Friday, December 23, 2011

Burying the Lede

We're going to take a small break from saving America to address a minor point in a recent post by Felix Salmon about a Jeffrey Goldberg post about a Sylvia Allegretto post on the Waltons of Wal-Mart.

Goldberg discussed the new Crystal Bridges art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, built with the largesse of Alice Walton.
Model of Crystal Bridges; not to be confused with the country singer. Or the r&b one.

All that is nice, argued Goldberg, but the charitable efforts of the Waltons might be better focussed on, say, their employees who work at minimum wage and/or without health insurance. In his piece, he noted that Allegretto had argued that the six Walton heirs have a collective net worth greater than the bottom 30% of the entire country.

This garnered some press.

Salmon responded to defend Walton, and wrote:

[T]ake this seemingly damning statistic from Goldberg’s column: 
In 2007, according to the labor economist Sylvia Allegretto, the six Walton family members on the Forbes 400 had a net worth equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans. The Waltons are now collectively worth about $93 billion, according to Forbes.
This sounds outrageous, until you stop for a second and take note of the fact that Jeffrey Goldberg, individually, has a net worth greater than the bottom 25% of all Americans. 
According to the latest data we have, 24.8% of American households had zero or negative net worth — add them all together, and you get zero. Jeffrey Goldberg’s net worth, it’s safe to say, is greater than zero. 
Holy mother of oh my god are you shitting me?

One of out of every four Americans isn't worth anything? 75 million people have no net assets?

I'm sure it's a very nice museum, and if I ever get out to Bentonville, I'll be sure to take a tour, but the fact that one in four Americans has ... nothing (or worse!) was the lede in this story.

From Wikipedia:  Walton has been involved in at least three automobile accidents. In an April 1989 incident, she struck and killed 50-year-old Oleta Hardin. No charges were filed. In a 1998 incident, she is reported to have hit a gas meter while driving under the influence and told the responding police officer, "I'm Alice Walton, bitch!" She paid a fine and served no jail time.

On October 7, 2011, her 62nd birthday, she was again arrested for driving while intoxicated in Weatherford, Texas, after a dinner with friends in Fort Worth. Walton's attorney released a statement acknowledging the incident and expressing regret.

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