After Insisting Debt Was "Issue Number One," Fox Slams Obama For "Pivoting" To Jobs


Fox News has repeatedly played up the national debt as the "number one issue" facing the country, despite statements from economists that unemployment is a more pressing problem. Now, in the aftermath of a default crisis that was manufactured by conservatives, Fox is criticizing Obama for "pivoting" back to jobs, suggesting that he has not been sufficiently focused on the issue in the past.

After Straining To Make National Debt The "Number One Issue" ...

Hemmer: National Debt "Is Issue Number One For The American People." On May 18, America's Newsroom anchor Bill Hemmer said:

The problem is the clock keeps ticking. You're at $14.3, close to $14.4 trillion dollars in debt. And you know, all the politicians on the Hill know, this is issue number one for the American people. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 5/18/11]

Fox's McDowell: "The Number One Issue" Is "Our Debt." During a discussion of Newt Gingrich's strengths and weaknesses as a candidate on The O'Reilly Factor, Fox Business' Dagen McDowell said: "The number one issue in this country is actually our debt." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 5/18/11]

O'Reilly: "America's Debt Is The Most -- The Most -- Vital Issue Facing" Us. On the May 26 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly said: "But as Talking Points stated last night, America's debt is the most -- the most -- vital issue facing we the people. And you can't get the debt under control until you figure out Medicare." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 5/26/11]

Gretchen Carlson Calls The Deficit "The Biggest Problem At Hand." During an interview with Rep. Eric Cantor, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson said:

And I've sort of been echoing that this morning, Congressman, because I feel like a lot of the American public is really fed up that we just can't get the job done. And are we really attacking the biggest problem at hand which is the deficit? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/2/11, via Nexis]

... Despite Experts' Assertions That Economic Growth Should Be A Priority Over The Deficit And Debt ...

Krugman: "Jobs Now, Deficits Later Was And Is The Right Strategy." Nobel laureate Paul Krugman criticized efforts to focus on budget deficits rather than economic growth in his New York Times column:

Why not slash deficits immediately? Because tax increases and cuts in government spending would depress economies further, worsening unemployment. And cutting spending in a deeply depressed economy is largely self-defeating even in purely fiscal terms: any savings achieved at the front end are partly offset by lower revenue, as the economy shrinks.

So jobs now, deficits later was and is the right strategy. Unfortunately, it's a strategy that has been abandoned in the face of phantom risks and delusional hopes. [The New York Times, 3/24/11]

Baker: "It Is Ridiculous To Be Spending So Much Time Yelling About The Deficit At Time When 25 Million People Are Unemployed, Underemployed Or Out Of The Work Force Altogether." Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who criticized efforts during the economic recovery to shift from job growth policies toward deficit reduction, promoted an economic plan developed by the Economic Policy Institute:

There are several important principles guiding the EPI plan. First, it focuses on jobs and growth as the immediate problem facing the economy. It is ridiculous to be spending so much time yelling about the deficit at time when 25 million people are unemployed, underemployed or out of the work force altogether.

It is especially absurd when everyone knows that the economic crisis caused by the collapse of the housing bubble is the main reason that we have large deficits today. The main reason the budget went from deficit to surplus in 90s was the unexpected drop to 4 percent unemployment at the end of the decade, not deficit reduction measures by President Clinton and/or the Republican Congress.

Once the economy is back near full employment, the EPI plan gets most of its revenue from increasing taxes on the wealthy, the big winners in the economy over the last three decades. It also includes a tax on Wall Street financial speculation; taxing the folks whose recklessness brought on this economic disaster.

The cuts focus on the military budget. It protects Social Security and Medicare, which are vital programs to the country's workers and their families, and actually increases spending on infrastructure, education, and other areas that will foster long-term growth.

What is striking is that this program is broadly consistent with extensive public opinion polling on the budget. [, 5/23/11]

KCEP Director: Legislation To "Reduce The Budget Deficit" Should Occur "Once The Economy Is Back On Its Feet." From an op-ed by the Director of The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, Jason Bailey:

In the short-term, the most important deficit is the jobs deficit, and plans to cut critical investments will only make that problem worse. Elimination of necessary services would ripple through local economies and cost jobs.

We can and should enact legislation that will reduce the budget deficit once the economy is back on its feet. But one necessary ingredient to a lower long-term deficit is strong economic growth, which will require investment in education, infrastructure, clean energy and other areas. A deficit reduction approach comprised entirely of cutting needed investments will harm the future growth rate. [The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, 3/9/11]

CBPP: Deficit Reduction Legislation Should "Take Effect Once The Economy Is Stronger." Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, prepared a report on how to reduce federal deficits:

Policymakers should meet this goal in a reasonable period of time, but it isn't necessary to meet it in the next few years. Indeed, it would be unwise to put austerity measures into effect now while the economy is still growing too slowly to bring unemployment down to more normal levels in the next few years. Putting substantial deficit-reduction measures into effect now would cause the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next year or two by slowing the already inadequate economic growth. Ideally, policymakers would enact legislation this year that begins to take effect once the economy is stronger -- probably in fiscal year 2013, not before -- and puts us on track to stabilize the debt as a share of GDP by the end of this decade. Doing so would involve very tough choices, both substantively and politically, but meeting that goal would be a huge accomplishment and greatly allay the fears of financial markets. Reducing the deficit more precipitously, however, is neither necessary nor sound as fiscal or economic policy. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 3/24/11]

More Than 300 Economists Agree: A "Premature Focus On Deficit Reduction ... Could Push Us Back Into Recession." From a statement signed by more than 300 economists:

Today there is a grave danger that the still-fragile economic recovery will be undercut by austerity economics. A turn by major governments away from the promotion of growth and jobs and to premature focus on deficit reduction could slow growth and increase unemployment - and could push us back into recession.

History suggests that a tenuous recovery is no time to practice austerity. In the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal generated growth and reduced the unemployment rate from 25 percent in 1932 to less than 10 percent in 1937. However, the deficit hawks of that era persuaded President Roosevelt to reverse course prematurely and move toward budget balance. The result was a severe recession that caused the econo­my to contract sharply and sent the unemployment rate soaring. Only the much larger wartime spending of the early 1940s produced a full recovery.


The President and Congress should redouble efforts to create jobs and send aid to the states whose budget cri­ses threaten recovery by forcing them to lay off school teachers, public safety workers, and other essential workers. It also makes sense to invest in public service jobs - and in infrastructure projects for transportation, water, and energy conservation that will make our economy more productive for years to come. [Institute for America's Future, accessed 8/4/11]

... Fox News Is Now Criticizing Obama For "Pivoting" Back To Jobs

Doocy: "They're Pivoting So Much, They're Spinning Around In A Circle." On Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy and Gretchen Carlson reacted to a video montage of President Obama talking about employment by criticizing him for renewing this focus:

STEVE DOOCY: Now wait a minute, he's been talking about the economy and it being fragile and jobs is his job one, for the last two years. So what's new here? They're pivoting so much, they're spinning around in a circle. Here's a little montage through history:



GRETCHEN CARLSON: But the interesting thing is, as you watch all those different snippets of where he's talking about jobs, maybe when you look back in history, people will say that he was not talking about jobs when he was talking about health care. And that was at the beginning of his presidency when many could argue that maybe he should have been talking about jobs, and maybe we wouldn't be at the situation that we are now. But that will be up for the historians to decide. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11]

Doocy: President Has Focused On Jobs "In 2009, 2010, And Of Course, Now." From Steve Doocy's interview of University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato on Fox & Friends:

STEVE DOOCY: And real briefly, at the top of this hour, we played a montage of how the Democrats are now talking about how we're going to pivot and start focusing on jobs. But then we played another sound bite montage of how many times over the last couple of years the president said, my number one priority, jobs. He said that in 2009, 2010 and of course now.

LARRY SABATO: Well, he said it a lot and I guess he's searching for the right combination of magic words. The truth is, he's had his slot. Government produced all the jobs they can produce and now he just has to hope that things change. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/2011, via Nexis]

Fox's Ed Henry: "Note The Pivot To Jobs, A Message The President Has Repeated Again And Again." On Special Report, Fox News correspondent Ed Henry reported:

ED HENRY: Note the pivot to jobs. A message the president has repeated again and again.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The question is, how are we going to make sure that people are getting back to work and able to support their families?

Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010.

As president, that's my commitment to you. To do everything I can to make sure our economy is growing, creating jobs, and strengthening our middle class.


HENRY (on-camera): Throughout all of these pivots, the jobs bill, the president has seen unemployment stay stubbornly high, and that's why today in the Rose Garden, he was talking about maybe trying to extend the payroll tax cut, spend more money on infrastructure projects, trying to get the economy going, but the other signal from this debt deal is the government is frankly out of money for more stimulus and that puts this president in a very dangerous place politically for 2012 -- Bret. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 8/2/11, via Nexis]

Fox Anchor Bream: "Critics Are Today Pointing Out" That Obama Has Repeatedly Made "A Promise About Jobs." Prior to a montage of previous statements by President Obama about his focus on jobs, America Live anchor Shannon Bream said:

He had a live speech, and he declared that the debt crisis was behind us, and he would pivot to jobs. That would job one, once again. Well, according to a new report out today by payroll processor ADP, private companies added 114,000 jobs last month. That is well below the rate needed for a healthy jobs market, and critics are today pointing out this is not the first time we have heard the president make a promise about jobs. [Fox News, America Live, 8/3/11]

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