This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down an EPA rule intended to curb power plant emissions carrying pollutants like sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) downwind across state lines on the basis that it overstepped the EPA's statutory authority under the Clean Air Act. Although the court made clear that its decision was not a comment on the "policy merits" of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), which was put in place to address public health concerns, the right-wing media immediately mobilized to proclaim it "a major blow" against environmental regulations and what they claim is the Obama administration's "war on coal."
The right-wing reaction to the decision was just the latest chapter in a years-long campaign by conservative media to sow fear about the economic impact of EPA pollution controls while downplaying or denying their health benefits. A Wall Street Journal editorial claimed the "flawed rule" is part of the EPA's "regulatory war" on coal plants, and The Washington Examiner's Conn Carroll called it "just one of many costly regulations currently in the pipeline."
Horowitz also claimed the rule was part of "Obama's inexorable war on American energy [and] consumers." In a similar vein, a Washington Times editorial called the CSAPR "one of the EPA's most insidious schemes to shut down affordable power generation," and referred to "an all-out war on affordable energy."
But the conservative media have grossly exaggerated the effect of the CSAPR on consumers. According to the EPA, its "effect on prices for specific regions or states may vary, [but] they are well within the range of normal electricity price fluctuations." A Government Accountability Office analysis of the EPA's data estimated a national average retail electricity price increase of just 0.8% as a result of CSAPR. And a report by Resources For The Future found that neither CSAPR or the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) would "create the shock to the electricity system that some worry would lead to reliability problems."
CNN contributor Erick Erickson and other conservative media are claiming that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood praised Chinese authoritarianism because he said that the Chinese have been successful in building infrastructure. But these outlets cropped LaHood's comments to exclude his explicit praise of U.S. democracy.
In an interview with Foreign Policy Magazine, LaHood said that the "Chinese are more successful" at building infrastructure "because in their country, only three people make the decision. In our country, 3,000 people do, 3 million."
Erickson used those remarks to claim in a post at RedState that LaHood "has come out in favor of the Chicoms over Americans," and that the Obama administration is "rooting against us and for a murderous regime of despots." But Erickson ignored that LaHood added that the U.S. has "the best system of government anywhere on the planet," as Foreign Policy Magazine reported:
LaHood said that despite this, democracy is still preferable. "We have the best system of government anywhere on the planet. It is the best. Because the people have their say," he said.
Conservative media figures, led by Rush Limbaugh, have continually distorted and exaggerated the content of Sandra Fluke's testimony before Democratic members of Congress.
They have gone so far afield of Fluke's actual testimony that it often appears as if they never actually watched or read it.
Here are some of the conservative claims about Fluke's testimony, along with what she actually said.
After ABC News uncovered the faux scandal that a California automaker that received a federal loan is creating American jobs, the right-wing media is predictably failing to acknowledge those American jobs. Instead, they're hyping the fact that the company, Fisker, is assembling the cars in Finland, without clarifying that none of the loan money is going towards the overseas facility.
For instance, Fox's "straight news" program America's Newsroom aired a graphic saying "FEDERAL LOAN ... FOR FINLAND?" But host Bill Hemmer never mentioned that the loan supported American jobs, or that Fisker is barred from putting the money towards its overseas plant:
It's also worth noting that this story is not "news" -- the Department of Energy included the fact that the cars would be assembled "overseas" in a press release announcing the loan over a year ago:
A study published in the prestigious journal American Economic Review estimates that the costs imposed on society by air pollution from coal-fired power plants are greater than the value added to the economy by the industry. The study concluded that coal may be "underregulated" since the price we pay for coal-fired power doesn't account for its costs.
According to a Nexis search, not a single major newspaper or television network has covered the study. By contrast, an industry-funded report on the cost of EPA regulations of these air pollutants has received considerable media attention.
The authors of the American Economic Review paper -- Nicholas Muller of Middlebury College and Yale's William Nordhaus and Robert Mendelsohn -- are considered centrists. Mendelsohn opposed the Kyoto climate treaty and spoke this year at the right-wing Heartland Institute's conference on climate change.
Economist Paul Krugman wrote that the study should "be a major factor in how we discuss economic ideology," adding "It won't, of course." From Krugman's post:
It's important to be clear about what this means. It does not necessarily say that we should end the use of coal-generated electricity. What it says, instead, is that consumers are paying much too low a price for coal-generated electricity, because the price they pay does not take account of the very large external costs associated with generation. If consumers did have to pay the full cost, they would use much less electricity from coal -- maybe none, but that would depend on the alternatives.
At one level, this is all textbook economics. Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right. What Muller et al are doing is putting numbers to this basic proposition -- and the numbers turn out to be big. So if you really believed in the logic of free markets, you'd be all in favor of pollution taxes, right?
Continuing their desperate campaign to paint President Obama as anti-capitalist, the right-wing media have seized on comments Obama made during an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos to claim that Obama was attacking the free market. Obama was answering a question about whether the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be able regulate bank fees. Fox Nation framed Obama's response this way:
And CNN's Erick Erickson wrote, in a post on the blog RedState:
George Stephanoupolos asked Barack Obama about banks and their new fees. Of course, Obama could not accept any responsibility for that at all. And along the way he said something pretty damn amazing.
"You don't have some inherent right just to- you know, get a certain amount of profit.
Actually, in the free market, on the supply and demand curve, you do have an inherent right to get a certain amount of profit -- that certain amount of profit that you derive from your business practices that draw in the maximum amount of profit possible before customers decide you are charging too much or they are not getting value enough to justify their continued business with you.
Barack Obama has spent three years as President punishing those who take risks and taking from those whose risk leads to reward.
In this one quote we see everything wrong with Barack Obama's world view and how it has broken the American job creation engine.
He's not just a political loser, he seems more and more an economic dolt.
In fact, Obama didn't say that he can "stop Bank of America from making 'a certain amount of profit,' " and Erickson cut Obama's full quote in half.
In advance of President Obama's speech on job creation, right-wing media have falsely claimed that the stimulus failed. In fact, independent economists agree that the stimulus significantly raised employment and increased GDP, and experts say it is the winding down of stimulus spending that is causing a "fiscal drag" on the economy.
After Fox News aired a doctored version of Teamsters president James Hoffa's Labor Day speech, the right-wing media pointed to the clearly edited video to accuse Hoffa of encouraging violence against conservatives. In fact, unaltered video -- video aired by Fox hours after the clearly edited version had been heavily promoted throughout the conservative media -- shows that Hoffa was encouraging the crowd to vote against Republicans in the 2012 election.
Right-wing media figures are using Standard & Poor's decision to "downgrade" the U.S. credit rating to rehabilitate former President Bush's economic record. However, the economy inherited from Bush was hemorrhaging jobs and contracting at a rate not seen in more than 50 years.
The right-wing media responded with outrage after President Obama called on Congress to eliminate tax breaks on corporate jets in order to help stave off a default crisis -- accusing Obama of waging "class warfare."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed a cloture petition on President Obama's nomination of Goodwin Liu to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the usual suspects in the right-wing media are rehashing their reasons for opposing Liu.
You wouldn't know it from the vitriol of the right-wing media, but Liu actually has a large number of conservative and Republican supporters.
Among those supporters are former independent counsel and federal appellate judge Kenneth Starr; former Bush Justice Department official John Yoo, who authored the infamous "torture memos"; former GOP Rep. Tom Campbell (CA); conservative legal activist Clint Bollick; former Secretary of Transportation William T. Coleman; and law professor Richard Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer during the Bush administration.
Kenneth Starr. A letter supporting Liu that Starr co-wrote with Yale Law Professor Akhil Amar stated: "What we wish to highlight, beyond his obvious intellect and legal talents, is his independence and openness to diverse viewpoints as well as his ability to follow the facts and the law to their logical conclusion, whatever its political valence may be."
John Yoo. According to The Los Angeles Times, Yoo said of Liu's nomination: "[H]e's not someone a Republican president would pick, but for a Democratic nominee, he's a very good choice."
Tom Campbell. Campbell -- former dean of the business school at the University of California-Berkeley and an unsuccessful candidate for the 2010 Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in California -- stated that Liu "is one of the most capable colleagues I've had in my three decades in academia. I hate the thought of Berkeley losing him, but it's a higher calling and the nation's gain. His ability to analyze, communicate, and inspire will make him a favorite among litigants and a leader among judges."
Clint Bollick. Bollick, director of the Goldwater Institute, wrote that he "strongly support[s]" Liu's nomination, adding that, "[h]aving reviewed several of his academic writings, I find Prof. Liu to exhibit fresh, independent thinking and intellectual honesty. He clearly possesses the scholarly credentials and experience to serve with distinction on this important court."
William T. Coleman. Coleman, Secretary of Transportation during the Ford administration, stated: "I have known Goodwin Liu for many years as after he finished Yale Law School and then clerked for a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States he worked at O'Melveny & Myers LLP in the Washington office for several years and did a tremendous job." Coleman later added, "I think he will make a tremendous Judge for the Ninth Circuit."
Richard Painter. Painter wrote: "Based on my own review of his record, I believe it's not a close question that Liu is an outstanding nominee whose views fall well within the legal mainstream. That conclusion is shared by leading conservatives who are familiar with Liu's record."
The right-wing media is hyping a study that attempted to measure the state-by-state unemployment effects of the stimulus, to claim that the bill actually destroyed jobs. But economists, including Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, have raised questions of "cherry picking" and dismissed the study's findings.
Following the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, elements of the conservative media have run with the conspiracy theory that Obama delayed releasing the document in order to play "rope-a-dope" with birthers or to distract from other issues. This comes as other right-wing media figures have hyped other conspiracy theories such as the claim that the birth certificate was Photoshopped.
Right-wing media outlets have criticized President Obama's call to end certain tax breaks for oil companies, claiming that doing so will increase the price of gasoline. However energy experts contacted by Media Matters explain that cutting the tax incentives will have little to no effect on prices at the pump.