Right-wing media misleadingly hyped a congressional hearing to falsely claim that disability fraud is leading to increased claims and depleting the Social Security Disability Trust Fund. However, testimony from a Social Security Administration official at the hearing revealed that fraud is not a major problem in the disability program and demographic changes explain increased disability claims.
With their prior efforts to generate a scandal regarding the Internal Revenue Service collapsing, Fox News spent 17 minutes and 41 seconds on a federal report that found less than $20,000 of improper use of credit cards by agency employees out of more than $100 million in charges.
The report from the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration's office, released on Monday, noted that purchases made with IRS-issued credit card accounts were reviewed over a two year period ending in September of 2011. During that period, IRS had 5,241 purchase card accounts and made approximately 234,000 purchases totaling $103.2 million with the cards. In a press release, Inspector General J. Russell George said "the majority of IRS cardholders appear to use their purchase cards properly" but pointed out that the audit "identified some troubling instances of inappropriate usage."
The IG identified, based on a non-scientific sample of purchase card transactions, $3,939 in card transactions the IG considered "improper decorative and give-away items" (the IRS responded that those purchases were in fact proper under federal laws supporting purchases for training and decorative items). The IG also identified a single cardholder who "made 38 transactions totaling $2,655 for what appeared to be personal purchases."
Finally, the IG criticized $12,474 in credit card expenditures during a five-day conference that cost the government "more than 50,000"; the IRS had been authorized to spend more than double that on the week's meals, receptions, and meetings, but the IG still termed "the cost of the expenses related to this conference to be high."
Even if all of this spending was improper, which the IRS denies, it would still constitute a mere $19,068 in spending over two years.
But on Fox, this spending was treated as a major story.
Between 3:30 pm on Monday and11:30 am Tuesday, the network highlighted the improper purchases in 17 minutes and 41 seconds of coverage over seven segments - on Studio B, Special Report, On The Record, Fox & Friends First, Fox & Friends, America's Newsroom, and Happening Now.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board and Fox News are throwing around baseless estimates of how much carbon standards for existing power plants, which have not even been proposed yet, will cost.
Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced in a speech on a series of executive actions to address climate change that he was "directing" the Environmental Protection Agency to set a standard for how much carbon pollution existing power plants can emit. A Journal editorial that ran in the paper Wednesday argued that these carbon standards would be too costly, claiming "In general every $1 billion spent complying with an EPA rule threatens 16,000 jobs and cuts GDP by $1.2 billion." But that is based on an analysis prepared for the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners (CIBO) of a rule that impacts them, not EPA rules in general.
The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concluded that "little credence can be placed" in CIBO's estimates of costs and job losses. Retrospective analyses of industry studies such as CIBO's have found that they regularly overestimate costs and underestimate benefits.
Similarly, Fox News suggested that carbon standards would boost energy prices by 20 percent and cost 500,000 jobs. However, that is based on an as-yet unreleased Heritage Foundation analysis that will look at several EPA rules including the not yet proposed rule on existing power plants' carbon pollution.
The only cost estimates based on an actual proposal for carbon standards are from an analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which found that the standards could actually lower power bills by giving plant owners credit for any improvements in energy efficiency. The Heritage Foundation previously overestimated the costs of cap-and-trade and released a widely-criticized cost estimate for immigration reform.
These News Corp. outlets' willingness to throw around unsubstantiated numbers undermines their credibility on the costs and benefits of reducing carbon pollution through the EPA when we actually have rules on the table.
Media outlets are pushing the conservative narrative that the Obama administration will "bypass Congress" with a new plan to reduce carbon emissions while ignoring key context: the 2007 Supreme Court decision that explicitly gave the executive branch the power to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act and the endangerment finding that made the EPA "statutorily obligated" to do so.
President Obama announced the details of his new plan to deal with the challenge of climate change in a June 25 speech at Georgetown University. Details of the White House plan, which will extend regulation on carbon emissions to existing power plants, were released on the morning of June 25.
Advance coverage of Obama's climate speech and plan by Fox News, Politico, The Associated Press, NBC News, and The Hill echoes past criticism from conservative media of Obama's efforts to combat climate change by focusing on the fact that the efforts do not need to be approved by Congress.
On the June 25 edition of Fox & Friends First, business analyst Diane Macedo concluded her report on the climate policies that Obama is likely to announce by noting that "none of these steps require congressional approval," and that Obama is "seek[ing] ways to work around [Congress]."
Politico reported on June 21 that the president was "preparing to bypass Congress on climate change." An NBCNews.com headline described the president's intent to "sidestep Congress with new initiatives to reduce carbon emissions." And The Hill stated that the administration would "curb emissions using executive powers that sidestep Congress" and the plan was "designed to get around Congress."
