Fox Business' Charles Payne falsely claimed that the 16-day government shutdown helped increase economic growth, despite direct evidence to the contrary.
On January 30, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis released its report on gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter of 2013. According to the report, the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.2 percent, down from 4.1 percent growth in the third quarter. Despite GDP growth falling, a number of economists agreed that the number was impressive.
Discussing the report on Fox News' America's Newsroom that day, Payne asserted that the 16-day government shutdown -- which occurred in the fourth quarter of 2013 -- helped spur economic growth:
PAYNE: Our economy has gotten so much traction since the government shutdown, which the mass media has said is an evil awful thing and it hurt us, well, during that period, more jobs were created, during that period, the stock market was up and we continue to see, as government gets out of the way, the private sector comes in.
Payne is completely incorrect.
While it's true that the GDP report showed a relatively strong increase, it is important to note how much better it would have been absent the government shutdown. According to MSNBC's Steve Benen:
The congressional Republicans' government shutdown, for example, shaved about 0.3% from the overall total. That's a difference, in other words, between 3.2% growth and 3.5% growth. It's still not clear exactly why GOP lawmakers did this, or what they hoped to accomplish, but there's evidence now that the gambit took a toll on the economy.
And despite Payne's claim that the shutdown helped job growth, Jason Furman, head of the Council of Economic Advisers, previously claimed that it reduced private sector employment by 120,000 jobs in October, 2013.
Furthermore, while Payne claimed that less government spending helped grow the economy, evidence suggests otherwise. Absent government spending cuts, economists estimate GDP in the fourth quarter would have risen an additional 0.9 percentage points.
Image via DJHEAVYD using a Creative Commons License.
From the January 29 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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At Fox News, President Obama's push to increase the federal minimum wage for millions of American workers through legislative and executive action is merely a "symbolic" gesture.
On January 28, the White House announced that President Obama had authorized an executive order raising the minimum pay for federal workers to $10.10 per hour, a regulation that will be effective for all employees signing a new federal contract. According to the White House's official press release, the president hopes that this move will encourage Congress to take action on a proposal by Representative George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 for all American workers.
On the January 28 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer called the move a "shot across the bow" for congressional Republicans resisting an increase to the minimum wage. Fox Business' Stuart Varney questioned the White House's motivation, claiming that it was a "symbolic" move motivated by political circumstances and concluding that an executive order lifting wages for all federal employees was simply "not a big deal":
Varney's disregard for the impact of executive action on the minimum wage mirrors comments from other Fox News personalities. On the January 27 edition of The Real Story, contributor Charles Payne scoffed at the notion that lifting the minimum wage is an important goal, noting, "higher minimum wage is not the cure, we're talking about something that impacts less than 3 percent of real workers."
Demos' Heather McGhee hailed the Obama administration for lifting federal pay through executive order, noting that the decision "adds momentum to the fight for a federal minimum wage increase." According to research from the Economic Policy Institute, adopting a $10.10 minimum wage nationwide, which would require congressional legislative action, would positively impact the wages of more than 27 million workers while boosting overall economic growth by $22 billion and creating enough economic demand to support 85,000 new jobs.
Increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 nationwide also has the support of hundreds of economists around the country, including numerous Nobel Laureates.
In an economy as large as the United States, while it may be easy for right-wing media voices to shrug off the implications of minimum wage policies, the fact is that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 3.6 million American workers currently work at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. After adjusting for inflation, the federal minimum wage is lower than at any point from the 1950s to the early 1980s.
Right-wing media's opposition to raising the minimum wage has grown as public sentiment has turned in favor of it. Varney's pattern of deriding both policies to lift wages and low-wage workers themselves appears to be par for the course.
Fox News' Bill Hemmer dismissed the historic magnitude of the 2007 economic recession, suggesting instead that the Obama administration is attempting to "placate the left" by pointing out the president inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Gearing up for this week's State of the Union address, White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfieffer appeared on Fox News Sunday on January 26 where he reminded the host how Obama "inherited the worst economic situation since the Great Depression, a financial crisis."
America's Newsroom host Bill Hemmer challenged that description of the recession on the January 27 program. Speaking with Karl Rove, Hemmer said of Pfeiffer's statement, "I heard that and I -- I don't know if that is what they're saying to placate the left or whether that's something they truly believe."
Fox News hyped the results of their own misleading poll question that dishonestly portrayed the Obama administration as giving "false information" about the September 11, 2012, attack on a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. However, a bipartisan review found that the administration's description of the attacks matched the information provided by the intelligence community.
