On Tuesday Fox News broadcast an episode of their “Entitlement Nation” series that made some startling claims about the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (aka food stamps). What was not startling was that they got it all wrong (as reported here on News Corpse). Fox & Friends co-host, Abby Huntsman, asserted that “$70 million of taxpayer money was wasted on food stamp fraud.” Then she asked “Is it time to end the program altogether?” Because eliminating a program that keeps millions of kids and seniors from starving is preferable to looking for ways to reduce a minuscule amount of alleged fraud.
Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has weighed in to chastise Fox for their “mistakes.” They wrote to the network asking them “to correct a report from Tuesday morning’s edition of ‘Fox & Friends’ alleging new heights for food-stamp fraud in the United States.” They stated that the agency had not issued any data for 2016 and that they didn’t know where Fox was getting their info. Except to say that “We saw that there was a story on Breitbart.”
So Huntsman aired a retraction of her dangerously false food stamp story Friday, saying that the data she cited was incorrect. However, she went on to assert another falsehood saying that the “correct” number for food stamp fraud was $853 million for the three years from 2009 to 2011. In fact, that number refers to any errors (i.e. under/over payments), not just fraud. And it’s still an uncommonly low error rate. What’s more, Fox removed the original story from their website, leaving only a correction but no indication of what they corrected. That is not how ethical journalists operate.
So now that Fox has apologized for reporting false information, will they also retract their suggestion that the SNAP program be eliminated? Not likely. Fox News and the Republican Party have opposed virtually every social welfare program, including Social Security and Medicare. And they are currently obsessed with repealing ObamaCare. They are devoted to making life more difficult for people who are already undergoing hardship. While simultaneously they strive to make life easier for the wealthy by reducing taxes and regulations that benefit the population at large. So merry Christmas and happy new year from Fox News.
Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men. That’s the spirit of Christmas and the crass marketing slogan so fiercely defended by the Christmas Warriors at Fox News. Which makes the Fox & Friends segment Tuesday morning all the more shocking for its cruel indifference to human suffering.
Co-host Abby Huntsman introduced the segment as part their recurring “Entitlement Nation” series. These are generally excuses to attack the less fortunate among our American family. Past episodes have explored such nonsense as ObamaPhones and the lazy moochers on welfare with their extravagant microwave ovens.
Tuesday’s cheery holiday discussion was about whether SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps) ought to be discontinued. Because what’s more Christmasy than depriving poor families of lavish indulgences like food? To that end Huntsman raised the issue with her guests, Republican Joe Borelli and Democrat Jehmu Greene. And she framed the “fair and balanced” debate saying:
“Food stamp fraud is at an all-time high […] This year it is estimated that $70 million of taxpayer money was wasted on food stamp fraud. Is it time to end the program altogether?”
Good question, Ms. Scrooge. Don’t bother trying to reduce the alleged waste, just eliminate critical funding for food that keeps working families from starving. Not surprisingly, her Republican guest answered the question in the affirmative:
Borelli: “The Republican Party can’t be either in perception or in practice as the party that is seen as throwing people to the curb and cutting off benefits when they really need it. That said said, this program, the SNAP program, the reincarnation of the food stamp program, has been rife with problems since almost its inception.”
So Borelli’s position is that the GOP must avoid looking insensitive, while still being insensitive. It’s an admittedly tricky political maneuver. But one that Republicans have many decades of experience with. The Democrat actually offered some substance in her rebuttal:
Greene: “We certainly have to have this conversation by looking at the facts. And the facts are that 45 percent of the recipients of SNAP programs are under the age of eighteen. Nine percent of them are over the age of sixty. This is a program that keeps young people and elderly people out of poverty.
Greene also pointed out that the SNAP program helps the economy. That’s because for every five dollars that’s spent, nine dollars goes right back into the local economy. Meanwhile, Borelli incorrectly said that one percent of the spending on SNAP was lost to fraud. It’s actually only one-tenth of one percent (Republicans don’t do math). That’s an uncommonly low rate of loss for any program or even for commercial businesses.
Borelli went on to complain that the cost of the program doubled in the past eight years. What he didn’t say is that the costs went up because more people needed assistance due to the Bush Recession. Also, inflation has required the benefits to increase. If the minimum wage increased at the same rate there would be far fewer families who need this to supplement their income. But Republicans oppose that as well.
The SNAP program has proven to be an essential benefit that keeps children, seniors, and other low-income Americans from going hungry. It helps the economy, and is effective and cost efficient. In fact, the overall cost of the program is falling as the economy improves. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports that:
“In fiscal year 2015, the federal government spent about $75 billion on SNAP. About 93 percent went directly to benefits that households used to purchase food. About 6 percent went to state administrative costs.”
Given the success of the program, it makes no sense to consider discontinuing it. But to suggest doing so during the Christmas holiday is downright cold-hearted. Fox News and the Republican Party have opposed virtually every social welfare program, including Social Security and Medicare. They are currently obsessed with repealing ObamaCare and cancelling the health insurance of 20 million people. But you might think they would withhold their most callous tendencies until after the Season of Joy. Sadly, you would be wrong.
Apparently America is going to suffer through four years of deranged ranting by an infantile tweetaholic pretending to be president. Donald Trump’s skin is just as rice paper thin as ever. Despite having claimed an Electoral College victory and promising to “act presidential,” such behavior continues to evade him.
On the day after Christmas Trump, who still doesn’t have time to attend national security briefings, managed to keep his Twitter followers entertained. And true to form, he had nothing to say other than to disparage his foes and glorify himself. The first Xmas exaltation was directed at President Obama’s recent assertion that he would have beaten Trump in a rematch:
President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me. He should say that but I say NO WAY! – jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.
It’s cute that the issues Trump chose to feature in his rebuttal were all examples of Obama successes. He presided over the creation of 22 million jobs in the longest period of private sector job growth in history. The unemployment rate was cut by more than half, from 10.1 percent to 4.9 percent. As for ISIS, under Obama’s command the terrorist organization lost tens of thousands of fighters. According to the general in charge we have killed 45,000 in just the last two years. And that includes many of their top leaders. We have also substantially reduced the territory that ISIS controlled and their ability to raise revenue. And ObamaCare just completed the sign up period for 2017 with record numbers (6.4 million) of newly insured citizens.
Trump’s blatantly wrong commentary on Obama’s record was not his only glaring mistake. He also made the ludicrous assertion that there is “NO WAY” that Obama would have beaten him. He doesn’t explain his reasoning, but since he is the most unpopular president-elect in history it seems like a difficult argument to make. Especially when Obama is enjoying sky high favorability ratings.
Not content to embarrass himself with that tweet, Trump let loose again with one that may be even more absurd:
The world was gloomy before I won – there was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10% and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars!
You will have to use your imagination to figure out what “gloomy” world Trump is living in. Although he spoke of it often during his campaign. To hear it from him, America is hell hole on the scale of something out of Mad Max. Never mind the employment and economic advances that occurred over the past eight years. Trump touts the 10 percent increase in the stock market since the beginning of November. Of course, he isn’t president and couldn’t have had anything to do with it. And he doesn’t mention the 150 percent increase since the beginning of Obama’s presidency. Pretty gloomy, huh?
What’s more, Trump thinks that somehow he is responsible for people buying their loved ones Christmas presents. So now Trump is Santa Claus too? How appropriate that he would exhibit his messiah complex on the anniversary of the birth of his messiah. Perhaps he is also responsible for everyone who was healed of an illness in the past month.
Continuing late into the evening, Trump posted a tweet lauding his philanthropy:
I gave millions of dollars to DJT Foundation, raised or recieved millions more, ALL of which is given to charity, and media won't report!
Now he’s just flat out lying, which for him is a natural state of being. IRS records show that Trump has not donated anything to his foundation since 2008. And his disbursements mainly benefited himself. He gave $25,000 to a Florida Attorney General who then dropped the investigation on him that her office was conducting. He gave another $250,000 to settle the terms of a lawsuit he lost. Those are both illegal uses for charitable funds.
And then there were the portraits of himself that he purchased as well as some sports memorabilia. Again, that’s misuse of foundation funds. Last week he announced that he’s shutting down his foundation, which he can’t do while the New York Attorney General is investigating it for fraud.
