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.