Can't Add It Up: Fox Still Misleading On Economy, Debt, Stimulus

››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN

Fox & Friends repeatedly attacked comments made by Democratic officials and legislators to suggest that the 2009 stimulus failed and that the Obama administration is primarily to blame for the nation's debt. In fact, economists have agreed that the stimulus promoted job growth and had positive economic effects, and several analyses have shown that most of the U.S. debt in the past decade can be attributed to former President Bush's tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pelosi And Goolsbee Comment On Obama's Economic Policies

Goolsbee: "One Month Is Not A Trend. And The Last Six Months We've Added One Million Jobs In The Economy." On the June 5 edition of CNN's State of the Union, White House economic advisor Austan Goolsbee said:

GOOLSBEE: What you want to look at are what are the recent trends. Because one month is not a trend. And the last six months we've added 1 million jobs in the economy. The last 15 months we've added 2 million jobs.

[...]

So I think that the president's plan, there is a plan, it has been working. We have been adding jobs significantly over the course of this year. We faced a stiff headwind and this was a tough month, but I don't think that we should abandon the idea that what we need to do now is get the private sector stood up. [CNN, 6/5/2011]

Pelosi: "If [Obama] Hadn't Taken The Actions That He Did ... The [Economic] Situation Would Be Worse." In an interview that aired on the June 5 edition of CBS's Face the Nation, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said:

What the president has done has improved the situation from where it may have been," Pelosi said. "If he hadn't taken the actions he did, the situation would be worse. He pulled us from the brink of the financial crisis, from an economic crisis, and now we have to dig out of a deep debt. And we have to also make it clear that we're not getting into this situation again. [CBS, Face The Nation, 6/5/11 via CBSNews.com]

Fox & Friends Mock Pelosi And Goolsbee, Pin Debt On Obama, Attack Stimulus

Carlson: "How Long Can You Continue To Say" The Recession "Is Something That They Inherited?" On the June 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, the co-hosts discussed Goolsbee and Pelosi's comments about the economy. Co-host Gretchen Carlson said:

CARLSON: The argument to me is, you know, how long can you continue to say that the hard hit recession of 2007, moving into 2008 is something that they inherited? I mean at one point, at what point does it become this administration's situation that they have to take full control for, and I think we're kind of teetering right now on the fact that it is their responsibility now and the policies that they've put into place to try and fix it. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/6/11]

Doocy Touts Noonan's Claim That "It Comes Down To Four Words: [Obama] Made It Worse." Co-host Steve Doocy referenced Peggy Noonan's recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, noting that Noonan "says it comes down to four words: [Obama] made it worse." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/6/11; Wall Street Journal, 6/3/11]

Varney: "With The Stimulus, [Unemployment] Should Never Have Risen Above 8, 8.5 Percent." Later during the show, the co-hosts discussed Pelosi's and Goolsbee's comments on the economy with Fox Business host Stuart Varney. While "grading" Obama's economic policies, Varney claimed that "with the stimulus, [unemployment] should never have risen above 8, 8.5 percent," presumably referencing the administration's initial post-stimulus projection of unemployment rates, which was made prior to Obama taking office and prior to having access to the complete economic data at the time. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/6/11]

Perino Suggests The Stimulus Failed And That Obama's Policies Are Primarily Responsible For Debt. Later during the show, the co-hosts discussed Pelosi's and Goolsbee's comments with Fox News contributor Dana Perino, who suggested that the Obama administration's policies have made the economy worse and are responsible for much of the government's debt. From the broadcast:

CARLSON: So Dana, some would say that maybe the president would think that another stimulus plan would be the answer. But that probably wouldn't fly with the American public or Congress.

PERINO: I think their gut instinct and their ideology that they follow does lead them to believe that more government spending would actually help the economy. The problem for them is that people can add two plus two, and it equals the Obama administration and the policies that they've put in place. Let's unpack what Austan Goolsbee said just a little bit. He said, you know, last month was just a blip. OK, well, I hope that the June numbers, when we get them in July, they must -- maybe he knows something we don't know, but I doubt they're going to be spectacular. In addition, while he's right that they had added some jobs over the last six months, remember that economic growth for the country had been revised down from a pretty anemic 3 percent to a 1.8 percent. And the markets are rattled. Their situation is worse. And they're playing -- they have no plan to move forward.

