Economy

Tags ››› Economy
  • Wash. Post Debunks Trump’s Conspiracy Theory About The "Artificial" Employment Rate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Washington Post’s Matt O’Brien countered Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's "conspiracy theory" that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has "massaged" the unemployment statistics, explaining that there is "zero evidence [the BLS] has changed the numbers" and that “anyone who suggests otherwise is either uninformed, or trying to uninform others.”

    Right-wing media boasts a long history of pushing the claim that the BLS artificially manipulates employment statistics in a partisan effort to portray the Obama administration as having a positive impact on the economy. Most recently, these efforts have been spearheaded by Trump, who, with the help of his family, has attempted to downplay economic progress and hype the debunked claim that 42 percent of Americans are unemployed.

    The Post explained that, while Trump hasn’t revealed the source of his unemployment statistic, “the simplest explanation is that he's just ballparking how many adults don't work” -- a figure that, right now, is 40.4 percent. But that number is problematic because it “counts college students and stay-at-home parents and retirees as being equally ‘unemployed’ as people who are actively looking for work but can't find any.” From the July 26 article (emphasis original):

    For a year now, the alleged billionaire has insisted that the "real" unemployment rate is something like 42 percent instead of the 4.9 percent it actually is. He hasn't said how he's gotten this — maybe it's from the same "extremely credible source" who told him President Obama's birth certificate was fake? — but the simplest explanation is that he's just ballparking how many adults don't work. That's 40.4 percent right now. The problem with using that number, though, is that it counts college students and stay-at-home parents and retirees as being equally "unemployed" as people who are actively looking for work but can't find any. So it doesn't tell us too much, at least not on its own, unless you think it's a problem that we have more 70-year-olds than we used to.

    Or unless conspiracy theories are one of your favorite accessories, as seems to be the case with the father, and now the son, Donald Trump Jr. On Sunday, he told CNN's Jake Tapper that the official unemployment numbers are "artificial" ones that are "massaged to make the existing economy look good" and "this administration look good." How do they supposedly do this? By, he claimed, defining "the way we actually measure unemployment" to be that "after x number of months, if someone can't find a job, congratulations, they're miraculously off [the jobless rolls]." The only problem with this theory is it's false. The BLS hasn't changed the way it measures unemployment during the Obama years, and there is zero evidence it has changed the numbers themselves. Not only that, but Donald Trump Jr. doesn't even seem to know how unemployment is defined in the first place. As the BLS explains, everyone who doesn't have a job but is trying to find one counts as "unemployed." It doesn't matter how long you've been looking as long as you are in fact still looking.

    But that's not to say the unemployment rate tells us everything we need to know about the labor market. It doesn't. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will tell you that herself. There are still a lot of people who want full-time but can only find part-time jobs. Still a lot of people who want to work but weren't able to find anything for so long that they've given up looking for now. And still a lot of people who would want to work again if wages were high enough to make worth their while. But none of this is a secret. The BLS publishes this all, too. So-called broad unemployment includes all these people who technically aren't unemployed but aren't fully employed either. That's 9.6 percent today.

  • Fox News Praises Trump’s Widely Panned Brexit Response Because He Was “In The Right Place”

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News’ John Roberts praised Donald Trump’s widely mocked response to the United Kingdom’s vote to exit the European Union, known as “Brexit,” claiming that Trump was “at exactly the right place, at the right time, on the right side of the issue.”

    Following the UK vote which caused worldwide economic turmoil, Trump gave a “bizarre” speech that focused on his new golf course in Scotland instead of the Brexit results. When Trump finally spoke on the referendum after being pressed by reporters, he praised the vote and welcomed the historic crash of the British currency for potentially having a positive financial effect on his Scottish golf course:

    Visiting the golf course he owns in Scotland, he praised the referendum vote, saying the British had chosen to “take their country back,” but only after he touted the sprinkler system, the drains and the luxury suites at his Turnberry resort.

    Even as his campaign sent out a fundraising email hailing the British vote as a “brave stand for freedom and independence,” he seemed at one point to welcome the crash of the British currency that threatened to undermine financial markets, noting that he might gain from it.

    “When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry,” he said.

    Trump’s response was immediately panned throughout the media. MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said she was “gobsmacked” at Trump’s response, noting that it highlighted the way Trump has been using his presidential bid to further his business interests. CNN’s John Avalon described Trump’s response as “completely insane,” and The Washington Post called it “a widely broadcast infomercial.”

    But on the June 26 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, Fox’s senior national correspondent John Roberts had a different view of Trump’s speech, claiming that the referendum offered Trump “the opportunity to say he has his finger on the pulse of national populism” and praised Trump for being “at exactly the right place, at the right time, on the right side of the issue”:

     

    CHRIS WALLACE: Donald Trump seemed to be at the right place at the right time, but some say HRC’s response could have been sharper.

    [...]

    JOHN ROBERTS: Donald Trump’s trip to Scotland was supposed to be all about business, but it quickly became all about politics in a way that may give him a boost back home. It was a trip that was giving Republican leaders fits, ill-timed and unnecessary, they said. Yet in true fashion, Trump found himself at exactly the right place, at the right time, on the right side of the issue.

  • Fox News Blasts Obama On Household Income, Fails To Mention Incomes Are Going Up

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox & Friends co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade cherry-picked new economic data to attack President Obama over the difference in median household income between now and the year 2000, but they failed to mention that median household income is still going up since it crashed after the Great Recession.

    Doocy and Kilmeade blasted Obama on the economy over new median household income data on the June 10 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, but they failed to mention that recent incomes have risen year to year. Seizing on pre-recession data, Kilmeade noted that median household income is down from 2000, when the annual household median income was $57,342 in 2016 dollars. Although Fox & Friends pointed out that this is $79 more than 2016’s median household income of $57,263, the co-hosts did not note that the 2016 figure is still an increase of $2,409 from last year, continuing the post-recession upward trajectory.

    Doocy also criticized the president for not getting gross domestic product growth up to 3 percent during his tenure, falsely claiming, “President Obama has been historic … because no U.S. president has ever not had 3 percent growth in a single year.” Doocy’s bizarre claim is wrong: Republican President Herbert Hoover not only never hit 3 percent growth, but he failed to hit zero percent growth, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

    The bureau has consistent annual data from 1930 to the present. Because of the Great Depression, the economy contracted at a rate of 8.5 percent in 1930, 6.4 percent in 1931, a staggering 12.9 percent in 1932, and 1.3 percent in 1933. The contraction in 1933 may have been even greater, had Franklin Delano Roosevelt not replaced Hoover in the White House in March of that year, and chosen to initiate the substantial government stimulus projects known as the New Deal. Hoover is also not the only example that disproves Doocy’s claim -- reliable GDP estimates prior to 1930 are difficult to find, but available data show four consecutive presidents overseeing economic growth of less than 2 percent from 1871 to 1885.

    Fox & Friends has pushed conservative misinformation on the economy before, sticking to a right-wing script reported on in an April 28 blog post by Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman. Waldman explained how Republicans mislead the American public about the health of the economy by ignoring positive economic trends. The focus of Waldman’s comparison was the “objective reality” of progress and areas for improvement specified by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the “laughable fantasy” of “an absolute [economic] nightmare” outlined by Republican front-runner Donald Trump, but it could have just as easily been any of the personalities at Fox News. The June 10 Fox & Friends segment that misled on median household income is just another example of right-wing media sticking to the script.

  • Fox's Varney Dubiously Claims US Is "Sliding Toward Recession" After Economy Grows Slightly Less Than Expected

    Stuart Varney: "It Is Legitimate To Use The Word Recession" Despite Seven Consecutive Quarters Of Economic Growth

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney misleadingly used the Commerce Department's most recent economic growth estimate to claim the United States is "sliding toward recession." In reality, there are many reasons to believe economic activity will pick back up in the spring and summer this year.

    On the April 28 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Varney used the Commerce Department’s quarterly GDP report, which estimated economic expansion to be 0.5 percent in the first three months of 2016, to claim America is “sliding toward recession.” Guest Julie Roginsky attempted to correct Varney's characterization of the economy, explaining that the United States' economy is still growing and has created nearly 15 million new jobs over the course of “73 consecutive months of job growth,” but she couldn't budge the host from his talking points. Varney concluded the segment by claiming that the economy's supposed "downtrend" creates a "political problem" for Democratic politicians like Hillary Clinton:

     

    The last recession, which the National Bureau of Economic Research defines as “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months,” began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, first quarter economic growth has typically lagged behind growth for the rest of the year since the economy emerged from the Bush-era Great Recession:

