Economy

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  • Gutting Net Neutrality Is A Win For Conservative Media

    The FCC Is Making Right-Wing Media Dreams Come True Under Trump

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now in Republican hands, it has moved quickly to reverse rules that guarantee free and open access to the internet, giving conservative media outlets exactly what they have been asking for.

    During an April 26 speech, Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed rolling back a key provision of the 2015 net neutrality rules enacted by his agency, citing research from an industry-funded front-group to support his claim that open internet protections are a burden on internet service providers. Pai claimed the common carrier rules that enshrined net neutrality were "regulations from the Great Depression meant to micromanage Ma Bell" that should not be applied to the internet. The Wall Street Journal reported that the rollback of net neutrality rules would allow internet service providers to create preferential treatment of data speeds for certain users and corporations linked across their networks. The Journal noted that the Internet Association -- a trade group representing many content providers, including Facebook, Google, and Netflix -- is gearing up to oppose the proposed changes:

    Critics said Mr. Pai’s changes could damage the internet ecosystem, however, by opening the door to paid fast lanes for some services and relegating others to slower speeds. That could increase costs for some big internet companies and their customers, and hurt smaller businesses that can’t afford to pay, critics added.

    [...]

    The net-neutrality rule adopted by the FCC in 2015 basically required internet providers such as cable and wireless firms to treat all traffic equally. One big aim was to prevent internet providers such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. from using their outsize leverage to disadvantage internet firms such as Netflix or Facebook.

    The Republican-led FCC’s decision to roll back Obama-era net neutrality protections is a major win for conservative media outlets. When the FCC authorized net neutrality rules in 2015, Fox News attacked it as a government power grab. Fortune pointed out how gutting net neutrality, combined with Trump’s proposal to slash corporate taxes, counts as a “double win” for “the nation's largest communications companies.”

    The proposed roll-back of net neutrality rules is now the third decision by Pai that seems to ameliorate complaints from conservative media. In February, he decided to impose cuts to the Lifeline program, which conservatives have assailed for years as so-called “Obamaphones,” and his decision earlier this month to ease merger restrictions on certain media companies could materially benefit Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting, conservative outlets firmly allied with the Trump administration.

    Criticism of Pai’s looming decision started before the proposal was even announced. On April 26, The Verge reported that it was “ready to rumble” to keep the protections in place and noted that rescinding the rule would be great for service providers and “terrible news for the rest of us.” The following day, The Verge reported that 800 tech start ups signed a letter opposing changes to net neutrality guidelines, which they believed would dismantle the rules “that allow the startup ecosystem to thrive.” Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also strongly opposes ending net neutrality and was a founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation, an open internet advocacy group committed to net neutrality.

  • Fox’s Legendary Hypocrisy Is On Full Display With Today’s Underwhelming GDP Report

    Meager Growth Under Obama Meant We Were “Sliding Toward Recession”; For Trump, Fox Predicts A “Bounce Back”

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The latest report from the Commerce Department found American economic growth in the first quarter of 2017 fell just short of most economists’ expectations. A virtually identical report one year ago was met with a chorus of outrage and hyperbole from the professional antagonists at Fox News, but their doomsaying has mellowed completely with President Donald Trump occupying the Oval Office.

    On April 28, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a report detailing the rate of change in real gross domestic product (GDP) during the first quarter of the year. The report showed GDP had increased just 0.7 percent during the time frame, which was both below expectations and the “weakest growth in three years.” According to The New York Times, the indicator “upset expectations for a Trump bump at the start of 2017,” while The Washington Post added that underwhelming economic performance “highlights the challenge this administration … will face trying to meet its target rate of 3 percent economic growth.” During a segment on CNN’s New Day, chief business correspondent Christine Romans noted that “the main culprit” holding back economic growth is “some nervousness among consumers,” whose spending accounts for more than half of the economy:

    At Fox News, however, the GDP report was met with muted reactions and renewed criticism of the supposedly weak economy Trump inherited from President Obama. Fox Business host Stuart Varney admitted at the outset of the April 28 edition of Varney & Co., that the report was “very, very weak” before predicting “the Left [will blame] President Trump” for sluggish first-quarter growth while guest John Lonski surmised that the economy would “bounce back” in the second quarter of the year. Later in the program, after a guest complained about the economy settling into a cycle of slow growth, Fox Business anchor Ashley Webster pleaded, “It’s just the first three months, give it time,” before predicting higher rates of growth over the next three months stemming from deregulation. Fox Business contributor Elizabeth MacDonald added that “this is an overhang … of the Obama years” while complaining that “this is what the president has inherited.” From Varney & Co.:

    The measured response from Fox’s cast of characters is a far cry from how they responded to a virtually identical GDP report published by the BEA on April 28, 2016. Varney falsely characterized first-quarter GDP growth of last year -- which at 0.5 percent also missed expectations before being upwardly revised -- as proof that the economy was “sliding toward recession” and ignored other indicators showing the economy was improving. One day later, Varney continued lambasting Obama during an appearance on Fox & Friends in which he pushed the unsubstantiated claim that the post-recession recovery was a historic failure.

