Friday, October 28, 2011

Pants on Fire Liar; Rush Plays Fast and Loose With Income Statistics

Rush Limbaugh was playing fast and loose with the facts when he claimed that if you made $50,000, you were somehow in the top 10% of income earners in the country.

Here's the transcript (HT: Lidane at LGF):
Do you know that if you earn $50,000 a year or more, you are in the upper 10% of wage earners in America? I love telling people that statistic. They don't believe it, and it sort of puts this...

Do you know what it takes to be in the top 1%? Take a stab. What is it? Top 10%: $50,000 a year or more you are in the top 10% of wage earners. Take a stab at the floor, the minimum income that qualifies to be in the top 1%. Brian, what do you think it is? (interruption) You're close. He said, "$500,000." It's $343,000 a year. If you make $343,000 a year, you are in the top 1%. Now, I know. I can hear members of the New Castrati, "Mr. Limbaugh! Mr. Limbaugh! That is just silly, that's just crazy! Everybody knows that the top 1% is the millionaires and the billionaires and the Fortune 500!" No, no, no, no. The top 1% starts at 343,000. There aren't that many people in it. This is the whole point.
He started off talking about the rising cost of colleges, which is indeed an incredibly important issue because the costs of education have risen far beyond what matching the rate of inflation would have brought. Those costs are pricing families out of sending their kids to college, or are saddling students with loans that aren't supported by jobs after graduation.

But the real issue is the statistics he's claiming are true.

He says $343,000 puts you in the top 1%. On first blush that sounds about right, but Kiplingers says that puts you in the top 5%. Yet, a story from Kiplingers from which the income calculator links says that $343,927 puts you in the top 1%.

$50k in Kiplingers would only put you at 50% of top earners. Not top 10%.

According to the WSJ/Fox tool, $50k barely ranks at 56%, and $343k puts you in top 3%. That's based on household income.

There are some differences in methodologies and how you figure on which percentile you place a given salary, but Rush claimed that $50,000 puts you in the top 10%. That's not just off by a few percentage points, but is absolutely wrong.

As a fact-checker, I find Rush's statements flamingly (but not surprisingly) false.

No comments: