Conservative media figures issued apocalyptic warnings and predictions about the consequences of passing health care reform. Yet in the five years since President Obama signed the bill into law, the number of uninsured Americans has dropped by the largest amount in four decades, insurers can no longer deny coverage for preexisting conditions, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obamacare subsidies will cost $209 billion less than projected.
On the anniversary of health care reform's passage, Media Matters looked back at right-wing media's most dire predictions.
In November 2009, Glenn Beck declared that the possible passage of health care reform "will be a nail in the coffin of America" and would cause the public to "all wallow in misery." Obamacare would be "the end of prosperity in America forever ... the end of America as you know it."
Rush Limbaugh argued in 2009 that Obamacare was "aimed at robbing you of your humanity and forcing you to bow down to the state." He predicted, "All of us will be slaves" because "the road to serfdom ... is paved in Obamacare."
The next year, Limbaugh forecast that health care reform would lead to "250 million uninsured."
Radio host Jim Quinn argued in January 2010 that the passage of Obamacare would bring "an insurrection. You're going to see an uprising." According to Quinn, "Your taxes are going to go through the roof. It's going to be a bloodbath."
CNBC's Jim Cramer predicted in March 2010 that Obamacare would topple the stock market, arguing it was the "single biggest impediment to the stock market going higher." (Notably, the DOW and Nasdaq neared all-time highs in March 2015.)
Cal Thomas claimed on Fox News in 2010 that while they may not "pull the plug on Granny" due to Obamacare, "they will deny her care because she's costing too much and she's too old."
In agitating for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, CNBC host Jim Cramer falsely claimed that the transnational oil pipeline could create 60,000 jobs in four weeks and further erroneously claimed that pipelines "have been the largest producer of jobs in the past four years" in the United States. In fact, evidence from the State Department and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate Cramer has vastly overestimated both Keystone XL's job creation potential as well as the impact of the pipeline industry as a whole in adding jobs to the economy.
Cramer's erroneous comments about Keystone XL came during the April 7 edition of Meet the Press on NBC:
Contrary to Cramer's assertion, a State Department report on Keystone XL released on March 1 found that the pipeline would create approximately 42,100 jobs for a one-to two-year period, including 3,900 annual construction jobs during this period. However operation of the pipeline would only create "35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs" meaning that Keystone XL "would have negligible socioeconomic impacts."
Cramer is also wrong that pipelines "have been the largest producer of jobs in the past four years." According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pipeline industry employs approximately 43,310 individuals annually, with jobs involving the transportation of crude oil accounting for 8,680 of that total. By comparison, the BLS estimates that, in the private sector alone, over 2.5 million individuals are employed in "green goods and services," a designation created by BLS to describe jobs and businesses "that produce goods and provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources."
Fortune magazine reported that after receiving critical coverage in that publication following his unsupported, conspiratorial claim that the September employment numbers had been rigged by the White House for political gain, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch notified Fortune that he was "terminating" his writing contract with the journal.
"Welch Can't Take The Heat: I Quit," read the Fortune headline.
Note however, that Welch didn't sever his association with CNBC, the partially GE-owned cable channel that Welch used to oversee and where he still regularly appears as a commentator.
Maybe Welch isn't sore at CNBC because the channel played such a central role in promoting Welch's anti-Obama conspiracy last week and giving it legitimacy with constant coverage. "The tweet heard around the world," was how one CNBC anchor described Welch's Twitter-based conspiracy salvo last week.
Indeed, while interviewing Labor Secretary Hilda Solis about the dip in the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent, host Carl Quintanilla's first question to the cabinet member on Friday was about Welch's half-baked claim that the Bureau of Labor Statistics had "fixed" the numbers. Time and again Quintanilla returned to the conspiracy theory, insisting "a lot of people do not believe the 7.8 number." (Later that day Quintanilla referred to Welch as his "former boss" and "a man we all like.")
I'm not suggesting it's been all bad at CNBC since Friday. Several commentators there have poked on-air holes in Welch's unserious job speculation. (See here.) The problem is CNBC kept circling back to the scheme as a topic worthy of serious debate. It wasn't and that should have been self-evident to anyone in the business of journalism.
Yet on Tuesday, CNBC hosted a call-in from Donald Trump who cheered Welch's theory, calling it "100 percent correct." Worse, days after so many experts had dismissed the Welch claim as nonsense, CNBC host Becky Quick told Trump that she agreed with him that the 7.8 figure wasn't "real." He quickly concurred: "Nobody buys it."
What a mess. (And also very Fox-inspired.)
