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“Competing Voices”: Did Rupert Murdoch Throw Fox News Under the Bus?

Rupert Murdoch veered off script this week with some tweets that ran completely counter to the Fox News spin this campaign season. In fact, they undercut the entire political premise at Fox, which is to attack Democrats without question, and to force Republican politicians to champion a truly right-wing agenda. Is there a rift brewing?

It’s true Murdoch has a history of taking stances on issues such as global warming and immigration that are diametrically opposed to the propaganda programming Fox airs. So perhaps this is another example of that.

And some observers might say Murdoch’s candid comments suggest competing voices are welcome within News Corp. I think that’s unlikely though, at least within Roger Ailes’ Fox world where you’re either on the team or off. Remember that in 2008, angry that Murdoch might use his New York Post to endorse Obama after Fox had tagged him a terrorist sympathizer, Ailes reportedly “threw a fit” and threatened to quit. (Murdoch’s Post endorsed McCain instead.)

Did Murdoch’s curious tweets cause similar consternation?

Note this one:

Election: To win Romney must open big tent to sympathetic families. Stop fearing far right which has nowhere else to go. Otherwise no hope.

Murdoch stresses Romney has “no hope” of winning in November if he keeps kowtowing (my word) to the “far right.” Instead, he has to embrace the “big tent.”

Where to begin in describing the lack of self-awareness in that statement? Or is it just shocking hypocrisy in play?

Murdoch owns Fox News, the epicenter of the “far right” in America, and Fox News has been relentlessly urging Republican candidates to wage right-wing battles against Obama. But seven weeks before Election Day, Murdoch now thinks Romney should stop trying to impress the “far right”? He should stop trying to appeal to the Fox News audience?

Urging a “big tent” appeal, Murdoch actually sounds like the Republican strategists who try to win elections for a living (instead of winning cable ratings races) who fretted that the vice presidential selection of Paul Ryan would doom the Romney campaign because of the “extremely unpopular” policies Ryan advocates.

The irony is Murdoch (and Fox News) was among those who all but demanded Ryan be the VP pick, and who then loudly cheered his selection. The pivotal Ryan pick was a perfect example of Romney catering to the “far right” in a way that Murdoch now says is counter productive to the candidate.

Also, it’s a bit baffling the way Murdoch dismissively refers to the “far right,” as if he’s not the most important broadcaster within the “far right,” and as if Fox isn’t the “far right” sun around which the conservative movement orbits every day. There’s a reason New York magazine labeled Ailes “the head of the Republican Party.” And there’s a reason a GOP source told the magazine “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger. Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.”

And note to Rupert: The Republican Party, at the urging of Fox News, eagerly folded its “big tent” years ago.

Here’s another Murdoch tweet from this week that likely produced bewildered looks inside the Fox News green room:

Retrospect; Conventions mixed but net big win for democrats. Michelle O and Clinton the big stars. Bill brilliant, Hillary away until 016.

The proclamation from the Fox News owner that the DNC was a hit last week, and that “big star” Bill Clinton was “brilliant,” must have come as a surprise to Fox talkers who spent last week denigrating the convention and bemoaning Clinton’s flat, “self-indulgent” speech.

In fact, Fox tried for days to deflate the convention by lying about its television ratings, misleading about what Obama said in his acceptance speech, and in general just endlessly bemoaning its very existence. (Fox was simply part of the larger right-wing media crackup over the convention.)

Turns out though, Murdoch thought the whole thing was a “big win for Democrats.”

I don’t know what Murdoch’s long-view strategy is, but in the short-term, by touting the success of the Democratic convention and downplaying the political importance of the “far right,” it sure looks like he’s throwing Fox News under the bus.


By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters, September 13, 2012

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unpaid Interns”: Political Wives Of The GOP

At an event for Mitt Romney last night, Ohio Governor John Kasich did his best to pay tribute to women by talking about the difficulties of being a political spouse.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “You know, they’re at home, doing the laundry and doing so many things while we’re up here on stage.… [it’s hard] to put up with the travel schedule and have to be at home taking care of the kids.”

To tell the truth, I’m not outraged over Governor Kasich’s remarks. He was just complimenting women the only way he likely knows how—by acknowledging their domestic acumen. Given the outrageous remarks about women lately—from “legitimate rape” to slutty birth control users—suggesting that all political wives do is the laundry is the least offensive comment from a Republican in months.

Besides, to conservatives, recognizing women for their roles as wives and mothers—rather than as individuals unto themselves—is a fabulous compliment. It’s a pat on the head for all those ironed shirts. But this focus on women’s caretaking is more than just misguided attempt to woo female voters, it’s a disturbing window into the very limited way that Republicans view women.

After Ann Romney’s epic RNC “I love women” moment, MSNBC host and Nation columnist Melissa Harris-Perry noted how her speech focused on women “in their relational roles—women are mothers, women are widows, women are wives.”

“Actually women are lots of other things,” Harris-Perry said. But not in the Republican imagination, where women are happiest at home and most fulfilled by their husband’s accomplishments—not their own. Where being a leading lady means loving your supporting role.

It’s as if Republicans view wives as unpaid interns—expected to do grunt work just for the experience and joy of being part of someone else’s success. (At least the interns get something on their resume out of it.)

This isn’t to say that the care and domestic work that women do isn’t important—it is. In addition to the important task of raising children, domestic labor is what allows these politicians to do their public work. As Jill Filipovic has written, “Men who have stay-at-home wives literally have nothing other than work to worry about.”

They have someone who is raising their kids, cooking them dinner, cleaning the house, maintaining the social calendar, taking the kids to doctor’s appointments and after-school activities, getting the dry-cleaning, doing the laundry, buying groceries and on and on (or, in the case of 1% wives, someone who coordinates a staff to do many of those things). That model enables men to work longer hours and be more productive.

But if you’re going to value domestic work, really value it—don’t just give it a wink and a pinch on the butt. And that’s the problem with this constant veneration of women as wives and mothers—it’s all talk. It’s easy for male politicians to acknowledge their wives’s hard work when the expectation is that this is simply what women exist for—and even easier to vote for policies that assume the same. Because if we’re just wives and mothers—not individual people with their own desires—what do we need with pesky things like the right to bodily autonomy or equal pay? After all, we have laundry to do.

By: Jessica Valenti, The Nation, September 13, 2012

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Extremely Deceptive”: Scott Brown Is Lying About His Reproductive Rights Record

Running for Senate in a deep-blue state—where support for abortion rights has been measured at nearly 70 percent—Republican Scott Brown needs to make it clear that he supports reproductive rights. That’s why he’s telling reporters that he “promise[s]” never to vote in the Senate to curb reproductive rights, and why he has a new ad airing statewide today with this script:

NARRATOR: Scott Brown is pro choice, and he supports a woman’s right to choose.

WOMEN: I like that Scott Brown is independent, he really thinks for himself. His record shows that he supports women, he supports families. When my daughters grow up, I want to make sure that they have good jobs with equal pay, and I know Scott Brown will fight for that. I support Scott Brown because I know he wants to get our economy moving forward again. I’m a mom, I have a family, and I know that Scott Brown will fight hard for families.

BROWN: I’m Scott Brown and I approve this message.

Sounds nice. And it’s true Brown did object to the GOP platform language on abortion. But his actual record—touted in the ad—directly contradicts the new message.


Brown was a co-sponsor of the Blunt Amendment earlier this year, which would have allowed employers to deny women preventive care options under the company plan—including contraception, mammograms, pre-natal screenings, cervical cancer screenings. (It was written broadly enough to allow any employer to do this, not just religious ones). This would have jeopardized the preventive health services of 20.4 million women nationwide, and 517,000 in Massachusetts alone.

Brown voted to defund Planned Parenthood last year when he supported House Resolution 1, the Republican spending plan that was ultimately defeated in the Senate. It would also have removed funding under Title X for health centers for low-income women. 

Brown may have supported the Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the Affordable Care Act, which would have stripped any funding for abortions by any health insurance product subsidized by the government. It wasn’t included in the Senate version that Brown voted on. But his staff told the Associated Press in November 2009 that Brown would have supported it—though he told Boston’s WBUR that same month that he would have opposed it.

It’s extremely deceptive, then, for Brown to pretend he supports a woman’s right to choose, as the ad claims. Or in the words of said Stephanie Schriock, President of EMILY’s List: “Scott Brown is straight-up lying to Massachusetts voters with his latest ad. Brown does not support a woman’s right to choose – his anti-choice voting record has earned him the support of an anti-choice organization in this very campaign.”

Indeed, Massachusetts Citizens for Life has endorsed Brown in his race against Elizabeth Warren. “We consider him a senator who votes prolife,” Anne Fox, the president of that group, told the Boston Globe last month. (Though Republican Majority For Choice has also backed him).

Brown is also misleading about his record on women’s issues elsewhere in the ad. For example, a woman featured says that “I want to make sure [my daughters] have good jobs with equal pay, and I know Scott Brown will fight for that.” But in November 2010, Brown supported a Republican filibuster of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have required employers to prove that any gender disparities in pay were directly related to job performance. That bill was passed by the House two years ago, but has never cleared a Senate filibuster.

