Fox's Martha MacCallum preemptively attacked President Obama's upcoming remarks regarding healthcare costs in relation to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, claiming that the truth behind premium costs "flies in the face" of what Obama has previously said and would say in his speech. MacCallum predicted that Obama would incorrectly claim that healthcare costs are lowering -- but Obama reported that while rising healthcare costs are a continuing concern, the rate of increase in costs is at its lowest in 50 years, a fact he's acknowledged in the past.
Discussing Walgreens' recent decision to move some employees to private health insurance exchanges on America's Newsroom, Fox Business host Stuart Varney claimed that Walgreens made their decision because, as he paraphrased, they "can't afford the constant rising cost of healthcare and [they] cannot afford the cost of compliance with Obamacare." MacCallum, along with co-host Bill Hemmer, later responded to the news, saying (emphasis added):
HEMMER: But this is the beginning of a flood. We talked about it last week, when the big companies step up and say we're going to change the policy, many, many others will follow.
MACCALLUM: And it flies in the face of what you're hearing from the president, and we'll hear it today as well: That premiums are going down. That costs are going down. So if costs were truly going down, what would be forcing these companies to push people off of their rolls onto this, you know, 'Here's your check,' and, you know, 'good luck.'
Despite MacCallum's claim, what the president has previously acknowledged is that while healthcare costs are still rising, increases have slowed to their lowest rate in 50 years -- a fact that Fox failed to report.
OBAMA: Healthcare costs, which were and continue to be a major source of concern, are increasing at the slowest rate in 50 years, and for many of you, in terms of your bottom lines, employer based healthcare plans have gone up at about a third of what they were going up when I first took office.
Fox has a habit of pre-emptively dismissing, ignoring, and cutting away from Obama's speeches. MacCallum's misconstruance of Obama's remarks on healthcare costs is not surprising given the network's long history of reporting misinformation about the Affordable Care Act.
From the September 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
Frequent Fox guest Chris Plante falsely claimed that President Obama isn't interested in working with Republicans to reduce the deficit, ignoring Obama's efforts to reduce the budget through bipartisan efforts like the Budget Control Act of 2011.
On the September 12 edition of America Live, host Martha MacCallum discussed the upcoming budget debate in Congress with conservative radio host Chris Plante. After MacCallum asked whether the debate will lead to a government shutdown, Plante said that "the president claims he wants to cut spending, the man with the trillion dollar deficits," and blame Republicans. Plante added that Obama "doesn't want to do anything reasonable to get our spending under control":
But, Obama has worked with congressional members of both parties to decrease the deficit. President Obama signed the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) explained will reduce discretionary spending by "more than $1 trillion over the ten years from 2012 through 2021."
As food insecurity remains high, Fox News touted a plan by Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich to impose work requirements on food stamp recipients, despite concerns that Ohio does not have enough jobs to accommodate those who would have their benefits put in jeopardy.
On the September 10 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Martha MacCallum and guest Chris Plante expressed support for Kasich's proposal to require some food stamp recipients to spend 20 hours a week working or engaging in work-related activities such as job training. MacCallum likened the program to college work-study programs, saying, "Nobody thinks that that model is an inappropriate model or an unfair or mean model, so what's wrong with it?" Plante called the program "a reasonable and honest and decent approach to getting people back to work," claiming, "we live in a world now where Democrats, the Democrat party has put themselves in the unfortunate position where they are now incentivized as a political party to keep as many people on the public dole as possible":
But according to The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio officials point out that the availability of jobs and qualifying activities is lower than the number of people who fall under the new requirement:
Right-wing media have rushed to heap praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin for a proposal to allow Syria to avoid U.S. air strikes by surrendering all of its chemical weapons to the international community, despite the fact that Russia was responding to statements by Secretary of State John Kerry and that President Obama supports the solution.
From the September 9 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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From the September 9 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Right-wing media figures are again poised to forward the fallacious notion that household budgets are analogous to the federal budget, an idea in direct opposition to expert opinion.
