As the Detroit bankruptcy moves forward, Fox News personalities have been quick to blame worker unions and political corruption for the city's unfunded pension liabilities. This discourse ignores the forces actually undermining Detroit's financial solvency: the dramatic reduction of the city's population and taxbase since its post-war peak.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto refused to listen to the facts about the nation's desperate need for more infrastructure spending, instead repeatedly shouting that prior funding must have been "stolen" because some infrastructure "still sucks."
This week Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) is expected to introduce a bill raising the federal gas tax, which supports the Highway Trust Fund used to build transportation infrastructure, by $0.15 per gallon. On December 3, Blumenauer appeared on Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto to explain his proposal. But rather than allowing a discussion on the reasoning behind the bill, Cavuto shouted over the congressman for more than nine minutes.
Over and over again, Cavuto demanded to know why additional revenue is needed for transit infrastructure, repeatedly interrupting Blumenauer to ask, "what's happened to all the money we've already allocated?" Cavuto indicated that additional spending would be wasteful, because, according to him, the nation's "infrastructure still sucks" despite present funds.
Cavuto even pushed the conspiracy theory that funds previously allocated for transit infrastructure were "stolen," as revenues from the gas tax would be. He shouted:
CAVUTO: Congressman, do you honestly believe -- working with the folks that you do -- that the money that you might get from this gas tax is going to be used exclusively and only for repairing roads and bridges and fixing our highways? Do you think that's really going to be the case? Does the history with the people you work with indicate that that will ever be the case? Really?
BLUMENAUER: Why do you say that? Where do you think it's gone? How did the --
CAVUTO: I don't know. Because our roads and bridges are for crap and this is after we've committed tens of millions of dollars each and every year through a variety of sources and they're still falling apart. So you're saying, maybe the difference - maybe the answer is more money, but the fact of the matter is, the money we've already spent we can't account for
BLUMENAUER: Where do you get that, you can't account for it? That's goofy --
CAVUTO: Can you account for $42 billion? Can you spell out for me, congressman, where that $42 billion has gone?
CAVUTO: If the goal was to fix roads and bridges and they're still -- accurately, to your point, falling apart -- methinks someone has stolen it, someone has taken it.
As the nation mourns the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, conservative media figures have attempted to appropriate his legacy and attribute to the beloved former president their conservative ideas and positions. This effort runs counter to Kennedy's stated positions, speeches, and other historical facts surrounding his presidency.
Fox host Neil Cavuto pretended that the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) ban on gender discrimination, which requires all policies to include maternity care coverage, was never "telegraphed" to the American people when the law was first discussed -- Cavuto is right, if you ignore repeated remarks made by President Obama, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and multiple media outlets prior to the bill's passage.
Under the ACA, all insurance plans are now required to cover maternity and newborn care, one of the law's 10 categories of 'essential health benefits' that every policy must include. The maternity care requirement puts an end to the systemic discrimination against women that pervaded the insurance industry. Previously, many companies charged women higher rates than men for the same plans and denied coverage or increased premiums for women who become pregnant, actions which the law prohibits.
Fox host Neil Cavuto referenced this requirement on the November 15 edition of Your World while discussing the ACA with MIT economist Jonathan Gruber. After Gruber explained the impetus behind the rule, Cavuto claimed that it "was never, ever" explained to the country until now:
GRUBER: The key thing is, if you want to end discrimination, for example by gender, if you want to say that women should not have to pay more than men for health insurance, then that means that everyone has to share the cost of maternity coverage. Now if you don't think that's right, that's a totally legitimate position to take --
CAVUTO: But that was never telegraphed. When all of this started, Jonathan -- that's fine, if you want to say that now though -- none of that was telegraphed, as was the fact that many people would lose their plans and many more would pay a lot more for plans. None of that was this Utopian view that you would do better by doing some good, maybe paying more, but in the net positive the country would benefit. That was never -- that was never ever said.
What Cavuto claims was "never, ever said" was said, repeatedly -- by the media, the president, and the Health and Human Services (HHS) cabinet secretary, all before Congress passed the ACA on March 23, 2010.
In yet another attempt to craft and promote victims of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Fox News piggybacked on NBC's misleading coverage of two individuals whose current insurance plans are being cancelled. However, Fox ignored that their alleged victims could spend less on plans that dwarf their current coverage should they opt to use the state exchanges.
