Economy

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  • Fox Echoes Trump’s Attacks On Tax March: “The Election Is Over!”

    Trump Apologists Cannot Understand Why Protests Aimed At Trump’s Tax Returns Would Coincide With Tax Day

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox News echoed the insults and attacks President Donald Trump leveled against tens of thousands of Americans that took part in over 180 rallies and events in 48 states over the weekend in protest of the president’s refusal to disclose his tax returns.

    On April 15, the day that federal tax returns are typically due to be filed, organizers in Washington, D.C. and across the country led Tax March demonstrations in protest of Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns to the public. Trump attacked the protestors in a series of tweets the following day, complaining that his “tax returns are being brought up again,” diminishing the nationwide demonstrations as “small organized rallies,” and suggesting that demonstrators were paid to oppose him. Trump concluded by exclaiming “the election is over!”

    Taking their cue from Trump, Fox News media personalities proceeded to blast the Tax March. On the April 17 edition of Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee questioned “the timing of this” and wondered if the protests were a distraction given “everything that’s going on in the world.” Guest Adam Goodman, a Republican strategist, agreed with her assessment adding that “for many, as I think you can now see, the campaign isn’t over, it’s never over.”

    The April 17 edition of Fox’s Outnumbered led its segment bashing the protesters by displaying Trump’s tweet calling for the protestors to be “looked into” and co-host Meghan McCain deflected criticism of Trump’s unprecedented refusal to disclose his tax information because he was not legally required to release it. Guest Guy Benson, political editor of Townhall, complained that the Tax March and other protests against Trump’s presidency made him feel “fatigue,” and wondered “why this issue, why a giant protest now?” Later that evening, on Fox Business’ Kennedy, host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery piled on the criticism, calling the protesters “a collection of free wheeling leftists” who are “bored” with the Trump administration and disgruntled Clinton supporters who have not gotten over the election.

    Fox continued to mock the protesters and playdown the importance of Trump releasing his tax returns into the following day. On the April 18 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox contributor and the Trump campaign’s deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, falsely claimed “the American people don’t care” if Trump discloses his tax returns and that the marchers were “paid professional protesters.” Later that morning, on Fox Business’ Varney & Co., Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano acknowledged Trump’s taxes were an important issue during the campaign but reiterated Trump’s talking point that “the campaign is over” and “this is no longer relevant.” Host Stuart Varney, however, admitted that the tax returns might reveal Trump could make “enormous” gains from the tax cuts he campaigned on.

    While Trump’s devotees and apologists at Fox regurgitated his rhetoric, investigative reporter and tax specialist David Cay Johnston -- who had previously obtained a copy of Trump’s 2005 tax returns -- explained on the April 18 edition of MSNBC’s MSNBC Live that complete tax disclosure remains important in rooting out conflicts of interest and understanding how much Trump would benefit from his tax agenda:

    Fox News defended Trump hiding his tax returns throughout the 2016 election season and seems poised to continue. The network has repeatedly held Trump to a different standard than other presidents and politicians.

  • With Tax March Looming, Watch Fox’s Absurd Defense Of Trump Hiding His Tax Returns

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Donald Trump broke with decades of precedent in 2016 by refusing to release his tax returns in the midst of his presidential campaign, a stubborn refusal he has maintained since taking office in January. On April 15, the day tax filings are traditionally due, Americans will march in over 100 cities around the country to demand that the president fully disclose his tax and financial records. Before the Tax March, take a look at some attempts by Trump's team of Fox News sycophants to defend his unprecedented refusal to disclose his tax returns.

  • VIDEO: Media Can't Ignore The Voices of Activists

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & JOHN KERR

    In a time of historic protests and activism against bigoted and hateful policies of President Donald Trump and his administration, news outlets need to scrap the so-called “fair and balanced” panels of pundits and politicians speculating and judging protests from a studio.

    Since day one of the Trump administration, there have been organized efforts around the country to protest the president’s policies. These include the Women’s March On Washington in January which mobilized an estimated 3.6 to 4.6 million protestors around the world, demonstrations at airports across the U.S. a week later to protest banning and detaining Muslim travelers, the International Women’s Day Strike, the upcoming Tax Day March in April to pressure Trump to release his full tax returns, the People’s Climate March in the same month, and the Immigration March in May. Journalists can no longer ignore the activists, organizers and protestors who are taking to the streets and to town halls across the country to demand accountability and change.