On the January 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum hyped the results of a new Fox poll to claim that "a majority of American voters blame Hillary Clinton and President Obama equally" for the Benghazi terror attack. MacCallum added that half of respondents "believe that the administration came out with false information" because "it was good for them politically."
But the Fox poll question that MacCallum used to justify her claim was framed dishonestly. After asserting that "the Obama administration falsely claimed it was a spontaneous attack in response to an offensive online video," the question asks "why Obama administration officials gave false information in their early public statements about the September attacks in Libya?" Respondents were then asked to choose if the false information was to protect America, to protect Obama politically, or because "They just made a mistake."
From the January 23 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Fox News is misleadingly touting the results of a recent poll to falsely claim that a majority of Americans don't care about inequality and believe that government should do nothing to reduce it.
On the January 23 edition of Fox & Friends, hosts Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck discussed the recent policy pivot by Republicans and Democrats toward addressing income inequality. During the segment, the results of Fox News poll in which respondents were asked to prioritize pressing economic issues were displayed on screen:
Doocy used the results of the poll to claim that Americans are unconcerned about rising income inequality:
DOOCY: This is what you're concerned about. Forty percent of you are worried most about jobs and unemployment. About the same number worried about the deficit and how much the government spends. Meanwhile, you wind up with "income inequality" at only 12 percent.
Later that day on America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley returned to the poll, claiming that the results also showed most Americans do not want the government to take action to reduce income inequality. During the segment, the following graphic ran on the screen:
Fox, and the poll they cite, are creating a false choice between reducing income inequality, creating jobs, and addressing the deficit.
Numerous economists, including Jared Bernstein, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman have argued that rising inequality is bad for the economy and creates a drag on economic growth. Furthermore, in their recent book, "Getting Back to Full Employment," Bernstein and economist Dean Baker outlined proposals that could create jobs while lifting wages and reducing reliance on government safety net programs, thereby positively impacting job creation while reducing some pressure from the federal budget. In the view of many prominent economists, Americans do not have to choose between jobs, deficit reduction, or reducing economic inequality; sensible policies can be implemented to address each issue.
Additionally, while MacCallum suggested that few Americans want government action to reduce inequality, the actual poll shows that participants were never asked about inequality. Instead of being asked "How do you feel about income inequality" as Fox showed on air, the actual question in the poll was "How do you feel about the fact that some people make a lot more money than others?"
Differences in individual earnings, which the poll asked about, and structural inequality -- the idea that a small share of earners at the top capture nearly all income gains -- are not the same thing.
When Americans are asked directly about whether or not government should do anything to mitigate income inequality, the results are quite different from what Fox claims. According to a January 23 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center and USA Today, 69 percent of Americans believe that government should do "a lot" or "some" to reduce inequality.
Furthermore, a majority of respondents -- 54 percent -- support raising taxes on the wealthy and expanding programs for the poor in order to help close the income gap.
Media Matters research shows that Fox, along with other right-wing media outlets, consistently misrepresents the issue of economic inequality. These skewed poll results are just the latest in a long line of examples.
Discussing a recent school shooting at Purdue University, frequent Fox News guest Lars Larson blamed gun-free school zones for the incident, stoking fears that gun-free zones attract violence.
During the January 21 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum moderated a discussion with Larson, a radio host, and Fox contributor Julie Roginsky about preventing violence in schools following the tragic shooting death of teaching assistant Andrew Boldt at Purdue University. Larson dismissed the notion that private gun sales should be subject to background checks, claiming that not "one single incident" has occurred from a private-party sale without a background check. Instead, he blamed gun-free zones, asserting, "[t]he fact is, almost all these incidences happen in gun free zones, virtually all of them," adding that "having more guns in society -- it does make society safer."
In fact, statistics show that gun-free school zones are safer for youth than areas that permit them. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that gun-free zones like primary and secondary schools are typically safer for young people, as gun deaths in gun-free zones never exceeded 2 percent of total youth homicides:
Fox News' Andrea Tantaros baselessly claimed that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports sex-selective abortion and distorted his Women's Equality Act after Cuomo criticized "extreme conservatives" in New York.
In an appearance on Albany, N.Y., public radio station WCNY's Capitol Pressroom, Cuomo condemned the actions of extreme conservatives, saying, "Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapons, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that's who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York because that's not who New Yorkers are." After the New York Post highlighted his comments under the headline "Gov. Cuomo to conservatives: Leave NY!," Cuomo's office argued that he had been taken out of context and that in that same appearance, Cuomo "went on to say 'it is fine' to be anti-gun control, and anti-choice - as he respects both positions."
