enough sales.

    Despite the complexity of the issue, on January 27, The Washington Post published an op-ed in its local opinion section by right-wing researchers Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute on Walmart's decision to drop two of the five stores it had planned to build in the nation's capital. The writers blamed Walmart's actions almost entirely on the city's decision to enforce an $11.50 per hour minimum wage effective July 1. The authors claimed that it would be "irresponsible" to increase municipal wages to $11.50 per hour and "downright foolish" to consider raising wages to $15 per hour in the future, concluding that "the District should ensure that it leads the region in opportunities created, not opportunities destroyed."

    The misleading op-ed came after years of research by economists debunking the claim that raising the minimum wage kills jobs, and The Post gave a platform to biased researchers who had been discredited on this specific issue. Perry has attacked minimum wage increases in Seattle by cherry-picking data to falsely suggest that Seattle lost jobs after it raised its minimum wage. Meanwhile, Saltsman and the Employment Policies Institute are tied to low-wage industries that actively lobby against raising the minimum wage.

    The assertion that Walmart is abandoning expansion plans in the nation's capital as a result of minimum wage increases falls apart once you consider that the company has already committed to raising nationwide wages for most of its associates to at least $10 per hour in 2016, and once you account for the fact that it is closing stores in cities and states around the country that have lower minimum wages and costs of living than the District does. According to The Washington Post's own reporting on January 31, Walmart is closing stores as part of a national consolidation plan and D.C.'s deputy mayor of economic development told The Post that Walmart's cancellation of planned stores in the city is not "a cost issue" but instead reflects the company's decision to begin "paring down urban markets" where stores are less profitable.

    In addition to Walmart's global store contraction, and its concerns about slagging sales at existing D.C. supercenters, there is also some question as to whether the company was ever truly committed to bringing the low-income neighborhood stores online.

    Initially, Walmart had approached city officials about building stores in the District, and the city agreed to let Walmart build three stores almost anywhere it wanted as long as the retailer also built two stores east of the Anacostia River, in one of the poorest areas of the city where job opportunities and affordable retail products are in short supply. After Walmart built the stores it wanted in gentrifying neighborhoods, the retailer announced it would not build the two stores the city government wanted in low-income communities. On January 19, Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy wrote that the "bait-and-switch that Walmart just pulled off in the District has to rank among the sleaziest ever played," and noted that it is poor residents of color who got "burned."

  • STUDY: Prime-Time Cable And Broadcast Evening News Coverage Of The Economy In Second Half Of 2015


    With the presidential primary season in full swing, prime-time cable and broadcast evening news coverage of the economy focused on the candidates' policy priorities in the second half of 2015. News coverage of economic inequality fell considerably after hitting an all-time high in the first half of the year.

  • Food Assistance Cuts Affecting Up To 1 Million Impoverished Americans Ignored By Network Evening News

    ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    A Media Matters study of network evening news found that the evening news has failed to report that 1 million low income Americans are at risk of having their food assistance benefits severely restricted following 22 states' reinstatement of work requirements as a condition of eligibility on January 1. While the cuts are aimed at able body adults with no dependents, experts agree these individuals are "very poor" and qualify for very few alternative means of assistance.

  • Behind The GOP Poverty Facade, There Are Only Right-Wing Media Lies

    Blog ››› ››› REBECCA LENN

    Bret Baier, Paul Ryan

    In his final State of the Union address on January 12, President Obama mentioned Speaker Paul Ryan's renewed interest in tackling poverty. Ryan's poverty focus was most recently in the spotlight a few days earlier at the January 9 Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity, which he co-hosted with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). But time and time again, Ryan's expressed commitment to alleviating poverty has turned out to be just rhetoric -- including proposals that would actually hurt Americans in poverty -- and media have let him get away with it.