    Media have dismissed the protests as spectacles, alleged that they are being staged, or falsely claimed that the protesters are paid to show up. Activists have been central to the evolution of American democracy and have fought for policies that are more inclusive and that better their communities.

    News outlets need to let activists tell their stories.

  • Wash. Post Uses Shabby Reporting To Justify Cutting Social Security Disability Insurance

    Experts Browbeat The Post’s Call For “Reform” Of SSDI At A Time Of “Unprecedented Inequality”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Washington Post’s editorial board used its paper’s own flawed profile of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients to justify the unsubstantiated claim that the program discourages people with disabilities from working and therefore “needs reform” in the form of increased restrictions and benefit cuts.

    On March 30, the Post ran a profile of a struggling low-income family as a proxy for millions of Americans who are dependent on SSDI that bordered on poverty shaming. The article misleadingly characterized SSDI recipients and the social safety net in ways that echoed myths commonly peddled by right-wing media outlets.

    Then, on April 8, the Post‘s editorial board referred back to the paper’s portrayal of SSDI while misleadingly claiming that the program’s eligibility requirements create “every incentive to cease working,” and that those requirements are part of the reason so few beneficiaries ever return to the workforce. The editorial board bizarrely added that recipients would be incentivized to work if SSDI benefits could be scaled down gradually as workers with disabilities returned to the workforce. Yet, the Post makes no mention that SSDI already has a return to work trial period where recipients can attempt to rejoin the labor force without losing assistance. Even more peculiar, while it argued for unneeded reforms, by the editorial board’s own admission the program is not actually rife with wasteful spending and recipients are only eligible if their disability prevents them from working. From The Washington Post:

    Nor is the program’s growth the result of rampant fraud, as sometimes alleged; structural factors such as population aging explain much recent growth. Nevertheless, at a time of declining workforce participation, especially among so-called prime-age males (those between 25 and 54 years old), the nation’s long-term economic potential depends on making sure work pays for all those willing to work. And from that point of view, the Social Security disability program needs reform.

    In particular, SSDI’s rules require that applicants be unable to engage in any significant paying work, or “substantial gainful activity,” in the program’s argot. Would-be recipients thus have every incentive to cease working completely to qualify — and to avoid rehabilitation lest they lose cash benefits and that all-important health care. And, in fact, only a tiny percentage of SSDI beneficiaries return to the labor force once they exit. “The decision to apply, in many cases, is a decision to effectively abandon working altogether,” as [Washington Post reporter Terrence] McCoy wrote. “For the severely disabled, this choice is, in essence, made for them. But for others, it’s murkier. Aches accumulate. Years pile up. Job prospects diminish.” The typical SSDI recipient now is a middle-aged worker whose main ailment is musculoskeletal or psychological.

    The Post is overselling the notion that SSDI creates an incentive for people with disabilities to abstain from work -- and it is doing so while linking back to research on ailments of SSDI recipients that was published in 1995. In actuality, SSDI recipients are only eligible to receive benefits if the Social Security Administration agrees that their disability prevents them from working. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), which analyzed data collected by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), eligibility requirements in the United States are already “among the strictest in the world” and program benefits “are less generous than most other countries’ disability benefit programs.” According to CAP, almost 80 percent of SSDI applicants are denied during the initial application and “thousands of applicants die” annually waiting to learn if they will receive assistance. Furthermore, CAP also found that disability recipients who are approved tend to skew older and had worked in physically demanding jobs before applying for benefits.

    An April 9 blog from Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) economist and co-founder Dean Baker browbeat the Post for complaining about people with disabilities not working when inequality is at an “unprecedented” level -- the paper’s tone deafness is all the more apparent at a time when the wealthiest Americans live a decade longer than their low-income counterparts. Baker continued by pointing out that the benefits from SSDI are far from lavish, averaging a mere $1,170 a month, which amounts to less than a full-time job paying the federal minimum wage.

    The editorial board closed its call for needlessly reforming SSDI by claiming that its aim is to “help people with disabilities retain the earnings and dignity that come from work,” an argument that mirrored rhetoric from the right-wing Heritage Foundation for a more “compassionate” policy of work incentives and dropping recipients after a set time on the program.

    The Post’s repeated mischaracterization of SSDI follows a long history of misinformation from mainstream outlets, which often publish error-riddled stories filled with anecdotal evidence portraying disability recipients as undeserving. These pieces sound as if they come from right-wing media, which have spent years attacking the program and its recipients.

  • Fox Host Admits Unwillingness To Criticize Trump For Mediocre March Jobs Report

    Stuart Varney: “If We’d Have Had 98,000 New Jobs In Any Month During The Obama Administration, We Would Be All Over Them”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney admitted on air to a clear double standard on how he and Fox cover the monthly jobs report for presidents of different political parties. Less than an hour after a disappointing jobs report was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Varney revealed that if a similarly “weak” report had been published under President Barack Obama, he would have castigated the president as a “failure” -- something he admittedly wouldn’t do to President Donald Trump.

    On April 7, the BLS reported that the American economy added just 98,000 jobs in March while the unemployment dropped slightly to 4.5 percent. The report also revised down the number of jobs created in January and February by 38,000. Though the improved unemployment rate is the lowest in 10 years, the number of new jobs created was far lower than the 175,000 jobs economists expected for the month. Less than an hour after the report was announced, Varney called it “a very weak jobs report” but refused to lay blame on Trump. Varney admitted that, had this report come out during the Obama administration, “we would be all over them” for the supposed “failure of the president's economic policy.”

    Varney repeatedly downplayed positive economic indicators during the Obama administration. Indeed, one year ago, he tried to spin the March 2016 jobs report by questioning the “quality” of the 215,000 new jobs created. Months earlier, he had claimed that 292,000 new jobs created in December 2015 were “modest by historical standards,” even though it was one of the strongest reports of the entire year and showed nearly three times the number of jobs shown in the March 2017 report.

    Varney’s momentary break of character shines a light on his network’s “fair and balanced” charade, but the spectacle has been on full display since Trump took office. Fox News praised a solid January jobs report as “fantastic news,” and wrongly credited Trump for creating jobs that actually predated his inauguration. A month later, Fox personalities, including Varney, lauded a solid February jobs report as proof that Trump is simply “winning everywhere” and held it up as evidence of the “‘beginnings,’ of a potential Trump Economic Era.” Even this morning, Fox News initially declared that the same jobs report Varney described as “weak” would stand as part of “the most successful day” of Trump’s presidency.

    Watch Varney’s admission on the April 7 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): Look, if we'd have had 98,000 new jobs in any month during the Obama administration, we would be all over them.

    ASHLEY WEBSTER: Yes.

    VARNEY: Failure of the president. Failure of the president's economic policy. Okay? Why shouldn't I say that now about Mr. Trump?

    JOHN LONSKI: Well go ahead.

    VARNEY: No, I’m not gonna do that.

    LONSKI: But we haven’t had the president in office for long, and you haven’t had enough time really to put together a policy. They tried it on the health care front. Maybe they tried too quickly. Maybe that hurt them.

  • Wash. Post Profile Of Disability Insurance Recipients Borders On Poverty Shaming

    The Post Is Just Asking -- Are Millions Of Americans Legitimately “Disabled, Or Just Desperate” For Work?

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    A Washington Post profile of a struggling low-income family painted what the Center for American Progress called a “dystopian portrait” of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program and its recipients. The negative framing of the disabled echoed misleading portrayals commonly promoted by right-wing media.

    The in-depth March 30 article used a low-income family in rural Alabama as a proxy for rural communities around the country that have become increasingly dependent on the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program over the past two decades. Unfortunately, the Post’s profile of the state of disability in the United States pushed a number of misleading characterizations of SSDI and its recipients that are commonly peddled by right-wing media outlets when they target the social safety net:

    • The article stated disability usage “has surged … from 7.7 million to 13 million” since 1996, failing to provide context for how SSDI recipients compare to a population of well over 320 million while glossing over the predictable demographic trends responsible for the uptick.
    • The Post neglected to mention that only 13 million out of more than 53 million American adults living with a disability actually receive benefits from SSDI.
    • The article highlighted the raw amount of money the federal government projects to spend on SSDI this year ($192 billion) without contextualizing that sum as a proportion of overall federal spending (less than 5 percent).
    • The article manufactured a false dichotomy between “the severely disabled,” who obviously cannot work for a living, and supposedly “murkier” cases where enrolling in SSDI “is a decision to effectively abandon working altogether” by an otherwise able-bodied person.
    • The article followed a man, Desmond Spencer, who suffers from chronic pain resulting from on-the-job injuries accumulated through a career in manual labor, but it focused on the shame he feels at the thought of applying for SSDI without considering if he might actually qualify for assistance.
    • The article continually juxtaposed Spencer’s difficulty in finding gainful employment with his struggle over applying for SSDI, even though being unemployed for nonmedical reasons is not a criterion for the program.
    • The article scrupulously detailed unhealthful daily habits of several SSDI recipients -- smoking and drinking soda -- that are typical behaviors for tens of millions of Americans but often portrayed as wasteful when they are done by individuals receiving government benefits.

    Rebecca Vallas of the Center for American Progress chided the Post for creating a “dystopian portrait where Social Security disability benefits represent out-of-control government spending riddled with rampant abuse.” Vallas wrote that qualification for the program is actually “incredibly hard” and linked to July 2014 testimony from the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, which explained that aging Baby Boomers, natural population growth, and women entering the workforce are primarily responsible for increased disability usage. Most importantly, Vallas concluded her response by noting that narratives similar to that published by the Post have been used in the past by conservative opponents of safety net programs.

    A response from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) analyst Kathleen Romig hit the Post’s write-up of SSDI for focusing so intently on “an atypical case: a young applicant in a county with an unusually high share of disability beneficiaries.” Romig also noted that it’s misleading to conflate absence of local job opportunities with a spike in disability cases because applicants must “prove that they can’t earn substantial wages anywhere across the economy — regardless of whether such work exists where they live.”

    A March 31 statement from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) added even more critical context missing from the Post’s report, including statistics detailing the strict standards for SSDI, the high likelihood that recipients are dealing with a terminal illness, and the fact that the number of people receiving benefits through SSDI has “level[ed] off and is projected to decline further in the coming years.”

    The pitfalls and blind spots bedeviling the Post’s foray into disability coverage are nothing new. In 2013, NPR’s Planet Money and All Things Considered and WBEZ’s This American Life promoted an error-riddled story using anecdotal evidence to portray disability recipients as grifters gaming the system. Months later, CBS News’ 60 Minutes aired a similarly misleading report, which falsely claimed SSDI is “ravaged by waste and fraud” and promoted biased research produced by partisan opponents seeking to gut the program.

    The Post’s mischaracterization of SSDI as a seemingly simple way for low-income Americans to secure a source of income is the kind of misinformation disability advocates have come to expect from Fox News, which has spent years attacking the program and its recipients.

  • Fox Business Host Allows Industry CEO To Continue Denying The Real Reason For Coal’s Decline 

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney allowed a coal mining company CEO who previously said President Donald Trump couldn’t bring back coal jobs to walk back those comments, while Varney himself pushed the myth that environmental protections are to blame for the loss of jobs in the coal industry.

    A March 27 article in The Guardian reported that Robert Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, the largest privately owned coal company in the United States, acknowledged that technological advances and competition from renewable energies and natural gas are responsible for the coal industry’s decline. Murray warned that Trump should “temper” his expectations for a return of coal mining jobs because he “can’t bring them back.” Trump has repeatedly promised that he will reinvigorate the industry by rolling back regulations.

    A week after Murray spoke with The Guardian, Varney allowed the CEO to walk back his comments. On the April 3 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., Varney repeated Murray’s quote from the news report and asked, “Why can’t the president bring back coal mining jobs if he gets rid of these damaging climate restrictions?” Murray replied, “Well, he can. It’s the degree to which he brings them back. I was asked when I was quoted, ‘Can he bring them back to where they were?’” Murray added that Trump could bring back “at least half” of the 63,000 coal jobs that he said were lost due to environmental protections.

    Numerous experts have debunked the claim that Trump can bring back tens of thousands of coal jobs. As an energy economist at the University of Wyoming told 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.”

    Murray’s comments come at a time when coal mining is vastly overshadowed by employment in the renewable energy sector. The Associated Press reported that “coal mining now accounts for fewer than 70,000 U.S. jobs. By contrast, renewable energy — including wind, solar and biofuels — now accounts for more than 650,000 U.S. jobs.” And a recent analysis by the Sierra Club found that “only six states have more jobs in coal and gas than clean energy -- and the growth of clean energy suggests that won’t be the case for long.”

