Fox special promoted numerous myths and falsehoods about Obama and the economic recovery bill

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

In Fox News' special, Trillion with a T, Bret Baier promoted or repeated several myths and falsehoods about President Obama and the economic recovery bill, including that some of the spending in the bill -- which Obama has now signed into law -- isn't stimulus; that the bill will lead to "the government deciding which procedures you can have and which ones you can't"; that it would prohibit any religious activity in facilities receiving money; that the Obama administration advocated cutting the defense budget by 10 percent; and that Obama admitted "there might be some pork" in the bill.

In the "exclusive Fox News investigative report," Trillion with a T, which aired February 14-16, host and Special Report anchor Bret Baier promoted or repeated several myths and falsehoods about President Obama and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Obama signed into law on February 17. These myths and falsehoods include: the assertion that some of the spending in the bill isn't stimulus; the assertion that the recovery bill will lead to "the government deciding which procedures you can have and which ones you can't"; the assertion that the bill would prohibit any religious activity in facilities receiving money; the assertion that the Obama administration advocated cutting the defense budget by 10 percent; and the assertion that Obama admitted that "there might be some pork" in the bill.

Spending in the bill isn't stimulus

Several times during the program, Baier uncritically aired and repeated the myth that some of the spending in the bill is not stimulus. Twice, Baier uncritically aired Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) stating that the bill is not an economic stimulus bill, once stating, "We need an economic stimulus bill, not a big government stimulus bill," and also singling out funding for school lunches and Amtrak: "We're stimulating big government, we're not stimulating the economy here, you know? It's the three quarters of a billion for the after-school lunch program. It may be a decent program on its own, but doesn't stimulate the economy."

Baier also stated that "stimulus opponents" found a "series of provisions they claim have little to do with stimulating the economy. Tax breaks for Hollywood, a pro-union 'buy American' provision that had our allies threatening a trade war, and even a provision for sexually transmitted disease prevention." Additionally, Baier uncritically reported that "Republicans, meanwhile, issue lists of spending items they say do not belong in an emergency bill that's supposed to stimulate the economy," again suggesting that those "spending items" would not "stimulate the economy":

BAIER: Republicans, meanwhile, issue lists of spending items they say do not belong in an emergency bill that's supposed to stimulate the economy. One billion dollars for the U.S. Census Bureau; $300 million for the purchase of cars with better fuel economy, such as hybrid and electric vehicles; $1.3 billion for Amtrak; $650 million to help people switch to digital TV; $200 million for a new Department of Homeland Security headquarters; $25 million for the Smithsonian Institution; $165 million the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service for resource management. Republicans also point out that since hundreds of billions will be given to states and cities to spend how they wish, there is no telling what that money will ultimately be used for. Of course, one politician's pork is another's good government. President Obama defends the millions for fuel-efficient and hybrid cars.

Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Douglas W. Elmendorf specifically refuted the claim that there is spending in the bill that isn't stimulus. In January 27 testimony before the House Budget Committee, Elmendorf said (from the Nexis database): "[I]n our estimation -- and I think the estimation of most economists -- all of the increase in government spending and all of the reduction in tax revenue provides some stimulative effect. People are put to work, receive income, spend that on something else. That puts somebody else to work."

Also, as Media Matters has noted, in analyzing the House version of the bill and the original Senate version, the CBO stated that contrary to the claim that the legislation is not an "economic stimulus bill," it expects the measures to "have a noticeable impact on economic growth and employment in the next few years." Additionally, in his January 27 written testimony, Elmendorf said that the House version would "provide massive fiscal stimulus that includes a combination of government spending increases and revenue reductions." Elmendorf further stated: "In CBO's judgment, H.R. 1 would provide a substantial boost to economic activity over the next several years relative to what would occur without any legislation."

Moreover, economists say that the notion that all spending is stimulative is a basic economic principle. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has written, "[S]pending is stimulus. Any spending will generate jobs. It is that simple."

The Recovery Act will lead to government restrictions on medical treatments

Baier uncritically repeated Rep. Jeff Flake's (R-AZ) assertion that the act "could lead to rationed health care" and uncritically aired Flake's claim that the bill will lead to "government deciding which procedures you can have and which ones you can't." The assertions echoed false media assertions -- repeatedly rebutted by Media Matters -- about the bill's health-care information technology provision based on a distortion that originated in a February 9 Bloomberg "commentary" by former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, as well as similar misrepresentations regarding the act's funding for the Comparative Effectiveness Research program.

In fact, the provision in the enrolled version of the act regarding the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology does not mandate that the federal government "decid[e] which procedures you can have and which ones you can't" or otherwise interfere with doctors' treatment decisions. Rather, the provision addresses establishing "a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that allows for the electronic use and exchange of information" in order to create "an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014," thereby reducing "health care costs resulting from inefficiency, medical errors, inappropriate care, duplicative care, and incomplete information" and providing "appropriate information to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care." Similarly, a provision in the act establishing a Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research and calling for funding to "be used to accelerate the development and dissemination of research assessing the comparative effectiveness of health care treatments and strategies" and for the health and human services secretary to "consider any recommendations" by the council provides for no federal ban on treatments, regardless of effectiveness or cost-efficiency.

The Act will prohibit any religious activity in facilities receiving money

Baier uncritically aired Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC) false assertion that under the Recovery Act, "[i]f [universities] take any money, you can't have prayer groups meet in a dorm anymore."

In fact, as Media Matters has noted, the section in question provides funding "for modernization, renovation, or repair of institution of higher education facilities that are primarily used for instruction, research, or student housing," and prohibits the use of such funds for "modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities ... used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity ... or in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission" [emphasis added]. It thus would not ban recipients of that funding from having "prayer groups meet in a dorm," as DeMint claimed.

The Obama administration asked the Pentagon to cut its budget by 10 percent

Baier falsely asserted that "as the U.S. fights two major wars, the administration is asking the Pentagon to cut its budget by 10 percent." In fact, as Josh Rogin reported in a February 2 Congressional Quarterly article, the Obama administration has actually proposed increasing the Pentagon's fiscal year 2010 budget by about $14 billion from its 2009 budget. In stating that the Obama administration asked "the Pentagon to cut its budget by 10 percent," Baier was comparing the administration's 2010 budget request for defense spending with what Rogin reported was "a $584 billion draft budget request compiled last fall by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for fiscal 2010."

Obama admitted there "might be some pork" in the recovery bill

Baier quoted Obama saying at a February 9 town hall in Elkhart, Indiana, "I'm not going to tell you that this bill is perfect. I mean, it's coming out of Washington, it's going through Congress." Baier then baselessly asserted that "Obama admits: Sure, there might be some pork." However, during the Elkhart town hall, Obama twice refuted the notion that the bill contained pork, noting that "there aren't individual pork projects that members of Congress are putting into this bill" and later refuted the suggestion that funding for clean energy is pork:

And listen, I know that there are a lot of folks out there who have been saying, oh, this is pork and this is money that's going to be wasted and et cetera, et cetera. Understand: This bill does not have a single earmark in it -- which is unprecedented for a bill of this size -- does not have a single earmark in it. (Applause.)

So we may debate -- we can debate, you know, whether you'd rather have this tax cut versus that tax cut, or this project versus that project. Be clear, though, that there aren't a -- there aren't individual pork projects that members of Congress are putting into this bill. Regardless of what the critics say, there are no earmarks in this bill. That's part of the change that we're bringing to Washington, is making sure that this money is well spent to actually create jobs right here in Elkhart.

[...]

We also have put in money that provide for the weatherization of millions of homes across the country. Now, this is an example of where you get a multiplier effect. If you allocate money to weatherize homes, the homeowner gets the benefit of lower energy bills. You right away put people back to work, many of whom in the construction industry and in the housing industry are out of work right now -- they are immediately put to work doing something. You can train young people as apprentices to start getting training at -- in home construction through weatherization. And you start reducing energy costs for the nation as a whole. So there are billions of dollars in this plan allocated for moving us towards a new energy future.

Now, I'll be honest with you, some of the critics of the plan have said that's pork. I don't understand their criticism. Their basic argument is, well, that's -- you're trying to make policy instead of just doing short-term stimulus. Well, my whole attitude is, if we're going to spend billions of dollars that creates jobs anyway, then why wouldn't we want to create jobs in things like clean energy that create a better economic future for us over the long term? That's just -- that's common sense to me. That's common sense to me.

