Fox News downplayed the gravity of income inequality -- proven insurmountable for a majority of the poorest Americans and detrimental to economic growth -- in order to tout a report which found that 20 percent of adults in the U.S. will be among the top 2 percent of earners at some point in their lives.
On December 9, NBC News published an Associated Press report which found that 20 percent of U.S. adults enter the wealthiest 2 percent of earners at some point in their lifetimes [emphasis added]:
Fully 20 percent of U.S. adults become rich for parts of their lives, wielding outsize influence on America's economy and politics. This little-known group may pose the biggest barrier to reducing the nation's income inequality.
Made up largely of older professionals, working married couples and more educated singles, the new rich are those with household income of $250,000 or more at some point during their working lives. That puts them, if sometimes temporarily, in the top 2 percent of earners.
On the December 9 edition of Your World, host Neil Cavuto touted the AP study as "good news" and ignored its negative implications, such as the finding that those in the top 2 percent are "less likely to support public programs, such as food stamps or early public education, to help the disadvantaged":
CAVUTO: You ever want to be in the top 2 percent? Well, you've got a 1 in 5 chance of making it -- it's true, 21 percent of Americans have been there, making the 250,000 bucks or so it takes to be among those rarefied few. That's good news, right? Well, not if you're the mainstream media. It's seen as a problem, not a triumph. To quote the Associated Press, this little-known group may pose the biggest barrier to reducing the nation's income inequality. Biggest barrier, so now, this is a problem?
Fox News contributor Charles Payne dismissed the importance of closing the income gap, saying, "People make it all the time in this country." But findings from a recent Pew report refute Payne's claim, particularly where Americans at bottom of the income ladder are concerned. According to the report, "43 percent of Americans raised at the bottom of the income ladder remain stuck there as adults, and 70 percent never even make it to the middle."
Fox News contributor Monica Crowley later described the administration's efforts to reduce income inequality as "a war on wealth" and "a war on success." However, many economists agree that policies aimed at reducing inequality also spur economic growth. Economist Robert Reich has argued for decades that economic inequality "is bad for everyone," including the very wealthy, because it hinders economic growth. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has also contended that income inequality leads to "less growth and less efficiency."
During their discussion, Cavuto and his guests ignored the harsh realities faced by Americans excluded from the top income bracket. According to another AP report, "4 in 5 American adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least part of their lives." And contrary to Cavuto's optimistic outlook, the U.S. Census Bureau found that the poverty rate increased by 2.7 percent from 2007 to 2012.
From the December 5 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.
From the October 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Even some Fox News hosts are having trouble containing their skepticism with the Republican demand to defund Obamacare as their price for passing a bill to fund the government.
This morning House Republicans passed a continuing resolution that would continue to fund the government but defund Obamacare. Senate Republicans have criticized the House strategy as foolhardy and President Obama has promised to veto any bill defunding his signature legislation.
Around the time the House was voting, Fox News host Gregg Jarrett was trying in vain to get Monica Crowley to accept that this Republican effort to risk a government shutdown was ill-advised and ill-fated, at times seeming to beg the Fox contributor to see reason.
Jarrett kicked off the discussion by explaining that the public would pin blame for a shutdown squarely on Republicans and wondering why the GOP would pursue this possibly "very destructive" strategy:
Monica, I looked at three different polls today. They all say the same thing. That is, as unpopular -- and it is -- as Obamacare is, they don't want the government shut down because of a defunding effort. And moreover, if it does happen, they by large margins will blame Republicans. They'll side with the president. So why are the Republicans pursuing what is arguably a very destructive, unwise strategy?
From the September 18 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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From the September 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox Business is crying foul over Environmental Protection Agency-hosted climate change lesson plans, which it calls "propaganda." However, the material is aligned with the National Research Council, reflects the view of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, and covers many topics that conservative media have flagrantly misreported in the past.
The lesson plans, which have been available online to middle school educators for months, drew conservative ire after a tweet from the EPA appeared on Fox contributor Michelle Malkin's social media aggregation site, Twitchy.com, on September 12. By the next morning, it was considered big enough news that Fox News contributor Monica Crowley covered it on Varney & Company, asking, "Are they going to tell these kids to not exhale? Because every time you exhale, that's carbon dioxide."
Equally uncontroversial is the view that industrial activities -- particularly the burning of fossil fuels for energy -- have led to a surplus of life-supporting gases like carbon dioxide, which has made the planet hotter -- too hot, in fact. Even many prominent climate deniers acknowledge this much.
It is no surprise that the EPA's lesson plans are grounded in good, basic science; they were adapted from material designed by preeminent scientific institutions including the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The material is also aligned with the National Research Council's National Science Education Standards.
Fox figures would do well to take a look at these plans. Here are three issues they cover that have proven tricky for them in the past:
From the August 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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The right-wing media have hyped and distorted a decision to keep congressional staffers on their existing health care plan to accuse the Obama administration of acting with the "whims of a dictatorship."
After the Obama administration agreed to fix a legislative conflict that would have forced congressional staffers off their current health care coverage and into the Affordable Care Act exchanges, the right-wing media accused President Obama of "exempting" Congress from the law. On Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer claimed Obama "personally intervened to make sure that members of Congress and their staffers will not have to live with Obamacare," later saying the decision "is like the oligarchs." Fox contributor Monica Crowley said the decision "is like the whims of a dictatorship." A Wall Street Journal editorial claimed the decision suggests "illegal dispensations for the ruling class, different rules for the hoi polloi."
But the decision fixed a problem that would have treated congressional employees differently from all other Americans. In the Health Affairs blog, health care expert Timothy Jost explained that "Far from exempting Congress from ACA requirements, as some have reported, the amendment subjects members to a legal requirement that will apply to no other Americans":
Fox dumped Glenn Beck after his bizarre conspiracy theories and rhetoric reportedly caused the network's advertisers to balk. Now Fox appears to be clinging to one of his classic distortions, characterizing a government effort utilizing behavioral psychology to reduce fraud, error and debt as "mind control."
FoxNews.com reported that it obtained a document outlining plans for the government to hire a "Behavioral Insights Team" that "will look for ways to subtly influence people's behavior." The United Kingdom has implemented several related initiatives. In one instance the U.K. government sent out reminder letters to late taxpayers, leading to increased tax revenue.
The ideas behind this type of initiative were laid out in Professor Cass Sunstein's book, Nudge. When Sunstein joined the Obama administration as the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Beck launched a campaign to demonize him and his ideas.
Right-wing media have baselessly smeared the White House's new Behavioral Insights Team, labeling it "propaganda," "mind control," and "Orwellian." In reality, the Behavioral Insights Team is modeled off a similar unit in Britain that has proven effective in encouraging timely tax payment and reducing energy bills and consumption.
Conservative media seized on White House plans to create a Behavioral Insights Team on July 30, when FoxNews.com obtained a document describing the program and its search for behavioral scientists.
Breitbart.com quickly jumped on the story, suggesting that the Obama administration will use the program to push a social agenda: "The Obama administration has not been shy about attempting to use its influence - or taxpayer money - to push enthusiasm for its agenda, including Obamacare, nutrition, and gay rights."
Fox stoked fears by hyping the program on multiple shows with little mention of its benefits. On the July 30 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs commented on FoxNews.com's report on the program, saying, "To many, that sounds purely like propaganda and mind control."
Even after the attack was debunked, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs has repeatedly claimed that the Department of Justice helped pay for anti-Zimmerman protests.
On the July 17 edition of his show, Dobbs criticized civil rights leader Al Sharpton for organizing 100 protests around the country in the wake of the George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin. Guest Michael Goodwin alleged that "I wouldn't doubt that somewhere the Justice Department's going to be helping him with the tour." Dobbs responded by claiming that you know that "the Justice Department paid to help demonstrations against George Zimmerman last year":
The attack is based on the release of documents by the right-wing website Judicial Watch, which used the documents to falsely accuse the DOJ of supporting anti-Zimmerman protests. The documents released by Judicial Watch do not show that the DOJ was "organizing anti-Zimmerman rallies" -- only that a unit within the DOJ, the Community Relations Service, was providing support and technical assistance for the protests to prevent violence, not organize protests.
From the July 17 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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Fox News contributor Monica Crowley downplayed the actions of former President Richard Nixon and fabricated President Obama's White House ties to controversial actions by the Internal Revenue Service to claim that the recent controversy constitutes the "most dangerous scandal in U.S. history."
Crowley served as a foreign policy aide to Nixon after he resigned in disgrace from the presidency. Conservative media have frequently made absurd and ahistorical comparisons between Nixon and Obama that rely on ignorant interpretations of the actions of both presidents.
On the July 15 edition of Fox News' Your World, Crowley highlighted recent allegations that the IRS improperly gave heightened scrutiny to conservative groups seeking nonprofit status. Suggesting that the Obama White House must have been involved, Crowley compared those allegations unfavorably to what she claimed were the actions of Nixon, saying that while Nixon had been "talking about using the IRS to go after a political enemy," the IRS under Obama "was used for political purposes to target entire swaths of society."
Crowley's comparison is nonsensical. There is no evidence that President Obama or White House aides were involved in the alleged improper behavior, a fact that leading conservative pundits and Republican politicians have acknowledged. In fact, recent disclosures indicate that the IRS may have also targeted progressive groups, undermining the allegations that conservatives have promoted for months.
By contrast, Nixon, on tape, personally urged his attorney general to go after the income taxes of his political enemies. His White House counsel, John Dean, gave the head of the IRS an envelope of the names of Nixon's political enemies, with clear implication that his agency should investigate those individuals. Dean also devised a memorandum titled "Dealing with our political enemies," which urged the use of "the available political machinery to screw our political enemies." Other Nixon aides were involved in plots to break into the Democratic offices in the Watergate Hotel and the office of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist (which occurred), and to murder journalists and firebomb the Brookings Institution (which thankfully did not).
In short, Nixon and his top aides were deeply and directly involved in massive illegality. There's no evidence Obama or his aides were involved in activity whose illegality is under question. But that's not the story former Nixon aide Crowley wants to tell.