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Economic policy experts, advocacy groups, and media outlets scrambled to respond to President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year, which includes $54 billion in new defense spending to be offset by dramatic cuts to the entire non-defense discretionary budget. Many observers were quick to point out that the president’s so-called “America First” budget will worsen the suffering of at-risk communities, including many low-income regions that supported his election and are kept afloat economically by federal spending programs.
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Carson Has Repeatedly Expressed Opposition To Government Aid For Poor Americans
President-elect Donald Trump has selected Dr. Ben Carson to serve as his secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carson, a former Fox News contributor, has repeatedly said he opposes government efforts to eradicate poverty, and he has a long history of making off-color and offensive remarks during his stint with the network.
Larry Kudlow And Stephen Moore Attempt To Distract Media Scrutiny Of Trump’s Statement On Housing Crisis By Attacking Clintons
Right-wing economic pundits Larry Kudlow and Stephen Moore claimed that Bill and Hillary Clinton are partly to blame for the housing crisis that rocked the economy during the Bush administration because of their support of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a program intended to expand American home ownership. Kudlow and Moore, who both have served as economic policy advisers to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, pushed this repeatedly debunked myth while attempting to deflect attention from Trump's 2006 statement relishing the potential profits he could reap during a housing and financial crisis.
Kudlow and Moore falsely claimed Hillary Clinton was partly responsible for the housing crash in a May 29 op-ed in The Washington Times, adding that she has no right to lambast Trump for stating in 2006 that he had hoped the housing market crashes so he could buy properties cheaply. Trump has faced continued scrutiny over this statement. New York magazine even called it “a new, lurid reason why he should never be president” and media interest only grew after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called the GOP front-runner “a small insecure money grubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt so long as he makes money off it.” From Kudlow and Moore’s Washington Times piece:
It turns out that Donald Trump has been very good at buying low and selling high, and it helps account for his amazing business success.
Now Hillary Clinton seems to think it’s a crime. Campaigning in California last week she’s wailed that Mr. Trump “actually said he was hoping for the crash that caused hard working families in California and across America to lose their homes, all because he thought he could take advantage of it to make some money for himself.” She’s assailing Mr. Trump for being a good businessman — something she would know almost nothing about because she’s never actually run a business, though she did miraculously turn $1,000 into $1 million in the cattle futures market many years ago.
What is so hypocritical about the Clinton attacks is that it wasn’t Trump, but Hillary, her husband, and many of her biggest supporters who were the real culprits here.
Kudlow and Moore’s anti-Clinton attack is based on their claim that expanding access to mortgages to help low-income Americans buy homes was part of the catalyst for the housing crisis. The two also claimed that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton “went to bat for the housing industry” -- ignoring that Clinton actually pushed for tougher regulations on the financial industry in 2007.
Top economists reject the idea that President Clinton and his policies are to blame for the financial crisis -- including the current and former Federal Reserve chairs from Republican and Democratic administrations. Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke disputed this myth in a November 2008 statement demonstrating that after studying the CRA for over 30 years the Federal Reserve's findings “runs counter to the charge that CRA was at the root of ... current mortgage difficulties." Current Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen found that the CRA did not cause problems but instead the CRA increased “responsible lending” in a March 2008 speech when she was the president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
Kudlow and Moore have a long and well-documented history of distorting facts on the economy. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who has spent years documenting Moore's repeated failures in economic policy, recently slammed the right-wing commentator’s "impressive lack of even minimal technical competence." Kudlow has made many statements berating Americans and even lectured single parents about poverty at an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) -- even though he admitted to having "virtually no knowledge in this field."
Fox & Friends deceptively edited a 2007 video of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to claim that Clinton blamed homeowners for the housing market crash and that she is “flip flopping now” to blame Wall Street. But the speech transcript shows that Clinton indeed blamed Wall Street and a host of other financial actors, saying Wall Street “helped create the foreclosure crisis” and bears “responsibility” for the crash. Fox also downplayed Donald Trump’s expressed hope for a financial crisis in 2006, instead blaming former President Bill Clinton for a market crash and historic recession that occurred during the waning days of the Bush administration.
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Fox News' Special Report criticized a plan to put affordable housing in affluent neighborhoods arguing that "a lot of people" in Baltimore "are not too happy about the plan," while ignoring the benefits of the program.
On the April 4 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, correspondent Leland Vittert detailed a plan in Baltimore County, Maryland that would "spend $30 million over the next ten years to build 1,000 homes in more affluent neighborhoods." Vittert started the segment discussing the crime rates that have "skyrocketed" in "the rougher parts of Baltimore," adding that it is "no surprise, the folks who live" in low-income parts of Baltimore "want out of the poverty." Vittert interviewed Maryland state delegate Pat McDonough who claimed the idea is "social engineering on steroids":
The plan stemmed from a case where the City of Baltimore had been accused of "perpetuating segregated clusters of minority renters with government subsidies by failing to expand affordable options in prosperous neighborhoods." While the segment focused on those who were "not too happy" about the plan, it ignored the benefits to the community. As Doug Donovan reported for The Baltimore Sun:
The agreement resolves a federal housing complaint filed in 2011 by the local NAACP branch, Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. and three county residents. They accused the county of perpetuating segregated clusters of minority renters with government subsidies by failing to expand affordable options in prosperous neighborhoods.
The complainants alleged that the county had maintained policies that kept low-income and minority residents out of the best neighborhoods by spending most of its federal housing money on housing for the elderly occupied primarily by whites, demolishing and failing to replace 4,100 subsidized housing units for families since 1995, and locating Section 8 voucher holders in poor and segregated neighborhoods.
Housing organizations are hopeful that the work will help to provide more families access to better schools for their children. Research shows that can improve their chances of escaping poverty.
"What we have today is justice in housing in Baltimore County," said Robert Strupp, executive director of Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc.
"The lives of residents in the housing development improved markedly after they moved to the affluent suburb," according to The Atlantic which found that "location matters" when determining whether a child will escape poverty:
What's more, the lives of residents in the housing development improved markedly after they moved to the affluent suburb. An increasing amount of data seems to show that location matters just as much as income in determining a child's likelihood of escaping poverty. As I've written about before, children from low-income families who move to more affluent suburbs are more likely to graduate from high school, attend four-year colleges, and have jobs than their peers who stayed in the city. And cities that have made an effort to keep schools desegregated have enjoyed less race-based strife than peer cities.
Fox News has also criticized the broader federal plan from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that aims to increase diversity in American neighborhoods, with some anchors saying the president's plan is strong-arming communities that are "too white [and] too privileged."
Since progressive New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio replaced business-friendly billionaire Michael Bloomberg in January 2014, right-wing media have repeatedly claimed that the new mayor's policies have hurt the city's economy. In fact, according to The New York Times, two years into de Blasio's tenure, New York City has witnessed some of its strongest economic numbers in a half-century. Homelessness remains an issue in the city, but The Times reports that the problem is mostly due to a strong real estate market, and the de Blasio administration has invested in tackling the problem.
In 2015, conservative media outlets -- led by Fox News -- set a new standard for attacking the least fortunate members of American society, targeting low-income workers, recipients of government assistance, and the homeless in a campaign of misinformation. The campaign was so pervasive that President Obama personally addressed it during a leadership summit dedicated to alleviating poverty. In recognition of their exemplary efforts to distort the public discourse on poverty, here are five of the worst trends in right-wing media poor-shaming from 2015.
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Expanded Program Is Part Of An Initiative To End Homelessness In The Nation's Capital
Fox News broadcast misleading reports about a Washington, D.C. initiative to transition homeless families from emergency shelters to year-round housing, hyping the supposed cost to "taxpayers" and mocking the city for "indefinitely" housing homeless families in "hotels."
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Scarborough: "The Squeegees Are Coming... The Homeless Are All Over The City"
MSNBC Morning Joe host and former Republican member of Congress Joe Scarborough purported to express outrage at the lack of "humane" living conditions for New York City's homeless population, calling it the result of "liberalism at its worst" and attacking New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for "allowing a homeless epidemic to start spreading across New York again." Scarborough's comments were a direct echo of previous attacks by right-wing media on the city's homeless population and blaming of de Blasio, and ignored the fact that the mayor is actually strengthening outreach and prevention strategies left over from the previous administration and discontinuing "dangerous and unhealthy" temporary housing.
A Fox News report on the so-called "unintended consequences" of Seattle, Washington's municipal minimum wage increase included the unsubstantiated claim that better pay is encouraging workers to work less so that they stay in poverty and continue receiving government benefits. This report fits the network's anti-minimum wage, poor-shaming narrative, but ignores the many benefits of increasing the minimum wage.
In June 2014, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved legislation increasing the city's minimum wage to $11 per hour for most employees on April 1, 2015 and to $15 per hour over the course of a 3-to-7-year phase-in period. The decision was praised by many groups like the National Employment Law Project (NELP) as a necessary step toward alleviating inequality and lifting low-wage workers out of poverty.
On the July 22 editions of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Happening Now, and Special Report, correspondent Dan Springer reported that Seattle is facing the "unintended consequences" of increasing its minimum wage. The worst of these consequences, he claims, is that some employees "make too much money to stay on certain welfare programs" and are requesting fewer hours because "the raises [are] pushing them over the income threshold and out of welfare programs like subsidized food, child care, and rent." In all three segments, Springer's evidence for this alleged poverty trap was an interview with Seattle-based radio host Jason Rantz, not with actual recipients who rely on government assistance.
Other so-called "consequences" of the increased minimum wage included restaurants raising prices and requesting patrons not to tip their wait staff. Springer also cited a comic book store in San Francisco (not Seattle) which blames that city's increased minimum wage for its lack of profitability:
The core of Fox's claim that many low-income Americans would rather stay on anti-poverty relief programs than work fits the network's long-standing campaign to attack and shame low-income workers. It is also a variation of the discredited "Welfare Cliff" argument frequently pushed by the network.
In addition, the claim that increased wages are boosting restaurant prices, and thereby hurting tipped workers, is blatantly misleading and plays into Fox's misinformation campaign against the minimum wage. For example, Ivar's Salmon House, a Seattle icon, increased its menu prices and no longer accepts tips. But, according to NPR, the restaurant decided to institute the full $15 minimum wage three years ahead of schedule for its employees and now automatically prices gratuity into the bill, which thus far has not hurt sales or workers. Several restaurants, including one in the District of Columbia, have responded to calls for an increased minimum wage by unilaterally raising their own pay and informing customers that it is no longer necessary to tip wait staff.
Conservative media have claimed for more than a year that Seattle's minimum wage would hurt the city's restaurants and small businesses, but a March 17 report by The Seattle Times revealed little anxiety about the pay increase. In fact, according to data from the Seattle Office of Economic and Financial Analysis, the city witnessed a small spike in restaurant permit requests in the month before wage increases were set to go into effect but otherwise requests have remained relatively flat. Finally, according to a June 4 report by Common Dreams, several of the most outspoken local opponents of Seattle's minimum wage increase have actually opened new restaurants and increased staff hiring since the ordinance went into effect.