How to Lie with Numbers

There were many lies, misrepresentations, and false attributions in Donny’s State of the Union Address. We expected that.

I’d like to draw our attention to a particularly nefarious implied truth, wrapped up in a slight-of-hand misrepresentation:

“Since my election, the net worth of the bottom half of wage-earners has increased by 47 percent – 3 times faster than the increase for the top 1 percent.”

This statement is true. What it implies, is not. These types of misrepresentations are the worst sort of statistical manipulation to imply facts that simply are not true. As I have pointed out in other posts throughout my years- numbers can lie, even when they are true.

The implication is some purposeful acceleration, through Donny’s agenda and GOP legislation, of the bottom halves percentiles’ share of total wealth as if, at some point, 50% of the population will likely mirror the top 1%’s share. Even on it’s face, this wouldn’t be something to sing hosannas about, would it.

It is possible, in about 25 years, at these rates, the bottom 50% could achieve the same measure of wealth as the top 1%. The problem is, there is zero context, and this actually taking place, would presume events that could not happen.

Wealth in this fashion is measure by household, not by person. It is also a mean number, not an average. Usually one could argue that means and averages often come out close. Not in this case. because the bottom 10%’s net wealth is a negative number. The top 40-50% net wealth, is the equity in the family house and some amount of IRA or similar. These increases in wealth were naturally accrued over time and are entirely affected by forces outside the control of the wealth holder.

Beginning to see the problem here?

There is no reflection of the cost of living. No inflation. How many hours does someone have to work to stay at water level? We aren’t talking about people playing the stock market and real estate investment vehicles. The people in the bottom 50% that are above water have zero liquidity.

That entire 50% bracket delays healthcare or doesn’t get healthcare at all because they have no money and/or shitty insurance. These people live paycheck-to-paycheck. Half of older American have no retirement saving for their retirement, and neither does 1/4 total of the US populace.

Almost 60 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, meaning an emergency expense would put many people in debt.

Get the picture?

Now for the absolute numbers that Donny was so proud of:

Between the end of 2016 and the end of 2019, 1% of the US population increased their share of total US wealth from 29.18 Trillion to 34.53 Trillion Dollars.

In that same time frame, the bottom 50% of the US population increased their share of total US wealth from 1.08 Trillion to 1.67 Trillion dollars.

1% -$34.53 Trillion, or $1,046,363 per theoretical person.

50% -$1.67 Trillion, or $10,182 per theoretical person.

All things being equal, which they aren’t, if the rich households had the same number of people in them, which they don’t (but let’s pretend they do), the top 1% people would be worth 103x the amount of those in the bottom 50%.

I can only guesstimate the actual number would be something in the area of 140x.

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