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  • Fox & Friends Follows Conservative Playbook To Spin GDP Report, Mislead On Obama’s Economic Record

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    On the April 29 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Stuart Varney joined co-hosts Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade, and Steve Doocy for a segment slamming President Obama’s record on the economy. The segment was a response to Obama’s recent interview with The New York Times, during which the president discussed how markedly the economy has improved since 2008 and what he hopes will be his economic legacy. The segment seemed to unwittingly mirror the right-wing playbook for downplaying positive economic gains during Democratic administrations by relying on false conservative talking points to dismiss economic growth and tout failed tax policies:

    Fox’s 3 Percent Growth Target Is Arbitrary And Ignores American History

    The segment opened with Kilmeade and Varney making the false claim that Obama is “the only U.S. president who could not deliver a single year of three percent growth.” It is not clear why Fox News is fixated on growing the economy at an average rate of three percent annually. Regardless, Kilmeade’s claim that Obama is “the only” president not to clear that bar is false.

    According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which only has consistent annual data from 1930 to the present, Republican president Herbert Hoover didn’t just fail to hit three percent growth, he failed to hit zero percent growth. 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 greater, had Franklin Delano Roosevelt not replaced Hoover in the White House in March of that year, initiating substantial government stimulus projects known as the New Deal. Reliable GDP estimates prior to 1930 are difficult to find, but those data that are available show four consecutive Republican presidents overseeing economic growth of less than 2 percent from 1871 to 1885. Over the course of the next 45 years the economy swung wildly between boom and bust cycles, including several deep depressions, before the Great Depression and FDR’s subsequent creation of oversight mechanisms that work to maintain relative economic stability.

    Varney Consistently Misleads On The Economy

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney is supposed to be a serious voice for analysis and expertise at the network, but Varney is a serial minformer, who creates confusion on economic issues.

    In November 2014, Varney predicted that a Republican takeover of the Senate would usher in an era of “3 to 4 percent” growth, which he now complains hasn’t happened. The economy grew at a 2.4 percent pace in 2014, and continued to grow at a rate of 2.4 percent after the GOP took over complete control of Congress in 2015. Yesterday, when the Commerce Department figures were first released, Varney wondered if the economy growing at a slightly slower rate than experts had predicted was proof that we are “sliding toward recession” -- his comments came just moments after an actual economist was on CNBC debunking the idea.

    In the past week, Varney has attacked impoverished children for soaking up too many government benefits and watched idly as an economist easily debunked conservative demands for more tax cuts and deregulation to spur the economy. Since the start of the year Varney has been an unceasing source of misinformation on the minimum wage, has misled on the funding structures of public-sector unions, has lamented a proposal to pay people for the hours they work, and has attacked “ridiculous” anti-poverty programs that help struggling families and save taxpayers money.

    Fox News Follows The Conservative Misinformation Script To Perfection

    In an April 28 blog post, Washington Post columnist Paul 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. This April 29 Fox & Friends segment that mislead on GDP is one very good example.

    In Waldman’s piece, he hit Trump for pretending tax cuts are the solution to economic growth -- they are actually a proven failure. Varney often repeats this same tax cut talking point at Fox. When Earhardt asked on Fox & Friends “what is the reason for these bad numbers” on the economy, Varney slammed “massive regulation, constant government borrowing” and “overspending to raise the debt” -- exactly the talking points for which Waldman hit Trump the day before.

  • STUDY: Cable And Broadcast News Try To Cover The Economy Without Economists

    Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Expertise from economists was almost completely absent from television news coverage of the economy in the first quarter of 2016, which focused largely on the tax and economic policy platforms of this year’s presidential candidates. Coverage of economic inequality spiked during the period -- tying an all-time high -- driven in part by messaging from candidates on both sides of the aisle, but gender diversity in guests during economic news segments remained low.

  • Media, Experts Slam Ted Cruz’s Promise Of 5 Percent Economic Growth

    Proposed Tax Cuts Have Proved To Not Stimulate Economic Growth, Suggested Return To The Gold Standard Is Simply “Dangerous”

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) promised that if he was elected, his administration would oversee economic growth in excess of 5 percent a year stemming from reduced regulations, tax cuts for high-income earners and corporations, a balanced federal budget, and a return to the gold standard. Journalists and experts were quick to criticize Cruz’s economic growth target, which exceeds by 1 percentage point a proposal by former Republican candidate Jeb Bush that was roundly mocked as “nonsense” and “impossible” last summer.

  • A Guide To The Myths & Facts On Obama’s Executive Actions On Immigration

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    On April 18, the U.S. Supreme Court “is weighing the fate” of President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration which “could shield roughly 4 million people from deportation” and grant them legal right to work. Right-wing media have spent years misinforming about the legality, and economic impact of the executive actions. Here are the facts.

  • Chicago Tribune's Anti-Teachers-Union Crusade Continues Over "Historic" Union Day Of Action

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is coordinating a "day of action" walkout on April 1, and it will be joined by students from local universities, community activists, and other labor groups in what the union is calling a "historic" moment for the Chicago labor movement. CTU announced the one-day walkout after its membership voted to authorize the action in late March, and it follows months of contract negotiations amid widespread city and state budget issues. In the months since Chicago teachers' contract expired in June, the Chicago Tribune has frequently editorialized its opposition to union actions, mischaracterizing and dismissing educators' concerns and repeatedly accusing teachers of throwing a "tantrum" and abandoning students.

    The one-day walkout is meant to address unfair labor practices, which the union says include the school district's recent decision to stop paying raises based on experience and educational credentials and its proposal to phase out district contributions to teachers' pension plans. These decisions are the latest in an ongoing contract negotiation process that began more than a year ago, before the previous contract expired in June.

    Main points of negotiation for a new contract include class sizes, staffing resources for school nurses and librarians, members' pensions and health care plans, pay cuts and modifications to scheduled pay raises, and school closings. The Chicago Public School district (CPS) says it cannot fund the union's proposals; it is currently facing a $1.1 billion operating deficit. The union proposes generating new revenue by adopting tax reform targeted at the city's wealthiest taxpayers to pay for contract stipulations and to adequately fund schools, putting pressure on CPS, the city of Chicago, and state lawmakers.

    As the Tribune itself reported, union leadership has acknowledged that the day of action is part of a broader "labor-led fight" calling for the state of Illinois to prioritize finding new revenue to fund social services and public education. The action has gained the support of "other labor unions and community organizations" including a local group advocating for a $15 minimum wage, several colleges and universities, which are hosting rallies and teach-ins, a labor union representing faculty at several Illinois universities, and workers protesting layoffs elsewhere in the city.

    But that hasn't stopped the Chicago Tribune, the top daily newspaper in Illinois, from repeatedly publishing editorials that rely on mischaracterizations of CTU's activities to dismiss educators' concerns.

    In its most recent editorial on the walkout, from March 27, the Tribune described CTU leaders as having "spent weeks whipping their members into a froth," and having "stoked members' anger" over Chicago Public Schools' proposal to phase out existing teacher pension plans. The editorial referred to the walkout as a "hastily planned, unfocused Day of Tantrum," lamenting that educators would be "brandishing banners and hollering slogans in the Loop [downtown Chicago] for ... what?" And the Tribune implored Chicago teachers to cross picket lines during the walkout, writing that "gutsy educators" ought to "put their classroom service to Chicago's children first" and "rebel against misguided leadership," echoing the school district's opposition.

    A week earlier, the editorial board argued that "the teachers' tantrum" would be a "reckless action" that pits the union against "most workers in Chicago," who "don't have the luxury of stepping out for a day on a whim." The Tribune asked, "how does cheating kids of a precious day of education generate sympathy for the teachers' cause?"

    On March 11, the editorial board wrote, "If teachers walk, students would learn an acrid lesson about the teachers union's astonishing disrespect for the value of classroom instruction," bizarrely suggesting that educators somehow fail to understand the importance of classroom learning. The Tribune went on to accuse teachers of "abandon[ing] their students," throwing a "tantrum," and teaching students "that when money and education are in play, some adults put education second to their real priority."