However, not one of these outlets explained that the Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government already has the authority to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. Right-wing media outlets similarly excluded this critical context when they hyperbolically accused the administration of breaking the law by proposing carbon regulations that did not require congressional approval. In June 2012, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer said that earlier EPA regulations on carbon emissions were "outright lawlessness." A March Wall Street Journal editorial also claimed that Obama's efforts to regulate carbon make him similar to a dictator.
A Fox Business correspondent claimed that it was better to forgo nearly $3 million in additional prize money than to pay the roughly $400,000 in taxes due on it, representing a continuation of the baseless Fox News narrative that the rich have unduly high tax burdens.
Professional golfer Phil Mickelson placed second at June's U.S. Open golf tournament. Fox Business correspondent Lauren Simonetti argued on June 19's edition of Fox & Friends First that it may have been better for Mickelson to have lost the tournament and place second, for he would avoid paying nearly $400,000 in additional taxes.
She explained that had Mickelson won the tournament -- and won the $1.44 million first prize -- he would have had to pay an additional $76,000 more in taxes than he paid by placing second and receiving $700,000. Mickelson would have also had to pay an additional $300,000 in taxes on $2.5 million in bonuses paid to him by his sponsors, had he won. She concluded it's better to avoid paying roughly $400,000 in taxes than to win nearly $3 million in after-tax income. Simonetti said this made Mickelson "$400,000 richer."
This conclusion may stem from Fox's zealotry against additional taxes for the rich: the rich, because of their supposed onerous tax burden, need lower taxes in order to continue amassing wealth, or else they may stop working.
The idea that the wealthiest Americans have a disproportionately high tax burden is a fabrication Fox has pushed for years. However, a February 15 New York Times article reported that incomes for top earners rose more than 11 percent during the recovery from the most recent recession, while the rest saw their incomes decline slightly. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz noted in an April 14 New York Times Opinionator blog post, "as the top 1 percent has grown extremely rich, the effective tax rates they pay have markedly decreased." The Center for Tax Justice (CTJ) found that the effective tax rate -- a rate including all federal, state and local taxes paid -- for the wealthiest Americans is not much higher than the effective tax rate for middle class Americans:
In the same report the CTJ found that the precentage of all taxes paid by the wealthy is near the amount of all national income captured by the wealthy.
From this fabrication, Fox has argued that the supposedly high tax burden will make the rich not work or might seek lower taxes in different states. In September 2011, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly equated earnings to achievement and claimed that "if you tax achievement, some of the achievers are going to pack it in." And in September 2010, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade argued that high levels of taxation, to the wealthy, "robs you of your ambition and your push and your drive."
However, the rich have not been doing this. As Reuters reported, millionaires in high tax states, such as Mickelson's home state of California, have not left the state for low-tax alternatives. Mickelson himself suggested in January he may quit golf due to California's income taxes, walking back the statement a day later. If the 2013 U.S. Open results are any indication, Mickelson is still playing golf, presumably because after taxes he still earns millions and because he doesn't take financial advice from Fox.
Right-wing media have repeatedly used dishonest and misleading charts from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to decry spending on nutrition assistance and other programs for needy Americans.
Fox News, Fox Nation, and The Weekly Standard have, over the course of many months, taken charts from Sessions' staff depicting spending on food stamps (also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) and other spending on low-income Americans in grossly misleading ways with out-of-context numbers. On June 12, Fox & Friends First cited Sessions when airing a graphic showing spending on SNAP being more than five times greater than spending on veterans job training and education programs:
Similar charts appeared on Fox Nation and The Weekly Standard. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projection that is cited on the graph does not list any spending on veterans job training and education, so that number cannot be verified. But the White House projects that spending on this program will increase over the next five years, after it already grew dramatically after 2009 -- while spending on SNAP is projected to decrease over the same five-year period.
But it is ridiculous to compare a veterans education program -- which is limited to only military veterans and thus a very small segment of the population -- to SNAP, which is an income security program (indeed, it is listed as such in the CBO document) and is open to every American that meets eligibility requirements. And many veterans and their families are eligible for SNAP and active-duty service members and their families use the benefits. But if one was to look at income security spending for veterans, CBO projections show that more is actually spent on veterans -- a total of $801 billion on income security for veterans over 10 years, and a much larger amount than the veterans program highlighted by Sessions and the right-wing media.
During the segment, Fox Business' Diane Macedo noted that "the USDA also provides bonuses totaling about $50 million per year to states that meet high enrollment targets." These awards, which Sessions brought up on Fox News in June 2012, date back to the Bush administration, and have their origin in the 2002 farm bill.
Fox News used a flawed study to falsely claim that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will increase health insurance market premiums by 88 percent in the state of Ohio, ignoring the counter effect of the premium tax credit subsidy and deceptively suggesting that premium increases will affect the state's entire population.
Fox News continued its campaign to demonize welfare benefits, this time hyping improper payments made by a Massachusetts program even though those payments made up only a minimal amount of all benefits paid by the state.
