Fox News fabricated a connection between the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) and a recent consumer survey to conclude that the law is hurting the economy in time for the holiday shopping season.
On the December 16 edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto, guest host Stuart Varney and Fox Business contributor Elizabeth MacDonald claimed that the ACA is depressing holiday spending. Their claims, based on a consumer survey released by Bankrate.com, showed that 38 percent of respondents plan to spend less during the holidays this year than the previous year.
Varney and MacDonald surmised that the health reform law is driving more Americans into less lucrative part-time work and, in turn, dragging down workers' ability to engage in commerce. MacDonald added "there is concern on the part of businesses over health reform," citing information from the Federal Reserve:
Varney and MacDonald's claims are unfounded.
The survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, makes zero mentions of the ACA or health reform and trends for most surveyed indicators -- from holiday spending and job security to personal savings and financial security -- are largely flat from year-to-year.
Furthermore, MacDonald's claim that the Federal Reserve Beige Book indicates a sense of unease in the business community regarding the ACA is a significant exaggeration. The Fed's most-recent official statement recognizes "concern about future cost increases attributable to the Affordable Care Act and other types of federal regulation," but lists no examples of those costs or any other negative consequences currently assigned to the law.
The "Obamacare Part-Time Jobs Myth" has also been easily dispelled by actual economists, including some of the same outlets that initially pushed the claims. Fox News has spent years blaming the Affordable Care Act for every hiccup in the economy including the unfounded claim that Obamacare forces employees into part-time work, or destroys jobs altogether.
Fox News continued to hype the myth that the debt ceiling raises the national debt, smearing President Obama's comments at an October 8 press conference as false. In reality, the debt ceiling does not raise the debt or authorize additional spending, but instead enables the U.S. government to finance existing legal obligations.
Right-wing media are accusing President Obama of using "scare tactics" to score political points with the upcoming debt limit deadline, but professional economists agree that debt limit brinkmanship could end in disaster.
On October 2, President Obama sat down for an interview with CNBC correspondent John Harwood in which he said that Washington's political posturing was "different" this time, and that major financial institutions "should be concerned" by Republican threats to not raise the debt ceiling before October 17. But the right-wing media response to President Obama's caution has been to downplay the looming deadline while accusing the president of engaging in "scare tactics."
On the October 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade questioned if the president was hoping to "trigger a stock market sell-off":
In a later segment, the Fox & Friends crew was joined by Fox Business host Stuart Varney to discuss the effect the president's statements might have on financial markets. Varney and the hosts agreed that the president's rhetoric was designed to drive markets down and thus provide him with "extra leverage" in the debt ceiling fight:
From the September 7 edition of Fox News' Forbes on Fox:
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Fox Business is claiming that because 2013 Arctic sea ice extent is unlikely to beat the 2012 record low, melting in the region is "slowing," an idea one climate scientist called "absolutely ridiculous" in the context of a long-term decline.
On Wednesday, Fox Business' Charles Payne launched a segment on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) State of the Climate report by claiming that the agency "has forgotten to mention ... that 2012 was one of the coolest years of the decade," thereby "slowing down the melting of Arctic ice this summer."
This statement was based on a lack of understanding of "regression to the mean" -- or in the case of climate change, regression to the new mean. This and other mathematical concepts seem to give Fox a lot of trouble.
Unfortunately for baby harp seals, Payne is wrong about Arctic sea ice melt "slowing" -- it seems he either didn't grasp the aforementioned idea or didn't read NOAA's report very carefully. The State of the Climate found record low Arctic sea ice extent in 2012 and included this chart illustrating monthly trends compared to the 1979-2000 average:
As Skeptical Science explained, it's unsurprising that 2013 will not likely beat that record low if you consider "regression toward the mean":
[N]ote that neither [of two statistical predictions for 2013 Arctic sea ice extent] predicts that 2013 will break the 2012 record (3.6 million square kilometers). There is a principle in statistics known as "regression toward the mean," which is the phenomenon that if an extreme value of a variable is observed, the next measurement will generally be less extreme, i.e. we should not expect to observe record lows in consecutive years. This is because when extremes are reached and records are broken, a number of different variables generally have to align in the same direction to make this happen.
Still in search of ways to attack the federal government's investments in green technology, Fox Business baselessly claimed that the battery for the all-electric Tesla Model S "conks out after about 16 miles." In fact, the car is noted for its 200-mile battery range, which is superior to that of other electric vehicles on the market.