    Let's review: Ryan has repeatedly proposed drastic benefit cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would leave millions of Americans without the help they need to put food on the table for their families. Experts have slammed his past budget plans as gateways to creating "more poverty and less opportunity." His tax proposals would give more spending power to the wealthiest than they would the middle class and working poor. And his opposition to providing a living wage, affordable health care, and federal paid family leave to all Americans (except himself) flies in the face of expanding opportunity for parents and their children.

    That hasn't kept the Beltway press from doting on Ryan's supposed anti-poverty plans, giving him and other right-wing political and media figures room for a fact-free, rhetoric-heavy, "populist" rebrand of the Republican Party just in time for 2016.

    The Kemp Foundation's so-called "poverty forum" was filled with feel-good calls from Republican presidential hopefuls to "lift people up" and out of poverty, embrace Americans' right to "rise up," and exhortations about our country's "moral imperative" to create opportunity for all.

    To American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, it was just the reboot conservatives needed in an election year where Republicans' commitment to American economic security is under heightened scrutiny.

    Many in the media fell for this image reboot hook, line, and sinker. Soon after the five-hour event, headline after headline credited Speaker Ryan for bringing a "dose of Kemp optimism" to the 2016 cycle and turning the race toward "a forgotten issue." Others cast the congressman as a "star" for "deftly prodd[ing] GOP presidential candidates" on their plans.

    But scratch beneath the glossy surface of Saturday's rosy, revivalist rhetoric and you'll find nothing but age-old right-wing media myths about the face of the American poor, along with supposed policy "solutions" that would throw millions of Americans back into poverty.

    At the center of the forum was a portrait of America's poor that comes straight from the Fox News and Rush Limbaugh playbook -- a portrait that is completely unrepresentative of the actual realities of poverty in America today. Ryan, Scott, and the GOP candidates in attendance consistently conflated poverty with dependency, drug addiction, temptation to engage in criminal behavior, a lack of moral conviction, and an unwillingness to work.

    These discussions echo the poor-shaming and vitriolic rhetoric that have become emblematic of right-wing media's discussion of the poor. Channeling countless Fox hosts' flawed assumptions that the poor are work-averse, the candidates called for more work requirements as a means to lift up those "who are completely dependent on government."

    What these demonizing portrayals ignore, however, is the truth. The working poor, the elderly, and the disabled make up 91 percent of safety net and social insurance beneficiaries.

    There was also no shortage of single-motherhood-shaming and fearmongering about out-of-wedlock births, especially from former Fox News employees and current presidential candidates former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and Ben Carson. Huckabee's Fox-honed habit of smearing unwed mothers reared its head as he promoted marriage as a key to eradicating poverty, despite the fact that there are more married parents living in poverty than never-married parents.

    No questions were asked -- even from MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who interviewed the event moderators and organizers -- about what candidates would do about marital poverty.

    In addition to irresponsibly misrepresenting the poor, the summit's participants also dangerously distorted the impact of programs created during the "War on Poverty."

    Despite their presidential aspirations, many of the candidates rejected the idea that the federal government should play an active role in alleviating poverty in America. Some, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, falsely suggested that these programs -- which have actually kept millions out of poverty -- have only given Americans "the choice of earning more money on the couch than getting a job." This off-hand dismissal of federal programs' success has also been a go-to tactic among right-wing media for years.

    In reality, the social safety net has lifted millions of people out of poverty. In 2014, Social Security, the Earned Income Tax Credit, SNAP, and federal housing subsidies together protected more than 40 million Americans from poverty. But that didn't keep many speakers at the Kemp Forum from unfairly labeling such programs -- including SNAP and other nutritional assistance programs -- as failures.

    The candidates also uniformly opposed raising the federal minimum wage, despite consistently demanding that more well-paying jobs be created. This counterintuitive stance is based on easily debunked fearmongering -- straight from the right-wing media noise machine -- that raising the minimum wage would kill jobs. In fact, study after study has shown that raising minimum wages has a positive or neutral impact on the job market and employment overall.

    The evidence is clear that Speaker Ryan and his conservative colleagues haven't changed their positions on poverty -- they are simply rebranding tired and ineffective policies in an effort to convince voters that their party "cares" about the poor.

    Media planning to give this effort more airtime should remember that the right's new talking points on this issue are only part of the story. They must also look at the reality of their policies -- which history has shown would turn the War on Poverty into a war on the poor.

  • Fox Business Host Pleads With Colleague To Endorse Playing Powerball

    Charles Payne Continues Fox's Bad Coverage Of The Lottery

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Gerri Willis Shuts Down Fox Business' Powerball Promotion

    A Fox Business panel discussing the January 13 Powerball drawing, which could be worth up to $1.5 billion, briefly went off message after one of the network's business analysts advised viewers against buying a ticket by correctly noting "your chances [of winning] are nothing."

    On the January 12 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., business reporter Gerri Willis interrupted guest host Charles Payne's monologue on the record-breaking Powerball jackpot by repeatedly saying "don't buy the lottery ticket." Willis explained that she advises her own mother against spending money on the lottery "every week" and reiterated that "your chances [of winning] are nothing" if you do purchase a Powerball entry. Payne repeatedly asked Willis to reconsider her position on playing Powerball, saying, "a buck, you can't put a buck on this thing? A buck? You can't put 2 bucks on this?":

    Payne's passionate defense of buying Powerball tickets echoes an earlier segment from Fox News. On the January 9 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, co-hosts Anna Kooiman and Clayton Morris were joined by supposed lottery "expert" Richard Lustig to discuss the still-growing Powerball prize pool. The segment claimed to offer viewers "proven strategies" to win the lottery, including advice like "buy as many tickets as you can afford" and "never miss a draw":

    The January 9 segment was circulated widely on Twitter and derided by several media outlets. Business Insider called it "literally the worst piece of advice about the lottery ever given," explaining that "your likelihood of winning is still incredibly low, even if you buy a bunch of tickets." ThinkProgress Economic Policy Editor Bryce Covert took to Twitter to advise her followers against buying lottery tickets, including the Fox & Friends Saturday segment in a long piece of research explaining how state-sponsored lotteries are essentially "a regressive tax on the poor."

    The odds of purchasing a ticket with the winning combination to Wednesday's Powerball drawing are approximately 1 in 292.2 million. The odds of being struck by lightning in a lifetime are 24,000 times greater than that.

    Contrary to Fox's previous guidance, you cannot meaningfully increase your odds of winning by purchasing extra tickets or playing every week. Your odds of winning any single drawing never change -- they are always 1 in 292.2 million. And buying enough two-dollar tickets to give yourself winning odds is preposterously expensive -- purchasing $1 million worth of tickets would give you just a 0.17 percent chance of hitting the jackpot, whereas approximately $292 million worth of tickets would still put your winning odds at no better than a coin flip.

  • Media Fall For Paul Ryan's Sham Poverty Forum

    ››› ››› CRISTIANO LIMA

    Media figures have credited House Speaker Paul Ryan with thrusting the supposedly "forgotten" issue of poverty into the 2016 Republican presidential race following his participation in the January 9 presidential forum on poverty, but failed to mention that despite his new rhetoric, Ryan has a long history of promoting harmful policies that would "exacerbate poverty, inequality, and wage stagnation."

  • At GOP Poverty Summit, Morning Joe Hosts Miss Opportunity To Meaningfully Question GOP Candidates

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    MSNBC's Morning Joe co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski squandered the opportunity to ask GOP presidential candidates and House Speaker Paul Ryan any questions related to their plans to eliminate poverty and raise wages during a series of interviews at a GOP anti-poverty summit. Instead of discussing topics relevant to the anti-poverty forum, the co-hosts questioned the GOP candidates and Speaker about election polling, campaign strategy, and Donald Trump, among other unrelated issues.