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News Outlets Fail To Report On What The GOP Health Care Rollback Means For LGBTQ Americans

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans will face greater hardship if Republicans in Congress succeed in reversing the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) patient protections and expansion of Medicaid — and this is especially true for people living with HIV — yet, print and television news have almost completely ignored their stories.

LGBTQ Americans deal with higher rates of poverty, greater need for Medicaid, and higher rates of HIV infection than the general population. Republican plans to decimate Medicaid and roll back patient protections will create disproportionate impacts for LGBTQ Americans. Yet, according to new research from Media Matters, major print and television news outlets have been virtually silent on how GOP health care proposals may harm members of the LGBTQ community.

Media Matters reviewed major broadcast and cable news providers (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) available via Nexis from May 4 through July 13 and found only two significant segments discussing how the Republican health care rollback would affect LGBTQ people and only two other unrelated segments discussing how the rollback would affect Americans living with HIV. A Media Matters review during the same period of time of print newspapers available via Nexis and Factiva (Los Angeles TimesThe New York TimesUSA TodayThe Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal) found only three print articles that discussed how the GOP health care plan may affect the LGBTQ community and/or people living with HIV.

A July 12 analysis from Media Matters found a similar lack of reporting by major television and print news outlets on how communities of color may be affected by Republican health care proposals. Additional Media Matters research has found that television news missed an opportunity to report on the unprecedented nature of the Senate’s health care secrecy and that television coverage had drowned out reports on how the legislation would impact tens of millions of Americans in favor of airing stories focused on the bill’s political machinations. Previous Media Matters research revealed that newspapers kept reports on health care off the front page during crucial periods of debate and that broadcast and cable news coverage neglected to consider diversity when booking guests to discuss health care-related topics.

LGBTQ news outlets including The AdvocateNBC Out, and The Washington Blade have all covered how Republicans plans to roll back Medicaid would affect LGBTQ Americans as well as the more than 1 million people living with HIV. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), Medicaid is of significant importance for many LGBTQ Americans who face higher rates of poverty than the general population, and these higher rates of poverty correlate with fewer LGBTQ Americans having health insurance. On July 6, CAP reported that the ACA repeal legislation being considered by the Republican-led Senate — the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) — may result in up to 560,000 LGBTQ Americans losing Medicaid coverage while restricting health care access for transgender Americans. From the report:

The BCRA slashes Medicaid by $772 billion over 10 years and would end Medicaid expansion over time:

  • Medicaid covers at least 1.8 million LGBTQ adults, including 31 percent of LGBTQ adults living with a disability and 40 percent of LGBTQ adults with incomes under 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • An estimated 560,000 LGBTQ adults will lose coverage if Medicaid expansion is ended.
  • The BCRA prohibits federal Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood for one year; Planned Parenthood is one of the country’s largest providers of transgender-inclusive health care.

On February 14, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion has lowered the uninsurance rates for people living with HIV from 22 percent to 15 percent from 2012 to 2014. The California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers found that in California alone, the Medicaid expansion covered an additional 11,500 people living with HIV. Coverage and care for those living with HIV is of significant concern for many in the LGBTQ community, as the Kaiser Foundation points out, because gay and bisexual men make up 56 percent of Americans living with HIV and 55 percent of all HIV-related deaths in the U.S. despite comprising just 2 percent of the American population.

If congressional Republicans are successful enacting their health care agenda, it could cause real harm to the nearly 69 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid, making it crucially important that news outlets tell their stories.

Methodology

Media Matters conducted a Nexis and Factiva search of print editions of the Los Angeles TimesUSA TodayThe New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal from May 4 through July 13, 2017. Media Matters also conducted a Nexis search of available transcripts of broadcast and cable news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the same time period.

We identified and reviewed all broadcast and cable news segments and noneditorial articles that included any of the following keywords: gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual or LGBT or LGBTQ or queer or same-sex within 10 words of health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or Affordable Care Act or CBO or BHCA or Medicaid.



Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

America Needs To Hear From People Hurt By Health Care Cuts

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Republican senators produced a version of health care reform behind closed doors that would repeal and replace key aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and would put potentially millions of people at risk of losing access to vital medical care. Americans deserve to hear from those who would be most directly impacted by the proposed legislation.

