Craig Harrington

Author ››› Craig Harrington
  • Journalists, Experts Agree Trump's Tax Reform Agenda Will Be Even Harder Than Repealing Obamacare

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    After President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) failed to garner enough support to pass legislation that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Trump declared he had moved on to refocus his legislative priorities on tax reform. In light of Trump’s inability to get the Republican-led Congress to vote with him on health care changes, which had been a major campaign promise of virtually every elected GOP official, journalists and experts are beginning to question if Trump is capable of wrangling his caucus to tackle substantive conservative tax reform proposals that have been stagnant for decades.

  • Will Fox News Finally Take The Debt Ceiling Seriously?

    Fox Spent Years Urging Republicans To Default On The National Debt To Hurt President Obama

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, Fox News personalities have urged them to use the threat of defaulting on the sovereign debt obligations of the United States government as a means of winning political concessions. With Republicans now in full control of Congress, will the talking heads at Fox finally come to terms with this monumental threat to the global economy and urge the GOP to raise the debt ceiling?

  • Experts And Media Observers Stunned By Trump’s Budget Proposal

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Economic policy experts, advocacy groups, and media outlets scrambled to respond to President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year, which includes $54 billion in new defense spending to be offset by dramatic cuts to the entire non-defense discretionary budget. Many observers were quick to point out that the president’s so-called “America First” budget will worsen the suffering of at-risk communities, including many low-income regions that supported his election and are kept afloat economically by federal spending programs.

  • On Cue, Adoring Pro-Trump Outlets Fawn Over February Jobs Report

    Right-Wing Media Sycophants Are Apparently Done Nitpicking The Monthly Jobs Data Now That Trump Is President

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Right-wing media reacted with predictable enthusiasm to a better-than-expected February 2017 jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which they attributed to President Donald Trump’s unique leadership. In reality, the economy is currently enjoying a 77-month streak of job creation that began under President Barack Obama -- whom the same outlets routinely blasted for leading a sluggish economic recovery.

    On March 10, the BLS released its monthly jobs report for February 2017 showing that the economy added approximately 235,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained little changed at 4.7 percent. After accounting for minor upward revisions to data from December and January, the economy has produced an average of 209,000 jobs per month over the past three months.

    As Politico’s chief economics correspondent, Ben White, pointed out, the positive report is “a continuation of a good, long trend” and shouldn’t be attributed directly to Trump. White also noted that it is hard to see a “Trump bump” in the February jobs data, which look “nearly identical” to those of February reports from the past two years. Economist Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) explained this phenomenon at greater length in a March 10 blog, pointing out that Trump “inherited an economy that was already making steady progress towards full employment”:

    Today’s jobs report, which showed the economy adding 235,000 jobs in February, is notable for being the first BLS report of the Trump administration. It may be tempting for today’s policymakers to claim credit for this solid employment growth, but credit is only truly deserved when the economy grows faster than expected. It’s important to remember that President Trump inherited an economy that was already making steady progress towards full employment.

    The jobs data are certainly strong -- and they undermine Trump’s claim that he inherited a “mess” from his predecessor -- but not everything in the report was good news. Bloomberg financial columnist Conor Sen pointed out that the February report showed a drop in employment for workers without a high school diploma, and University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson noted that labor force participation for men actually declined slightly while participation rates for women increased.

    These measured responses from expert journalists and professional economists were not echoed by Trump’s cohort of right-wing media devotees, who trumpeted the jobs report as a major victory for the administration. Under a headline proclaiming that the American economy was “GREAT AGAIN!” Breitbart economic editor John Carney -- who was hired to shepherd the fringe website out of the alt-right fever swamp -- absurdly claimed that job creation last month was “jaw-dropping” and that the “jobs market is sizzling.” On Twitter, the right-wing Drudge Report also proclaimed the report showed America was “GREAT AGAIN.” On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney stated that we could be witnessing a “Trump expansion” after 77 months of job creation -- 76 of which predate Trump:

    On Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the co-hosts joined Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich in lauding the report. Co-host Pete Hegseth stated that Trump is simply “winning everywhere” while Gingrich suggested that “you're seeing the beginnings, I emphasize ‘beginnings,’ of a potential Trump Economic Era”:

    Media Matters pointed out last month how quickly Fox News had shifted from nitpicking the jobs reports to lauding them after Trump’s inauguration -- so quickly, in fact, that the network incorrectly credited a January expansion to the new president. New York Times reporter Sopan Deb mocked Trump and his right-wing allies for suddenly embracing positive jobs data that they spread conspiracy theories about just months ago, while New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait questioned why no outlets were reporting the more than 90 million people who are currently out of the labor market -- a favorite right-wing media misrepresentation during the Obama administration. As FiveThirtyEight chief economic writer Ben Casselman pointed out, no president deserves singular credit for monthly job creation in the vast American economy.

  • Apparently The Jobs Report Is No Longer A Massive Conspiracy?

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    President Donald Trump immediately retweeted right-wing media praise for a strong February 2017 jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which showed above-average job creation and a steady unemployment rate last month. Trump’s willingness to embrace the BLS monthly jobs report is at odds with his past approach -- at least over the last four years -- of slamming the number as “phony” and as merely a political tool of the Obama administration.

  • STUDY: Cable And Broadcast Coverage Of The Economy Spiked After The Election

    Representation Of Economists Remained High In Fourth Quarter As Surprising Election Result Forced Outlets To Scramble For Explanations

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The final quarter of 2016 saw an increase in cable and broadcast news coverage of the economy from the prior three-month period. Yet the proportion of economic coverage that focused on economic inequality decreased sharply as attacks on progressive economic policies rose. Fox News led the charge in attacking progressive policies and health care reform throughout the fourth quarter of the year, while the leading defender of progressive initiatives, MSNBC, aired most of its economic coverage after Election Day. The relative proportion of economists booked as guests during economic news segments remained higher than in years past but dropped as a percentage from the third to fourth quarters of 2016. The proportional representation of women in cable and broadcast evening news discussions of the economy reached a record, but dispiriting, high in the fourth quarter at a mere 30 percent of all guests.

  • CNN's New "Senior Economics Analyst" Embarrassed His Network By Spewing Lies About The Economy

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Discredited economic pundit and former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore -- who currently serves as the “chief economist” at the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation -- bombarded CNN viewers with debunked right-wing media talking points about the American economy last night. Moore’s prominent role as CNN’s new “senior economics analyst” hinders the network’s credibility, undermining its ability to cover the economy in an honest and accountable way.

    During a February 28 panel discussion analyzing President Donald Trump’s speech before a joint session of Congress, Moore sparred with fellow panelists in an attempt to defend Trump’s reckless budgetary, economic, and fiscal policies. Across a spectrum of issues relating to economic growth, job creation, taxes, and regulations, Moore pushed tired and disproven myths pulled directly from right-wing media.

    When pressed on how Trump could increase spending while cutting taxes for corporations and high income earners without ballooning the deficit, Moore regurgitated the absurd fallacy that tax cuts would pay for themselves by stoking economic growth to at least 3.5 percent annually. Economist Marc Goldwein of the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget dismissed the 3.5 percent growth target as “pie in the sky” and “pretty much impossible” during the presidential campaign. There is a mountain of evidence from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the Brookings Institution, and elsewhere demonstrating that tax cuts don’t generate new revenue through economic growth. Furthermore, economists across the political spectrum view Trump’s proposed restrictions on immigration and international trade as a detriment to economic growth regardless of tax policy shifts.

    Moore’s assertion that the economy can achieve 3.5 percent annual growth isn’t just wrong on the arithmetic, it’s also arbitrary. Former presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) were chided by economists and experts for floating similar targets, and the fixation on getting economic growth above 3 percent was a core of Fox News’ misinformation campaign against the Obama administration. (Last October, Moore told Fox Business viewers that stronger-than-expected economic growth in the prior quarter was “still pretty lousy” simply because it was measured at 2.9 percent instead of 3.)

    After falsely claiming that Trump could stoke economic growth by following a tax cut strategy supposedly modeled after former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, Moore pushed the misleading notion that regulatory burdens are holding the economy back. This claim, popularized by the right-wing editorial board of The Wall Street Journal (a former employer of Moore’s), is also not backed up by the facts.

    After being rebuffed on regulations, Moore tried another right-wing media myth: that it has been “15 years since the average American worker has had a pay raise.” Fox News has spent years blaming President Barack Obama for supposedly stagnant median incomes in the United States, always neglecting to mention that the stagnation began under President George W. Bush and was driven into free fall by the recession Obama inherited. Median incomes are lower than they were 15 years ago thanks to two Bush-era recessions but had gradually improved during Obama’s final years in office -- a fact absent from right-wing coverage of the subject.

    Moore concluded his embarrassing performance by recycling false right-wing media talking points blaming environmental protections for declining employment in the coal industry. The fallacy that protecting the environment is killing jobs in the energy sector is so unsubstantiated that even conservative Forbes columnist Tim Worstall has rebuffed it. A recent study from the Brookings Institution concluded that the overwhelming reason for declining employment in the mining and manufacturing industries is automation, a trend that “has been eating coal jobs over a long period of time -- [since] years before concerns about climate change” stiffened environmental protections. Right-wing pundits, including Moore, love to exaggerate the threat of automation while opposing the minimum wage. They rarely mention that machines, not burdensome regulations, are driving well-paid blue collar mining jobs into extinction.

    Steve Moore’s short tenure at CNN thus far has been a disaster for the network, which decided to hire arguably the world’s worst economist away from Fox News on January 30. Moore’s unflinching partisan agenda colors all of his commentary and can be easily dismantled by any analyst with a basic competency in economics.

    Watch the full segment from the February 28 edition of CNN Tonight here:

  • Economists And Experts Hammer Trump's Plan To Increase Military Spending At Expense Of Nearly Everything Else

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    President Donald Trump’s plan to beef up the defense budget by an additional $54 billion at the expense of civilian domestic spending, which he will unveil tonight before a joint session of Congress, has been derided by economists and experts for being "wholly unrealistic" and “voodoo” economics.

    Bloomberg reported on February 26, that Trump’s first budget proposal would call for a $54 billion -- more than 9 percent -- increase in defense spending to be paid for with reductions to discretionary domestic spending, which Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) described as the budgetary equivalent of taking “a meat ax to programs that benefit the middle-class.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed reports of the president’s budget priorities in a February 27 press briefing, adding that Trump would discuss his budget plan in more detail during his February 28 address to Congress.

    Economists and experts have hammered Trump for months for proposing dramatic and seemingly unnecessary increases in defense spending. An October 19 article in New York magazine described Trump’s promises of new defense expenditures as “a random grab bag of military goodies, untethered to any coherent argument” because he lacked any vision or purpose for increasing funding to the military. According to figures compiled by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, American defense spending already eclipses the military spending of the next seven countries combined:

    The reception for Trump’s new budget outline has been similarly harsh. New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman derided the president’s claim that a “revved up economy” could fund new tax cuts and spending increases as “deep voodoo” -- alluding to Trump’s embrace of trickle-down economics. Washington Post contributor and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) senior fellow Jared Bernstein slammed Trump’s “wholly unrealistic” budget outline in a February 28 column and chided the president for claiming that he can simultaneously increase military spending, cut taxes on high-income earners and corporations, and reduce the federal deficit -- all while leaving vital entitlement programs alone. In order to even approach a balanced budget in 10 years, Trump would have to remove almost everything else in the budget:

    According to a February 27 analysis from the CBPP, Trump's proposal, when coupled with his plan to boost infrastructure investments, would mean nondefense spending would see a whopping 15 percent reduction. The reason for the outsized hit to nondefense discretionary spending is that the programs covered by that part of the federal budget -- education, energy, affordable housing, infrastructure investments, law enforcement, foreign aid, some veterans' benefits, etc. -- only account for a small part of all federal spending. The largest part of the federal budget is mandatory spending for entitlement programs including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, other veterans's benefits, and unemployment insurance. From the Congressional Budget Office:

    Trump’s proposed cuts to the State Department are so onerous that more than 120 retired generals signed an open letter to congressional leaders warning of their ramifications. One co-signer told CBS News that such steep cuts would be “consigning us to a generational war,” and the letter itself quoted Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who argued during his time at the head of U.S. Central Command that “if you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

    ThinkProgress blasted Trump’s proposals to cut the State Department along with domestic spending in the name of increasing national defense because such cuts would actually undermine national security. The article cited recent congressional testimony from Center for American Progress senior fellow Larry Korb, who testified that “our national security will suffer” if the federal budget prioritized the Pentagon at the expense of other agencies.

