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CONTACT: Media Matters
Media Myths on Economic Recovery Package Continue
Coverage of economic recovery package favors falsehoods over facts
WASHINGTON - January 29 - In response to media coverage of President Obama's economic recovery plan, Media Matters released a comprehensive list of "myths and falsehoods" surrounding the issue. Media Matters has documented these falsehoods, including, most recently, media figures falsely suggesting a partial Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis examined the entire bill and falsely claiming that community organization ACORN would receive $4.19 billion as part of the stimulus.
"From misrepresentations of a partial CBO analysis to falsely claiming ACORN will receive $4.19 billion from the stimulus, the media has continuously misled the American people about the economic recovery package," said Karl Frisch, Senior Fellow at Media Matters. "Upon taking the oath of office, President Obama was tasked with fixing what is perhaps the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Instead of giving the public a fair and accurate view of his economic recovery package, many in the media have chosen to parrot conservative fallacies and distortions."
- Several media outlets and figures falsely suggested that a partial analysis of the economic recovery plan by the CBO was an examination of the entire bill, ignoring a January 22 letter from Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag that refuted this claim.
- In comparing the economic recovery plan to the New Deal, several conservative media figures have misrepresented or cherry-picked unemployment figures from 1937 and 1938 to assert that New Deal stimulus programs did not reduce unemployment.
- Citing Japan's fiscal stimulus during its "lost decade," media figures have argued against a large-scale stimulus plan to combat the current recession, ignoring several prominent economists who have said that economic conditions were improving in Japan before the Japanese government temporarily abandoned fiscal stimulus policies.
- Numerous media figures have asserted that the proposed economic recovery bill would amount to spending at least $217,000 for every job created. But by calculating the per-job cost by simply dividing the cost of the package by the estimated number of jobs created, these media figures ignore all other tangible benefits of the package including investments in education, health and public safety.
- Echoing "fast facts" released by House Minority Leader John Boehner's office, Rush Limbaugh and the San Francisco Chronicle falsely suggested that $4.19 billion of the stimulus would go to ACORN. In fact, the bill does not mention the group or otherwise single it out for funding.
- Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, and Sean Hannity all falsely asserted that former Labor Secretary and Obama economic adviser Robert Reich proposed that jobs created by the economic recovery package should exclude white males. Reich, in fact, said he favors a stimulus plan that "include[es] women and minorities, and the long-term employed" in addition to skilled professionals and white male construction workers.
- CNN's Campbell Brown and Ali Velshi repeatedly claimed that provisions in the bill that extend food stamps and unemployment insurance are "not stimulus," ignoring testimony from CBO director Douglas W. Elmendorf stating that both would "have a significant impact on GDP by early 2010."
MORE ON THE MEDIA'S COVERAGE OF THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY PACKAGE:
Summary: The Washington Times has recently published several articles misrepresenting a partial Congressional Budget Office analysis of the stimulus bill to support claims that most of the money in the bill would not be spent quickly. But in an article reporting former comptroller general David Walker discussing CBO's analysis of infrastructure spending and a separate article reporting that "[c]ritics say Obama's economic bill lacks stimulus," the Times ignored the conclusion of a more recent CBO analysis of the entire bill that 64 percent of the combined cost of the spending increases and tax cuts in the bill would occur by September 30, 2010.
Summary: The Hill's Jared Allen repeated the false claim that ACORN is, in Allen's words, a "beneficiar[y] of the stimulus package," and uncritically reported NRCC communications director Ken Spain's false suggestion that the stimulus bill includes "a $4.2 billion bailout" for ACORN. In fact, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding. Additionally, the bill requires that the $4.19 billion it allocates for "neighborhood stabilization activities" be distributed through competitive processes.
Summary: Fox News' Carl Cameron falsely claimed of the economic recovery bills: "In both the House and Senate packages, more than half of the money is reserved for at least two years from now, and Republicans argue that that's simply not good enough." In fact, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that about 64 percent of the House version of the recovery bill would be paid out within 19 months, and about 86 percent by the end of fiscal year 2011.
Summary: On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh allowed Rep. Eric Cantor to falsely claim of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: "Even the Congressional Budget Office ... says it is not a stimulative bill." In fact, the CBO stated in its January 26 report: "CBO anticipates that implementation of H.R. 1 would have a noticeable impact on economic growth and employment in the next few years," while the CBO director said that the bill would "provide massive fiscal stimulus."