On June 22, Senate Republicans released their proposed health care reform bill, titled the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA). The bill was drafted in secret by a small group of white Republican men without input from women, minorities, Senate Democrats, or even the majority of Senate Republicans. Overall, the Senate bill is largely similar to the House’s earlier health care plan, the American Health Care Act(AHCA), in that it guts Medicaid spending, denies federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, reduces subsidies for health care coverage, and offers a windfall in tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

As if taking cue from the Senate Republicans, cable and broadcast news media have largely shut out women and minorities in their coverage of the Senate’s health care bill, focusing instead on white men to provide analysis and opinion. As Media Matters has documented, men comprised two-thirds of all appearances on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows during discussions of the Republican health care bill. The study also found that 87 percent of all appearances were made by white guests. Media Matters found this trend with guests continued on cable news into the first full day of coverage of the Senate bill’s release.

However, reports indicate that women and minorities would be disproportionately affected by the Republican Party’s legislation. The LGBTQ community, people of color, and women would be disproportionately hit by cuts to Medicaid. For low-income Americans, losing health insurance could mean they would not receive regular care needed to keep them alive, even if they were to go to the emergency room. The GOP plan may also force those with disabilities into institutions. Women would find that some realities of being a woman — having heavy periods or getting pregnant — are now pre-existing conditions.

Medicaid cuts have a real impact on people’s lives — impacts evident in rare examples of television news telling these stories. One such story was presented during the June 23 edition of CBS’ CBS Evening News, when reporter Mark Strassmann interviewed Jodi Maness, a 22-year-old mother and Medicaid recipient. He said she is worried about losing Medicaid and having to pay more for health care, saying that her biggest fear is the possible impact on her small children:

But highlighting the personal impact of the Republican health care plans has been rare, as television news channels largely have not emphasized the impact these proposals would have on women and minorities. Last Febuary, Media Matters reported that cable news outlets featured only three prime-time interviews of individuals who had participated in congressional town halls during the February 18-26 week — informally called “Resistance Recess” — instead relying primarily on talking heads to discuss the week of action. It’s still true that audiences would be better served by hearing directly from the women and minorities who would be directly impacted by this legislation rather than just pundits endlessly debating it.

If the congressional Republicans’ health care agenda is successful, it would cause real harm to wide swaths of Americans. With nearly 75 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, there are plenty of individuals who would be affected by the Senate’s health care bill for the media to interview, if only the press would be willing to sit down with them.

Header image by Sarah Wasko/Media Matters

 

Newspapers Buried Reports On Health Care, While TV News Missed The Senate’s Back Room Dealmaking

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Television news largely missed reporting on Republican Senate leaders’ secretive drafting of its version of American Health Care Act (AHCA) that could radically alter health care for millions of Americans. New research from Media Matters has found that the five major newspapers almost completely ignored the GOP Senate leadership’s back room dealmaking on their front pages — having a combined total of only two front page stories during a two-week period.

On June 16, Vox asked eight Republican senators to explain their party’s prospective bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But the senators couldn’t “answer simple and critical questions” on their own bill. Vox Senior Editor Sarah Kliff pointed out on June 15 that “the Senate is running a remarkably closed process” to hide the bill; it has not released a draft to the public, has held no committee hearings, and has had no speeches “defending the policy provisions of the bill” on the Senate floor. The New York Times reported, also on June 15, that the “remarkable” secrecy around the bill has raised alarm with senators in both parties:

“They’re ashamed of the bill,” the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said. “If they liked the bill, they’d have brass bands marching down the middle of small-town America saying what a great bill it is. But they know it isn’t.”

[…]

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, offered a hint of the same frustration felt by Democrats seeking more information about the bill.

“I come from a manufacturing background,” Mr. Johnson said. “I’ve solved a lot of problems. It starts with information. Seems like around here, the last step is getting information, which doesn’t seem to be necessarily the most effective process.”

The day Vox and the Times reported on the GOP senators’ unprecedented secrecy surrounding the bill, Media Matters released a report documenting the insufficient amount of weekday coverage on broadcast and cable news dedicated to the Senate health care bill from June 1 to June 14. Media Matters reported that the big three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) dedicated a fraction of their airtime — roughly three minutes across all three networks — to the Senate deliberations out of 15 total hours of scheduled weekday programming. The performance of cable news channels was not much better, as MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News provided just under two combined hours of coverage to the Senate bill out of 150 hours of scheduled weekday programming.

Television news’ lack of coverage would help the Republican Party move the legislative process forward on this bill without a public debate that would highlight the real human cost of such legislation. Media Matters research also found that in addition to television channels falling flat, print media did not fair much better either on covering the the Senate health care bill.

An analysis of five major newspapers — Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post — showed that though newspapers did provide more in-depth coverage than television news, those papers almost completely ignored the issue on the front page. In fact, Media Matters did not identify a single front page story on the Republican Senate’s health care bill in the Times, USA Today, or the LA Times from June 1-14 and only identified one front page story each in the Post and the Journal. On June 19, ThinkProgess reported on this lack of front page coverage (which had continued beyond June 14) and noted that it was also a problem with local papers in areas that supported President Donald Trump — areas which ThinkProgress noted would be “hit hardest by Trumpcare.”

In total, Media Matters identified 29 print edition news articles in these five major national newspapers that discussed the Senate health care bill from June 1 through June 14. Of these five outlets, the Post and the Times provided the most total coverage — the Post published 11 articles on eight different days, and the Times published nine articles on seven different days. The Journal was third with six pieces published on five separate days. The Los Angeles Times published just two articles on two separate days, and Media Matters only identified one article in USA Today.

The GOP is counting on media’s silence and right-wing media myths to push a train wreck of a health care bill that would strip health care from tens of millions to slash taxes for the wealthiest Americans. Right-wing media have repeatedly assisted the GOP with claims that ACA is in a “death spiral” and have attempted to discredit the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office after its report found that up to 24 million people would lose health insurance under the AHCA. Right-wing media have even tried to pacify millions of Americans that would lose access to insurance by absurdly telling them to just go to the emergency room. As Talk Poverty’s Jeremy Slevin pointed out, “It is the responsibility of the press to draw out the contents of the Senate’s health care bill—before it is too late.”

Methodology

Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of print editions of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, and The Washington Post from June 1, 2017, through June 14, 2017. We identified and reviewed all non-editorial print content that included any of the following keywords: health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or affordable care act or cbo within 20 words of the word Senate.

Media Matters conducted a Factiva search of print editions of The Wall Street Journal from June 1, 2017, through June 14, 2017. health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or affordable care act or cbo within 10 words of the word Senate (the maximum distance allowed by Factiva).

Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

 

Gutting Net Neutrality Is A Win For Conservative Media

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

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.

 

Right-Wing Media Slam Student Loan Assistance Program

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. 

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board joined a chorus of right-wing outlets in blasting the federal government’s income-based student loan repayment program, calling it a costly “con” meant to “buy millennial votes.” Yet right-wing media are ignoring the benefits of a program that could relieve millions of student borrowers of a portion of their remaining debt and that is still generating a profit.

Right-wing media lambasted the Department of Education and student borrowers after the Journal reported on November 30 the latest findings from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that the government is on track to forgive $108 billion of $352 billion in student loans as part of federal income-driven repayment plans. The Journal’s editorial board blasted the government on December 1, calling the latest findings proof that the Department of Education’s loan program is a “con” designed to “buy millennial votes.” (The editorial column was the Journal’s second since November 1 lamenting the federal program, which has led to millions of students earning student loan forgiveness.) Earlier that day, Fox News host Jon Scott questioned if the program was a “bailout” for student borrowers. Fox Business host Stuart Varney also called the program “a bailout” on the November 30 edition of Varney & Co., while his guest Steve Costes added that the program is “a shame.”

Federal student loan borrowers have multiple repayment plan options, including income-based plans that require borrowers to pay back loans based on a percentage of their income for a certain number of years, after which the remainder is eligible to be forgiven. The GAO’s findings were for the hypothetical cost in loan principal forgiveness for the 5.3 million borrowers who signed up for income-based repayment plans for loans issued over a 22-year period, between 1995 to 2017. These borrowers will likely see an average of $21 forgiven for every $100 in loans received. Despite right-wing media complaining about the cost of borrower relief for those on income-based payment plans, the GAO found that the Department of Education still nets a profit on student loans.

The reason the government still makes a profit even after loan forgiveness is because many federal student loans have an interest rate at 6.8 percent — a figure that is much higher than inflation or the 1 percent interest rate banks receive from the Federal Reserve. The 6.8 percent interest rate is so high that the GAO’s hypothetical borrower would pay almost double the original principal of their loan if the income-based plan had no cutoff date for forgiveness:

Student loan debt is a leading concern among young people, with The Atlantic finding nearly 30 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 “cited paying off student loans as their biggest financial challenge.” According to Fortune, “there is little doubt that many Millennials are struggling financially” after a survey by PwC found that 79 percent of the 42 percent of millennials that have student loans struggle to pay those loans. Evidence shows student debt can impact personal wealth, delay homeownership affect personal decisions to marry or start a family, and that it has “cripple[d] retail sales growth.” The financial stress of student loans has a “devastating toll” on borrowers’ mental health, according to Complex, which cited findings by researchers that “student loans were associated with poorer psychological functioning.”

While right-wing media push many myths about student debt, student concerns are valid; according to a November 21 op-ed published by Investopedia, Americans with student loan debt have “a challenging road ahead of them in the present and the future” due to workers being unable to save for retirement. The op-ed, which was authored by a financial adviser, even questioned whether people with student loans “will be able to retire” at all. The increasing debt burden can even hinder career advancement as graduates can be forced to take jobs that may have no chance of wage growth or career development so they can make debt payments on time.

Conservative media have labeled higher education as a “privilege” and suggested students ought to choose fictional cheaper colleges. Some outlets have even defended schools that take advantage of students and leave them with significant debt. But research shows college matters now more than ever, and the cost to attend is rising across the board. The student debt crisis is especially damaging for poor students and students of color, who more frequently attend cheaper open-access and community colleges and are still forced to borrow in higher numbers to pay for their education.

Blaming students for the student loan debt crisis ignores the facts and distracts from finding real solutions to America’s skyrocketing student debt burden.

Two New Reports On LGBT Poverty Shatter Media Myth Of LGBT Affluence

Published with permission from Media Matters for America

Contrary to media misperceptions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) affluence, two new reports by the Williams Institute and Center for American Progress show the LGBT community continues to face higher rates of poverty, low wages, and economic insecurity than non-LGBT people.

The Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), released its findings “that poverty remains a significant problem for LGBT people” in a report on September 13. The study found that raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would dramatically cut the poverty rate for same-sex couples — a 46 percent drop for lesbian couples and a 35 percent decline for gay male couples. The author, economist M.V. Lee Badgett, noted that the study showed that the notion that the entire LGBT community is wealthy is nothing more than “a misleading stereotype” and that “raising the minimum wage would help everybody.” From the Williams Institute:

The Williams study follows a September 8 report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) that focused on the significant barriers that LGBT people face in accessing middle-class economic security. The study analyzes how anti-LGBT discrimination in employment and housing creates major hurdles for economic security, contributing to wage gaps faced by the LGBT community. CAP reported that up to 28 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans have been fired, not hired, or passed over for a promotion as a result of their orientation. As many as 47 percent of transgender Americans have experienced an adverse job outcome, such as “being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion” because of their gender identity, according to the report. CAP also noted that “LGBT people often struggle to find stable, affordable housing” and experience disparately higher out-of-pocket health care costs, which compounds the impact of economic insecurity experienced by LGBT people and their families.

Media frequently focus on the buying power and affluence of the LGBT community, and on companies that eagerly court the “pink dollar.” On July 20, when one marking firm — Witeck Communications — published its findings that LGBT American buying power reached $917 billion in 2015, it was picked up by Bloomberg, The Huffington Post, CNBC, and USA Today. While another study quoted by Business Insider claimed LGBT Americans take “16% more shopping trips” and have more disposable income than their straight counterparts — claims echoed by a Nielsen study published in the National Journal in 2015.

Gary Gates of the Williams Institute told The Atlantic in 2014 that the downside of this media-created perception “is that those marketing studies looked at the LGBT community as a consumer market” and may only be seeing LGBT Americans who are in an economically secure enough situation to come out. Marketing studies don’t show that LGBT individuals face higher rates of poverty than their non-LGBT counterparts, or that 29 percent of LGBT Americans have experienced food insecurity in the last year. Right-wing media use the myth of LGBT affluence to dismiss LGBT discrimination and claim laws protecting the LGBT community are not needed. Currently, there is no federal law that protects people from being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. CAP concluded its reporting by noting that the best way to address LGBT economic insecurity would be the passage of a broad-based federal nondiscrimination law called The Equality Act — which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations, employment, and housing.

Photo via Flickr/Ted Eytan

Even This Conservative Columnist Thinks Trump’s Plan On Trade Is ‘A Scam’

Published with permission from Media Matters for America

Conservative Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman joined a chorus of media and policy experts from across the political spectrum in criticizing Donald Trump’s promise to bring back American manufacturing jobs by curbing free trade.

Chapman slammed Trump on June 29 in the Chicago Tribune for the policies Trump outlined in a speech on trade one day earlier. Trump advocated against globalization and the lowering of trade barriers brought about by free trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization (WTO). Trump referred to his trade policy ideas as a path toward “Declaring America’s Economic Independence,” which he claimed would lead to increased economic activity that would “Make America Wealthy Again.”