    A Media Matters review of Nexis transcripts found that over the years, Murray has been a frequent guest on Fox Business, where he has repeatedly pushed the lie that coal mining job losses were due solely to environmental regulations. On the rare occasions when Fox Business hosts asked Murray about the impact of technology or natural gas on the coal industry, Murray downplayed the significance of those factors or pivoted back to attacking environmental regulations.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of Fox Business from the last five years using Robert Murray and coal, Robert Murray and (automat! o technolog!), and Robert Murray and natural gas.

  • Right-Wing Media Commemorate Equal Pay Day By Recycling Misleading Attacks On Progressives

    Fox News Joins Chorus Accusing Elizabeth Warren Of Hypocrisy On Pay Equity

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Equal Pay Day, which fell on April 4, “symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year,” according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. Right-wing media outlets, which have long denied the very existence of a gender pay gap, used the annual commemoration as an excuse to attack progressives as hypocrites on the need for pay equity, airing recycled and debunked talking points previously used against President Barack Obama and former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    On April 4, the right-wing Washington Free Beacon commemorated Equal Pay Day by misleadingly claiming that the “gender pay gap” experienced by female staffers working for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is “nearly 10 percent wider than the national average,” according to its own review of Senate salary data. The article claimed that “median annual earnings” for women working in Warren’s office for the entirety of 2016 were “more than $20,000 less than the median annual earnings for men” while “average salaries rather than median” showed a roughly “31 percent” pay gap. The article slammed Warren for paying five men larger salaries than that of her highest-paid woman staffer and concluded by noting several prominent Democratic politicians who supposedly “pay women less than men,” including Clinton and Obama:

    Warren is far from the only politician who pays women less than men.

    Most notable on the list is failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who paid women less than men first as a senator, then as secretary of state, and as a presidential candidate. Her campaign viewed her tendency to pay women less than men as a campaign vulnerability.

    Former President Barack Obama regularly spoke out about the gender pay gap, but women working at the White House were paid less than men.

    The Free Beacon’s misleading analysis of Warren was picked up by other right-wing outlets, including The Daily Caller and The Washington Times. The April 4 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight also featured the report during a segment wherein the host mocked Warren as “a fake Native American” and Townhall editor Katie Pavlich claimed the news proved Warren “is not a champion for women”:

    The attacks right-wing media used against Warren rely on the exact same debunked “analysis” they have used to smear progressive elected officials on equal pay before: On February 23, 2015, the Free Beacon claimed that Hillary Clinton, as senator, paid female staffers “72 cents for each dollar paid to men” in a piece titled “Hillary Clinton’s War On Women.” Fox host Sean Hannity echoed the claim, saying the article proved Clinton “paid female staffers a lot less than men.” Fox host Greg Gutfeld hyped a similarly deceptive claim in 2012, saying that women who work in the Obama White House generally earn less than men. In reality, PolitiFact debunked the Free Beacon/Hannity claim, rating it as “Mostly False” and noting that Hannity’s analysis “ignores critical facts.” Gutfeld was proven wrong as well: American Prospect columnist Paul Waldman reported that the data on Obama staff pay indicated that “men, on average, are occupying higher-paying jobs in the White House ... not that women are being paid less for doing the same job.” (At no point in this years-long charade have right-wing media acknowledged the systemic problem of men being overrepresented in leadership roles.)

    As has always been the case, Fox News and other right-wing outlets seem to care about the pay gap women face in the workplace only when it’s politically advantageous to do so. When they aren’t cherry-picking statistics to malign progressives, Fox personalities frequently dismiss pay inequality as “an absolute myth” and attribute it “to women’s choices” rather than discrimination. Yet, the real myth is that the pay gap is caused by women choosing lower-paying jobs. As CNN analyst Christine Romans explained on the April 4 edition of New Day, women face a pay gap because “even in the same job categories, men make more”:

    Despite continued efforts to make pay in the United States more equitable, the gender pay gap persists. According to the Center for American Progress, women still earn only 79 cents for every dollar a man makes and the pay gap is even wider for women of color. April 4 marked the day when working women finally caught up to the earnings men accrued in 2016, but all Fox and the right-wing chorus wanted to do to commemorate the occasion was push tired and recycled myths.