Dr. Thomas Sowell writes about Myths of rich and poor (Washington Times commentary 06fb10). He asks

If making a whole society’s rising prosperity look like a disastrous decline is not insane, what is?

Using 1970 as a reference,

the net worth of Americans more than doubled during those same years. Was there an economic Houdini who could perform such magic? … No. Actually a lot of the point-scoring rhetoric involves misleading statistics. Wages are only part of total compensation — and increasing proportions of that total compensation is taken in fringe benefits. [emph added] Total compensation has been rising while average real wages have been declining. Even the decline of real wages has to be taken with a grain of salt. Real wages are calculated by taking the money wages and adjusting for changes in the consumer price index (CPI).

People have more stuff, more houses, bigger houses, and their employers are providing more non salary benefits than ever before. People expect longer vacations, better health benefits, and other perks as a part of their employment than they used to 30 or more years ago.

But the economic health of the population is a political issue. Qualifying statistics takes work that many would rather not do. So the media and politicians with an axe to grind can pick and choose what measures they promote and the context in which they put them.

Fortunately, columnists like Dr. Sowell can provide counterpoint. So can those who are showing just how reporting of economic boom times now compares and contrasts to that of ten years ago. So too can the arguments of those who put a political agenda ahead of intellectual integrity.

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