    This is not the first time a Fox personality has backtracked on mischaracterizations of the economy in order to hype or defend the Trump administration. The network has completely reversed its tone toward the monthly jobs reports since Trump took office, giving him credit for jobs he didn’t create, fawning over job creation that had become routine under Obama, and heaping praise on economic indicators identical to those they had once excoriated.

  • New Study Debunks Right-Wing Media Myth That Trump's Deregulation Will Restore Coal Communities

    Columbia University Report Outlines Market Forces Killing The Coal Industry

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    A new Columbia University report adds to a wealth of research disproving the right-wing media myth that President Donald Trump can bring back coal jobs and revitalize coal communities by simply rolling back environmental protections enacted by previous administrations.

    Conservative media outlets, political commentators, and Trump himself have repeatedly argued that undoing Obama-era environmental protections would reverse the decades-long decline in coal mining employment. But a new in-depth analysis published by researchers at Columbia University's Center on Global Energy Policy throws cold water on this notion, concluding, “President Trump’s efforts to roll back environmental regulations will not materially improve economic conditions in America’s coal communities.”

    The report goes into great detail about the factors behind coal’s decline. It finds that the vast majority of the decrease in coal consumption was due to market factors unrelated to federal regulations and that it is “highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.” From the April 2017 report (emphasis added):

    We found that 49 percent of the decline in domestic US coal consumption was due to the drop in natural gas prices, 26 percent was due to lower than expected electricity demand, and 18 percent was due to growth in renewable energy. Environmental regulations contributed to the decline by accelerating coal power plant retirement, but these were a less significant factor. We also found that changes in the global coal market have played a far greater role in the decline of US production and employment than is generally understood. The recent collapse of Chinese coal demand, especially for metallurgical coal, depressed coal prices around the world and reduced the market for US exports. The decline in global coal prices was a particularly important factor in the recent wave of coal company bankruptcies and resulting threats to the healthcare and pension security of retired US coal miners and their dependents.

    Second, the paper examines the prospects for a recovery of US coal production and employment by modeling the impact of President Trump’s executive order and assessing the global coal market outlook. We found that successfully removing President Obama’s environmental regulations has the potential to mitigate the recent decline in US coal consumption, but that will only occur if natural gas prices start to rise. If they remain at current levels, domestic consumption will continue to decline, particularly if renewable energy costs fall faster than expected. We similarly see little prospect of a sustainable recovery in global coal demand growth and seaborne coal prices. Combining our domestic and international market outlook, we believe it is highly unlikely US coal mining employment will return to pre-2015 levels, let alone the industry’s historical highs.

    The report’s conclusion that undoing environmental protections will have little impact on coal mining employment aligns with what numerous experts and nonideological media analysts have reported. The researchers also found that the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which regulates emissions from coal-fired power plants and which Trump singled out with a March 28 executive order that rolled back environmental regulations, “played no direct role in the reduction of US coal consumption and production experienced over the past few years.” (The Obama administration announced the final version of the CPP in August 2015 but the rules were never actually implemented.)

    The report does note that the decline in coal consumption could be mitigated “if natural gas prices increase going forward,” but the impact on jobs would not be as direct. As Robert W. Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming, explained to The New York Times, even if coal mines stay open, they are “using more mechanization” and “not hiring people. … So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs.”

    Notably, the Columbia report offers policy recommendations “for how the federal government can support economic diversification in coal communities through infrastructure investment, abandoned mine land reclamation, tax credits, small business incubation, workforce training, and support for locally driven economic development initiatives.”

    But perhaps just as importantly, the researchers offer the following recommendation for lawmakers: “Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going on in the US coal sector—including the causes of coal’s decline and unlikeliness of its resurgence—rather than offer false hope that the glory days can be revived.”

  • 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.

