Right-wing media have attempted to manufacture outrage against the Affordable Care Act by promoting the misleading claim that the health care law includes a taxpayer-funded bailout for health insurance companies. In fact, the provision, known as reinsurance, is funded by the insurance companies themselves, not taxpayer money.
From the January 10 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the December 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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The latest development in the never-ending soap opera of congressional budget negotiations is that Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are close to reaching a limited deal to partially replace spending cuts imposed earlier this year (the much-maligned sequestration). The details of the deal are not known, but that hasn't stopped conservative activist groups and pundits from denouncing Ryan -- a long-time conservative hero for his austere budget proposals -- as a sellout.
The Washington Post laid out what little is known about the emerging deal:
Senior aides familiar with the talks say the emerging agreement aims to partially repeal the sequester and raise agency spending to roughly $1.015 trillion in fiscal 2014 and 2015. That would bring agency budgets up to the target already in place for fiscal 2016. To cover the cost, Ryan and Murray are haggling over roughly $65 billion in alternative policies, including cuts to federal worker pensions and higher security fees for the nation's airline passengers.
Salon's Brian Beutler notes that if the deal ends up looking like this rough outline, then there's no real reason for conservatives to be all that upset: "If inked, it wouldn't raise revenue through the tax code, and would protect the Defense Department from sequestration's most severe cuts. At the same time, some of the savings in the deal would likely come out of the hide of federal workers."
And yet, the outcry from activists was swift. Groups like Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity, and FreedomWorks are urging conservative members of Congress to vote against the budget deal, even though they don't know what the deal actually looks like.
Appearing on Fox News on December 10, Stuart Varney trashed the deal, calling it "a handshake deal. It does absolutely nothing to resolve the basic problems which we're facing. It does not tackle entitlement reform, it does not tackle tax reform, and it does nothing to drastically reduce the debt."
From the November 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the November 11 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News is calling mileage-based user fees that several states are considering "Orwellian," implying the government would be able to track your vehicle without permission and perhaps even "shut your car off." But the network's segment left out that such proposals generally include devices that cannot track your location and certainly cannot turn off your car, satisfying both the American Civil Liberties Union and several conservative organizations.
In a segment featuring no voices in defense of mileage-based user fees (MBUF), Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum declared such proposals the "most Orwellian thing I've ever heard." MacCallum hosted Berkeley Varitronics Systems President Scott Schober, who suggested the government may be able to "shut your car off" if you do not pay the fees. MacCallum added that if "somebody is stalking you and they want to know where you're going, they could very well hack right into this system and follow you." The segment was so conspiratorial that fellow Fox News anchor Jon Scott joked that "I see the black helicopters over your studio right now":
Ryan Morrison, Founder and CEO of True Mileage, Inc. -- a company that designs devices that could be used for MBUF -- said this "definitely sounds like misinformation." In a phone conversation with Media Matters, Morrison said "no company or departments of transportation are looking into devices that could shut off a car." He added that "certainly no one would be able to do anything like that with our devices, and the only time that I've heard of something like that is with a LoJack" for stolen vehicles.
In addition, according to Morrison, most proposals are suggesting allowing citizens to choose whether to install devices without GPS-tracking -- such as his company's -- or to install ones that do have GPS-tracking -- in order to save money when they travel out of state or on less congested roads. For instance, Oregon, which has moved forward with a pilot program for a MBUF (also known as a "vehicle-miles traveled" (VMT) fee), would allow participants to choose devices that do not have GPS tracking and delete personal data after 30 days. The American Civil Liberties Union is reportedly "satisfied with the privacy protections" in Oregon's program.
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson tried to resurrect the debunked claim that President Obama played a role in the IRS' targeting of political groups.
On the October 21 edition of Fox News' The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson, Carlson attempted to "put the president under the microscope" about what he knew and suggested that investigations into the matter "never really got to the bottom of it." Carlson invited regular Fox News guest Jay Sekulow, chief counsel with the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, which filed a lawsuit against the government over allegations about what the IRS did. Sekulow acknowledged that he has not added Obama's name to the lawsuit, but that did not stop him or Carlson from fueling speculation that Obama had prior knowledge of what happened:
Despite Carlson's speculation, there is no evidence whatsoever to tie President Obama to the IRS' actions. A July 16 memo issued by the office of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) compiled information from 15 IRS employees based on interviews with the GOP-led House Oversight Committee. According to the memo, the committee found that "[n]one of these witnesses reported any political motivation or White House involvement."
Dr. Ben Carson used his first day as a Fox News contributor likening the Affordable Care Act to socialism by using a quote he attributed to Vladimir Lenin. Fox's employment of Carson continues its support for a conservative figure heavily criticized for his inflammatory rhetoric.
Fox News announced it's hiring of Carson as a Fox contributor On October 9, continuing its ongoing campaign to elevate his status after criticizing President Obama at the White House Prayer Breakfast earlier this year. On his first Fox appearance on that day's The Kelly File, Carson told host Megyn Kelly that it wasn't surprising that Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) ridiculed the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee hearing with IRS official Sarah Hall Ingram because they don't want to have a "real conversation" about IRS controversies (emphasis added):
CARSON: It's not terribly surprising. Because if you read Saul Alinsky's book Rules For Radicals, it talks about the need to ridicule. It also talks about never having a real conversation with your adversary because that humanizes them, and your job is the demonize them. And therefore we see people coming out and saying about those who oppose Obamacare, for instance, that they want older people to die, that they want kids to be deprived of food. You know, all these things are just straight out of the text. And what's really interesting is, you know, Vladimir Lenin, one of the founders of socialism and communism, he said socialized medicine is the keystone of the arch to the socialist state. In other words, you've got to get the socialized medicine as the foundation because it gives you control of the people. Once you have control of them, you can do what you want.
Earlier in the day on Sean Hannity's radio show, Carson used the same Lenin quote to attack the ACA. (The book The Social Transformation of American Medicine by Paul Starr notes that "The Library of Congress could not locate this quotation in Lenin's writings.")
Broadcast and cable evening news coverage touched upon a variety of economic topics, including deficit reduction, economic growth, and effects of the Affordable Care Act throughout the third quarter of 2013. While coverage of certain issues improved, a Media Matters analysis shows that many of these segments lacked proper context or input from economists, with Fox News advancing the erroneous notion that the Affordable Care Act is the purported cause behind poor job growth.
The mania for false equivalence and the pox-on-both-houses reflex among media types are in full effect now that government operations have shut down and people are looking for someone to blame. It's so strong, in fact, that reporters and pundits who recognize the hopeless and irresponsible intransigence of congressional Republicans nonetheless lay an equal (or perhaps greater) measure of blame at the feet of the president for failing to wheedle and cajole people who won't be wheedled or cajoled. It makes little sense, but sacrifices must be made when trying to force objectivity or, in the case of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, frantically deflect blame from the GOP.
Just this morning, during a segment on who to blame for the government shut down, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield hotly objected to Democratic strategist Paul Begala's accusation of false equivalence, arguing that she was just as hard on Democrats as she was on Republicans -- which was precisely Begala's point:
But what of this argument that Obama could end this stand-off with the Republicans in Congress and get the government back up and running if he would just try to compromise? It's a bad argument on the merits, since Republicans aren't actually seeking a compromise: they're trying to force Obama into giving ground while they give up nothing, as they already support funding the government. But even if Obama did try to negotiate, that's no guarantee the House Republicans would respond rationally. We know this because the one of the last times Obama negotiated with Republicans during a fiscal crisis, the so-called "fiscal cliff," he offered real concessions and compromises and John Boehner and the House Republicans still refused to work with him.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly unleashed a slew of deceptive and historically inaccurate economic arguments to prop up the narrative that "taxes in America have reached critical mass" under President Obama, whom O'Reilly claimed has redistributed the nation's wealth.
On the September 25 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly ranted about the United State's current tax rates, complaining, "The federal government is getting more tax revenue than ever before and state and local taxes are at the highest level in the history of this country." O'Reilly argued that working Americans are being "punished" by today's tax rates that have "have reached critical mass," adding that President Obama has succeeded in redistributing the nation's wealth from the top to the bottom:
O'REILLY: President Obama and his acolytes do not want Americans to accumulate wealth. They want to take private wealth away from those who have it and give it to those who don't have it. And they have succeeded in doing that with an assist from the Bush administration, which ran up colossal debt after 9/11. Taxes in America have reached critical mass.
Later, when O'Reilly's guest Dr. Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College, highlighted historic levels of income inequality and government efforts to mitigate the problem, O'Reilly yelled over her: "Your basic thesis of income inequality is socialism. Don't you get that? The government cannot impose income equality on a private marketplace. It can't."
O'Reilly misfired on several of his arguments. For starters, his focus on total raw tax revenue is deceptive. Total tax revenue rises as the size of the economy and the working population grows -- revenues are comparable only as they relate to the size of the economy, which corrects for this growth.
Under Obama, tax revenues as a share of the economy are historically low. During Obama's first term, the ratio of revenue to GDP averaged 15.4 percent, the lowest levels since 1950, according to data from the Tax Policy Center. For context, since 1950, federal revenue has averaged approximately 18 percent of GDP.
Fox Business' Stuart Varney falsely claimed that government spending and increased tax revenue were harming economic growth, despite the fact that economists say government spending cuts negatively affect GDP growth and the rise in revenue has reduced the deficit, a goal Varney has previously championed.