Chapman chided Trump’s simplistic look at global commerce, saying, “It’s a scam, skillfully pitched to fool the gullible,” and echoed criticism of Trump from economist and Economic Policy Institute (EPI) president Lawrence Mishel. While Mishel criticized Trump for whitewashing the Republican Party’s free trade legacy and ignoring progressive initiatives that would benefit American workers, Chapman pointed out that manufacturing output in the United States is actually “54 percent higher today” that it was when NAFTA went into effect in 1994 and “27 percent higher” than it was before China joined the WTO in 2001. Progressive organizations like EPI have highlighted the negative consequences that free trade arrangements have had on the American labor market — specifically with regard to NAFTA and China — but as Chapman notes, part of the decline in manufacturing employment is the result of greater efficiencies in production stemming for automation and technological advances; “companies have learned to produce more goods with fewer people.” From the Chicago Tribune (emphasis added):

The vision Trump conjures is one of alluring simplicity. He promises to achieve “economic independence” by abandoning globalization, instead using American workers to produce American goods. This change, he said, would “create massive numbers of jobs” and “make America wealthy again.”

It’s a scam, skillfully pitched to fool the gullible. His framework is a house of cards built on sand in a wind tunnel. Its most noticeable feature is a total divorce from basic economic realities.

[…]

In the first place, the expansion of manufacturing jobs is not synonymous with prosperity. As countries grow richer, manufacturing’s share of employment declines. South Korea, singled out by Trump for killing American jobs, has seen it shrink by nearly half since 1991. Japan and Germany have followed a similar path.

But U.S. manufacturing output is 54 percent higher today than in 1994 and 27 percent higher than in 2001. Those years are pertinent because 1994 was the year NAFTA took effect and 2001 is the year China gained entry to the World Trade Organization — events Trump portrays as catastrophic for American industry.

Manufacturing jobs have vanished not because we don’t manufacture anything but because companies have learned to produce more goods with fewer people. Higher productivity is what eliminated most of the jobs Trump mourns. He’s no more capable of restoring them than he is of bringing back the dodo.

[…]

Blaming Mexico and China for the fate of our steel industry is like blaming email for the decline of telegrams. The biggest reduction in steel jobs came before the globalization of the past two decades. The number fell from 450,000 to 210,000 in the 1980s.

The total today is about 150,000. Even if Trump could manage the impossible feat of doubling the number of steelmaking jobs, it would be a blip in the overall economy — which adds more jobs than that every month.

Will The Media Fall For Paul Ryan’s Sham Poverty Proposals Again?

Published with permission from Media Matters for America

Paul Ryan Plans To Debut Anti-Poverty “Reform” Policies This Week

Anti-Poverty Proposals Will Be The First Of Several “Policy Papers” Released By Ryan’s Office This Month. Roll Call was among the first to report House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to roll out a series of up to six “detailed policy papers” outlining what his office is calling the “Confident America” agenda. According to a May 25 article, Ryan promised that his proposals will outline “an agenda for the next president” and would begin with a focus on reforming American anti-poverty programs. Morning Consult confirmed that the plan would be released on Tuesday, June 7, and that the speaker was “confident” Trump “will embrace the agenda” (emphasis added):

The longer-term issue involves the rollout of the House GOP’s “Confident America” agenda, detailing Ryan’s policy proposals for 2017 should the White House fall into Republican hands. On Tuesday, Ryan will release a policy paper on poverty, and on Thursday, the subject shifts to national security. There are several others in the works.

The looming question there is whether Trump, the GOP nominee, will go along with Ryan’s plan. The unpredictable real estate mogul has not yet said whether he will go along with it. Ryan has said he is confident Trump will embrace the agenda, and his recent endorsement of Trump could help.

“I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives,” Ryan said in his op-ed stating his support for Trump. [Roll Call, 5/25/16; Morning Consult, 6/3/16]

Media Have Uncritically Reported On Ryan’s Previous Attempts To Rebrand GOP Poor-Shaming

Wash. Post: “Paul Ryan Turns The GOP Presidential Race Toward A Forgotten Issue: Poverty.” Reporting on a previous Ryan effort, The Washington Post‘s Mike DeBonis wrote that, “Paul Ryan turn[ed] the GOP presidential race toward” poverty, an issue he suggests the GOP has “forgotten,” in a January 9 article highlighting the conservative Jack Kemp Foundation’s presidential candidates forum on poverty. DeBonis asserted that the forum “created a spectacle that seemed far removed from the tumult of the campaign at large: A low-octane discussion of conservative policy that was short on candidate sniping and red-meat applause lines.” [The Washington Post, 1/9/16]