  • 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 Highlights GOP’s Latest Attack On The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    A Washington Post column highlighted the latest attempt by congressional Republicans to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a longtime target of the banking lobby and right-wing media outlets intent on unwinding public protections put in place after the financial crisis.

    On April 21, Washington Post financial columnist Michelle Singletary called attention to an attempt by Republican lawmakers to block new protections from the CFPB that would give prepaid card users federal guarantees similar to those afforded to credit and debit card users. Prepaid cards, which are not attached to bank accounts, are often used by customers without access to financial services, but they currently offer few protections for consumers. Some of the new protections authorized by the CFPB include requiring institutions to investigate fraud charges, granting cardholders access to account balances, and mandating that fee information be “upfront and clear.” Singletary pointed out the absurdity of Republicans’ position that they “don’t think prepaid cards deserve the same protections” as credit and debit cards and chided their “ridiculous” complaint that fee transparency might help consumers reduce their costs. From the Post:

    On this issue, it comes down to this: Opponents of the new rules object to helping people who can least afford a whole bunch of fees so that card companies can make more money off them. It’s an example of putting business interests first and the interests of the nation’s most financially vulnerable consumers last.

    On April 21, the right-wing website The New American published a column by conservative commentator Veronique de Rugy slamming the new CFPB rules, claiming these basic protections are an attempt to strangle innovative products with “excessive regulation.” Similar attacks on the CFPB’s prepaid card rules were pushed by conservative think tanks the Institute for Liberty, Americans for Tax Reform and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

    On April 20, the Center for American Progress (CAP) reported that roughly 23 million Americans -- or one in 10 households -- used prepaid cards in 2015 for a total of over $270 billion in transactions and pointed out the danger of blocking protections for millions of consumers. CAP’s Joe Valenti noted how bizarre the GOP’s actions are, since many major prepaid card companies do not object to these new rules, and he said the only gains to killing these rules would likely be for “companies looking to evade regulation and profit from unsavory business practices.”

    The GOP’s attempt to block new public protections devised by the CFPB is the latest in a years-long assault on the agency by right-wingers hoping to curb necessary financial regulations and oust the agency’s director. These attacks have only increased with the GOP takeover of the White House, which left the CFPB as “one of the few adversaries of Wall Street” remaining in a Republican-dominated federal government

  • The Wash. Post Has A Lobbyist As A Writer; Here Are 12 Times They Didn't Disclose Conflicts Of Interest

    Editorial Page Editor Says The Post Wasn’t “Initially Clear Enough With” Ed Rogers “On Our Expectations” But Defends Paper

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The Washington Post has repeatedly failed to inform readers about major financial conflicts of interest in pieces by opinion writer Ed Rogers. Rogers is a leading Republican lobbyist who has used his Post column to advocate for the interests of his firm’s clients without disclosure in at least a dozen instances since the beginning of 2016.

    Rogers writes for the publication’s PostPartisan blog. His columns also regularly appear in the Post’s physical edition and are syndicated across the country through its syndication service.

    The Republican lobbyist is the chairman of the BGR Group, which he co-founded in 1991. The firm is one of the country’s largest lobbying groups and had over $17 million in lobbying revenue in 2016.

    His Post credentials are touted to potential clients in his corporate biography, which states: “Since 2011, Ed has been an opinion writer for the Washington Post, where he writes about politics and the current state of affairs in Washington, D.C., from a Republican point of view.”

    Lobbying experts told Media Matters that the Post’s arrangement with a lobbyist of Rogers’ stature is “rare” and “highly unusual.”

    Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America and author of The Business of America is Lobbying, said that “It's pretty rare for a megalobbyist to have a gig as a columnist in such a prominent venue.”

    He added that while it’s hard to quantify how much the Post column helps his lobbying business since Rogers “has plenty of influence with or without his columns ... it almost certainly helps him. I can't imagine his gig as a Post columnist isn't part of his pitch to potential clients.”

    Tim LaPira, a James Madison University associate professor who studies lobbying, agreed that the Post’s “arrangement is highly unusual.”

    “Most lobbyists do not promote ideas in the public domain on their own behalf, under their own name,” LaPira said. “I doubt anybody has ever kept track of how common it is for lobbyists to write regular columns like this because it is so rare.”

    Rogers has repeatedly used his Post column to promote the lobbying interests of his firm’s clients over the years. Media Matters previously documented in 2015 how Rogers attacked environmental and financial regulations without disclosing his firm’s relevant clients. Rogers' columns subsequently included disclosures in some -- but not all -- pieces where he discusses environmental regulations.

