The L.A. Times editorialized in December:
If tranquillity is best assured by “a more equal distribution” of the nation’s wealth, we have much to fear. Our schools are faltering; our healthcare system leaves millions without access to doctors. Many are homeless or face the loss of homes. Some seethe at illegal immigrants who compete with Americans for jobs. In our America, 60 million people survive on $7 a day.
Annie Jacobsen was skeptical of that number, and wrote a fascinating piece about where this statistic came from. She notes that, if you accept this number, it means that fully 60 million live on less than $2,555 a year — even though the U.S. Census Bureau says only 37 million people live in poverty.
So, 23 million live on less than $2,555 a year . . . but aren’t in poverty?
If you think about it for just a second, it makes no sense. Nevertheless, Annie decided to hunt down the origin of the statistic.
The immediate source was a writer who calls himself “very liberal” and describes himself in this way:
“William Brandon Shanley, iconoclast, dreamer of dreams, hatcher of schemes, shatterer of graven images and neocon socio-war-mongering-psychopaths!”
Of course, that doesn’t make him wrong, so Annie kept digging. What was his source?
Annie Googled the phrase and also found it on the World Socialist Web Site. Ultimately, it traced back to the New York Times, which had given the number based on IRS data, which is based on reported income — which does not include, say, welfare or food stamps.
Ultimately, Annie clearly demonstrates that the figure is bogus — just by exercising a little skepticism, and showing a willingness to check things out that don’t ring true.
Isn’t that what Big Media is supposed to be doing?