Labor Day often means Pro-Organized Labor Day in the media, and CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” was the poster child this year.
The show featured two anti-corporate, union-affiliated “experts” on September 3, painting a much bleaker image of Americans workers than actually exists.
“[T]his is the third year in a row that we've seen a fall in earnings, annual earnings for full-time year-round workers, both for men and for women,” said Thea Lee, assistant director of public policy for the AFL-CIO. “And that's truly disgraceful at a time when we have technological growth, we have productivity growth and workers simply are not getting their fair share of the wealth they’re helping to create.”
However, Lee was misleading with her data. In fact, compensation has increased from the second quarter of a year ago, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) preliminary report released August 7 that takes into account not only wages, but also includes benefits.
“[I]f you look at it [the BLS data] over the past year, real compensation per hour has gone up 2.4 percent,” said James Sherk, Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation, to the Business & Media Institute.
The other so-called expert on the program was Bruce Raynor, general president of UNITE HERE, a union that represents workers in the hospitality, gaming, apparel, textile, retail, distribution and laundry industries in North America. He embellished the plight of the middle class, calling it “a scandal.”
“[S]o a handful of people are getting richer and the middle class is being pushed downward – and not only in health care but in income and living standards,” said Raynor. “At the same time they're more productive and our economy is growing at incredible rates. It's absolutely a scandal.”
The economy is indeed growing at an incredible rate, but the middle class aren’t being “pushed downward.” In fact, Raynor ignored a lot has of what has helped sustain the American middle class.
Daniel Ikenson, associate director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, pointed out economic facts people like Raynor ignore in his report, “Thriving in a Global Economy – The Truth about U.S. Manufacturing and Trade.”
“Since 1980 trade as a share of U.S. GDP has increased by 130 percent,” wrote Ikenson. “Imports alone have increased six-fold. But that huge growth in trade has occurred alongside the creation of 46 million net new jobs in the United States since 1980 – 1.8 million net new jobs per year. Meanwhile the average U.S. unemployment rate has decreased in each successive decade: in the 1980s, it was 7.3; in the 1990s, it was 5.8; and, since 2000, it has been 5.1. As of June 2007, the unemployment rate stood at 4.5 percent.”
Ikenson credited that expansion to the competitive advantage gained from phasing out “those ‘better-than-average’ paying union jobs.”
However, Raynor fired a few more class warfare salvos, notably the often misrepresented statistic of uninsured Americans.
“We have the most sophisticated medical technology in the world,” said Raynor. “We have the wealthiest country in the history of mankind. It is a national disgrace that 47 million Americans don't have health care. It is a national disgrace that parents have to make decisions about whether they get groceries for their family or that they take their child to a doctor.”
For one thing, Raynor committed the common phrasing error of equating “health care” with “health insurance.” As economist Thomas Sowell wrote September 4, “The biggest of the big lies in the ‘health care’ hype is that a lack of insurance means a lack of medical care.”
A closer examination of the U.S. Census Bureau statistics, where the “47 Americans” uninsured number cited by Raynor is derived from, indicates that number is also inflated. No distinctions are made between citizens and non-citizens, and the media fail to take other factors into consideration when using the numbers.
“[T]he problem is that there are about four different government surveys that measure the number of uninsured in America and this one, which is called the ‘Current Population Survey’ [that is usually cited in the media] is widely recognized to overstate the number of uninsured,” said the Cato Institute’s Director of Health Policy Studies Michael F. Cannon on the September 4 daily podcast.
“In fact, the other three surveys put the number of Americans who are uninsured for the entire year at somewhere between 19 million and 36 million, whereas this survey is somewhat of an outlier with 47 million.”
Cannon puts the number at of chronically uninsured Americans – people uninsured for two years or more – at about 10 million. “It’s a much smaller number,” said Cannon. “You still have a lot of people in there who are able to purchase insurance – about one out of six out of those 10 million people make more than four times the poverty line.”
The Business & Media Institute broke down the 47 million number even further in an earlier article, noting that 45 percent of uninsured people will be uninsured for less than four months, according to the Congressional Budget Office.