Don’t feel embarrassed if you don’t know that a Congressional Budget Office study now confirms what so many other research studies have been telling us for years: that since 1979 there has been a redistribution of income and wealth up the economic ladder, with the poor and middle class getting less and the rich getting more.
Unlike Rick Perry’s unveiling of his extremely regressive optional 20% flat income tax, which Google News reports was covered in 2,181 media outlets, the Congressional Budget Office Study, titled ”Trends in the Distribution of Household Income, 1979-2007,” Report has been covered by a mere 72 media outlets.
The main finding of the report is that the top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades. The report speaks eloquently of the growing inequitable distribution of wealth in the country, so let me just quote from it: “…the distribution of after-tax household income in the United States was substantially more unequal in 2007 than in 1979: The share of income accruing to higher-income households increased, whereas the share accruing to other households declined. In fact, between 2005 and 2007, the after-tax income received by the 20 percent of the population with the highest income exceeded the after-tax income of the remaining 80 percent. In short, the richer you were in 1979, the more you have benefitted from 30 years of spending and tax cuts, and the poorer you were, the more you have fallen behind.”
The report blames the greater inequity of salaries and benefits in the private sector as the primary cause of growing income inequity. The weasel-like explanation provided in the executive summary manages to avoid all mention of either unions or union-busting. The other big reason for the growing inequality in income (and wealth) mentioned by the report is tax and government spending policy. In short, the government taxes the wealthy less and gives fewer benefits to the poor and middle class than it used to do.
There have been many studies that have shown the growing inequality of wealth in the United States, but this one has a special stature because Congress’ own numbers-crunchers did it.
One of the 72 brave media to cover this report was The New York Times, which made it the lead story of its national news section. For some reason, though, the Times thought this “smoking gun” of class warfare waged less important than another tedious survey showing growing distrust of the government, which managed to make the top left-hand side of the front page, a place reserved for the second most important news story of the day.
Of course, the poll in question was sponsored in part by the Times itself.
The Times/CBS poll shows that the public has less negative feelings towards our president than towards Congressional Republicans, which show that the voters get what’s going on. The poll also reports that about half of all Americans sympathize with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
The Times handling of these two studies exemplify the basic approach of the mainstream news media in general to key economic and social issues in two ways.
- Media hyping itself: The Times puts the trivial “survey-du-jour” that it co-sponsored in a featured position on the front page, while relegating a “competing” study to an inside section. The relative newsworthiness of the fifth or tenth study this month to tell us that we’re pissed at our elected officials is debatable, but the value to the Times brand of promoting a Times survey as newsworthy is unquestionable. Associated Press and others follows a similar strategy with the surveys that they sponsor.
- Preference of opinion over fact: The story that measures opinions is on the first page, whereas the story about facts is buried in the front section. Time and time again, we can see the media preferring reporting opinions over reporting facts. Opinions can be inflammatory. One of the basic principles of all drama is conflict, and when opinions collide, the news becomes dramatic. Giving an opinion also allows the media to float false or obnoxious ideas without having to back the ideas up with facts. As an example, I think we can assume that more people know Michele Bachmann’s misinformed opinion about the vaccine that prevents cervical and other cancers than know about this important report. The report is based on facts and filled with statistics. Michele Bachmann just made it up, but it stirred a tempest in a teapot, and thus served as a distraction. If the news media and politicians didn’t have these sideshows, they might have to let people know that over a 30-year period Congress has passed a number of tax laws that benefitted the wealthy while hurting everyone else.