Looking at the Post story, we can see many ways in which the data have been manipulated to give it a liberal spin. For example, on page one there is a graph showing that the percentage of households earning between $35,000 and $49,999 (in 2003 dollars) has fallen sharply from 22.3 percent in 1967 to just 15 percent in 2003. At first glance, this would seem to be powerful evidence for the Post/Kerry thesis that the middle class is disappearing.Are the Post writers just ignorant and can't read a graph or are they depending on readers being dumb and not figuring out the data?
In the pre-Internet age, people might have bought this argument, since they lacked any way of checking it. But today, anyone with an Internet connection can log on to this address and find the facts for themselves: http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p60-226.pdf.
They will discover that the Post data are accurate, but leave out what is really important. Over this same period, 1967 to 2003, the percentage of families making less than $35,000 (in 2003 dollars) also fell from 52.8 percent of households to just 40.9 percent. In short, the ranks of the middle class could not have fallen because they became poor, as the Post implies, because the ranks of the poor also fell.
The truth is that poor and middle class households alike became better off, which increased the ranks of the “rich” (those making over $49,999 in 2003 dollars in the Post’s view) as a share of the population. In 1967, those with such an income constituted 24.9 percent of households. By 2003 this had increased to 44.1 percent. The inescapable conclusion is that the declining ranks of the middle class result from one thing only—more of them are now “rich.”
Saturday, September 25, 2004
Bruce Bartlett analyzes the dishonest coverage in the Washington Post of what is happening to the economy. They ran a front page story showing that the middle class was shrinking.
Posted by Betsy Newmark at 2:13 PM