Finally, one Twitter response to Trump’s brag-fest offered a poll to gauge who would really have won in an Obama/Trump match-up. At the time of this writing, Obama was ahead by three to one. Of course, this is not a scientific poll. However it is posted on Trump’s Twitter feed where he might be expected to have an advantage:
So even on his home turf, Trump is a loser. And that’s after losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by a historic margin (over 2.8 million votes). And Clinton’s favorables aren’t anywhere near as high as Obama’s. So let that sink in, Mr. Trump. And I’m sure we can expect some thin-skinned, half-baked tweets to follow as soon as you get your tiny hands on your phone.
It’s been a month since the election and most Americans are still perplexed as to how Donald Trump eked out his Electoral College victory. Analysts are pouring over data and struggling to come up with explanations. Common sense challenges the notion that a reality TV game show host could become president following a campaign rife with ignorance and hatred.
On Thursday night, however, Rachel Maddow reported on the results of a new Public Policy Polling (PPP) Poll that sheds some light on this mystery. And, not surprisingly, it had nothing to do with common sense. The poll compared the responses of Trump voters to those of the electorate at large. The differences are startling and disturbing.
Maddow starts off with a general question on the popularity of Donald Trump and President Barack Obama. The poll shows a majority of Americans (51%) have an unfavorable opinion Trump and a favorable (50%) opinion of Obama. However, Trump voters are wildly out of the mainstream with a whopping ninety percent unfavorable view of Obama. But that’s a purely subjective question and we all know that the nation has a marked partisan split. Where this descends into absurdity is when the questions address factual matters. Observe and cringe:
The Stock Market
The PPP poll asked respondents whether the stock market was higher or lower during the Obama administration. A shocking thirty-nine percent said that they believe the market is lower after eight years of Obama. The truth, of course, is that the market rose over 140 percent, from about 8,000 to over 19,600. That is not subjective. It is an easily provable fact. And it demonstrates just how averse the Trump voters are to facts.
The Unemployment Rate
PPP then asked about an issue that was consistently at the top of the list of voter concerns: Jobs. On this matter sixty-seven percent of Trump voters said that they believed the unemployment rate had risen under Obama. In fact, it has fallen from a high of 10.1 percent to the present 4.6 percent. For comparison, seventy-four percent of Democrats got the answer right.
The Popular Vote
Another data point that relies purely on facts is the result of the election. This year the “loser” of the presidency received more than two and a half million votes more than the “winner.” But if you ask Trump voters you’ll find that forty percent of them think The Donald won the popular vote.
Trump’s Tax Returns
Somehow, Trump managed to get through the election without releasing his tax returns, breaking a fifty year streak. The American people aren’t pleased. Fifty-nine percent still say that he should release them. But Trump voters are so tunnel-blinded by hero worship that fifty-nine percent of them say he shouldn’t bother. So despite all of the obvious potential for conflicts of interest, Trump voters would rather be left in the dark.
A couple more questions in the poll were similarly unsettling. Seventy-three percent of Trump voters believe that George Soros paid people to protest against Trump. He didn’t. Twenty-nine percent of Trump voters think California’s votes should not be counted in the popular vote total. WTF? Perhaps they are supporters of CalExit: California Independence. Sixty percent of Trump voters believe that millions voted illegally for Clinton. There is zero evidence of even a handful of such votes. And all of this lead to Maddow delivering this conclusion:
“I think it shows that even after the election, what Trump voters believe about the world is distinctively different from what the rest of the country believe. And from what is true. And this alternate reality that they’re in is weird enough and specific enough that you can’t say it just springs from broader misunderstandings or from a broader ignorance on issues that afflict the country. This is a specific alternate reality that was created by the Trump movement for a political purpose. And it worked for that political purpose.” […] “The incoming president basically created this fantasy life for his supporters.”
That pretty much says it all. However, there are a few other points to consider. Trump’s voters were inordinately influenced by his perpetual lying (see the Trump Bullshitopedia). Combine that with supporting fake news purveyors like Breitbart News, Infowars, and Fox News, and you have a virtual wall of propaganda (much of it paid for by Russia, not Mexico). It was a purposeful strategy to present the nation as a crumbling garbage heap. Otherwise there would have been no argument for Trump’s candidacy. He couldn’t run against a prosperous economy, full employment, and the highest rate of citizens with health insurance. Nor would his vulgarity, ignorance, and bigotry have been tolerated absent the horror story version of America he fabricated.
So now Trump will assume the helm of a nation that Obama rescued from near collapse. Don’t be surprised when he takes credit for everything Obama did. And don’t be surprised when he undoes it with his agenda which is identical to the one that caused all the problems in the first place.
The 2016 presidential race has been most notable for the Republican candidate’s utter refusal to bring anything of substance to the debate. Donald Trump pointedly avoids nearly all policy details in favor of childish insults, empty sloganeering, and lately, deranged outbursts. In the past week alone he called President Obama “the founder of ISIS,” and suggested that “the Second Amendment people” were the only ones who could stop Hillary Clinton.
That’s what makes it so surprising when a prominent spokesman for the right-wing agenda says something that actually makes sense. This happened Friday on the Fox Business Network during a discussion on the “Dueling Economic Visions” of Trump and Hillary Clinton. Host Charles Payne introduced the segment and turned to economist Ben Stein to give his opinion of the Trump economic plan. What happened next was completely unexpected:
Stein: Well I don’t think Mr. Trump’s plan is going to work very well. I don’t think we need that tax cut when we’re running deficits the size we are running. I think the evidence that tax cuts stimulate business in any kind of meaningful way, at least not sufficient to overcome the tax revenue loss, is extremely poor to put it mildly. I think the idea of cutting taxes on the rich in a time when there is so much concern about inequality is not a good idea. I do think his idea of greatly lessening environmental regulation is absolutely necessary and even brilliant and very brave of him.
Exempting that anti-environment nonsense at the end, Stein delivered a coherent explanation for why giving the wealthy a tax cut makes no sense. In fact he argued that such favoritism for the rich was never a stimulant to the economy and would only exacerbate deficits. Add to that his expression of concern for income inequality and you have a truly astonishing display of wisdom from a right-wing economist.
Fox of course would not be satisfied with that blasphemy. Therefore, Payne turned to Betsy McCaughey, the woman who coined the term “death panels,” for rebuttal. McCaughey was just named to Trump’s team of wingnut economic advisers. She ranted:
McCaughey: First of all, Donald Trump’s tax plan will produce an enormous amount of economic growth. The key factor is slashing the corporate tax rate, currently the highest in the world, down to fifteen percent. Companies in the United States are being taxed to death. And that’s why so many of them are leaving or retrenching their business investments.
There is so much wrong with that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the fact that there is no evidence that Trump’s plan would produce any economic growth. In fact. Moody’s scored his plan and concluded that it would result in a “lengthy recession,” 3.5 million job losses, and “very large deficits and a much higher debt load.” Plus, every independent analysis of Trump’s plan has affirmed that it benefits the rich far more than the lower and middle classes.
Then there is McCaughey’s assertion that U.S. corporate tax rates are “the highest in the world.” That is patently and provably false. It’s a recurring right-wing trope that has been debunked innumerable times by non-partisan analysts. McCaughey and other conservatives deceptively cite the statutory corporate tax rate rather than the effective tax rate (what is actually paid after deductions). When reviewed with real numbers the U.S. corporate rate is actually slightly lower than the average of our international competitors. Often it is zero, or close to it.
[Note: These facts make it even more important for Trump to release his tax returns so that we can see just where in the range his tax rate lies.]
The truth is that American companies are not leaving the the U.S. for lower taxes. They are leaving for lower wages, cheaper distribution in foreign markets, evasion of fair labor and environmental regulations, and other reasons unrelated to taxes. McCaughey also claimed that the U.S. is on the brink of a “business recession” despite this being one of the longest periods of growth in decades. But then she trotted out a real whopper:
McCaughey: And let me just point out in response to Ben’s comments about the poor and tax reductions for the rich – slashing the corporate tax rate and producing growth will benefit the poor the most.
That foolishness hardly merits a response. At this point host Charles Payne steers the conversation to “the debate over whether trickle-down economics really work.” He asked Harvard Kennedy School Professor Leah Wright Rigueur “If the same tide lifts all ships, wouldn’t that include the poor?” She responded that “You would think, but history has shown us that that doesn’t include the poor.” When Stein was asked to comment he poignantly noted that a rising tide “does not lift those boats that are under water.” Which led to this epic exchange:
Stein: And if I may say to my friend the Lt. Governor, there simply is no evidence that slashing the corporate tax rate produces growth. There’s a lot of allegations, but…
McCaughey: [interrupting] That’s ridiculous.
Stein: Did you say ‘That’s ridiculous’?
McCaughey: I said ‘That’s ridiculous’!
Stein: With all due respect, I’m the one that’s studied this. You’re the politician. You can say whatever you want as a politician. There simply is no evidence of that. […] You don’t know that. You have no idea of that. You can say it but there’s never been any data connecting those two.
Watching a devoutly conservative economic expert smack down the right’s sacred trickle-down doctrine on Fox’s own business network is both shocking and satisfying. But watching him also humiliate a Trump adviser, and one of the most extreme GOP partisans, at the same time is an event more rare than Halley’s Comet. It will be interesting to see if Stein is invited back to Fox News any time soon.
Once again, America’s fake news programs are proving to be more beneficial to the nation than their allegedly “real” counterparts. This weekend John Oliver delivered another of his unique, long-form routines that addressed a national travesty that burdens medical patients and their families: The predatory collectors from debt buying operations.
Oliver used facts and humor to describe the rapacious practices of a growing business sector that preys on the most vulnerable members of society. The debt buying industry is known for employing brutal, and often unlawful, methods of collecting money through the use of threats, intimidation, and legal harassment. He then announced his initiative in response to the problem:
“It is pretty clear by now that debt buying is a grimy business and badly needs more oversight. Because, as it stands, any idiot can get into it. And I can prove that because I’m an idiot and we started a debt buying company. And it was disturbingly easy.” […however…] “Instead of collecting the money, why not forgive it? Because, on the one hand, it’s obviously the right thing to do, but much more importantly, we’d be staging the largest one-time giveaway in television show history.”
Oliver and his team actually launched a debt buying company called Central Asset Recovery Professionals (CARP). It wasn’t long before they were given the opportunity to buy nearly $15 million of medical debt classified as “out-of-statute,” which is debt that is so old that the debtor can no longer be sued for it. Oliver/CARP paid a mere $60,000 (about half a cent on the dollar) for a portfolio of some 9,000 people with outstanding medical bills.
Next, Oliver sent the receivables to a non-profit organization that specializes in forgiving medical debt with no tax consequences for the debtor. Oliver noted that the largest previous TV giveaway was likely the infamous episode of Oprah Winfrey where she gave everyone in her studio audience a car. This giveaway is nearly twice the value of Oprah’s generosity.
Oliver reminded his audience that his historical gesture would only help the 9,000 people whose debt his company had bought, and that legal reforms and oversight were still needed to protect all consumers from predatory collectors. And with that, Oliver executed his debt forgiveness giveaway with a celebratory cry that “It’s done. I am the new queen of daytime talk.”
All kidding aside, thousands of people will benefit from Oliver’s little comedy show. But as he said, the work isn’t done to fix this horribly broken system. In the meantime, there are other organizations who have been working to achieve the same goals. The one that Oliver used to retire the debt of those on the list he bought is RIP Medical Debt. Another group that does the same thing is Rolling Jubilee, which was created during, and by members of, Occupy Wall Street. These groups have abolished tens of millions of dollars of student and medical debts and deserve our support.
One of the most consistent fallacies presented by Fox News on a daily basis is the assignment of blame for for anything that goes wrong exclusively to President Obama. If it can be cast as negative, Obama did it. Some of the laughable liabilities attributed to the President include the riots in Ferguson, MO, California’s drought, Ebola, and even Hurricane Katrina (which happened three years before he was elected. They have blamed him for high gas prices that hurt consumers, as well as for low gas prices that hurt oil companies. There is simply no way Obama can win with these partisan hacks.
Fox News’ Stolen Honor
Now, in addition to making Obama shoulder the responsibility for the failures of incompetent Republicans, Fox News is also stealing the credit for anything good that happens during any Democratic administration. This week alone has provided two glaring examples of this stolen honor by Fox pundits who can’t seem find anything that Republicans have done that actually helped the nation.
First we have Eric Bolling, a co-host of Fox’s The Five. During a segment devoted to bashing Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Bolling sought to diminish her husband’s success in orchestrating what was at the time the longest period of non-wartime economic growth in the nation’s history. Since he couldn’t plausibly deny that it was an era of unprecedented prosperity, Bolling served up this pretzel logic: “The reason why Bill [Clinton] did so well is because of Ronald Reagan.”
Of course it was. Never mind that Reagan was followed by four years of his vice-president George H.W. Bush who ran the economy into the ground and was summarily booted out of office. And perish the thought that Bolling would provide any substantive argument to support his made up theory. According to Bolling Reagan deserves the praise simply for being Reagan.
Following that, Fox’s senior political analyst, Brit Hume, made an appearance on Special Report to deliver his explanation for the political successes of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Eventually the discussion diverted to the state of the economy under President Obama. Hume began by asserting that the economy isn’t really in very good shape, but then shifted to proclaim that whatever was good about it wasn’t Obama’s doing, saying that “The credit for rescuing the economy, if it belongs with government, has got to be shared, at least [with George W. Bush].”
And why not? After all, Bush merely presided over the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. And his response was a basket of bailouts for the banks that were instrumental in the market’s downfall. It wasn’t until Obama came into office that efforts were made to stimulate the economy, and even that was opposed and obstructed by the Republicans in Congress.
It’s Hillary’s Fault Too
In both of the cases above the inspiration for these self-serving assumptions of economic glory stemmed from a comment Hillary Clinton made on the campaign trail. She said that if elected president she would put her husband Bill in charge of revitalizing the economy, something he is demonstrably good at. That comment sent the conservative pundits into a frenzy. They couldn’t abide her reminding people about the boom-time economy over which Clinton presided. So they endeavored to clumsily steal the credit for themselves.
This is just more proof that if Republicans had anything to be proud of they wouldn’t be trying to take credit for things they didn’t do – for things they affirmatively tried to prevent. They are, in effect, admitting that there are no accomplishments attributable to GOP administrations, so by necessity they have to swipe them from Democrats. It’s dishonest and unethical, but that’s never stopped them before.
If you’re looking for signs that establishment players are getting nervous about the possibility that the privileged classes may soon have to share the wealth and be held accountable for their crimes, then watch for them to develop a paranoia about the fall of Western civilization and blame it people who advocate for fairness and equal opportunity.
This week Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone Group, a global private equity and financial advisory firm, was interviewed in Davos at the annual World Economic Forum. When the subject came of the recently volatile stock market, Schwarzman offered his opinion that it was caused by three factors. The first was his assessment that the U.S. economy is slowing a little and concerns about China, which he said were overdone. The second were destabilizing world events including international hostilities and terrorism. And then there was . . .
“The third reason that we have unsettled markets is the fact that Bernie Sanders has become a viable candidate, at least in Iowa and New Hampshire. And the reason why that’s troubling is that he’s really on the far left, and we have a Republicans, on the other hand, who don’t inspire enormous confidence in terms of their ability, perhaps, to handle that job. So all of a sudden – and it really keys on this market collapse with Bernie rising as a viable candidate – that the rest of the world looks at America not the way America looks at America. For us it’s a local election. For the rest of the world it’s a global election. They depend on America to do the right thing.”
So it’s Sen. Sanders who is exerting his omnipotent control over the world economy? This feat of dominance is occurring even though not a single vote has been cast in the Democratic primary. That is a truly impressive demonstration of power. Who knew that an obscure senator from Vermont could wield such commanding control over the captains of industry and finance?
Apparently all it takes to roil the markets, according to Schwarzman, is a champion of average Americans becoming a “viable” candidate for president. Why that is perceived as such a destructive force wasn’t clearly explained. It seems to me that a world that depends on America doing the right thing would appreciate someone who wants to expand prosperity to as many people as possible. Although Schwarzman may have a point about Republicans that aren’t able to handle the job.
Sanders was asked about this revelation of his heretofore unknown dominion over the financial universe by Martha Radditz of ABC News. He literally laughed at the question and said…
“The reason that I am laughing is I fully admit to having a big ego, like many other politicians. But the idea that Bernie Sanders’s candidacy, because it has growing support all over this country, is unsettling world markets is absolutely absurd.”
Indeed it is. There are many reasons that the stock market has been antsy in the first weeks of this new year. What most credible economists cite is the dropping price of oil, a commodity whose value is determined by worldwide supply and demand. In that regard, what I have heard nobody mention, is what a great decision it was to decline to approve the KeystoneXL pipeline. The project’s advocates claimed that it would have substantially boosted the production of oil. That, we know now, would have exacerbated the current situation wherein there is a glut of oil that has caused the price to tank. So Keystone would have made things even worse.
