The latest NYT editorial tries fairly hard to paint a bad picture of the economy. Unfortunately, for all its cherry-picking, it still can’t change the facts. It all starts in the first sentence:
If you’re still harboring the notion that the economy is “good,” prepare to be disabused.
I think I’m prepared.
[The 2005 Census Bureau report (page 13)] shows that median [household] income rose 1.1 percent last year, to $46,326, the first increase since it peaked in 1999. But the entire increase is attributable to the 23 million households headed by someone over age 65. So the gain is likely from investment income and Social Security, not wages and salaries.
For the other 91 million households, the median dropped, by half a percent, or $275.
What the NYT neglects to tell its readers is that the 0.5% drop is the smallest drop in the last three years. The 2004 Census Bureau report (page 11) showed that the median household income for those 91 million households dropped more than double (1.2%), and the 2003 report (page 12) showed it dropping 0.9%. Of course, NYT readers don’t need to be bothered with these sorts of facts.
The NYT goes on to complain about poverty:
Despite the Bush-era expansion, the number of Americans living in poverty in 2005 — 37 million — was the same as in 2004. This is the first time the number has not risen since 2000. But the share of the population now in poverty — 12.6 percent — is still higher than at the trough of the last recession, when it was 11.7 percent.
This is extremely misleading, as the following graph shows:
If the percentage of Americans living in poverty actually corresponded to the troughs of recessions, this would actually mean something. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, as history shows. In 1990, the poverty rate rose for another three years. Also, there are years when the poverty rate increased even when there wasn’t a recession.
By neglecting to put data into the appropriate context, the editorial board of the NYT misleads its readers. Given the amount of digging the NYT must have had to do in order to paint a bad picture of the economy, its hard to write this disservice off as wholly unintentional.