Reality check for 'Reality Check' book series

Just in time for the 2008 presidential election, The Century Foundation has published a revised update of its "Reality Check" series first published in 2004, the previous presidential election year.

The series covers topics related to economic issues in the U.S.

One entry in the series is titled "The New American Economy: A Rising Tide that Lifts Only Yachts." The 12-page booklet outlines The Century Foundation's view that income for the top 5 percent of households in the U.S. grew four times faster than the income of the bottom 80 percent.

The booklet doesn't stop there, comparing U.S. buying power with those in other countries.

The foundation goes on to state that a family in the U.S. with a median income is well off compared to other countries.

On the other hand, low income families in this country have slightly less purchasing power than the poor in other advanced countries, such as Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The authors also point out that other modernized countries take steps to reduce the number of poor. The United Kingdom, for example has a 25 percent rate of people living in poverty. That number is reduced to just 5.9 percent after government programs kick in to help out the poor.

The U.S. has 17.2 percent of its population living in poverty. The foundation expresses disappointment that the U.S. poverty number is only reduced to 10.9 percent after government programs kick in.

In another publication in the "Reality Check" series, the foundation takes on Social Security in a 12-page leaflet titled "Scare Tactics: Why Social Security is Not in Crisis."

The foundation proclaims that Social Security is stronger than it has ever been. With reserves set up to fund it completely through 2046 if no action is taken to intervene, the foundation estimates that Social Security benefits would still continue beyond that date, with benefits getting cut by about 25 percent.

The foundation also declares that those who advocate privatization of Social Security forget Congressional budget estimates that Social Security will not be able to fund existing accounts and privatized accounts.

Further, the foundation in "Scare Tactics" says those expressing doubts about Social Security's viability are actually in opposition to the program and want to see it scrapped or replaced with just a privatized program.

The Century Foundation's booklets cost $3.50 each and more information is available at its website,

Are the books worthwhile to purchase?


The Century Foundation does provide plenty of research to go with its booklets and could provide a liberal balance to those seeking to hear both sides of the conversation on economic issues.

The views are definitely left-leaning.

Among The Century Foundation's board members are Joseph Califano-who served in the Kennedy, Johnson and Carter administrations-and John Podesta, chief of staff for the Clinton White House.

The foundation tips its hand with other titles in the booklet series, such as "Going Nowhere: Workers' Wages since the mid-1970s."

Any integrity the booklets may have as true think-tank discussions on the economy are lost by the fact they are trotted out and revised during presidential campaign cycles. They border on thinly veiled opinion pieces for the Democratic Party.

After all, couldn't we use what they call a "reality check" during years besides a presidential election?


Comments are subject to moderator review and may not appear immediately on the site.

Please read our commenting policy before posting.

Any comment violating the site's commenting guidelines will be removed and the user could be banned from the site.

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment