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This morning’s page-one Wall Street Journal story on incomes in America contains many bungled facts and concepts in a single sentence, giving a false impression about income distribution in America.
The piece follows the curious look at the fortunes of the rich published August 20 by The New York Times, which examined the anomalous case of one man who blew his fortune and, like the Journal, speculated on data that does not yet exist to conclude that “over the last two years, they have become poorer…. Just how much poorer the rich will become remains unclear.”
These reports display a puzzling sympathy for the best-off in America, part of a trend that I believe has helped cost newspapers readers—identifying with the concerns of the comfortable, often without context about the woes of the afflicted.
Both papers left out significant news about how much the incomes of a very few soared and how tens of millions have been getting by for decades with virtually no increase in their incomes. The bottom 90 percent of Americans, for example, earned incomes in 2007 that were 1.7 percent less than in 2000, the equivalent of working fifty-two weeks but getting paid for only fifty-one, facts not mentioned in either newspaper, while the top 1 percent during the same period saw their incomes rise 12 percent. The average increase alone was $145,300, which is more than four times the average income of each taxpayer in the bottom 90 percent.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”