BY: George Zornick, The Nation, September 14, 2012

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Virtuous Cycle”: At Least The Federal Reserve Is Not Obsessing About The Budget Deficit

With deficit hawks circling overhead, the responsibility for creating jobs has fallen by default to Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. Last week the Fed said it expected to keep interest rates near zero through mid 2015 in order to stimulate employment.

Two cheers.

The problem is, low interest rates alone won’t do it. The Fed has held interest rates near zero for several years without that much to show for it. A smaller portion of American adults is now working than at any time in the last thirty years.

So far, the biggest beneficiaries of near-zero interest rates haven’t been average Americans. They’ve been too weighed down with debt to borrow more, and their wages keep dropping. And because they won’t and can’t borrow more, businesses haven’t had more customers. So there’s been no reason for businesses to borrow to expand and hire more people, even at low interest rates.

The biggest winners from the Fed’s near-zero rates have been the big banks, which are now assured of two or more years of almost free money. The big banks haven’t used the money to refinance mortgages – why should they when they can squeeze more money out of homeowners by keeping them at higher rates? Instead, they’ve used the almost free money to make big bets on derivatives. If the bets continue to go well, the bankers will continue to make a bundle. If the bets sour, well, you know what happens then. Watch your wallets.

The truth is, low interest rates won’t boost the economy without an expansive fiscal policy that makes up for the timid spending of consumers and businesses. Until more Americans have more money in their pockets, government spending has to fill the gap.

On this score, the big news isn’t the Fed’s renewed determination to keep interest rates low. The big news is global lender’s desperation to park their savings in Treasury bills. The euro is way too risky, the yen is still a basket case, China is slowing down and no one knows what will happen to its currency, and you’d have to be crazy to park your savings in Russia.

It’s a match made in heaven – or should be. Because foreigners are so willing to buy T-bills, America can borrow money more cheaply than ever. We could use it to put Americans back to work rebuilding our crumbling highways and bridges and schools, cleaning up our national parks and city parks and playgrounds, and doing everything else that needs doing that we’ve neglected for too long.

This would put money in people’s pockets and encourage them to take advantage of the Fed’s low interest rates to borrow even more. And their spending, in turn, would induce businesses to expand and create more jobs. A virtuous cycle.

Yet for purely ideological reasons we’re heading in the opposite direction. The federal government is cutting back spending. It’s not even helping state and local governments — which continue to lay off teachers, fire fighters, social workers, and police officers.

Worst of all, we’re facing a so-called “fiscal cliff” next year when $109 billion in federal spending cuts automatically go into effect. The Congressional Budget Office warns this may push us into recession – which will cause more joblessness and make the federal budget deficit even larger relative to the size of the economy. That’s the austerity trap Europe has fallen into.

Mitt Romney has been criticizing the Obama administration for not doing more to avoid the cliff, but he seems to forget that congressional Republicans brought it on when they refused to raise the debt ceiling. They then created the cliff as a fall-back mechanism. Romney’s vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan, chair of the House budget committee, voted for it.

It’s a mindless gimmick that presumes our biggest problem is the deficit, when even the Fed understands our biggest problem right now is unemployment. Yet even the nation’s credit-rating agencies have bought into the mindlessness. Last week Moody’s said it would likely downgrade U.S. government bonds if Congress and the White House don’t come up with a credible plan to reduce the federal budget deficit. (Standard & Poor’s has already downgraded U.S. debt.)

Hello? Can we please stop obsessing about the federal budget deficit? Repeat after me: America’s #1 economic problem is unemployment. Our #1 goal should be to restore job growth. Period.

The Federal Reserve Board understands this. And at least it’s trying. But it can’t succeed on its own. Global lenders are giving us a way out. Let’s take advantage of the opportunity.


By: Robert Reich, Robert Reich Blog, September 15, 2012

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trust Me, I’ll Figure It Out”: Mitt Romney Re-Explains Why He Can’t Be Trusted On Health Care

Over the weekend, Mitt Romney muddied the waters about where he stands on health-care reform with a series of vague statements from himself and his campaign about health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.

His floundering is a subset of a larger problem: He has committed himself to a set of positions that won’t allow for a replacement of Obamacare with something that actually fixes the problem of tens of millions of Americans without health insurance, including those with pre-existing conditions.

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post describes Romney’s progression on pre-existing conditions:

It started with the Republican presidential candidate saying during an appearance on “Meet the Press” that he liked the Affordable Care Act’s provision that requires insurers to cover preexisting conditions, and would support something similar. Hours later, his campaign clarified he did not, however, support a federal ban against denying coverage for preexisting conditions. Around 10 p.m., the Romney camp had circled back to the same position it held back in March: that the governor supports coverage for preexisting conditions for people who have had continuous coverage.