    In addition to environmental issues, Rogers has numerous potential conflicts on both the domestic and international front. He and his firm's colleagues have registered as agents for foreign governments and have counted Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as clients. Ukraine recently signed BGR to lobby for it as the country “seeks to strengthen its relationship with the United States.”

    Media Matters reached out to The Washington Post and sent examples of Rogers’ writings with conflicts of interests. Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt respond by saying the Post wasn’t “initially clear enough with Ed on our expectations” but defended the Post and Rogers, and disputed “some” of Media Matters’ examples:

    “We weren’t initially clear enough with Ed on our expectations. We do believe genuine conflicts should be disclosed, he is committed to doing so, and has done so numerous times. Some of what you flag here does not strike me as that kind of conflict. For example, we make no secret of the fact that Rogers is a conservative Republican whose firm lobbies for business interests; the fact that he would criticize Hillary Clinton for wanting to raise corporate tax rates I don’t think would surprise readers or strike them as stemming from a hidden conflict of interest. If he lobbies for a specific client or specific issue and then writes about that specific client or issue, I think readers should be made aware, and I’m confident Ed agrees.”

    BGR Group did not reply to a request for comment.

    Media Matters reviewed Rogers’ opinion pieces from the start of 2016 through today and found that the Post is failing to properly disclose when Rogers and his clients’ lobbying interests intersect. These disclosure violations include:

    • Praising President Trump for rescinding a fiduciary rule that protects investors without disclosing that BGR is lobbying to repeal the rule.
    • Criticizing the Dodd-Frank financial rule without disclosing his firm is lobbying on the issue.
    • Criticizing politicians for their attacks on the financial services industry without disclosing that he and his firm have been paid to lobby on behalf of financial services firms.
    • Praising the Tomahawk missile strike against Syria without disclosing that he lobbies on behalf of the missile maker.
    • Pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline without disclosing that BGR is lobbying for a firm that has been pushing for its implementation because it would financially benefit from its approval.
    • Pushing for environmental deregulation and a lowering of the corporate tax rate without disclosing his firm is lobbying on those issues.

       Here are 12 examples of how the Post is failing its readers:

      Department Of Labor Fiduciary Rule

      BRG Lobbied For MassMutual On “Legislation Related To The Proposed DoL Fiduciary Rule.” In 2016, President Barack Obama issued rules for the Department of Labor requiring that, as The New York Times noted, “all financial professionals who provide advice related to your retirement money must provide recommendations that are in your best interest.” President Trump has since delayed the rules. BGR’s lobbying disclosure for financial services company MassMutual stated last year that it lobbied on “legislation related to the proposed DoL fiduciary rule.” MassMutual has publicly criticized the proposed rule, claiming it “will hurt Americans.” BGR received $220,000 in 2016 from MassMutual to lobby. [The New York Times4/6/16; NPR.org, 2/17/17; Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17, Boston Business Journal, 4/6/16; OpenSecrets.org, accessed 4/21/17]

      Rogers Praised “Rescinding President Barack Obama’s Retirement Account Advisory Business Regulations Before They Can Go Into Effect.”

      In just two weeks as president, Donald Trump has already taken some substantive measures on the economy, including his executive order generally reducing regulations and controlling regulatory costs; requiring pipeline projects to be completed using iron or steel products manufactured in the United States; revising Dodd-Frank; and rescinding President Barack Obama’s retirement account advisory business regulations before they can go into effect in April. Plus, Trump made Wilbur Ross, his commerce secretary nominee, one of the adults in charge of the NAFTA negotiations. In doing so, Trump defused a potentially ugly situation and sidelined some of his more bombastic advisers. The NAFTA overhaul is a critically important move, and it’s good that Trump has given Ross a powerful White House embrace. [The Washington Post2/6/17]  

      Dodd-Frank

      BGR Lobbied For MassMutual On Dodd Frank. BGR also lobbied for MassMutual on “Dodd-Frank regulatory implementation provisions relating to insurance companies” and “HR 5983, the Financial CHOICE Act of 2016,” which would roll back Dodd-Frank. [Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17, 4/21/17; The New York Times9/13/16]

      Rogers Praised Effort To Roll Back Dodd-Frank.

