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.