The “continuous coverage” distinction is key: In order to retain the right to insurance that covers your pre-existing condition, you need to make sure to pay health insurance premiums every month. But often, the reason people lose health insurance because they have lost their job. Telling the recently unemployed to pay out of pocket for continuous coverage, typically at a cost of several hundred dollars a month for an individual or more than $1,000 for a family, is often not viable.

It’s worth noting that the purpose of the continuous coverage requirement is similar to the purpose of the individual mandate: It provides an incentive for healthy people to stay in insurance pools, avoiding a “death spiral” in which only sick people buy insurance.

Unaffordability is not a fatal problem for Romney’s continuous coverage proposal. It could be fixed with a range of subsidies that make it affordable for people to maintain continuous health coverage. Essentially, that’s what Obamacare does, and what Romney’s health plan in Massachusetts did.

For a conservative approach to fix at least part of the affordability problem, see this article from National Affairs by James Capretta and Tom Miller. Capretta and Miller propose to combine a Romney-style proposal on pre-existing conditions with significantly expanded funding for high-risk insurance pools, in hopes of covering up to 4 million uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions.

But Capretta and Miller estimate that their plan would cost somewhere on the order of $200 billion over 10 years. Where is the indication that Romney plans to make such a significant financial commitment, let alone get one out of a Republican Congress? Romney’s platform is full of expensive promises — restore $700 billion in Medicare cuts, grow defense spending to 4 percent of GDP, cut tax rates. It funds these promises in part by drastically cutting spending on health care for the non-elderly. Implementing something like the Capretta-Miller proposal would be a significant reversal of course.

And what about the tens of millions of Americans who are uninsured not because they have pre-existing conditions but simply because they cannot afford insurance coverage? Romney says he wants to replace Obamacare, but his plans do not signal much help for them.

Romney has talked about leveling the playing field for individual purchasers of insurance, so they would get the same favorable tax treatment as businesses buying insurance for their employees. This would make it easier for individuals to buy their own health plans, but it’s not a substitute for Obamacare-style subsidies. Any way you structure a tax incentive, it’s likely to over-subsidize the wealthy and under-subsidize the poor, leaving huge swaths of America still unable to afford insurance.

Romney hasn’t said exactly how his tax incentive would work. But it would probably be a tax credit (whose value is static across incomes) or a tax deduction (whose value rises with income). In 2008, John McCain proposed a $5,000 per family tax credit for health insurance. Scaled up for health-care inflation, that would likely be closer to $6,000 today.

The average health plan premium for a family is now $15,745. Some middle- and upper-middle-income families can be expected to cover a gap of about $9,000. But poorer people need a larger subsidy if we hope to get them covered.

(It is also worth noting that if Romney plans to convert the existing tax exclusion for employer-provided health care into some other health-care subsidy, he cannot also use it as an area for tax-base broadening to pay for his cuts in tax rates, and he needs a lot of base-broadening to make his tax-cut math work.)

The key to the subsidy structure in both Romney’s Massachusetts plan and Obamacare is that the subsidies decline in value as people’s incomes rise. Under Obamacare, people with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty line get Medicaid, which has very little cost to the beneficiary. Above that, they get sliding-scale subsidies for private insurance; the poorest beneficiaries pay just 2 percent of their incomes. Middle-income people get smaller subsidies, and wealthy people have to pay their own way.

Republican rejection of the Medicaid expansion is especially problematic, because Medicaid is cheaper than private insurance, and people earning less than 133 percent of the poverty line have almost no money of their own to contribute toward premiums.

Telling these people the federal government will pay 40 percent of their health insurance premiums will not get them insured. The options aside from Medicaid are to provide them private insurance at significantly higher taxpayer cost than in Obamacare, or leave them uninsured. It is easy to guess which option Republicans in Congress would prefer.

Romney doesn’t want to get into these details about who will get what subsidies. But the details are important. They are the difference between expanding health insurance coverage to the vast majority of Americans, and leaving tens of millions of Americans without access to the health care they need. And they are the difference between actually making it possible for people with pre-existing conditions to get the coverage they need, and not making it possible.

As on so many issues, Romney’s line on health reform is essentially, “Trust me, I’ll figure it out.” But uninsured Americans stand to gain a lot from the implementation of Obamacare. They have no particular reason to believe that Romney’s vague alternative would bring them similar benefits.


By: Josh Barro, Bloomberg, September 13, 2012

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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