      In just two weeks as president, Donald Trump has already taken some substantive measures on the economy, including his executive order generally reducing regulations and controlling regulatory costs; requiring pipeline projects to be completed using iron or steel products manufactured in the United States; revising Dodd-Frank; and rescinding President Barack Obama’s retirement account advisory business regulations before they can go into effect in April. Plus, Trump made Wilbur Ross, his commerce secretary nominee, one of the adults in charge of the NAFTA negotiations. In doing so, Trump defused a potentially ugly situation and sidelined some of his more bombastic advisers. The NAFTA overhaul is a critically important move, and it’s good that Trump has given Ross a powerful White House embrace. [The Washington Post2/6/17]  

      Financial Services Industry

      BGR Lobbied For Financial Services Companies. Rogers’ group collected $270,000 in 2016 lobbying on behalf of Franklin Resources in 2016. A 2016 lobbying disclosure report stated that BGR had provided “strategic advice and counsel on legislative and regulatory actions that are impacting or may potentially impact Franklin Resources and/or the financial services industry.” BGR also lobbied for financial services providers LetterOne Holdings, MassMutual, and PGP Investors. Rogers personally lobbied for Franklin and LetterOne. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 4/21/17; Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17, 4/21/17,  4/21/17, 4/21/17]

      Rogers: Hillary Clinton Should Defend The Financial Services Industry And Attack Sanders As Having “No Idea What The Financial Industry Does.”

      First, Clinton should do more — not less, more — live TV. Her net performance is pretty good during the debates and in interviews; she just has to do a better job of preparing for the tough questions. Clinton’s campaign is plagued by two big, corrosive questions. One, she needs to address the issue of her relationship with big banks and Wall Street. She and her family — and I say family because even Chelsea Clinton worked on Wall Street for a while, and her husband is a Goldman Sachs alumnus and currently runs a hedge fund — have been especially close to Wall Street, and it is painful to watch Hillary Clinton try to suggest otherwise. Perhaps Clinton could actually learn something from how Donald Trump unabashedly embraces his experiences. Rather than pretend she doesn’t know the big players on Wall Street, Clinton should use her familiarity with the financial services industry to suggest she knows how to corral them without killing them. Clinton should say, a la Trump, that “I know these people,” “Sure, I took their money” and “I know what they care about and how to make them get in line.” Clinton should argue that Sanders has no idea what the financial industry does or what its pressure points are, but as a former senator from New York, she can easily pinpoint its vulnerabilities. Clinton should look those who question her Wall Street ties straight in the eye and bluff them into silence. [The Washington Post2/8/16]

      Tomahawk Missile Strike Against Syria

      BGR Lobbies For Tomahawk Missile Maker Raytheon. Rogers personally lobbies for Raytheon, which manufactures the million-dollar Tomahawk missiles used in the recent Syria strike. BGR received $120,000 in 2016 for lobbying on “Defense and communications procurement; Defense appropriations and authorizations.” [Media Matters4/11/17]

      Rogers Praised Trump’s Handling Of Syria.

      I don’t want to jinx anything, but President Trump may be experiencing the best sequence of events since he became president. Just this week, he received bipartisan support for his military strike in Syria, secured Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court, had impressive meetings with both King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi of Egypt, caught a break with the Susan Rice scandal, and it appears he has walked away from a successful encounter with Chinese President Xi Jinping — all without knocking it off the rails with a wayward tweet. And it’s not just me saying that, no less than Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass wrote that this was “arguably [the] best of Donald Trump’s still young presidency, from [a] successful strike in Syria to confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee.” Imagine that, decisive and poised presidential action from the president himself.

      The president is receiving mostly positive coverage as a result of the strike in Syria, but even Trump’s critics are talking about him in a serious way. There has been no discussion of chaos during the strike or wild tweets and off-key chatter that diminished the significance of the action that was taken. Most analysts and political commentators are describing the attack as a calculated, level-headed decision by a president whose foreign policy disposition has been ambiguous. And oh, by the way, it doesn’t hurt that Trump did something so adverse to Russia in Syria. It showed that Trump is perfectly capable of acting with brutal hostility toward a vital interest of Vladimir Putin’s.

