On the same day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, a significant reproductive rights case under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), right-wing media continued to push discredited misinformation about a different ACA case that could do even more damage to health care reform.
On March 25, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (finally fully-staffed) heard oral arguments in Halbig v. Sebelius. Unlike Hobby Lobby, Halbig has the potential to undermine the ACA as a whole by rendering the new federal health insurance marketplaces of the exchanges useless.
Since 2012, right-wing media have engaged in a loud campaign to push this challenge all the way to the conservative justices of the Supreme Court, even though legal experts agree this lawsuit is far-fetched and a distortion of the text, history, and purpose of the ACA. In the wake of yesterday's appellate arguments, conservative media is continuing to lecture Congress that legislators really meant to counter-intuitively destroy the ACA when they passed it, a bizarre argument that the editors of the National Review Online claimed "Democrats might have anticipated if they'd bothered reading the law." The Wall Street Journal took it as an opportunity to again accuse Obama of executive overreach, and invited the judiciary to "check on those abuses" and "vindicate the rule of law" by rewriting history to pretend Congress never intended tax credits in the federal exchanges.
A federal district court has already ruled against this unlikely argument, holding their "unpersuasive" legal theory about Congress' true intention contrary to common sense, because it would lead to "strange or absurd results."
Right-wing media have spent nearly a decade making false claims about birth control -- and now those falsehoods have found their way into the mouths of Supreme Court justices.
The Supreme Court on March 25 heard consolidated arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, which examine whether for-profit businesses can deny employees health insurance coverage based on the owners' personal religious beliefs, a radical revision of First Amendment and corporate law. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga argue they should not be forced by the government to provide their employees insurance which covers certain forms of contraception, because they believe those types of birth control can cause abortions.
The owners are wrong. Medical experts have confirmed they are wrong, repeatedly and strenuously, including experts at the National Institute of Health, the Mayo Clinic and the International Federation of Gynecology. The contraceptives Hobby Lobby objects to -- which include emergency contraceptives like Plan B and long-term contraceptives like Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) -- delay an egg from being fertilized, and as the former assistant commissioner for women's health at the FDA noted, "their only connection to abortion is that they can prevent the need for one."
Despite this overwhelming medical evidence, the myth that some of the contested forms of birth control are "abortifacients" has gone all the way to the Supreme Court -- and now has been repeated by some of the justices themselves. During the oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case, Justice Antonin Scalia responded to a point made by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the lawyer for the government, by referring to "birth controls ... that are abortifacient."
JUSTICE SCALIA: You're talking about, what, three or four birth controls, not all of them, just those that are abortifacient. That's not terribly expensive stuff, is it?
GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, to the contrary. And two points to make about that. First, of course the -- one of the methods of contraception they object to here is the IUD. And that is by far and away the method of contraception that is most effective, but has the highest upfront cost and creates precisely the kind of cost barrier that the preventive services provision is trying to break down.
Justice Stephen Breyer, while describing the position of the Hobby Lobby owners, also referred to "abortifacient contraceptives."
This misunderstanding matters because it could determine the outcome of the case. In order to win, a majority of justices may have to understand there is a compelling government interest in facilitating equal access to contraceptives across health insurance plans. It is an entirely different and more difficult question if the justices examine whether there is a compelling interest in the government facilitating access to abortion. Even though federal law explicitly prohibits federal funding of abortion and these birth control methods are not abortifacients, if the justices mistakenly think abortion is involved, this case becomes far more dangerous.
So whether the employees of for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby are guaranteed access to basic preventative health care could ultimately come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions. Whether for-profit companies are considered religious persons, a drastic change to constitutional corporate law, could come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions. Whether the rights of gay and lesbian employees are respected, and whether taxes, vaccines requirements, minimum wage, overtime laws are all upheld could come down to whether the justices act on the reality that these forms of birth control do not cause abortions.
This simple lie about birth control could set up a chain of events that drastically alter health care by rewriting First Amendment and corporate law in this country -- and it's a lie that comes straight from the media, who have been pushing it for almost a decade.
Studies came out as early as 2004 pushing back on the idea that Plan B caused abortions, but Media Matters has repeatedly noted the tendency of journalists to get their facts wrong when addressing the issue. In 2005, CNN host Carol Costello gave a platform to a pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for birth control pills because she thought they were equivalent to "chemical abortion." In 2007, Time magazine called the morning-after pill "abortion-inducing," while an AP article pushed the false Republican claims that emergency contraception destroys "developing human fetuses." In 2010, The Washington Times repeatedly equated emergency contraception to abortion.