Positive developments about Tesla Motors' fortunes have been selectively covered by media of late, and the increasing likelihood that the company will be a long-term success has led some outlets to seek ever more inventive ways of criticizing the Department of Energy loan that it received (or pretend it never got a government boost at all). On Thursday's edition of Varney & Company, Fox Business reporter Elizabeth MacDonald aptly illustrated this phenomenon, claiming that Tesla Motors and Space X founder Elon Musk "has got to fix the Tesla [Model S] battery ... which conks out after 16 miles or about a half-hour of usage."
However, the Model S has actually been touted as a potential "game-changer" for its stated range of either 206 or 265 miles when fully charged (depending on which of the two batteries owners choose). At a consistent 55 mph clip, the larger battery can exceed a 300-mile range. Actual numbers may vary, as Tesla points out, according to "driving conditions and how you drive and maintain your vehicle," but the company's online tool shows a range of just over 150 miles for the smaller battery even at 65 mph, at freezing-point temperatures, with heat and headlights turned on and windows rolled down (i.e. less-than-favorable mileage conditions). The notoriously tough car reviewers at Consumer Reports, which earlier gave the Model S a near-perfect rating, cautioned that the car's actual range may not always align with the stated range, but reported nothing close to what MacDonald claims.
In 2011, MacDonald also appeared to pull a figure out of thin air to attack green energy investments, claiming that Evergreen Solar received "$43 million in federal money," when the bankrupt company had actually not received any federal money, according to The New York Times.
UPDATE (5/31/13): Elizabeth MacDonald acknowledged Friday on Varney & Company that she "gave incomplete information" on the battery range of the Model S, noting that one hour of charging using a mobile connector will add 31 miles to the car's range, while the fully-charged 85 kw battery has a range of 300 miles.
Conservative media voices have insisted that an increase of the federal minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $9 would harm the economy. However, a wealth of economic evidence disputes the claims that minimum wage hikes are job killers, that the minimum wage is already high, and that it only applies to jobs held by relatively young workers.
Multiple Fox News personalities have suggested the Justice Department's lawsuit against Standard & Poor's is 'political retribution,' either papering over or outright ignoring the facts behind the suit. However, the S&P investigation began well before U.S. credit was downgraded, and a raft of internal emails suggest the company may have knowingly inflated securities ratings.
Fox News tried to undermine President Obama's tax plan by pushing six debunked tax myths in advance of negotiations on how to avoid a series of automatic tax increases and spending cuts. In reality, Obama's proposal to let tax cuts for wealthy Americans expire will grow the economy and is supported by a majority of Americans.
From the November 5 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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From the November 1 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co.:
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Fox News is distorting President Obama's economic agenda by pushing the straw-man argument that taxing the entirety of millionaires' incomes would fund the government for less than three months. In fact, Obama has proposed no such thing, and this Republican talking point obscures the billions in revenue that would be generated from letting the Bush tax cuts expire for wealthy households.
Both mainstream and conservative media outlets have responded to the recent spike in gasoline prices by circulating talking points rooted in politics rather than facts. As a whole, these claims reflect the misconception, perpetuated by the news media, that changes in U.S. energy policy are a major driver of oil and gasoline prices.
Advancing a highly misleading talking point from ExxonMobil, Fox's "straight news" program Happening Now defended the oil giant on Friday from Obama's call to end tax subsidies for oil companies.
Fox Business reporter Elizabeth MacDonald said she "just got off the phone with ExxonMobil" -- and it showed. She clearly didn't bother to fact check what they told her.
MacDonald said that ExxonMobil's "U.S. tax bill came in at $12 billion bucks -- that was more than the $9 billion bucks they earned in after tax profits." This is straight from the talking points ExxonMobil distributes when getting heat from the fact that its rising profits require drivers' pain.
Taxes greater than their profits? Pretty compelling if true. But in fact, ExxonMobil's "tax bill" includes at least $5.6 billion collected from consumers in federal and state gasoline taxes. Drivers pay the tax, but Exxon counts those dollars as part of its own tax burden. They've been doing this for years and are apparently still able to fool some reporters.
This morning in a "straight news" segment, Fox News aired the following graphic supposedly showing "Taxes At The Pump":
There are several reasons why this graphic does more to confuse than to inform. First, Fox double-counted state taxes. They included the average state tax of about 23 cents per gallon both in the category "state" taxes and in the category "state & local" taxes. The total of both state and local taxes is 30.4 cents on average. Fox also placed $3.83 at the bottom, as if taxes are in addition to the price for gasoline. But the $3.83 figure already includes the taxes.
And in a continuing struggle with the concept of scale, Fox's three tax figures appear about 70 percent as large as the $3.83 displayed underneath, when mathematically they're less than 20 percent (and that's without correcting for the double-counted state taxes).