One of the reasons Herald Watch was created was in response to a letter which I submitted to the Herald. My letter was edited to remove a criticism of the paper itself and then published.
My beef then was how the Herald's editorial board used the words Miami and south Florida interchangeably while discussing poverty levels and the various remedies needed to improve them. I criticized the Herald because, while the City of Miami is undoubtedly one of the poorest cities in the country, it's not representative of south Florida or even dade county.
Well, Ana Menendez resorts to the same tactic in her latest column entitled While some indulge, let others eat cake. In the column, she juxtaposes the South Beach Wine and Food Festival with a meal being served at a homeless shelter. Her allegation is that the middle class in south Florida is being eliminated. The problem is that she uses statistics that only encompass the City of Miami.
In Miami, the numbers are more stark: In the same city where new condos sell for millions, one in three people older than 65 lives in poverty. Half of all families led by women are poor, as are 36 percent of the city's children. ''We're a city of extreme poverty and a city of extreme wealth,'' said Bruce Nissen, a labor professor at Florida International University.Ms. Menendez engages in a statistical "bait and switch". In response to an email from Herald Watch, Ms. Menendez confirmed that the statistics she cited refer to the City of Miami not Miami-Dade county or the region overall.
Here's the thing, Ms. Menendez may be right. The middle class may be disappearing from south Florida leaving us with a very wealthy upper class and lower class that's in poverty but there's no way of telling that from the statistics she cites because the City of Miami only represents 16% of the county's population. And that 16% is admittedly stratified. But there are a lot of middle class communities in the other municipalities and unincorporated parts of the County that make up the balance of the 84% that don't live in Miami. Hialeah, the second largest city in the county is, by and large, a middle class city.
It's intuitive that as people escape poverty they tend to move out of poor areas. This obviously creates serious problems for cities like the City of Miami because the people that move out tend to be replaced by others that are poor that are looking for low-cost housing.
The point is this: If Miami were called something else, say Flagler City then Ana Menendez and the editorial board at the Herald would not be so quick to apply its economic indicators to the whole region or the county.
Setting that aside however Ms. Menendez also uses some faulty logic elsewhere in her column:
In the 1970s, the richest 20 percent accounted for 44 percent of the country's total income. By 2002, they accounted for 50 percent, according to census data. In the meantime, the poorest of the poor earned even less of their share.While the statistics above prove that the rich are getting richer relative to the entire population it simply ignores the possibility that everyone's incomes, rich and poor, rose during the periods of time analyzed. In other words it does not necessarily follow that because the rich got richer that the poor got poorer. An analysis of whether this indeed the case is outside of the scope of this blog but Ms. Menendez' manipulation of statistics and facts to "prove" something that may or may not be true is not.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke drew attention to the widening income disparity in a recent speech by noting that a full-time worker at the top of the wage scale now earns 4.7 times as much as a worker near the bottom -- up from 3.7 in 1979, The Associated Press reported.