And there was Lila Rose, the anti-abortion activist who in 2011 released videos heavily edited to deceptively portray practices at Planned Parenthood clinics, and who has equated contraception to "abortion-inducing drugs" which she claims exploit women. Rose and her mentor, James O'Keefe, defended their manipulation and falsification of evidence as "tactics" against the "genocide" of abortion, and she was supported and promoted on The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity's America, The Glenn Beck Show, The Laura Ingraham Show, while her work was been featured by Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, and National Review.
When the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, and medical experts including the Institute of Medicine recommended including comprehensive coverage for contraception as part of the preventative care provisions, right-wing media freaked out, calling it "immoral" and "a way to eradicate the poor." Fox News ignored the overwhelming support for the resulting contraception policy, instead pretending that Catholic hospitals and employers were being victimized -- even as exemptions and accommodations were included for churches and religious nonprofits. By 2012, Fox News' Michelle Malkin was referring to the contraception regulations as an "abortion mandate." Now, right-wing media figures have used the Hobby Lobby case and others to bring back this lie, from Fox News to the Wall Street Journal, while Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have become particularly fond of discussing these "abortifacients."
As Media Matters has previously explained, right-wing talking points demonizing birth control made their way into the amicus briefs presented to the court before the case was even argued, and Justice Scalia in particular has been known to repeat verbatim right-wing myths, such as the dubious idea that if the Supreme Court upheld the ACA the federal government could ultimately require consumers to purchase broccoli.
But the presence of the "abortifacient" lie during oral arguments takes this worrying tendency to a new level, raising the prospect that right-wing media's lies could potentially determine the outcome of a crucial case for religious and corporate law, hugely damaging reproductive rights in the process. If women lose the guarantee for their basic preventative health care, and corporations are granted even more flexibility as "persons" with religious rights, right-wing media will be partly to blame.
An editorial from The Wall Street Journal is blaming environmentalists for slowing down a controversial process to export natural gas, overlooking the fact that members of the gas industry have condemned the procedure.
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board has been calling for the the U.S. to export more natural gas, which would need to be condensed, liquefied, and shipped out of specialized liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. On March 24, the seventh LNG export facility, to be constructed in Oregon's Jordan Cove, was approved by the Department of Energy (DOE), a move widely criticized by environmental groups. The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board dismissed the approval as well, but only because these export terminals aren't coming fast enough, with 24 projects still waiting for approval. The Board blamed "President Obama's green donors" for the "slow-roll process."
But members of the natural gas industry are critical of the controversial export terminals. America's Energy Advantage (AEA), a trade coalition of businesses and organizations that support the natural gas industry, released a statement denouncing the approval of the new export terminal. The group, which includes Dow Chemical and Alcoa Inc., wrote that the DOE's approval of the Jordan Cove facility is "a grievous error" that will "harm U.S. consumers and economy." From the AEA statement:
This is a grievous error that puts billions of dollars of investment and millions of jobs at risk. Stable and affordable natural gas is powering an American manufacturing comeback. According to IHS Chemical, more than $125 billion of new manufacturing investments are planned. This latest export approval will raise domestic natural gas, electricity, home-heating and propane prices for every American, undermine our manufacturing competiveness and cost the nation good-paying jobs. America's Energy Advantage renews its call for the Administration to take an immediate 'time out' from further LNG export approvals until a new, comprehensive review of current market conditions is completed."
Other studies and energy experts have warned of the economic dangers that may result from approving too many LNG export terminals, pointing out that it could lead to immense oversupply. As reported by Bloomberg, a Rice University analysis found that with "plans for dozens of the multibillion-dollar export terminals in North America alone, the industry is headed toward an overbuild that may depress Asian prices for a decade."
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) cited a 2012 study from the DOE itself, saying it found that a "high export scenario" of LNG could increase domestic gas prices by more than 50 percent. According to Markey, approval of the Jordan Cove facility would cause the nation's LNG exports to cross the threshold for that very scenario. Energy analyst Chris Nelder wrote in an email to Media Matters that export terminals might not even be able to fulfill their contracts if natural gas prices don't remain as low as they are today.
The Wall Street Journal gave credence to Hobby Lobby's scientifically-disproven view that emergency contraceptives are abortifacients by privileging the claims of the corporation, currently fighting to expand corporate personhood with the notion that the Affordable Care Act's "contraception mandate" violates its religious liberty.
On March 25, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, a case that could allow secular, for-profit corporations an unprecedented religious exemption from the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) "contraception mandate," which requires all insurance plans to cover preventive health services without co-pays, including birth control. The owners of Hobby Lobby argue that the contraception mandate will force them to violate their religious beliefs by requiring them to offer insurance that covers forms of emergency contraception -- namely the morning after pill and IUDs -- that they incorrectly equate with abortion.
The Wall Street Journal's Jess Bravin privileged that falsehood on March 24, highlighting Hobby Lobby's beliefs without mention that the science is settled against the corporation: IUDs and the morning-after pill are not akin to abortion:
The companies' owners, who are, respectively, evangelical and Mennonite Christians, say they consider emergency contraceptives--"morning after" pills and some intrauterine devices--to be forms of abortion, which is anathema to their religious beliefs. For the corporations to win, the court must find that including such contraceptives in company-sponsored insurance would "substantially burden" their owners' religious exercise, unjustified by a "compelling government interest."
Newspaper coverage of the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood lawsuits downplayed the possibility that the Supreme Court could expand the concept of corporate personhood when ruling on the cases, which examine whether for-profit businesses can deny employees health insurance coverage for birth control based on the owners' personal religious beliefs. Only 3 out of 24 articles on the case in five major U.S. newspapers mentioned the potential unpopular expansion of corporate rights in the headline or first sentence.
Clinging to persecution fantasies that seem to grow darker each year, conservative voices continue to hype doomsday scenarios in which President Obama is scheming to confiscate firearms, socialize American medicine, silence his critics through brute political force, and wage violent class warfare. Allegedly under siege at every turn as their freedoms are stripped away, conservatives embrace an imagined status as perennial victims.
The result? Wallowing in self-pity and convinced of the dark forces moving against them, conservatives launch attack after attack, insisting they're fighting forces at home akin to Hitler's Nazi storm troops. They complain louder and louder that America has become like Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler when 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
Nazi analogies aren't new and conservatives didn't trademark them. But the cries have become far more frequent during Obama's sixth year in office.
Four years ago, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes accused the management of National Public Radio of having "a kind of Nazi attitude" for firing commentator Juan Williams. Former Fox host Glenn Beck frequently immersed himself in offensive Hitler rhetoric during Obama's first years in office, while the then-burgeoning Tea Party movement did the same. And so did Rush Limbaugh, who obsessed over Obama-Nazi comparisons in 2009: "Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate."
In 2009, the Anti-Defamation League, led by Holocaust survivor Abe Foxman, documented the Tea Party's growing reliance on "Nazi comparisons" as a way to express its anti-Obama rage. Yet today the Nazi claims arrive effortlessly and on a depressingly regular basis as conservatives line up to compare this president, his allies, and this country to one of the worst chapters in civilized history.
The thoughtless rhetoric not only captures how detached Obama's critics have become from reality (not to mention the blanket insensitivity involved), but it also reveals the bizarre view conservatives have of their alleged political strife.
Fox News contributor Dr. Ben Carson recently claimed America is now "very much like Nazi Germany" in that it has a government "using its tools to intimidate the population." Carson defended the insulting comparison by suggesting American conservatives are being targeted and intimidated by the government: "Maybe if I don't say anything, I won't be audited, people won't call me a name."
Audited? Name-calling? Historical note: Those were certainly among the least painful afflictions Jews suffered during the Nazi reign of terror. "I know you're not supposed to say 'Nazi Germany,'" said Carson. "But I don't care about political correctness."
The Wall Street Journal doesn't understand how a federal anti-discrimination law that protects firefighters of color actually works, but that didn't stop one of its editorial board members from complaining about it.
On March 18, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city had settled a twelve-year lawsuit with a group of black firefighters who alleged that the entrance exams the department used resulted in impermissible racial discrimination that was unrelated to the skills necessary for the job. The group that filed the suit argued that the entrance exam had an unjustified disparate impact on black and Hispanic firefighters, a legal doctrine that has been codified in federal employment discrimination law and upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court. In NYC, according to The Associated Press, the discriminatory effect occurred because "black firefighters have never made up more than 4 percent of the department's total," even though "more than half of residents identify with a racial minority group."