On Fox & Friends First, co-host Patti Ann Browne hyped a report that Massachusetts welfare agencies had improperly continued to provide a total of $2.39 million in assistance to 1,164 deceased recipients, calling the figures "ugly." On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade mocked the report, claiming, "More than 2 million dollars. That's the amount of welfare benefits paid out recently to nearly 1200 dead people in Massachusetts. They could not be reached for comment." A FoxNews.com article called the audit of the agencies "damning."
But according to the audit, improper payments to deceased individuals made up only a tiny amount of total assistance payments made by the state. Massachusetts' Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) spent more than $1.7 billion in benefits in fiscal year 2012 alone for a variety of financial assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP, or food stamps) and emergency aid to people with disabilities and children. The audit found only $2.39 million dollars improperly paid to deceased recipients for the entire time period from July 2010 to December 2012.
Furthermore, the audit found that Massachusetts has already taken steps to reduce the small number of improper payments in these programs, and according to the official press release, the auditor was "encouraged" by DTA's actions.
Fox News has a history of attacking programs for Americans in need. Fox News hosts have tied government assistance programs to the terror attacks committed at the Boston Marathon, mocked food stamps as a diet plan, claimed all individuals who receive government disability benefits are faking their disabilities, and even asked whether children should have to work in exchange for free school meals.
Amid reports that former State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland was nominated by President Obama to a higher post, Fox News immediately engaged its smear machine to launch a false attack on her, claiming she had misled Congress and the American people about terrorist groups possibly involved in the attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.
Politico reported on May 23 that Nuland, who had been "involved in the editing of the administration's talking points on Benghazi," was nominated by Obama to be the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, a position that requires Senate confirmation. Politico also reported the nomination "could come under scrutiny from Republicans" for her input on the administration's unclassified talking points on the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
Fox News jumped on the news to smear Nuland and continue its long-running attempt to promote Benghazi as a devastating scandal. On May 24, Fox's early morning show Fox & Friends First said that Nuland is "accused" by unnamed people of "misleading Congress and Americans." Co-host Patti Ann Browne continued:
BROWNE: The State Department spokesperson who played a key role in editing the talking points on the Benghazi terror attack is getting a promotion. President Obama has nominated Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary of State for Europe. She's accused of misleading Congress and Americans by downplaying the role terrorists played in that attack. This comes as the investigation deepens; several lawmakers are pushing to interview 13 top State Department officials, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Anna Kooiman suggested that Nuland was "being promoted for politics," and asked, "where's the accountability?" The following graphic aired during the segment:
But recently released administration emails which document the process of drafting the Benghazi talking points show that it's Fox News that is being misleading.
Fox News and Fox Business previously portrayed electric carmaker Tesla Motors as another "failure" of the Obama administration's green energy investments. But since it is now clear that the company is doing well, both networks have developed amnesia about its federal loan, with Tucker Carlson claiming that "they don't take any government subsidies at all."
Tesla recently reiterated its plans to repay a loan granted through the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program ahead of schedule. This followed a series of positive developments, including the company's first quarterly profits and a shining review of the Model S sedan by Consumer Reports. Financial services firm Morgan Stanley recently told Raw Story that "Many funds approach an investment opportunity by first asking: does the company do something better or cheaper than anybody else? Tesla is beginning to convince the market it may do both."
But no matter how Tesla fares in the coming years, it seems likely that Fox News will change its reporting to follow suit. In 2012, Fox News' claim that Tesla was a "failed" company was eventually adopted by the campaign of then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Later, Fox News admitted Tesla was a "success", eventually forgetting its federal loan in the process.
Video created by Max Greenberg and John Kerr.
The success of Tesla Motors complicates Fox News' narrative about green energy investments, but the network has a strategy: simply ignore the fact that the company received a federal loan.
Tesla, a leading electric automaker, received a $465 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) program in 2010. The company has since become a fixture in car magazines and one of the most conspicuous successes of the Obama administration's green energy policies, recently announcing that it intends to pay back the loan five years ahead of schedule and reporting its first quarterly profits. On the heels of the latter news came word that the notably tough reviewers at Consumer Reports had given the Tesla Model S sedan a 99 out of 100 rating, proclaiming "we've never seen anything quite like the Model S. This car performs better than anything we've ever tested before."
On Friday, Fox News reported the quarter one profits -- "encouraging" -- and the positive review, pronouncing the automaker a "huge success."
One major problem: somehow, Fox News neglected to mention the federal loan guarantee program that helped Tesla obtain vital capital to develop the Model S. By contrast, Fox News has repeatedly used a negative Consumer Reports review of Fisker's hybrid electric Karma sedan as a hook to attack the Obama administration's green loans, without mentioning successes like Tesla or the money that Congress set aside to cover losses, knowing that not every company would succeed.
