CNN’s Lou Dobbs and correspondent Christine Romans told their September 6 audience the American Dream is dying, citing the liberal Economic Policy Institute (EPI) to make that case, even though numerous studies – including a previous one by EPI – tell a different story.
What’s more, Romans attempted to portray the new EPI study as confirmation of the worst fears of a woman she interviewed on the street. But viewers were left in the dark that the Boston area woman, Abby Subak, used to do fundraising for Ralph Nader’s Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a pro-regulation group frequently critical of business.
Channeling his best prophet-of-doom bombast, Dobbs preached that although the “United States has long been the land of opportunity,” successful achievement of the American Dream “in this country could become a relic of our past.”
“Now more than ever before, the chances that the next generation of Americans will do better than the last are quickly, quickly disappearing,” he concluded.
Romans led with a human interest angle: “Abby Subak is a mother of two from Boston.”
“For my kids, I am nervous,” Subak lamented. “I don't know if it's a given they'll be able to achieve their American Dream.” That cued Romans to point to a study by the liberal Economic Policy Institute (EPI) to back up Subak’s fears.
So, did Romans just run into Subak while on a stroll through Boston Common?
A Web search for Subak found she once worked for the Fund For Public Interest Research (FFPIR), the fundraising arm of liberal activist Ralph Nader’s Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).
Subak confirmed to BMI that in fact she was the woman featured in Romans’ piece.
After showing Subak’s gloomy prediction, Romans insisted that “she may be right,” pointing to the “think tank, the Economic Policy Institute” which “finds it would take a poor couple with two children nine or 10 generations to achieve middle class status. That's about 200 years.”
Aside from EPI, Romans turned to University of Maryland economist Peter Morici for comment. “If you look at the mechanisms for upward mobility that were so readily available 50 years ago, 25 years ago, they are becoming further out of reach,” he claimed.
But as the Business & Media Institute has documented previously, Morici leans to the left on economic policy. For instance, on the February 26 “Nightly News” on NBC, Morici advocated a “universal approach to providing health care for low-wage workers.”
Romans did give air time to one dissenting viewpoint: The Heritage Foundation’s Bill Beach, who argued that most of one’s socioeconomic status depends on personal effort, not family background.
Scoffing that Beach “sides with those who believe this economy is creating opportunities for everyone,” Romans told her audience Beach’s arguments were “little consolation for the millions of people who find themselves below the poverty line.”
Yet a 2001 review by Heritage’s D. Mark Wilson of data from five separate studies, including one from EPI, confirmed Beach’s argument. According to a 2000 study by EPI, “almost 60 percent of Americans in the lowest income quintile in 1969 were in a higher quintile in 1996” while “over 61 percent in the highest income quintile had moved down into a lower income quintile during the same period.”