Eat the rich

1. If you make a six-figure income, you are not allowed to argue on the Internets that you are poor.

2. You are not allowed to argue that you feel poor, which as we all know is just like being poor.

3. You are not allowed to posit the argument that if you hang around with people who make more than you, then you are allowed to have your wee little heart sing the Poverty Song because, after all, you make less than all of them and your life is sad.

Bang on, as usual, I, for instance, am not poor. By the standards of some places I’ve been I am rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

We struggle at times – although “struggle” is relative – because we have very specific goals. Those goals are our choice; if we chose instead to occupy a small townhome, have only two children and send them to public school while we both worked we’d be quite comfortable, thankyouverymuch.

But there’s a flip side to this. I’ll speak as someone who will hopefully be a nominal member of the six-figure demographic at the end of the year. Although to hear most politicians tell it, the “stinking rich” category doesn’t really start until $250,000. But as someone who might, someday, make it into the latter category, I have this to say:

If you make a five-figure income, you are not allowed to call those with a barely six-figure income the “ultra-rich”. We are not the obscenely wealthy, out-of-touch 2% that your favorite political demagogue (who is almost certainly a member of the six-figure club) loves to rail about. We did not manufacture the banking crisis for our own gains.

The thing I find most disturbing about this political season is the quickness with which both sides have embraced class-warfare language. It’s us against them – the struggling worker up against the conniving Scrooge McDucks of the nation.

I’m not sure what most people think of when they think of a person who makes over $250,000. A scumsucking lawyer perhaps? A fat banker (hook nose optional) greedily pawing through his latest stack of tear-stained foreclosure paperwork?

I don’t know what most of my friends actually make, but when I think of someone who makes six figures I think of the small business owners I know. The ones who are hiring in this time of job loss. The ones who are committing themselves to to crappy towns like Baltimore, MD and York PA and working to remake them as bright new centers of innovation.

One of the Tea Party talking points that is actually true is that small businesses are the engine of job creation in this country. 60-80% of new jobs come from small businesses. Small business owners – who often fall into the “wealthy” category – really are “job creators”. The big jerks.

But apart from creating jobs, do they pay back the society that has benefited them? Well, the IRS numbers show that the top 5% of earners in our country account for 60% of income taxes paid. The social services you enjoy are paid for disproportionately by the wealthy.

But I’m not writing today to justify extending tax cuts, or to get anyone elected, or to make any other specific political point. I’m just trying to point out that the class divide currently beings sold in the media is largely a red herring. It’s a cheap rabble-rouser’s trick to deflect anger about the recession onto an easy target.

If you’re reading this, here’s my challenge to you: this election season, don’t fall for the class warfare meme. Reject the argument that says by hating someone who makes more than you, you’ll improve your own circumstances. Elect someone because they believe in true equality for Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Transhuman, and Transdimensional beings. Elect someone because they want to bring our troops home from foreign wars. Elect someone because they genuinely want to make healthcare in America suck less – whether they believe in accomplishing it by getting government more involved, or less involved. Elect someone because they support free speech even when the speech offends them. Elect someone because they understand that the internet is actually powered by tiny elves, not a series of tubes. Elect someone because they promise you a really nice piping hot apple pie.

Don’t elect someone because they helped you feel good about scorning your neighbor.

View All


  1. Agreed on especially the last paragraph–and that’s what I usually do–although I prefer chocolate cake to apple pies…. Anyway–just to give you a data point–our fam together last year had taxable income of ~68k. We have a house, 2 cars, 2 cats, 3 kids (but perhaps just 1.5 kids since they are split with another household—but that household–if it’s lucky–makes 45k… ).. We are well off in my mind. We are RICH by the world’s or any sense of history’s standards.I don’t think scorn is appropriate here either–but I can admit that I get rather ticked off–more because I think these people are being unperceptive in the sense that when people making an income of more than 250k–think they are squarely in the “middle” of people in this country–this isn’t a sign of them being evil–but more of a sign that they really haven’t gotten out enough to see what is “middle”… (median incomes of ~60k for a family of 4 makes this clear…my own family is in the top half of the country at 68k…!)Anyway–one final note–you may know some pretty wealthy small-business owners–but most of the sources I’ve looked at show that the majority of small business owners in this country don’t make nearly 250k… because that number doesn’t involve the amount of income that the business takes in–but rather only the salary that they pay themselves from that small business–which is usually MUCH MUCH LESS.. So.. while I agree that small businesses are usually the engine that drive the economy–the people running these businesses–the majority of which, at least–aren’t making over 250k..Some sources- Kos stuff–but also interesting:…$250000-in-taxable-incomeHave a good sunday! 🙂

  2. I think something everyone can agree on, whether “rich” or poor, is that the cost of living here is ridiculously inflated. Part of that is that our lifestyles are inflated too, but even those who consciously make the choice to be more frugal find that the prices of things are often driven high by a market they are trying to minimize themselves. If there were more of a market for, say, cheap vehicles, we would have them, but most middle people consider it “normal” to pay $20,000ish for a car. I think that’s changing, but slowly. The real measure of wealth of the US vs other parts of the world is not just an income comparison, but an income to cost of living comparison. I don’t actually know how we stack up in that regard, although I am aware that we have many material luxuries compared to other countries, even western Europe and the like. In Germany, for instance, only extremely well off families own a detached single family home. Most families rent, or if they do own, own a condo or at best a rowhouse. Here in the US, home ownership is considered so important that thousands of people took out loans they could never hope to pay back just for a chance to own a home. It’s a strange cultural difference, and I often wonder how much influence those parts of our culture are having on the rest of the world. Lots of wondering today, apparently. On a more personal note, I’ll add that my parents are part of that upper 2%, and they spend a lot of it on their adult children. I never really appreciated my privilege until I needed it so desperately. I will eventually climb out of my hole of a life, but I probably never would if I did not have that safety net. This is how privilege is passed on, not by trust funds and fancy cars, but by giving the next generation of privilege a safety net that most americans just do not have. Most of us do in fact have to work for a living, but we can also weather the storms of life with a little more security than people who have nowhere else to go and end up acting out of sheer desperation rather than careful thought about their goals. The difference between the rich and the poor is about so much more than income. I have an income of zero, not counting child support, but I am still a child of privilege, which is why I am living in a nice apartment in my parents basement instead of transitional housing. It depresses me that I cannot afford the cost of rent for my own place, but it beats the crap out of having nowhere to live at all.

  3. Josh: the post I wrote is a bit confused/confusing, which I attribute to writing it before I’d had enough coffee. I stand by the last two paragraphs; the rest could use a rewrite. Suffice to say I doubt most of my small-businessman friends make $250,000; but I think it’s likely they make six figures. At least, in the years when they are not taking drastic pay cuts and re-mortgaging their homes in order to keep their businesses afloat.Jamie: I honestly hadn’t considered whether cost of living is inflated. Higher than in other countries, certainly; which I suppose by some measures would automatically make it inflated. I definitely think that people tend to miss the cost of living aspect when talking about who is well off and who isn’t.

Comments are closed.