CBS: “Paul Ryan Thrusts Poverty Into 2016 Conversation.” CBS News’ Jake Miller wrote that through the Kemp Forum, “Paul Ryan thrust[ed] poverty into 2016 conversation” for Republican presidential candidates, and said the forum “could give Ryan and the Republican candidates an opportunity to … demonstrate how their policies would address the problem of poverty in America.” [CBS News, 1/9/16]

CNN: “Paul Ryan’s A Star” Following Summit. CNN’s Tal Kopan wrote “Paul Ryan’s a star” following the Kemp Forum, and claimed “he deftly prodded [GOP presidential candidates] on the issue of poverty.” Kopan also claimed that “Ryan has long tried to make a Republican case on fighting poverty in the House of Representatives, and he has built a reputation around being a policy wonk with command of the issues.” [CNN,1/9/16]

CBS, ABC Failed To Question Speaker Ryan On His Opposition To Paid Family Leave. Paul Ryan appeared on the November 1 editions of CBS’ Face The Nation and ABC’s This Week to discuss policy prospects following his elevation to Speaker of the House. Neither outlet questioned the new speaker on paid family leave, a policy Ryan has long opposed despite demanding family-friendly workplace policies for himself before agreeing to take the speakership. Before agreeing to become a candidate for the open speakership, Ryan had stated he would not “give up [his] family” to fulfill the scheduling obligations of outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), asserting he must be able to take time for family matters. In light of these statements, multiple advocacy organizations criticized Ryan for wanting paid leave for himself and not others. EMILY’s List stated that Ryan is “totally in favor of family-friendly workplace policies for Speakers of the House named Paul Ryan,” but not for other hardworking Americans. [Media Matters, 11/1/15]

Fox’s Chris Wallace Claimed Paul Ryan Was An Example Of A Republican “Talking About Bringing People Out Of Poverty.” On the January 22, 2015 edition of Fox News’ Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace championed Republican efforts to alleviate income inequality, claiming that “building the middle class and income disparity” is a “growing issue” for Republicans. Wallace pointed to Rep. Paul Ryan as an example of a Republican who has been “talking about bringing people up from poverty.” The hosts also used the opportunity to criticize President Obama’s plan to address income inequality and baselessly blame him for persistent economic inequality that predated his presidency. [Fox News, Happening Now, 1/22/15]

Fox News, National Review Defended Ryan Poor-Shaming Kids Who Receive Free Lunch. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 6, 2014, Ryan suggested that government-subsidized school lunch programs give children “a full stomach and an empty soul” and that students receiving subsidized lunches through their schools had lower self-esteem as a result. A headline from the National Review called Ryan’s remarks “moving,” and Fox correspondent Carl Cameron claimed Ryan’s poor-shaming speech had taken a “middle-of-the-road tone.” [Media Matters, 3/6/14]

WSJ Highlighted Ryan’s Work For Benefits Program, While Failing To Ask What Happens To Those Who Cannot Find Work. Paul Ryan’s plan to consolidate 11 federal government assistance programs into block grants to the states was announced in a July 24, 2014 Wall Street Journal article. Ryan’s plan for the grants would attach even more stringent work requirements to benefit programs. The Journal highlighted Ryan’s proposals, but failed to question what would happen to those who could not find work or fell short of the new work requirements. [The Wall Street Journal, 7/24/14]

Wash. Post Spun For Paul Ryan’s Spotty Record On Poverty. The Washington Post wrote about Paul Ryan’s plans for the upcoming year, pushing a softer version of the congressman on November 18, 2013, and quoting Ryan’s staff claiming that he “has been quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods” to “talk to ex-convicts and recovering addicts about the means of their salvation.” The Post added that Ryan “was mortified by Romney’s 47-percent remarks,” during the 2012 presidential campaign where the Republican nominee slammed nearly half the population as “entitled” and “dependent upon government.” The paper completely failed to push back on Ryan’s voting record and prior public statements on poverty, ignoring that Ryan committed a “47 percent” gaffe of his own when he falsely claimed “right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits … than they pay back in taxes,” and that the nation’s demographics were sliding toward “a majority of takers versus makers in America.” [Media Matters, 11/19/13]

Ryan’s Years-Long War On The Poor

Paul Ryan: Federal Government “Does More Harm Than Good” When It Assists The Poor. During a discussion at CPAC 2016, Ryan and Bold Media founder Carrie Sheffield pushed a series of right-wing media-inspired myths. The two derided government assistance programs as “trapping people in poverty, by basically paying people not to work,” and dismissed food and housing assistance programs started more than 50 years ago by President Johnson, commonly referred to as the “War on Poverty.” Ryan also misleadingly claimed that “we basically have a stalemate on our hands” with regard to reducing poverty in the United States, despite 50 years of work and “trillions [of dollars] spent.” [CSPAN3, 3/3/16]

CAP’s Rebecca Vallas: While Paul Ryan’s Talking Points “May Be Pitch-Perfect,” His Policies Are A “Blueprint For Exacerbating Poverty, Inequality, And Wage Stagnation.” The Center for American Progress’ (CAP) Rebecca Vallas wrote that while “Republicans’ sudden concern for struggling families is no doubt newsworthy … unfortunately their policies remain nothing short of a blueprint for exacerbating poverty, inequality, and wage stagnation,” in a January 7 Huffington Post blog. Vallas noted that “Ryan has voted against raising the minimum wage at least 10 times,” “has consistently opposed legislation that would help families access paid family and medical leave,” and has proposed cutting “critical programs that help keep struggling families afloat — such as nutrition assistance, housing assistance, and Medicaid — all to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.” [The Huffington Post, 1/7/16]

NPR: Ryan Seeks To Weaken Food Assistance Programs That Have Kept Millions Out Of Poverty. In response to Speaker Ryan’s push to weaken the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), NPR reported on December 29, 2015, that while Ryan claimed SNAP and other programs are “trapping people in poverty,” the Council of Economic Advisers found that SNAP alone kept almost 5 million people out of poverty in 2014, the most recent available data, including 2 million children. [NPR, 12/29/15]

MSNBC’s Steve Benen: Ryan’s Policies Are “Brutal” For The Poor. MSNBC’s Steve Benen explained on May 6, 2015, that while Paul Ryan claims to be “focused on poverty,” his proposed remedies would be “brutal towards those actually in poverty.” Benen added, “Ryan was, and is, perhaps best known for his far-right budget plan that cuts taxes for the wealthy by hundreds of billions of dollars, while slashing investments in programs that benefit working families.” [MSNBC.com, 5/6/15]

The Atlantic: Ryan’s Thinking On Poverty “Backward-Looking.” The Atlantic‘s David Frum wrote that Paul Ryan’s ideas on poverty were ideas from the 1990s,, and not suited for today’s economic challenges. Frum, a Republican and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote that Ryan’s ideas to combat poverty assumed people need incentives to work and failed to consider that, in today’s economy, many low-income Americans may not be able to find a stable, well-paying job. [The Atlantic, 7/29/14]

CBPP: Paul Ryan’s House GOP Budget Plan Would Have Created “More Poverty And Less Opportunity.”When Paul Ryan unveiled his 2014 House GOP budget plan, Robert Greenstein, the president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), noted that under the Ryan budget, “Affluent Americans would do quite well. But for tens of millions of others, the Ryan plan is a path to more adversity.” Greenstein pointed out that the plan would have left millions without health insurance by repealing the Affordable Care Act and slashing Medicaid funding. Greenstein also criticized the budget for its impact on anti-poverty programs, estimating that it would:

  • Slash basic food aid provided by SNAP by at least $135 billion and convert the program to a block grant. The Ryan budget includes every major benefit cut in the harsh SNAP bill that the House passed in September, which CBO estimated would end benefits to 3.8 million low-income people in 2014. The budget also would block-grant SNAP in 2019, with further steep funding cuts. States would be left to decide whose benefits to cut — poor children, working-poor parents, seniors, people with disabilities, or others struggling to make ends meet. They would have no good choices, as SNAP provides an average of only $1.40 per person per meal.
  • Make it harder for low-income students to attend college. Ryan proposes to cut Pell Grants by more than $125 billion over the next decade. He would freeze the maximum grant for ten years, even as college tuition costs continue to rise. The maximum Pell Grant already covers less than a third of college costs, compared to more than half in earlier decades. Yet under the Ryan budget, the grant would fall another 24 percent by 2024 in inflation-adjusted dollars. (Some of that reduction is in the budget baseline, but Ryan would substantially enlarge it.) He also would make some moderate-income students who get modest help from Pell Grants today entirely ineligible.
  • Make massive unspecified cuts in a part of the budget in which low-income programs — including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which Ryan praised in his recent poverty report — make up a substantial share of the expenditures.His budget calls for at least $500 billion in cuts to mandatory programs other than Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, Pell Grants, farm programs, civil service programs, and veterans’ benefits. A substantial share of spending in this category is for low-income programs, including the EITC, the low-income component of the Child Tax Credit, the school lunch and other child nutrition programs, and Supplemental Security Income, which helps very poor people who are elderly or have serious disabilities. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/1/14]

The New Republic: Paul Ryan And GOP Have Made “Mobility” Their “New Mantra,” But Their Policies Actually Undermine Mobility. Demos policy analyst Sean McElwee argued that, for Republicans, “‘Mobility’ is the party’s new mantra–but it’s based on a familiar delusion,” in a February 19, 2014, essay for The New Republic. As McElwee pointed out, Republican proposals are not serious about addressing lagging economic mobility or growing inequality because “being serious about the problem will require doing the one thing that Republicans hate: government spending.” McElwee singled out Paul Ryan as an example of Republican politicians who have pushed harmful policies as supposed to solutions to economic insecurity. [The New Republic, 2/19/14]

Photo: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 25, 2016.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Conservative Opposition To Overtime Pay Brought To You By The National Retail Federation

Published with permission from Media Matters.

Right-wing media and Republican politicians blasted the Labor Department’s decision to update and expand overtime protections, clearly taking their cues from the National Retail Federation (NRF) — a business association known for spreading falsehoods on worker rights. The NRF and its allies are portraying overtime expansion as something that will hurt workers and the economy, ignoring the association’s own report, which found that the change would likely result in new jobs and fewer unpaid hours for retail workers.

The Department of Labor released an update to overtime rules for salaried employees on May 17, raising the minimum annual salary threshold to qualify for guaranteed overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 — an announcement that was denounced by right-wing media. Conservative outlets claimed the rule was “interfering” with businesses and would result in less flexibility and possibly lower pay, citing the NRF’s 2016 report “Rethinking Overtime” as proof, but they failed to acknowledge that the NRF has consistently opposed better pay for workers, fair scheduling, and collective bargaining rights. Contrary to claims that the expanded overtime will harm the economy, the NRF’s own report found the overtime rule would lead to over 117,100 new part-time jobs.

The Wall Street Journal decried the updated overtime rule in a May 18 editorial, claiming employers will lower salaries as a result. The Journal cited the NRF study, which found that businesses will “shift about a third of salaried retail and restaurant workers to hourly status” and bizarrely pointed to the study’s finding that one in 10 workers on salary will work fewer hours (which are already unpaid) as proof that the rule is not in the best interests of employers or workers. Townhall also pushed the narrative that salaried workers working fewer unpaid hours is a negative, citing NRF’s report.

During NRF’s campaign against overtime expansion, the lobbying group has claimed the new rule is “outrageous” and will force employers “to demote their middle management professionals to clock-punchers.” On the May 18 edition of Fox News’ Special Report, NRF senior vice president David French called the rule “a massive overreach.” Earlier that day on Fox’s America’s Newsroom, correspondent Kevin Corke said the rule will mean “more red tape and fewer advancement opportunities” and falsely claimed that “most of the people impacted by this change will not see any additional pay.” Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) echoed NRF’s statement on the May 19 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., claiming the overtime rule imposes “more red tape on job creators, which translates into fewer opportunities for people.” In statements released May 18, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) referred to the overtime rule as “more red tape” while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) claimed it was an “absolute disaster” that will end up “hurt[ing] the very people it alleges to help.”

Despite the coordinated condemnation from conservative media outlets and politicians, overtime expansion is vitally important in a country where 50 percent of full-time workers already work more than 40 hours per week. In an April 21 op-ed in The New York Times, economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich argued that many Americans are unaware that overtime protections have eroded over generations, and he noted that working unpaid overtime limits worker productivity and hiring. Reich also pointed out that the proliferation of unpaid overtime contributes to soaring corporate profits.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that overtime expansion will “reduce excessive hours of unpaid work” while adding at least 120,000 jobs in the retail sector — the very one the NRF claims to represent. The rule change is also expected to change employer behavior; some employers will hire more workers, while other employers will become more efficient. Employees in many instances work unnecessary hours because company cultures value “how much people work (or seem to)” instead of “the quality of their output,” according to an article by professors Erin Reid and Lakshmi Ramarajan in the June 2016 edition of the Harvard Business Review.

The NRF has a history of pushing a right-wing, anti-worker agenda. The group opposes collective bargaining and fair scheduling, and was an outspoken opponent of increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour when the debate first gained prominence in 2014.