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  • MSNBC's Ali Velshi Outlines The "Built-In Unfairness" Of Trump's Tax Plan

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC outlined the major problems in President Donald Trump's proposed tax cut plan, which drastically reduces the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent while lowering personal tax rates for high-income individuals at expense of almost all tax deductions that benefit the middle class.

    On the April 27 edition of MSNBC's MSNBC Live, host Katy Tur discussed Trump's tax outline with correspondent Ali Velshi and conservative economist Peter Morici, outlining how the plan could greatly reduce the president's personal and business tax burden while saving the Trump family billions of dollars in future estate taxes. Velshi argued the proposed reductions in corporate tax rates and creation of a new income loophole for some contractors and business owners created "built-in unfairness" in the tax system. Morici added that Trump's plan would not assist the middle class and complained that the administration had only produced a one-page memo "with a lot of white space" despite having five months to craft substantial tax reform proposals:

    During the next hour of MSNBC Live, Velshi introduced another segment on the proposed tax cuts by noting that Trump is making "a frantic last push for what has eluded him in his first 100 days: a major legislative accomplishment." Joined by MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, Velshi noted that "we don't actually know" what Trump's tax agenda is to which Sykes responded, "this is not a bill, it's basically a press release ... there is no meat to the substance." Sykes added that, while he leans toward conservative tax policy, he does not think "there is any rational way" to claim Trump's plan helps the middle class or can avoid "blow[ing] an enormous hole in the federal deficit." After Velshi detailed a laundry list of middle-class tax credits that "could go away" under the plan, McMahon highlighted that Trump's plan "is going to be an absolutely huge windfall for very wealthy people":

  • Broadcast Evening News Programs Pilloried Trump’s Tax Cut Outline

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn finally unveiled President Donald Trump’s plan for a major overhaul of individual and corporate income taxes in the United States during an April 26 press briefing. The plan, which seemed to many observers like a less detailed version of the budget-busting agenda Trump campaigned on, was assailed by reporters and economic analysts on the major broadcast evening news programs for its sparse details and profligate giveaways to the wealthy, including a likely tax break for the president himself.

  • Right-Wing Media Figures Want Trump To Shut Down The Government So They Can Blame Democrats

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Right-wing media figures are displeased after the likelihood of a government shutdown seemed to fade following a breakthrough after days of failed negotiations and speculation. Specifically, right-wing media figures cheered the idea of a shutdown because they wanted to make sure that “Democrats get blamed” and to exact revenge after, as they claimed, Democrats made previous shutdowns “as painful as possible.”

  • The Worst Economist In The World Says Trump's Tax Cuts Will Do The Impossible

    Why Does CNN Even Give Stephen Moore A Platform?

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    In response to reports that President Donald Trump would unveil a plan to reduce the corporate income tax rate from 35 to 15 percent, discredited economic pundit Stephen Moore rushed to praise the budget busting corporate giveaway while misleadingly claiming that the tax cuts will help pay for themselves by boosting economic activity.

    On April 24, The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump would release a tax plan on Wednesday focused on cutting the maximum statutory corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent -- a 20 percent cut the White House is demanding regardless of the implications it would have for the federal budget deficit. The Journal also reported that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made the unfounded claim that the tax cut will “pay for itself with economic growth.”

    Economist Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and who served as economic adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, called the assertion that Trump’s tax cut would pay for itself “empirically phony” and argued that there is no correlation between cutting taxes and boosting economic growth. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman derisively referred to Trump’s trickle-down economic agenda as “voodoo economics” and laid out examples of tax cuts failing to generate growth under previous administrations. Krugman also noted that former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both raised taxes in order to generate sustainable new tax revenues without undermining the growing economy. He concluded by saying that the extreme cuts Trump would propose is the same “voodoo” Republicans have promoted for decades “with extra bad math.”

    On April 25, the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation posted an analysis of the Trump administration’s claims that the tax cut would pay for itself, concluding that the economy could not grow enough to offset the losses in revenue. According to the Tax Foundation’s charitable analysis, cutting corporate tax rates to just 15 percent would stoke economic growth by less than half as much as would be needed to make up for lost revenue and result in long-term deficit increase of at least hundreds of billions of dollars. Those conclusions follow an earlier analysis of Trump’s corporate tax proposal by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which on October 18 found that Trump’s corporate tax agenda alone would reduce federal revenue by $207.6 billion in 2018 and by roughly $2.4 trillion over ten years.

    The idea that tax cuts pay for themselves has been thoroughly debunked by years of research. Yet Moore heaped praise on Trump’s plan while parroting unfounded claims that it would grow the economy and benefit all Americans. On the April 25 edition of CNN’s New Day, Moore pushed Trump’s tax plan claiming it would create a “feedback effect” leading to growth. Moore also published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that day promoting the plan while claiming Trump’s tax agenda would help the American economy reach the arbitrary and unrealistic 3 percent annual growth target so-cherished by conservative pundits. On the April 26 edition of New Day, Moore continued his push for the tax cuts only to be debunked by economist and former Obama economic adviser Jason Furman, who reminded Moore that “this plan would actually hurt our economic growth” by adding trillions of dollars to the federal debt reducing long-term economic growth:

    Ever since CNN hired Moore, he has harmed the network’s credibility by spewing lies about the economy while peddling whatever policies are being pushed by the Trump administration. He routinely peddles partisan economic misinformation while being debunked by more reliable experts and his only purpose at the network seems to be recycling right-wing media talking points.

  • Wash. Post’s Reporting On Social Security Disability Insurance Is Hopelessly Flawed

    A Longform Foray Into SSDI Echoed Conservative Misinformation, Was Replete With Data Errors

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Disability advocates hammered a faulty feature article published last month in The Washington Post that portrayed disability insurance as a form of long-term unemployment insurance in rural communities and claimed that as many as a third of people in those communities received disability assistance. Advocates analyzed the article’s data and found that the Post had vastly overstated the number of people receiving assistance on the program, prompting the paper to issue a correction. That correction, however, ignores the article’s more devastating flaws.

    The Post’s March 30 article titled, “Disabled, or just desperate?” followed Alabama resident Desmond Spencer and his family as they struggled to make ends meet and narrated his unease about applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. The piece cited data purportedly provided by the Social Security Administration to argue that Spencer’s condition was typical of working-aged adults in rural communities around the country. A Media Matters analysis of the actual content found that it was filled with tropes, gimmicks, and dog whistles frequently promoted by right-wing opponents of SSDI. Disability advocates questioned the portrayal of a single anecdotal account as representative of millions of Americans, and Rebecca Vallas of the Center for American Progress (CAP) slammed the Post for creating a “dystopian portrait” of an SSDI system “riddled with rampant abuse.”

    A week after publishing the initial report, the Post’s editorial board cited the flawed article as part of its case in favor of unnecessary “reforms” of the disability insurance system that would add even more restrictions to SSDI. Media Matters again criticized the Post for mischaracterizing the program and peddling myths about the social safety net common in conservative media. Economist Dean Baker also browbeat the editorial for targeting a program that helps provide basic living standards at a time of rampant economic inequality.

    The core argument forwarded by the initial Post report was that as many as one-third of working-age adults in rural communities are reliant on SSDI for most or all of their monthly income. Yet, the paper did not acknowledge whether or not these people are actually disabled. Instead, the article wove a narrative of low-income Americans struggling to find gainful work who end up on disability as a form of long-term unemployment. An April 13 blog published by CAP outlined how analysts attempted “to replicate [the Post’s] analysis” only to find that “their numbers are flat-out wrong.” After a careful inspection, CAP discovered that the Post’s numbers overcounted the number of children and working-age adults receiving SSDI, and failed to correct for the double-counting of roughly 1.3 million people. CAP even uncovered that the paper was missing data entirely for nearly 100 of the “rural counties” the article was supposed to be analyzing. In response to the these revelations, the editors responsible for the Post’s report issued a lengthy correction to the article and updated it throughout to remove and amend data.

    In an April 18 blog post, the team at CAP noted that the fixes still didn’t go far enough since more accurate data actually disproved the Post’s core argument. The revised and corrected report is still built on questionable data and it continues overcounting the number of working-age adults reliant on disability insurance. Most importantly, the core claim that disability checks are a primary source of income for “as many as one-third of working-age adults” in rural communities encompassing “large swaths of the country” appears to be completely false; CAP’s team could find only one county -- out of 3,143 -- that fit the Post’s dystopian description of disability. From the Center For American Progress’s TalkPoverty.org (emphasis added):

    Even using The Post’s flawed methods, they were only able to find one county—out of more than 3,100 counties nationwide—where the story’s central claim that “as many as one-third of working-age adults are receiving monthly disability checks” holds up. Not a single other county even comes close. In fact, The Post’s own analysis—which it has now made available in a public data file next to the story, yields an average rate of about 9.1 percent of working-age adults receiving benefits across rural counties—just three percentage points higher than the national average.

    And yet the article is framed as follows: “Across large swaths of the country,” the article still reads, “disability has become a force that has reshaped scores of mostly white, almost exclusively rural communities, where as many as one-third of working-age adults are receiving monthly disability checks.”

    If by “large swaths” and “scores of… rural communities” The Post means McDowell County, West Virginia, population less than 21,000 residents—and nowhere else in America—then sure.

    But the fact is there’s a word for using data this way: cherry-picking.

  • Trump's Manufacturing Policy Could Destroy Many Times More Jobs Than Were "Saved" At Carrier

    Research Shows Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts Would Undermine Successful Manufacturing Jobs Programs

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    In the weeks after Election Day, media outlets tirelessly amplified President Donald Trump’s misleading claim that he personally saved hundreds of jobs at a facility operated by Indiana-based appliance manufacturer Carrier. Will those outlets devote the same zeal to covering widespread program cuts outlined in Trump’s budget proposal that would undermine a public-private partnership supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the United States?

    Mainstream and conservative media outlets alike heaped praise on Trump for his supposed role in brokering a deal to keep Carrier jobs in the U.S., and national news spent months hyping Trump’s mythical dealmaking skills after he claimed credit for other companies investing in the American economy. In fact, a Media Matters analysis of broadcast and cable news coverage of the economy found that Trump’s misleading boasts about brokering deals to create a handful of American jobs dominated economic news coverage in the last three months of 2016.

    On March 16, the Trump administration produced a budget outline for the 2018 fiscal year that attempts to offset an unnecessary $54 billion increase in military spending by drastically reducing all remaining nondefense discretionary expenditures.

    Among the programs set to lose funding is the Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) -- a public-private program dedicated to improving manufacturing efficiency. Washington Post reporter Danielle Paquette described the MEP as “a modest operation that exists solely to help small and medium-size companies create and maintain good-paying American manufacturing jobs” and noted that it has “long enjoyed bipartisan support.” And recent analyses of the program from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and the Center for American Progress (CAP) unveiled the extent to which cutting the MEP could imperil American workers.

    According to a March 3 report from Upjohn, the MEP directly supports about 86,000 jobs nationwide, including 2,100 in Indiana. The total jobs number stretches to roughly 142,000 if you account for positions indirectly supported by MEP grants. Most importantly, more than 27,000 of the jobs directly and indirectly supported by the MEP are in the manufacturing sector -- an industry Trump has claimed his policies would help revitalize.

    A March 27 analysis of the Upjohn report by CAP's associate director for economic policy, Brendan Duke, revealed that roughly half of the more than 80,000 jobs directly supported by the MEP could be in jeopardy if companies lose access to federal grant money in the wake of Trump’s budget cuts.** More than 11,000 of those jobs would be lost in Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin -- manufacturing-heavy swing states that went for Trump in 2016:

    As CAP demonstrates, the number of jobs that could be lost thanks to Trump is many times more than the 800 he “saved” in the vaunted Carrier deal last December. Following the logic in CAP’s analysis, the loss of MEP funding could cost the state of Indiana roughly 1,000 jobs -- meaning the federal budget cut would cost the state at least as many jobs as it saved through a generous taxpayer-funded kickback to the appliance manufacturer:

    Professional economists from across the political spectrum have slammed Trump’s economic policy vision for months and warned that his policies are more likely to harm the job market than revitalize it. Some outlets seem to have caught on to the fact that the president’s boasts about his role in making deals and creating jobs cannot be taken seriously. But their willingness to tackle the disastrous consequences of the Trump administration’s policy priorities is still developing.

    **The Center for American Progress' analysis focuses only on the jobs directly supported by the MEP, according to the Upjohn Institute report, and does not include 4,161 jobs affected by MEP grants in Puerto Rico.

  • 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.

  • TV News Coverage Of Trump’s Policies Overwhelmed By His Wiretapping Lie

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Broadcast and cable news coverage of ruinous economic policies rolled out by the White House last week was overwhelmed by the president’s false accusation that his predecessor illegally wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

    On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that up to 24 million Americans would lose access to health insurance over the next 10 years if the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare goes into effect. On that same day, the Trump administration unveiled an overlooked executive order that encourages cabinet secretaries and agency directors to create a plan to completely reshape a federal bureaucracy of over 2.8 million employees. And on March 16, the Trump administration unveiled its budget outline for the 2018 fiscal year, featuring proposed “massive cuts” to nondefense spending. The proposed cuts, which would offset an increase in spending on military programs and a border wall, would hit almost every facet of the federal government, but they would come down particularly hard on funding for small programs including Meals on Wheels, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS.

    Yet according to Media Matters research, from March 13 to 17, President Donald Trump’s false wiretap claim dominated TV news coverage, overshadowing discussion of these important policy moves. While Trump’s lie certainly merits extensive media coverage, it’s also crucial to share details of his policymaking with the public.

    Trump ignited a media firestorm in early March when he repeatedly accused former President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping him in the midst of last year's election. Right-wing media, led by Fox News, sprang to his defense even though the president offered no evidence to support his claim. Meanwhile, legitimate reporters exposed the bizarre accusation’s source as “the right-wing fever swamps” of fringe media and reported that it was pushed by a Russian state-sponsored news network. During March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey put Trump’s wiretapping lie to rest, telling the committee, “I have no information that supports those tweets.”

    Yet nearly two weeks after Trump initially made the claim, his smear of Obama still had such an influence on television news coverage that it overshadowed every other discussion about Trump’s policy agenda last week. Media Matters identified 226 segments from March 13 through 17 that focused on Trump during evening programming on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC and major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. Of those segments, 64 focused on Trump’s wiretapping allegations -- a figure that dwarfed every other major issue Media Matters identified. Coverage of Trump’s health care plan came in a distant second place, with 37 segments, and stories related to the portion of Trump’s 2005 tax returns obtained by Rachel Maddow ranked third (26 segments). Trump’s proposed budget outline was discussed in just 14 segments, and his executive order to reshape the federal workforce registered just four mentions.

    With television news forced to dissect and debunk Trump’s outrageous claims, coverage of pressing economic issues was eclipsed. Coverage of the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- which health care experts have said would be particularly harmful to low-income Americans, seniors, and people dealing with illnesses -- could not overtake that of Trump’s wiretapping tweet, even with the Trump administration attempting to smear the CBO numbers in the press. The executive order, which was described by CNN reporter Stephen Collinson as part of Trump’s larger goal to “dismember government one dollar at a time,” barely registered in news coverage at all. And Trump’s budget cuts, which would decimate social safety net programs, were discussed 14 times during evening news coverage on March 16 and 17, while Trump’s lie about wiretapping was discussed 35 times on those two days.

    Trump’s promotion of a discredited lie accusing his predecessor of illegal conduct while in office merits extensive media coverage, but the policies he has enacted or plans to enact can be just as destructive as the misinformation he spreads. Media cannot afford to let Trump's misleading claims dominate the news cycle, drowning out crucial coverage of the pain his policies may cause the United States.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening news programming (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, as well as the major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, from March 13, 2017, through March 17, 2017. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Trump or executive order or federal government or federal employ! or federal worker or federal workers or civil service or government workers or government worker or federal government or budget.

    The following programs were included in the data: ABC's World News Tonight, CBS' Evening News, NBC's Nightly News, and PBS' NewsHour, as well as CNN's The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight, Fox News' Special Report, The First 100 Days, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity, and MSNBC's For The Record, Hardball, 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. This survey includes CNN’s second live hour of Anderson Cooper 360 during the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot.

