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September 12, 2005
Der Spiegel Takes Liberties With Poverty Stats

The German magazine Der Spiegel provides an inept analysis of American economics and politics in today's hack job on Hurricane Katrina. The article starts off with a twisted take on poverty statistics:

America is not only licking its wounds, but also confronting underlying race problems revealed by the floodwaters. Just how racially imbalanced is the world's richest country? Poverty under the Bush administration has climbed by 12 percent. ...

On the same day the levees broke, Charles Nelson of the US Census Bureau in Washington presented the most recent report on income and poverty in the United States. The numbers and graphs he unveiled offered an appalling insight into the USA.

The number of those in America living in poverty climbed by 1.1 million to fully 37 million people - the fourth jump in a row. While the official number of US poor dropped steadily during Bill Clinton's presidency, it has grown by 12 percent under George W. Bush.

Our overall population grew by 3 million people during the same one-year period. It doesn't take a genius to understand that a significant chunk of that growth comes not from births outstripping deaths in a closed system, but from immigration, legal and illegal. In fact, the poverty rate rose from 12.5% to 12.7%, year to year, and has risen from 11.3% in 2000, which was the lowest rate since 1973, when Nixon had been in office for 5 years.

However, our current poverty rate beats all but the final two years of the Clinton administration, which saw the population grow by 22 million over eight years. Bush has had a population growth of 12 million in four years. Again, it hardly seems likely that the increase represents the rich flocking to our shores. Does Der Spiegel tell anyone that? No, of course not. It's all about hating Bush.

Frank Hornig then turns this contextless stat into an indictment of the effects slavery has on Louisiana, noting wide disparities between the economic status of the poor and the rich. Louisiana does have a high poverty rate, but Hornig fails to note that it has improved over the past three years. He also quotes Frank Rich's contention that New Orleans had "Titanic syndrome ... Only the first-class people had access to the lifeboats." Hornig should ask Mayor Ray Nagin about why he didn't get the lifeboats, in the form of buses, rolling as the city emergency operation plan demanded prior to the hurricane's landfall. It didn't have anything to do with poverty, except perhaps for poverty of thought and preparation.

If this drivel represents the norm of German journalism, small wonder the Germans have such a skewed view of America.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 12, 2005 5:24 AM

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