Monday, September 28, 2015

Atrios publishes a misleading graph

 - by New Deal democrat

I'm just never going to score well on the "plays well with other progressives" conduct rating. The use of misleading or dishonest, cherry-picked statistics sets me off, whether it is done by a right wing nut case or a left winger.  Hell, my coblogger Bonddad has made a cottage industry of calling out John Hinderacker for that stuff.

Anyway, what got my blood boiling this morning was a post from Atrios, entitled "Recovery," making use of the following graph:

Originally I was going to call this dishonest, but I'll settle for "misleading."

To be sure, I don't dispute the overall point, which is that the wealthy have disproportionately gained during this 6+ year expansion, while wages for the middle/working classes have remained stagnant.  Outside of Bernie Sanders, I know of no candidate for President seriously making an issue out of this.

So why am I so annoyed with Atrios?  Because he chose the cheap shot with a misleading statistic rather than honest analysis.

The source of the above graph is Pavline Tcherneva of the Levy Institute.  I have no beef with her whatsoever, and I had a perfectly civil and helpful exchange with her earlier this year.

But here is what the graph does.  It measures the growth in incomes over *ENTIRE* previous expansions (measure from income peak to income peak), vs. the first 3 years of Obama's. The last bar in the graph indicates that it runs through 2012.

In other words, the graph compares one apple with a bunch of oranges.  To be comparable, it should have compared the first three years of income growth in other expansions vs. Obama's.  That's the first gripe.

But above and beyond that, it isn't even current, by a factor of nearly 3 years!

As it happens, since Tcherneva based her graph on the work of Emanuel Saez, and he has already published a preliminary update through 2014, I can show you what the distribution of income gains since the start of the expansion looks like more currently:

Through 2014, the wealthy had seen a share of income gains comparable with both the Clinton and Bush 2 expansions.  The bottom 90% fared much better during the Clinton years than either Bush 2 or Obama.  And of course, the Obama expansion isn't over yet.

BTW, Saez should be publishing his final 2014 report shortly. Since from Clinton peak to Bush 2 peak, the lower 90% only saw a 1% income gain, it should be interesting to see if that has was surpassed in 2014.