    In December, the Tribune editorial board reacted to an initial strike authorization vote by the union by announcing, "Chicago teachers made the official announcement Monday. They're ready to walk out of their classrooms, to abandon their students as early as March," and characterizing CTU's contract negotiation priorities as "grenades." In another December editorial discussing a CPS contract proposal, the Tribune mocked CTU's response, asking, "What planet are you on?"

    The previous month, the editorial board conceded that layoffs, of which more were still to come, warranted a strike from CTU -- before mockingly outlining a "compromise" plan that shifted blame away from the school district, neglected CTU's stated priorities completely, and advocated for "compromises" in "reform[ing] ... labor policies" on the state level.

    The Chicago Tribune's commitment to opposing CTU's every move relies largely on misrepresentation. In characterizing CTU's day of action as a "tantrum," the Tribune fails to recognize the realities of the walkout.

    Tantrums are typically unplanned and sudden; the possibility of a strike has loomed over contract negotiations between the teachers union and the school district for months. In December, an overwhelming 88 percent of eligible union members voted to authorize leadership to call for a strike, according to the union. Union leadership had been publicly discussing the possibility of a strike since November, and contract negotiations have been underway for more than a year.

    Tantrums are typically responses that are unwarranted or disproportionate to the stimulus; the growing number of students, higher education faculty, activist groups, and other labor unions that are joining the union in its day of action suggests that the issue at hand resonates with the larger Chicago community. In fact, a poll released by the Tribune itself in February found that 60 percent of Chicagoans agreed with the teachers union on needed reforms in Chicago public schools. Among households with students attending Chicago public schools, low-income households, and black and Hispanic respondents, union support was even stronger.

    To suggest the walkout cheats students at the expense of teacher pay also ignores the circumstances of the action.

    Confusingly, the Tribune failed to recognize, in its lamentations of lost classroom time, that one of the major factors influencing the April 1 walkout was the "abrupt" announcement from CPS that teachers and staff would be asked to take three unpaid furlough days in an attempt to alleviate the district's budget problems. The Tribune editorial board did not criticize these furlough days, which would also result in at least one fewer regular school day for students.

    And in accusing the union of having "disrespect for the value of classroom instruction," the Tribune grazed over the many factors beyond teacher compensation that have led to the walkout. The union's initial vote to authorize a strike in December outlined its major demands, which incorporated a number of priorities related to both classroom experiences for students and members' job protections and supports. These included reducing standardized testing; allowing more teacher autonomy in grading; supporting counseling, nursing, and library staff; reducing class sizes; ensuring instruction in art, music, and technology; implementing restorative justice programs in select schools; and supporting translation and bilingual services.

    The Tribune's attacks on CTU are nothing new. The paper attacked CTU and its members back in 2012 when the union went on strike for seven days, before agreeing to the contract that expired in June. As CTU signaled its impending action, the Tribune immediately and repeatedly attacked the union's motives and suggested a contrast between what's best for students and what's best for teachers. "Let's make no mistake," the editorial board wrote in September of that year. "The union is not going to abandon those children because it's fighting for the best way to educate those children. It's fighting to protect the jobs of adults, the union members."

    The Tribune's treatment of CTU and its members has signaled a willingness to ignore the facts and a belief that educators' concerns ought to be dismissed. The paper's tone hasn't shifted in years, even as students, community activists, and other labor groups continue to join the union's organizing efforts, indicating more widespread local frustration with the financial hardships facing the city and state.

    Yet the Tribune, the most-read daily newspaper serving Chicago, continues to deliver its anti-union editorial crusade to Chicagoans' doorsteps.

    Image at top via Flickr user Spencer Tweedy using a Creative Commons License.

  • Will CNN Ask GOP Candidates To Explain The Failure Of Trickle-Down Economics?

