Detroit news reporters who've covered the city's fiscal problems for years say claims from conservative commentators that the recent bankruptcy is due to liberal agendas, federal policies, or even President Obama are wildly inaccurate.
Journalists, some with decades in the Motor City, contend such national coverage has missed the true cause of the financial debacle, which includes decades of population decline, mismanagement of city debt, and recent individual corruption.
By contrast, right-wing commentator and Detroit native Ted Nugent recently claimed that "Liberal democrats took hold of the greatest, most productive city on earth and turned it into a bloodsucker excuse-making hell," adding, "If allowed to continue, our President will do the same to the whole country. Heartbreaking and tragic."
Similar coverage from Fox News -- which misleadingly claimed other cities could fall into Detroit's bankruptcy path - and National Review's Rich Lowry, who tried to blame it on "a toxic combination of Great Society big spenders, race hustlers, crooks, public-sector unions, and ineffectual reformers," is misleading, local reporters say.
They contend that Detroit's problems are unique and driven by demography and decades-long trends, not ideology.
"I don't agree with that thesis," Jim Kiertzner, a reporter at ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV who has covered Detroit news since 1983, said about some of the conservative claims. "This was a city, like the auto industry, [where] in the heyday the money rolled in. When the decline started, nobody kept ahead of it and made the cuts necessary."
He added that the decline has "been in the making for decades. Detroit has been on a long steady decline."
Kiertzner and other reporters pointed to the population drop that began decades ago when wealthier families moved to the suburbs, reducing the population from 1.8 million in 1950 to 1.2 million in 1980 to only 701,000 in 2012.
Detroit-based journalists contend that drop reduced both job opportunities and city revenue, but with a rising maintenance cost because the city still had to pay for police, fire and other services. And with a 138-square mile area, one of the largest in the nation, the cost is vast.
"You have one of the largest areas that the police need to cover, the fire department, street lights, and keeping roads maintained and roads plowed," said Brett Snavely, a Detroit Free Press reporter covering the bankruptcy. "The cost of keeping this city maintained is fundamentally higher than in many cities."
With such rising costs and reduced revenue, the city of Detroit kept borrowing money and raising its debt, the reporters say. It also failed to pay into its pension fund properly, leading to the current situation in which city worker pensions are $3.5 billion in the red.
"The city didn't meet its obligations paying along the way, they gave the pensions IOU's, they are also looking at possible bad investments where they lost millions of dollars," says Kiertzner. "It wasn't just the employees, it is not a fair assessment to blame the unions."
Kathleen Gray, another Detroit Free Press reporter, added, "Its mismanagement, it's the downturn in the economy, it is not a single thing. We get a lot of [reader] feedback here that it is the liberal management of Detroit, but I don't agree with that assessment."
Charlie Langton, a reporter at WWJ News Radio and a 10-year Detroit journalist, said trying to link Detroit's situation to some outside influence is misleading.
"There is a combination of a couple of things, certainly mismanagement of the city's assets play a major role," he said. "For many years Detroit borrowed money to pay down its debt and Detroit lost a significant population."
Berman of the Detroit News said some of the problems were the result of the same sub-prime mortgage lending that hurt other cities, and even Wall Street banks continuing to lend Detroit money as its debt bloomed.
"The biggest mistake here is that no one tried to solve problems as they arose. They tried to paper over them, there was no problem solving, everything got pushed back," Berman said. "There was continued borrowing and there was no payback. They would shop the debt to Wall Street. You could blame Wall Street for not questioning that they were enablers, they gave them that credit. Why did Moody's write Detroit bonds?"
For Curt Guyette, news editor of the alternative weekly Metro Times, trying to blame liberal policies or some progressive approach is too narrow.
Radio host Mark Levin attacked 21st Century Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch and Fox News Channel for "bias" in pro-immigration reform reporting, continuing to grow the divide between conservative talk radio hosts and the network.
On the July 15 edition of his radio show, Levin -- who has previously called the immigration reform bill a "disgusting disgrace" and a "crap sandwich" -- discussed a recent tweet by Murdoch, chairman and CEO of Fox News' parent company 21st Century Fox, that declared Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was correct about the immigration reform effort and expressed support for the immigration reform bill. Levin then accused Fox News of biased reporting on immigration reform and accused "a number of hosts" who support immigration reform of not reading the bill:
This isn't the first time Levin has taken issue with what he referred to as "our favorite cable channel." On the July 12 edition of his show, Levin attacked Fox News contributor Karl Rove over his support for immigration reform saying, "you know what number Karl Rove never puts on that whiteboard? His win-loss percentage."
Earlier this month, both Levin and fellow conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh appeared on Fox, but neither was asked about immigration reform, despite their well-known outspokenness on the immigration reform effort. After Limbaugh's interview, he went on his radio show to criticize the network and claim that Fox wouldn't allow him to discuss the immigration reform effort. Yet, after walking back his comments, Limbaugh was allowed to speak on the topic during Fox News' The Five for almost ten minutes.
In addition to a conservative radio schism, conservatives in print media have also pitted themselves against one another over immigration, most recently between New York Times columnist David Brooks -- an immigration reform supporter -- and National Review's Rich Lowry and The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol, who wrote an op-ed calling on House Republicans to "[put] a stake through" comprehensive immigration reform.
Media are misleadingly hyping Republican anti-choice rhetoric to promote the idea that legislation banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy is "reasonable." In fact, many severe health complications for the mother and fetus are only discovered during or after the 20th week of pregnancy, and research has found that financial hardship forces many women to delay the procedure.
Appearing on Meet the Press, National Review editor Rich Lowry presented several falsehoods about the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill, misinterpreting and misstating the contents of the Congressional Budget Office's assessment of the legislation.
On July 8, Lowry co-wrote an editorial with Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol calling on congressional Republicans to "kill the bill." On Meet the Press on July 14, Lowry called for the passage of "incremental" immigration legislation in the House instead of comprehensive reform.
Lowry claimed that "we're still going to have, depending on your estimates, 6, 7, 8 million more illegal immigrants here in 10years."
In fact, the CBO forecasts that by 2023 there will be 8.1 million less undocumented immigrants in the country.
Later, Lowry said that "according to the CBO, unemployment will be higher" between 2014 and 2020 if the bill passes and that wages "will be lower."
But the CBO report notes that slight reductions in average wages "for the much of the next two decades" caused by the bill's passage would mostly be felt by "the additional people who would become residents under the legislation" who will "earn lower wages," and is not likely to impact current U.S. residents.
The report also notes that the bill would have "no effect on the unemployment rate after 2020."
Lowry also said "the CBO says there's no deficit reduction in the first 10 years," which directly contradicts the report's contents. The CBO explains that "the legislation would decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion over the 2014-2023 period and by roughly $700 billion over the 2024-2033 period."
Conservative media figures have repeatedly distorted the data surrounding immigration reform, while also demanding that Republican elected officials refuse to pass the pending legislation.
The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol and The National Review's Rich Lowry are calling on House Republicans to obstruct comprehensive immigration reform efforts by not passing any immigration reform bills out of the chamber.
In a July 8 op-ed titled "Kill the Bill" cross posted on The Weekly Standard and The National Review's websites, Kristol and Lowry argued that House Republicans should not pass any immigration reform legislation. Doing so would obstruct immigration reform efforts by preventing Senate and House representatives from meeting to reconcile the differences between the Senate's bill and any bill that may pass the House:
House Republicans may wish to pass incremental changes to the system to show that they have their own solutions, even though such legislation is very unlikely to be taken up by the Senate. Or they might not even bother, since Senate Democrats say such legislation would be dead on arrival. In any case, House Republicans should make sure not to allow a conference with the Senate bill. House Republicans can't find any true common ground with that legislation. Passing any version of the Gang of Eight's bill would be worse public policy than passing nothing. House Republicans can do the country a service by putting a stake through its heart.
Others in right-wing media have proposed a similar strategy of obstruction. On the June 25 edition of her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham and guest Kristol endorsed obstruction, arguing that the House and the Senate reconciling their immigration reform bills would result in a problematic law and should therefore be avoided. In addition, during the June 13 edition of Fox News' Hannity, guest Ann Coulter warned that "if the House passes anything concerning immigration" and conference with representatives from the Senate, the resultant bill "will come out an amnesty bill." She claimed that if a reconciled bill passed, "the country is over."
Right-wing media have long encouraged Republicans to engage in obstruction, including on the appointment of President Obama's second-term nominees and stricter gun violence prevention laws.
Right-wing media are increasingly and uniformly pushing the "personhood" position in their anti-choice attacks, an absolutist argument that equates fetuses with persons and goes beyond repealing Roe v. Wade to banning all abortions.
As recently as the 2012 presidential campaign, the GOP standard bearer claimed that although he opposed Roe v. Wade, he supported standard exceptions to abortion restrictions, and overturning 40 years of reproductive rights precedent would merely "return to the people and their elected representatives the decisions with regards to this important issue." This so-called moderate Republican position on "limits on abortion" was endorsed by prominent right-wing media figures such as Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, who assured her readers that "the GOP isn't waging a 'war on women'; it is waging a war on abortion on demand."
Now that the election is over, Rubin is following the lead of right-wing media and using convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell to attack extremely rare and mostly prohibited late-term abortions, by arguing a "baby is far more than a fetus" or a "a clump of cells" because "there's a lot of science out there that...allows us to save these children." From Rubin's appearance on the May 13 edition of Fox News' America Live:
We're talking about infants that if they would be operated on, for example, by a surgeon at 24 weeks, would likely survive. As you say, you can take sonogram, you can see them sucking their thumb, they respond to music, there's all sorts of indications that that baby is far more than a fetus, which is the way the pro-abortion lobby likes to refer to it. And I think this makes Americans confront that. The president doesn't want to talk about it. He goes out and talks to Planned Parenthood, and says I'm all with you folks, and those are the people who want abortion on demand for any reason, any place, any time.
I think one of the problems that the abortion lobby is having is the science. They say conservatives don't like science. Well, there's a lot of science out there that not only allows us to save these children but also allows you to see them. And to obtain an indication that this is something far more than just a clump of cells.
In falsely comparing Gosnell's killing of newborns with legal abortion, Rubin is making an important rhetorical shift that is being repeated elsewhere on Fox News. On May 14, Fox News co-host of The Five, Andrea Tantaros, did the same:
[Gosnell's conviction] gives the pro-life movement an argument against the pro-abortion movement, which is they continue to argue, argue, argue in favor of abortion. However, this court just said, you kill a baby outside the womb, it's murder. But what about a baby inside of the womb? That question has to be answered. And I think that this does give the pro-life movement some fuel for their fight.
Media outlets including NPR and Fox News are targeting federal disability benefits programs through a campaign deceptively portraying these programs as wasteful and unsustainable. In reality, these programs have low fraud rates and help the rising number of Americans with severe disabilities survive when they are unable to work.
In a mystifying attempt to turn the tables on science itself, Fox News is trying to reclaim the term "climate deniers" to refer to people who accept the preponderance of evidence confirming manmade climate change and support action to limit its impacts.
On Friday's edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy promoted National Review Editor Rich Lowry's attempts to paint "advocates of limits on carbon emissions" as "deniers." Doocy proclaimed that based on our carbon emissions "you would think it would be 900 degrees right now on planet Earth, but instead over the past 15 years or so, we have been flat temperature-wise":
It's interesting that Lowry is now attempting to co-opt the term "climate deniers," when in the past he condemned it as a way of equating climate "skeptics" with Holocaust deniers:
Climate alarmists conjured a world where nothing was certain but death, taxes and catastrophic global warming. They used this presumed scientific certainty as a bludgeon against the skeptics they deemed "deniers" -- a word meant to have the noxious whiff of Holocaust denial.
But advocating action is in no way denying science. Fox News is once again trying to obscure the long-term warming trend, driven by greenhouse gas emissions:
It is true, as Lowry points out, that scientists are continually examining just how much the climate will warm in response to our emissions, but those uncertainties are hardly a good excuse for inaction. After all, we know that scientific studies continue to indicate what they did in 2007: the amount that the Earth would warm in response to a doubling of carbon dioxide "is likely to be in the range 2°C to 4.5°C," or about 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. This led the International Energy Agency to warn in 2011 that drastic actions needs to be taken in order to limit warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
Media outlets largely focused on criticizing Vice President Joe Biden's demeanor during the October 11 vice presidential debate, ignoring the substantive arguments being addressed in the discussion. Meanwhile, fact-checkers were busy pointing out the inaccuracies in Congressman Paul Ryan's claims.
Mitt Romney's attack on President Obama following the deadly assaults on U.S. diplomatic compounds in Libya and Egypt yesterday drew no shortage of scrutiny from journalists who pointed out (correctly) that Romney got wrong the basic chronology of the incidents, and questioned the propriety of Romney's comments overall. This in turn has led to a backlash from conservatives who are faulting the media's response to Romney, arguing that we are in a presidential campaign and Romney should be allowed to "criticize" the president on foreign policy.
No argument here. The challenger should absolutely critique the policies of the incumbent. But that's not what Romney did. The core of Romney's response was a personal attack on the president for "sympathizing" with the people who killed U.S. diplomatic personnel, and the conservatives lashing out at the media are trying to mask that personal attack as foreign policy "criticism."
For example, the Wall Street Journal editorializes today that "the parsons of the press corps are offended by the debate. They're upset that Mitt Romney had the gall to criticize the State Department for a statement that the White House itself disavowed." National Review editor Rich Lowry writes in Politico:
When a U.S. Embassy gets stormed by protesters overseas, it's usually a matter of public concern. It might occasion headlines and commentary. Even debate between presidential candidates.
Unless one of the candidates is President Barack Obama and the other is Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Then, everything changes.
In the immediate aftermath of the deadly attacks on U.S. diplomatic installations in Egypt and Libya, the political debate fastened on the propriety of Romney criticizing the administration for its initial response. You know -- important stuff.
Forget the dead body of our ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, who had been instrumental in aiding the rebellion. Forget the desecration of the embassy's flag in Cairo. Forget the question of what we're going to do to find the perpetrators or respond to two governments unable or unwilling to fulfill their most basic international responsibilities.
The reports from earlier this week about how Obama would use foreign policy as cudgel against Romney had barely faded when the media pack turned around and declared politics must stop at the water's edge, thank you very much.
The old complaint about Romney was that he didn't talk about foreign policy. The newly minted complaint about Romney was that he did talk about foreign policy. He gets it coming and going, and everywhere in between.
Lowry concludes: "If this isn't the time to talk about this record, when is the right time? For the press, politics doesn't stop at the water's edge. It stops wherever is most convenient for Obama's reelection campaign." One thing you'll notice about Lowry's op-ed is that, for all its exhortations of the importance of critiquing Obama's record, he doesn't actually quote anything from Romney's statement on the embassy attacks.
Members of the right-wing media have promoted the claim that President Obama has "gutted" Medicare in order to fund health care reform, while GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is attempting to preserve the program. In fact, though Obama and Ryan have advocated similar spending reductions, the Affordable Care Act would not affect Medicare benefits, while Ryan's plan is projected to harm current and future seniors' care.
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.
On America's Newsroom, Fox News promoted a Republican congressman's claim that a halt to government regulations will lower the unemployment rate, and then misled viewers over regulations' negligent effect on business and unemployment. In the last six years, regulations were responsible for less than 1 percent of all job loss, and small business owners have cited demand, not regulation, as their biggest obstacle to job creation.
Fox News contributor and National Review editor Rich Lowry claimed that because of the current economic situation, "it makes even less sense to pile new regulations on top of business to make the job of hiring people even more difficult than it is." Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers added that "regulation of small businesses is a problem" and agreed that government regulations "have been too much." Host Bill Hemmer then asked: "Why doesn't the White House do something about [regulation]? Unemployment's above 8 percent."
In reality, government regulations have a negligible impact on the unemployment rate. In 2011, government regulation was the impetus behind only 0.4 percent of all jobs lost, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For 2012 thus far, regulation is responsible for merely 0.28 percent of total new unemployment. Business demand for goods and services is responsible the vast majority of layoffs, as BLS shows:
From 2007-2009, during the economic recession, the BLS found that government regulation accounted for around 4,300 layoffs -- 0.3 percent of all those who lost their jobs. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) noted that these numbers are especially significant when compared with the number of jobs lost during the recession due to regulatory failures:
The 4,300 figure itself deserves further context. It does not take into account any offsetting job creation that the regulations may have spurred, such as jobs created from the increased demand for the products from companies in compliance with the regulations. More broadly, the 4,300 figure pales in comparison to any accounting of the jobs lost in this period due to the regulatory failures that contributed to the economy's financial crisis.
