Fact-checking is a thriving media industry, but every now and then a fact-checker offers up a judgment so questionable that it shows just how biased a person can be in the name of “facts.” Take The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler and team and a fact—yes, fact, accepted by Kessler as “numbers that add up”—offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders in last Thursday’s debate. “Three people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of America,” said Sanders.
Sanders’ information came from a report by the Institute for Policy Studies, which found that Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett had a combined wealth of $248.5 billion, compared to the $245 billion in wealth of the bottom 50% of Americans.
It’s pretty straightforward: $248.5 billion is more than $245 billion. Then Kessler got his hands on it, suggesting that Sanders was “comparing apples to oranges” because “people in the bottom half have essentially no wealth, as debts cancel out whatever assets they might have. So the comparison is not especially meaningful.”
So is he suggesting that rich people and poor people are apples and oranges that cannot reasonably be compared? Who exactly doesn’t count as “people” in this take? Kessler can’t argue with the numbers, so he hand-waves them as “not especially meaningful.”
Sanders made his point correctly: that economic inequality is massive and many, many people in the U.S. are essentially without wealth. That wealth in this country keeps getting sucked upward, leaving huge numbers of people behind. So, again, who does Glenn Kessler think is an apple and who is an orange, and why exactly can’t we compare the wealth held by rich people and the wealth held by poor and average people?