Repeat something often enough, and it becomes true. That phrase has been a common theme among think tanks and politicians for decades. And sadly, there is a lot of truth behind that statement.
But the claim itself relies on the belief that people will not seek out the truth for themselves; that they won’t take the time to verify, fact check, or question the official story given by a media outlet or elected official.
And when that lack of follow up and lack of questioning occurs, then the lie does in fact become the truth.
The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the mainstream media has been all too willing to echo the “job killer” talking point for industry. This isn’t a new phenomenon, either.
According to a new, joint report from Occidental College and the University of Northern Iowa, the media has been pushing the myth of “job killing regulations” for nearly 30 years. In fact, the report shows that the myth has been pushed without any verification and without any honesty behind the claims.
We analyzed all stories in which the phrase “job killer” appeared from 1984 to 2011 in four major news organizations—the Associated Press, New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. There were 381 total stories written that contained the phrase “job killer” and its variations. The Associated Press news service had 115 stories, the New York Times 55 stories, the Wall Street Journal 151 stories, and the Washington Post 60 stories.
Media stories with the phrase “job killer” spiked dramatically after Barack Obama was elected president, particularly after he took office. The number of stories with the phrase “job killer” increased by 1,156% between the first three years of the George W. Bush administration (16 “job killer” stories) and the first three years of the Obama administration (201 “job killer” stories).
The majority of the sources of stories using the phrase “job killer” were business spokepersons and Republican Party officials. Republican officials (41.7%) and business sources (18.6%) were responsible for 60.3% of the “job killer” allegations. In 17% of the stories, news organizations used the phrase in articles and editorials without attributing the phrase to a source.
The Wall Street Journal was the most likely of the four news organizations to deploy “job killer” as conventional wisdom, with no attribution. The Wall Street Journal generated sourceless “job killer” allegations in 45 stories (about 30% of its 151 total stories), the New York Times did so in 8 stories (14.5% of its 55 stories), the Washington Post 5 times (about 8% of its 60 stories), and the AP in 5 stories (about 4% of its 115 stories).
Most of the stories with the phrase “job killer” focused on federal (65%) or state government (12%) policies to regulate business, including environmental, tax, labor, and consumer protection measures. During the 28-year period, the top-ranked issues portrayed as “job killers” are 1) the environment, including climate change, 2) tax policy, 3) health care reform, and 4) wage laws (typically laws to raise the minimum wage).
The report went on to point out specific examples, including some involving GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney:
On January 5, 2012, two days after his narrow victory in the Iowa Caucus, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took the stage at the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, New Hampshire for a morning town hall meeting. Flanked by Sen. John McCain, who was there to endorse him, Romney told the audience “This president is a crony capitalist. He’s a job killer,” reported the Boston Herald. The Herald article printed the article without any investigation of Romney’s “job killer” charges or his statement that “businesses are finding it more attractive to go elsewhere.” Nor did the paper seek out sources within the Obama administration or campaign, or among academic economists, to challenge Romney’s view and provide readers with another perspective.
The report also shows that the phrase “job killers” has been used even during times when the unemployment rate was not a regular talking point or a cause for concern. Instead, the talking point would become prevalent during political cycles, completely independent of the economic situation.
But what is exceptionally disturbing about this is that a staggering 91% of the stories that mentioned “job killers” cited no source at all, according to the new report.
And there’s a reason that news stories aren’t citing sources – they don’t exist. In fact, the entire claim of regulations killing jobs is a myth; a creation of the dirty energy industry to gain unfettered access to lands that they plan to pillage in order to put a few more dollars in their pockets.
Last year I reported on numerous stories that showed how government regulations actually create more jobs than they allegedly “destroy.” Since my report last August, there have been plenty of other stories detailing exactly how this “job killer” talking point is completely bogus.
NESCAUM reported that switching our economy to green energy would immediately add almost 10,000 new jobs to our economy, while also increasing annual household disposal income for the country by more than $1 billion.
The EPA reported that their proposed Mercury and Toxics Standards (for air pollution) would not only save the U.S. billions every year on medical care, but would also add 8,000 permanent and 46,000 temporary jobs to our economy (more than the estimated 6,000 that the Keystone XL pipeline would create.)
Grist.org reported that enacting coal ash regulations and standards would add an additional 28,000 jobs to the economy. And Think Progress reported on how Mike Morris, CEO of American Electric Power, even agreed that switching plants to green technology, and retrofitting their equipment (things the GOP and industry have both railed against) would add thousands of new jobs to the economy. The list could easily go on and on.
But it isn’t just the “job killing” talking points that the media has been willing to sell to the public. The dirty energy industry has also been the recipient of special treatment on other job-related issues, including trying to sell the Keystone XL Pipeline to the public, as a recent report from Media Matters pointed out:
Although the pipeline would lead to a small number of long-term jobs, the potential for job creation from the pipeline was mentioned in 68% of print coverage, 67% of broadcast coverage and 75% of cable coverage.
Even though the talking point of “job killing regulations” has been thoroughly debunked and proven to be a complete myth, right wing politicians and industry-funded think tanks continue to push it on the American public.
And as long as the media continues to echo this talking point – as they have been for almost 30 years now – we will continue to shine a light on those spreading this blatant falsehood.