    Trump is notorious for pushing bogus claims about the economy and the federal budget. He has been derided by hundreds of economists for pushing right-wing myths about the economy and the federal debt, and routine criticisms of his unfounded claims were a mainstay of the presidential campaign in 2016. As was the case last year, the budgetary, fiscal, and tax policies Trump has supported since taking office simply don’t add up.

  • Prime-Time Cable Largely Excluded Town Hall Attendees From "Resistance Recess" Interviews

    Talking Heads Drown Out Personal Stories Of Americans Threatened By Obamacare Repeal

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Cable news outlets dedicated considerable attention to the “Resistance Recess” that swept through congressional town hall meetings over the past week, as tens of thousands of Americans voiced their fear and disapproval of Republican plans to dismantle health care reform, among other issues. Yet evening and prime-time coverage of the grass-roots groundswell largely failed to include perspectives from those attendees opposed to efforts to roll back reforms.

    The week of February 18-26 marked the first congressional recess period of 2017 and created an ideal opportunity for American voters concerned with the trajectory of their government to directly petition elected officials face to face. Americans capitalized on this opportunity by flooding in-district town hall events across the country demanding that representatives on both sides of the aisle stand up to President Trump’s radical agenda. Among attendees’ demands was that elected officials present viable solutions to further the cause of health care reform beyond merely “repealing and replacing” the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    Cable news outlets used the town hall turmoil as the basis for 53 evening and prime-time news segments from the start of the recess period through February 27 discussing how the demonstrations might affect the future of health care reform in the United States. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these discussions failed to include input from people voicing disapproval with Republican plans to repeal or significantly alter the ACA at those town halls. Media Matters identified 88 guests during evening and prime-time cable programming related to the town halls -- mostly reporters and political pundits. Only three of the 88 guests were town hall attendees affected by the outcome of this health care debate.

    The February 27 edition of MSNBC’s All In did feature an impassioned interview with cancer survivor and Boing Boing editor Xeni Jardin, who, though not identified as a town hall participant, outlined how the ACA granted her access to what would have otherwise been prohibitively expensive life-saving treatments. All three of the actual town hall attendees were featured in two segments aired during the February 22 edition of MSNBC’s For the Record, which featured constituents who attended town halls hosted by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). In the first segment, an Arkansas constituent named Suzie Bell, who co-founded a rural free health clinic, questioned why Cotton wanted to restrict access for the patients she serves. In the next segment, Louisiana constituents Laura Kelley and Shawon Bernard expressed the collective “frustration” of fellow attendees about a laundry list of issues, including the future of the ACA:

    MSNBC featured the most guests (46) and the most segments (29) focused on the town halls, but only two segments featured the three aforementioned town hall attendees. CNN featured 30 guests across 18 segments, but no town hall attendees in prime-time. Fox News lagged far behind the competition, featuring just 12 guests during 6 segments discussing the town hall protests and also failed to include any attendees.

    CNN's failure to book any town hall attendees during evening or prime-time slots is particularly perplexing given that the network did interview town hall attendees outside of the influential prime-time window. On the February 22 edition of CNN Newsroom, host Brooke Baldwin interviewed Rose Perkins, whose dressing down of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at a town hall the day before had already become a viral sensation. Meanwhile, CNN Tonight host Don Lemon interviewed Kati McFarland, a young woman who credits the ACA with keeping her alive despite her chronic, life-threatening illness and whose heartfelt plea to Cotton created an uproar. But the piece didn’t air until 12:19 a.m. on Saturday, February 25. (McFarland was also interviewed by MSNBC’s Ali Velshi during daytime programming on February 23.)