The October 29 edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto featured two "victims" of the ACA who had previously appeared in a misleading NBC report on the sticker shock of the health care law. Host Neil Cavuto spoke first with Deborah Cavallaro, a Los Angeles resident highlighted repeatedly by NBC, who received a notice saying her current plan would be replaced by a plan with higher premiums.
Fox News dismissed a survey of 41 economists who indicated that they are less optimistic about growth after the Republican-led government shutdown, saying their concern "is much ado about nothing." But numerous reports show that the shutdown had wide-ranging negative effects on the economy.
Right-wing media figures have repeatedly criticized Obama administration officials for claiming that the U.S. will default if the debt ceiling is not raised by October 17, instead claiming the U.S. could prioritize payments to bondholders as a way to avoid default. But economists note that the threat of default is real and that the prioritization alternative proposed by Republicans is not a long-term solution.
After reviewing the latest evidence from a major climate change report -- released in full on Monday -- the prominent consulting group PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded that climate change is the "mother of all risks." But while many businesses recognize climate risks, the media often cloud these risks by framing climate change in terms of "uncertainty," according to a recent study. This can lead to a disconnect between scientific understanding and public perception, and a misguided contentment with inaction.
"What 95% Certainty Means To Scientists"
The lead author of the University of Oxford study on media framing clarified, "the general public finds scientific uncertainty difficult to understand and confuses it with ignorance." In fact, as Associated Press reporter Seth Borenstein explained on Tuesday, in an article headlined "What 95% Certainty Means To Scientists," the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report's finding that scientists are 95 percent certain about manmade global warming reflects a certainty analogous to scientific fact:
Top scientists from a variety of fields say they are about as certain that global warming is a real, man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill.
They are as sure about climate change as they are about the age of the universe. They say they are more certain about climate change than they are that vitamins make you healthy or that dioxin in Superfund sites is dangerous.
They'll even put a number on how certain they are about climate change. But that number isn't 100 percent. It's 95 percent.
And for some non-scientists, that's just not good enough.
But in science, 95 percent certainty is often considered the gold standard for certainty.
"Uncertainty is inherent in every scientific judgment," said Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Thomas Burke.
What 95% Certainty Means To Businesses
The disconnect between how the public and scientists view uncertainty may lead some people to come to the misguided conclusion that we should wait to act until the science is "certain." Fox News host Neil Cavuto, for instance, once said that "whether there is or not [a consensus among scientists on climate change], you want to make 100% sure before you plunk down trillions on something." But for a purported business expert, Cavuto seems to have little concept of risk management. As PricewaterhouseCooper's Will Day explained, hedging against catastrophic climate change now is only sensible:
From the September 28 edition of Fox News' Cavuto On Business:
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From the September 27 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the September 26 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News downplayed the immediacy of the upcoming debt ceiling deadline, giving credence to congressional Republicans' plan to use the threat of default as a means of gutting the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On September 25, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent a letter to congressional leadership in the House and Senate regarding the state of government finances. Lew specifically emphasized the consequences of failing to lift the federal debt limit by October 17. From the letter:
Treasury now estimates that extraordinary measures will be exhausted no later than October 17. We estimate that, at that point, Treasury would have only approximately $30 billion to meet our country's commitments. This amount would be far short of net expenditures on certain days, which can be as high as $60 billion. If we have insufficient cash on hand, it would be impossible for the United States of America to meet all of its obligations for the first time in our history.
On the September 25 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, host Jenna Lee and Fox Business host Neil Cavuto discussed the upcoming October 17 deadline to raise the debt limit. Cavuto recognized the fact that a failure to lift the debt ceiling would have far more dramatic consequences than a simple government shutdown, but also specifically rebuffed the nature of a firm deadline, claiming:
CAVUTO: Never believe those figures, Jenna, because every Treasury Secretary, be it a Republican or Democratic administration, has always cried panic and always attached a date that is really just made up.
Cavuto outlined the means by which congressional Republicans could use the threat of breaching the debt limit to extract concessions on the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, which could range from delaying to defunding key initiatives of the law. In fact, The Hill reported that Republicans in the House of Representatives plan on tying any increase of the debt limit to a one-year delay of Obamacare. From The Hill:
Moving to the debt ceiling fight, which Republican leaders have long seen as stronger ground, could be a way to convince rank-and-file Republicans to fight their spending and healthcare battles there rather than on a government funding bill.
Cavuto's caution that listeners should "never believe" Treasury Department deadlines, and the claim that these deadlines are "really just made up," directly contradicts the facts presented by Lew.
According to Treasury estimates, the United States government will have merely $30 billion in liquid assets on hand by October 17. By Lew's own admission, this sum, equivalent to roughly 0.75 percent of annual federal outlays, would be insufficient to meet the obligated expenses of certain individual days. Contrary to Cavuto's claims that the government could use flexible accounting to sustain itself for months without a debt limit increase, those so-called "extraordinary measures" have been in place since May 17 and are now at their limit.
If the debt ceiling is not lifted by October 17, the United States government will be unable to finance the payment of its pre-existing expenses through the continued sale of Treasury bonds. This would have all of the effects of a government shutdown -- outlays to certain program beneficiaries, employees, the military, etc. would cease or be delayed -- while also initiating a global financial crisis among corporate and sovereign wealth funds that own or purchase American debt.
According to The New York Times, the Treasury makes more than 80 million individual payments each month, and would miss nearly one-third of those regular payments every day until the debt ceiling was lifted. A $12 billion Social Security payment is due on October 23 and a $6 billion interest payment on public debt is due October 31. These alone would virtually exhaust the Treasury's remaining resources if Congress fails to act.
The notion that Republicans might be able to string a debt limit increase along for months as they negotiate attacks against Obamacare ignores both the economic consequences of a debt default and the political reality in Washington. The last legitimate Republican threat to breach the debt ceiling resulted in the first ever downgrade of the United States Department of Treasury bond rating -- from AAA to AA+. This downgrade marginally increased the cost of future American borrowing and, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, will cost taxpayers an additional $18.9 billion over the coming decade.
Increasing the debt limit does not increase the national debt, but manufacturing a crisis by using the debt limit to leverage political concessions has already cost taxpayers.
Fox News hyped a misleading Wall Street Journal article that claimed young adults will face higher insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without disclosing that only a small portion of the health care market would be affected
A September 25 article in The Wall Street Journal claimed that "for some buyers, prices will rise from today's less-comprehensive policies," and went on to say that "For consumers used to skimpier plans--or young, healthy people who previously enjoyed attractive rates--that could mean significantly higher premiums." Fox News host Neil Cavuto hyped the article during an appearance on America's Newsroom, claiming, "premiums are going up, they're going up markedly...for young people in particular, the means by which we pay for all of this, their premiums are going up smartly":
Both the Journal and Fox's segment ignored that the potential premium increase is for a very small subset of the insurance market. The Center for American Progress estimated that "only about 3 percent" of young adults have the potential to see premium increases, which makes up about half of one percent of all Americans:
Fox News' Neil Cavuto trotted out well-worn falsehoods about the successful auto rescue, casting doubt on claims made by Ford CEO Alan Mulally on Cavuto's own show a year earlier.
On September 20, President Obama delivered a speech on the economy at a Ford Motors plant in Liberty, Missouri. During the speech, he noted that while Ford did not accept a bailout in the wake of the financial crisis, if General Motors (GM) and Chrysler had not accepted federal funds, it "would have had a profound impact on Ford."
Discussing the president's speech on Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto was joined by Fox Business contributor Charles Payne and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore. Cavuto criticized the President's remarks about Ford being affected by GM and Chrysler's decision to accept federal funds. Cavuto acknowledged that Obama's remarks were similar to Mulally's, who credited the auto rescue for preserving the industry, but dismissed the statement, asking "how do you know that? It was my question then, it remains my question now."
While Cavuto cast doubt over whether or not Ford would have gone under, the fact that Ford would have been imperiled by the disintegration of the other "Big Three" automakers is not only well-established, Cavuto was told as much by Mr. Mulally himself on an edition of Your World taped one year previously.
During their interview, Mulally stated, "if GM and Chrysler, who were completely bankrupt, went into free fall they could have taken down the industry and the U.S. economy from a recession into a depression." He went on to state that all of the remaining automakers "would have been in real trouble."
In addition to downplaying the necessity of the auto rescue, the panelists hypothesized that private capital could have been raised to shore up teetering automakers. This opinion, voiced by Charles Payne stating, "I honestly believe that the private sector would have stepped up and funded General Motors the way that bankruptcies have been funded in the past," also does not comport with the facts.
When the auto rescues were first designed in late-2008 the financial industry was in the midst of a free fall of its own, which Fox has also recently downplayed. There was very little private capital available in the United States for any large-scale bankruptcy and American automakers, unlike the subsidiaries of Toyota, Honda, and other auto transplants, could not draw credit from foreign governments or headquarters.
The auto bailouts, which were initially extremely unpopular, are now widely lauded as successful government responses to the myriad crises facing the economy in 2008 and 2009. Despite Fox's attempts to undermine the administration's handling of the auto industry, the rescues are popular in areas heavily reliant on the auto-industry and often credited for swinging key states toward Obama in the 2012 Election.
In the wake of the five year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Fox News is rewriting American economic history, claiming that government interventions to keep the economy from entering free-fall were unnecessary and damaging.
On the September 17 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto and former Reagan economic advisor Art Laffer discussed their years-long disapproval of the government rescue packages instituted and implemented in late 2008 and 2009 to arrest the free-falling financial industry, save the auto industry, and stimulate the economy. During their exchange, Laffer claimed that government intervention was unnecessary and impeded recovery:
LAFFER: We were saying that the last thing you want to do is suppress a body's immune system when you're sick. It's just stupid, and the one time we should rely on the economy's immune system, called "free markets", is exactly when we're in the midst of a crisis.
LAFFER: You know, Neil, whenever people make decisions when they are either panicked or drunk the consequences are rarely attractive. And so it is with all of this stimulus, bailout, taking over auto companies. It would have been over in six months if they had done nothing.
The argument that the crisis would have corrected itself is devoid of any factual basis and ignores the opinions of experts.
On September 15, 2008, the day that Lehman Brothers filed bankruptcy, the Dow Jones industrial average suffered its largest single-day loss since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Over the next two weeks regulators and legislators cobbled together policies to save failing financial markets. On September 29, 2008, when the first draft of a $700 billion financial bailout failed to pass the House of Representatives, the Dow Jones suffered its worst ever single-day loss.
As the federal government was organizing its financial rescue, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, many economists voiced disapproval with the design of the bailout. Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman joined the chorus calling to reshape the bailouts to hold risk takers accountable and protect the public against losses. However, at no point did any significant group of experts or economists argue that the government should have done nothing. In an April 2012 Huffington Post article on the dwindling popularity of the bank bailouts, columnist Mark Gongloff noted that most experts recognized the necessity of a federal rescue in the wake of Lehman's collapse. From the article:
For what it's worth, most experts think the bailout prevented an even deeper crash and economic depression. Then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson tested the counterfactual by letting Lehman Brothers croak, and the result was a face-peeling market firestorm that nearly took down AIG -- the massive insurance company whose bailout is so unpopular now.
Indeed, Cavuto and Laffer's unwillingness to recognize the important role played by financial bailouts in stabilizing a subset of the economy is even at odds with opinions fit for print at FoxNews.com.
Cavuto and Laffer focused most of the segment on the financial bailout, but lumped the successful auto rescue and economic stimulus into their fabricated retelling of economic history. Contrary to the anti-government narrative forwarded by Fox News, the stimulus packages instituted by the Bush and Obama administrations were widely regarded as not going far enough. Meanwhile, the auto rescue remains so popular in hindsight that it may have effectively moved vital swing states toward President Obama in the 2012 Election.
Media Matters has documented a long track record of Fox News' attacks on stimulus programs, which are sometimes based on entirely fabricated evidence. The right-wing myth that economic stimulus failed is a common talking point used to disparage the fundamental role of government. The argument that stimulus was an unnecessary waste of taxpayer resources directly contradicts prevailing economic opinion.
Cavuto and Laffer's denial of the necessity of some forms of government intervention continues a right-wing media campaign against any role of government in the economy, even in cases when it is absolutely vital for stability, growth, or recovery.