links for 2007-07-24
The Minimum Wage: Looking Across the Washington-Idaho State Line

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (David Brooks of the New York Times Edition)

I don't know why some New York Times editor didn't call David Brooks after reading the third paragraph of his column this morning and tell him that this was too stupid to print:

A Reality-Based Econom: If you’ve paid attention to the presidential campaign, you’ve heard the neopopulist story line. C.E.O.’s are seeing their incomes skyrocket while the middle class gets squeezed. The tides of globalization work against average Americans while most of the benefits go to the top 1 percent.

This story is not entirely wrong, but it is incredibly simple-minded. To believe it, you have to suppress a whole string of complicating facts.

The first complicating fact is that after a lag, average wages are rising sharply. Real average wages rose by 2 percent in 2006, the second fastest rise in 30 years...

Helloooo? Anybody in there? If you want to talk about the middle class, you talk about medians rather than averages because averages include--and give high weight to--what is going on at the top of the income distribution.

In fact, Dan Gross--who supposedly is going to surface at Newsweek any moment now--had an anticipatory rebuttal to the likes of David Brooks a few months ago:

Daniel Gross: December 24, 2006 - December 30, 2006 Archives: If Goldman, Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein gets a $54 million bonus, and 53,999,999 other workers get nothing, then on average, 54 million people have received a $1 bonus. In reality, however, only one person has more money in his pocket. Crudely speaking, that's what has been happening in the U.S. economy. The Journal's editorial page would like us to think otherwise. Some key snippets:

Over the past year, the real average wage for non-supervisory employees has risen 2.8%. That equates to about a $1,200 increase in purchasing power for the typical household this year. Last year, real median household income was also up 1.1% after inflation. This rise in take-home pay helps to explain how Americans have had the disposable income this Christmas shopping season to pay $600 for Play Station 3 computer games and $150 for the Kid-Tough Digital Camera for three-year-olds.

Got that? Average real wages rose 2.8 percent over the past year, while real median household income, which more accurately captures the experience of typical Americans, rose 1.1 percent...

The post-Judy Miller New York Times doesn't have the credibility to survive putting things like David Brooks on the American economy on its editorial page.