Mitt Romney's nomination acceptance speech contained numerous falsehoods that originated in the right-wing media. Right-wing media have also echoed some of Romney's other dubious claims that were part of the speech.
In her syndicated column, Michelle Malkin depicted newly finalized fuel economy standards as dangerous to consumers. But in fact, standards have been reformed to remove incentives for smaller, potentially less safe cars, and technological improvements have made many smaller cars just as safe as larger vehicles.
This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down an EPA rule intended to curb power plant emissions carrying pollutants like sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) downwind across state lines on the basis that it overstepped the EPA's statutory authority under the Clean Air Act. Although the court made clear that its decision was not a comment on the "policy merits" of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), which was put in place to address public health concerns, the right-wing media immediately mobilized to proclaim it "a major blow" against environmental regulations and what they claim is the Obama administration's "war on coal."
The right-wing reaction to the decision was just the latest chapter in a years-long campaign by conservative media to sow fear about the economic impact of EPA pollution controls while downplaying or denying their health benefits. A Wall Street Journal editorial claimed the "flawed rule" is part of the EPA's "regulatory war" on coal plants, and The Washington Examiner's Conn Carroll called it "just one of many costly regulations currently in the pipeline."
Horowitz also claimed the rule was part of "Obama's inexorable war on American energy [and] consumers." In a similar vein, a Washington Times editorial called the CSAPR "one of the EPA's most insidious schemes to shut down affordable power generation," and referred to "an all-out war on affordable energy."
But the conservative media have grossly exaggerated the effect of the CSAPR on consumers. According to the EPA, its "effect on prices for specific regions or states may vary, [but] they are well within the range of normal electricity price fluctuations." A Government Accountability Office analysis of the EPA's data estimated a national average retail electricity price increase of just 0.8% as a result of CSAPR. And a report by Resources For The Future found that neither CSAPR or the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) would "create the shock to the electricity system that some worry would lead to reliability problems."
Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and other conservative outlets are falsely claiming that President Obama, while discussing his own economic policies, said "we tried our plan -- and it worked." This quote has been taken out of context and distorted. Obama was referring to economic policies during the Clinton administration that taxed high income earners at a higher rate than they are currently charged. When Obama said "it worked," he was referring to low unemployment and strong economic growth when these rates were higher. Obama has advocated a return to Clinton-era tax rates for high income earners.
Slate's Dave Weigel, who described conservatives' editing of Obama's comments as "insanely misleading," points to Obama's full quote:
OBAMA: I'm running because I believe you can't reduce the deficit -- which is a serious problem, we've got to deal with it -- but we can't reduce it without asking folks like me who have been incredibly blessed to give up the tax cuts that we've been getting for a decade. (Applause.) I'll cut out government spending that's not working, that we can't afford, but I'm also going to ask anybody making over $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rates they were paying under Bill Clinton, back when our economy created 23 million new jobs -- (applause) -- the biggest budget surplus in history and everybody did well.
Just like we've tried their plan, we tried our plan -- and it worked. That's the difference. (Applause.) That's the choice in this election. That's why I'm running for a second term.
In order to argue that Obama is out of touch on economic issues -- a message that is nearly identical to the one pushed by Romney's campaign -- conservative media figures have spent the week removing all of the context from Obama's comments and juxtaposing them with the current high unemployment rate.
Natural gas can help the U.S. transition away from reliance on coal in the near-term if it is produced responsibly. But conservative media have dismissed the risks involved with the rapid spread of natural gas extraction to push for deregulation, attack the Obama administration, and ignore the need for a comprehensive energy policy to transition to renewable energy.
Despite pouring millions of dollars into ads attacking President Obama for supporting clean energy, Republican strategist and Fox News political analyst Karl Rove expressed his support this week for extending tax incentives for wind power. His remarks stand in stark contrast to the conservative media's push to eliminate federal support for renewable energy.
For months, the conservative media have been spreading falsehoods about wind energy to make the case against extending the production tax credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of this year. The most recent example is an op-ed by Paul Driessen at The Washington Times, which rattles off a series of myths about wind power's impact on human health and the environment, and its ability to compete with fossil fuels. Last month, a Wall Street Journal editorial suggested that the wind industry will never be "economically sustainable" without government subsidies. A Washington Times editorial concurred, calling wind power "hopelessly uneconomic."
In fact, wind power is increasingly affordable, thanks in large part to the PTC. According to an analysis by the Brookings Institution, the Breakthrough Institute and the World Resources Institute, the tax credit lowers the cost of new wind power to make it "broadly competitive with new gasfired generation." A Bloomberg New Energy Finance report found that some wind farms "already produce power as economically as coal, gas and nuclear generators," and predicted that "the average wind farm will be fully competitive by 2016."
U.S. wind capacity has expanded rapidly in recent years, and the Department of Energy estimates that wind could meet up to 20% of our electricity needs by 2030. But the PTC is vital to the American wind industry's continued success. Extending the tax credit would create or save 54,000 jobs in the next four years, according to a study by Navigant Consulting.
For these reasons, the tax credit enjoys broad bipartisan support among politicians, business leaders, and environmentalists -- and now, even Karl Rove. The conservative media stands out in its opposition to a policy that has facilitated the growth of a promising industry and supported thousands of green, American jobs.
Byron York, the chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner, is amplifying Mitt Romney's discredited allegation that President Obama knowingly slowed down the economic recovery because he favored health care reform.
This Romney falsehood is based on a distortion of comments reported in the book The Escape Artists: How Obama's Team Fumbled the Recovery, by The New Republic's Noam Scheiber. The actual comments make clear that the White House has always rejected the dubious claim that it could not focus on economic recovery and health care reform at the same time.
Under the headline "Romney: Obama slowed recovery to push Obamacare," York declared:
In an appearance in Texas Wednesday, Mitt Romney charged that President Obama "knowingly slowed down the recovery in this country...in order to put in place Obamacare." The president's action, Romney said, "deserves a lot of explaining."
Romney's claim that Obama "knowingly slowed down the recovery" is based on a misreading of The Escape Artists. As documented by Talking Points Memo, Romney claimed:
A book that was written in a way that's apparently pro-President Obama, was written by a guy named Noam Scheiber and in this book he says that there was a discussion about the fact that Obamacare would slow down the economic recovery in this country and they knew that before they passed it. But they concluded that we would all forget how long the recovery took once it had happened, so they decided to go ahead. The idea that they knowingly slowed down our recovery in order to put in place Obamacare, which they wanted and they considered historic but the American people did not want or consider historic, is something which I think deserves a lot of explaining, because I think the President's responsibility is to put people back to work. To get people out of poverty and to help people have good jobs and have prospects for a brighter tomorrow.
Romney's claim, that Scheiber's book proves that the Obama administration knowingly slowed the economic recovery, is false.
As New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait detailed when Romney first started leveling the accusation, the comments in the book are attributed to former White House economic adviser Larry Summers, who made it perfectly clear that he did not think that passing the Affordable Care Act would slow the economic recovery:
The passage cited by Romney as evidence that Obama willingly chose to "make life harder for the American people" is an interview with Larry Summers:
"I always admired the president's courage for recognizing that 50 years from now, people would remember that all Americans had health care," Larry Summers later said in an interview. "And even if pursuing health care affected the pace of the recovery, which was unlikely in my view, people wouldn't remember how fast the recovery from this recession was."
As you might notice from the phrase "even if," Summers denied that health-care reform affected the pace of the recession. That is, he was claiming the opposite of the position imputed to him by Romney.
Chait went on to note additional comments from Summers that made it clear that the administration did not choose health care reform over economic growth.
Conservative media are twisting comments made by an EPA administrator -- and circulated by Senator Inhofe (R-OK) -- to suggest that the Obama administration is trying to shut down the coal industry. But the official was referring to a rule that applies only to new coal plants, and which industry leaders have said "won't have much of an impact" on business.
In a speech at Yale University in March, Region 1 administrator Curt Spalding discussed the EPA's efforts to implement necessary environmental safeguards with minimal economic consequences. Referring to greenhouse gas performance standards for new power plants, Spalding said:
You can't imagine how tough that was. Because you got to remember, if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all those places, you have coal communities that depend on coal. And to say we just think those communities should just go away, we can't do that. But she had to do what the law and policy suggested. And it's painful. It's painful every step of the way.
The conservative media seized on these comments as proof of the Obama administration's "plan to destroy the coal industry in America."
The Daily Caller -- once again serving as Senator Inhofe's press office -- reported that Inhofe would take to the Senate floor to "highlight a little-known speech by an EPA regional administrator who admitted on video that the Obama administration's air regulations will kill the coal industry. Likewise, Fox Business' Lou Dobbs reported that Spalding was "caught on tape admitting the Obama administration's air regulations will kill the coal industry."
Fox Nation took that one step further, claiming that Spalding revealed that "the whole point of President Obama EPA's air regulations was to kill coal." And the Blaze reported that according to Spalding, the EPA aims to "drive an entire industry into the ground for no apparent reason."
In fact, Spalding said no such thing. And to suggest that the new greenhouse gas rule would "kill" the coal industry is absurd, as it applies only to new power plants. In announcing the rule, the EPA clearly stated that it "only concerns new generating units that will be built in the future, and does not apply to existing units already operating or units that will start construction over the next 12 months."
And since few companies plan to build new coal plants anyway given the low cost of natural gas, The Economist predicts that the new rules "will only formalise a shift that had already been under way, with little immediate economic impact." American Electric Power, one of the largest U.S. utilities, told the National Journal: "We don't have any plans to build new coal plants. So the rules won't have much of an impact." Duke Energy echoed this point, saying that the new rule "means nothing to us."
From the May 11 edition of MSNBC's News Nation with Tamron Hall:
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Right-wing media have seized on comments made this week by Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah, suggesting that Fattah "admit[ted]" that Democrats are expecting voters to back them in the fall in exchange for "handouts" and "protect[ing] their government-aid gravy train." These attacks are yet another example of conservative media attempting to gin up outrage over programs designed to help struggling Americans.
During a discussion on the April 24 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation about House Majority Leader John Boehner's recent comment that Democrats have a one-in-three chance of reclaiming the majority, Fattah said in part that "people who are unemployed, they're not going to be voting for the party who wants to cut their benefits, cut access to food stamps, cut job training." From PoliticsNation:
FATTAH: President Obama is right, we need to continue to invest. That's why our GDP is up, and that's why we've got 35 months of private sector job growth. We are headed in the right direction. Unemployment continues to drop, and those people who are unemployed, they're not going to be voting for the party who wants to cut their benefits, cut access to food stamps, cut job training. The idea that Republicans are trying to help those who are unemployed is nonsense. And I think on this Election Day, those who have a job can credit the administration for stabilizing our economy, and those who don't know that this administration is trying to put them to work.
The Washington Examiner picked up Fattah's comments in an April 25 blog post, claiming that Fattah said that "unemployment could actually encourage people to vote for President Obama in order to secure welfare benefits such as food stamps." The Fox Nation later republished the Examiner post under the headline, "Democrat: Unemployed Will Vote for Obama to Keep Their Welfare":
The conservative blog Gateway Pundit highlighted Fattah's comments and claimed that it's "all about the handouts," while The Blaze claimed that Fattah "openly admit[ted] that some voters are supporting President Obama because he's the most likely to protect their government-aid gravy train." And an April 26 Big Government post added:
In other words, Fattah believes Americans who've been conditioned to live on Democrat handouts will certainly continue to vote for the Democrats. The last thing they'd do is vote for those rascally Republicans who want to rein in spending and encourage people to strive, once more, for some semblance of personal responsibility.
Conservative media have repeatedly accused the Obama administration of "bribing" voters, and this latest round of echoes that theme. But the programs mentioned by Fattah -- the food stamp program, known as the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and jobs training programs -- are hardly a "gravy train" that discourages unemployed Americans from "striving" for "some semblance of personal responsibility.
Right-wing media are falsely claiming that a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that the cost of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has doubled since CBO's estimate in 2010. In fact, CBO's analysis actually showed that the insurance coverage provisions of the health care law will cost less than originally estimated.
Fox News and right-wing blogs have promoted a chart that purports to show the "alarming" fact that national debt per person is higher in the United States than in several crisis-stricken European countries. This comparison is flawed because these countries' economies are fundamentally different -- a fact demonstrated by the substantially higher interest rates that the crisis countries using the euro must pay on their debt, compared to countries that can borrow in their own currency.
Are the youth of America abandoning President Obama? Some conservative commentators are pushing that narrative, citing a "new poll" from the voter outreach group Generation Opportunity showing that just 31 percent of young voters approve of Obama's handling of the economy. That "new poll," however, is actually almost a year old, and Generation Opportunity -- which has ties to the GOP -- has spent the better part of that year promoting its results to anyone who will listen.