But the Wall Street Journal, whose editorial board is clearly no great fan of disparate impact litigation, was unimpressed by the numbers. In a recent post, the WSJ's Jason Riley argued that Mayor de Blasio's support of the settlement was misplaced since, despite the fact that the federal courts found the exams had an illegal disparate impact under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, "the city might have won" the case. Riley proceeded to label the long-standing legal doctrine prohibiting the city's illegal disparate impact on firefighters of color as "nonsense" (emphasis added):
"I think the numbers speak for themselves," said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in announcing that the city had settled a discrimination lawsuit against the fire department. The mayor was suggesting that the FDNY's written exam is biased because blacks and Hispanics pass it at lower rates than whites.
But the numbers don't speak for themselves. Intent matters. Racially disparate outcomes alone are not proof of discrimination, yet advocates of such nonsense continue to exploit our legal system. "No speck of evidence is required from those who implicitly assume that employee composition would be similar to population composition, in the absence of discrimination," writes Thomas Sowell in "Intellectuals and Race." "Moreover, not one flesh-and-blood human being who even claims to have been discriminated against is necessary for 'disparate impact' cases to go forward in a costly legal process."
Right-wing media are newly outraged over the Affordable Care Act's "hardship" exemption, a provision of the original law that pardons qualifying persons from the individual mandate to purchase health insurance coverage.
One conspiracy theory, favored by the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal and conservative blogs like The Daily Caller, is that the Obama administration 'secretly' changed the ACA last week by "quietly" adding a hardship exemption. Others like FoxNews.com suggested that the administration added the hardship exemption -- "a mega-exemption" -- to the law just three months ago. But the one thing all right-wing media agree on is that the hardship exemption "might be the death knell" for the individual mandate, as Fox put it. According to the Journal:
[L]ast week the Administration quietly excused millions of people from the requirement to purchase health insurance or else pay a tax penalty.
This latest political reconstruction has received zero media notice, and the Health and Human Services Department didn't think the details were worth discussing in a conference call, press materials or fact sheet. Instead, the mandate suspension was buried in an unrelated rule that was meant to preserve some health plans that don't comply with ObamaCare benefit and redistribution mandates. Our sources only noticed the change this week.
That seven-page technical bulletin includes a paragraph and footnote that casually mention that a rule in a separate December 2013 bulletin would be extended for two more years, until 2016. Lo and behold, it turns out this second rule, which was supposed to last for only a year, allows Americans whose coverage was cancelled to opt out of the mandate altogether.
But what right-wing media are missing in their most recent set of attacks against the ACA is that the hardship exemption has been a part of the ACA from the law's inception, and their attacks against the law's "new," "mega-exemption" guidelines are actually based on three-month old HHS guidance that was laid out under routine rule-making authority. As Jason Linkis of Huffington Post and Brian Beutler of Salon detailed, not only is the original provision old news, so too is the new hardship category that right-wing media like the WSJ editorial board suddenly discovered even though multiple outlets covered the change in December.
The hardship exemption was written into the ACA at the law's outset, with the intention of exempting certain individuals from the shared responsibility payment -- the "individual mandate." As the law was written, exemptions and exclusions from this penalty would be granted to a range of groups in addition to those experiencing hardship and an inability to find an affordable plan, including undocumented immigrants, members of health care sharing ministries, and Native Americans. A 2010 report from the Urban Institute examining the impact of the main provisions of the Affordable Care Act noted at the time that the ACA allows "financial hardship exemptions to be granted. The requirements for these are left to the discretion of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services." A Congressional Research Service report called the ACA a "particularly noteworthy example of congressional delegation of rulemaking authority to federal agencies," and "indicates that PPACA gives federal agencies substantial responsibility and authority to 'fill in the details' of the legislation through subsequent regulations."
The Wall Street Journal trotted out well-worn myths, many provided by the conservative lobbying group the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to complain about the latest attack on class action lawsuits currently in front of the Supreme Court.
On March 5, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund, a case that could make it more difficult for a class of shareholder plaintiffs to file lawsuits against corporations who commit fraud. At issue in this case is the "fraud on the market" theory, which was established by the Court in a 1988 case called Basic v. Levinson. The fraud on the market theory unremarkably assumes that a company's stock price reflects the information publicly available about that company -- including any false statements made by the CEO or other corporate officer. The fraud on the market theory allows plaintiffs to form a class action and sue based on that fraud, which have artificially inflated the stock price.
The WSJ, for its part, would like the Court to overturn Basic and get rid of this highly effective method of protecting everyday Americans from corporate fraud.
In a March 6 editorial, the paper essentially repeated all of the Chamber's talking points it presented at its February 28 event dedicated to the Halliburton lawsuit, including the idea that the only beneficiaries of securities litigation are plaintiffs lawyers, and that these class actions unfairly punish shareholders.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes blasted the myth that expanding unconventional energy sources in the U.S. will weaken Russia, an "absurd" claim that has been perpetuated by conservative media to pin the security crisis in Ukraine on President Barack Obama.
Conservative media are manipulating the Ukraine crisis to push a "drill, baby, drill" agenda, claiming that approving the Keystone XL pipeline and expanding the use of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") will somehow weaken Russian President Vladimir Putin's influence in Ukraine. They are calling for expanding development of natural gas in the U.S. (including by the environmentally-contentious use of fracking) to ease the concern that Putin may cut off the natural gas supply to Ukraine and subsequently affect natural gas prices in Europe and around the globe.
Liquefying, exporting, and re-gassifying natural gas is more carbon intensive than domestically consuming it, and would likely drive up the price of natural gas in the U.S., so some oppose permitting further LNG export terminals -- at least until fugitive methane emissions are reigned in. Despite concerns, the Obama administration has permitted several LNG export terminals and is expected to permit more. Republicans and the oil and gas industry complain that it's still not fast enough. However, as LNG is very expensive, reports have suggested that even if they were approved, many LNG export terminals probably won't even be used, or at least not for years -- far too late to address the Ukraine crisis. MSNBC's Chris Hayes and his guest Dan Dicker, CEO of wealth management group MercBloc, explained on the March 5 edition of All In with Chris Hayes:
DICKER: The Russians do have a major control, major influence, on most of eastern Europe through natural gas. But we have to distinguish between natural gas -- which is a gas -- and crude oil which is a liquid. If you want to move a liquid from one place to another, you put in the a dixie cup and you can move it any way you like. Natural gas has two ways of being transported, one is through pipelines. Now, the United States can do nothing in terms of creating a pipeline to all of these eastern European nations.
The only other way you can get it across, and what they're talking about is permitting, is through what we call LNG, which is liquid natural gas. It needs to be cooled, natural gas, to be transported as LNG needs to be cooled to a minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit then put in very, very carefully into very select containers that you can now transport overseas. This costs a lot of money. This is why permitting -- you could permit all of the natural gas export plants you want, there are very few energy companies who are going to undertake building these things, they cost $2 billion to convert an import plant into an export plant.
"It's a situation basically directly out of a Kafka novel, and I can't think of anything more unjust."
That's how Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute of Legal Reform (ILR), framed the current state of securities class actions. When the Chamber talks, right-wing media listen -- which is why it matters when its representatives liken class action lawsuits to Kafkaesque hellscapes, worse than anything else in the world.
On February 28, the Chamber hosted "Erica P. John Fund & Beyond: The Past, Present, and Future of Securities Class Actions," an event where Chamber-selected panelists discussed the perils of the next big class action case before the Supreme Court, Halliburton Co v. Erica P. John Fund. At the heart of the case is the so-called "fraud on the market" theory, decades-old Supreme Court and legislative precedent that businesses interests are asking the conservative justices to overturn.
Fox contributor Karl Rove deceitfully shuffled the words of former U.N. ambassador Susan Rice in an effort to accuse her of pushing a "contemptible falsehood" about the 2012 Benghazi attacks and claiming that she was part of an "endless Benghazi coverup."
In a February 26 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal "The Endless Benghazi Coverup," Rove took Rice's comments about the violent protests that were then erupting across the Middle East out of context, falsely representing them as a specific reference to the attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. According to Rove, Rice said the Benghazi attack was "absolutely" the result of the protests against a "'very hateful, very offensive video that has offended many people around the world":
The worst part of National Security Adviser Susan Rice's comments on Sunday's "Meet The Press" was that she expressed no regret for saying that the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. outposts in Benghazi were "absolutely" the result of protests against a "very hateful, very offensive video that has offended many people around the world."
This is an egregious mischaracterization of the ambassador's words. In context, Rice's comment clearly referred to the protests that had broken out throughout the Middle East and not specifically to Benghazi.
Rove was referencing Rice's September 16 interview on Fox News' Fox News Sunday, which focused at different points on the anti-American protests that had broken out across the Middle East as well as the attack in Benghazi.
Wallace led with a question about the protests that were occurring "in two dozen countries across the Islamic world," and asked whether Rice agreed with White House press secretary Jay Carney's assessment that the protests came in "response to a video that is offensive" and had "nothing to do with the president's policies." The quote Rove cited was pulled from that response, and was not at all focused on the Benghazi attack (emphasis added on the portions quoted by Rove):
WALLACE: This week, there have been anti-American protests in two dozen countries across the Islamic world. The White House says it has nothing to do with the president's policies.
Let's watch. [...] You don't really believe that.
RICE: Chris, absolutely I believe that. In fact, it is the case. We had the evolution of the Arab spring over the last many months. But what sparked the recent violence was the airing on the Internet of a very hateful very offensive video that has offended many people around the world.
Beyond his misrepresentation of Rice's comments, Rove failed to add any new information to the increasingly stale media conversation about the Benghazi attack. The rest of his piece devolved into a dissection of whether or not "she was merely sharing 'the best information that we had at the time'" - something that Rove called "a contemptible falsehood." But there too, the evidence is on Rice's side.
Rove and other Fox figures have repeatedly pushed the smear that Rice deceptively attributed the Benghazi attack to the anti-Muslim video for political reasons, but even this unusually creative distortion doesn't change the facts.
Right-wing media mischaracterized a recent Supreme Court case as evidence of executive overreach on the part of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even though the challenged agency action was one where the EPA specifically declined to act as aggressively as the law allowed.
On February 24, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, a case that could hinder the EPA's ability to regulate harmful greenhouse gases if polluting industry interests have their way. Right-wing media outlets like Fox News and The Wall Street Journal were quick to portray the case as an overextension of the EPA's regulatory authority. The WSJ editorial board -- whose disdain for clean air is well-documented -- accused the agency in a recent editorial of "crowbarring carbon into what it admits is an unworkable regulatory framework."
More recently, in a February 24 segment on Fox's Special Report with Bret Baier, legal reporter Shannon Bream framed the legal issue as "whether the agency had the right to literally rewrite" the Clean Air Act:
A Wall Street Journal article omitted the positive economic news in recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports, misleadingly framing the reports as having challenged and "chipped away" at White House economic policies.
In a February 19 post, the Wall Street Journal characterized two recent reports from the CBO on the economic effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a proposal to raise the minimum wage as the "biggest challenges to the Obama administration's economic policy in the past month," which the Journal claimed "chipped away at two pillars of President Barack Obama's economic policy." The Journal failed to report the positive aspects of the CBO findings or describe the reports' many nuances, and made no move to identify the CBO's "complex and layered projections" that supported its thesis beyond this general line:
The budget office calculated earlier this month that the health law would lead some people to leave their jobs or ratchet back their work hours, and it said this week that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 could lead 500,000 people to lose their jobs.
Yet the Journal's framing of the reports as 'chipping away' at Obama's economic policies is undermined by the CBO's actual determinations, which contained positive economic news.
In its study released this week on the effects of a minimum wage increase, the CBO determined that such an increase would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty, 16.5 million workers would see their wages increased, and notably, "Once the increases and decreases in income for all workers are taken into account, overall real income would rise by $2 billion." The New York Times offers some perspective:
Tuesday's report from the budget office, a federal nonpartisan agency, was almost entirely positive about the benefits of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, as President Obama and Congressional Democrats have proposed.
More than 16 million low-wage workers, now making as little as $7.25 an hour, would directly benefit from the increase, the report said. Another eight million workers making slightly more than the minimum would probably also get raises, because of the upward "ripple effect" of an increase. That would add $31 billion to the paychecks of families ranging from poverty level to the middle class, significantly increasing their spending power and raising the nation's economic output and overall income.
In fact, the report said, 900,000 people would be lifted from poverty with a wage increase. The income of those below the poverty line would increase by a total of $5 billion, or 3 percent, at no cost to the federal budget.
