Major newspapers in Wisconsin have omitted key facts from their coverage of proposed state legislation to drug test people who receive certain government benefits -- including that such testing is extremely costly and that studies have found that people on assistance programs use drugs at lower rates than the general population.
Lawmakers in the Wisconsin State Assembly approved legislation on May 13 that would require drug screening for people who collect welfare checks and restrict what items food stamps can be spent on. The measures include three bills: one to drug tes tapplicants for unemployment benefits, another to drug test recipients of income support and food assistance, and a third to restrict Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) purchases to "healthy foods" -- determined by the government -- and ban users from buying "crab, lobster, shrimp or any other shellfish." According to the Huffington Post, the legislation is similar to a proposal Gov. Scott Walker included in his state budget.
In their coverage of the proposed legislation, The Wisconsin State Journal, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and the Green Bay Press Gazette all omitted key context about how similar drug testing requirements enacted in other states turned out to be expensive and were strongly opposed by experts in the scientific, medical, and substance abuse fields.
According to a February 26 report from ThinkProgress that analyzed seven states with similar programs, states that have implemented such measures "are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to ferret out very few drug users." Although states have "collectively spent nearly $1 million on the effort," the report found that the tests have turned up relatively littleevidence of substance abuse: "The statistics show that applicants actually test positive at a lower rate than the drug use of the general population. The national drug use rate is 9.4 percent. In these states, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent."
And according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), "science and medical experts overwhelming oppose the drug testing of welfare recipients." Pointing to a statement from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, the ACLU explained that laws requiring drug testing for welfare recipients only serve to reinforce the stigma around needing such benefits. The list of organizations opposed is long, and includes the following:
American Public Health Association, National Association of Social Workers, Inc., National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, National Health Law Project, National Association on Alcohol, Drugs and Disability, Inc., National Advocates for Pregnant Women, National Black Women's Health Project, Legal Action Center, National Welfare Rights Union, Youth Law Center, Juvenile Law Center, and National Coalition for Child Protection Reform.
The Associated Press and Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that GOP presidential hopeful Jeb Bush spoke out against the proposal to bury nuclear waste in Nevada's Yucca Mountain, without mentioning Bush's ties to a nuclear industry group that actively supports the project.
Speaking in Nevada on May 13, Bush told a group of reporters that Yucca Mountain will not likely become the permanent storage location for the nation's nuclear waste. The Associated Press story quoted Bush saying the project "stalled out" and reported that he "said the waste dump shouldn't be 'forced down the throat' of anyone." And according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Bush also said "we need to move to a system where the communities and states want it."
What the AP and Review-Journal left out, however, is that Bush is currently listed as a member of a nuclear industry group called the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy), which has long advocated for Yucca Mountain -- and continues to do so. As recently as February 24, CASEnergy published a blog post declaring Yucca Mountain a "scientifically safe and sound option" for storing nuclear waste permanently, and "a critical component" of the nation's shift to nuclear energy.
Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston first detailed Bush's ties to the pro-Yucca industry group in March, in a blog post in which he wrote that Bush "was once part of a front group for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the main lobbying entity behind siting a repository at Yucca Mountain." Ralston further noted that Bush "signed letters opposing interim waste sites," specifically pointing to a November 2006 letter that said Senate legislation backing interim storage sites would constitute "a step backward in the long-standing federal policy to establish a permanent disposal facility."
The National Rifle Association's media arm is deliberately misrepresenting a proposed new law in North Carolina that would repeal background checks on private pistol sales, falsely claiming that it would merely shift required background checks from one government system to another.
In reality, the bill would eliminate a pistol permit requirement that currently ensures that buyers of pistols from private sellers at gun shows and online undergo a background check, thus creating a loophole for felons and other persons prohibited by law from purchasing firearms.
Members of the North Carolina House of Representatives are currently considering H.B. 562, a piece of legislation that would repeal a state requirement that anyone who wants to purchase a pistol first obtain a permit from their local county sheriff -- a process that involves undergoing a background check. H.B. 562 has so far passed two House committees, although an effort to fast-track it was recently abruptly canceled.
If the pistol permit requirement is repealed, individuals who buy from private sellers at gun shows or online would no longer have to undergo a background check before completing their purchase.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal is mirroring the claims of congressional climate science deniers, who are lambasting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for requiring that states consider climate change impacts to better protect themselves from future disasters.
In a May 11 editorial, the Review-Journal enthusiastically endorsed a letter from a group of senators -- led by famed climate science denier and Environment and Public Works Committee chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) -- which alleged that the new FEMA policy requiring states to address climate change in their disaster mitigation plans "injects unnecessary, ideological-based red tape into the disaster preparedness process."
Echoing the GOP senators, the Review-Journal declared that "climate change is not settled science," and that FEMA has no right to weigh in on an issue as "dogmatic and hyperpolitical" as global warming. Like the letter itself, the editorial also channeled its inner Fox News, claiming the FEMA climate policy is a matter of "ideology." Never mind that 97 percent of climate scientists agree human activities are causing the planet to warm or that NASA scientists say "it is very likely that [climate change] will impact future catastrophes."
In recent months, the Republican attorneys general in West Virginia and Oklahoma have been relentlessly working to block the EPA's proposed carbon pollution standards for power plants, via an ongoing lawsuit, legislation, public relations activities, and Senate testimony. But the media coverage of these efforts has consistently left out a key aspect of the story: These attorneys general have formed what a New York Times investigation described as an "unprecedented, secretive alliance" with the fossil fuel industry against the Obama administration's environmental policies.
Iowa radio host Steve Deace, who supported recently-announced presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (R) during his 2008 White House bid, expressed grave disappointment over the fact that the former Arkansas governor supports certain entitlement programs, which Huckabee outlined in his May 4 candidacy announcement. Deace's rejection of Huckabee comes in the wake of his praise and early support for one of Huckabee's challengers for the GOP nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
During the May 6 episode of the Steve Deace Show, Deace played former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential candidacy announcement speech but frequently interrupted it so that he and his producer, Rebekah Maxwell, could offer critical commentary. Deace attacked Huckabee's positions on Medicare and Social Security, calling the programs "not safety nets" but "the basis for a permanent welfare state." Deace also compared Huckabee to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, saying his speech could have been delivered by Clinton "and gotten the same amount of applause."
Huckabee's seemingly softer stance on social programs isn't a sign that he is reinventing himself as a populist, given his track record on taxes and other economic issues. Yet while Deace and Huckabee still agree on certain conservative ideological issues, such as the need to oppose marriage equality and speak out against Islam, Deace was adamant on his show that much of Huckabee's 2016 announcement speech failed to connect with the GOP's primary audience because it didn't embrace the core principals of conservatism, which Deace identified as cutting taxes, fighting terrorism, and opposing abortion and gay marriage.
Deace, who wields heavy influence among Iowa's conservative Christians and has been called one of the "most influential Republicans you've never heard of" by Bloomberg Politics, supported Huckabee in his 2008 bid for the presidency. As ABC News reported, during the 2008 primary season, "Deace gave Huckabee plenty of valuable air time," and "urged his supporters to get tickets and rides to the influential straw poll in Ames." Deace's vocal support of Huckabee is cited as a major reason why Huckbee beat Mitt Romney (R) in the Iowa Caucus that year.
This time around, Deace is criticizing Huckabee and offering frequent support and praise for the candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz. In addition, as the Des Moines Register reported, "Deace has served as an informal, unpaid consultant" to Cruz, which gives the Iowa-based radio host an even bigger platform from which to support and advocate for the Texas senator.
Iowa radio host Steve Deace claimed there was no evidence proving African-Americans are treated differently by police in Iowa, despite overwhelming data showing that racial disparities in Iowa arrest rates are among the worst in the nation.
An editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News offered an embarrassing defense for not bothering to correctly identify transgender people, arguing that widely accepted journalistic guidelines for talking about the transgender community are "confusing" and "misinform[s] the public."
In a May 4 column in The Dallas Morning News, editorial writer Tod Robberson criticized The New York Times and Associated Press for recognizing "the gender preference of transgenders in news copy." According to Robberson, identifying trans people using the pronouns they prefer "distort[s] the truth" in order to embrace "the politically correct transgender language of the day":
The New York Times and Associated Press, among other news organizations, have decided that they will recognize the gender preference of transgenders in news copy. Which is to say, when a male who has yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery nevertheless calls himself a female and is the subject of a news story, he will be identified as a female in all references.
See how confusing that gets? What is the actual, at-birth gender of the person we're talking about? And what gender will the person be identified as, once reassignment surgery is completed? Who knows?
There is a serious ethical discussion in this issue that we in journalism never really had. The orders came down from on high one day, and everyone just sort of jumped on board without questioning the implications. The first ethical issue is whether we journalists distort the truth by embracing the politically correct transgender language of the day.
Like it or not, the use of he/she, her/him, his/hers in print is a grammatical and journalistic necessity. We can't avoid it. But in doing so, choosing the correct word shouldn't be an option selected out of a sense of inclusion or demonstration of open mindedness about sexual identity. Our only choice must be to use the correct words to accurately and truthfully report the news.
From the April 29 edition of USA Radio Networks' Steve Deace Show:
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From the April 23 edition of USA Radio Networks' Steve Deace Show:
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Leading Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace and guest, author John Zmirak, claimed President Obama is a Marxist and "not a Christian," and asserted that progressives "disdain Christianity" and are trying to "remake the image of Christianity in Obama's image."
On the April 14 edition of his program, The Steve Deace Show, Deace invited Zmirak, conservative author and editor of faith based news outlet Stream.org, to discuss Zmirak's recent article attacking President Obama over comments referring to marriage equality made during his Easter prayer breakfast. After Deace asked Zmirak to "psychoanalyze the president," Zmirak claimed the president "is not in fact Christian" adding that the president "is a post-colonial, quasi-Marxist." Deace agreed and discussed his Washington Times article in which he asserted that "Jesus says Obama is not a Christian." Deace concluded that progressivism is a cult and the only reason "leftists" want to label Obama a Christian is that "they want to be able to try to remake the image of Christianity in Obama's image":
The questioning of Obama's faith by Deace and Zmirak goes beyond the popular conservative outrage of Obama's Easter prayer breakfast remarks in which conservatives claimed that Obama "smear[ed] Christians."
Deace, who Bloomberg's Dave Weigel called one of the "most powerful Republicans you've never heard of," is a regular contributor to the Washington Times, Townhall.com, MSNBC and the Conservative Review and wields significant influence on Iowa Republican primary voters through his radio show. Deace has used his influence to promote Senator Ted Cruz's (R-TX) 2016 presidential candidacy on his show, and according to the Des Moines Register, has "served as an informal, unpaid consultant giving Cruz his take on the Iowa landscape and recommending connections with certain Iowans."
A deceptive op-ed campaign to undermine action on climate change is underway in states across the country. Infamous corporate lobbyist Richard Berman is funding sham "studies" attacking the EPA's Clean Power Plan that are produced by the Beacon Hill Institute and distributed by the State Policy Network -- two organizations with financial ties to the oil billionaire Koch brothers. The Beacon Hill Institute studies, which will appear in 16 states this year, dramatically inflate the Clean Power Plan's projected costs and admittedly don't even analyze the EPA's actual proposal -- so newspapers owe it to their readers to avoid promoting these studies or publishing op-eds that do.
WisconsinWatchdog.org used a methodologically flawed report from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to whitewash Wisconsin's economic performance under Governor Scott Walker despite many analysts pointing to budget deficits and declining economic performance.
An April 8 WisconsinWatchdog.org (formerly branded as the Wisconsin Reporter) report lauded Wisconsin's jump from 17th to 13th place in this year's index of "economic competitiveness" compiled by the controversial right-wing group ALEC. Watchdog.org's report praised the recently passed right-to-work law -- legislation that weakens unions by baring mandatory fees from non-union workers -- though admitted the new legislation was not passed in time to be considered for ALEC's index. However, Walker's deep tax cuts were cited by both Watchdog.org and ALEC as a major reason for the state's jump in the index:
The Rich States, Poor States report emphasizes the relief property taxpayers have experienced in recent years. Buoyed by better-than-expected state revenue over the past two years, Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature pushed hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts, particularly relief on the property tax side. Wisconsin taxpayers had for years seen their property taxes rise before the recent round of cuts.
Walker's latest two-year budget proposal includes another $280 million in property tax reductions.
"Just as I promised, property taxes by the end of 2016 will be lower than they were in 2014. That means lower property taxes for six years in a row," Walker said in his budget address in February.
"Due to property tax relief and other pro-growth reforms, Wisconsin's economic outlook ranking increased four spots," said Jonathan Williams, vice president of Center for State Fiscal Reform at ALEC and co-author of Rich States, Poor States.
"While the effective date of Wisconsin's recent right-to-work law missed the 2015 edition's cut-off date, I predict that this new policy will increase the state's economic outlook ranking in the 2016 edition of this report," he added.
ALEC's analysis has come under some scrutiny, most notably in a joint critique of ALEC's rating system by The Iowa Policy Project and labor analysis outlet Good Jobs First who called ALEC's index "snake oil," and claimed that in promoting tax cuts, the slashing of public services, and other ALEC agenda items, "the [report] provides a recipe for economic inequality and declining incomes for most citizens and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain public infrastructure and education systems."
Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal also criticized a previous version of ALEC's report saying that maps based on the report were a "a joke," because "dynamic economies like New York and California are ranked near the bottom, while un-dynamic economies like Indiana and Wyoming are ranked near the top." He continued:
Obviously ALEC is ranking states based on each state's level of deregulation and awarding the most deregulated states, but the outcomes seem to have very little bearing in where companies actually want to launch and do business.
The economic reality in Wisconsin proves the lack of credibility of WisconsinWatchdog.org's ALEC index coverage. Notably, the state's 2015-2017 biannual budget approved by Walker is projected to produce a nearly $2 billion budget shortfall. While that number is based on requests from agencies that will largely go unfulfilled, the Associated Press noted that "the budget will be about $650 million short by mid-2017 [if] spending [continues] at current levels."
Bloomberg's Economic Evaluation of States also largely disproves the ALEC report, instead ranking Wisconsin 35th in the country overall and showed that major economic indicators like wage growth and home prices in Wisconsin lag behind the national median:
While job growth in Wisconsin was up in the month of February -- the last month where data is available-- long term measurements place the state in a three way tie for "38th place in private-sector job growth." WisconsinWatchdog.org did disclose near the end of it's report that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) "showed Wisconsin posted a private sector job-creation rate of 1.16 percent between September 2013 and September 2014," half of the national average but dismissed it by claiming, without evidence, other economic factors contested the BLS data and showed Wisconsin's "turnaround."
Wisconsin Watchdog.org's promotion of ALEC's favorable assessment of Walker's economy comes as no surprise as the outlet has consistently defended Walker against campaign finance violation allegations and is heavily funded by an organization whose top executive is Walker's former campaign committee chair.
From the April 9 edition of NewsmaxTV's America's Forum:
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Iowa radio host Steve Deace is known as Iowa's "conservative hitmaker," a powerful force in Republican primaries and an aggressive promoter of an extreme and often homophobic agenda. Now, Deace is one of Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) most vocal supporters, giving Cruz an advantage in the early Republican primary state.