On the September 12 edition of Fox & Friends, Varney discussed the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report to Congress estimating that U.S. budget revenue is up $284 billion dollars. Varney ignored that the report revealed this increased tax revenue has been used to reduce the deficit by $400 billion, instead falsely claiming that government spending and high taxes are the cause for "a lousy growth rate," a "shrinking middle class, and appalling rates of unemployment amongst young people and minorities."
In fact, a number of economists have pointed to decreased government spending as the greatest drag on economic growth and a contributor to the sluggish recovery, and research from the CBO reveals that the economy's current low growth rate can be attributed to the large cuts in government spending known as sequestration. The CBO estimated that canceling sequestration would raise GDP by 0.7 percent, could generate 900,000 new jobs by 2014, and would lead to greater output and higher employment in the next few years.
Furthermore, Varney failed to mention that this rise in revenue has led to a two-thirds decline in the deficit, despite the fact that he has previously fixated on reducing the deficit as an economic priority. The deficit is now the lowest it has been since 2008.
Fox News' Neil Cavuto invited former Fox host and current Ohio Gov. John Kasich onto his program for a softball interview that glossed over Kasich's record of harmful, draconian policies directed at middle and working class families in Ohio. Cavuto also completely ignored ethics questions currently surrounding the Kasich administration's JobsOhio company -- a privatized state development corporation accused of steering tax dollars toward Kasich allies.
Kasich, a former Fox News personality who has received considerable encouragement from the network in the past, appeared on the August 15 edition of Your World where he discussed his economic record and controversial tenure as Governor of Ohio -- at one point, he was the most unpopular governor in the country. According to Cavuto, Kasich "has single-handedly turned his state around, and right now he is the most popular he's ever been there, but lately now he's ticking off a lot of folks which is why we always love having him on."
Cavuto began the interview by letting Kasich praise his own economic policies in Ohio without acknowledging several important facts. For example, according to a recent Pew Research survey, Ohio ranks 47th among all states in private sector job creation over the last year, and a majority of those jobs created under the Kasich administration have been low-paying positions with wages less than $15 per hour. And while Ohio has seen a positive trend in job growth, that trend began before Kasich took office in 2011. Kasich has previously dismissed the idea of an auto bailout, but nearly 850,000 jobs -- about 12 percent of Ohio's labor force -- are tied to the auto industry, according to the Center for Automotive Research. Yet even after the bailout succeeded, Kasich dodged questions about whether or not he supported it.
During the interview, Cavuto praised Kasich's handling of Ohio's budget, claiming, "Many [are] impressed with how you've turned the budget around." Cavuto then allowed Kasich to give an oration about his desire to "reach out to people who live in the shadows" and help them economically. But still Cavuto failed to mention how Ohio's budget surplus came from draconian cuts Kasich made that slashed funding for education and women's health. And Kasich's newest budget proposal includes an increase in the state sales tax -- a plan that "plays to an upper income audience," according to Ohio State Professor Paul Beck. "I think that people really get hit who are lower, middle class and lower wage positions because they are spending more of their income in consumption," Beck said of Kasich's plan.
While talking about Kasich's economic views, Cavuto also missed an opportunity to question the governor about the controversy surrounding Kasich's JobsOhio, a private, non-profit company created by his administration to help spur job growth in Ohio and a centerpiece of his economic plan. According to Ohio's WKSU, "An investigative report shows the majority of members on the state's private job development company board, JobsOhio, are invested with businesses that are receiving state incentives through that organization." While the Ohio Ethics Commission recently declined to rule on a complaint involving Kasich himself, they were unable to investigate the board of JobsOhio -- that's because the Republican legislature legally denied them that power, despite their pleas to the contrary. After a public dispute with Republican State Auditor Dave Yost over JobsOhio's finances, Kasich signed a bill barring the state auditor from auditing their books.
While the Wall Street Journal also glossed over Kasich's record in order to praise him, Fox News has a history of attempting to rehabilitate the images of unpopular conservatives, including Sarah Palin, former President George W. Bush, and most recently, Rush Limbaugh.
Fox News is attempting to manufacture another Obama administration scandal by fearmongering about letters sent to small businesses asking them to explain discrepancies in revenue -- the result of a policy change made under the George W. Bush administration.
The August 15 edition of Fox & Friends reported that the Internal Revenue Service had sent letters to certain small businesses, asking them to explain why their revenue showed a disproportionately high number of credit and debit card transactions. Guest co-host Peter Johnson Jr. called the letters "unsettling" before playing a clip of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) tying the story to the improper targeting of certain political groups by the IRS. While Johnson admitted that "it happened in the past," the show continued to fearmonger about the letters, asking, "Are there other illegal things that are going on? Chairman Issa and U.S. attorneys are looking at the IRS, and there's some inference and implication that there may be":
But the IRS letters have nothing to do with political ideology. The Washington Post reported that the letters were sent out based on collected information about credit and debit card transactions: