Amidst this conversation, host of PBS’s Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman, repeated a highly misleading talking point, contributing. It’s a claim you’ve probably seen it a hundred times before, that the wealth of the six Waltons, who own Walmart, is greater than the wealth of the bottom 30%. It sounds astounding, and it is a true fact. But it is also highly misleading. The fact is meant to tell you something problematic about the Waltons’ wealth, but in actuality it tells you almost nothing about their wealth. This is clear if you consider that Amy Goodman herself almost certainly has more wealth than the bottom 30% of households. In fact everyone on the Up With Chris Hayes panel probably has more wealth than the bottom 30%.
For a full debunking of this claim see Tim Worstall or Felix Salmon, but what you mostly need to know is that almost 25% of household have zero or negative wealth. So anyone with any positive wealth has more than them. Around 37% of households have $12,000 or less in total wealth, so it seems fairly likely that Amy Goodman is worth more than the bottom 30%. This fact is entirely about the wealth at the bottom tail of the distribution, not the top tail. As the story is told by Goodman and others it implies that the opposite is true. This may not be a lie, or a literally false claim, but it is completely misleading and decreases rather than increases understanding.
If Amy Goodman wants the media to be better and less post-truth she should start by doing a better job herself. In this moment she contributed to the problem.
Ozimek continues his seemingly life-long project of obfuscating poverty and actual human suffering behind adherence to his version of the field of economics. There are obviously many ways to measure wealth. Total wealth might be one way, where you do have a lot of Americans with negative assets. And I guess you can then equate the Walton heirs with Amy Goodman and then say that leftists saying bad things about the media are full of it. Or you could measure wealth by earned income from salary, investments, etc., which would note that the Waltons have more money than god, or, more specifically, than the bottom 30% of the population. To note this would suggest that there was a problem with extreme wealth in the midst of growing poverty, but Ozimek has no problem with this. A far greater crime is Amy Goodman saying the media doesn’t tell the truth about poverty. And in Ozimek’s case, she’s right.
Another Ozimek greatest hit was saying that Mark Bittman fell into “self-parody” when he blamed restaurant corporations for paying their workers terrible wages, no sick days, vacation pay, etc. Asking “why should the bill falls on employers,” Ozimek uses the same semantic outrage as against Goodman, challenging his definition of the word “sustainability” rather than discuss Bittman’s points.
And then there’s my very favorite recent Ozimek piece where he makes fun of Chris Bertram for suggesting that unions could help prevent sexual harassment of immigrants at work, instead pointing to what really gives workers protection: “a competitive labor market.” Ah yes, the problems of agricultural labor is because the government has too big a role in regulating it!!!