And in its Budget and Economic Outlook for 2014-2024, the CBO found that the ACA could free 2.5 million workers from being forced to keep their current jobs because of a need to maintain employer-sponsored health coverage. While the Journal attempts to portray this as a negative, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) called it "an unambiguously good thing":
Not surprisingly, the CBO finds that, all else equal, people are less likely to work and will work fewer hours under the ACA. They find, and I quote, "The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in business' demand for labor" (page 117).
These are purely voluntary labor supply decisions, not people being laid off from jobs they'd rather keep, or people looking for work and being unable to find it. Working-age adults can now choose, without regard to their need to secure health insurance, whether they wish to supply labor and how much labor they wish to supply to the labor market. This is unabashedly a good thing for them.
Opponents of the ACA will try to paint these CBO estimates as evidence that the ACA has "killed jobs" or something like it. That's flat wrong. What the ACA has done is expand the menu of options available to Americans about how to obtain decent health insurance without having their income fall to poverty levels. That menu used to include one option--"go to work for a large employer." The fact that it's broader now is an unambiguously good thing.
What's more, the report suggested that the ACA could increase job opportunities for currently unemployed workers. The CBO pointed out that "[i]f changes in incentives lead some workers to reduce the amount of hours they want to work or to leave the labor force altogether, many unemployed workers will be available to take those jobs," and reported that the law will have the stimulative effect of "raising overall demand in the economy." In a congressional testimony following the report's release, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf noted that the ACA "would reduce unemployment over the next few years."
In its continued opposition to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and a proposed amendment to this historic law, The Wall Street Journal published a misleading op-ed by Hans von Spakovsky, an unreliable contributor to the National Review Online.
The op-ed of von Spakovsky, a right-wing activist who has called the "modern 'civil rights' movement" indistinguishable from "discriminators and segregationists of prior generations" and whose attempts to fearmonger about "virtually non-existent" voter fraud have been repeatedly discredited, followed a WSJ editorial that compared the bipartisan attempts of Congress to update the VRA with that of "Jim Crow era Southerners."
Although this new effort to strengthen the VRA through the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 has prominent Republican support, von Spakovsky claimed "[t]his bill really isn't about the [Supreme Court's recent Shelby County v. Holder] decision. It is about having the federal government manipulate election rules to propagate racial gerrymandering and guarantee success for Democratic candidates." From the WSJ op-ed, which defended the conservative justices' gutting of the VRA in Shelby County and smeared the subsequent bipartisan efforts to repair the damage:
Before Shelby County, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required certain states to get "preclearance" from the federal government before making any voting changes. But the Supreme Court ruled that the formula to determine which jurisdictions were covered was unconstitutional because it was based on 40-year-old turnout data that did not reflect contemporary conditions. Census Bureau data show that black-voter turnout is on a par with or exceeds that of white voters in many of the formerly covered states and is higher than the rest of the country. We simply don't need Section 5 anymore.
In Shelby County, a radical break from precedent that has been described by experts as "on a par with the Court's odious Dred Scott and Plessy decisions and other utterly lamentable expressions of judicial indifference to the ugly realities of racial life in America," the bitterly divided Supreme Court struck at the heart of the VRA's efficacy by dismantling its "preclearance" process.
Even as the conservatives did so, however, Chief Justice John Roberts explicitly told Congress to fix this formula that requires covered jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to submit election changes for federal review before implementation. Contrary to von Spakovsky's strange assertion that "this bill really isn't about" Shelby County and is "an attempt to circumvent" the decision, this new bipartisan legislation is actually a direct response to Roberts' invitation to Congress to "draft another formula based on current conditions."
Admittedly, this new formula is more complex than von Spakovsky's preferred method of determining voter suppression by "turnout data," a confusion between correlation and causation that has been described as a rudimentary failure of "Statistics 101." Rather, Section 5 of the VRA imposes the preclearance process on jurisdictions with an incorrigible track record of suppressing votes based on race, and the formula to determine this discrimination has been changed in the new legislation to incorporate a comprehensive and rolling 15-year record.
The claim of the op-ed that the old formula led to "unwarranted objections" on the part of the Department of Justice toward alleged voter suppression is also inaccurate; this preclearance mechanism has been extremely effective at stopping racially discriminatory election changes. In fact, the two cases that von Spakovsky highlights both involved Section 5 successes.