Just Because It’s Viral Doesn’t Mean It’s True

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If you’re an avid facebooker with socially conscious facebook friends you may have seen these recently. If you’re socially conscious yourself, you may have reposted them.

One is a chart comparing the ratio of salaries of CEOs to those of average workers across countries. According to the chart, the lowest is Japan at 11 to 1. The highest (by far) is the United States at 475 to 1.
 
The other began as a chain email and outlines the “Congressional Reform Act of 2011,” demanding, among other things, that Congressmen “participate in social security,” that they “no longer vote themselves a payraise,” and that they “participate in the same healthcare system as the American people.”

But where do these posts come from, and are they based on fact?

Pulitzer Prize winning website PolitiFact tackled the pay chart last week. Apparently the chart comes from paper penned by three Louisana Tech College of Business students in 2005. According to their professor, the data were included in the paper with no citation.

As far as the validity of the numbers, one major institutes calculates a pay ratio in the United States of CEO to the average worker at 185 to 1. Another (using a different system) puts the ratio at 325 to 1. Both figures may be shockingly high (“Wait, if the average work makes $20,000…”) but neither agrees with the unsourced table. Neither group calculates ratios for other countries.

The “Congressional Reform Act” was evaluated in by FactCheck.org. The site points out that members of Congress have been participating in Social Security since 1984, that their payraises are determined by a cost-of-living algorithm (Congress has actually voted to receive no pay increase the last two years!), and that their health coverage options are the same as “millions of other federal employees.”

But don’t lose heart, social networking activists! Just do some research and cite your sources.



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