What’s more, those who are panicking about what they regard as a stock market collapse are failing to put it into perspective. Even after the declines (of about 8%) in the past couple of weeks, the markets are still twice what they were when President Obama took office. That’s typically referred to as “correction” territory and not a crisis. Unless there is a Democratic president and Fox News is reporting on it, in which case it is a full-blown catastrophe.
The Wall Streeters may actually have something to worry about if Bernie Sanders is the next President of the United States. For that matter, they should worry about Hillary Clinton too. But their worries should have nothing to do with whether the world economy is going to crash. The truth is, as Clinton said recently, “The economy does better when we have a Democrat in the White House. That’s just a fact.” And therein lies the problem. Republicans are, by nature, averse to facts. They are far more likely to explain things by ascribing supernatural powers to their villains as well as their heroes. Maybe they should start a draft Voldemort campaign. Or maybe not. They already have Donald Trump.
Last night Jon Stewart delivered a segment that is destined to become classic among the Daily Show archives (video below). The brilliantly produced nine minutes of insight and comedy began with a montage of Fox News squaking heads doing what comes naturally to them: Complaining about President Obama.
On this occasion, the topic of the complaint was that the President did not talk enough about poverty, a subject that Fox News generally regards as a scam run by moochers and Democrats who are either trying to enslave them or are fishing for their votes. But since Fox’s mission is to denigrate Obama at all times, when he talks about poverty he is pandering and when he doesn’t he is heartless and hypocritical.
It quickly became apparent that Fox must have been watching a different President Obama than the the one that inhabits reality. Stewart noticed that divergence saying that Obama has indeed “been addressing those issues his entire presidency,” and that Fox ignored that fact in favor of obsessing over Obama making an unarguably true observation about Fox.
“Yep, just like college students at a four hour commencement, Fox basically paid no attention until they heard their own names. It turns out at one point during this incredibly thoughtful and productive session on poverty, the President made the easily provable and decidedly true point that the Fox News narrative is that poverty is not a function of economic condition, but of character.”
“If you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu, they will find folks who make ME mad. I don’t know where they find them. They’re all like ‘I don’t wanna work. I just want a free Obamaphone.’ And that becomes an entire narrative that gets worked up. And very rarely do you hear an interview of a waitress, which is much more typical, who’s raising a couple of kids, and is doing everything right, but still can’t pay the bills.”
Stewart accurately noted that the President has a “remarkably firm grasp” on the Fox business model and mocked Fox anchor Stuart Varney’s assertion that they are “honest messengers.” He then laid into what he called a “rich buffet of bullshit” when Varney claimed that Fox never characterized the poor as lazy. What followed was another montage of Fox News callously demonizing the poor in direct contradiction of what they had just claimed.
This caused Stewart to wonder “How fucking removed from reality” is Fox of their own coverage. That is, I assume a rhetorical question. Obviously Fox does not factor reality into their coverage from the outset. Otherwise, how could people like Varney say that the poor “have a richness of things, what they lack is a richness of spirit,” in one breath, and then pretend that he would never say such a thing in the next? Stewart’s response…
“Are these glaring contradictions a product of lack of self-awareness, or cynicism, or stupidity, or evil? I don’t know anymore, and I’m starting to lack a richness of fucks.”
It is easy to understand the sense of exasperation that Fox’s hypocrisy can incite. But the truth is that they have been doing this for years. Take for example this account of how the poor just have things way too good; or this one; or this one. And the funny thing is that all three of those stem from the same source that Fox keeps recycling for years on end. It’s a mantra that surely brings them the inner peace of a Bizarro World Buddha who lusts for ever more material possessions, while condemning anyone who is struggling to survive for wanting just the bare necessities of life.
The Republican News Network (aka Fox News) is taking a hard turn away from domestic issues in advance of the 2016 election cycle. For the past several years Fox and the rest of the Right-Wing Media Circus has focused heavily on matters that hit close to home like the economy, unemployment, immigration, marriage equality, education, and relentlessly, healthcare – or more accurately, opposition to it.
Unfortunately for the GOP, every one of those issues has been trending favorably for the Obama administration and the Democratic Party. The economy has grown by historic rates. The stock market has hit record highs. The deficit has declined by two-thirds. Unemployment dropped from 10.1 to 5.7 percent and wages are beginning to rise. The majority of the public support the President’s positions on immigration. Marriage equality is being affirmed by courts across the country. Both academic and financial education reforms proposed by Obama are hugely popular. And ObamaCare reached new plateaus of success signing up more than 11 million new people this year.