      […]

      In politics, just like in golf, luck counts. The fact that Trump launched an attack against Syria while his Chinese counterpart was present and able to witness the aftermath in the media was a powerful stroke of good luck for the White House. In case Xi needed any reminding of just how serious Trump may be about taking action in North Korea, the Syria attack couldn’t have been a better example or come at a better time. By all accounts, expectations for their meeting were low. But reports indicate that Trump and Xi had substantive, mostly positive conversations, perhaps leaving the Chinese president with a lot to think about. It looks like he may have walked away with a better impression of how Trump thinks and how his administration functions. [The Washington Post4/8/17]

      Keystone XL Pipeline

      Rogers’ Firm Lobbied For Caterpillar, Which Said It Would Financially Benefit From Keystone XL Pipeline’s Approval. A 2016 form for BGR stated that it lobbied for Caterpillar to “provide counsel and strategic guidance on federal activity regarding infrastructure improvements.” Caterpillar stated on its government affairs website that “has an interest in” the Keystone XL pipeline’s approval because “Caterpillar pipelayers, excavators and track-type tractors are used in the North American pipeline business.” BGR received $310,000 in 2016 for its lobbying work. [Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17; Caterpillar, accessed 4/21/17; OpenSecrets.org, accessed 4/21/17]

      Rogers Criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders For His “Wacky” Position On The Keystone XL Pipeline.

      It is safe to say that presidential campaigns are mostly about peace, prosperity and the character of the candidates. In none of these categories does Clinton approach the court of public opinion with clean hands. Most voters do not want an Obama third term — yet in order to get through the primaries, Clinton has had to embrace all things Obama. She has had to embrace the weakest economic growth of any postwar recovery and the first recovery where the economy did not grow at least three percent in any year following the end of the last recession.  She has had to temporarily disassociate herself from longtime Clinton family allies and benefactors on Wall Street and in the business community while espousing Obama’s anti-business mantra. Not to mention, she has had to swing to the left to adopt Sen. Bernie Sanders’ wacky positions on the minimum wage, trade, the Keystone XL pipeline and whatever else. [The Washington Post6/3/16]

      Rogers Dismissed Liberals’ Concerns Over The Keystone XL Pipeline. (The Post piece did disclose that Rogers’ firm “represents interests in the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries” but made no mention of Rogers’ ties to a company that “has an interest in” the pipeline being built).

      The left’s opposition to Tillerson will largely be grounded in the fact that he comes from an oil company. Let’s face it: The people who don’t want the Keystone XL pipeline or the Dakota Access pipeline, who oppose drilling or fracking anywhere and who think that de-carbonizing the economy is possible are the same people who will lead the fight against Tillerson’s confirmation. There is almost nothing Tillerson can say that will satisfy these people. Many among the global warming alarmist crowd approach the topic of climate change with a near-religious zeal. [The Washington Post1/5/17]

      Environmental Regulations

      BGR Group Lobbies For Numerous Energy Companies. In 2016, BGR lobbied for Chevron, JKX Oil & Gas, Nuclear Energy Institute, Southern Co., and WEC Energy Group. Rogers personally lobbied for JKX Oil & Gas and Southern (JKX's registration start date with BGR was September 1, 2016). [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 4/21/17; Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17, 4/21/17; 4/21/17]

      The Post Has Been Inconsistent In Disclosing Rogers’ Anti-Environmental Conflicts. Rogers frequently criticizes environmental regulations in his Post writings. In some instances, Rogers included a disclosure noting his firm’s clients, writing: “Disclosure: My firm represents interests in the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries.” In several instances, Rogers did not include such a disclosure. This piece only takes issue with those that do not, which are noted below. [The Washington Post1/5/17]

      Rogers Attacked Liberals For Promoting “Policies, Often Under The Guise Of Environmental And Global Warming Activism, That Suppress Development, Growth And Good, Middle-Class Jobs.”

      The party of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton doesn’t like free enterprise or those who associate with it. They like social activists more than they like American workers. The national Democratic Party is composed of a circle of self-reinforcing members, including academics, feminists, environmentalists, government unions, Hollywood, minority and LGBT activists, trial lawyers and a host of financiers like Tom Steyer. What do they all have in common? These groups tend to have a parasitic relationship with private enterprises that actually employ people, particularly people who work in a trade. Democratic insiders promote policies, often under the guise of environmental and global warming activism, that suppress development, growth and good, middle-class jobs. The failure of the Obama economy speaks for itself. [The Washington Post5/18/16]

      Rogers Criticized Obama For Running “A Punitive Regulatory Regime Enhanced By A Pointless Passion For Global Warming Initiatives” And Having An “Anti-Business Bias.”

      The president and the Democrats are either oblivious or dishonest when they talk about their “economic success.” In what will probably be Obama’s most lasting legacy, he has run up the national debt by $10 trillion — more than all our other presidents combined — leaving future generations weighed down by the Obama debt. He has stifled small businesses with excessive taxation, perpetuated a punitive regulatory regime enhanced by a pointless passion for global warming initiatives and acted with anti-business bias that has all amalgamated to slow growth and spread discontent across the country. [The Washington Post6/23/16]

      Rogers: Democrats “Obsess[ing] Over Climate Change” Helped Them Lose The Election.

      If you’re still confused about why Democrats lost the election, look no further than the issues they prioritize. Instead of focusing on jobs, the economy and national security, the Democrats obsess over climate change, bathroom breaks and, curiously, sanctuary cities. Now is a good time for the Republicans to pick some fights, and the issue of sanctuary cities is a prime target. It’s a perfect reminder of what Democrats have become. As my old boss Lee Atwater used to say, “Never kick a man when he is up.” And right now, the Democrats are down, divided and in disarray. [The Washington Post12/8/16]

      Rogers Criticized Obama’s Global Warming Policy.

      To make matters worse, Obama has capitulated to and strengthened enemy regimes in Iran and Cuba. He scrambled our international priorities and declared global warming to be one of our most significant national security problems, requiring billions to be spent to lower carbon emissions in the United States at the expense of American businesses while giving China a pass. [The Washington Post12/29/16]

      Corporate Tax Rate

      Rogers’ BGR Group Lobbies On Corporate Tax Cuts. BGR lobbied for pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. on “corporate tax reform.” Amgen CEO Robert Bradway reportedly said the company would be “a clear beneficiary” of lowering the corporate tax. BGR listed “tax reform” as a lobbying issue for other clients such as Southern and Asia Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce [Senate.gov, accessed 4/21/17, 4/21/17, 4/21/17; FiercePharma, 1/10/17]

      Rogers Praised Trump For Pledging To “Cut The Corporate Tax Rate From The Current 35 Percent Rate To 15 Percent.”

      Obviously, Trump’s able advisers had a hand in crafting what is a solid, Republican plan. I have said for years that we don’t have many problems that wouldn’t be solved by a few years of 4 percent economic growth. Well, the plan that Trump laid out yesterday calls for at least 3.5 percent growth per year — which, considering the anemic growth under President Obama, would be an economic boom. He also wants to cut the corporate tax rate from the current 35 percent rate to 15 percent, and his plan eliminates both the death tax and the carried-interest loophole. Much of this is standard Republican fare that the Democrats and the usual suspects among their apologists will instantly criticize. But that’s okay, because finally, this campaign will be getting around to having arguments about policy.

      […]

      I’m not ready to say Trump would be a good president, but this a good plan. [The Washington Post9/16/16]

      Rogers Attacked Clinton For Saying She Would Make Corporations “Pay Their Fair Share.”

      As I read the economic policy speech Hillary Clinton gave in Michigan yesterday, as a partisan Republican, I was enthused by the prospects. Her economic plan isn’t even Obamanomics 2.0; it is Obamanomics 1.5. For those of you who haven’t read the fact sheet that the Clinton campaign released along with the speech, I encourage you to read it. Here’s the link. It’s a parody of what a real fact sheet should look like. And the tired, pedantic language Clinton uses is cringe-worthy. She wants to tinker around the edges with just more of the same: Raise taxes, spend more, send more money to Washington and give away more money here and there. One of my favorite lines is “Hillary will make sure that corporations and the most fortunate play by the rules and pay their fair share.” Gee, that’s a bold position. The way she sets up her positions to supposedly contrast with those of Donald Trump reads like a Goofus and Gallant page from Highlights magazine. [The Washington Post8/12/16]

    • Right-Wing Media Push Absurd Pizza Lobby Claim That Franchises Are Burdened By Basic Food Labeling

      Pizza Franchises Are Lobbying Trump To Kill Another Public Protection Enshrined In ACA

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

      A pizza industry lobbying campaign against food labeling requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has gained momentum in recent weeks as right-wing media promote exaggerated complaints that it would be “costly and burdensome” to require chain restaurants to display calorie information on menu items. Conservative outlets are urging President Donald Trump to rescind the long-delayed implementation of certain food labeling requirements, while completely ignoring that the long-term benefits of such public protections vastly outweigh the short-term costs.

      On the April 19 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Domino's franchisee owner Chris Reisch asked Trump -- who is an obsessive Fox & Friends viewer -- to stop a rule that was passed as part of the ACA and goes into effect on May 5, requiring chain restaurants to display the calorie counts of items on their menus. Reisch preposterously claimed the food labeling requirement would force him to “have a book at the counter” to display the calorie count of the 34 million topping combinations of Domino’s pizza and promoted the openly ridiculous claim that kitchen staff might face jail time for putting too many toppings on a pizza:

      During his interview, however, Reisch did not disclose that he was recently on Capitol Hill lobbying against food labeling, overtime pay, and labor rights on behalf of the American Pizza Community (APC) -- the lobbying arm of the pizza industry.