    New York Magazine Blasted The Media For Failing To Hold GOP Accountable For Disastrous Policy Failures In Kansas And Louisiana

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    CNN will interview the three remaining Republican candidates, along with the two remaining Democrats, during a 3-hour special town hall event. Will CNN hold the GOP hopefuls accountable for proposing tax and economic policies similar to those that have been "thoroughly discredited" when implemented by Republican-led states?

    In a critical March 18 post in New York magazine's Daily Intelligencer blog titled "The Republican Party Must Answer for What It Did to Kansas and Louisiana," associate editor Eric Levitz blasted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and GOP front-runner Donald Trump for promising to institute tax cuts and budgetary reforms at a national level that have proven to be disastrous for Republican-led states. After outlining the ways that the so-called "red-state model" turned Kansas and Louisiana into failed "real live experiment[s]" of conservative economic policies, Levitz challenged media organizations to hold Republican candidates accountable for supporting those policies (emphasis added):

    Over the course of 12 debates, the Republican presidential candidates were never asked to address the budget problems in Kansas.

    [...]

    When Donald Trump makes a gaffe, reporters confront Republican leaders and demand a response. When the GOP's economic platform decimates two U.S. states, a similar confrontation is in order.

    CNN's March 21 prime-time town halls with the remaining Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls present a perfect opportunity for the network to hold GOP leaders accountable for the dramatic failures of the "red-state model" in Kansas and Louisiana, while also pressing them on their own economic policy promises that have been derided as "imaginary," "insane," and "fantasy" in the past:

    • According to Politico, Ohio Gov. John Kasich's supposed conservative success with tax cuts in Ohio was boosted by his state accepting the "billions of federal dollars from Obamacare" and raising regressive "sales and cigarette taxes -- levies that hit the pocketbooks of all Ohioans, especially low-income ones." Will CNN hold Kasich accountable for his unsuccessful attempts to spur job creation and economic growth with tax cuts for the rich and budget gimmicks?
    • According to a February 16 analysis from the Tax Policy Center, Ted Cruz's proposed tax cuts would increase the federal budget deficit by $8.6 trillion over ten years. Will CNN press Cruz on his embrace of massive tax cuts that increase the budget deficit and hurt low-income Americans?
    • According to a December 22 analysis from the Tax Policy Center, Donald Trump's proposed tax cuts would increase the federal budget deficit by $9.5 trillion over ten years. In 2014, CNN even criticized Trump for his tax plan that favors the wealthy. During a November 11 segment, CNN's Rana Foroohar criticized what she called the "old-fashioned Republican formula" of "trickle-down" economics and tax cuts for the wealthy for failing to deliver promised economic growth. And during a December 23 segment, CNN's Christine Romans explained that Trump's tax plan creates "a whole category of impossible math" that overwhelmingly benefits the top 0.1 percent of income earners while ballooning the federal budget deficit. So will the network stand by its own reporting and hold Trump accountable for his budget-busting giveaway to the super rich?

    In the lead up to the October 28 Republican presidential debate, Media Matters called on CNBC's debate moderators to hold candidates accountable for their fantasy tax plans. Right-wing media outlets reacted with outrage when CNBC moderator John Harwood correctly pointed out that Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-FL) tax plan provided more relief for the top 1 percent than for the middle-class. Conservatives attacked the country's leading business and financial news network for its supposed "liberal media bias" and pushed to put conservative personalities in charge of all future debates. In response to those complaints, CNN debunked claims of media bias by comparing questions from CNBC debate to similar questions during Fox News' debates.

    With only three Republican presidential candidates still in the race for the nomination, questions remain as to how CNN will respond.

  • Media Scrutiny Reveals Cracks In Kasich's Ohio "Miracle"

    News Outlets Find Glaring Omissions In Kasich's Campaign Rhetoric On Budget, Economy, And Taxes

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    John Kasich

    State and national media outlets took a tough look at Ohio Gov. John Kasich's claims that tax cuts and a balanced budget created jobs and economic recovery in his state. Their findings reveal that the governor, a candidate in the Republican presidential primary, is not telling the whole story.

    On March 13, Politico reported on Kasich's Ohio "comeback story" with an article titled "The myth of Ohio's economic miracle." It found that while the governor frequently claims his leadership led to a balanced state budget and better economic growth, Ohio's economic recovery closely coincided with the national rebound initiated by President Obama's stimulus and rescue packages, which were signed into law long before Kasich took office. According to Politico, critics counter that Kasich "benefited from the tailwinds of an improving national economy."

    Ohio State University political science professor Vladimir Kogan pointed out that Democratic-led California has outperformed Ohio since Kasich took office in January 2011, and that state-level recoveries are so closely tied to the national economy that the governor "cannot credibly claim that his policies alone are responsible for Ohio's improving economy." Kogan concluded, "Kasich was just lucky enough to be in the right office at the right time." Unemployment rate data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) seem to confirm Kogan's argument: The Ohio job market has been steadily improving since February 2010, 11 months before Kasich took office, and unemploment rates in the state have closely matched national averages since the late 1980s:

    Unemployment Rate In Ohio

    Politico also reported that Kasich's touted balanced budget did cut income taxes 10 percent in 2013 and an additional 6.3 percent in 2015, but to pay for it he had to take "billions of federal dollars from Obamacare" and raise regressive "sales and cigarette taxes -- levies that hit the pocketbooks of all Ohioans, especially low-income ones." Cutting personal income taxes while raising sales taxes resulted in a tax cut for corporations and shifted the tax burden onto hardworking Americans (emphasis added):

    To be sure, this heavy manufacturing state has rebounded after being hit hard by the recession. But that was part of a national economic recovery and it left behind many Ohioans, especially the low-wage and manufacturing workers who have flocked to Trump in states like Michigan, where Kasich campaigned so long he joked he should pay taxes.

    [...]

    Others say Kasich singled out one data point from Ohio's employment numbers to cast himself as the ultimate job generator, instead of as someone who benefited from the tailwinds of an improving national economy.

    And while he cut income tax rates twice and eliminated the state's estate tax, he also raised sales and cigarette taxes -- levies that hit the pocketbooks of all Ohioans, especially low-income ones.

    [...]

    His administration cut income tax rates by 10 percent in 2013 and by another 6.3 percent in 2015 and eliminated the estate tax. However, it paid for those cuts by increasing the sales tax (a move frowned upon by budget experts for disproportionately hitting lower-income people) and doing an end-run around the Republican-dominated state Legislature to expand Medicaid, which resulted in an infusion of billions of federal dollars from Obamacare.

    Conservatives universally applauded the slashing of the income tax rates, as did local manufacturers, many of which structure their companies so they file taxes through the personal income, and not the corporate side of the tax code.

    A March 14 article by The New York Times also criticized Kasich's claims that he balanced the budget, noting that he had to cut local aid funding so deeply that cities and towns had to propose tax increases of their own, or initiate significant cuts to services. The Times found that "more than 70 cities and villages had lost at least $1 million a year because of Mr. Kasich's actions," which included deep income tax cuts and elimination of the estate tax (a tax instrument that affects only a handful of extremely wealthy families).

    This highly critical reporting from The Times and Politico followed a March 9 report from The Wall Street Journal, which found that Kasich's tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations had "shifted $2.2 billion in costs to localities, a decision that continues to dog city and village governments." Shifting costs to cities and towns allowed the governor to claim he balanced the budget, but as conservative economist and former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holt-Eakin put it in an interview with The Journal, Kasich "g[o]t others to do the tough job" of cutting services and raising taxes for him.

    The omissions in Kasich's campaign talking points are readily apparent in state-level media coverage of the Ohio economy. On March 9, PolitiFact Ohio rated a Kasich campaign ad as "mostly false" for claiming, "As governor, Kasich delivered the largest tax cut in the nation." PolitiFact argued that other states have actually implemented larger tax cuts than Kasich did after accounting for the size of their economy and population -- such as Republican-led Kansas, which has been devastated by Gov. Sam Brownback's Koch-backed tax cut program. Like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Politico, PolitiFact also noted that Kasich's so-called "tax cut" was actually "more of a tax shift" that "forces local governments to raise taxes in turn."