In the five years since President Obama's health care reform plan -- which became the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- was first introduced, the right-wing media has waged a continuous campaign to attack the law through misinformation, deception, and outright lies.
From the April 1 edition of Fox News' On the Record:
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From the March 5 edition of Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) publicly admitted that his dogged investigation into the IRS may be at a "dead end" given a former IRS official's refusal to testify, but you won't hear that on Fox News.
The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee called on former IRS official Lois Lerner to testify on March 5 in yet another hearing on the IRS' inappropriate targeting of organizations seeking tax exempt status. For the second time, Lerner testified that she would invoke her Fifth Amendment rights and not answer the committee's questions.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Issa articulated that his investigation into the IRS could "dead end" given Lerner's refusal to testify. As Talking Points Memo reported:
Issa was asked how bad of a setback Wednesday's hearing was for the investigation.
"As you can see from our questioning today, we have continued to gather facts around Ms. Lerner's absence of testimony," Issa replied. "It would have allowed us to bring this investigation to a -- probably pretty quick close if she had been willing to answers those questions. Without it we will undoubtably [sic] have a few more questions to try to find out things that she could have answered quickly today."
A reporter than asked Issa if he was still "confident" the investigation would "get to the bottom of this."
"It may well be we have gotten to the bottom of it," Issa said. "At this point, roads lead to Ms. Lerner. The witness who to took the Fifth. That becomes -- she becomes one of the key characters at this point. Had she been willing to explain those emails which were provided through separate subpoenas, then we could have perhaps brought this to a close. Without that, it may dead end with Ms. Lerner."
Fox News was quick to hype Issa's hearing, but not nearly so quick to acknowledge the congressman's admission that his IRS investigation might be over.
Summarizing the House hearing that evening on Special Report, Fox correspondent Mike Emanuel concluded, "At this point, Issa seems prepared to move forward with the IRS investigation without hearing from Lerner":
A misleading suggestion by Fox News that IRS official Lois Lerner's decision to invoke the Fifth Amendment was evidence of her guilt was debunked by Fox's own Greta van Susteren who explained that it is common for lawyers to instruct clients to invoke the Fifth Amendment regardless of guilt.
On March 5, during a House hearing on IRS targeting, Lerner responded to Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-CA) questioning by invoking the Fifth Amendment. On Fox's America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum reacted to the hearing by suggesting that Lerner's use of the Fifth Amendment implied her guilt, claiming "If she didn't have anything that she didn't want to share, she'd be able to share exactly what happened":
But as MacCallum's Fox News colleague Greta van Susteren noted earlier in the day, invoking the Fifth Amendment is not indicative of guilt. Van Susteren defended Lerner's decision to use her Fifth Amendment right at the hearing on Twitter, noting that during her time as a lawyer, she told "clients, including innocent ones," to invoke the Fifth Amendment:
Multiple Rupert Murdoch-owned media outlets, including the New York Post, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal, have launched false attacks against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's record on charter schools to paint him as waging a "war on children" and "poor kids," all while ignoring the benefits of de Blasio's push for universal pre-K in the city.
The attacks on de Blasio from Murdoch's media came in response to the announcement on February 27 that he blocked three New York City charter schools from using public school space rent-free. News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch himself kicked off the attacks with two incendiary tweets on February 27, asking how "de Blasio [can] do this" the same day President Obama unveiled his initiative for young boys and men of color, and falsely claiming that de Blasio's move "hurts poor families who only want a better school for their kids."
On Fox News, On The Record host Greta Van Susteren claimed the next day that "New York City democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, he just declared war on children," calling him "selfish, really selfish" and accusing him of "picking on the poor kids," asking, "Who could be that rotten?" On the March 3 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox correspondent Charles Gasparino accused "comrade Bill" of wanting "essentially to end charter schools." Later that day, The Real Story host Gretchen Carlson said that de Blasio "ax[ed] three planned charter schools," asking one of her guests, "Why is this an outrage in your mind that Mayor de Blasio is going to strip kids from going to charter schools?"
In print, the New York Post likened de Blasio's charter school move to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Bridgegate scandal (in which the governor's office engaged in political retribution), calling it "Chartergate" and writing that "de Blasio is taking good schools away from disadvantaged minority children to get back at his enemy." The Wall Street Journal editorial board called for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to defend the closed schools, claiming, "National Democrats are silent as Bill de Blasio kills charter schools."
But the facts tell a different story. According to The New York Times, de Blasio said "he would block three charter schools from using space inside New York City public school buildings." The Times explained that "[i]n reviewing 49 proposals to share school space approved under [former New York City Mayor] Mr. Bloomberg, he left untouched a majority of plans affecting charter schools." He did not "end" them or "kill" them or wage "war," as Murdoch and his media outlets claim. Furthermore, city officials told the Times that some of the plans, which were approved by Bloomberg, "would have required elementary school students to attend class inside high school buildings, and others would have required cutting programs for students with disabilities."
What right-wing media conveniently ignore in characterizations of de Blasio as picking on "poor kids" is his push for universal pre-K in New York City, which would mean greater early education access for every child regardless of their income status. The New York Times reported last week that de Blasio estimated "up to 29,000 [pre-K] seats could be opened at schools and so-called community based organizations" using his plan to fund pre-K through a higher state income tax. And as Washington Post columnist Katrina vanden Heuvel pointed out in January, de Blasio's plan "reflects growing evidence ... that high-quality, universal access to pre-K can make a significant difference in the lives of children, especially those from low-income families."
Don't expect to get the facts from Rupert Murdoch's media outlets any time soon -- their history of inflated rhetoric about de Blasio ensures his education plans will continue getting the fact-free right-wing treatment.
Fox's Greta Van Susteren pushed the debunked myth that members of Congress have special exemptions from Obamacare by attempting to spin the fact that they may revert to federal benefits upon retirement as special treatment. In reality, not requiring retired members of Congress to stay on an exchange plan avoids giving them unfair advantage over other federal employees in retirement, and is in compliance with the wording of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On the March 3 edition of Fox News' On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren introduced a segment on an alleged Obamacare loophole by saying that "members of Congress and their staff members are being offered that escape hatch when they retire" which will allow them to "go back to their federal employee health coverage." Van Susteren's guest, former Republican senator and president of the conservative Heritage Foundation Jim DeMint, twisted the retirement stipulation as evidence that "the big guys get taken care of with one plan, but the average Joe gets to deal with a cash for clunkers type of health plan that we got with Obamacare":
This attempt to cast the fact that retired members of Congress are not required to stay on Obamacare as a loophole ignores the fact that the ACA did not specify how a member of Congress should be treated once they leave office and retire. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) decided that requiring retired members of Congress and their staffers to stay on an exchange plan would give them an unfair advantage of greater benefits than other federal employees in retirement (emphasis added):
Under a rule issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) late last year, members and staff who retire will be able to revert back to health coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). That's the same coverage thousands of other federal workers can use when they retire.
The FEHBP lets government retirees choose from a range of options, including health savings accounts, PPOs or HMOs. And none of it has anything to do with ObamaCare.
The OPM had not included a retirement escape clause in its August draft of the rule on congressional coverage. But this flexibility was added in its Oct. 2 final rule, after "numerous commenters" called on the OPM to reconsider.
The OPM ultimately agreed with those commenters and said that, when read closely, the law only applies to members and staff "while they are employed in those positions."
A Feb. 18 report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) puts it plainly. "[T]he final rule allows members and designated congressional staff who are eligible for retirement to enroll in a FEHBP plan upon retirement," the CRS summarized.
The OPM decided that forcing members and staff to stay on ObamaCare would give them "broader health insurance options" than other federal employees upon retirement, which would be unfair.
"We make this change for the additional reason that, otherwise, Members of Congress and congressional staff would have broader health insurance options in the Exchange in retirement than are available to other Federal annuitants," the OPM said.
A report by the Congressional Research Service likewise flies in the face of claims by Van Susteren and DeMint that the ACA's retirement stipulation constitutes a special exemption or "escape hatch." According to the report, members of Congress and their staffers have to meet the same eligibility criteria to purchase a Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) plan in retirement as every other federal employee:
OPM indicates that Members and congressional staff designated as working for an official office of a Member (hereinafter "staff" or "designated staff") who purchase coverage through an exchange will have the ability to enroll in plans offered through FEHBP when they become annuitants, provided they meet the eligibility criteria to do so under 5 U.S.C. Section 8905.12 The eligibility criteria are generally the same criteria that all other federal employees must meet to continue FEHBP coverage in retirement.
This new myth that members of Congress have an "escape hatch" from Obamacare upon retirement is in keeping with Fox's ongoing attempt to manufacture Congressional "exemptions" from the law, an effort that has even been criticized by Republicans.
Right-wing media accused President Obama of unprecedented overreach resembling that of a "dictator" for the ordinary administrative agency rule-making process surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) employer mandate.
After loudly and falsely claiming that a new Congressional Budget Office study reported that the Affordable Care Act will "kill" more than two million jobs in coming years (it did not), Fox News talkers and the right-wing media industry quickly opted for a second (and equally phony) line of attack this week. They condemned the sad state of the American worker, suggesting they're shiftless and lazy and blamed the Obama administration is turning them into ungrateful sloths.
Focusing on the CBO projection that Obama's health care reform may prompt two million workers over the next ten years to voluntarily leave their jobs, or cut back their hours, Bill O'Reilly announced the administration is "creating a class of layabouts." Stuart Varney compared the worker choice trend to "extending the hand-out society." And Brian Kilmeade bemoaned how "the whole work ethic and self-esteem" thing was being undercut by Obama.
A miffed Greta Van Susteren was also deeply offended by the prospects of American workers choosing to work less in order to strike a better balance in their family lives without living in fear of not being covered by health care insurance. "Do you know anyone who has gotten successful by working less?" she asked Staples CEO Tom Stemberg, a longtime critic of Obamacare.
Why the anti-workout freakout?
After all, the key point here is that Obamacare will soon give a portion of workers a choice of whether they want to work or not (perhaps even temporarily) or whether they want to cut back the hours they work. Why the new choice? Because Obamacare will allow people in lower income brackets access to affordable health care coverage regardless of whether they're employed. So people who feel trapped in jobs that are used primarily as a way to obtain coverage will suddenly have options. (That workplace condition is known as "job lock," something Republicans had previously opposed.)
Millionaire Fox pundits might not realize it but most Americans, and certainly most young American families with two working parents, lead complicated lives as they juggle responsibilities that entail more than taping a 60-minute television show five times a week. (Bill O'Reilly earns approximately $80,000-per episode.) Flexibility for them is a good thing.
Still, the condemnation rained down.
It's a rather startling, judgmental attack when you consider that the employees in question might opt out of their jobs in exchange for early retirement, to better care for family members, or to start a company of their own. None of those scenarios would even remotely reflect poorly on the workers.
Each year, Republican Senator Tom Coburn releases a "Wastebook" reviewing government projects that he views as wasteful, and each year, the media eagerly promote his report. Yet television news ignored a report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that U.S. taxpayers are being stiffed by coal companies buying federal land for less than its worth, which a previous report estimated has cost taxpayers nearly $30 billion over the last 30 years.
On Tuesday, the GAO found that the Bureau of Land Management was not adequately documenting reasons for accepting bids below the determined market value. Furthermore, as many states are not considering exports in their market value analyses, they may be underestimating the value in the first place. Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), who requested the study, stated that "Given the lack of market competition in coal leases" -- the GAO found the vast majority did not have a single competitor, as seen in the chart below -- "if the fair market value set by Interior is low, it can lead to significant losses for taxpayers. For instance, for every cent per ton that coal companies decrease their bids for the largest coal leases, it could mean the loss of nearly $7 million for the American people."
Based on the report, Sen. Markey's office estimated that recent leases could have yielded an additional $200 million in revenue and "possibly hundreds of millions more." A previous report from the Institute for Energy Economics estimated that selling federally-owned coal for less than fair market value has cost taxpayers $28.9 billion in lost revenue over the last 30 years. That finding adds to the economic damages that coal pollution and disasters exact on the economy. A 2011 study, for instance, found that air pollution from coal-fired power plants imposes more costs on society than the value added to the economy by the industry -- and that study did not include climate change damages. Recently, the spill of a chemical used to clean coal in West Virginia cost the local economy $61 million, according to a preliminary study that did not include the cost of clean-up or emergency expenditures.
Yet none of the major television networks covered the GAO report confirming that coal companies are underpaying the federal government*.
The "Wastebook" received considerably more attention when it was released in December 2013, drawing uncritical coverage from all the major television networks except MSNBC (ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fox News uncritically touted the report at least once, and NBC hosted Sen. Coburn where he raised the report without pushback). LiveScience reported that nearly a quarter of the projects Sen. Coburn's office listed in 2013 were science-related and that the "Wastebook" often distorts the studies. Last year, for instance, Fox News promoted the Wastebook's attack on a "government study" on Tea Party intelligence that was actually a non-government funded blog post. CNN's S.E. Cupp and others also attacked a study of duck penises included in the "Wastebook," contributing to the pattern of basic research being cut in the face of what MSNBC's Chris Hayes called "ignorant mockery."
From the February 4 edition of Fox News' On The Record with Greta Van Susteren:
From the January 31 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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From the January 31 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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Fox News host Greta Van Susteren suggested that "Stand With Wendy" -- a campaign slogan affiliated with state senator Wendy Davis' (D-TX) gubernatorial campaign in Texas -- was "code" language being used to ridicule her disabled opponent, Greg Abbott (R-TX). Van Susteren all but ignored the origins of the slogan, which was popularized after Davis' now-famous filibuster in the Texas legislature weeks before her opponent entered the race.
On the January 27 edition of Fox News' On The Record, Van Susteren invited gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott to talk about the race against Davis. During the segment Van Susteren expressed concern that "websites associated with" the Davis campaign were employing language about standing with Wendy in order to mock Abbott, who has used a wheelchair since he was partially paralyzed by a falling tree many years ago.
"I think that's code, 'standing up,' said Van Susteren. "I actually think if I were running against someone who was in a wheel chair, the last -- I would be mortified if the word 'standing' appeared in any of my literature, if only on the off chance that I might hurt someone who's in a wheel chair or say something to people who are disabled. And I don't see that she's ever disavowed it." Van Susteren acknowledged Davis' filibuster, but said she finds it "too coincidental" and recommended Davis apologize for the slogan, "which may have another meaning."
From the January 27 edition of Fox News' On The Record With Greta Van Susteren:
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