Right-Wing Media Ignore Fed Report Showing Increase In Wealth Gap

A recent Federal Reserve study found that the wealth gap increased during the recent recession with the median net worth of the wealthiest Americans increasing between 2007 and 2010, while the median net worth for all Americans decreased. But right-wing media have ignored or misrepresented this aspect of the report in order to attack President Obama.

Fed: Net Worth Increased For The Wealthiest Americans, While Decreasing For Everybody

Federal Reserve: Median Net Worth For The Top Ten Percent Increased By 1.9 Percent Between 2007 And 2010. The Federal Reserve found that median net worth increased for top 10 percent families. In 2007 these families had a median net worth of $1,172,300 and in 2010 their median net worth increased to $1,194,300. By contrast, median net worth for all Americans decreased. From the bulletin:

[Federal Reserve, June 2012]

Washington Post: The Recession Caused An “Upheaval Among The Middle Class” While "The Wealthiest Families' Median Net Worth Rose Slightly." The Washington Post reported in a June 11 article:

The recession caused the greatest upheaval among the middle class. Only roughly half of middle-class Americans remained on the same economic rung during the downturn, the Fed found. Their median net worth -- the value of assets such as homes, automobiles and stocks minus any debt -- suffered the biggest drops. By contrast, the wealthiest families' median net worth rose slightly. [The Washington Post, 6/11/12]

NYT: “Wealthier Families...Were Cushioned Against The Recession.” The New York Times reported on June 11:

[M]iddle-income families also lost a larger share of their income. The earnings of the median family in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution actually increased from 2007 to 2010, in part because of the expansion of government aid programs during the recession. Wealthier families, which derive more income from investments, were also cushioned against the recession.

The data does provide the latest indication, however, that the recession reduced income inequality in the United States, at least temporarily. The average income of the wealthiest families fell much more sharply than the median, indicating that some of those at the very top of the ladder slipped down at least a few rungs.

Ranking American families by income, the top 10 percent of households still earned an average of $349,000 in 2010.

The average net worth of the same families was $2.9 million. [The New York Times, 6/11/12]

But Right Wing Media Ignored The Success Of The Wealthiest Americans During The Recession And Attacked Obama

Limbaugh: Buried in Stories On The Fed Bulletin: “Declines In Average Income Were Greatest In The Wealthiest 10 Percent Of Families.” On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh ignored the increase in net worth for the richest Americans to claim that “declines in average income were greatest in the wealthiest 10% of families” and that this claim was buried. From the broadcast:

By the way that story on the decline in personal wealth -- let me tell you something buried in that story. Declines in average income were greatest in the wealthiest 10 percent families, and for higher education or wealth groups, according to the survey. Now that story is out there that 40 percent wealth -- the net worth was destroyed during the recession, but declines in average income were greatest in the wealthiest 10 percent. Now it's in there, it's in the story, but it's buried. They want you to conclude something else. They want you to conclude that the gap between the rich and poor is getting wider, the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, because the rich are stealing from the poor. And yet, they had to include it, because the polling data is what it is. Ten percent - the wealthiest 10 percent of families saw the largest decline in average income during the recession. [Premier Radio Network, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/11/12]

  • Fed: In fact the median income for the wealthiest Americans remained almost flat between 2007 and 2010: The June 2012 Federal Reserve bulletin also found that while the median income for the average American fell dramatically between 2007 and 2010, the median income for the wealthiest Americans stayed essentially level. [Federal Reserve, June 2012]

Breitbart.com: “American Family Net Worth Nosedives 40%, Obama Approval Still At 50%.” In a June 12 Big Government piece, editor-at-large, Ben Shapiro, commented on the Federal Reserve's findings, claiming, “much of that decline must be laid at the feet of the Obama administration, and wondering ” how many even hope to build net wealth rather than living off government largess in coming decades," never commenting on the wealthiest Americans. [Breitbart.com, 6/12/12]

For more examples of right-wing media ignoring the increasing wealth gap to attack Obama over the Fed study, see here and here.

The Right-Wing Media Have A Pattern Of Dismissing The Growing Wealth Gap

Limbaugh: Increasing Income Inequality “A Myth.” During the January 3 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, host Rush Limbaugh claimed that “there are so many myths - the income gap getting wider, it isn't real.” [Media Matters, 1/3/12]

O'Reilly: “Income Inequality Is Bull.” During the May 14 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly claimed that “income inequality is bull. Nobody gives you anything, you earn it.” [Media Matters, 5/14/12]

For more on right-wing dismissal of growing income inequality see here, here and here.