If you've been wondering where the Associated Press's 2013 entry into the "Worst AP Report Ever" contest has been hiding, have no fear. It's here. Oh, it's not as bad as the current worst-ever leader, the laughably execrable "Everything seemingly is spinning out of control" in June 2008. Nevertheless, it's a "strong" entry -- as in almost indescribably weak as journalism.
The AP's (Abandon All) Hope Yen believes she has exclusive "news" she simply must share with you: Most Americans face significant economic stress sometime in their lives. Stop the presses, shut down the Internet, and cancel Christmas. Excerpts follow the jump.
Note that the AP's "clever" headline writers kept the punch line out of the headline. That punch line is in bold in the content below:
EXCLUSIVE: 4 IN 5 IN US FACE NEAR-POVERTY, NO WORK
Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.
Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.
The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration's emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to "rebuild ladders of opportunity" and reverse income inequality.
... The gauge defines "economic insecurity" as a year or more of periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity rises to 79 percent.
Frank Sinatra had a famous song on this very topic, Hope. It's called, "That's Life."
Where to begin?
The headline obviously deceives anyone who doesn't read on -- which would surely include hundreds of thousands if not millions of people around the world who see it on their computers, tablets, and smart phones -- that 80% of Americans "face near-poverty" and "no work" right now, and that the U.S. must therefore be one of the most miserable places to be in the entire world. Obviously, that isn't so.
The alleged fact that "four out of 5 U.S. adults" face the conditions identified "for at least parts of their lives" is not by itself "a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream." We don't know whether the alleged "four out of 5" figure is higher or lower than it has been historically. It's almost certainly a lot lower than it would have been during the 1930s had it been calculated then.
The fact that one of the conditions is "reliance on welfare" likely removes much of the "Oh my God" factor from the allegedly frightening stat. Since the "four out of 5" stat considers food stamps to be a form of "welfare," it includes a great many people receiving assistance who have not been means-tested for household assets, thanks to the elimination of that form of means testing for benefit eligibility determination in so many states for several years. It also includes a large number of students who claim poverty while going to college to receive food stamps but where Mom and Dad either are or are able to provide enough support to keep their darlings from starving.
As to the unemployment element of the stat, MRC's Dan Gainor had this question in an email to yours truly this morning:
... that means you graduate into unemployment and have a few blips between jobs in a 40-year career and that's economically unstable?
That's what it means, Dan. There's a word for this stat: Stupid.
As to the explanations for the "problem," during the previous decade, the unemployment rate was 5.1% or lower for a 36-month period while these supposedly intractable problems raged. (I picked 5.1% because that's where the Obama administration promised seasonally adjusted the unemployment rate would be by now if we passed its stimulus program. Instead, we're at 7.6%, and 14.3% fully-loaded -- and Ben Bernanke's okay with the idea that it won't get down to 6.5% for two more years.)
Additionally, median household income hit its peak in 2007, again while all of the alleged ugliness was in full swing. It has fallen every year since then through 2011, the latest year reported, and is now 8.2% below its 2007 peak (and down 4.7% from 2008).
Then of course there's the U.S. definition of poverty which, as Robert Rector has shown, is a relative stat and not an automatic indicator of abject desperation.
We're not done yet. As if the rubbish noted thus far isn't bad enough, Yen moves into a race-based discussion of poverty-fighting priorities, even though the alleged race-based differences are small. She also identifies the "four of out 5" stat as arising from a new form of book-cooking:
As nonwhites approach a numerical majority in the U.S., one question is how public programs to lift the disadvantaged should be best focused - on the affirmative action that historically has tried to eliminate the racial barriers seen as the major impediment to economic equality, or simply on improving socioeconomic status for all, regardless of race.
... While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in the government's poverty data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.
If you want to read between the lines in search of an agenda -- after all, this is the Administration's Press -- it would appear to be along the lines of the the following: "Almost all of you out there are going to face serious economic stress in your life, which means that you're going to be broke and without health insurance. The only way to fix this is to make sure that everyone has access to ObamaCare. So work with us to make sure it happens, and be patient through this difficult implementation period."
Short version: Only ObamaCare will save you from life-threatening misery.
Don't be surprised if some form of this line of "reasoning" shows up in an Organizing For America email sometime in the near future.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.