In an appearance on the January 21 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, Tantaros attacked Cuomo for his comments and attempted to portray him as out of the mainstream by baselessly claiming that Cuomo "believes in gender selection, so if you are having a girl and you don't want a girl, you can just get rid of it and have a boy" and that the governor believes "you can have an abortion any time":
But Tantaros offered no evidence to support her claim that Cuomo supports sex-selective abortion, instead parroting talking points from right-wing groups such as the Chiaroscuro Foundation who made the dubious accusation that because the Women's Equality Act -- a proposed law championed by Cuomo -- does not explicitly outlaw sex-selective abortion, the governor supports it.
Fox News' defense of the gun lobby passed into the realm of fiction when host Martha MacCallum told viewers that what usually thwarts school shootings is "when there's a gun introduced into the situation." She followed up this myth with the long-debunked claim that the Holocaust could have been prevented if Hitler hadn't confiscated citizens' firearms.
On the January 16 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, MacCallum moderated a discussion between radio host Mike Slater and Fox contributor Jehmu Greene about a new anti-NRA film being produced by Harvey Weinstein.
During the segment, MacCallum broke into the debate to declare that "in most cases" the harm from mass shootings has been mitigated by adding more guns into the fray, saying the shootings generally end "when there's a gun introduced into the situation that stops [the shooters] from what they're doing."
MacCallum -- echoing a Washington Times column by senior opinion editor and pro-NRA activist Emily Miller -- later intimated that the Holocaust could have been prevented if the citizenry were armed, but "their guns were all confiscated under German law at the time."
Though MacCallum's statistic is clad as a statement of fact, it is anything but -- a study completed by Mother Jones found that "not one of 62 mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years has been stopped" by an armed civilian.
Fox News personalities have repeatedly attempted to downplay income inequality, claiming that it doesn't exist, that it is unfixable, or that it's a distraction from other issues. Nevertheless, the network still blamed the widening income gap on President Obama and what one Fox reporter called "Obamanomics."
In December 2013, President Obama declared that reversing the widening gap in income inequality -- the distribution of economic gains to a small percentage of the population, which, in this case, favors the very wealthy -- is "the defining challenge of our time," and began unveiling a legislative agenda aimed at addressing that trend.
Fox pundits have repeatedly dismissed concerns over growing income inequality in the United States. Fox correspondent Doug McKelway once claimed it was merely "class resentment," that exists because "some people are better, smarter, harder-working, or luckier than others." Bill O'Reilly called it "bull." When the network has acknowledged income inequality, its contributors have claimed that there is "no way" growing inequality is "going to be stopped," that attempting to reverse it will result in "chronic unemployment," and that the Obama administration's focus on closing the income gap is merely a "distraction."
But that didn't stop Fox Business senior correspondent Charlie Gasparino from blaming Obama's economic policies. On the January 16 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Gasparino called the president a "big class warfare guy," and claimed "there is more income inequality under Obamanomics." Previously, Fox misconstrued a report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) to claim that the president's policies were responsible for declining wages. The NELP later told Media Matters that Fox's misrepresentation of their report was "shamelessly partisan and completely inaccurate spin on economic facts."
In reality, income inequality has been growing for decades, long before the president took office. From Mother Jones:
Fox News ignored growing evidence of a culture of political retribution in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's office while instead attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for keeping an "enemies list" -- in reality, a list of endorsements Clinton sought in 2008 -- something Fox's own senior political analyst described as "perfectly reasonable," and dismissed as "not a huge deal."
Thousands of e-mails released last week revealed examples of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration exacting political retribution from a list of those people whom the governor or his aides believed had crossed him in some way. According to The Star-Ledger, a circle of Christie staff and allies appears to have taken political retribution to a new level when it conspired to send the borough of Fort Lee into traffic chaos by closing lanes to the world's busiest bridge." And a new Wall Street Journal report detailed how Christie allegedly treated Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D) by cutting him off from state administrators after Fulop declined to endorse Christie in the gubernatorial election.
In a segment on Fox's America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum neglected to report those updates in the Christie scandal, choosing instead to juxtapose Christie's problems with a report that ran in both Politico Magazine and The Hill that detailed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign and its efforts to gain lawmakers' endorsements. Both the original report and Fox News labeled the list of endorsements as "Hillary's Hit List."
Fox senior political analyst Brit Hume compared the Politico report to the Christie Scandal, claiming it "raises to some extent the question [about Clinton] you're now hearing raised about Chris Christie," asking whether or not she "fostered a climate" that encouraged aides to seek political retribution. Despite Hume's direct comparison, the reports regarding Christie detail numerous incidents of alleged abuse while the Politico report mentions no actual allegations of political retribution, only that the Clinton campaign tracked its political endorsements -- an act that Hume himself described as "perfectly sensible" and "not a huge deal."