    For this study, Media Matters included only those segments that contained substantial discussions of Donald Trump. We defined a "substantial discussion" as any segment where a host dedicates a monologue, or portion of a monologue, to Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States, or any segment where two or more guests discuss Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States. We did not include teasers or clips of news events, or rebroadcasts of news packages that were already counted when they first aired in the 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. survey window.

  • 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?

  • Trump’s Budget Is A Deeply Radical Scheme -- The Press Should Say So

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    President Donald Trump has seemingly spent his first months in office working to debunk the tired media narrative that he is somehow a "populist." The proposed budget released by the Trump White House this week should put another nail in the coffin of the "populist" trope.

    It’s a $1.1 trillion blueprint to effectively eviscerate some government agencies, and one that rips away huge sections of the country’s social safety net in a way that hasn’t been attempted before in modern American history.

    And no, the dark and disturbing budget proposal is definitely not “populist.” (Definition: “To represent the interests of ordinary people.”) Not when you consider that its dystopian goals include: 

    *Abolishing the Department of Housing and Urban Development block grant program that helps fund Meals on Wheels for the elderly.

    *Gutting a program “that helps poor families pay their heating bills.”

    *Eliminating a State Department program “which sends food to poor countries hit by war or natural disasters.”

    *Ending a Labor Department initiative that “has helped more than 1 million people 55 and older find jobs.”

    *Getting rid of the Department of Transportation subsidy that supports flights to rural airports.

    *Abolishing the environmental cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.

    So no, Trump’s not a “populist.”

    The good news? Media outlets did a solid job detailing all of the massive cuts included in Trump’s sweeping proposal. The downside was the radical cuts were sometimes couched as being not that unusual.

    You’d never understand the radical nature of Trump’s budget by reading this CNN lede:

    President Donald Trump released a $1.1 trillion budget outline Thursday that proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending and corresponding cuts to non-defense spending at the State Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and the wholesale elimination of other federal programs.

    This budget proposal represents the administration’s extremist, even fanatical, priorities, and it ought to be covered that way, without apology.

    How else do you describe a budget that slashes the State Department’s spending by nearly one-third, the National Institutes of Health’s budget by nearly one-fifth, and reduces the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding to its lowest levels in four decades? The budgetary slaughter goes on and on and on.

    Trump wants to completely eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, even though its budget of $300 million represents an infinitesimal percentage of the $1.1 trillion the government spends each year.

    Yet look at this exchange from MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday between contributor Mark Halperin and Trump’s Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney:

    MARK HALPERIN: Director Mulvaney, obviously sometimes people look at these cuts and they say, "the sky is falling." But can you talk about where you’re concerned that perhaps some of these cuts may hurt Americans' lives? If anywhere?

    MICK MULVANEY: Um, no. I think we’re actually doing exactly what we said to do to protect Americans. So we’re spending more money, for example, on the border. We’re spending more money on law enforcement generally.

    After setting aside the idea that Herculean cutbacks being proposed mean “the sky is falling,” Halperin asked Mulvaney if the reductions would hurt Americans. Mulvaney answered by noting the government was spending money to build a wall along the Mexican border.

    MSNBC’s Willie Geist did ask Mulvaney about eliminating after-school programs for children, but the budget director basically waved off any concerns. The soft interview ended with co-host Mika Brzezinski marveling over the fact that years ago Mulvaney worked security at her Georgetown University dorm.

    So no, not exactly unbridled questioning for Mulvaney regarding Trump’s radical scheme.

    Meanwhile, when Mulvaney faced reporters in the White House press briefing room yesterday, NBC’s Peter Alexander did ask pointed questions about the to-the-bone budget cuts and eliminations, especially for after school programs. But Alexander mostly proved to be exception in the room.

    If Trump’s team is proudly advocating an unabashedly fanatical budget (and they are), journalists shouldn’t shy away from reporting the truth. Journalism is about describing what you see and hear in front of you every day.

    Note that some of the coverage has been accompanied with a bit of a shoulder shrug because lots of journalists assume Trump’s proposed budget can’t pass through Congress. Therefore, the pitched eviscerations don’t really matter because they won’t be enacted.

    But they do matter and they shouldn’t be soft peddled. They matter because the deeply destructive cuts represent who Trump is and what his spiteful agenda stands for.