Yesterday morning, the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard wrote about Generation Opportunity's "new poll" and how it shows that "only 31 percent approve of Obama's handling of youth unemployment, a number that threatens to rob him of the voter group that pushed him to victory." Bedard quoted Generation Opportunity president Paul Conway saying that his group's poll demonstrates "the hardcore reality is that young voters are now very dissatisfied with the direction of the country." Bedard's column was hyped by Rush Limbaugh, who said it shows that Obama "is in the tank. They are having to go back to old pages in the playbook from years ago to try to revive this presidency."
Bedard said the poll had been "provided" to him by Generation Opportunity and reproduced some of its results:
Some 56 percent believe the leadership is wrong in Washington, 69 percent say political leaders do not reflect their interests, 54 percent say the country is on the wrong track and three quarters want federal spending cut.
Consider: a whopping 77 percent say that they are delaying life changes due to economic woes. Of those:
-- 44 percent are delaying buying a home.
-- 28 percent are delaying saving for retirement.
-- 23 percent are delaying starting a family.
-- 18 percent will wait to get married.
Those results are identical to the numbers included in Generation Opportunity's June 2011 press release promoting a "new poll conducted by the polling company Inc./WomanTrend:"
77% either have or will delay a major life change or purchase due to economic factors (44% delay buying a home, 28% delay saving for retirement, 27% delay paying off student loans or other debt. 27% delay going back to school/getting more education or training; 26% delay changing jobs/cities. 23% delay starting a family; 18% say delay getting married)
76% would like to see federal spending reduced
69% said the federal government, not others, should make sacrifices right now
69% say the current leadership in Washington fails to serve the younger generation
Just 31% of 18 - 29 year olds approve of the President's handling of youth unemployment
That poll, according to the press release, was conducted April 16-22, 2011. The polling company, inc./WomanTrend is run by Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who recently joined Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign as a senior advisor.
How many missed meals does it take to be poor?
It's a question at the root of the latest campaign to redefine what it means to be poor in America.
Citing U.S. Department of Agriculture data that he claims shows "just 1 percent of households have someone who is forced to miss a meal" during an average day, Washington Examiner blogger Paul Bedard took up the conservative cause of dismissing poverty by pointing to all the cool things poor people own, like VCRs:
Forget the image of Appalachia or rundown ghettos: A collection of federal household consumption surveys collected by pollster Scott Rasmussen finds that 74 percent of the poor own a car or truck, 70 percent have a VCR, 64 percent have a DVD, 63 percent have cable or satellite, 53 percent have a video game system, 50 percent have a computer, 30 percent have two or more cars and 23 percent use TiVo.
A similar campaign to downplay the scourge of poverty in 2011 was voiced perfectly by Fox's Stuart Varney, who argued:
The image we have of poor people as starving and living in squalor really is not accurate. Many of them have things, what they lack is the richness of spirit.
In fact, what they actually lack is the richness of money to pay for things like food and shelter.
Which brings us back to the question -- how many missed meals does it take before one is poor enough to rate?
The Washington Examiner blog Beltway Confidential put up a post yesterday reporting that President Obama's acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jeffrey Zients, worked at Bain & Company in the late 1980s. The Examiner suggested that this could "undercut attacks on Republican Mitt Romney's career as a venture capitalist, because Zients and Romney are both alumni of Bain & Company."
This is a distortion. The criticism of Romney has focused on his work at Bain Capital, not his time at Bain & Company.
To be clear: Bain & Company is an entirely separate entity from Bain Capital. Bain & Company is a business consulting firm that was founded in 1973. Bain Capital is a private investment firm that was founded in 1984.
Bain & Company's website states:
Bain Capital was formed as a separate entity by former Bain consultants to further leverage Bain's results creation capability. Bain Capital is a venture capital company; it is not a sister company nor a division of Bain.
Romney's fellow Republican presidential candidates have been critical of his work at Bain Capital -- not at Bain & Company. From a blog post by ABC's George Stephanopoulos:
Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry calls his rival Mitt Romney's work at Bain Capital a potentially "fatal flaw" which could imperil Republican chances to win back the White House in November.
Perry, who is trailing badly in the polls, spent the week attacking Romney as a "vulture capitalist," whose work at Bain allowed him to reap huge profits by dismantling companies and laying off workers.
Others in the right-wing media are blurring the distinction between the two Bain entities.