This is a reminder, I think, of why we should look forward to the day when the op-ed column is a dead format and everyone just blogs. Brooks' original column would, obviously, have been better if it -- like Nyhan's reply -- had come with links to data and charts. What's more, it'd be good if we could expect Brooks to reply to the sort of criticisms he's getting from Nyhan, Dean Baker, and others. Maybe he has something fascinating to say on his own behalf. But the way the columnizing world works, there's almost no chance he'll address his next column to trying to rebut the critics of this one. But a back-and-forth debate on this subject with links and charts and data would be much more interesting than what we're going to get instead where liberals decide Brooks is a liar and Brooks remains convinced that liberals are crazy.
And I wasn't the only one -- many other bloggers questioned the claims that Brooks made.
However, just as Yglesias predicted, Brooks has failed to address most substantive criticisms of his last column. Instead, he ran only this clarification at the end of his column today:
Last week I cited data on rising earnings among the working poor. I should have made it clear that the data referred to poor households with children, since poor households without children did not enjoy those gains.
It's true that Brooks failed to make clear that his quotation from this Ron Haskins op-ed pertained to earnings for poor families with children. I'm glad he clarified the point.
However, the larger problem is that Brooks claimed "earnings for the poorest fifth of Americans are also on the increase" and then cited the Haskins quote on gains between 1991 and 2005, a formulation that implies earnings are "on the increase" now. In fact, income hasn't really been "on the increase" for this group since President Bush took office, as the report (PDF) that Haskins was citing made clear in this graph:
In particular, the bottom quartile of families with children has seen their earnings tail off particularly dramatically during this period.
Shouldn't these points (and the similar problems with the first claim in his column) be clarified? Unfortunately, being a Times columnist means never having to admit that you might be wrong...