Stuart Varney

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  • Right-Wing Media Slam Student Loan Assistance, Calling It A “Con” And A “Bailout”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined a chorus of right-wing outlets in blasting the federal government’s income-based student loan repayment program, calling it a costly “con” meant to “buy millennial votes.” Yet right-wing media are ignoring the benefits of a program that could relieve millions of student borrowers of a portion of their remaining debt and that is still generating a profit.

    Right-wing media lambasted the Department of Education and student borrowers after the Journal reported on November 30 the latest findings from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that the government is on track to forgive $108 billion of $352 billion in student loans as part of federal income-driven repayment plans. The Journal’s editorial board blasted the government on December 1, calling the latest findings proof that the Department of Education’s loan program is a “con” designed to “buy millennial votes.” (The editorial column was the Journal’s second since November 1 lamenting the federal program, which has led to millions of students earning student loan forgiveness.) Earlier that day, Fox News host Jon Scott questioned if the program was a “bailout” for student borrowers. Fox Business host Stuart Varney also called the program “a bailout” on the November 30 edition of Varney & Co., while his guest Steve Costes added that the program is “a shame.”

    Federal student loan borrowers have multiple repayment plan options, including income-based plans that require borrowers to pay back loans based on a percentage of their income for a certain number of years, after which the remainder is eligible to be forgiven. The GAO’s findings were for the hypothetical cost in loan principal forgiveness for the 5.3 million borrowers who signed up for income-based repayment plans for loans issued over a 22-year period, between 1995 to 2017. These borrowers will likely see an average of $21 forgiven for every $100 in loans received. Despite right-wing media complaining about the cost of borrower relief for those on income-based payment plans, the GAO found that the Department of Education still nets a profit on student loans.

    The reason the government still makes a profit even after loan forgiveness is because many federal student loans have an interest rate at 6.8 percent -- a figure that is much higher than inflation or the 1 percent interest rate banks receive from the Federal Reserve. The 6.8 percent interest rate is so high that the GAO’s hypothetical borrower would pay almost double the original principal of their loan if the income-based plan had no cutoff date for forgiveness:

    Student loan debt is a leading concern among young people, with The Atlantic finding nearly 30 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 “cited paying off student loans as their biggest financial challenge.” According to Fortune, “there is little doubt that many Millennials are struggling financially” after a survey by PwC found that 79 percent of the 42 percent of millennials that have student loans struggle to pay those loans. Evidence shows student debt can impact personal wealth, delay homeownership affect personal decisions to marry or start a family, and that it has “cripple[d] retail sales growth.” The financial stress of student loans has a “devastating toll” on borrowers’ mental health, according to Complex, which cited findings by researchers that “student loans were associated with poorer psychological functioning.”

    While right-wing media push many myths about student debt, student concerns are valid; according to a November 21 op-ed published by Investopedia, Americans with student loan debt have “a challenging road ahead of them in the present and the future” due to workers being unable to save for retirement. The op-ed, which was authored by a financial adviser, even questioned whether people with student loans "will be able to retire” at all. The increasing debt burden can even hinder career advancement as graduates can be forced to take jobs that may have no chance of wage growth or career development so they can make debt payments on time.

    Conservative media have labeled higher education as a "privilege" and suggested students ought to choose fictional cheaper colleges. Some outlets have even defended schools that take advantage of students and leave them with significant debt. But research shows college matters now more than ever, and the cost to attend is rising across the board. The student debt crisis is especially damaging for poor students and students of color, who more frequently attend cheaper open-access and community colleges and are still forced to borrow in higher numbers to pay for their education.

    Blaming students for the student loan debt crisis ignores the facts and distracts from finding real solutions to America's skyrocketing student debt burden.

  • Fox Spent All Morning Lying About The Jobs Report To Boost Trump

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Both Fox News Channel and Fox Business dedicated significant portions of their morning programing to misleadingly portraying the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) employment report for October 2016 as an "underwhelming" and "lukewarm" sign for the health of the American economy. While Fox was portraying this supposed economic weakness as a boon for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's election hopes, credible media outlets and economic experts were reporting that the jobs report actually showed a national economy that has been steadily improving over the past seven years.

  • Right-Wing Media Attempt Last-Ditch Effort To Smear Raising The Minimum Wage In Four States

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    As four states appear poised to pass ballot initiatives to raise their minimum wages, right-wing media are launching an eleventh hour smear campaign falsely claiming that a wage increase will kill jobs and hurt workers.

    On November 8, voters will decide in four states -- Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington -- whether or not to raise their state’s minimum wages. While none of the states go as high as $15 per hour, three are pushing for $12 per hour with Washington proposing a $13.50 hourly wage by 2020. If all four states raise their minimum wages it would boost pay for over 2 million workers. As Thinkprogress reported, recent polling shows all four states are on track to approve these initiatives, with Arizona seeing 58.4 percent support, Colorado 55 percent, Maine 57 percent, and Washington 58 percent.

    In an attempt to dissuade voters from approving these popular initiatives, Michael Saltsman, the research director of the business front group Employment Policies Institute, attempted to push false claims about the minimum wage in The Wall Street Journal on November 3. Saltsman cherry-picked from a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report to claim a proposed federal minimum wage increase “would cost the country a half-million jobs” and he pointed to a study by researchers at the University of Washington on Seattle’s phase-in of a $15 per-hour wage to claim the city had seen a loss of employment.

    Saltsman failed to mention that the CBO report also found a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour in 2016 would have boosted net income by $2 billion, raised wages for more than 16 million workers, and lifted 900,000 Americans out of poverty. Furthermore, the CBO’s director at the time, Douglas Elmendorf, made clear in testimony before Congress in March of 2014 that while the CBO considers a wide range of effects on employment, it did not analyze potential job growth from the greater consumer demand created by higher incomes as a result of raising the minimum wage.

    Saltsman also did not mention that the study by researchers at the University of Washington ultimately found the Seattle economy saw a “boom in job growth” over the 18 months studied. And when researchers attempted to predict what potential job growth might look like for Seattle without raising wages, researchers found the city created 99 percent as many new jobs with a wage increase than it might have without.

    The last minute campaign against raising the minimum wage was also pushed on Fox Business’ Varney & Co. on November 4. Fox host Stuart Varney proclaimed the far-right view that “I just don’t think you should legislate wages period” and guest Anthony Scaramucci claimed raising wages is “a real problem for the youth and this is the reason why you've got [a] 60 percent increase in African-American unemployment in the inner cities.” Scaramucci’s opposition to the minimum wage matches the stance once espoused by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, for whom he serves as a prominent fundraiser. Trump claimed during the GOP primary that “wages [are] too high” when asked to offer his opinion on raising the minimum wage.

    This last-ditch effort follows an October 28 report from the conservative American Action Forum (AAF) that claimed raising wages in these four states would cost 290,000 jobs. The AAF claim was picked up by both the The Washington Examiner and The Washington Free Beacon. But AAF based its models on a 2015 study by economists Jonathan Meer and Jeremy West that did not actually predict hard job losses. According to the August 2015 study by Meer and West, raising the minimum wage could lead to a reduction in potential job growth but would not lead to "an immediate drop in relative employment levels."

    Counter to right-wing media claims that raising the minimum wage hurts workers, researchers at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center found states that raised the minimum wage saw stronger low-wage earnings gains than states that did not raise wages. The right-wing media myth that raising the minimum wage kills jobs has been debunked by studies that found increasing the minimum wage to have a negligible effect on low-wage employment. Researchers at Cornell University found that over the past 20 years, raising the regular and tipped minimum wage for workers in the restaurant and hospitality industries has "not had large or reliable effects" on the number of people working in those industries. Researchers at the University of California, in a March 2015 report for Los Angeles on how a $15.25 minimum wage would affect that metro area, actually found “employment changes" would be "quite small when compared to projected job growth of 2.5 percent a year in the city," and it estimated that the cumulative effect would be an increase of “5,262 jobs by 2019 at the county level.”

    Right-wing media have a history of attacking the minimum wage, giving business executives a platform to push myths about the minimum wage and bemoan the labor victories of workers. Despite the onslaught of misinformation about minimum wages, a majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage and appear to be rejecting right-wing media myths.

  • Right-Wing Media Revive Year-Old Story To Baselessly Claim Obama Lied About Clinton's Private Server

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Several right-wing media outlets have breathlessly scandalized a stolen email released by WikiLeaks showing President Obama received emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state. These outlets claim the email proves Obama lied when he claimed to have learned about her private email server from news reports about it, even though the White House clarified over a year ago that while the president knew her email address, he did not know about the server.

  • Right-Wing Media Ignore Role Of Subsidies, Claim Insurance Premium Increases Are A “Death Spiral” For Obamacare 

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Reports that benchmark health insurance premiums will increase by an average of 25 percent from 2016 to 2017 for plans purchased on Healthcare.gov marketplace exchanges have prompted right-wing media outlets to claim the price hike is proof of “the collapse” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and evidence of a so-called Obamacare “death spiral.” In reality, the majority of individual insurance customers will be insulated from cost increases due to proportional increases in the health care subsidies, and these premium increases are still in line with anticipated health care costs initially predicted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

  • Right-Wing Media Figures Conflate “Voter Fraud” With Voter Registration Inaccuracies

    Fox News Host: “That's Troubling. I Only Know Of One Person That Has Risen From The Dead, So 20, That's A Problem”

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & CAT DUFFY

    Right-wing media have baselessly stoked fears of widespread voter fraud based on out-of-date or inaccurate voter registration rolls to defend Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s claims that “dead people” and “illegal aliens” are voting. But in doing so they’ve falsely conflated possible registration fraud with the practice of in-person voter fraud; both types are rare, and the latter is virtually nonexistent.

  • Fox & Friends Misleads On Trump And Clinton Budget Figures While Praising Tax Cuts For The Rich

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox & Friends berated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for her tax and economic policy agenda, arguing it wouldn’t do enough to curtail future spending, while giving Republican nominee Donald Trump a pass for his supposed pro-growth tax cuts that are projected to explode the national debt over the next decade.

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney joined the cast of Fox & Friends on October 21 to attack Clinton for claiming during the final presidential debate that her tax plan “will not add a penny to the debt.” Varney contended that Clinton’s statement was false because current federal spending is on track to accumulate roughly $9 trillion in debt over the next decade. During his critique, which cited the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) as its source on screen, Varney neglected to mention that, according to the CRFB, Clinton’s tax and spending plans would only add about $200 billion in new debt accumulation to the $9 trillion already baked into continuing federal spending. After accounting for the roughly $275 billion of new revenue that Clinton estimates her proposed business tax reforms will generate, her proposals are more or less balanced.

    Even though Varney seems to be a deficit scold, when Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked him which candidate had the better economic plan, Varney chose Trump’s plan, which the CRFB projects would add $5.3 trillion to the national debt on top of current spending. When CRFB compared the two plans side by side, Clinton’s left projected debt levels virtually unchanged while Trump’s contribution resulted in a doubling of the national debt over the next decade:

    Varney claimed Trump’s budget-busting plan would be better for the economy because of the debunked trickle-down economic “theory” that lowering taxes in the way Trump has proposed will generate 4 percent economic growth annually. Co-host Pete Hegseth agreed with Varney, claiming that tax cuts for the rich creating economic activity nationwide “has played out in reality in the past” as Varney cited the Reagan tax cuts of the 1980s and the Bush tax cuts of 2001 as examples.

    Varney’s misleading claim that previous tax cuts instituted by Republican presidents have led to increased economic growth has been a central theme of his repeated appearances on Fox & Friends. On October 11, Varney appeared on the show and claimed that Trump’s plan would get the American economy to “4 percent growth within a couple of years.” He admitted that the plan would “initially” increase the federal deficit before speculating that “over the longer term, the deficit, I think, comes down.” Varney also appeared on September 28 when he defended Trump’s tax cuts for the rich and claimed a huge tax cut for the wealthiest Americans is “how we grow the economy.”