From Fox News' Trillion with a T: How To Spend $1,000,000,000,000.00:

HENSARLING: We're stimulating big government, we're not stimulating the economy here, you know? It's the three quarters of a billion for the after-school lunch program. It may be a decent program on its own, but doesn't stimulate the economy. Spending money on Amtrak.

[...]

HENSARLING: We need an economic stimulus bill, not a big government stimulus bill.

[...]

BAIER: The cause is helped as stimulus opponents dig in to the dense text of the 1,400 pages of House and Senate legislation. They find a series of provisions they claim have little to do with stimulating the economy. Tax breaks for Hollywood, a pro-union "buy American" provision that had our allies threatening a trade war, and even a provision for sexually transmitted disease prevention.

[begin video clip]

BAIER: Republicans are jumping on some of the details. They don't seem to jump-start the economy, some of them. Is the pressure building?

REP. MICHAEL CAPUANO (D-MA): No, not at all. You're going to end up with a few things that most people won't like.

[end video clip]

[...]

BAIER: Republicans, meanwhile, issue lists of spending items they say do not belong in an emergency bill that's supposed to stimulate the economy. One billion dollars for the U.S. Census Bureau; $300 million for the purchase of cars with better fuel economy, such as hybrid and electric vehicles; $1.3 billion for Amtrak; $650 million to help people switch to digital TV; $200 million for a new Department of Homeland Security headquarters; $25 million for the Smithsonian Institution; $165 million to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service for resource management. Republicans also point out that since hundreds of billions will be given to states and cities to spend how they wish, there is no telling what that money will ultimately be used for. Of course, one politician's pork is another's good government. President Obama defends the millions for fuel-efficient and hybrid cars.

[...]

BAIER: The stimulus also funds computerized health records and a mechanism that allows the government to monitor the effectiveness of various treatments around the country.

ANDY STERN (SEIU president): I'm sick of going to my doctor's office and filling out the same form time and time again.

BAIER: Andy Stern is president of the nation's largest labor union, Service Employees International Union, or SEIU. He's a key supporter of the bill, and thinks this part of it makes real sense.

STERN: I have to remember when I got my appendectomy and when I had pneumonia and when I got my shots, boy, if someone could give me come computerization, we could save a lot of money. I think it's a great idea.

BAIER: Congressman Flake, however, worries that the bill could lead to rationed health care.

FLAKE: When you go back to the literature, what that means is basically a government deciding which procedures you can have and which ones you can't. That's what it will end -- you know, end in, and it looks like government rationing. So yeah, this is -- this is the thing that's scary. In the end, we may look at the amount of money spent as the least bad part of this legislation.

[...]

BAIER: You made an appeal to conservative bloggers asking them to comb through this legislation to really find what's in it.

DeMINT: The bloggers have become a huge resource, and that's how we found, like, the discrimination against religious freedom on universities. If they take any money, you can't have prayer groups meet in a dorm anymore -- you know, crazy things like that that are in it.

[...]

MARTIN FELDSTEIN (chairman of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers): Defense spending has basically been left out of this program. Any yet, defense spending could add dollar-for-dollar to GDP. For every dollar that gets spent, for every dollar that's added to the national debt, we would have an extra dollar of GDP. I've talked with the senior people in the Pentagon, and they tell me that they could produce a list of projects that would spend very quickly. Some of this is repairs on equipment that were used in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of it is replacement of supplies, some of it will be domestic infrastructure on military bases, and they can do all of that very quickly. Those are things that are going to have to be done anyway, so this is the time to do them, when there's a lot of slack in the economy.

BAIER: In fact, as the U.S. fights two major wars, the administration is asking the Pentagon to cut its budget by 10 percent.

FELDSTEIN: I've been very disappointed in the specific plan that's come out of the administration, and so I'm very worried that we're adding tremendously to the national debt and not doing enough to help the situation.

[...]

OBAMA [video clip]: I'm not going to tell you that this bill is perfect. I mean, it's coming out of Washington, it's going through Congress.

BAIER: As President Obama admits: Sure, there might be some pork. But at least one Democratic senator doesn't think it's a problem.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Religion, Economy, Health Care
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Bret Baier
Show/Publication
Trillion With A T
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.