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Lee Fang: Math is Hard

Lee Fang’s job title at the Center for American Progress is “Researcher”. Heh.

Honestly, I’d never heard of this guy until about a month ago, when he made the mistake of thinking he knew something about oil trading, accusing the Koch Brothers of rigging the markets for easy gains. His evidence was, you know, contango. Koch Brothers.

Today Fang attacked the freshman Republican from Arizona’s First Congressional District, Paul Gosar. Gosar was at a town hall in his district, discussing, among other things, the Democratic proposal to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. Gosar said this:

In the last election I was labeled a millionaire. Seriously. I ain’t wealthy. I built my own house, I wouldn’t do it again. I own my building, I have a dental practice. I live just like the rest of you folks. It’s all on paper, it’s not in cash.

[Emphasis is Fang's, at ThinkProgress.org. Google it. - Ed.]

Upon which Mr. Fang opines:

Reliable wealth data is unavailable for Arizona’s first congressional district, the vast, largely rural area represented by Gosar. However, the median income is about $32,900 — a far cry below Gosar’s approximate $174,000 a year gig as a member of Congress. As Gosar mentions, he also owns substantial real estate, including a building worth up to $1 million, a dental practice worth up to $500,000, an antique store worth up to $500,000, and other assets.

Researcher Fang drew on three resources to come to these conclusions. The first link is for Wikipedia’s entry on AZ-1. It links to demographic data at census.gov. The second link is candidate Gosar’s page at OpenSecrets.org.

Some research. Some analysis.

  • Fang cites 1999 income data for the district. You have to inflate those figures by roughly 1/3 to arrive at 2011 dollars, so the district’s median income is more like $44,000. Granted, this is not a wealthy district by any means, made up in large part by the sprawling Navajo Reservation.
  • A dental practice, antique store, and “other assets” are not “real estate”.
  • Candidates are required to state the “fair market value” of their assets, within rather broad brackets. Gosar’s office building is valued in the range $500,000 to $1,000,000. Fang doesn’t report a mortgage on the building as a liability ($100K – $250K).
  • Gosar’s dental practice (worth “up to $500,000″ – actually $250K to $500K) netted $143K in 2009, and was estimated at $70K in 2010. He sold a portion of the practice in 2010 for $325K, but not in cash. He took a note for $35K/year.
  • “Aunt Maude’s Antiques” (also worth “up to $500,000″) is located in the dental office building and pays no rent. Its inventory is pegged in the $250K to $500K range. The business netted $31K in 2009 and $13K in 2010. That business is worth nothing close to $500K – my guess is that it is worth whatever you could sell the inventory for, if you could find a buyer.
  • According to OpenSecrets’ analysis, Rep. Gosar’s net worth for 2009 was somewhere between $865K and $2.15 million. Most of that net worth is in illiquid assets, and the bulk of that is in very illiquid Arizona commercial real estate. Still that ranked him #150 in the House, vs. an average net worth in excess of $4.8 million.

Paul Gosar is doing well, but probably no better and no worse than my dentist. His point — “it’s all on paper, it’s not in cash” — is accurate. He’s a man who doesn’t have kick-it-back, Hyannisport type of wealth; he worked to get what he has, and working is still a necessity. It would appear that he gave up a significant portion of his income to run for Congress – it’s that “sacrifice for public service” that always gets Democrats and union bosses so misty-eyed.

Class warfare is an ugly, ugly thing. Paul Gosar didn’t misrepresent himself to his constituents; he’s still one of them. Shame on you, Lee Fang, for being so blinded in your partisan hackery that you got it all wrong.


Cross-posted at RedState.com.

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