In an August 26 letter to congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew indicated that the debt limit would be reached in mid-October. If Congress fails to act and raise the debt limit, the United States will be unable to pay for previously agreed-upon obligations, such as Social Security and Medicare payments.
Previous battles over the debt ceiling and budget negotiations have proven problematic for those in right-wing media. Proponents of exacting spending cuts from Congress frequently compare the federal budget to a typical household budget, ostensibly suggesting that since a household cannot operate with debt, neither can the government.
The upcoming debt limit debate has already prompted right-wing media to forward this deceptive analogy. Previewing Congress' need to raise the debt limit, Fox News host Martha MacCallum likened federal debt to that of a daughter running up a credit card bill.
Of course, numerous economists -- such as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Senior Fellow Jared Bernstein -- have repeatedly stated that comparing household budgets to government budgets demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the subject. This analogy is considered so fallacious that William Baumol and Alan Blinder tackle it directly in an Economics 101 textbook, noting that unlike households, the federal government is able to roll over debt and issue its own currency.
Bad economics hasn't stopped right-wing media before, and the same old falsehoods are likely to reappear during the debt limit debate.
Fox News discussed the need to raise the debt ceiling by erroneously linking government debt to family debt, a comparison that demonstrates the network's fundamental misunderstanding of the subject.
In an August 26 letter to Congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew indicated that the debt limit would be reached in mid-October. If Congress cannot arrive at an agreement to raise the limit, the United States will be unable to pay for previously agreed upon obligations, such as Social Security and Medicare payments.
On the August 27 edition of America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum hosted Fox News' Bob Beckel and former George W. Bush staffer Brad Blakeman to discuss the Obama administration's unwillingness to negotiate over raising the limit. During the segment, MacCallum likened government debt to household debt, claiming that if "your daughter runs up the credit card and has access to it and just goes crazy on it ... you're going to say, 'we're going to pay the bill, but we're going to change things in the future.' What is so very difficult about that?"
But MacCallum's analogy of a daughter running up a credit card bill is completely inaccurate.
Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman directly addressed the conservative notion that household debt and government debt are fundamentally the same, claiming that it ignores a few key realities about the nature of government debt. From his 2012 New York Times column:
First, families have to pay back their debt. Governments don't -- all they need to do is ensure that debt grows more slowly than their tax base. The debt from World War II was never repaid; it just became increasingly irrelevant as the U.S. economy grew, and with it the income subject to taxation.
Second -- and this is the point almost nobody seems to get -- an over-borrowed family owes money to someone else; U.S. debt is, to a large extent, money we owe to ourselves.
Economist L. Randall Wray echoed Krugman's analysis in a Huffington Post piece, adding that the federal government has the ability to issue its own currency to pay debts, a fact that further distorts MacCallum's analogy.
Fox's cheerleading for a showdown over raising the debt limit could result in disastrous consequences for the economy. Following the standoff on raising the debt limit in 2011, Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating, and the Bipartisan Policy Center estimated that the delay in raising it "will cost taxpayers $18.9 billion over 10 years."
Fox has repeatedly misled viewers over the debt limit in recent years, erroneously claiming that raising it would be the same as giving the president a "blank check" and obscuring potential negative consequences.
On August 26, Fox News hosts repeatedly demanded that the Obama administration make a statement about the shooting of Christopher Lane, an Australian student attending college in Oklahoma, ignoring the fact that days earlier Obama had offered words of comfort to the student's family.
America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum falsely claimed that Obama "so far has been silent" on the alleged murder of Lane and noted that, since Obama previously "put himself into the middle of these situations" by speaking on the shooting of Trayvon Martin, "it raises the question of why he would not, you know, comfort this family, why he would not reach out and make a comment."
Later, on Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity again falsely accused Obama of promoting a "double standard" for being "quick to respond" to Martin's death but failing to speak out about Lane's shooting in the 10 days since the alleged murder had occurred.
