Friday, August 29, 2008

You're Rich, Bitch!

A good article in Slate on Obama vs. McCain's definition of "rich" (quoted from them as $250,000 and up vs. $1,000,000 and up if I recall). As I've told my own folks, people who are in the top 10% of all income in the US can hardly be defined as middle-class by any sensible definition of the phrase. I think the US definition of "rich" or "wealthy" seems to be incredible and weird -- it seems to mean the ability to buy everything you want and still have money left over. If you can't do that -- you're just hard-working middle-class folk, not rich like those pin-striped fat cat politicos. (Of course, everyone knows our Congress is made of folks just like us; why, only about half the Senate are millionaires!)

There's a good discussion in Slate's Fray about the article (and good discussions there these days are rarer than a teen Hollywood star who waits until s/he's 21 to drink, or say, snort cocaine). One of the points that is important to note is that the assets different income-earners in the US have is an important factor missed when you just look at wages, as is debt. So indeed, not all 10% and up-rich people are created the same; if you owe $1,000,000 on your $250,000/yr salary, you're very different than someone sitting on $1,000,000+ from your family or past business or investments and making the same amount. Though to be frank, compared to the average person, you're probably still culturally rich, in that you not only have the high income, but the worries you have about debt may be similar in proportion to people making less, but likely over somewhat different things -- the poor and middle-class may own a more expensive home than they can afford, or a nice car, but probably not the same kind or scale of luxuries or vices that someone making 250K might be owing their debtors over.

Anyway. A quick and dirty class analysis by another Frayster also makes the useful distinction between rich and wealthy -- and the lie of the American Dream that you can work your way into the super-rich. The posit that this lie is what makes the hard-working align with the super-rich -- the misunderstanding that the super-rich have worked to be there, when most of them may have worked, but received huge benefits from their family (cough cough, Bush family, cough cough).

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