Mark Twain popularized the phrase “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” The juxtaposition of Robert J. Samuelson’s Sept. 3 op-ed, “Where did our raises go? To health care,” and E.J. Dionne Jr.’s op-ed the same day, “What about the working class?,” amplified the meme. Using a carefully selected time frame, Mr. Samuelson stated accurately that, corrected for inflation, wages increased roughly one-half percent per year since January 2015. Partly on this unobjectionable factoid, he supported his argument that everything seemed to be going right for the typical American worker this Labor Day.
Mr. Dionne’s similarly accurate take on real wages used a different time frame. As did Mr. Samuelson, Mr. Dionne quoted from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but Mr. Dionne used the period July 2017 to July 2018 — when wages, adjusted for inflation, dropped 0.2 percent. In other words, things are not going quite so swimmingly for American wage-earners at present.
And perhaps more important, while wages were growing during the past two years of the Obama administration, they have flatlined since the Trump tax cuts. Lies, damned lies and statistics indeed.
Michael J. Salem, Rockville