Critics of massive wealth inequality in the United States defended a statistic frequently cited by 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday after Glenn Kessler, author of the Washington Post‘s “Fact Checker” column, claimed the fact that the bottom half of the country has zero or negative wealth was “not especially meaningful.”
The statistic in question was brought up most recently by Sanders during the Democratic primary debate last week:
“We have three people in this country owning more wealth than the bottom half of America,” Sanders said.
The statement, Kessler said, is factually true—but he rejected Sanders’s suggestion that the inequality evidenced by the fact means that a major correction to the U.S. economy is required.
“This snappy talking point is based on numbers that add up, but it’s also a question of comparing apples to oranges,” Kessler wrote. “But people in the bottom half have essentially no wealth, as debts cancel out whatever assets they might have. So the comparison is not especially meaningful.”
Critics denounced Kessler’s suggestion that the notion of 50 percent of the population of the world’s richest country carrying so much debt that any wealth they own is canceled out, could hold no meaning about the state of the nation’s economic system.
The column, wrote Sanders’s speechwriter, David Sirota, should be filed under “things you can’t make up.”
THINGS YOU CAN'T MAKE UP: WashPost "fact checker" @GlennKesslerWP criticizes @BernieSanders for saying 3 families control more wealth than the bottom 50% – Kessler says because the bottom 50% have no wealth at all, this is "not especially meaningful." https://t.co/Piv4ZCJxA0 pic.twitter.com/k7qGpqGgjD
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) July 1, 2019
“Glenn Kessler’s logic here—that it’s ‘not meaningful’ that the bottom 50 percent of earners have no net worth because they have a bunch of debt that’s obscuring all the assets they do have—is a completely nonsensical take,” wrote journalist Matthew Chapman.
I'm with Sirota on this one. @GlennKessler's logic here — that it's "not meaningful" that the bottom 50% of earners have no net worth because they have a bunch of debt that's obscuring all the assets they *do* have — is a completely nonsensical take. https://t.co/fF6vZqI3ve
— Matthew Chapman (@fawfulfan) July 1, 2019
Kessler’s dismissal of the plight of middle-income and lower-income Americans was indicative of the desire of many to ignore “perfectly correct data” which “point out ugly truths” about the United States, wrote Greg Greene, a blogger for Planned Parenthood Action.
… and in holding to his assumptions, Kessler insists on scolding folks — like Bernie Sanders, or AOC — who, use perfectly correct data to point out the ugly truths hidden by his green eyeshade. https://t.co/Nkyaisp4EH
— Greg Greene (@ggreeneva) July 1, 2019