That extended mass layoffs resulting from government regulations/intervention are a small sliver of all such layoffs is not an anomaly of tough economic times (when more layoffs naturally reflect the lack of demand). In 2007, a year of modest job growth, just 0.3% of extended mass layoffs were attributed to government regulation/intervention.
Small business owners agree. In a 2011 survey of about 1,200 small business owners, more than 80 percent cited economic factors and lack of demand as the primary obstacles facing their business.
From the May 5 edition of Fox News Watch:
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|NRO contributor Robert Weissberg (left)|
at American Renaissance conference
with "pro-White" radio host James Edwards
and editor Jared Taylor.
In a post last night at NRO, Rich Lowry announced that Weissberg "will no longer be posting" at National Review due to his appearance at the American Renaissance conference:
Unbeknowst to us, occasional Phi Beta Cons contributor Robert Weissberg (whose book was published a few years ago by Transaction) participated in an American Renaissance conference where he delivered a noxious talk about the future of white nationalism. He will no longer be posting here. Thanks to those who brought it to our attention.
National Review, which recently severed its relationship with writer John Derbyshire for a column in which he advised parents to teach their children to be wary of blacks, has another contributor who may draw similar scrutiny.
In March, National Review Online contributor Robert Weissberg spoke at the annual conference of the magazine American Renaissance, described as a "white supremacist journal" by the Anti-Defamation League. Reportedly proposing "A Politically Viable Alternative to White Nationalism," Weissberg described to the audience of 150 an "enclave" solution in which zoning laws and other methods could be used to create "Whitopias" in America.
Weissberg, an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois, is a regular contributor to National Review Online, having written 10 posts for its Phi Beta Con blog on education, the most recent coming within the last week.
During his speech at the conference, Weissberg discussed how to keep "Whitopias" white and the positives of "maintaining whiteness," according to the American Renaissance website:
Prof. Weissberg argued that an "80 percent solution" would be one that enforced the "First-World" standards of excellence and hard work that attract and reward whites. He pointed out that there are still many "Whitopias" in America and that there are many ways to keep them white, such as zoning that requires large houses, and a cultural ambiance or classical music and refined demeanor that repels undesirables. This approach to maintaining whiteness has the advantage that people can make a living catering to whites in their enclaves.
Prof. Weissberg went on to argue that liberals are beyond reason when it comes to race, that explaining the facts of IQ or the necessity of racial consciousness for whites "is like trying to explain to an eight-year-old why sex is more fun than chocolate ice cream."
Other speakers at the conference include James Edwards, known for his "pro-white" radio show, Political Cesspool, and the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the white nationalist American Third Position party, Mervin Miller and Virginia Abernathy.
Last Thursday, longtime National Review writer Derbyshire published a piece for Taki's Magazine that urged parents to teach their children to, among other things, not "attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks." The piece was swiftly condemned across the ideological spectrum; on Saturday night National Review Editor Rich Lowry announced that Derbyshire could no longer write for National Review. Lowry did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Weissberg's standing with National Review Tuesday morning.
Weissberg spoke with Media Matters Monday evening about his views and American Renaissance involvement, first noted at LittleGreenFootballs.com.
Asked why he would appear at an event sponsored by American Renaissance, Weissberg defended the group.
"It really is, it's not a white supremacist, as far as I'm concerned. There are probably people in the organization who are white supremacists, okay. There are probably people in the Democratic party and the Republican party who are also, okay," he said. "But I would not tar an organization by singling out a few members who have odd extreme political views and then labeling the organization as endorsing those views. The problem, if I may digress here a little bit, I am a member of several organizations, sort of conservative, ranging from AR, which is, to much more respectable things and the thing about AR is that they cannot control who shows up. You walk in the door, or you pay your whatever it is, $75 convention fee, and you are part of the crowd, that's it."