An open letter to the world of television.
Million-Dollar Baby: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics make up a new ABC poll
Mathematicians have a saying that there are only three kinds of statistics: lies, damned lies and statistics. Numbers do, in fact, lie. And a recent poll by ABC/CNBC is showing us just how much they lie.
The poll, released on Monday, said that 2 in 10 Americans believed they would be millionaires by 2020. 2 in 10 (1 in 5, for those of you familiar with fraction simplifying) equals twenty percent.
Yes, 1 in 5 Americans are destined for success, or at least they think they are. 1 in 5 Americans will be financially comfortable and accomplished, or at least they are counting on it. Yes, as economists discuss the equally frightening and delicious sounding “double-dip” recession, Americans are simply certain of their own future.
U.S. employers added no jobs in August, a number surely hanging like a 10-ton weight on the White House, desperately trying to salvage an economy abused and molested by the greediest 1 percent of our humanity. Unemployment and poverty are at their highest rates in more than a decade, congressional approval sits at less than 15 percent and property values are in the toilet.
And yet twenty percent of Americans remain almost hopeful to the point of delusion. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary and a hopeless kind of malaise that seems to hang like a noxious fog over every national debate, 1 in 5 Americans is destined for greatness.
Lies. The American Dream of upward mobility has changed drastically in recent generations. The optimistic idealism that leads so many of our people to look into the future as an opportunity rather than a burden is our greatest strength, and our largest weakness.
It is this same assumption of success keeping the poor in the pockets of the rich. It is this same anticipation of our future admittance to the rich and famous club that keeps us beholden and love-struck with the top 1 percent. We don’t want to imagine successful, well-off people as villains, tyrants or mutant, malevolent forces, because we hope to be one of them one day. And while trigger-happy lefties like myself are all-too happy to take shots at the conservative über-rich elite, these 1 in 5 see them as the all-knowing job creators that they are.
Damned lies. There is no form of manipulation more utilized in politics than the arm-twisting of the have-nots for the benefit of the haves. As the titans of industry that built our country learned, the best way to keep the masses docile is to dangle a carrot of success on their treadmill of mediocrity.
People convinced they will one day be wealthy and powerful will never go against the current power structure. The richest 400 Americans paid 40 percent less in income taxes in the last 15 years as their respective salaries quadrupled.
But if you tell the stinky, smelly masses that they are going to get a bite at the apple, they aren’t likely to point out the big brown spot caving in the center. Hungry men don’t complain about lukewarm food, they just feast.
The American Dream has taught us that everyone has an opportunity for success, and that ones worth would be measured in what he could accomplish, not how or where he was born. But this same dream keeps those trapped on the bottom rung hopelessly deluded to their future success. So when voting time comes around, and campaign ads start to run, they don’t want to vote for the guy promising to make poverty a little more bearable. They want the guy promising to make riches and wealth easy, de-regulated and powerful.
Optimism is good, and boldness is even better. But until we accept that success is relative and financial stability shouldn’t require a seven-figure bank account, we will never adopt national policies to help typical Americans.
America cannot be a race to the limited space in the VIP section. There is no country filled only with rich people, but there are countries filled almost totally with poor people.
Which do you think is in our future? Which do you think we will end up with if you continue to look upward, rather than outward? It won’t be pretty, the statistics just don’t add up.