Hey America: We’re Rich Again!*

Money (cc photo: 401(K) 2013)

(cc photo: 401(K) 2013)

*Some restrictions apply.

The front-page  headline of USA Today (3/7/14) declares:

We’re $9,800,000,000,000 Richer

Woo hoo! 

The story by Doug Carroll begins:  

A booming stock market and recovering home values boosted Americans’ household wealth by nearly $10 trillion last year, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday.

You knew there was a but coming, and sure enough it does. Cue the sad trombone: 

But the gains since the crisis have not been equally distributed. Most of the recovered wealth has come from higher stock prices, and many Americans are not in the market. The wealthiest 10 percent of Americans own 80 percent of stocks.

So we’re seeing an increase in the value of stocks that most people do not own. It’s a short article, but USA Today knows it should try to end on an upbeat note:

Even so, the economy benefits because people spend more when they feel richer. And consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of US economic activity. 

Of course, it’s difficult to “feel richer” when you’re not. I suppose the best question might be this: Who exactly does the “we” in the headline refer to? If what the Fed report reveals is that the rich are the ones getting richer, that answers that question. A newspaper that considered its audience to be the vast majority of the population struggling to get by would write a very different story about the concentration of wealth. 


About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.