But Obama reached out to Lane's family days before either MacCallum or Hannity's criticisms. On August 24, the Australian newspaper Herald Sun reported that Obama, through White House spokesman Matt Lehrich, had released a statement offering his condolences:
As news of the random shooting death continued to make headlines in the US, the President took time out from a tour selling his college reforms to make a statement about the tragedy.
He said through White House spokesman Matt Lehrich that Lane's family and friends were going through trying times.
"As the President has expressed on too many tragic occasions, there is an extra measure of evil in an act of violence that cuts a young life short. The President and First Lady's thoughts and prayers are with Chris Lane's family and friends in these trying times," Mr Lehrich said in a statement to the Sunday Herald Sun.
A spokesman for Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said that "[t]he governor thinks the president did the right thing by reaching out to the Lane family and the people of Australia." Obama's words followed an August 22 tribute to "honor the strength and bravery of Chris' family as they deal with this unspeakable tragedy" from the U.S. Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich, who stated:
Like everyone else, we are struggling to understand how anybody could commit such a terrible and random act of violence. I've personally pledged to Chris' family our help in bringing Chris home as soon as possible, and to provide them with all the support within our power. We thank local law enforcement authorities in Oklahoma for their quick work and their efforts to bring those responsible to justice.
Fox News has previously attempted to frame Lane as a white equivalent to Trayvon Martin, using the incident in its ongoing campaign to hype "race-related crime" -- even after local District Attorney Jason Hicks told Fox that there was no evidence of racial motivations in the case.
Fox News downplayed Colin Powell's objections to strict voter ID laws and ignored the fact that Texas not only has a long history of illegal racial discrimination in its election practices, a federal court already found its voter ID measures to be impermissible voter suppression.
On the August 26 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox News host Martha MacCullum and correspondent Mike Emanuel reported on the Department of Justice's new legal challenge to the voter ID law Texas immediately enacted after the Supreme Court struck down a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in Shelby County v. Holder:
Fox News failed to mention, however, that Texas is being accused of illegally suppressing the vote through a voter ID law that has already been found to be racially discriminatory by a federal court.
Writing for a three-judge panel in 2012, a circuit judge dismissed Texas' evidence that its voter ID law was not impermissibly discriminatory as "unpersuasive, invalid, or both." As explained by the Constitutional Accountability Center's Doug Kendall:
[I]n Texas v. Holder, a three-judge court unanimously blocked Texas' new voter identification statute, the most stringent in the nation, finding that the statute would inevitably disenfranchise low-income Texas citizens, who are disproportionately African American and Hispanic. The court explained that, unlike Indiana, whose voter identification law was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008, Texas had gone to great lengths to suppress the vote in poor and minority communities, strictly limiting the types of photo identifications available - a license to carry a concealed firearm is a valid ID under the law, but not a student or Medicare ID card - and making it costly to obtain a so-called "free" election ID for use at the polls. For those without one of the five permitted photo identifications, the court found that the law was tantamount to a poll tax, "imposing an implicit fee for the privilege of casting a ballot." The "very point" of the Voting Rights Act, the court explained, was to deny "states an end-run around the Fifteenth Amendment's prohibition on racial discrimination in voting."
Fox News host Martha MacCallum used the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to accuse President Obama of squandering a unique opportunity to tell African-Americans "to stand up and take responsibility" and "profess that there are no excuses for anybody in this country."
On the August 23 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, MacCallum moderated a discussion of the 50th anniversary of the March with Fox contributor Juan Williams and Republican strategist Brad Blakeman. After Blakeman accused "half-black" Obama of injecting himself in racial issues instead of bringing people together, MacCallum asked whether the president "squandered a unique opportunity... to profess that there are no excuses for anybody in this country." She added that Obama may have squandered an opportunity to say, "no, you are not a victim, you need to stand up and take responsibility":
After the segment, MacCallum sent out a tweet asking whether the president missed an "opportunity to stand for responsible Fatherhood":
Fox News promoted research that erroneously suggests current federal debt stands at $70 trillion, a figure that amounts to a scare tactic devoid of relevant context.
On the August 15 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, hosts Martha MacCallum and Bill Hemmer suggested that the current figure of national debt is grossly underestimated. MacCallum claimed that, according to research by economist James Hamilton, "the true national debt is actually more like $70 trillion and that the government has been lowballing us for years." Hemmer then explained that the figure included Social Security, Medicare, and pension promises and claimed that "America could be in a whole lot of hurt."
The $70 trillion debt figure was also featured prominently in an article on FoxNews.com. According to the article:
Hamilton believes the government is miscalculating what it owes by leaving out certain unfunded liabilities that include government loan guarantees, deposit insurance, and actions taken by the Federal Reserve as well as the cost of other government trust funds. Factoring in those figures brings the total amount the government owes to a staggering $70 trillion, he says.
But according to experts, including liabilities in calculations of debt is inherently misleading.
The first problem is the way in which Fox misleadingly presents the figure as "debt." In an article responding to previous claims of debt being much higher than reported due to unfunded liabilities, The Atlantic's Derek Thompson explained that debt figures shouldn't include future liabilities:
Our $16 trillion in debt and our $87 trillion in "unfunded liabilities" represent two very different ideas: real past promises and projected future promises. Real past promises are, well, very real. We have to pay back our debt. Failing to do it would be an illegal and disastrous default. Unfunded liabilities are future promises, and, since they're not as real, we can change them whenever we want without destroying ourselves. For example, raising the taxable income ceiling and slowing the growth of benefits could reduce the Social Security gap to zero tomorrow.
Indeed, as Media Matters has previously noted, experts agree that citing unfunded liabilities typically amounts to nothing more than a scare tactic, mainly because, as the Congressional Budget Office explained, "no government obligation can be truly considered 'unfunded' because of the U.S. government's sovereign power to tax."
The second problem with Fox's promotion of the figure is that it removes important context, relying on a raw number instead of a relevant percentage. According to Hamilton's report, the bulk of the $70 trillion is due to obligations for Social Security and Medicare -- amounting to a total of $54.1 trillion. But while the figure may seem large, when expressed with relevant context, its gravity is greatly reduced.
In an interview with Media Matters, Josh Bivens, research and policy director at the Economic Policy Institute, explained that when compared with the size of the economy, the liabilities associated with Social Security and Medicare amount to roughly "one and a half percent of GDP." While the figure cited by Fox may be correct, omitting the size of liabilities relative to GDP unnecessarily stokes fears and misinforms viewers.
Furthermore, Bivens noted that other liabilities cited by Hamilton -- such as student loans, housing assistance, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. -- typically have assets directly attached to them that could generate revenue, a fact ignored by the report.
Fox News hosted a spokesman from an anti-gay hate group to continue the network's ongoing assault on a California bill that will allow transgender students to have access to school facilities and teams that correspond with their gender identity.
Following Gov. Jerry Brown's signing of a law that prohibits California public schools from discriminating against transgender students, Fox News invited Peter Sprigg, spokesman for the Family Research Council (FRC), to appear on the August 13 edition of America's Newsroom.
Sprigg - whose history of extreme anti-LGBT commentary includes suggesting that gay people should be exported from the U.S. - asserted that the law would ignore "biological reality" while pandering to students' "transient feelings and emotions":
Fox News host Martha MacCallum claimed that a "stand down" order was given the night of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi - an order that prevented U.S. troops from saving the lives of Americans stationed there. MacCallum's claim ignores the reality that no "stand down" order was ever given.
In the months following the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate, Fox hosts accused the Obama administration of ordering troops to "stand down" and not respond immediately to the attack. Media Matters analysis shows that on at least 85 different occasions Fox mentioned this accusation during segments in prime time.
On the July 26 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, MacCallum said, "My mind goes back to the order to stand down, and how none of this may have happened if that order to stand down had not been given. And we still don't know who gave that order, so that remains a really serious question here as well."