It's fitting though, that just weeks before Election Day CNBC is wallowing in an irresponsible anti-Obama conspiracy theory, considering that just weeks into Obama's presidency the all-business channel engaged in wildly irresponsible Obama bashing, bordering on demagoguery.
Featured in a sympathetic profile in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, CNBC host Jim Cramer reminisces about the rhetorical beat-down he took at the hands of Jon Stewart when the two famously clashed on The Daily Show back in March of 2009. (Well, Stewart clashed. Cramer just kind of sat there and took it.)
From the Times piece [emphasis added]:
Cramer was especially incensed by what he saw as the political unfairness behind Stewart's attack. "They wanted to make me the Face of the Era, and they succeeded. Rick Santelli's a conservative. Ideological. O.K., I get that. But me? I was very anti-Bush. I'm a Democrat, I've got the canceled checks to prove it, and suddenly I'm the enemy? Me? Me?"
Today, Cramer can't figure out why he ever became the target of liberal wrath like the kind he faced from Stewart. After all, Cramer's a Democrat.
Regardless of his party affiliation, the fact is that just weeks into President Obama's first term, Cramer took to the airwaves to denounce the new president as a possible communist and warned investors that Obama and his Democratic administration were destroying wealth in America.
So maybe that's why Cramer became an appealing target of the left.
And don't believe me about Cramer's wildly irresponsible rhetoric in 2009? As Media Matters detailed at the time, Cramer repeatedly characterized Obama and Democrats as Russian communists, claiming Obama was "taking cues from Lenin." Cramer also used terms such as "Bolshevik," "Marx," "comrades," "Soviet," "Winter Palace," and "Politburo" to describe Democrats.
It was Cramer who appeared on NBC's Today and attacked Obama's "radical agenda" and claimed it was "the most, greatest wealth destruction I've seen by a president." He also claimed that under Obama, "no stocks can be considered truly free from danger" and warned viewers to "Obama-proof that portfolio -- like bomb-proof."
CNBC news anchor Melissa Francis announced she wouldn't vote for Obama's stimulus package. Host Joe Kernen mocked Obama as having been "hijacked by those -- the crazy -- by [Nancy] Pelosi, by [Harry] Reid" and described Obama's budget as "far left." During the same segment, reporter Carl Quintanilla said of Obama's budget, "There is some social engineering going on." Kernen also falsely claimed that Obama had promised to eliminate earmarks.
Basically, in early 2009, CNBC, as an all-business news organization, lost its collective mind and after eight years of mostly sleep-walking through the Bush years, awoke from its slumber to declare it was Democrats who had trashed the economy and Democrats who were ruining your investments.
That's the programming call CNBC made then. But looking back, Cramer can't understand why a liberal like Stewart was so mean to him on TV.
In the year leading up to and following the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the right-wing media engaged in a campaign to spread fear about what could happen if health care reform passed. One year after the health care reform was signed into law, Media Matters looks back at the most egregious attempts by the right-wing media to scare the American public into opposing the legislation.
Over at Forbes, Dinesh D'Souza recently spun a fantastic tale about how Obama's family heritage makes it impossible for him to support American business. Or something. (Instead, he champions anti-colonialist policies.)
But yesterday on Mad Money, Host Jim Cramer had this to say [emphasis added]:
"Do you know why this market went up and stayed up today, with the Dow voting 146 points, S&P rising one-and-a-half percent? Because today during the fantastic CNBC-hosted town hall with El Presidente, we got the ultimate confirmation that we are seeing a new and improved more pro-business President Obama! And that's change the market can believe in."
And yes, this is the same Cramer who last year attacked Obama's "radical" agenda, and blamed him for overseeing "the most, greatest wealth destruction I've seen by a President."
So no, not a cheerleader.
The Daily Beast has an excerpt from Randall Lane's new book, The Zeroes, which claims CNBC host Jim Cramer's protégé and former pro-baseball player Lenny Dykstra "was secretly paid to plug stocks on" the Cramer co-founded website "TheStreet.com and give access to Cramer."
In an era of epically wrong financial predictions, boisterous Jim Cramer's declaration that "Bear Stearns is not in trouble!" a week before its March 2008 collapse, rated among the most moronic, or at least the most infamous.
But it turns out that Cramer made one call far worse: He decided to make a stock-picking star out of a mumbling former Major League Baseball All-Star named Lenny Dykstra, giving him a high-profile column and ultimately an expensive "premium" newsletter on Cramer's site TheStreet.com. How did Dykstra return the favor? As I reveal in my book, The Zeroes: My Misadventures in the Decade Wall Street Went Insane, Dykstra took money --$250,000 worth of secretly issued stock -- in exchange for recommending that stock to TheStreet.com subscribers. He also promised access to Cramer in exchange for the stock, which he apparently hid under his brother-in-law's name.
It was Cramer's repeated endorsements -- echoed by de facto validation from everyone from CNBC to me -- that enabled Dykstra to pull off the scheme.
Jim Cramer single-handedly created the concept of Dykstra-as-financial genius. Known mostly for his willingness to crash his body into walls or his cars into trees (nickname: "Nails"), the former New York Met and Philadelphia Phillie became an investment columnist for TheStreet.com in 2005, after sending Cramer an unsolicited email. For the next four years, Dykstra made stock picks, focusing on "deep-in-the-money calls"—a way to buy leveraged options—for tens of thousands of followers on Cramer's website.
The excerpt does note that there is no indication that Cramer had any knowledge of the payments to Dykstra:
Cramer, I am sure, had no knowledge of Dykstra's "pay to plug" scheme—an arrangement that could well lead to a Securities & Exchange Commission investigation. He was just a dupe. But his relentless endorsements and promotion of the ballplayer's stock-picking over the years must now surely rank as his most ill-conceived.
In March, I noted that the SEC was investigating TheStreet.com.
Just over a year ago, CNBC's Jim Cramer found himself in hot water with Jon Stewart. The host of Comedy Central's Daily Show was relentless, running segments targeting the high-strung CNBC host, the most notable of which was titled "In Cramer We Trust" and addressed Cramer's pushing of Bear Stearns just days and weeks before it collapsed:
In the days that followed, Cramer would take to CNBC sister networks for defense from Stewart, prompting this response from the comedian:
The whole ordeal led to Cramer appearing on Stewart's show for an extensive interview where the money talker made a "deal" to "start getting back to the fundamentals of reporting." Cramer also agreed with Stewart that he was a "snake oil" salesman.
Ultimately, Cramer walked back much of the ground he conceded in the interview later calling Stewart's criticism of CNBC "naïve and misleading."
Well, Cramer has landed himself back on the Daily Show, this time for his comments surrounding Goldman Sachs before news broke of the SEC charging the bank with fraud:
Now that Stewart and Stephen Colbert (host of the Colbert Report) have extended their contracts with Comedy Central through 2012, Cramer has some time to live up to his previous commitment to get "back to the fundamentals of reporting." Otherwise, this latest Daily Show segment is only the latest in what will surely be a lot more to come.
Last Thursday, Larry Kudlow hosted Jim Cramer and the two discussed the effects of health care reform on the stock market:
KUDLOW: You are saying that Obamacare will topple the stock market. This is a huge issue. Let me get your first take.
CRAMER: It is the single biggest impediment to the stock market going higher. And a lot of this has to do with what's not being talked about with how it's going to be paid. And also to what it would do to small business formation. This bill is a disaster for both.
Well, on the first day following Sunday's historic vote in the House effectively passing health care reform, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 43.91 points (0.41%).
Of course, Cramer may have been referring to the long-term effects of the bill on the stock market, rather than "knee-jerk" reactions to the vote. After all, Cramer has already established he isn't any good at predicting "knee-jerk reactions."
From the March 18 edition of CNBC's The Kudlow Report:
Loading the player reg...
The New York Post (part of the News Corp family) reports:
TheStreet.com, the financial Web site founded by loudmouth stock picker and TV personality Jim Cramer, is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The publicly traded company attracted the attention of regulators because of accounting woes at a former subsidiary called Promotions.com, TheStreet.com said yesterday.
TheStreet.com revealed the news in an SEC filing explaining why it will be late reporting its annual financial results.
Last summer, TheStreet.com announced there were "issues" related to how it had been recording revenue at Promotions.com, the marketing company it acquired in 2007. An internal probe ensued and resulted in several quarters of delayed earnings results for the parent company, frustrating investors.
TheStreet.com "is cooperating fully with the investigation," CEO Daryl Otte told The Post.
Cramer, the host of "Mad Money" and a former hedge-fund manager, co-founded TheStreet.com in 1996. He remains a commentator on the site as well as chairman of the company's board.
From the January 19 edition of Premiere Radio Network's The Glenn Beck Program:
Loading the player reg...
From the January 15 edition of CNBC's Mad Money:
Loading the player reg...
From the October 12 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
Loading the player reg...
Joe Scarborough and Jim Cramer both claimed that because Americans aspire to being rich themselves, they would not support proposals to finance health care reform by raising the taxes of upper-income people. But recent polls do not support their thesis.