Marcus Baram has a story in The Huffington Post where he compares the growth in “the average annual salary for all workers across the country” and “the average financial industry employee’s annual bonus” between 1985 and 2008.
A well-conceived comparison, and the numbers are pretty telling. The average worker’s salary increased from $19,000 to about $45,000. That’s an increase of less than 150%. The average Wall Street bonus increased from $13,970 to what looks like $112,000. That’s an increase of 700%.
Too bad that isn’t how Marcus Baram wrote it up. Instead of making the fair comparison, and letting the numbers speak for themselves, here’s how he slanted it:
How times have changed – while the average bonus soared almost 14 times higher (by 2006), the average salary has essentially been stagnant sine (sic) the mid-1980s.
Let me stress that this is the only statement Baram offers about how these two averages have grown over time.
So the average worker’s salary has remained essentially stagnant? $45,000 is the new $19,000?
And the average Wall Street bonus in 2008 being eight times what it used to be in 1985 isn’t dramatic enough for Baram? He has to cherry-pick the numbers and single out 2006 instead of just going with 2008?
What’s depressing is not just Baram’s intellectual dishonesty with the numbers, but how totally unnecessary it is for him to slant the numbers.
Incidentally, Baram doesn’t provide any links for his numbers (though he does say they are “taken from the U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics and the New York State Comptroller’s office”). The only thing that provides the lie to his 14-times-higher-versus-essentially-stagnant description is the graph he includes in his post.
What I found equally depressing was how Pat Garofalo of ThinkProgress approvingly retails Baram’s 14-times-higher-versus-essentially-stagnant description (with a direct quote), without any caveat whatsoever.
Anyone who reads Baram’s post and looks at his graph should immediately recognize that his words don’t match his picture. And if they can’t, they really shouldn’t be allowed to blog about economic matters at one of the leading liberal blogs.