Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Half the population makes below the median income; this is an outrage?

Further hilarity on the email list, this from a faculty member in my own college and reportedly someone who publishes in her field.
The right-wing "Reason" magazine is hardly a pillar of intellectual inquiry, rather a right-wing propaganda sheet that consistently argues against any attempt to make our society more humane. It attacks any efforts to enact policies which would support our own country's basic values, such as: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [ let's assume this means " all people" in contemporary English] are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with inalienable rights .... life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." "Reason" respects only corporate rights to build wealth and power at the expense of the vast majority of people in our society. [Half the population of which earns below the median household income of about $37,000 -- less than what it would take to provide a "middle class" lifestyle !!]

So let's see if we can count the ways in which this paragraph is stupid.

  1. Reason is a libertarian journal, and a rather soft form of libertarianism at that. By that I mean they are not anarchists and not even minarchists. They are most assuredly not right-wing, though. The only way they could be considered right-wing is if right-wing=capitalist and left-wing=anti-capitalist. Could be so. And any libertarian defends the Constitution strongly, except for the expansive language that an anti-capitalist would wish. And did this woman ever type in the words "corporate welfare" into Reason's search engine? Unbloodylikely.
  2. Let's see, to have a middle class lifestyle requires a household income of $75,000 a year? So when we hire faculty at about $50,000 they are not part of the middle class? What sense does it make when you set the level of middle class lifestyle at a family income that less than 30% of families in America earn?
  3. Again, please use Google. Now as an economist I know to look at Census data to get an estimate of family income, and I also know the Current Population Survey is used to update the data. But if you type "median family income" into Google you will find this sheet quite quickly. The current median family income is over $42,000, not $37,000.
  4. But the most hilarous is the statement that "Half the population of which earns below the median household income of about $37,000" -- no shit! Hey, let me let you in on a clue here -- half earn more than the median too! Imagine that! Demand a congressional investigation! In my department we tell stories of senior theses that commit humorous errors. There's one that looked at GDP data and said he had discovered a new economic phenomenon -- every year before the base year for the GDP deflator, real GDP was above nominal GDP, and every year after the base year real GDP was below. In an inflationary environment like post-WW2 America, you have to get that result by the way the data are defined. But no, he said, this proves a new theory! But he couldn't quite explain it.
Wonder if the author of this hilarious paragraph can explain the new theory of how half of America ended up below the median income? Fuhgeddaboudit.