Also influencing the right is a Gallup poll released this week showing that terrorism has jumped in importance to the electorate. Fox News immediately began promoting this poll as evidence that Americans are convulsed with worry about being blown up in a cafe on Main Street. What they don’t mention is that terrorism in the poll shot up to a mere 8% and is still in fifth place behind four domestic issues. Also not mentioned is that another Gallup poll released the same day shows the President’s standing is on the rise. The poll shows him making significant gains with independents and even Republicans. And those gains are seen both personally and for his stance on issues.
So what is an obsessively hostile cable TV “news” network with a mission to promote conservative policies and Republican candidates to do? Of course, they have to pivot to foreign policy in a desperate bid to find a narrative that will advance their political goals. That is what’s happening now as this exchange from Fox News yesterday demonstrates:
Charles Krauthammer: This is going to be be one of those rare presidential runs in which foreign affairs is one of the dominant issues […] That is a very ripe field for the Republicans. Ron Fournier: Charles is right. This is going to be a foreign policy election. I think that’s going to be really tough for Hillary given her last job.
Huh? Fournier didn’t elaborate on why Hillary Clinton’s last job as Secretary of State would make things harder for her if foreign policy were to take precedence. Running the State Department for four years would ordinarily be seen as a prime resume enhancement in an environment that prized international experience. Presumably the right is hankering for an opportunity to beat the Benghazi drum some more, but since they have failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing after three years and dozens of investigations (including findings that exonerate Clinton and Obama by the GOP led House Intelligence Committee), it seems rather far-fetched that they can make an issue of it now. And when the election heats up Clinton will have a strong record of achievement about which to brag.
More to the point, the effort by Fox to divert attention away from the positive domestic news is bound to fail for three reasons. First, whatever plausible case they have to make against Obama and/or Clinton on foreign policy, they aren’t making it. Instead, they are wasting breath on such ludicrous trivialities as whether or not the word “Islamic” is appended to every mention of terrorism. Their mantra on this is that you have to “call it what it is” in order to win. They seem to believe that just changing the rhetoric all by itself would cause the bad guys to throw in the towel. That, of course, is absurd. The truth is that tarring all Muslims with an association to terrorism would only alienate the Islamic allies we need to prevail. The only parties who insist on this language are GOP/Fox News conservatives and the terrorists themselves. So why is Fox taking their side? That’s a question that Fox News will answer by shouting as loudly as possible, “Benghazi!”
The second reason that latching unto a foreign affairs campaign theme would fail is that, in addition to not making a negative case against Clinton, Republicans are also not making an affirmative case for themselves. Their fierce condemnations of Obama as being weak and incompetent (besides being somewhat unpatriotic by their own definition) imply that their alternative would be to recklessly leap back into a war footing around the world with fronts ranging from Iraq to Iran to Syria to Afghanistan to Ukraine, and even to Russia and North Korea. That would be a hard sell to the American people. What’s more, Republicans are already leaning on the same people that so profoundly wrecked the nation’s international relations as the would-be architects of the next GOP administration’s foreign policy.
Finally, after failing to make a foreign policy case against Clinton or for themselves, Fox and the GOP are forgetting the universal truth about presidential campaigns. As immortalized by James Carville, “It’s the economy, stupid.” No matter how much the right wants to avoid the domestic progress the nation has made in the years since George W. Bush and his cronies cratered the economy, that will always be the primary driver in voting for a national leader. And on that subject Republicans have nothing but failure to point to, while Democrats under Obama have an increasingly prosperous country and an agenda advocating on behalf of the middle-class. In addition, Clinton happens to be married to the last president to balance the budget while producing strong economic growth and job creation.
It’s no wonder that Republicans don’t want to run on domestic issues. And as their PR division, Fox News is valiantly striving to help them to change the subject. But no matter how hard they pray their wishes will not be realized. 2016 will be decided by an economic debate, just like every other presidential election. That fact, however, won’t deter the right from trying to elevate foreign policy because it’s all they have. And in a presidential election year, when turnout is higher, demographics favor Democrats, and the GOP has more at-risk seats than their foes, the outlook for Republicans is filled with the gloom that they have been trying to project on Democrats ever since the black guy moved into the White House.