      According to The Washington Post, the APC is leading “a desperate push” to curb food labeling standards before they go into effect, “more than seven years after [the ACA] was signed into law” and years after most other chain restaurants already complied with the new standards. Having already gone to Congress with its complaints, the pizza industry may have hoped to reach the president directly via Fox & Friends, which culminated a month-long chorus of right-wing outlets slamming the rule on the industry’s behalf.

      In the past few weeks, right-wing outlets and fringe conservative sites have assailed the ruling, citing its supposedly onerous costs and bemoaning the confusion it could cause for customers. Since March 22, The Washington Free Beacon, PJMedia (twice), the National Review, NewsBusters, Investor’s Business Daily, CNS News, and FoxNews.com have promoted varying arguments that the rule would be “costly and burdensome,” that it “lacked common sense,” and that it amounted to little more than “pizza shaming.” CNS News hyped a report from the food services industry that incorrectly estimated the cost of compliance at $1 billion in its first year and NewsBusters questioned if the government should have any role in mandating that companies disclose nutritional information to the public.

      In reality, the actual ACA rule requires restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to display the calorie counts of all standard menu items, and has exceptions for temporary items. When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published its food labeling standards in November 2014, it estimated that the industry-wide costs would be roughly $1 billion over a 20 year period -- a sum that pales in comparison to the $767 million profit Domino’s earned in 2016 alone. Overall, the FDA estimated that the benefits of Americans eating healthier because of the additional nutritional information would exceed the total cost of implementation by over $8 billion:

      Reisch’s claim that the rule would be too costly loses steam in light of the FDA’s findings but it is even more bizarre considering he admitted that Domino’s already has this information and posts the calorie counts of its pizzas and toppings online. On April 17, MarketWatch reported that pizza companies are opposed to displaying calorie counts on menus even though “Americans are paying more attention to food ingredients” and polling showed up to 68 percent want chain restaurants to post calorie information. On her Food Politics blog, nutrition and public health professor Marion Nestle pointed out that the fierce pushback against posting calories on menus, regardless of the low cost and outsize health benefits, shows that these companies “would rather you did not have this information.” This attitude makes it that much more important for government to protect consumers access to this knowledge.

    • 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.

    • TV News Scrutiny Of Ivanka Trump’s Conflicts Of Interest Spurred By New Bombshell

      Trump Apologists Continued To Deflect Concerns Over Conflicts And Corruption In The White House

      ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

      Broadcast and cable news programs heaped additional scrutiny on Ivanka Trump in the hours after The Associated Press broke a bombshell report that the lifestyle brand she owns had secured valuable trademarks in China before she met with the Chinese president for dinner at her father’s private Mar-a-Lago resort. News of the glaring conflict of interest between Trump’s role as a White House adviser and her private business empire was carried by the major broadcast networks --ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS -- as well as CNN and MSNBC. Fox News ignored the issue entirely during its evening and prime-time programming, and longtime Trump apologist and former Fox host Greta Van Susteren actually defended Trump during her program.

    • STUDY: Cable News’ Sporadic Coverage Of Trump's Hidden Tax Returns

      Nearly Half Of Cable News Discussion Of Trump Tax Returns Since Inauguration Occurred Within A Week Of Rachel Maddow’s Tax Exclusive

      ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

      A Media Matters study found that between President Donald Trump’s January 20 inauguration and Tax Day, April 18, evening cable news has dedicated only sporadic coverage to Trump’s failure to release his tax returns. And of the 110 segments spread out over three months, nearly half came within a week after MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow revealed two leaked pages of Trump’s 2005 tax documents. This inconsistent coverage comes as pressure mounts from activists and Republican lawmakers for the president to release his tax returns, and highlights the media’s inability to consistently report on this story.

    • Media Fall For And Reinforce Trump’s Spin On “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order

      ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

      Multiple media outlets and figures uncritically reported on President Donald Trump’s planned executive order promoting policies that encourage the federal government to “buy American” and “hire American” wherever possible. These outlets and figures did not note that the executive order only calls for a review of current policy, and does not meaningfully change it, and some other outlets buried those crucial details in their reporting.