    The nationwide coalition of demonstrators, which progressive groups like MoveOn.org have dubbed the “Resistance Recess,” found many Republican members of Congress unprepared to face tough questions. That shouldn’t be surprising, given that many constituents stand to lose their health insurance or see their premiums soar if Trump and the GOP succeed in gutting the ACA. Rather than simply reporting on the abstract optics of these demonstrations, media outlets need to focus on the human beings who dedicated their time to safeguard legislation that benefits millions of Americans every day.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis and SnapStream search of transcripts of cable evening and prime-time (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) weekday programs on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from February 18 through February 27, 2017. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: affordable care act or aca or obamacare or healthcare or health care or protester or demonstrator or townhall or town hall.

    The following programs were included in the data: The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight, Special Report, The First 100 Days, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, Hardball, For the Record, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval.

  • The Daily Caller Used The White House Press Briefing To Advocate Gutting The CFPB

    Right-Wing Media Complain About CFPB Salaries As An Excuse To Destroy Financial Oversight

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Daily Caller reporter Kaitlan Collins recycled tired right-wing media complaints about employee salaries at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as an excuse to float the prospect of gutting the agency during today’s White House press briefing, neglecting to mention that the financial industry watchdog is not funded by taxpayers. The CFPB has long been a target of right-wing media misinformation campaigns aimed at undermining support for objective oversight of Republican-aligned special interests on Wall Street.

    During the February 9 press briefing, Collins asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer if President Donald Trump has “plans to revamp” the CFPB in light of recent reports that some of its employees stand to earn higher salaries in 2017 than Vice President Mike Pence. Collins further begged the question of whether or not Trump believes “he should be able to fire the head of the agency,” Richard Cordray, who has been under fire from congressional Republicans since assuming his position as director of the CFPB in January 2012. Spicer responded by saying “one of the things that you are going to continue to see from this president is a respect for taxpayers’ dollars, the money they spend and how they’re spent” and that federal employees should be paid “a fair wage for their service to this country.” From MSNBC Live:

    As part of a broader hit piece on the CFPB, The Daily Caller reported on February 7 that the agency pays 39 employees more than $230,000 -- the current annual salary for the sitting vice president of the United States. Other right-wing outlets -- RedState and the Washington Free Beacon -- joined in condemning the CFPB both for its higher salaries and for its supposed operation outside “normal government oversight,” obscuring the purpose behind the agency’s structure.

    While Spicer’s expressed concern for demonstrating “respect for taxpayers’ dollars” is welcome, the CFPB is not funded by tax dollars. The CFPB is funded entirely by the Federal Reserve System, which is also not taxpayer funded and actually serves as a source of additional revenue for the Treasury (emphasis added):

    The Federal Reserve does not receive funding through the congressional budgetary process. The Fed's income comes primarily from the interest on government securities that it has acquired through open market operations. Other sources of income are the interest on foreign currency investments held by the Federal Reserve System; fees received for services provided to depository institutions, such as check clearing, funds transfers, and automated clearinghouse operations; and interest on loans to depository institutions. After paying its expenses, the Federal Reserve turns the rest of its earnings over to the U.S. Treasury.

    Right-wing media have been complaining about CFPB salaries for years, but those complaints will carry extra weight if congressional Republicans find a willing accomplice in the White House to sign legislation cutting CFPB pay. A December 22 report from Bloomberg Law outlined how Republican-backed legislation would cut pay to CFPB employees by “as much as 25 percent” while pointing to October 2013 congressional testimony from AFL-CIO lawyer Daniel Silvers explaining the importance of the CFPB payscale:

    “Congressman, all the bank regulators have this ability,” Silvers said. “It’s impossible to be an effective banking regulator without the ability to hire competitively in the banking sector.” Congress has exempted the CFPB, the Fed, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and some other financial regulators from the GS system, resulting in generally higher scales at those agencies.

    Today’s anti-CFPB talking points follow a Wall Street Journal editorial calling for CFPB head Cordray’s termination based on bogus charges of cost overruns in building renovations and discrimination on the part of his management team. The symbiotic, years-long campaign by right-wing media and their GOP allies to gut the consumer watchdog agency has been well-documented, and they make perfect sense given that the agency remains as “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” left in government after Trump’s election victory.