    Varney’s warning that a recession may be imminent does not match expert analysis. On April 28, The Washington Post reported that “most analysts say that the United States faces little risk of recession.” Reuters reported that "a pick-up in activity is anticipated" in the coming months "given a buoyant labor market." In fact, while Varney was pushing his dire warning about the state of the economy, Bank of America economist Ethan Harris was on CNBC's Squawk Box explaining how one could assume a recession is happening in the first quarter of almost every year “if you don’t adjust the data,” because “the winter hits” and the “shopping season ends.” In an interview with ABC News, economist Ian Shepherdson acknowledged that the current data "looks grim, but the second quarter will be much better."

    Varney is a serial misinformer on the economy, repeatedly attempting to spin data to claim President Obama’s economic policies have failed, even though the president’s economic legacy of the last seven years shows the unemployment rate has been cut in half, annual deficits have gone down, GDP has grown, and the United States enjoyed the third-longest stock market upswing in its history. Varney’s spin on economic data has gone so far that on December 4 -- in response to a strong November jobs report that beat most economists' expectations -- he managed to conclude that the pace of job creation was "mediocre," and on January 8 he downplayed the December jobs report as merely "modest" even though it was arguably the strongest jobs report of 2015.

  • Charleston Gazette-Mail Promotes Biased Anti-Labor Studies To Attack AFL-CIO Ads

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    An editorial published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail purporting to fact-check AFL-CIO radio ads targeting so-called "right-to-work" laws being pushed by West Virginia legislators identified no errors in the advertisements, but still attacked the labor union by promoting flawed and biased studies funded by anti-union donors.

    The December 14 editorial was authored by the editorial board of the Charleston Daily Mail (in July the Charleston Daily Mail and Charleston Gazette merged to form the Charleston Gazette-Mail. The paper retains two independent editorial boards).*

    The editorial discussed a West Virginia radio network's decision to pull three AFL-CIO ads from its airwaves, which reportedly cited them as "inflammatory." The editorial board claims the ads "mislead by quoting studies that don't necessarily address correlation and causation." The editorial continues by juxtaposing the claims in the AFL-CIO ad with "conservative" studies in an attempt to prove the AFL-CIO's claims are flawed:

    The 54 percent increase in injury and death statistic comes from a 2014 AFL-CIO report "Death on the job, the toll of neglect," using Bureau of Labor statistics.

    Yet a 2012 study by the conservative Meighen Institute suggests that union workplaces have more injuries than non-union workplaces. And a 2012 report from a Michigan group supporting right-to-work legislation cites a reduction in injuries and illnesses in Oklahoma over a 10-year period after right-to-work laws went into effect in 2001.

    "It's true that right-to-work states have a greater incidence of fatal workplace injuries, but the very dangerous occupations are concentrated ... in occupations like farming, fishing and forestry regardless of whether the state has a right-to-work law," the CAPCON report says.

    The AFL-CIO says that right-to-work states have lower average wage rates. That too is true, but as Daily Mail columnist Laurie Lin covered last week, those states also generally have much lower cost-of-living rates.

    "When adjusting for cost of living, workers in right-to-work states have 4.1 percent higher per-capita personal incomes than workers in non-right-to-work states," reports the Mackinac Institute.

    The editorial notes multiple times that the AFL-CIO's statements are true, even citing sources that back up the union's claims.

    For example, the editorial cites "CAPCON" or Michigan Capitol Confidential -- an online outlet created by the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy to push the organization's studies -- agreeing with the AFL-CIO's argument that states with so-called "right-to-work" laws have higher incidences of fatal workplace injuries. CAPCON and the editorial noted that "It's true that right-to-work states have a greater incidence of fatal workplace injuries," but caveat the fact by claiming these right-to-work states engage in more dangerous occupations without providing any evidence of the fact. The studies and reports cited by the editorial fail to adequately counter the claims made by the AFL-CIO, as neither of the sources cited by the paper address workplace fatalities in their data, except to agree with the AFL-CIO's argument that right-to-work states lag behind other states in terms of workplace safety.

    The editorial also claimed that the AFL-CIO's contention that "right-to-work states have lower average wage rates [...] is true," but defended the typically low wages of states with right-to-work laws by claiming that these states "generally have much lower cost-of-living rates."

    The AFL-CIO's claim of higher workplace fatalities in states with anti-union laws is backed up by several studies, including one published in the American Journal of Public Health, which found similarly that, "Higher rates of fatal occupational injury were associated with a state policy climate favoring business over labor."

    In addition, as a report in the Kennedy School Review notes, one study looking at unionization and coal mine safety from 1993 to 2010, found that "unionization predicted a substantial and significant decline in fatalities and traumatic injuries." The report also notes that while unionization also coincided with an increase in injury reporting, the phenomenon is most likely due "to more stringent injury reporting practices in union versus non-union mines." In essence, the Kennedy School Review found that injury reporting was held to higher standards after unionization, causing such reports to increase, while safety standards were also improved as a result of unionization, causing fatalities to decrease.

    The AFL-CIO's claim that right-to-work states have lower average wages is also backed up by evidence, which contradicts the Mail's claim that incomes in states with restrictive union laws are higher after adjusting for cost-of-living. As the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) pointed out in an April 22 report, when accounting for a larger set of variables, not just cost-of-living differences, and "subject[ing] the results to a series of robustness tests," the AFL-CIO claim holds true - "wages in RTW (right-to-work) states are 3.1 percent lower than those in non-RTW states."

    The Mail's failed attempt to discredit the AFL-CIO relied on a number of biased anti-union sources. The Mackinac Center, part of the conservative State Policy Network group of think tanks, has received millions of dollars from anti-union donors such as the DeVos family, the Walton family, and Donors Capital Fund -- the "dark money ATM" of the conservative movement funded in part by the anti-union Koch brothers. Lastly, as SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, explains, Michigan Capitol Confidential (CAPCON) "produces articles and blog posts intended to appear like those of traditional news sources, but with a demonstrated conservative bias and pushing a right wing agenda."

    *This piece has been updated throughout to clarify the relationship between the Charleston Gazette-Mail and its multiple editorial boards.

  • Four Economic Issues That Should Take Center Stage At The CNBC GOP Debate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The first Republican presidential debate hosted by a business-themed television network presents an opportunity for debate moderators to closely examine the economic policy positions and records of the GOP field.

    On October 28, CNBC will host the third GOP primary debate, which will be split into two parts. The top 10 polling GOP contenders -- Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Rand Paul -- will participate in a two-hour primetime debate, while four other GOP candidates -- Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum -- will participate in a debate a few hours earlier. Both debates will be moderated by CNBC anchors Carl Quintanilla and Becky Quick, and CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood.

    According to an October 21 CNBC press release, the debate "will focus on the key issues that matter to all voters -- job growth, taxes, technology, retirement and the health of our national economy."

    Below are four suggestions for how CNBC's moderators can press the GOP field about the intersections between the economy and: money in politics, climate change, tax cuts for the wealthy, and immigration reform.

    1. Ask The GOP Field About The Out-Of-Control Campaign Financing System And Their Support For Citizens United

    The growing crisis of barely-regulated money in politics in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision was brought into stark relief by a recent New York Times report which found that "[j]ust 158 families have provided nearly half the early money for efforts to capture the White House." According to Media Matters analysis, since March 23, a total of 52 segments on CNBC discussed issues related to money in politics, but campaign finance reform was mentioned just once. CNBC should ask candidates about our country's broken campaign finance system not just because 78 percent of Americans polled favor overturning Citizens United, but also because unlimited campaign contributions help shape negative economic policy outcomes According to a May 2014 issue brief by the Center for American Progress, campaign contributions and lobbying can significantly increase "rent-seeking," which economists agree "causes a net societal loss that harms the economy." And if CNBC moderators need another reason to ask the candidates about money in politics, they should just look around: the GOP debate will be held at the University of Colorado's Coors Events Center, a venue so-named because of a sizeable contribution made by the Adolph Coors Foundation, an organization involved in funneling dark money to conservative causes.

    2. Ask The Candidates About The Call From Leading Businesses And Financial Leaders For Action On Climate Change

    Here is what recent research suggests: Climate change-fueled wildfires are already straining the budgets of Western states, climate change could reduce the United States' per capita GDP by 36 percent by 2100, and more than $1 trillion worth of property and structures are presently at risk from climate change-fueled sea level rise. The severe economic risks associated with climate change should be more than enough reason for CNBC moderators to question the GOP field about this urgent issue, which could drastically impact businesses of all sizes. Climate change recently became part of the 2016 campaign in a significant way when battleground incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)  announced her support for the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, citing the interests of the New Hampshire business community. Ayotte joined a group of major corporations and financial decision makers, including 81 signatories to the American Business Act on Climate Change Pledge, mega food companies such as General Mills, Kellogg Company, Mars, Inc., and Nestle USA, leading banking institutions including Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo, and many other major corporations. Asking the GOP field about the economic consequences of climate change would also be an opportunity for the network to improve its coverage of the issue. According to a Media Matters analysis of the first nine months of 2013, more than half of CNBC's coverage of the issue included climate science denial.

    3. Ask GOP Contenders How They Can Call Their Tax Plans "Populist" When They Overwhelmingly Benefit The Wealthy

    Throughout the 2016 presidential primary campaign, GOP candidates have routinely pitched their tax plans as "populist," despite the fact that each and every proposal disproportionately benefits the wealthy. And media have fallen for the claim time and time again. When Donald Trump announced his plan on September 28, Politico claimed in a headline that the billionaire businessman planned to "hike taxes on the wealthy" -- even though the plan calls for cutting the top marginal tax rate, cutting the corporate income tax rate, and eliminating the estate tax. The media outlet had relied solely on Trump's false characterization of his plan to write that headline. In an October 14 article in The New York Times, debate co-moderator Harwood criticized several candidates for describing themselves in populist terms but "sh[ying] away from economic populism," while crafting tax policies that "deliver disproportionate gains to the most affluent." During the debate, Harwood should continue to hold the candidates to this same standard, pushing them to accurately explain what their tax reform plans do and who they benefit.

    4. Do Not Let The Candidates Cite Fake Conservative Media Statistics On The Impact Of Immigration On The Economy

    Falsehoods about immigration routinely begin as conservative media claims before becoming talking points used by GOP presidential candidates. CNBC should be on the lookout for several common false claims about immigration and the economy, and be prepared to factcheck fabricated statistics on the issue. Conservative media often claim that deporting undocumented immigrants would help the economy by saving taxpayers money. In one variation of that claim published by Breitbart News, each deported household would save taxpayers $700,000. In fact, the opposite is true -- the cost of deporting longstanding undocumented immigrants in the United States would cost more than $114 billion, and according to a report from Center for American Progress, the "cost to the overall economy would likely be far more." Other claims to look out for include: false connections between immigration and African-American unemployment rates; the erroneous claim that immigration decreases American wages and increases unemployment; and the baseless argument that immigrant children are straining American school systems and driving up taxes.

  • Stephen Moore, Rush Limbaugh, And The Right-Wing War On Science

    Zack Kopplin Educates Senior WSJ Writer About Science

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE

    On the April 5th edition of Real Time with Bill Maher, science education activist Zack Kopplin confronted The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore over myths about science funding, pointing out that Moore, who questioned the need for funding research on "snail mating habits," is "not a scientist":

    As it turns out, the reason actual scientists are conducting this type of research is because snails carry parasitic worms that kill children:

  • Conservative Media Echo Misleading GOP Claim On Health Care Law And The Deficit

    ››› ››› MIKE BURNS & DAVID SHERE

    Conservative media are parroting a Republican claim that a federal report says health care reform increases the long-term deficit. In fact, the report says that the deficit would only increase if cost containment measures in the bill were phased out over time, and found that the deficit would decrease if those measures were maintained.

  • Wash Post Fudges The Numbers To Suggest Republicans Led Economic Recovery In Ohio

    Blog ››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

    The Washington Post hid almost a full year of job creation in Ohio, suggesting that it was only after Republicans won elections in 2010 that the economy began to recover.

    The Post highlighted the heavy focus on Ohio during the waning days of the presidential election and reported:

    Over the past two years, Ohio's economy has begun to rebound. Unemployment stands at 7 percent, below the national average and down from 9.4 percent in November 2010, when Republicans scored major victories in the midterm elections. Republican Gov. John Kasich claims his policies have helped turn around the economy, but the brightening picture gives a potential lift to Obama as Election Day nears.

    But the unemployment rate in Ohio had been falling the entire year leading up to the 2010 election, after it had peaked at 10.6 percent in late 2009. The unemployment rate in the state declined throughout 2010 and by September 2012 had dropped to the lowest level since before President Obama was elected. 

    Ohio Unemployment