Monday, 17 March 2014

In which Oxfam deceive and Huff Post (and the Guardian) publish without question.

Here's the headline:

Income Inequality Soars With Five UK Families Wealthier Than Bottom 20%

We begin with a confusion between 'wealth' and 'income' (wealth is a stock and income is a flow). The author then digs her hole of ignorance (or maybe deception) a little deeper:

The UK's five richest families have more cash between them than the poorest 20% of the entire population, 12.6 million Britons, with new research showing the chasm between rich and poor is growing wider.

The truth is that Jessica Elgot, who wrote the article has simply lifted the lies straight from the Oxfam press release without thinking - churnalism at its worst. At the top of the 'rich list' here is the Duke of Westminster with £13 billion in assets. I'm prepared to bet that, while the Duke's not short of cash, that £13 billion is nearly all land and property - and Ms Elgot put in the word cash not Oxfam.

What it isn't is income, which makes the next line of the press release (and the articles) deceptive:

Oxfam's figures also show that over the past two decades the wealthiest 0.1 percent have seen their income grow nearly four times faster than the least well off 90 percent of the population. 

This may be true but it hasn't got anything to do with wealth, with those assets that the Duke owns. Oxfam (not for the first time) are suggesting that the imbalance in wealth equates directly to an imbalance in income when it doesn't.

Whatever the political differences over inequality, we really shouldn't be making the arguments in this sloppy (or deceptive) and ignorant (or misleading) way.


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