Right-wing media figures are heaping praise on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget plan, with one Fox host calling Ryan "Mr. Budget." In fact, Ryan's budget plan would harm many Americans: It increases taxes on the poor while cutting them for the wealthy, drastically cuts Medicaid and other needed safety net programs, and would cost millions of jobs by reducing federal spending during a still-weak economy.
Matching the inflammatory rhetoric about health care reform's elimination of cost-sharing for women's contraception, conservative media outlets are currently misrepresenting a preliminary court order in a private company's challenge to this policy. Contrary to the right-wing narrative that crudely oversimplifies the complex legal issues at stake and ignores the need to balance the constitutional rights of employers with those of their female employees, the questions in the case are neither easy nor clear.
When the popular requirement went into effect that most insurance plans -- including employee plans sold to employers -- could no longer charge women co-pays or deductibles for prevention or wellness care, conservative media figures declared a national disaster. On August 1, the Editors of the National Review Online intoned that "[t]his day...is a dark one for religious freedom in the United States." Sean Hannity mirrored this solemnity on Fox News and announced "today is the day that religious freedom in America, in many ways died" (Fox Hannity Show, 8/1/12, via Nexis).
This reaction was unfortunately unsurprising. Despite the fact that many religious believers and institutions and most voters support insurance coverage of contraceptives, birth control has conflicted with the religious concerns of some since the 1960s. Recognizing this, the law provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement to "a nonprofit church or close church affiliate if it primarily employs and serves persons who share its religious tenets, and the purpose of the institution is the inculcation of religious values." [National Health Law Program, 8/12]
The exemption is similar to those used on the state level, and twenty-eight states currently have contraceptive insurance equity acts. The administration may also accommodate non-exempted non-profit organizations by allowing them to opt-out of the provision of insurance coverage for contraception, but instruct insurance companies to meet the preventive and wellness requirements directly. Nevertheless, claiming that these exemptions and accommodations do not go far enough, a for-profit, secular, Colorado-based company filed a lawsuit alleging it too should be treated like a church and be exempted from offering female employees plans with contraception coverage.
The case is one of first impression. As such, the judge issued a preliminary injunction, temporarily halting this company's compliance with the law until the court could consider the merits of the case. The Heritage Institute's Foundry said the company "demonstrated the strength of the religious liberty challenge to Obamacare." Ed Whelan of the National Review Online said "it's clear that the HHS mandate tramples [religious] protections[.]"
It's not that simple.
Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and other conservative outlets are falsely claiming that President Obama, while discussing his own economic policies, said "we tried our plan -- and it worked." This quote has been taken out of context and distorted. Obama was referring to economic policies during the Clinton administration that taxed high income earners at a higher rate than they are currently charged. When Obama said "it worked," he was referring to low unemployment and strong economic growth when these rates were higher. Obama has advocated a return to Clinton-era tax rates for high income earners.
Slate's Dave Weigel, who described conservatives' editing of Obama's comments as "insanely misleading," points to Obama's full quote:
OBAMA: I'm running because I believe you can't reduce the deficit -- which is a serious problem, we've got to deal with it -- but we can't reduce it without asking folks like me who have been incredibly blessed to give up the tax cuts that we've been getting for a decade. (Applause.) I'll cut out government spending that's not working, that we can't afford, but I'm also going to ask anybody making over $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rates they were paying under Bill Clinton, back when our economy created 23 million new jobs -- (applause) -- the biggest budget surplus in history and everybody did well.
Just like we've tried their plan, we tried our plan -- and it worked. That's the difference. (Applause.) That's the choice in this election. That's why I'm running for a second term.
In order to argue that Obama is out of touch on economic issues -- a message that is nearly identical to the one pushed by Romney's campaign -- conservative media figures have spent the week removing all of the context from Obama's comments and juxtaposing them with the current high unemployment rate.
Conservative media have continued to cover up the fact that many Catholic and other religious institutions have come out in support of the Obama administration's policy that ensures women have access to affordable insurance coverage for birth control while making sure no religious organization has to pay for this coverage. Their concealment of this fact came in response to evangelical Wheaton College's announcement that it will join a lawsuit against the policy.
Opponents of health care reform have opened up a new front in their relentless campaign, receiving extensive media attention for their claim that only state-created exchanges can legally offer tax credits for health insurance. This contested reading of the health care reform law would leave consumers in states with federal exchanges -- the default marketplace for states that decline to set up their own exchanges -- without access to affordable health insurance.
Exchanges have become the latest bogeyman in the right-wing media, but a just-released report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains why a legal challenge to them is unsupported by both the clear language of the Affordable Care Act and relevant case law.
As described in a June 25 USA Today op-ed, opponents of exchanges are claiming that their reading of the health care reform law reveals that "[c]redits are [legally] available only in states that create an exchange themselves. The federal government might create exchanges in states that decline, but it cannot offer credits through its own exchanges." Right-wing activist groups have jumped on this argument and are already clamoring for lawsuits to be filed over the administration's interpretation of the law to the contrary. A July 9 article in Congressional Quarterly Today (subscription required) reported the director of policy at the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity as adamant that litigation would "absolutely" ensue.
The idea of suing to block exchange implementation and hamstring affordability programs designed to help low- and moderate-income persons afford coverage in the private insurance market appears to have originated with two frequent National Review Online contributors, Jonathan Adler, Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University, and Michael Cannon, Director of Health Policy at the Cato Institute. Long-time opponents of the Affordable Care Act and authors of the USA Today op-ed, the two first presented this questionable theory to the mainstream press through a November 16, 2011, op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. Cannon, in particular, seems to have made exchanges his personal target, barnstorming the country along with other Koch-backed organizations.
Experts on health care law and policy are highly critical of the proposed anti-exchange lawsuits. However, although the challenge might be a long shot due to its debatable reading of the statute and disregard of congressional intent, even far-fetched legal challenges have legs in today's increasingly conservative courts. Remember broccoli? Amplified by the increasing synergy between right-wing academics and media, the "broccoli" and "inactivity/activity" argument in the health care reform cases rocketed from the fringe to the mouths and pens of Supreme Court Justices.
Judith Solomon, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote the report yesterday that rebuts Adler and Cannon's claims:
Opponents of health reform apparently intend to file a legal challenge to the law on behalf of one or more employers who are penalized for not providing coverage in a state with a federal exchange, based on the claim that the federal exchange was not authorized to provide the subsidies. A court considering such a claim would almost certainly defer to the Treasury Department interpretation that subsidies are fully available through federally operated exchanges.
In providing for a federal exchange, Congress clearly intended that it substitute for a state exchange. One of the primary functions of an exchange is to determine eligibility for, and the amount of, advance premium tax credits so that people can afford to buy coverage. The language of section 1321 of the ACA establishing the federal exchange is clear on that point, as is the reference in section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code to credits being provided through a federally operated exchange. But even if the statute were ambiguous, a court examining whether the Treasury regulations are valid would certainly defer to the agency's interpretation of the statute because it is both permissible and reasonable. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 7/16/12]
From the July 7 edition of MSNBC's Up With Chris Hayes:
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National Review Online blogger Ed Whelan is trying to aid the unprecedented obstruction tactics Senate Republicans are using to block President Obama's nominees.
On June 20, 2012, American Bar Association president William T. Robinson III sent a letter to Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging that the Senate hold confirmation votes on three judicial nominees who had strong bipartisan support but were being blocked despite the merits of their nominations. Whelan, a blogger with significant influence in the media and Capitol Hill, responded to the letter by saying: "A Senate staffer in the know tells me that the ABA never sent a similar letter on behalf of George W. Bush's nominees."
But it would have been impossible for the ABA to send a "similar letter" on behalf of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees, because Bush's judicial nominees were not subject to the type of obstruction experienced by the Obama nominees in question.
As the ABA noted in its letter, Obama nominees William Kayatta, Jr., Robert Bacharach, and Richard Taranto "are consensus nominees who have received overwhelming approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee." In addition, Kayatta and Bacharach have "the staunch support of" the Republican senators from their home states. And Taranto, who is nominated to a court with nationwide jurisdiction, has the "endorsement of noted conservative legal scholars."
Nevertheless, Senate Republicans have announced that they are blocking all three of these nominees along with every single one of Obama's judicial nominees until after the presidential election, regardless of whether they would be good judges.
Despite pouring millions of dollars into ads attacking President Obama for supporting clean energy, Republican strategist and Fox News political analyst Karl Rove expressed his support this week for extending tax incentives for wind power. His remarks stand in stark contrast to the conservative media's push to eliminate federal support for renewable energy.
For months, the conservative media have been spreading falsehoods about wind energy to make the case against extending the production tax credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of this year. The most recent example is an op-ed by Paul Driessen at The Washington Times, which rattles off a series of myths about wind power's impact on human health and the environment, and its ability to compete with fossil fuels. Last month, a Wall Street Journal editorial suggested that the wind industry will never be "economically sustainable" without government subsidies. A Washington Times editorial concurred, calling wind power "hopelessly uneconomic."
In fact, wind power is increasingly affordable, thanks in large part to the PTC. According to an analysis by the Brookings Institution, the Breakthrough Institute and the World Resources Institute, the tax credit lowers the cost of new wind power to make it "broadly competitive with new gasfired generation." A Bloomberg New Energy Finance report found that some wind farms "already produce power as economically as coal, gas and nuclear generators," and predicted that "the average wind farm will be fully competitive by 2016."
U.S. wind capacity has expanded rapidly in recent years, and the Department of Energy estimates that wind could meet up to 20% of our electricity needs by 2030. But the PTC is vital to the American wind industry's continued success. Extending the tax credit would create or save 54,000 jobs in the next four years, according to a study by Navigant Consulting.
For these reasons, the tax credit enjoys broad bipartisan support among politicians, business leaders, and environmentalists -- and now, even Karl Rove. The conservative media stands out in its opposition to a policy that has facilitated the growth of a promising industry and supported thousands of green, American jobs.
In a National Review blog post, Katrina Trinko falsely accused Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren of plagiarism. She alleged that Warren lifted passages for her 2005 book All Your Worth, which she co-wrote with her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi, from another book:
Trinko has since deleted that blog post and published a correction:
I took down my earlier post on Elizabeth Warren plagiarizing from the book Getting On the Money Track. On Amazon.com, the Warren book All Your Worth is listed as having been published January 9, 2006. As it turns out, that is the paperback publication date; the hardback book was published in March 2005. As such, it appears that Getting on the Money Track (published in October 2005) plagiarized from All Your Worth, not the other way around.
I apologize for the error.
On Fox News' flagship news program, Special Report, guest host Shannon Bream repeated National Review's false report:
Will Special Report issue a correction on Monday?
On May 17, The New York Times reported on a plan presented to Joe Rickett's Ending Spending Action Fund that would highlight controversial remarks made by Reverend Jeremiah Wright and link these remarks to President Obama. Soon after the report received widespread coverage, the Romney campaign rejected the attack on Obama, despite having brought up Rev. Wright himself in Sean Hannity's radio show as recently as February. After having obsessed about Rev. Wright in the 2008 election, the right-wing media reacted to the decision by lamenting the opportunity to reignite the attack.
The New York Times article reported that in a report titled "The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama," a "group of high-profile Republican strategists" proposed a plan that:
[C]alls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.
"The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way," says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade.
The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama's former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as "black liberation theology."
The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an "extremely literate conservative African-American" who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln."
But the right-wing media has not followed Romney as he has attempted to distance himself from the ad campaign.
A story bubbled up in the right-wing media suggesting that the White House requires "that unborn children get security clearance" if their parents want to tour the building. The reporting was based on an email from the White House that instructs potential visitors about "how to enter security information for a baby that has not yet been born."
The Daily Caller, Washington Free Beacon, Drudge Report, National Review Online, and Fox Nation all highlighted this story and presented it in the context of President Obama's support for abortion rights.
However, a closer reading of the email shows that expecting parents are required to fill out security information for a child who is not yet born only if they anticipate giving birth by the time they want to visit the White House. The email clearly refers to "newborns" and gives instructions for what to do once "the baby is born."
The Huffington Post spoke to a representative from the Secret Service who said that "all White House guests are required to provide information at the time of their request for the tour, including for children and infants, and those expected to be on the tour once born."
So, no, the White House does not require pregnant visitors to register their fetuses as people for security purposes.
The Obama campaign has introduced its slogan for the 2012 campaign: "Forward."
This prompted an urgent warning from the right-wing media: The word "forward" is totally socialist!
This is unspeakably stupid. The word "forward" is not socialist. It is an English word that has aspirational connotations. The Obama campaign's decision to use it is not veiled evidence that he bears allegiance to Karl Marx.
Allow me to offer some proof that the word "forward" is something other than a coded message of love for the radical left.
Several media outlets have distorted comments by an EPA official, falsely suggesting that he said "oil companies should be crucified." In fact, the official was using an analogy, which he has since apologized for, to describe a common approach to regulatory enforcement: making examples out of those who break the law.
On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day, rallying across the country to raise awareness about pressing environmental challenges. Organized by a Democratic senator and a Republican congressman, Earth Day 1970 "achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats," according to Earth Day Network, and provided momentum for the passage of landmark legislation to protect our air, water, and endangered species.
But in today's political climate, even Earth Day has become the target of partisan attacks from the right.
This past Sunday, as millions of Americans celebrated Earth Day, conservative media figures spent the day downplaying the impact of human activity on the environment, advocating for more fossil fuel development, and taking credit for misleading the public about the threat of climate change. Others attempted to spread fear about the holiday by noting that it falls on Vladimir Lenin's birthday, and by linking it to a convicted murderer who falsely claimed to be behind the first Earth Day.
And one right-wing blogger recalled how he tried to delay his son's birth because he "really didn't want a child born on Earth Day."
It was not long ago that Earth Day -- and the values of conservation and environmental responsibility it represents -- enjoyed bipartisan support. The Times-Picayune reported on Sunday on the shift that has taken place over the last 40 years:
A recent New York Times article highlighted two studies that the article claimed "question the pairing of food deserts and obesity" and may "raise questions about the efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods." While right-wing media have seized on the article to claim that food deserts are a "make-believe" issue, food experts have called the Times article "sloppy" and have said the two studies it highlights are "definitely outliers," in the face of "over 50 studies" in the past three years finding "the opposite."