On October 7, 1996 the seeds of today’s endemic crisis of value, planted in 1980, were fertilized: the Fox News cable channel went on the air providing a right-slanted news interpretation 24/7.
Fox News is exacerbating income inequality by ensuring strict adherence to a corporation-first status quo.
A 2017 American Economic Review study conducted by economists Gregory Martin and Ali Yurukoglu of Emory University and Stanford respectively showed that watching Fox News “directly causes a substantial rightward shift in viewer’s attitudes.” (See Fox is Powerful here)
In a world where the creation of Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch never hit the airwaves, Al Gore would most likely have become president; 9/11 would not have happened as well as the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The two economists estimate that in a world with no Fox News, the Republican presidential candidate’s share would have been 3.59 points lower in 2004 — John Kerry would have won; and 6.34 points lower in 2008 meaning Barack Obama would have likely received enough Republican support enabling him to pass a more beneficial health care act — like the one the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation supported during Bill Clinton’s attempts passing healthcare (Heritage Health).
Michelle Obama’s valiant efforts at getting American school children to eat better might have become a national mission on par with John Kennedy’s call to “put a man on the moon by the end of the decade” and obesity would be on the decline. Donald Trump would never have been elected president let alone have survived the Republican primaries.
According to Fox News themselves, 87 million households tune into the cable news channel daily. It is number one in many time slots over the course of the day. Most importantly, the evening prime-time slot, when families are gathered together eating dinner and discussing the days’ events. Fox News did not support Barack Obama. They mocked Michelle Obama’s “healthy eating” initiative calling it “nanny state socialism.” The average Fox viewer thinks Barack Obama was the worst president in American history.
What’s wrong with health care for America’s workers? What’s wrong with making kids healthier? Both of these attempts at lowering income inequality, were not supported by Fox and therefore not supported by the Republican Party — America’s families lose value each time they are forced to pay more for healthcare, to pay more for unhealthy children.
Fox News has been all over the place during the pandemic clearly telling its viewers not to wear masks; then suggesting it was perhaps “patriotic” to wear them but then again flip-flopping back to say it’s your choice. They have called the Americans protesting to reopen the country “patriots.” Every mixed message results in sick and even dead Americans and now as the threat of another federal lock down looms over us— Americans will lose more value. (Fox supports anti-lock down protests)
Re-Shaping the GOP in its Image
Watching CNN and MSNBC had no negligible effect on an independent or “centrist” viewer’s proclivity to vote Democratic; and yet, just three minutes more of Fox News per week in 2008 meant the typical Democratic or centrist voter was 1% more likely to vote Republican.
As Fox viewership grows, Martin and Yurukoglu demonstrate that the “Fox effect” increases polarization. When Fox was first rolled-out, the effects on viewer’s voting more conservatively was felt almost immediately but overall viewership was still pretty small. Quite interestingly, the lower the channel-position for Fox, meant that viewers spent more time watching Fox New in comparison to other news sources. These communities, where Fox was located around channel 21 or 22, voted more conservatively.
9/11 shot Fox to the top. Americans didn’t want nuanced understandings of the avoidable tragedy, they wanted revenge, they needed the comfort of stereotypes and to blame someone. Explorations of Bush Administration pre-9/11 hubris, easily translated into incompetence, weren’t about to happen on Fox. Fox does not need to report nuance or wow its viewers; it does not need to dig deep and discover that there is more to a story than meets the eye especially if that story negatively affects a GOP politician. Fox needs to confirm a simple, pre-conceived notion near and dear to the hearts of its viewers. It then backs that up not with fact but emotion, using the broad-strokes of conjecture and diatribe.
By 2010, the mastery of Fox was evidenced by the role it played in highlighting an otherwise fringe movement’s early success. Fox News legitimized the Tea Party thereby giving it a prime-time voice allowing the movement to rapidly find a home in the Republican Party. Creating a favorable echo chamber for the Tea Party, Fox News in collaboration with right-wing talk radio force-fed the small movement onto the national scene resulting in substantial mid-term losses for President Obama.
Fox News today, repeating that Tea-Party formula, hints on air at the whacked-out conspiracies of Breitbart and the QAnon and then waits for the current POTUS to echo them; giving them “institutional” credence and the weight of the White House.
Fresh off of their victory in the mid-terms in 2010— and I do call the GOP mid-term successes a victory for Fox News — the full power of the machine was directed at the unfortunate events that took place in Benghazi. Under a Republican president, the deaths of the four Americans would have been reported as a “s*** happens” type of moment. Barack Obama was president and the Secretary of State was firstly a “Clinton;” and, secondly the woman who many predicted would become the embodiment of President Obama’s third term.
All GOP politicians understand that if Fox is against you, then losing in the primaries is a real possibility. In order to please Fox and be guaranteed the vast echo-chamber, it becomes necessary to follow and “legislate” around the narratives driving Fox ratings. The GOP-controlled Congress spent more time investigating Benghazi than Congress did Pearl Harbor (2,403 dead), the Kennedy assassination and 9/11 (2,977) — remember, 4 Americans were killed in Benghazi, a country where the US is considered by the majority of people the enemy. Those hearings were watched daily by record audiences making them very profitable for Fox.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” Rep. Kevin McCarthy asked on Fox News. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today?”
Do a search on YouTube for Fox News and Benghazi. Hundreds of hours of “myth making” about the faux controversy await you. After two years and four months, the GOP found no evidence of Hillary Clinton’s guilt or professional incompetence; but they did uncover that State Department requests for increased funding for security in Benghazi were rejected by the House Republicans — never reported on Fox. (Benghazi)
Besides so many other things, and even more than Russian interference in the 2016 elections, Benghazi stuck to Hillary Clinton and reminded voters of the faux Whitewater scandals of the early ‘90’s — it wounded her fatally.
And yet behind the current, real problems fester
Former Secretary of labor in the Clinton Administration Robert Reich notes that “median family income is lower now than it was 16 years ago, adjusted for inflation. Workers without college degrees have fallen the furthest while struggling disproportionately more with diseases of despair like opioid addiction and alcoholism. 70% of Fox viewers don’t have college degrees. (Fox Viewer Demo)
Economic gains have gone to the top 10% of earners evolving into historically unmatched political power; and, the GOP, supported full-throatily by Fox News guts any and all support for struggling workers while handing out corporate welfare and budget-breaking tax cuts year after year. Waging war on the unions and positioning the “right to work” (RTW)movement as the greatest jobs program in US history certain to make America “great again,” the message is then amplified by “blaming the lost jobs on immigrants willing to work for next to nothing.”
Oddly, the states that have the largest proportion of Fox News viewers, also have the least amount of immigrants and yet anti-immigrant sentiment is fever-pitched in those communities. In addition, they tend to be RTW states which earn on average nearly 4% less than workers in non-RTW states.
Many problems are blamed on immigrant hordes that don’t exist in their states and for every economic miracle that never materializes after, for example, GOP tax cuts (still waiting for those jobs), successful battles against unions and promises to reopen coal mines (coal mining lower than when Trump became president) the marriage of rhetoric between the GOP and Fox seeks and always finds ever more divisive anti-immigrant, anti-gay and anti-minority conspiracies to blame on the Democrats.
Nancy Pelosi is trying to get displaced workers better unemployment benefits during the current pandemic and Fox reports that she is a radical destroying America. Fox does not report on the considerably lower benefits the Republicans are offering — which if passed will directly impact Fox watchers.
Confuse Workers, Take earned wages
I once worked “undercover” at an Amazon fulfillment center outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and was stunned to learn that my pay would be automatically transferred to a debit-card carrying a $20 setup fee — there was no option of having the pay go to another bank account they told me. The company hiring me and the other holiday-rush workers, had been contracted by Amazon for this purpose; they also just happened to own the debit-card company.
One of their ATM machines was conveniently located on the premises of the fulfillment center and each time cash was withdrawn a $3 terminal fee was charged — they owned the terminal; and, regardless of the amount withdrawn, another $3 transaction cost was paid to “account provider” $6 in total was going back to the company paying our wage, every time! Many of the people working with me at the “rush,” a four-week period before Christmas and one week after, were “the unbanked.” The card was a “great and needed “convenience” for many and everyone happily signed away a very fare portion of their wages. A substantial amount of people thought they had been given a credit card!
One young mother of three, 28, obese and with only one tooth that I could see, would take the money out in $5 increments. I tried to explain to her the fee-structure but she told me that if there was “too much in my pocket, I’d spend it foolishly.” Each withdrawal was taking food out of the mouths of her children and enriching the same company most likely buying GOP politician support against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CFPB). Fox News readily reported that the CFPB was tyrannical over-reach thus ensuring that its viewers would also think they were being hurt by the consumer protections. Ever primed to be blissfully misinformed and swindled of their hard-earned wages, Fox viewers would again eventually blame Democrats and immigrants for their lost value.
The economically displaced whites of Pennsylvania chose Donald Trump because they thought he’d go to DC and wage war with the forces aligned against their interests. These wage-paying practices were predatory, they were criminal. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)was established under Obama by Elizabeth Warren to prevent such unwitting employees from those money-stealing schemes by Big Finance. Imagine how much value is lost annually by struggling Americans. The CFPB was going to right this systemic wrong.
The CFPB, since its inception, has aggressively gone after and fined financial corporations of every shape and size for treating consumers unfairly: hidden charges, double charges, exorbitant ATM fees, over-draft fees, etc. Most of the predatory behavior is worded in such ways that even experienced professionals have fallen victim to unexplained fees.
The Director of the CFPB is the single most important person on the front-lines in Washington fighting for income equality and working Americans. Until recently, the director could only be removed for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.” Trump didn’t agree with this. He wanted a political hack to head the agency that more than any other in Washington today fights to protect working Americans from him and his ilk — remember Trump University?
In late June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court, Trump’s court, gave the president authority over the agency empowering him to fire its director at will and ruling that the structure it was given by Congress violated the U.S. Constitution. Republicans demonize the CFPB at every turn and now they have declawed it.
“The CFPB has eroded freedom, trampled due process and killed jobs. It must go,” Chairman of the House Financial Services committee Jeb Hensarling (R. TX) wrote in an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal.
The CFPB has actually returned nearly $16 billion to “ripped off” consumers since 2012. Consumers had a lobbyist in Washington to take on Big Finance— not anymore.
Fox News supports the declawing. They rejoiced as did Fox viewers, many for whom the agency was created to protect. Why? Because way back when, in the earliest moments of the agency’s creation, Fox News played to the fears seemingly inherent in all Fox watchers — that the government is collecting information on you to do…God only knows what…
It was an example of the Trump Administration ”getting the tyranny of government back under control,” one commentator said, “and returning the power to the people.” Sounds amazing, right? Only its the exact opposite.
Imagine paying $6 to withdraw $5? Soon, it very well could be more.