Fox News stoked fears of terrorism to attack immigration reform while failing to acknowledge that the Senate's proposed immigration legislation includes provisions to bolster security measures.
The Washington Post reported the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing legally immigrated to the United States as political refugees. Fox News personalities responded by attacking immigration reform and stoking fears of terrorism, going so far as to suggest that visitors from certain countries and regions be banned from entering the United States.
On the April 30 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Heather Nauert continued Fox's pattern of using the Boston Marathon bombings to attack immigration reform and stoke fears of terrorism, asserting that terrorists are "being granted tourist visas." She went on to claim that certain individuals were "overstaying" those legal limits, and asked: "Why isn't there a plan in place to catch that?"
NAUERT: Critics say it is a gaping hole that Washington needs to fix, and fix right now ... And let's remember some of those 9-11 hijackers were here on student visas and overstayed those student visas as well.
During the report, on-screen text falsely claimed the Senate's immigration reform proposal "gives no solution" to individuals overstaying their immigration visas:
In fact, the number of legal immigrants overstaying their visas declined by 73% between 2000 and 2009, thanks to the Department of Homeland Security's enhanced security measures in the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate on April 17 is designed to speed that decline by implementing what Republican Senator Marco Rubio called "an effective entry and exit system."
Responding to questions about enforcement and temporary visas in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano described how provisions in the Senate immigration reform bill would "give us more measurements, more metrics, more identities, more things that we can use from a law enforcement purpose."
Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev "initially escaped the notice of federal authorities on a six-month trip to Russia last year because his name was misspelled on his airline ticket," The Washington Post reported. But Napolitano pointed out that the proposed electronic monitoring system is designed to specifically address that problem, as it "does a good job of getting human error, to the extent it exists, out of the process."
CBS News reported that the bill's "modernized visa system" would monitor "the future traffic of immigrants during both departure and arrival to ensure that nobody overstays their welcome." The summary of the bill's framework further details that the success of the full proposal is "contingent upon our success in securing our border and addressing visa overstays" and requires "the completion of an entry-exit system that tracks whether all persons entering the United States on temporary visas via airports and seaports have left the country as required by law."
Fox News forwarded the notion that it might be appropriate for school children to be forced to work in exchange for free school meals, after a Republican lawmaker in West Virginia proposed such a requirement for a new law curbing child hunger.
On Fox & Friends First, on-screen text asked viewers whether students should have to "work for their school meals":
As The Washington Post blog "She The People" explained, the idea that students could be forced into labor in exchange for food comes from a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, who suggested the requirement be added to a bill intended to ensure no child goes hungry:
"I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it," said Ray Canterbury, a Republican from Greenbrier and a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, during debate over Senate Bill 663, also known as the Feed to Achieve Act.
The bill -- the first of its kind in the nation -- would create a partnership between private donations and public funds to make breakfast and lunch available for free to every student, kindergarten through high school senior, in West Virginia. It's based on a model program in Mason County that's improved attendance and decreased discipline problems, according to the school district's food service director.
Free meals are provided through the National School Lunch Program to students whose family's income is 130 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines. For this past school year, that means a family of four with an annual income of $29,965 qualifies. Children with household incomes of 185 percent or less of the poverty guidelines can get reduced-price meals under the program, which -- I was surprised to learn -- was established in 1946 by the National School Lunch Act.
West Virginia's Feed to Achieve Act wants to go beyond that by making sure no child goes hungry at school, but Canterbury repeated the theme of "there is no such thing as a free lunch" during the delegates' discussion of the bill, which had passed the state Senate unanimously.
Fox News spent an entire week hyping a supposed "War on Easter," pointing to the decision made by a few school boards to hold "Spring egg hunt[s]" instead of Easter egg hunts. In seven days, Fox devoted 10 segments to what host Bill O'Reilly called the continued "war on Judeo-Christian tradition."
On March 21, O'Reilly lambasted President Obama and the White House for empowering "secular progressives" to pressure school districts around the country to eliminate terms like "Easter bunny" and "Easter egg." O'Reilly complained that "the war on Judeo-Christian tradition continues in some public school districts," citing districts in five states that he said "are having Spring egg events. Moderated by a Spring bunny":
O'REILLY: I know it's stupid. You know it's stupid. But it's happening, and there is a reason why it's happening. Secular progressives are running wild with President Obama in the White House. They feel unchained, liberated and they are trying to diminish any form of religion. The goal is to marginalize religious opposition to secular programs.
In the past week, several Fox shows followed O'Reilly's lead, airing segments that criticized the "P.C. police" and focused on "assaults" that have put Christianity "on the run in this country":
President Obama has nominated Thomas E. Perez as Secretary of Labor. Right-wing media used this announcement to push false attacks about Perez based on his service in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and other civil rights work and advocacy.