Two Out Of Five Ain't Good

by Jonathan Chait | November 4, 2009

Every once in a while I like to fact check the Wall Street Journal editorial page just to see how unbelievably low the intellectual standards on that page are. On today’s page, John Steele Gordon argues that "the liberal paradigm [does] not even come close to agreeing with the social and economic reality on the ground today." What is that reality? Gordon offers up a handful of facts:

[T]he rich are still looked upon by liberals as enemies of the poor and disadvantaged, even though Mr. Obama not only carried a majority of voters earning less than $50,000 but also a majority of those earning over $200,000. He did, in other words, as well among the wolves as he did among the sheep. …

But in a world where a majority of Americans work at white-collar jobs, have high-school and college degrees, own their own homes, and hold financial securities in their own right, the so-called wolves are now a majority.

This is it, the sum total of factual assertions mustered by Gordon in support of his thesis. The rest in nonfalsifiable rhetoric (i.e., "the nastiness in American politics is largely on the left," "liberals refuse to engage [conservative] ideas, simply because they are not liberal ideas and must, therefore, be wrong," and so on.) Let us go through these five factual assertions.

There are a couple true things here. A majority of American workers do work in white-collar fields, though this is not exactly synonymous with affluence. A majority also own their own homes, though the same caveat applies.

Did Obama perform as well with voters earning more than $200,000 a year as those earning under $50,000? Not even close. He won voters earning over $200,000 by 6 points, and those earning under $50,000 by 22 points.

Do a majority of Americans have college degrees? Even assuming he means Americans in the workforce, the answer, again, is not even close. 70% lack a college degree.

Do a majority own stock? No. And it’s only even close if you count things like a pension fund. If you mean direct ownership of stock, only one in five Americans owns any. (Economist Anna Turner at the Economic Policy Institute helped me round up some of these links.)

So, out of 1,279 words of mostly ideological blather, there are five actual facts that bear any relation to the thesis. And three of them are false. This from an author who is accusing his ideological opponents of failing  to "come close to agreeing with the social and economic reality on the ground today"!

 

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