DOOCY: Right.

PERINO: Their plan right now is to demagogue the Republicans' plan to actually try to do something about the debt. And when Nancy Pelosi talks about the debt, it's like oh, really? Where do you think it came from in the last three years? Not that it didn't accumulate over the decades. But in the last three years, they've doubled it. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/6/11, emphasis added]

Trump: The Stimulus Was "A Tremendous Waste Of Money." Later during the broadcast, the co-hosts discussed the economy with Donald Trump. Trump said that the "stimulus is gone, which was really false to start off with. It was a tremendous waste of money." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/6/11]

But Economists Agree That The Stimulus Raised Employment, Had "Very Substantial" Effects

Independent And Private Analysts: Stimulus Significantly Raised Employment. As Media Matters has previously documented, many analysts confirmed that the stimulus significantly raised employment. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the stimulus increased the number of people employed, as of the second quarter of FY2010, by "between 1.4 million and 3.3 million." Moody's Economy.com estimated it would have created 1.9 million jobs by 2010. [Media Matters, 9/26/10]

Economists: "The Effects Of The Fiscal Stimulus" On Economy "Appear Very Substantial." Economists also agreed that the stimulus was effective. A March 2010 study in The Wall Street Journal found that 70 percent of economists surveyed said the stimulus "boosted growth and mitigated job losses." ABC News reported on February 18, 2010, that most of the economists on its panel thought the economy "would be worse today without the big aid package." And a February 2010 survey of 203 members of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) found that "[e]ighty-three percent believe that GDP is currently higher than it would have been without the 2009 stimulus package (ARRA)." [Media Matters, 9/26/10]

Eight Percent Unemployment Projection Made Before Data Was Released Showing "Far Worse" Economic Conditions

Initial Eight Percent Unemployment Projection Made Before Fourth-Quarter FY2008 Results. As Media Matters has previously noted, while Obama advisers initially predicted that after stimulus spending the unemployment rate would not exceed 8 percent -- a prediction made "10 days before Mr. Obama was inaugurated," according to The New York Times -- advisers later explained that this estimate was made before fourth-quarter results for the GDP were available. Jared Bernstein, then-economic advisor to the vice president, explained, "[W]hen we made our initial estimates, that was before we had fourth-quarter results on GDP, which we later found out was contracting on an annual rate of 6 percent, far worse than we expected at that time." [Media Matters, 6/9/09; The New York Times, 6/8/09]

Analyses Show Most U.S. Debt Can Be Attributed To Bush-Era Policies, Economic Downturn

Wash. Post Graphic Shows Bush Tax Cuts And Iraq Wars Contributed Most To Current Deficit. From a June 4 post on The Washington Post blog PostPolitics:

In the debate over the nation's rising debt, rhetoric trumps reality. In January 2001, the U.S. budget was balanced for the first time in decades and the Congressional Budget Office was forecasting surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion by 2011. A decade later, the national debt is larger, as a percentage of the economy, than at any time in U.S. history except for the period shortly after World War II.

[...]

In fact, 75 percent of the members currently serving in Congress voted for at least one -- and in most cases more than one -- of three policies that contributed to fully one-third of the $12.7 trillion swing from projected surpluses to real debt: President George W. Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and President Obama's 2009 stimulus bill.

The post also included the following graphic illustrating the CBO's estimates on how much Bush's tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the 2009 stimulus contributed to the current debt:

cbo

[The Washington Post, 6/4/11]

CBPP: "[V]irtually The Entire Deficit Over The Next Ten Years" Due To Bush Policies, Economic Downturn." The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) published an analysis of federal deficits in December 2009, which was updated on June 28, 2010, titled, "Critics Still Wrong on What's Driving Deficits in Coming Years: Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers." The report noted:

Some critics continue to assert that President George W. Bush's policies bear little responsibility for the deficits the nation faces over the coming decade -- that, instead, the new policies of President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress are to blame. Most recently, a Heritage Foundation paper downplayed the role of Bush-era policies (for more on that paper, see p. 4). Nevertheless, the fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years.

The report also graphed the effects of Bush's policies and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the deficit. From the report:

fig1

[CBPP, updated 6/28/10, emphasis original, via Media Matters, 4/14/11]

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Economy, Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment
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