While reporting that weekly jobless claims have fallen to a five year low, Fox News' Jenna Lee said that, "much of the job growth has come from fewer layoffs, not increased hiring, which begs the question whether it is real job growth at all." While Lee implied an inverse relationship between jobless claims and job growth, the U.S. Labor Department's first time unemployment claims report is only an indicator of layoffs, not job growth. In fact, the April jobs report showed that 165,000 jobs were added to the economy and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent - the lowest since December 2008.
On the May 9 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, host Jenna Lee reported on the weekly initial jobless claims report issued by the Labor Department. Lee acknowledged that the numbers were encouraging but then erroneously framed the report as an indicator of slowed job growth, questioning "whether it is real job growth at all."
Lee's question implied an inverse relationship between the job growth and initial jobless claims report, which is a weekly report that tracks the number of Americans who apply for unemployment benefits. Jobless claims don't measure job growth, as Lee implies. The data are only a proxy for layoffs and necessarily do not measure job growth - if someone does not get laid off, that's a job maintained, not created. Contrary to Lee's suggestion, Bloomberg reported that, "Initial jobless claims reflect weekly firings and tend to fall as job growth -- measured by the monthly non-farm payrolls report -- accelerates."
Lee questioned "whether it is real job growth at all." According to the report that actually tracks job growth, employers added 165,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent -- the lowest it has been since December 2008. Private sector job growth has consistently risen since 2009:
But Fox News recently attacked that report, too. Their coverage was largely negative, despite the fact that economists generally agree that the report shows positive gains in the labor market.
From the March 4 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox News host Jenna Lee touted the fact that a proposal by Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer was being considered by House Republicans. Fox has a long history of attempting to influence GOP policies and campaigns.
During the January 18 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee reported on a House Republican plan to increase the debt ceiling through May 1 in order to get the Senate to pass a budget. Lee noted the plan's similarity to a recommendation by Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer in an op-ed published by The Washington Post and Fox News, concluding "That was the idea put forward by Charles Krauthammer, maybe it was in the works already."
Fox News military analyst Jack Keane falsely claimed that President Obama's withdrawal timeline from Afghanistan was based on politics instead of reacting to the state of the conflict. In fact, military leadership has supported Obama's timeline as appropriate given the conditions on the ground.
On the January 2 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, retired Gen. Jack Keane attacked Obama for the planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, claiming: "We made arbitrary withdrawal time schedules in Vietnam as we've done in Afghanistan. Not based on conditions on the ground." From the show:
Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore claimed that enacting spending cuts is the only way to reduce government debt. However, economists argue that focusing on economic growth is a crucial part of reducing deficits.
In an appearance on Fox News' Happening Now, Moore, lamenting the fact that spending cuts were not a primary focus of the January 1 budget deal, claimed that "unless you cut spending...you can't bring that debt down."
While spending cuts could be implemented to address the deficit and debt, they are hardly the only option. Throughout the debate on budget negotiations, numerous economists felt that deficit reduction should be addressed through a balanced approach, with revenue increases offsetting the need for deep spending cuts.
Furthermore, some economists, such as the Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker, argue that focusing on deficit reduction is largely a distraction, especially considering that increased deficits over the past few years "are entirely the result of the economic downturn."
Given this fact, some economists have rightly claimed that economic growth should be a priority when attempting to address deficits. According to former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich:
The deficit is a problem only in proportion to the overall size of the economy. If the economy grows faster than its current 2 percent annualized rate, the deficit shrinks in proportion. Tax receipts grow, and the deficit becomes more manageable.
But if economic growth slows -- as it will, if taxes are raised on the middle class and if government spending is reduced when unemployment is still high -- the deficit becomes larger in proportion. That's the austerity trap Europe finds itself in. We don't want to go there. [The New York Times, 11/7/2012]
Indeed, many economists have argued that cutting spending in a weak economy could negatively impact growth. So while spending cuts may reduce deficits in the short term, they could add to debt in the long run through decreased revenues from lowered economic activity.
Fox News relied on dubious arguments from a conservative group with a history of ethical problems to cast doubt on how the Obama administration is implementing government regulations related to the health care reform law.
In a segment titled "Regulation Nation," anchor Jenna Lee claimed that the health care law's new regulations are on the "fast track" because the public hasn't been afforded enough time to offer input on them before their passage. Correspondent Shannon Bream added that this was in contrast to a 1993 executive order from former President Clinton, which required a minimum of 60 days for comment.
Bream based her reporting on the work of right-wing group Americans for Limited Government, which has a history of ethical problems that include fraud and financial disclosure issues. The group has also been accused of engaging in character attacks.
In fact, the Obama administration has complied with regulatory rules. Moreover, despite Bream's assertion that comment periods should last at least 60 days, there is no required minimum period.
Federal Register guidelines state that "in general, agencies will specify a comment period ranging from 30 to 60 days," but they may also use shorter periods "when that can be justified." Clinton's 1993 executive order recommended that a comment period last at least 60 days "in most cases."
An executive order President Obama signed in January 2011 improving regulation and regulatory review reaffirmed Clinton's order, reading:
To the extent feasible and permitted by law, each agency shall afford the public a meaningful opportunity to comment through the Internet on any proposed regulation, with a comment period that should generally be at least 60 days.
Bream ended the segment by claiming that "there have been nearly 6,000 federal regulations proposed just in the last 90 days."
According to the government's regulation website, regulations.gov, there have been 5,803 new postings in the last 90 days. However, more than 4,000 of those are "notices," which include updates to previous regulations, scheduled hearings, grant applications, and meeting announcements. Less than 1,500 are listed as new regulations and rules.
Fox previously used the term "Regulation Nation" to launch a weeklong attack on federal regulations just as the Republican Party announced its push for repealing regulations. Fox also has a history of attacking health care reform.
Fox News is hyping a petition that calls for Congress to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, on the grounds that global warming is a "hoax." But while hyping 15,000 signatures gathered by a group that is in the business of misleading the public on climate science, Fox ignored that over 3 million comments have been submitted in favor of EPA's greenhouse gas regulations.
Fox News uncritically repeated the conservative Heartland Institute's declaration that the extensive science behind manmade climate change is just a "hoax." The group's petition, which is being promoted by Republican Senator James Inhofe, tries to cast doubt on everything from the basic physics of the greenhouse effect to the fact that Arctic sea ice has hit record lows and sea levels are rising. Based on that misinformation, the petition argues that the EPA should allow businesses to continue spewing huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the air at no cost to the polluters.
Fox News did not give any background on the Heartland Institute, which has received significant industry funding and came under fire earlier this year for a billboard campaign associating acceptance of climate science with murderers. Heartland took down the billboard, but refused to apologize for its "experiment."
During a Fox News panel discussion on how women helped reelect President Obama, host Jenna Lee wondered what obstacles the Republican Party needed to overcome to win a sizeable share of the female vote. Yet apart from saying that "we heard a lot about" the "alleged war on women," Lee did not touch on the party's attacks on women's rights, including the GOP's expansive legislative efforts to restrict those rights, or the party's dismissal of wage equality.
On Happening Now, Lee hosted three women to talk about the Republican Party's gender gap and how Republicans can "do a better job of winning the female vote." Lee noted that Obama beat Republican Mitt Romney by 11 points among women and went on to ask guest Sabrina Schaeffer how Republicans can "fight the battle of the alleged war on women" if they avoid talking about gender politics.
Schaeffer, the executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, said that Republicans should talk to women about how they can expand women's liberty, which "is not a war on women." Guest Wendi Biondi, who attended the second presidential debate, added: "I cannot stand that term 'war on women.' "
Despite Lee's reference to a "war on women," not once did she note that the Republican Party has launched a wide-ranging assault on women's rights -- nor did she discuss recent inflammatory comments by two GOP lawmakers that resulted in their election-night losses.
During an interview with local St. Louis TV station KTVI, Republican Congressman Todd Akin claimed that it's "really rare" for women subjected to "legitimate rape" to become pregnant. Likewise, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock suggested that pregnancies resulting from rape are "something that God intended to happen."
This rhetoric is reflected in actual policies pushed by Republicans.
From the November 4 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ:
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From the October 22 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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Fox anchor Jenna Lee ignored the facts to suggest that holiday season hiring may explain why the unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent. In fact, the government agency responsible for the jobs report takes into account seasonal factors such as holiday hiring when it releases unemployment figures.
On Fox News' Happening Now, Lee said to former Republican governor John Engler: "Some of our viewers have asked questions about whether or not we're seeing seasonal hiring as we get closer to the holidays. So how much of a factor do you think that really is, governor?" Engler responded: "Well, Halloween's the second-largest retail holiday that we have, so it's a factor. I'm not going to say that that's the whole story, it isn't."
But the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which releases the jobs report, says that it adjusts jobs numbers for seasonal fluctuations such as "the hiring (and layoff) patterns that accompany regular events such as the winter holiday season."
Without the seasonal adjustment, the unemployment rate would be even lower at 7.6 percent.
Fox News anchor Jenna Lee highlighted the extremely misleading statistic that the economy has lost more than 470,000 jobs since January 2009. In doing so, Lee ignored the fact that President Obama took office in the middle of a deep recession when hundreds of thousands of jobs were being shed each month.
Responding to the release of the June jobs report showing a gain of 80,000 jobs last month, President Obama highlighted the positive trend in private sector job growth, noting that "businesses have created 4.4 million new jobs over the past 28 months." After repeating Obama's comments, Lee said:
LEE: But remember, the president has been in office for roughly three and a half years, and according to the Labor Department, since the president took office in January of 2009, and private and public sectors combined have actually lost 473,000 jobs.
In the wake of a $2 billion trading loss sustained by the bank JPMorgan Chase, many economists have advocated for the strengthening of financial reform to prevent against reckless behavior. Not Fox, however, which has argued that the problem is too much regulation of Wall Street banks.
From the April 16 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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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).