When news of the Christie scandal originally broke, Fox News largely ignored it - an omission that CNN media critic Brian Stelter said may have been due to political considerations and Fox News chairman Roger Ailes' role as "Republican kingmaker" who "has in the past tried to enlist Chris Christie to run for president" and "has been said to be a big fan of Chris Christie." When it did cover the scandal, Fox pointed to Christie's handling of the scandal as a "lesson in leadership" while attacking Clinton and President Obama for their handling of what Fox perceives as similar scandals.
Hume attributed competing media organizations' coverage of Christie to political bias, explaining that "journalists look at a story and if it's somebody they don't particularly care for or whose politics they don't agree with -- when that person slips up it just seems, as they look at it, like a bigger story." Ironically, that explanation may explain Fox News' focus on Clinton.
Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore
House GOP leaders reportedly distributed a memo instructing members on how to demonstrate compassion when discussing unemployment. And even as news of the memo leaked, conservative media were demeaning unemployed Americans as "lazy" and calling "hunger" a superior policy to jobless benefits.
Fox Business host Stuart Varney, who has repeatedly mocked low-income Americans, dismissed the War on Poverty as ineffective on its 50th anniversary, ignoring evidence that government anti-poverty programs have been vital in decreasing the poverty rate.
On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson used his State of the Union address to enumerate proposals and policy prescriptions that would come to be known as the War on Poverty. Many of these proposals were eventually signed into law, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and a permanent food stamp program.
Fifty years later, Fox Business host Stuart Varney dismissed the success of these programs. In a January 8 America's Newsroom segment, Varney cast doubt on the War on Poverty's effectiveness in reducing the poverty rate:
VARNEY: We have not made that much progress in reducing the poverty rate. 15 percent of Americans are still in poverty. It's roughly the same level as it was back in 1964. It did help feed hungry people, treat sick people, and it did raise the standard of living for many, many poor people. However, the proportion of people still living in poverty, pretty much the same as it was back in 1964, Martha.
The federal anti-poverty programs Varney discounts actually helped reduce the poverty rate from 26 percent to 16 percent from 1967 to 2011, according to a recent study by the Columbia Population Research Center at Columbia University. From the study (emphasis added):
The OPM shows the overall poverty rates to be nearly the same in 1967 and 2011 -- at 14% and 15% respectively. But our counterfactual estimates using the anchored SPM show that without taxes and other government programs, poverty would have been roughly flat at 27-29%, while with government benefits poverty has fallen from 26% to 16% -- a 40% reduction. Government programs today are cutting poverty nearly in half (from 29% to 16%) while in 1967 they only cut poverty by about one percentage point.
The New York Times' Economix blog put that data into graph form to show how vital government programs have been in keeping people out of poverty:
Indeed, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it is "simply not valid or accurate" to claim that federal efforts to alleviate poverty have largely failed.
Varney's refusal to acknowledge the progress made in the War on Poverty is in keeping with his record of shaming the poor. He has said that low-income Americans "have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit," argued that furloughed federal workers deserve to be "punish[ed]," and attacked government funding for feeding children and seniors.
In another attempt to cast the Obama administration's focus on income inequality as an Obamacare distraction, Fox contributor Karl Rove argued that raising the minimum wage "doesn't affect a lot of American workers." But raising the minimum wage would impact 30 million workers, or nearly 20 percent of the American workforce.
On the January 6 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News contributor Karl Rove dismissed the Obama administration's efforts to raise the minimum wage as yet another attempt to distract from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and falsely claimed that raising the minimum wage "doesn't affect a lot of American workers" (emphasis added):
HEMMER: You know, I'm trying to figure this out, Karl. Do you see that as a new front to argue politics in America today in order to set up the debate for the midterm elections next November? Or do you see it as a distraction away from the issues of Obamacare? Is it A or B or is it a mix of both then?
ROVE: Well it's a mix of both but I thought it was interesting yesterday on the Sunday talk programs, Todd, from NBC talked about how he had talked to members of the administration, Chuck Todd said he talked to the people in the administration about the agenda for 2014 and the administration talked about everything but Obamacare. This is first and foremost an attempt to pivot away from something that is incredibly damaging to the administration, the so-called Affordable Care Act, and again, as I said, short run, there's a little bit of advantage here in the next couple of weeks or months in talking about raising the minimum wage and which doesn't affect a lot of American workers.