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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Mailbag: Bernie Sanders on the Rich

This week, readers sent us letters about a claim made by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president, about income inequality in the United States.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the email we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.


The Wealth of  ‘the Few’

In your article [“Sanders Stretches State of the Rich,” July 23], you arbitrarily define “the few” as 0.1 percent, or one out of 1,000 people. Then you generously say that Mr. Sanders may consider it 1 percent, or one out of 100. Myself, I would consider the few, in this context, as maybe 5 percent, or five out of 100. If I had a large group of people, and I selected 5 percent, yes, that would be a few. And yes, if just 5 percent of the population holds over 50 percent of the wealth, that is a great cause of concern. I believe it is the highest concentration since the late [19]20s. In my book anyway.

Randy Stemen  
Cincinnati, Ohio


It took an incredible degree of verbal jiu jitsu, but you turned the (undefined) “few” into the 0.1 percent, then turned that into “the rich.” I think that most of us would consider the top 1 percent, or even the top 10 percent, to be “few” (at least relatively). While on the other hand, most of us in the bottom four quintiles would consider the top 20 percentile to be rich.

To focus your criticism of Senator Sanders’ statement almost entirely on an assumption that he means the top 0.1 percent, and only briefly considering that he might mean a larger share of the population than that (and even then only the top 1 percent), is an incredibly elitist reading of his statement. You do not even consider that the substantial share of national wealth held by the wealthiest 0.1 percent in this country is an indicator of the share of the wealth held by the top 5 percent or 10 percent. Your headline writer then takes the opposite tack and turns your critique, which focuses on an extremely narrow interpretation of “the few,” and generalizes it into “the rich.”

Your team does some great work, but you’ve let us all down on this one.

Ray Wells
Ellensburg, Washington