Thomas Sowell

What do you do when you don't have as much of something as you need? One of the things you can do is stretch it out to make it last as long as it can.

That is what the political left is doing with the poor. A lot of noise is made about how we are "running out" of this or that natural resource -- almost always falsely -- but the real problem of the left is that they are running out of the poor, who serve as a justification of the left's drive to extend their power over all the rest of us.

Not only is the average real income per person rising in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution, people seldom stay in the bottom brackets for more than a few years. Over the course of their lifetimes, most of those same people are in the top 20 percent at one time or other.

What is the left to do when they find themselves running out of the poor? They must stretch the poor to make them last -- even if that requires stretching the truth.

First of all, the left cannot let the public know that most of the people in the lower income brackets are just passing through, instead of being stuck there for life. Moreover, the statistics presented to the public cannot be in terms of real income per person, because that is rising, which undermines the left's vision.

Instead, the liberal media must restrict themselves to discussing family income or household income statistics, because families and households are getting smaller over the years. That conceals the rise in income per person.

Another tried and proven method for spinning the facts to fit the vision is to focus on some wholly atypical example and keep hammering away at it until it seems to be the norm. A five-pages-long article in the January 18th issue of the New York Times Magazine goes that route.

The subject of this huge expenditure of ink is a woman who has held a string of low-paying jobs and encountered the kinds of problems in her life that not having much money can bring. As a leap of faith, let us assume that the New York Times is telling the truth about the facts. What does this one woman's story prove in a country of more than a quarter of a billion people?

The Times story gets around that problem by simply declaring her to be like "millions at the bottom of the labor force" who are part of "the hidden America." This unsubstantiated assertion is crucial to the point that they are trying to make. But what if your faith can't leap that far?

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate