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The Forgotten Five

Important Economic Facts Missing in the News

Executive Summary

According to the National Council on Economic Education, 79 percent of Americans get their information about the economy from television. When the network news shows fail to provide context in economic stories or simply leave basic economic facts out of their reports, most Americans remain uninformed. Timothy Lamer, Director of the MRC's Free Market Project, identified five important economic facts that network reporters routinely ignore:

  1. The wealthiest Americans pay most of the federal income taxes. Reporters often repeat claims that tax reform will mainly help the wealthiest in society, without providing context -- specifically that the top one percent of earners pay 29 percent of all income taxes, and the top 10 percent of earners pay 59 percent of all income taxes.

  2. Government can harm the environment; free enterprise can help it. Reporters seem to have a set formula when it comes to environmental stories: The free market is always bad and government is always good. In fact, some federal programs encourage environmental destruction and some entrepreneurs preserve the environment.

  3. Domestic social spending continues to soar. Many reporters claim that the recent budget deal between the White House and Congress imposes fiscal discipline on Washington. In fact, domestic social spending has increased more under the GOP Congresses than it did under Democrats, and will continue to do so.

  4. Social Security, as currently structured, will bankrupt future generations. Many stories about the federal budget assume that Social Security problems can be ignored without causing serious economic problems in the near future. But some economists estimate that the payroll tax will have to double to keep the system solvent into the next century.

  5. Government health care mandates increase the number of uninsured Americans. While reporters often call the number of Americans who lack health insurance a "crisis," they rarely look into its causes. One recent study concludes that government-mandated benefits raise the cost of insurance as much as 30 percent, causing many employers to drop coverage.