    The assertion that the Reagan tax cuts of 1981 and the Bush tax cuts of 2001 created an economic boom is unsubstantiated by the facts. According to The Washington Post, the Bush tax cuts increased the deficit and income inequality, and, according to a review by CBS News, they did not positively impact economic growth. Economist Austan Goolsbee stated as much on the October 20 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, arguing that the Bush tax cuts “didn't get growth” that was promised and that Trump proposing an even larger tax cut “makes no sense.” The Reagan tax cuts did no better; PolitiFact rated claims that the Reagan tax cuts led to “exponential growth” as “mostly false,” and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman labeled the Reagan tax cuts “a one-hit wonder” where “the rich got much richer” while there was also an increase in poverty.

    According to a September 2014 report from the Brookings Institution, tax cuts do not always create economic growth and can even discourage growth by undermining economic incentives to invest. A September 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) similarly concluded that reducing top income tax rates does not correlate with increased economic growth, but lowering top rates does "appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution."

    Right-wing media consistently attack Democratic politicians for their supposedly irresponsible approach to deficit spending, while ignoring Republican tax plans that would explode deficits by an even greater amount. This kind of misleading equivalency was even a feature of Fox News host Chris Wallace’s questioning during the October 19 presidential debate. The fact remains that if right-wing media really care about the debt and deficit, they have to start caring about the budget-busting tax plans pushed by conservative politicians.

    Watch the full segment from Fox & Friends here:

  • Fox Business Gets Fooled Again By Gateway Pundit's Email Conspiracy Theory

    Host Stuart Varney Falsely Claims Out-Of-Context Email Proves Clinton Campaign Is “Encouraging” Voter Fraud

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta tacitly endorsed mass voter fraud based on a misreading of the contents of stolen emails released by WikiLeaks. Varney’s story comes straight from the discredited right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit, and it marks the second time in as many weeks that the Fox host has fallen for such an obviously fabricated story on air.

    In an attempt to deflect criticism of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s suggestion during the third presidential debate that he might not accept the results of the general election, Varney falsely accused Podesta of arguing in an email that “if you’ve got a [driver’s] license, you should vote … whether you’re a legal citizen or not.” Varney and guest Andrew Napolitano went on to suggest that the availability of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in California and some other states would create an environment ripe for mass voter fraud:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): Now listen to this. Maybe Trump's got a point. A WikiLeaks email from Clinton campaign manager [John] Podesta shows that if you’ve got a license, you should vote. That’s what Podesta thinks, whether you're a legal citizen or not. Here is exactly what he wrote: “On the picture ID, the one thing I have thought of in that space is that if you show up on Election Day with a driver's license with a picture, attest that you are a citizen, you have a right to vote in Federal elections.” … You’ve got to stand up and attest that you're citizen when you're not so you’ve got to lie. He’s encouraging this.

    Once again, Varney is pushing a conspiracy theory from hapless right-wing blogger Jim Hoft based on an intentionally misleading interpretation of emails released by WikiLeaks.

    On October 19, Hoft published a blog claiming “Podesta Says It’s OK for Illegals to Vote With Driver’s License…” in which he highlighted the exact quote cited by Varney and singled out California and other states for providing driver’s licenses to “illegal aliens.” The entire October 20 segment on Varney & Co. is based on this single blog, and Varney’s argument during the segment is pulled directly from Hoft.

    Varney could have followed the link back to the original WikiLeaks source and viewed a days-long email exchange from January 28, 2015, through February 4, 2015, between individuals who would soon join Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign. At no point during the email exchange, which has not been authenticated, does any participant so much as mention the word “immigrant,” much less undocumented ones. The email in question is about how responsive voters are to easing voter registration restrictions -- such as by adopting a policy of automatic voter registration when you receive a driver’s license or other state ID -- and the author simply concludes -- correctly -- that “you have a right to vote in Federal elections” if you “show up on Election Day with a drivers license ... [and] attest that you are a citizen”:

    It would still be a felony for a noncitizen to vote in a federal election, regardless of whether that person has a valid driver’s license. Trump supporters have been trying and failing to turn voter fraud into a core issue of the campaign, but the problem simply does not exist at any meaningful level. Fox News even admitted as much earlier the same day with an on-screen chyron reading “Experts Say Voter Fraud Is Rare.”

    Varney’s face plant on the voter fraud issue marks the second time in as many weeks that he has fallen for an laughable Gateway Pundit conspiracy on air. Last week, the Fox Business host bizarrely claimed that an unsolicited racist email sent to -- not from -- John Podesta somehow proved that Hillary Clinton was a racist.

    Varney should be more careful when regurgitating talking points pulled from fringe blogs like The Gateway Pundit, particularly when their conclusions are based on documents that the U.S. intelligence community stated on October 7 were stolen via Russian state-sponsored hacking in an effort to “interfere with the U.S. election process.”

  • Right-Wing Media Bolster Trump’s Unsubstantiated, Dangerous Claims Of “Large Scale Voter Fraud”

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Right-wing media bolstered Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s claim that “there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day.” Conservatives asserted that dead people “vote for Hillary” and “for Democrats” and that early voting was implemented to give someone “a little hand” in elections.

  • Fox Business Pushes Absurd Conspiracy Theory That Hacked Emails Prove Hillary Clinton Is “Bigoted”

    Fox’s Stuart Varney Thinks It’s “A Big Deal” That Someone Sent Unsolicited Racist Emails To Clinton’s Campaign Chair

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Right-wing radio host and political commentator Stacy Washington used Fox Business’ Varney & Co. to push a debunked lie about the contents of stolen emails released by WikiLeaks in an attempt to paint Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as a racist.

    Washington’s baseless allegation originated with an October 8 post by discredited right-wing blogger Jim Hoft, who claimed in a post titled “WIKILEAKS BOMBSHELL: Racist Hillary Trashes African Americans” that a trove of stolen emails to and from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta revealed the Democratic nominee to be a bigot. The blog links back to the WikiLeaks document in full, but it highlights only a single out-of-context section in which an undisclosed author claims African and Muslim immigrants, among others, are less “successful” than others “irrespective of circumstances.” From Hoft’s The Gateway Pundit:

    Hoft falsely claimed that the author of the racist email is Hillary Clinton, but clicking on the link to WikiLeaks clearly shows that the author was an unidentified person using the Netherlands-based email address orca100@upcmail.nl. On February 21, the user sent this unsolicited racist email to Podesta’s publicly listed email address at the Georgetown University Law Center, along with at least two dozen seemingly random reporters and bloggers. The email is clearly racist, but it was also not written or solicited by Podesta, much less by Clinton. All of these facts were outlined very clearly in an October 11 blog post by Wonkette publisher Rebecca Schoenkopf, who described receiving similar emails herself “from loons” (emphasis original):

    The super-racist email was from “orca100@upcmail.nl.” It sent screeds to Hillary Clinton adviser John Podesta and a shitload of HuffPo bloggers. (Really, it was spam TO John Podesta. He’s in the “to” field! He did not send it! He is also not from the Netherlands!) If you check the tipline at wonkette.com, you will see a lot of emails just like it! From loons!

    The obvious falsity of Hoft’s claims was not enough to stop Washington from making the case that the email proves Hillary Clinton is “bigoted” against the African-American community. During the October 13 edition of Fox Business’ flagship morning news program, Washington falsely claimed Clinton “actually emailed people saying that blacks aren’t good immigrants.” Host Stuart Varney agreed, wondering aloud why “a big deal” wasn’t made out of this transparent falsification of the stolen emails’ contents.

    Watch the entire spectacle here:

    STACY WASHINGTON: [Clinton] also said in the WikiLeaks reports that -- of her emails -- that she actually emailed people saying that blacks aren’t good immigrants, because no matter what country they emigrate into, they don't do well.

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): I saw that. I thought a big deal would be made of that because you don't say things like that. But that’s what was said. I thought it would be a headline, but it wasn't. Last 20 seconds to you, Stacy.

    WASHINGTON: You know, Stuart, it’s not true. If you look at Haitians, and people from the actual continent of Africa -- the many nations there -- they do extraordinarily well here in the United States. Her comments are those of someone who is bigoted. Everything she accuses others of, it’s really her.

    VARNEY: Stacy Washington, I’ve got a feeling you’re going to be back on this program because we like you.