New York Times spins straw from gold

Randall Hoven
The New York Times wants you to believe that Americans are getting poorer, that our average incomes are below what they were in 2000. In order to convey this misleading conclusion, the paper plays a game well-illustrated by my own family's situation.

Last year my daughter graduated from college, got a job and moved into her own apartment. Those actions contributed to the decline of the median household income in this country.  You see, even though the combined income of my family increased by my daughter's income (not shabby), we were now two households --  divide the total income by two and it's less than it used to be.

The Times breathlessly reports on this same phenomenon on a national scale today.  And I do not use the adverb "breathlessly" idly.  The story quotes Robert S. McIntyre, the director of Citizens for Tax Justice, as saying the data "takes your breath away."  The story concludes with his quote that "trickle down doesn't work."

The story must be based on government data on median household income.  The Times was not specific on what data it referred to; it said that "the average income in 2005 was $55,238".  The U.S. Statistical abstract (as I cite) says median household (family) income in 2005 was $55,647.  It seems too close to be coincidence. It declined from $55,714 in 2000 to $55,238 in 2005, adjusted for inflation, according to the story.  (The online U.S. Statistical Abstract has not been updated for 2005, apparently.)  That's a decline of less than one percent (0.85% to be exact).

However, other government data show that GDP per capita increased from $34,759 in 2000 to $37,532 in 2005, in inflation-adjusted dollars.  That's an increase of almost eight percent (7.98% to be exact).

Well, were there fewer people per household, as in my family?  More government data say yes.  The average number of people per household was 2.62 in 2000 and 2.57 in 2005.  A 2% decline.  Do the math: if you spread the same people with the same income over more households, you get lower "household" income.  In fact, we would have expected a 2% decline in household income.  But there was less than 1% decline.

In simple terms, there was no decrease in income at all.  In fact, there was a healthy increase.  The NYT simply spins a story about average household size into a class warfare story.

If "trickle down" means my kids get good-paying jobs and move out, then bring it on! In fact, because Americans are richer, we can afford to support more household units. Thereby creating an opprtunity for the Times to mislead those readers who still think it is a credible news source. The New York Times is guilty of deception while sticking to the facts. That's an art form it has worked long and hard to master.
 
Update: More criticism of the Times piece from Newsbusters and Dinocrat and Back Talk (hat tip: Bob Teter), which is also unsur where the Times data comes from.
The New York Times wants you to believe that Americans are getting poorer, that our average incomes are below what they were in 2000. In order to convey this misleading conclusion, the paper plays a game well-illustrated by my own family's situation.

Last year my daughter graduated from college, got a job and moved into her own apartment. Those actions contributed to the decline of the median household income in this country.  You see, even though the combined income of my family increased by my daughter's income (not shabby), we were now two households --  divide the total income by two and it's less than it used to be.

The Times breathlessly reports on this same phenomenon on a national scale today.  And I do not use the adverb "breathlessly" idly.  The story quotes Robert S. McIntyre, the director of Citizens for Tax Justice, as saying the data "takes your breath away."  The story concludes with his quote that "trickle down doesn't work."

The story must be based on government data on median household income.  The Times was not specific on what data it referred to; it said that "the average income in 2005 was $55,238".  The U.S. Statistical abstract (as I cite) says median household (family) income in 2005 was $55,647.  It seems too close to be coincidence. It declined from $55,714 in 2000 to $55,238 in 2005, adjusted for inflation, according to the story.  (The online U.S. Statistical Abstract has not been updated for 2005, apparently.)  That's a decline of less than one percent (0.85% to be exact).

However, other government data show that GDP per capita increased from $34,759 in 2000 to $37,532 in 2005, in inflation-adjusted dollars.  That's an increase of almost eight percent (7.98% to be exact).

Well, were there fewer people per household, as in my family?  More government data say yes.  The average number of people per household was 2.62 in 2000 and 2.57 in 2005.  A 2% decline.  Do the math: if you spread the same people with the same income over more households, you get lower "household" income.  In fact, we would have expected a 2% decline in household income.  But there was less than 1% decline.

In simple terms, there was no decrease in income at all.  In fact, there was a healthy increase.  The NYT simply spins a story about average household size into a class warfare story.

If "trickle down" means my kids get good-paying jobs and move out, then bring it on! In fact, because Americans are richer, we can afford to support more household units. Thereby creating an opprtunity for the Times to mislead those readers who still think it is a credible news source. The New York Times is guilty of deception while sticking to the facts. That's an art form it has worked long and hard to master.
 
Update: More criticism of the Times piece from Newsbusters and Dinocrat and Back Talk (hat tip: Bob Teter), which is also unsur where the Times data comes from.